TAMIL NADU

Authoring the first purana on Sastha Personality of the Week

V. Aravind Subramanyam.

V. Aravind Subramanyam.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: M. Periasamy

It took him 12 years of research, two years of writing to complete it

Coimbatore: He is just 26. An MBA and yet to complete ICWA, he has a school boyish look.

The sprouting beard and sandalwood paste on the forehead are the only give away of his blossoming youth. An alumnus of Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Coimbatore, he doesn’t put on airs even after having done something which many of us cannot even dream of.

He not only gives lectures on Sastha (Ayyappan) but, has already authored a 500-page book in Tamil - A Purana in 21st century: Sri Maha Sastha Vijayam. In addition, he has written two books - Lalithayin Kadhai - in Tamil on Lalitha Sahasranamam and Sathya Sai Avatar in English.

He conducts ‘Sastha Sapthaham’ and also ‘puranic quiz’.

V. Aravind Subramanyam tells G.Satyamurty that his book on Sastha is a culmination of a journey of 14 years.

“When I was doing eighth standard, I read ‘Kaliyuga Varadhan Ayyappan’ - a book published during 1950. I felt there was ‘something’ missing. Though the worship of Lord Sastha is very much common and widespread (in Tamil Nadu in the form of Ayyanar and in Kerala as Ayyappa and both are called Hariharaputhran with about 6,000 shrines in both the States put together), there was no proper book containing all the aspects such as stories of Sastha’s other incarnations,

“His marriage episodes with Prabhavathi Devi, Poorna and Pushkala, His son, His parivaras, etc. Of course, neither did I have any great scholarship nor any spiritual background except my grandfather Kalpathi C.V.Shrinivasa Iyer being the one who initiated the Pankuni Uthram festival at Sabarimala.”

“It was my parents who backed me to the hilt, giving me money and permitting me to travel all over Kerala, Tamil Nadu and even Karnataka in my quest. Initially it was discouragement from almost every quarter. Even those who were extremely knowledgeable on this score scoffed at my effort. After all, I was just a school kid. Ultimately when they knew that I was sincere and doing a real work, they handed over everything that they had to iron out my doubts. Ultimately, it took 12 years of research and two years of writing to complete the book which I consider a comprehensive work and the first purana on Lord Sastha,” he says.

Aravind points out that Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala is said to be a Brahmachari. But there is another version saying he had married Poorna and Pushkala and had a child. While Achankoil has a deity with His consorts Poorna and Pushkala, He has another consort Prabhavathi at Aryankavu shrine.

Besides, it is likely that the Ayyanar cult of Tamil Nadu could be the extension of the Sastha cult of Kerala mentioned by St.Henry White in his ‘Village Gods of South India’ authored in 1920 as both the temples do not permit any ‘sacrifice’ (pali).

Though there have been a number of stories, there is no exclusive purana for Sastha. Interestingly even the ‘Sastha pattu’ is in Tamil but sung only in Kerala.

Ironically, only Malayalam script is available. This speaks of eight avatars of Ayyappa.

“When I was just 14 I wrote to the Tantri of Sabarimala seeking some explanation for some of my doubts for which I received no reply.”

He came to know that ‘Bhoodanada Upakyanam’ might have some details. But he is yet to get the book.

While he started going through a lot of palm scripts (olai suvadigals), he also began concentrating on the 700-800 songs (Sastha pattu) written by Manidasar about three centuries ago. They are virtually like Arunagirinthar waxing eloquent on Lord Muruga.

But as these Tamil songs were only in Malayalam script, Arvind learnt Malayalam and transliterated them into Tamil.

“There is quite a lot of information in these songs.” Besides, the library of Thanjavur and also that of Kanchi Mutt provided a lot of material.

“It is Sastha who is worshipped as Siva at Kanchipuram.”

The yoga pose is only in Sabarimala. According to the Manthra Sasthram, Sastha is identified in 18 forms.

“Involuntarily I started sketching the forms with the aid of computers. Each form had some significance but none knew much about them. Apart from ‘sthalapuranams’, the 40-km stretch between Jayanthipuram and Somaranyam (currently Tiruchendur and Tirunelveli) alone has more than 100 Sastha shrines, which provide considerable information. Kallidaikurichi also proved a bonanza where Sastha is believed to have given an ‘adimai sasanam’ ( bond) to a baktha.”

Spending the midnight oil , amidst regular studies, he has completed a voluminous book of several cantos and more than 100 songs, five ‘sahasranamams’, two ‘trishadis’ and 11 ‘ashtothrams’ recently.

He contends, “this is not a regular Ayyappa book containing only the story of Pandalam, Mahishi and pradhishta at Sabarimala. This contains rare and unknown purana stories with in-depth details giving answers to many doubts.”

Highlights

Listing the highlights, he says the book has about 85 puranic stories of Lord Hariharaputhra divided into seven cantos.

Besides, it mentions notable age-old temples of Sastha in India and their history, stories of various other incarnations of Sastha, mantras and massive collection of ancient Tamil songs and Sastha paintings in 18 different forms.

Blessed by various renowned mutts and eminent intellectuals including Swami Dayananda Saraswathi, Aravind is trying to translate it into English and Malayalam also.

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