drDha bhakti-The power of unswerving faith
Into the lives of most devotees comes a time when their favourite deity decides to test their devotion. This takes the form of a great trial or a tribulation which is the acid test. Does the devotee waver? Or does he stand unshaken in his faith? This makes the difference and the end result is invariably a reward for unsullied devotion drDha bhakti. Many devotees have expressed their adoration through the medium of the fine arts and this offering looks at some instances of the great composers whose lives offer various examples and instances of drDha bhakti.
Purandara Dasa ?The pitAmaha of Carnatic Music was born into a very wealthy family. Banking was the hereditary profession and soon Srinivasa Naik (for that was his real name) took to the same. He was exceedingly miserly. A poor Brahmin once approached him wanting to pawn a nose ring that he had received from a wealthy lady. Naik was stunned to see that it was his own wife?s. he rushed home to confront her. The lady ran into the nose ring in the pUja room in order to swallow poison and end her life. But such was her faith in the Lord, that she found the nose ring in the vial of poison. The Lord has returned it to her. She came and showed it to Naik, who realized the greatness of her devotion and immediately changed his ways. He gave up his life of wealth, became Purandara Dasa and transformed into a bard forever singing the name of the Lord. He too was tested in various ways and he emerged unshaken in his belief in Vittala, his patron deity. Dasa?s song dAsana mADiko is an example of his outpourings to his Lord.
Syama Sastry and his descendants- The Sastry lineage occupies a unique place in the annals of Carnatic Music. Syama Sastry?s ancestors were hereditary archak as in the temple of Kamakshi at Kanchipuram. When the Vijayanagar Empire collapsed in 1565, they feared for the safety of the golden idol of Bangaru Kamakshi and secreted it away with them. The group traveled all over South India for a century and more and into this band of followers was born Syama Sastry. The group settled in Tanjore in the 1760 and under the munificence of King Tulaja, a temple for the Goddess was built which still stands. Syama Sastry in turn became the archaka of the Goddess. Along with his regular duties of worship, he also composed songs in her praise. His faith was such that barring a couple of songs on other deities his entire corpus is on the Goddess. He totally Surrendered to Her and was her slave entirely .His mAyamma expresses the sentiment that he had understood devotion unto Her to be the one permanent thing in this creation. His descendant Annaswami Sastry too expressed himself similarly and in fact the phrase drDha bhakti appears in his compositions. Two of the songs, namely shrl kAmAkshi and shrl lalitE are presented here.
The Azhwars- They are the twelve great saints of Vaishnavite tradition. All of them are perfect examples of unswerving faith and shining beacons of surrender. Andal is the sole lady among the Azhwars. She was found under a tuLasi plant by her father, Periyazhwar who is also one among the twelve great seers.
Named Goda, she displayed exemplary devotion and faith in Lord Narayana. The father and daughter lived in Srivilliputtur and it was Periyazhwar?s responsibility to string a garland of flowers everyday for the temple, Vatapatrashayee. Such was Andal?s love for the Lord, that she would wear the garland, unknown to her father and see her reflection in the waters of a well, before the flowers were sent to the temple. This was her way of ensuring that the flowers were suitable for the Lord. Her father chanced to see this one day and having severely admonished his daughter he did not send the polluted (in his view)garland to the temple .But conceive his surprise when the Lord appeared in his dream and demanded that the garland worn by Goda is what he desired. Periyazhwar had to acquiesce. When the time came for his daughter to be married, she expressed a desire that she would marry only Vishnu and such was the Lord?s love for her, that he cam to showed her his forms in various temples and from these she selected Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam to be worthy of being her husband. The Lord sent a palanquin with bearers from Srirangam and on reaching there she united with him. Andal is best known for her 30 verse called the Tiruppavai, which speak of divine love. The verse ciTTranciru kAlai is the penultimate one and speaks of complete surrender.
Kulashekhara Azhwar was born a king of the Chera clan. His love for the Lord was such that he desired to hear the Ramayana everyday. Such was his surrender that he believed himself to exist at the time of the Ramayana and when such portions of it as the kidnapping of Sita were sung, he would command his army to go at once and rescue her back of Rama. It is said that he eve nonce planned a war against Lanka to defeat Ravana and was only stopped by Lord Rama appearing before him with Sita and Assuring him that he had long won the battle himself. Kulashekhara Azhawar gave up his kingdom to his son in his last days. He gifted his daughter to the Srirangam temple and also spent his days in that shrine. His mukunda mala is a perfect example of his faith.
Papanasam Sivam ? The nineteenth century has often been considered the age of miracles. Certainly with the coming of the twentieth, miracles had ceased to exist. Yet South India was privileged to witness Papanasam sivan, the last of the vaggeyakkars in Carnatic music. Born in this day and age, Sivan knew of nothing other than composing songs in praise of his favorite deities, Subrahmanya and the deities of the Kpaliswara Temple, Karpagambal and Kapaliswara. He took up no other job and what little he earned was mainly through such acts bhajana and propagating the name of the Lord. He lived and died as an example of unswerving faith.
There are many more such examples. Unfortunately these are too numerous to be listed or included. They stand as fine examples of music as a form a expressing devotion and complete surrender in the face of all odds - drDhabhakti.