EVENT There was plenty of food for thought at Vijay TV's Bhakthi Tiruvizha. SUGANTHY KRISHNAMACHARI

Two lectures on the fourth day of the 15th edition of Vijay TV’s Bhakthi Thiruvizha, which this writer attended, had intriguing titles, which left one wondering what the speakers were going to talk about. Nagai Mukundan’s lecture on ‘Sabatham’ turned out to be about Karna’s resolve to remain with his patron, Duryodhana, even when Kunti unleashed the power and pull of maternal affection on him. While the lecture had some interesting interpretations, Nagai Mukundan must not shout into the mike. Also, his discourse was more like a piece of mono acting than a discourse.

Aura of suspense

Would a staunch Vaishnavite sing the praises of a staunch Saivite, at a time when Saivism and Vaishnavism were jostling for supremacy? There was such an instance, said V.S. Karunakarachariar , who spoke on ‘Azhwar Paadiya Nayanmar’. He built up an aura of suspense, before revealing that the Azhwar in question was Thirumangai Azhwar, and that the Nayanamar was the Chola King Sembian Kochenganaan.

Kochenganaan, Karunakarachariar went on to explain, had been born as a spider in his previous birth, at the Siva kshetra, Thiruvanaikka. The spider’s attempts to weave a shelter over the linga had been thwarted by an elephant. Reborn as the Chola king, Kochenganaan continued where he had left off, and ended up building 70 temples for Siva. But to explain the Azhwar Nayanmar connection, one has to unravel the past some more.

When Kochenganaan’s mother went into labour, Lord Siva, in the guise of an astrologer, ensured that the child’s birth was held back by some minutes, so that at the time of his birth, Lord Mahavishnu’s glance would fall on him, for this would guarantee moksha for Kochenganaan. It was predicted that the child would never taste failure.

Sure enough, Kochenganaan, when he assumed the mantle of power, faced victory after victory. But at one stage his enemies banded together, and defeated him.

Wondering why the prophecy about his success had proved false, Kochengaaan went in search of the astrologer, who, of course, was none other than Lord Siva Himself. Siva took Kochenganaan to the Thirunariyoor Vishnu temple, and gave him Ashtakashara mantra upadesa. Kochenganaan recited the mantra and worshipped Lord Mahavishnu.

Soon after, Kochenganaan won a decisive victory against his enemies, and went on to build a big temple for the Thirunaraiyur deity- Naraiyur Nambi.

It was at Thirunaraiyur, that Thirumangai Azhwar received Vaishnava deeksha. To express his gratitude to the Chola King who built the temple for Naraiyur Nambi, the Azhwar praised him. In one padhigam, nine out of ten verses are about the Chola king.

Commentator Peria Vachan Pillai observed with wonder that one half of each verse was devoted to Naraiyur Nambi and one half to Kochenganaan- the Nayanmar who built a temple for Vishnu.

Interesting details

Karunakarachariar gave interesting details about the temple, and about the Garuda vahana made of stone. His lecture, which sparkled with wit, was also evidence of the depth and range of his reading, for he quoted not only from the Divya Prabandhams, but also from the Mundakopanishad, Kalavazhi Narpadu- a Sangam era work that comes under Padinenkeezhkanakku, and Adi Sankara’s commentaries.