It is Lord Siva who gives substance and meaning to life, said K. Sambandan in a lecture. In the Thiruvembavai, a devotional work by the Saivite saint Manickavachagar, Siva's foot and His anklet are both described by using the same word.
That is because the anklet, by being associated with Lord Siva's feet, becomes sacred. Light means illumination, but do we not use the word for the instrument that gives illumination? Thus an object that illuminates acquires a certain importance by its association with the illumination. Likewise, the anklet of the Lord acquires sacredness by being associated with His feet.
The anklet had great auspiciousness among the ancient Tamils. It would, however, be worn only by unmarried women. And in a ceremony before her marriage, she would remove her anklet, signifying that she was soon to be wed. Thus an anklet was an indication of a woman's marital status.
The Silappadikaram talks of how Kannagi took off her anklet when she married Kovalan. Later when Kovalan fell into financial difficulty, she offered it to him so that he might sell it. In the case of Siva, the anklet is one of His adornments, for isn't Siva the cosmic dancer?
The Thiruvembavai says Siva and Shakti are inseparable. Just as there is no fire without heat, so there can be no Siva without Shakti. And Siva is the colour of fire, while Shakti or Parvati has cool lotus-like eyes. She has huge eyes, and hence the name Visalakshi. She is the dark-hued One, Her colour only adding to Her beauty.
In Thiruvembavai, Manickavachagar visualises a stormy night. The thunder is like the sound that Paravati's anklets make. The lightning is like Her attractive, slender waist. Her eyebrows are like the rainbow. And the rain that comes down is like Her mercy.
The Lord at Thiruvannamalai has the devas falling at His feet. The brightness of their crowns is nothing compared to the dazzle of His feet. He looks like nectar, says Manickavachagar. Nectar can only be tasted, but this nectar that is Siva captivates all our senses. Once He enters our minds and hearts, there can be no room for any other thought.