The first eight verses in the Thiruvembavai of Manickavasagar are of women waking up the ones who are still in bed.

In one of the verses, Lord Siva is described as an ‘aru marundu’ — a rare medicine. ‘Marundu’ in Tamil means medicine. Now what is the disease that this medicine called Siva cures?

It is not the ills of the body that are so dangerous, but the ills of samsara. And it is this disease of repeated birth that Siva saves us from, said K. Sambandan, in a lecture. He is the marundu (medicine) for ‘bhava rogam’ (samsaric life).

And what leads to these repeated births? Our desires are what lead to a cycle of births and deaths, from which there seems no escape.

There is a word in Tamil for desire: ‘avaa.’ If you try saying the word, you will notice that when you finish saying it, your mouth is open.

That is because the word ends in ‘aa.’ But an important inference can be made from the way the word leaves our mouth gaping. It shows that ‘avaa’ is never-ending; it never acquires closure. Our desires never end. We constantly desire something or the other. That is why Buddha said desire leads to sadness.

In the Manimekalai, there is a verse that goes ‘Piravaar uruvadu perinbam.’ Those who are not born know great joy is how the line is translated.

So conversely, those born into this earth know only sorrow. Sadness comes from desire and happiness comes from the lack of desire, says the verse.

So the only way to avoid sadness and experience joy is to be rid of desire. This alone will save us from samsara, which is nothing short of an affliction. And the only medicine that can cure this affliction is Siva.

In fact, one of the names of Siva is Marundeeswarar, and there is a temple where the deity is called by this name.

In yet another temple, Siva takes the name Vaidyanathan, indicating that He is not only the medicine but also the doctor.

There is a couplet in the Thirukkural that says we should hold on to the One who has no desire.

If we desire Him, we shall be rid of attachment to worldly things.

Keywords: religionmedicineChennai