FRIDAY REVIEW

Come, celebrate the Cauvery

PREMA NANDAKUMAR

From time immemorial Tamils have guarded and worshipped their water sources. One of the Sangam Poetry anthologies, `Paripadal,' has eight dramatic expositions of the Vaigai. The river in floods was a common sight and it was believed that bathing in the Vaigai at dawn and praying to the Mother Goddess ensured one of a happy family life.

"Virgins wearing lovely bangles

Bathed in the river Vaigai saying:

May this wide world be free

Of heat, and become cool with rains.

Aged women taught them the rituals

Of the holy Thai bath in the river."

The Cauvery is the major river of Tamil Nadu. As early as the second century, Karikala Chola built a stone barrage across the river to bring vast stretches of land under irrigation. The Cauvery, also known as Ponni, has been particularly hailed in Tamil religious literature. For instance, Lord Saranathan of the famous temple of Tirucherai is said to have given the river the status of the Ganges. Tondaradipodi Azhwar praises it as "holier than the Ganges."

The Cauvery delta is dotted with great temples dedicated to Siva and Vishnu and the most famous of them all is that of Ranganatha in Srirangam. Tamil literature hails the Cauvery in fine poesy. Silappadhikaram takes place in Poompuhar, the city where the Cauvery finally merges with the sea. This city was destroyed by a tsunami a millennium ago, and now underwater exploration has brought to light plenty of artefacts regarding the presence of Poompuhar's glory. Silappadhikaram has immortalised the river in a romantic scene involving Kovalan and Madhavi. The Cauvery is personified as a lovely bride wearing colourful garments and jewels, and walking towards her husband's home, the ocean.The companion epic, Manimekalai, describes the flowing of the Cauvery into the Tamil land as an answer to King Kaanthan's prayer.

"Kaanthan, the worthy scion of the Sun

Dynasty, questing for water for his land

Prayed to the immortal Agasthya who

Overturned his pot and made Cauvery flow

Due East reaching fast Goddess Sampapathi

And merge grandly with the sea close-by.

The goddess of immense austerities

Rose to welcome the flowing holiness:

`Beloved! Ganga of the skies above!

Quencher-light of this land's water-thirst! Come!'"

It is clear that from its legendary beginnings to this day the Cauvery has been an object of our prayers. Nearer our times, Saint Tyagaraja has composed some beautiful lyrics in praise of the river. Ritualistic prayers offered to the Cauvery river helps us realise its holiness and acts as a psychological deterrent when we consciously or unconsciously try to pollute its waters.

To make the common man realise the need to keep the rivers unpolluted, a Pushkaram is held once in twelve years in twelve of our important rivers. During the year, Jupiter (Brihaspati) would remain in the zodiac sign associated with a particular river. For Cauvery, it is Libra (Thula).

During the first twelve days marking the start, the Pushkara Purusha, betokening prosperity, moves with Jupiter as he enters Libra; in the same way, he accompanies Jupiter as he moves to Scorpio on his way out.

These entry and exit movements, known as Adi and Anthya Pushkarams are considered particularly holy for taking a bath in Cauvery.

The Cauvery Pushkaram opens on September 28 this year. Plans have been drawn up for homams and a Brahma Yagnam for 12 days with the blessings of Sri Tridandi Chinna Srimannarayana Ramanuja Jeeyar. From September 28 - October 2, Sri Sudarsana homam, Sri Puthrakameshti homam, Sri Hayagriva homam, Sri Lakshmi Narayana homam and Sri Vaibhava homam are being held at Ammamandapam.

Beginning on October 4, Brahma Yagnam will be held for universal peace with Poornaahuti on October 10, followed by a holy bath to mark the conclusion of the yagnam.

A huge concourse of devotees from all over India is expected to participate in the Cauvery Pushkaram, which is considered to be the Kumbha Mela of South India.

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