At Talacauvery, in the thick forests, a small spring beckons devotees and tourists to soothe their senses and tired feet with the cool water. It was with deep wonderment that I experienced this spot in the Brahmagiri Hills, which births this magnificent river. The River, in India, is not just a flowing water body, but a Goddess, a symbol of beauty, purity and fertility, a nourisher of life, culture and civilisation.
The Cauvery originates, as a very small pond, in the steep hills of Coorg, in Karnataka, in the Western Ghats and then flows through the sands of Thalakkadu, taking a southerly direction, through the forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu districts of Erode, Karur, Tiruchi and Thanjavur districts and finally the coastal delta where she joins the sea, the Bay of Bengal.
Further sanctifying the lands, flowing through Grand Anaicut built by Karikala Chola, Panchanadeeswara temple of Tiruvaiyaru (home of Saint Tyagaraja ), Swamimalai — one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga and the seat of Panchaloka — the Mahamaham tank of Kumbakonam, Panthanallur, Thiruveesanallur before touching the Pushkaram, Tula Ghat at Mayiladuthrai. It was at Hogenakkal, two decades ago, that I first saw the Cauvery. Seated in a bamboo coracle, I could feel her presence; she was swirling round and round, leaping down the rapids. The river here comes thundering, foggily down the rocks.
At times one can’t see, but only feel the sound of water engulfing you. The lungs greedily draw in the aroma of the reeds and minerals. So refreshing so purifying. From Hogenakkal, the Cauvery flows to Mettur, gushing out of the reservoir. It reminds one, how minuscule he is, in the creative cosmos of green and blue.
It is an experience to sit by the river, and feel the solitude, at Tiruvaiyaru, by the Samadhi of Sri Tyagaraja. And to visualise how he had walked the streets, that led to the river.
And to think of how the water had stirred in him, an unquenchable thirst — to seek the swaras that would take him to his “Sita Rama”
Three of the five Sriranga kshetra kritis mention the Cauvery. ‘Karuna joodavayya’ (Saranga) celebrates Cauvery Ranga in the pallavi, ‘Vinaraada naa manavi’ (Devagandhari) in the anupallavi and ‘Raaju vedala’ (Thodi) in its charanam. In ‘Ennaado rakshinchithe’ (Sourashtra), Tyagaraja asks Lord Rama why He cannot be more like the Cauvery, who senses that her children, starved of water, are looking up to her for succour. He wails ‘Oh! Rama, if only you had such sensitivity would I be in such a wretched state?’
That water (jala) is one of the mightiest of the five Elements, personified in the Jambukeswara-Akhilandeswari temple in Tiruvanaikoil very close to the Srirangam temple. Its now time to turn that question to ourselves. The source that has to be preserved and worshipped is crying out to us. The bounty is being reduced, because of our short-sightedness, to a dry bed covered with waste.
It is a reflection of our valueless pursuit. How and How soon can we close our eyes, to fill ourselves with the beauty that has lived over centuries, breathing life into everything she touched, taking in all that she encountered?
The beauty that harnessed rich harvests of green? The beauty that sparked the imagination of poets and artisans? The beauty of the moon shimmering on the waters? The sound of the paddle pushing the waters? The scent of nature in the waters? The beauty that we are on the verge of losing?
“Idu leni Malayamarutamu ce, kudina Kaveri tatamandu...” sang sri Tyagaraja, on her banks about the soft wafting breeze . Is it not a reminder to salvage that moment... and preserve it for posterity?