Monday, August 23, 2010

Giving and Receiving

Today is ONam. The day Mahabali comes from the netherworld that Trivikrama pushed him into, to see his subjects live well. The just and fair King who was 'tricked' by Vishnu. The man who 'gave' to the Lord himself.

கொண்டானை அல்லால் கொடுத்தாரை யார் பழிப்பார்
மண் தா என இரந்து மாவலியை , ஒண் தாரை
நீர் அங்கை தோய நிமிர்ந்திலையே, நீள்விசும்பில்
ஆரம் கை தோய அடுத்து

Would anyone but blame
The one who received
Than the One
Who gave?

is a feeble translation of the first line of this pAsuram from Poigai aazhvAr's 'mudhal thiruvandhAdhi'.The rest of the lines talk about the how when Mahabali seals his promise with the ritual of water exchanging hands, the midget Vamana rose to the imposing form of Trivikrama, whose shoulders brushed with the heavens.

Why did Vishnu have to defeat Mahabali ? Where is the 'defeat' of evil, in this whole thing? Why resort to devious trickery to fool such a noble man?

Kamban, even puts a different spin on it. He says Mahabali was aware that the midget vAmana was the Lord himself. But still rebuffed his guru Sukracharya's warning.

நினைக்கிலை என் கை நிமிர்ந்திட வந்து
தனக்கியலா வகை தாழ்வது வாழ்வு-இல்
கனக்கரியானது கைத்தலம் என்றால்
'எனக்கிதன் மேல் நலம் யாது கொல்' என்றான்

You did not think this thus:
As my hands rise to give
If the hands that are
Unbecomingly cupped below
To receive
Are that of the Lord
Who is beyond Life and Death
What more can I ask?

What could have been the 'message' of the incarnation? Upon cursory reading it does appear that the Lord drops a few notches and Mahabali rises a few.The giver is magnanimous. The one who received and then has forgotten he received, is the one to be frowned upon.

Quite curious that Poigai AzhwAr should be saying this isn't it? He doesn't seem to be toeing the party line. One would expect him to defend his Lord against his detractors.

But, where the poker faced poigai azhwar perhaps betrays a chuckle is his usage of the familiar singular for the receiver (கொண்டான்) and the respectful plural for the giver (கொடுத்தார்).

The azhwAr is actually making short work of the detractors by using their own language and expressions but turning the argument on its head.Would anyone ('in their right minds' one has to add to read between the lines) fault the One who gave us the Whole World? Shouldn't everyone blame the one who 'received' the worlds from Him and then assumed the world was his own to give away. Isn't this what leads Mahabali promise to the midget he would donate 'anything'.

I'll confess that the pretense of piety thus far is as far as I could get. But you actually needn't subscribe to the 'humility message' to enjoy this one.It was a pretext to write about the subtlety in Poigai AzhwAr's expression.


  1. உங்கள் மொழிபெயர்ப்பு மிக அருமையாக இருக்கிறது. இதைத் தொடர்ந்து செய்யும் எண்ணம் உண்டா? இல்லையெனில், தொடர்ந்து செய்யும்படி கேட்டுக் கொள்கிறேன்.


  2. நன்றி baskar.
    இவற்றை மொழிபெயர்ப்பு என்று சொல்ல தயக்கம்.
    இன்னொரு கவிதையை உருவாக்கினால் தான் அதை பெயர்ப்பு எனலாம். அதற்கு Target மொழியின் கவிதையிலக்கணம் கொஞ்சமாவது தெரிந்திருக்க வேண்டும்.

    இங்கு எனக்கு பிடித்ததை paraphrase மட்டுமே செய்கிறேன். தொடர்ந்து செய்யும் உத்தேசம் உண்டு.

  3. Don't mean to intrude on your interesting argument about a poker-faced Poigai Azhwar (not) toeing the party line when it comes to incarnation analysis, but couldn't help reading this and chiming in with an irreverent (but not entirely irrelevant) tangent to Tropic Thunder -- this line from Les Grossman (Tom Cruise): "[Speedman is] A white dwarf headed for a black hole. That's physics. It's inevitable." :-)

  4. Dagalti....I am admiring your flow of language and narration of Puraanas...along with photos...As father as son...following the foot steps of your father...