When I was at Gonda (U.P.), I suffered a lot due to back pain. On 13-09-1985, I went for our weekly fasting prayer with others. Since I could not sit for a long time, I returned to my room and lay down on my cot. After some time, as others came to see me and prayed for me, I was meditating about the physical suffering of the Lord on the cross. Compared to that suffering my pain looked like nothing. So when they came, I requested one of them to write down this song.
அந்தோ உன்நிலை என்ன சொல்வேன்
ஆரரிவார் உந்தன் அவல நிலை
ஆராய்ப் பாய்ந்தது குருதி ஐயோ–அந்தோ அந்தோ…
அங்கெமெல்லாம் பட்ட காயமுடன்
அந்தோ தெய்வ மைந்தன் நீயே
அமைதியாய்ச் சிலுவையும் சுமந்தாயே–அந்தோ அந்தோ…
ஏனையா இத்தனை கொடுமையினை
ஏற்றுக் கொண்டாய் நீ பொறுமையுடன்
என்பாவ பாரமே தான் நீக்க
இத்தனை வாதைகள் நீ பொறுக்க–அந்தோ அந்தோ…
காணவே கண்களும் கூசியதோ
கண்ணீரும் அருவியாய்ப் பாய்ந்ததுவோ
கயவனாம் என்னையும் தான் மீட்க
கல்வாரி நோக்கி நீ நடக்க–அந்தோ அந்தோ…
மூன்றாணி காயமே தான் வருத்த
முள்முடி சிரசினிலே உறுத்த
மனுக்குலப் பாவமே உனை அழுத்த
மன்னவா உன்னையே நீ அளித்த–அந்தோ அந்தோ…
தந்தையும் உன்நிலை தான் வெறுக்க
தரணியும் மாந்தருமே நகைக்க
அன்பரும் நண்பரும் மறுதலிக்க
அவமானம் யாவையும் நீ பொறுக்க–அந்தோ அந்தோ…
கல்வாரி நாயகா உன்னண்டையில்
கடைமனிதன் வந்து அண்டும் வரை
கண்முனே இக்காட்சி தான்நிறுத்திக்
கருத்தாய் ஜெபித்து நான் உழைத்திடுவேன்–அந்தோ அந்தோ…
Oh! How can I tell your wretched condition?
Who will understand your pitiable situation?
The entire body was beaten
And the blood ran like river….
With body full of wounds
Oh! Son of God
You carried the cross silently…
Why did you accept such a cruelty
With much patience?
To remove the burden of my sin
You tolerated all these tortures….
Did your eyes refuse to see (my sin?)
And tears flew like river?
To redeem a rascal like me
You walked towards the cross…
The Father also hated your condition
People of this world also laughed at you
Friends and near ones also denied you
And you accepted all kind of disrespect (shown to you)…
The three nail wounds give you trouble
The crown of thorn also irritates your head
The sin of the humanity became a burden to you
And O King you gave yourself for us…..
Oh Lord of the Cross
Till the lost man come unto you
I will keep this vision before me
And will pray and toil diligently.
One accusation against the followers of the Lord and particularly of new believers is that not satisfied with their new-found faith in the Lord, they immediately began to preach to others to become His followers. There is truth in this. But true bhakti is not merely ‘carrying’ the burden of the Lord for the world but feeling along with Him. There is also a subtle difference here: suffering for the Lord is different from suffering with the Lord. I think here I find some difference from what many Hindu bhaktas have for their deity and we have with the Lord.
I read this true story a long time back in a Tamil weekly back in the mid 1970s. One small king, arranged for ten-day storytelling of the Ramayana at his palace. As a Rama bhakta, each day he sat with much devotion and listened to the story narrated by the performer. However, since the king was already familiar with the story, when the narrator was passionately telling the way Rama collected the army of monkeys to launch the attack against Ravana, the king immediately got up and gave command to his captain to keep his army too to join with Rama.
We can read similar stories about various Hindu bhaktas for their gods. I have seen how Needamangalam Krishnamoorthy Bhagavadar literarily cried with sobs when narrating the suffering of Rama and Sita during their exile or the pain of separation of the Gopies from Krishna in the ten-day programme arranged at Rock Fort Vinayaka temple in North Street. Sometimes he completely broke down with tears so that he couldn’t continue the narration and his assistant would began to sing some song for some time till he recovered or closed that day’s narration after that.
Several such incidents of identifying with the suffering of their deities are recorded in the lives of many saints and in their songs all over India and in much regional literature. Similarly inter- and intra-religious persecution was common, where the bhaktas happily laid down their life both for their firm faith and the deity. (See Understanding Hinduism)
But suffering along with our Lord and carrying His burden for others is unique for us. Interestingly, the CROSS not only became the symbol for the suffering of our Lord but anyone suffering for others is now known as ‘this is your Cross’. Whether others acknowledge it or not, the Cross has now become a symbol of suffering and not punishment. One death on the cross which was used both for torture and punishment completely changed its meaning. What once remained a symbol of shame, after the death of our Lord become a symbol of ‘suffering and sacrifice’ for others.
But feeling the pain and burden of the Lord for others cannot be comprehended intellectually by reading this incident in the Muktiveda. I’m not talking about the theology of what Our Lord has done on the Cross in dying for our sin. But that a mighty God can come down to face such humility for the sake of others looks more like a myth than a historical reality, and doesn’t have intellectual compatibility for many. It is not surprising that the cross became a stumbling block for many.
Now, this noble symbol of suffering, later distorted both in historic and modern time, need not make us feel ashamed for what it originally stood for. At least in my personal bhakti, the physical suffering of our Lord and His separation from God because of my sin has helped me to accept several sufferings in life with a new meaning.
Suffering is a big subject. It has given birth to many religious movements and thinkers all over the world. But in a bhakta’s life, no suffering goes without meaning and purpose as it is allowed with some purpose by God — including the one for which I am in no way responsible. When the ‘Why?’ question stands before me for any suffering both in my life and others, even though I never get a clear answer, the way our Lord submitted to the will of the Father without asking the same ‘Why?’ is enough for me to follow in His path. The ‘theology’ of bhakti has deeper meaning for a bhakta when she suffers along with the Lord than all the ‘philosophical’ questions and answers provided by the rest of the religions in the world.
Bhakti means ‘standing in personal relationship with the Lord’. That will become more meaningful when we suffer along with Him rather than only enjoying blessings from Him.
This is a song of lamentation. I don’t know much about the music of other countries, but in India, from cradle to grave, music is part of our life. For every occasion there is music. For every mood there is music. For every activity there is music. I have seen in Santal Pargana the way women will stand in a row when they transplant the seedlings and will sing a beautiful song with movement of the body. The same is true in Tamilnadu also. Even the words in a song will be arranged in such a way to express the feeling and the tune of the music and the occasion.
For example in Kambaramayana, the words used for the Supanaka walked in order to entice Rama are mostly by ‘Mellinam’ (gentle gender). The tune it goes with is also very gentle. However, the next song mostly uses ‘vallinam’ when soldiers (Kinnarars) tried to wake up the sleeping Kumbakarnan pounding him with wooden rods. It goes along with the music used for pounding paddy to remove rice from it.
பஞ்சியொளிர் விஞ்சுகுளிர் பல்லவ மனுங்கச் செஞ்செவிய கஞ்சநிமிர் சீறடி பெயர்ப்பாள் அஞ்சொலிள மஞ்ஞையென வன்னமென மின்னும் வஞ்சியென நஞ்சமென வஞ்சமகள் வந்தாள். (பாடல் 255), ப. 182 செம்பஞ்சும், விளக்கம் மிக்க செழித்த தளிர்களும், (செம்மையிலும் மென்மையிலும் தமக்கு ஒப்பாகாமல்) வருந்தும்படி, சிறந்த அழகுள்ள தாமரைமலர்போலத் தோன்றுகிற (தன்) சிறியபாதங்களை, எடுத்து வைப்பவளாய் அழகிய சொல்லையுடைய இளமையான மயில் போலவும், (ப. 182) அன்னப் பேடுபோலவும், விளங்குகிற வஞ்சிக் கொடி போலவும், விஷம் போலவும், வஞ்சனையுடையவளான சூர்ப்பணகை வந்தாள்-- கம்பராமாயணம், உரையாரிசியர் வை. மு. கோபாலகிருஷ்ணமாச்சார். சென்னை, உமா பதிப்பகம். 2006, ஆரணிய காண்டம், சூர்ப்பணகைப் படலம், ப. 182-83 உறங்கு கின்ற கும்ப கன்ன! உங்கள் மாய வாழ்வெலாம் இறங்கு கின்ற தின்று காணெ ழுந்தி ராயெ ழுந்திராய் கறங்கு போல விற்பி டித்த கால தூதர் கையிலே உறங்கு வாயு றங்கு வாயி னிக்கி டந்து றங்குவாய் உறங்குகின்ற கும்பகர்ணனே! உங்களுடைய பொய்யாகியவாழ்வு எல்லாம் இன்று இறங்குவதற்குத் தொடங்கி விட்டது: (இதனைக்) காண்பாய்; எழுந்திருப்பாய், எழுந்திருப்பாய்: காற்றாடிபோல(த் திரிகின்ற வரும்) ஆயுதத்தைப் பிடித்தவருமான யமதூதரின் கையிலே உறங்குவாய் உறங்குவாய்....-- யுத்தகாண்டம், முதல் பகுதி, கும்பகருணன் வதைப் படலம், பாடல் 1263, ப. 633,
In the same way, one can read in Tiruvasagam by Manikkavasagar several songs that women used in their plays. After the marriage when the bride and bridegroom sit in a swing that is gently swung, the woman will sing the ‘Unjal song’ that goes along with the gentle swinging of the swing.
One may wonder what this has to do with bhakti theology. In India, bhakti is not mere sentiment or intellectual understanding. It goes along with every event and mood in life. It is made to celebrate the relationship with God in various forms. Subramania Bharati, the famous Tamil poet in his ‘Kannan poems’ portrays Kannan as his friend (song 1); mother (2); father (3); servant (4); king (5); disciple (6); Sad-guru (7); child (8); playful child (9); lover (10, 11, 12, 13, 14); enticer (15); lady-love (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21); Master (22); and family deity (23). (Sini. Viswanatha, Bharatiyar Kavidaihal [Songs of Bharatiyar], Chennai, Pungodi Press, second edition, (1988) 2001, pp. 312-354)
Even in Tamil Christian literature, early pioneers like Vedanayagam Sastriyar wrote several such songs covering various aspects of life. But they never become popular in their circle. However I witnessed one interesting incident in my friend Paul Kannan’s son’s wedding. Two days before the marriage, his relatives celebrated ‘nalungu’ (applying turmeric and sandal paste on the face and body of the bridge groom and teasing him with songs and traditional dance of ‘kummi’). At that time they sang a few such songs composed for that occasion from the old song book.
In India, bhakti theology can never remain a separate intellectual understanding separated from everyday life for a bhakta. In my songs, I expressed them through various needs and moods of my life writing poems that suit those occasions.