The worship of fire and the worship with fire has been a part of ancient religions across the world. If the Adityas and then Agni were primary deities in the Vedas, the Zoroastrians saw fire as the light of Ahura Mazda. The Vestal Virgins of ancient Rome worshipped the Sacred Fire of Vesta, the Greeks bowed to Hestas and Hephaestus, the Aztecs had Chantico, to name just a few. Although I light a lamp every morning and evening at my home altar, although I have seen and participated in innumerable Hindu rituals where the homa fire stood as witness, I have always seen Agni as some remote God of the Vedic people quite unrelated to my own beliefs. I even saw the deification of nature as somewhat primitive, preferring to think of it as symbolic.
But lately I have become much more sympathetic to the idea of nature worship. My change of mind comes from, of all things, the Solar Panels we installed earlier in the month. ‘What?’ You are thinking, aren’t you, ‘Whatever is Suja going on about today?‘. So, here’s the thing. Since the installation, I have become so much more aware of the power that is that ball of fire we call the Sun. A slowtop, that’s what I am! One goes through life with blinkers on, doesn’t one, not even noticing the extraordinary which is within all those ordinaries around us! Our new solar panels produce so much electricity that we can run all our appliances during the day including a washing machine, dishwasher, induction cook top, fridges, vacuum cleaner, electric mop, TV and computer (to just name just a few) and still have extra to export to the grid. Is that not simply amazing? We don’t have a battery so we do use electricity from the grid when solar production is not sufficient but we are net positive. I confess; all these years I have paid electricity bills without once glancing at consumption. Now suddenly I am hyper-aware and am just blown away by the wonder of solar energy. The fire so far away in the skies has so much power that even the most insignificant, miniscule part of it which falls upon our roof is enough to run our home! I know, this is something even school kids would know. But there is knowing and there is truly experiencing. It doesn’t feel primitive at all to respect that fire and call it a God, it is that awe inspiring.
But we Hindus have one more factor amongst our Gods and Goddesses. We realise that they have both benevolent and malevolent aspects to them. A kindly Durga and a threatening Kali are but two sides of the same, as are Shiva and Bhairava. That kindly solar fire which runs my home has also caused the most destructive havoc in Australia, my home country. Wild bush fires are all consuming, voracious in their appetite for more destruction. The earth is parched with drought and people are suffering. The temperatures across Australia are reaching record highs. We are a nation scorched. We need rain, rain which quenches the thirst of a parched land. But that is a prayer to Varuna, another God, and another post.
Today my musical choice is dedicated Shiva in his manifestation in the form of an Agni Lingam, am emblem of fire. Arunachala Natham, set to raga Saranga, belongs to a set of compositions by Muthuswami Diksthar called the Panchabhutalinga Kshetra Kritis. Many years ago I had featured Ananada Natana Prakasham in Kedaram which belongs to the same set of compositions. In my song choice of today, Dikshithar describes Shiva as resembling a crore of rising suns but also as a source of mercy. My land of Australia needs that mercy now.
Listen below to Sikkil Gurucharan’s meditative rendition of this song. The focus is on the purity of the composition; a fact which rather appeals to me. See if you enjoy the repeated use of sound ङ्ग (nga) in the charanam as much as I do!
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Muthuswami Diksthar
Raga : Saranga
Language : Sanskrit
अरुणाचल नाथम् स्मरामि
अनिशम् अपीत कुचाम्बा समेतम्
स्मरणात् कैवल्य प्रद चरणारविन्दम्
तरुणादित्य कोटि सङ्काश चिदानन्दम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
करुणा रसादि कन्दम् शरणागत सुर वृन्दम्
अप्राकृत तेजोमय लिङ्गम् , अत्यद्भुत कर धृत सारङ्गम्
अप्रमेयं अपर्णाब्ज भृङ्गम् , आरूढोत्तुङ्ग वृष तुरङ्गम्
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
विप्रोत्तम विशेषान्तरङ्गम् , वीर गुरु गुह तार प्रसङ्गम्
स्वप्रदीप मौलि विधृत गङ्गम् , स्वप्रकाश जित सोमाग्नि पतङ्गम्
aruNAchala nAthaM smarAmi
anisham apIta kuchAmbA samEtam
smaraNAt kaivalya prada charaNaravindam
taruNAditya kOTi sangkAsha chidAnandam
karuNA rasAdi kandam sharaNAgata sura vRndam
aprAkRta tEjOmaya lingam atyadbhuta kara dhRta sArangam
apramEyam aparNAbja bhRngam ArUDhOttunga vRsha turangam
viprOttama vishEshAntarangam vIra guru guha tAra prasangam
svapradIpa mauli vidhRta gangam svaprakAsha jita sOmAgni patangam
I constantly (anisham) remember/recite the name of (smarAmi) the Lord (nAtham) of Arunachala together with (samEtam) Goddess Apitakuchamba – mother (ambA) with unsuckled (apIta-literally undrunk) breasts (kucha).
The God who (implied) grants (prada) release from the cycle of birth (kaivalya) simply (implied) by His lotus-feet (charaNa aravinDam) being remembered (smaraNat), who resembles (sangkAsha) countless (kOTi, literally a crore) young (taruNa) suns (Aditya). He who is blissful (Ananda) consciousness (chit) incarnate (implied), He who is the original (Adi) root (kandam) of compassion (karuNA rasa) towards the flocks (vRndam) of learned men/divinities (sura) who seek refuge in him (sharaNAgata).
He whose emblem (linga) is extraordinarily (aprAkRta) brilliant (tEjOmaya) (note: refers to the story of Shiva manifesting himself as an unmeasurable column of light at Arunachalam), He who holds (dhRta) a very (ati) wonderous (adbhuta) deer (sArangam – note this is the name of the raga as well) in his hand (kara), He who is unfathomable (apramEyam), He who is the lotus (abja) to the bee (bhRngam) who is Parvati (aparNA), He who is mounted on (ArUDHa) a tall (uttunga) and speedy (turangam) bull (vRsha), He who is especially (vishEsha) intimate (antarangam) with the best of the (uttama) learned men/Brahmins (vipra), The savior (tAra) to whom the heroic (vIra) Subrahmanya (guruguha, also the signature of the composer) is devoted (prasangam) , He who bears (vidhRta) Ganga as an ornament (pradIpa) of his own (sva) top-knot (mauli), He whose own (sva) luminescence (prakAsha) surpasses that of (jita, literally wins) the moon (sOma), fire (agni) and the sun (patangam).
(A Notation is available at this site : http://meerascarnatic.blogspot.com/2019/07/arunachala-natham.html)
20 responses to “Arunachala Natham”
The way you connect events in life to music is remarkable. Solar panels to Arunachala natham ? Wow !
Yes, your country needs a merciful touch. We have been reading about the fires across NSW, SA and Victoria – seems to have all come at the same time. I read somewhere that an area as big as Belgium has been destroyed. May the Lord mercifully shower some rain on you.
In the kriti you have featured, is the reference to light, rather than heat, of the sun ? I presume the light dimension of the sacred fire, is perhaps a tad more important than the heat – light equates purity, dispelling of darkness, etc. I know I am splitting hairs, but then your posts always make me reflect.
A word on Sikkil Gurucharan. In the last few years, every concert of his I go to, seems better than the previous one. We listened to him a couple of months ago and his Sankarabharanam main was scintillating. He is really wonderful to hear live.
Its a rather circuitous root from solar panels to Arunachala Natham, isn’t it 🙂 But hey, my mind is a convoluted one, so there’s the post! Australia is suffering very much indeed; your prayers on its behalf is appreciated.
I do agree that light as an analogy is often used, and rightly so, because of all the reasons you say. However, in this case, fire is the appropriate connection. There are 5 sthalas for Shiva worship which are associated with the pancha-bhootas (earth, ether, water, air and fire) . The Shiva Linga at Arunachaleshwara Temple (Thiruvannamalai) represents fire and this kriti is in honour of the Lord of that Sthala.
I have heard Sikkil Gurucharan live only once and I enjoyed his concert. I have been listening to him online for 10 years or so and have watched him mature as an artist with great interest. He is gifted with a great voice and I like his approach to carnatic music. I hope I get more opportunities to hear him live. Now that I live in Australia where musicians do visit (unlike Switzerland), perhaps I’ll get the opportunity.
I am in Chennai for a week of Margazhi concerts . Went to my first concert today and guess what the first krithi was ! Relived your post every second. Wouldn’t have thought twice about the kriti, but for reading your blog yesterday 🙂
Oh wow, that’s a coincidence 🙂 I’m envious about your week in Chennai and look forward to hearing about your experiences!
To the best of my knowledge, Agni worship has not been
prevalent in Sangam literature. Murugan was the deity in mountain
regions( kurinji), Mayavan(Krishna) was the deity of Mullai (
forest, pastoral lands and small streams) , Kotravai ( Durga) the
deity of Palai ( arid areas), …VaruNan said to be the deity
of coastal areas. …The deity of marutham ( large scale
agriculture as in large rivers fed ares) is not clearly mentioned.
The vedic brahmins were the only group who had the
fire-ritual. P.T.Srinivasa Iengar is categorical in assering that
vedic brahmins and later advaitins of Sanakar school had nothing
to do with the Hindu pantheon of ancient tamils. Even Sivan is
doubtful. ViNayakar much more so.
Clearly then Fire worship ( not to be confused with the
Sky—Vishnu and perhaps Soorya) should not be mixed up with
Solar panel is not the solution.
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Thank you for your comment. My post referred to fire deities in different parts of the world; I did not mention South India for I have not heard about the pre-vedic fire-deity here. Your information about nature-worship in ancient Southern India is interesting.
I absolutely did not mix up fire worship with Surya. In fact, I was very careful not to mention Surya in my post so as to not confuse the issue! My post today was about fire. Though the gases on the surface of the sun do not burn as we know it (there is no oxygen), but there is nucleur fusion and a consumption of hydrogen. We non-scientists do take it for a fire in common parlance. And thus my connection of solar panels and fire. Do allow me this artistic license! And Arunachala Natham is in honour of the Lord of a Sthala associated with fire (one of the pancha bhootha sthala). If my post does not connect the dots correctly, it is the shortcoming of my writing but the connection is there.
I am also unsure why you have said solar panel is not the solution; the rest of your comment is in an unreadable font. But for us, solar panel is an excellent solution!
Madam, Both the article and the song are very nice. Thanks a lot! With Regards, S.Chandrasekaran.
Thank you for your kind comment.
Very nice choice and write up. Always look forward to one from you
Thank you Shobhana!
Admire your very thoughtful postings
Prayers to Surya Bhagavan to show mercy on the land down under 🙏
Also what a coincidence that I get to read your post as well as to listen to the lovely rendition by Sikkil Gurucharan as we are right now in between a solar eclipse.. the sun god hiding and giving us an insight to what it will be if he goes into hiding !!
My first experience of solar power in our daily use was the solar cookers that came in market in the 1980 s in India .. and then it was solar heaters to heat up the bathroom water ..
Then it was solar panels to light up streets in India !
Now of course the entire house runs in solar energy .
Soorya moorthe namosthuthe in Saurashtram is what I remembered this morning as the eclipse started .
Cheers and love
Hi Padma! Thank you for adding your prayers for Australia. India enjoys so much sun that it can be the powerhouse for the world! What if one day cement were to be replaced by a material which converts solar energy? What if the asphalt on the roads could be made of such materials? What if every vehicle is constructed of such materials? The energy is there, it is just our shortcoming that we do not know how to harness it. If we add wind energy and wave energy (imagine harnessing power from every wave which crashes on the shore!) we humans will never lack energy anymore. I think there is an analogy there somewhere – God has also showered us with spiritual energy and it is just our shortcoming that we do not know how to harness it.
I did think of Soorya Murthe which I had written a post on many years ago. But I wanted instead to focus on the aspect of fire which is causing such havoc in Australia so the kriti is to Arunachala Natha, He who is represented by the Fire Linga.
Yes dear Suja
You are right
There is abundant sources of energy in nature , if channelised in the right way.. India can be a powerhouse !!
And yes India is rich spiritually too !
So much to learn and practice.
Loved this post and how you woke up to our primitive worship because of salary panels. God has given everything but we humans need to learn how best to use whatever he has bestowed. Sun has been eternal but we as humans have not understood how to use his benevolence. And save on other energy and save the environment in the process too.
Truly solar and wind energy should have been harnessed long ago but humans have been selfish and lazy by using other non renewable energy resources and spoiling our beloved planet in the process. And thus we have initiated faster and faster global warming. The Austrailian bush fires are one such devastating effect.
May the Lord give more sense to us going forward.
You are so right Sumati, we humans have quite failed in keeping this earth and the environment safe for the generations to come. I hope the terrible impact of the fires in Australia is a wake up call for us all. Cheers. Suja
Please do add a link of the song by any artist.
And BTW when did you shift base to Austrailia?
Looks like I have been away quite too long from your blog as I still remember you being in Switzerland.
Hi Sumati, can you not see the youtube video I have included in this post? If you can see it for some reason, perhaps you can copy and paste this link : https://youtu.be/S434tu8QU7Q
My husband and I moved back to Australia six months back. A big move after 18 years of being away!
The link is not working. That’s why I asked for benefit of all your followers.
Muat be really wonderful to get back to your home place after so long.
Wonderful translation. Thank you.
Thank you Nirmala!