In English we talk of almond-shaped eyes. In Sanskrit, it is instead referred to as fish-shaped eyes. When I think of beautifully elongated eyes, I think of no other than Meenakshi (meena = fish, akshi = eye), the Goddess of Madurai. There has been a temple at this location for about 2000 years but the current structure, or most of it, was built in the 14th century after the older structure was destroyed by Muslim invaders. The deities in the temple, Shiva & Parvati, are called Sundareshwarar and Meenakshi. It is said that the idol of Meenakshi is made of emerald and so she is represented as a green-skinned Goddess.
How many Gods and Goddesses we Hindus have!! And to complicate matters, each God or Goddess has many avatars and ever more names! We should not forget however that Hinduism is a monotheistic religion, just with a polymorphic God. There are many references in the Vedas which talk of one God but with many forms and names. If you then bring in the concept of Nirguna Brahman (God of No Attributes) and Saguna Brahman (God with attributes) and the different interpretations by Advaita & Dvaita philosophies, we are in deep waters indeed. I like to think of it in terms of refraction of light; though light is colourless, it is made up of so many colours! Like that, God though without attributes, is made up of many selves and attributes. So when our Saint composers sing of one deity or the other, each is a perfect description of one facet of God.
Muthuswami Dikshithar (1775-1835), one of the important trinity of Carnatic music composers from the 18-19th century, composed close to 500 krithis (compositions). Most of his compositions are in Sanskrit. It is said that he asked his students to sing this kriti while on his death-bed and died while listening to it. Composed in raga Purvikalyani, it has only one demand of the Goddess – Meenakshi, Me Mudam Dehi – Give me eternal bliss. The rest of the song describes Meenakshi in many ways. What a beautiful song it is! Listen carefully and the raga will draw you in, to your centre, to a place of peace and bliss. To know more about the raga, click here.
Listen below to a wonderful rendition T.N.Seshagopalan. I listened to many renditions of this well known kriti, but I see myself keep coming back to this one with pleasure.
Alternate link : Click here.
For an instrumental, listen here to the great Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
मीनाक्षि मे मुदम् देहि
मेचकाङ्गि राज मातकाङ्गि
मानमातृ मेये माये मरकत छाये शिवजाये
मीनलोचनी पाशमोचनी मानिनि कदम्बवन वासिनि
मधुरापुरि निलये मणि वलये
मलयध्वज पाण्ड्य राज तनये
विधुविलंबन वदने विजये
वीणा गान दश गमकक्रिये
मधु मद मोदित हृदये सदये
महादेव सुन्दरेश प्रिये
मधु मुररिपु सोदरि शातोदरि
विधि गुरुगुह वशङ्करि शङ्करि
mInAkshi mE mudam dEhi
mEchakAngi rAja mAtangi
mAnamAtR mEyE mAyE
marakata CHAyE shiva jAyE
mIna lOchani pAsha mOchani
mAnini kadamba vana vAsini
madhurApuri nilayE maNi valayE
malayadhwaja pANdya rAja tanayE
vidhuvilamabana vadanE vijayE
vINA gAna dasha gamakakriyE
madhu mada mOdita hrdayE sadayE
mahAdEva sundarEsha priyE
madhu muraripu sOdari shAtOdari
vidhi guruguha vashankari shankari
O Meenakshi, O dark-hued one !(mechaka anga) [alternatively one who wears jewels on her limbs] O Raja Matangi (one of the forms of Devi) ! Give (dEhi) me (mE) bliss (mudam) !
The knower (mAtR) of the concept (mAna) as well as the object the knowledge (mEyE), and the limit of knowledge (mAyE), emerald (marakata) complexioned (CHAyE), the wife (jAyE) of Shiva, with eyes (lOchani) shaped like fish (mIna), the one who releases (mOchani) from bondage (pAsha), the respected one (mAnini), who lives (vAsini) in the kadamba forest (vana).
She who dwells (nilayE) in Madhurapuri, who wears gem-studded (maNi) bangles (valayE), who was the sister (tanayE) of the Pandya king (rAja), with a face (vadanE) which makes a mockery (viDambana) of the moon (vidhu), the victorious one (vijayE), the one who created (kriyE) the ten (dasha) modulations (gamaka) of Vina music (gAna), she who brings delight (modita) to one’s heart (hRdayE), the compassionate one (sadayE), the beloved of great God (mahAdEva) Sundaresha/Shiva, the enemy (ripu) of the demons Madhu and Mura, sister (sOdari) of Lord Vishnu (implied), slender-waisted (shAtOdari), she who captivates (vashankari) Lord Brahma (vidhi) and Lord Guruguha (also signature of composer), she is the auspicious one (shankari).