Friday, August 29, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part XV: Two Shrines Built

  • The twin kings of Ponnivala are now dead. Like true heroes, they have left his world of their own will, leaping skyward to make a brave fall onto the sharp tips of their own swords.

  • Their sister soon discovers the tray of signs her brothers left behind. Each marker has wilted, dried, rotted or broken in half. She knows these two fine men are no more.

  • Tangal begins a brave search to find her siblings. Letting her hair down she wanders in the forest alone, as if possessed. If in her right mind, she would never dare to enter this wild place by herself, an unknown space where many dangers lurk. But she is oblivious to all that. She must find her brothers’ dying place.

  • After a very long time, and with help from the king of the cobras, Tangal finds a Sun Maiden sitting on a pillar deep in the forest.

  • Tangal brings her a tier of freshly made earthen pots and asks her to fill them with substances that will help bring her brothers back from death.

  • The Sun Maiden, after much meditation, has obtained special powers. She is like a lightning rod that can conduct cosmic energy downward from the heavens, in this case that flow utilizes her own body. She uses these powers to fill Tangal’s pots with various special liquids, plus certain magically endowed fruits and grains.

  • Then this same yogini then offers Tangal her golden goose. She tells it to carry the young maiden over the mountain tops and the deep jungle to the heroes’ dying ground. The goose knows where her guest’s brothers’ bodies lie.

  • When Tangal reaches the sacred spot she sets out her seven pots and begins the ritual steps needed to resurrect them.

  • Soon both brothers, and also their loyal assistant Shambuga, have sprung back to life. They are surprised and very happy to find their sister talking to them.

  • Half crying, Tangal begs her brothers to come back to the family palace. She wants them to start over again and rebuild their fine Ponnivala kingdom. But the conversation does not last long. The two men say it is time to depart. Tangal has no choice in the matter.

  • So the sad and grieving sister calls on Lord Vishnu, asking him to create two simple carrying biers, one for her two brothers’ bodies and a second for their loyal First Minister. Vishnu also creates a group of pall bearers assigned to carry this sad, somewhat magical burden to the nearest town.

  • But before the funeral party is ready to start their journey, Yeman (the Lord of Death) appears. He prepares to take the spirits of the three dead men, which Tangal just recently coaxed back to their bodies for a few minutes. Yeman will fly the life force of all three men back to Lord Shiva’s Council Chambers in his own little box.

  • Now the procession starts with the two heroes in the lead and their loyal assistant Shambuga carried on his own bier, just a few feet behind them.

  • The two royal horses, Ponnar and Shankar’s magical blue steeds, run down the winding mountain path too. They follow the solemn procession at a respectful distance.

  • Soon the village of Virappur comes into view. Here is where the heroes will have their permanent shrines erected in preparation for a yearly festival that will honor their names.

  • Tangal sees the bodies of her two bodies on their simple carrying frame. Wanting to give them more respect, she prays to Lord Vishnu for help in decorating their humble stretcher.

  • With the blue horses watching, flowers and a lovely golden canopy decked with flowers appears and provides shade for the two royal bodies.

  • There is nothing to embarrass the family now. The bier is soon beautifully decorated.

  • Vishnu’s magical pall bearers carry the two bodies around the town for their last rite of homage. Everyone in the locale pays their last respects.

  • And now something surprising happens! Tangal’s prayers cause the bodies of her brothers to rise up. Their assistant Shambuga has already been assigned his side-shrine.

  • Two beautiful statues appears, each protected by its own domed enclosure.

  • The two horses are turned into stone statues too. They stand facing Shambuga together, side-by-side, choosing a posture that indicates their enduring loyalty and respect.

  • Tangal, meanwhile, has laid out all of her 18 ritual offerings. Her worship at the shrines dedicated to her twin brothers begins.

  • Tangal herself is the priest who conducts this first worship ritual at the shrine. Tangal rings the bell herself, a duty usually left to some non-family member, a local male priest.

  • This is how the shrine center dedicated to the twins heroes of Ponnivala came to be. Long may their story be told and long may it be remembered. The annual festival established by Tangal is thriving today and is reported to be growing in popularity and in grandeur, every year!

[<==Back to Part 14]

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part XIV: The Heroes' Spirits Collected

  • The twin heroes of Ponnivala have just completed their fight with the Vettuva hunters who live in the forested hills that surround their fertile farmland. They believe they have won as they have seen many Vettuvas lying dead all around them. They also believe that they have followed Lord Vishnu’s command to “just fight a few minutes longer.” All is now still. They are ready to wash their swords and to bathe in the small stream that flows nearby.

  • But suddenly they hear a rustling sound. They don’t see Lord Vishnu perched on a tree branch above them. Thinking the sound means nothing they enter the water and begin to wash.

  • Each brother scrubs his sword thoroughly, making sure that all the dried blood is washed off. They also scrub their bodies clean of all the sweat and filth of battle.

  • What they do not see is Lord Vishnu who has just prepared an arrow made of jasmine flowers. He has also conjured up a bow made of a sugarcane stalk. He now pulls back the bow string and aims his shot.

  • As the arrow flies it seeks out Shankar and takes as its target, the little white string he wears on his chest. That is Shankar’s protective thread and a marker of his warrior status. Without it he is returned to his much more humble and vulnerable previous status, as one of Ponnivala’s twin farmer-kings.

  • Shankar reacts quickly. He understands the symbolism of what has just happened. Now he turns to his brother and says: “An arrow just took my protective thread away. This is a sign that it is now time for us to give up our own lives. We shall do so honorably, right here beside this flowing river.” Ponnar nods in agreement. His brother knows best.

  • The two men now march up on the bank and head for the ridge above this small river valley.

  • Once there Shankar quickly notices his thread has been left on the branch of a bush by the arrow that stole it from him.

  • Shankar shows the thread to Ponnar and says, “This is a sign that Lord Vishnu sent us. Our lives are now complete. I am ready to die.”

  • With that said, Shankar walks quickly past his elder brother. He does not give him any time to protest this fateful decision.

  • Next Shankar throws his sword with a hard and skillful thrust. The weapon flies up and come back to earth heel first, landing solidly in the soft soil with its blade pointing upwards.

  • Next Shankar takes a sudden and flying leap into the air. It is as if he has just jumped on to the sun chariot itself and is starting to fly towards that golden disc that travels high in the sky above.

  • But then Shankar falls downward with a soft thud, such that his sword pieces his chest and enters his own heart! The great warrior-farmer is no more. His life has left him and his body will soon lie limp.

  • Seeing this sacrificial act, Shankar is both shocked and amazed. He knows now what he must do.

  • With a short prayer Ponnar soon lifts his own sword high.  

  • It rises in the air and falls next to Shankar in perfect alignment with its twin. Its’ heel, too, is now embedded solidly in the soft earth.

  • Ponnar then takes a similar sudden leap forward, just as his brother did a few minutes earlier. He, too, seems to leap onto that chariot that is heading towards the sun.

  • And then Ponnar too, lands back on earth. His body goes limp as well, with his sword neatly passing through his own heart. The two bodies lie in perfect alignment. They remain twins in death just as they have been matched as twins since their birth within minutes of each other, just sixteen years ago! Sixteen years of life is what Lord Shiva decreed and Lord Vishnu agreed to long ago at the time that Shiva arranged for their mother’s immaculate impregnation with the spirit lives of Arjuna and Bhima, the famous Mahabharata heroes who have lived again through their earthly bodies. This all happened in Kailasa, in Lord Shiva’s own Famous Council Chamber high above.  

  • Soon Shambuga, the loyal assistant, finds his masters’ two bodies. He knows it is his duty to depart from this world with them. Taking a branch from a sacred Suma tree growing nearby, Shambuga throws it with great skill, aiming it so well that it falls and embeds its base in the ground while leaving its sharp, sharp tip pointing skyward. His body soon lies just a short distance from those of the two Ponnivala rulers.

  • As soon as Shambuga’s body goes limp Lord Vishnu appears on this special dying ground. He now opens his little golden box and calls the spirits of all three men to enter it. The three spirit lives fly oup from the prone bodies and directly toward the god’s open container.

  • When all three spirits have entered this carrying vessel Lord Vishnu snaps the lip closed using just one thumb.

  • Then Vishnu quickly departs, leaving gracefully for the skies above with his precious cargo.

  • Lord Vishnu has a long way to fly. He passes through many clouds. Finally he sees an opening and the floor of that famed Council Chamber, a space belonging to the great Shiva himself, begins to appear.

  • Vishnu soon becomes visible on the floor of Mount Kailasa’s great icy chamber. Both Lord Shiva and his loyal accountant are there to great him.

  • Vishnu pulls out the little golden box and shows it to his famed brother-in-law, the Lord of the universe itself. Vishnu also reminds Shiva of the key bargain he made with him sixteen years ago. At that time Vishnu had handed Shiva his beloved conch shell. Now, in exchange for the spirit lives of Ponnivala’s two great heroes… it is time for Lord Shiva to give him his conch shell back!

[<==Back to Part 13]