Breeze in the Lotus Pond

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C Kumaraparathy


 " Breeze in the Lotus Pond" or in Tamil  "Thamarai pootha thadakam". now, what is the image that this string of words create in the mind. For the elder members of the community brought up in Jaffna, these words could evoke vague memories of a tranquil pastoral scene. A remembrance long lost in antiquity, as if it all happened in a previous incarnation. They may still feel a sense of harmony on hearing these words in Tamil. ( virtual pond: Courtsey Link  http:\www\ Site is a visual treat of of Balinese art)

 The lines of a poetry can only evoke a feeling of beauty that already resides secretly in the heart. If the words do not strike a sympathetic chord, then the response is common place (mechanical). Even today the Tamil cinema cleverly exploits the words such as Mantha marudham, Thenral, Thamarai Thadakam, Poiykai meaning breeze, lotus pond etc. The film people know that these words set to music is bound to evoke an unfailing response in the listeners. The response arises from the tranquil pastoral images that these words create. These images are soothing and are remote from the daily pressures of living in an alien environment.  

Image28.jpg (81477 bytes)   I would put it tentatively (testing the ground as, if it were) that there are two aspects to this feeling of familiarity, that are evoked by some 'poetic words'. One is the personal experience of this pastoral scene, such as association of these scenes with an enchanted childhood. The scene itself may be nothing out of ordinary (what is ordinary is another question) but the impression of a happy childhood gives a lingering fragrance. The other is the collective memory carried through the passage of time, something like streams of centuries- flowing like a river. People have refereed to this variously as 'Tamil' Psyche, collective memory or simply tradition. It is said that this is an inherited trait without having to learn, something you pick up in the air so to speak. I will refrain from making any positive assertion or denial on such subtle realms. Let us leave it here.

(Above : Lily pond Courtesy Steve Hoffman Web pages. Nature photos with artistic sensiblity and care. Steve is a professional photographer and adventurer)

 What does this imagery of "Breeze in the Lotus Pond" mean to me? the taste and smell of it ? Vague nostalgia for a bygone age. Surreal images fleeting across the mind.

 A small boy is lying on top of a Ther Muddi- the landing platform cum garage of the large wooden temple chariot, the Ther. To access the top platform one needs to climb a flight of steps leading up to it. From this vantage point you could see for miles in this flat Jaffna landscape; the paddy fields, the Palmyra groves and the cremation ground beyond it. There is a quaint small moss covered lotus pond by the Muddi. A large Marudam tree overshadows the pond. The gusts of July wind stirs up the dead leaves on the ground. It rustles through the tree. The nearby palmyrah grove responds to the wind with a strong base note, occasionally with a loud thud dropping ripe fruits, and branches (Nuingu, Kangu Maddai). In its wake this Cholagam, ( the name of the July wind ) creates a Summer symphony taking the fierce July heat away. It leaves in its trail a hint of ancient melancholy. (Pics Courtsey : Website Indian Govt -Tourism: Chidambaram Temple and pond. A pond with a gopuram is a refreshing scene)

This secluded place is not always quite like this. The festival days are heady , it brings all sorts of activities to the young and old alike. The chariot and the platform are put to use ceremonially once a year, during the Ther festival. When devotees from the entire peninsula numbering tens of thousands congregate at the temple. Hundreds of them form two parallel rows and draw the cumbersome chariot by two thick ropes with shouts of Arohara, to keep time. The contraption lumbers on its large precarious wooden wheels. It is taken round the outer perimeter Veethi with pipes, drums and fanfare. The high priest and hordes of his sons and nephews attired in silks sit on the platform to service the crowd of devotees seeking Archanai. Hundreds of eager hands raised with tray of offerings reach out for high platform of idol and the junior priests hang precariously from top to reach down and grab the Thattu or tray. In this scramble, as a rule of thumb half of all that is offered is taken for the temple, including the coconut which is broken into a half. Half is given back with Vibhuthi, prasadam all wrapped, in poovarasam leaves and secured by thread. The kavadi dancers, the devotees rolling on ground in penance and groups of singers add to the din. Water lorries have been sprinkling water overnight on the Veethi sand to make it comfortable to the rolling devotees. The ceremonies reach the crescendo when the Ther after ten hours of pageantry progress circumventing a mere kilometer reaches Iruppu or the resting place. The idols are brought down gracefully swaying to the pipe - nadhaswarm note- the grand finale Nattanam. The idol bearers give an inspired performance of dancing the idols along with the heavy frame to the music. This is an art by itself . The shouts of Arohara deafens the ears in their attempts to reach the gods in heaven. The atmosphere could be only be described as one of heightened spiritual fervor. The emotional flow overwhelms the observers irrespective of whether you believe in all this or not.

 The next day the Ther is stripped down unceremoniously of all the heavy silken drapes, -yards and yards of them, the wheels jacked up and the structure is put in cold storage till the next years event. It is poignantly sad to watch all this happening in the backdrop of departing vendors taking with them their exotic wares brought far flung places. Their bullock carts are destined for Nallur the next festival venue. The emptiness of the deserted Veethi with the scattering of rubbish with assortment of broken whistles, strips of punctured balloons, wrapping papers of kadalai were all that was left. The toys that were obtained with coercion and those that were unobtainable has become a thing of the past in a few hours. Sigh erupts at the thought of slipping into the mundane living of school sans the excitement and eccentricities of the colorful 24 day festivals. No more excuses for home work - "Iyer asked us to pick Arugam grass". This marks the end of the festival season for the year and the village again reverts to its customary sleepiness after a spur of this activity.  

The platform is hardly used by the locals and remains deserted except for use by occasional wandering vagrants in search of a shade and by field workers for their noon siesta. Otherwise it is generally left to the children to play around it. Few visit the temple daily except for special days, a special flavor of silence and loneliness now permanently hangs around the place.   >>>>CONTD IN BREEZE  PART II

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Up Breeze  ....PART II

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Mail Author: C Kumara Bharathy