Friday, April 27, 2007

commerce and communal harmony

Kallazhagar, the stone beauty, descends down in the Vaigai river during Chithirai festival. Azhagar, the incarnate of Lord Vishnu, is on his way to his sister Meenakshi's wedding with Lord Sundareswarar, incarnate of Lord Shiva.
Therefore, Madurai, the temple town, had Saivites and Vaishnavites. Basically, in conflict. Saivites should have come before. For Thiruvilayadal Puranam has scenes from this temple town during Sangam age (I am not sure of the history. Pity me and you for not knowing it).
Vaishnavites must have come later. I presume there was a bitter rivalry between these two major sects of Hinduism in those days itself.
If you dont know, Madurai and its surrounding areas have artistic as well as literary evidences of the massacre of the jain saints. Imaging piercing the jain priests straight on a spear of sword to kill them one by one. In Tamil, it is `kazhuvetram'. So, the fight between the two dominant communities must have been bitter.
When Thirumalai Nayakkar ruled the city, he desired the union of these two warring sects. A case study for communal harmony in the medieval history. He wanted to the commerce of the city to flourish. And conceived, the 51-day Chithirai festival. Celebrated till today.
Azhagar who was being worshipped in Cholavandan, 10 miles before Vaigai enters the city, was taken around to 353 mandapams to be brought to a specially constructed mandapam in Vandiyur, located at the tail end of the river in the city.
Madurai is still a large village, the market for produces from the south, west and east, comprising mainly of a well-oiled network of villages. During the 51 day celebration, at the end of harvesting, during the dry months, when farming will not be taken up, the villagers will gather in the city to bargain, barter and business.
How do you bring in communal harmony. The presiding deity Meenakshi's marriage was the only way. Azhagar was made her brother and was invited to come to her marriage. As he has to come down from the hill and cross the mighty Vaigai river, it takes a few days before which the marriage gets over. When he is half-way, crossing the river, he is told that the marriage is over.
Knowing not what to do, he loiters around and around the city. I am not sure where he goes back. May be back to the hill. There is nothing special to this whole thing. A brother is disappointed for not able to attend his sister's marriage. The speciality lies in bringing the two communities together.
It has to be mentioned that there is a *thulukka natchiar* (a muslim lady) and many other characters in the festival. I don't have the details now. I am sure there is still a lot we can learn from the past. From our great rulers.


Vani said...

Thulukka nachiyar is a Muslim princiess who fell in love with the idol of (Sri) Ranganatha and died while refusing to be parted with it.
Sometime back, I did a blog post on her.
My, don't I simply love playing William Dalrymple?

bhamsblog said...

yes, as vani says the thulukka nachiar fable is alive and kicking till today, and once a year Lord Raganatha is believed to visit her. But u r right, it was all for communal harmony. srirangam too underwent religious turmoil, and Rsangansths hsd to find refugee elsdewhere!

Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.