As the Panguni festival returns after the lockdown, a look at Papanasam Sivan’s compositions around the event
Smitten by the majestic sway of Kapaleeswarar’s temple car and the beauty of the annual Panguni festival, Saint Thirugnanasambandar described it glowingly in his 7th century composition, ‘Poompavai Pathigam’. As he sang the song, Sivanesan Chettiyar’s daughter Poompavai is said to have come back to life from the ashes. This year, the scene will be enacted on the morning of March 26.
Inspired by the joy and vibrancy of the 10-day Brahmotsavam, Tamil Tyagayya, Papanasam Sivan, composed songs on the festival. His ‘Kana Kann Kodi Vendum,’ in the magnificent Kamboji effectively portrays the Adhikara Nandi procession, an important event on the festival’s third day. ‘It requires countless eyes to behold the grandeur of the procession of Lord Siva’ is the Pallavi. Then he goes on to describe the deity’s divine face, the dazzling jewels sequenced with diamonds and rubies, and the aroma of fragrant flowers in the garlands.
Sivan goes on to say that ‘the divine magnetism is such that the devotees wonder whether what they see is the twilight sky dotted with stars and the bright moon or are they in a lotus grove where his blemishless limbs shine as he showers his grace.’ Watching the Adhikara Nandi sevai, the composer describes the presence of Karpagambal, served by the goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi followed by Muruga, Ganapati, Chandikeswara and the Siva Ganas. He also describes a devotee’s feelings of ardour.
Papanasam Sivan was a long-time resident of Mylapore and his 60-odd compositions include ‘Kapali’ in Mohanam and ‘Engum Niraindhirukum’ in Kurinji, capturing the splendour of Mylapore or Mayilai as it is known.
This year, the Adhikara Nandi procession will take place on March 21 and the chariot festival on March 25.
During the Arubathu Moovar festival, the idols of the 63 Saivaite saints (Nayanmars) are taken out in procession in a remarkable replay of a living culture that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Last year, in what was possibly a first, the pandemic forced the festival to be conducted inside the temple without opening it up for worshippers. Expectations, therefore, run high this year, and Arubathu Moovar falls on March 26.
Mylapore turns festive during this time, with residents gearing up for the charged event. Hundreds of pavement shops spring up around the temple tank, selling toys, beads, trinkets and ceramics. D. Kaveri, temple executive officer, said a meeting had been convened to discuss crowd arrangements. “Food and water will be made available at several spots allotted by the Greater Chennai Corporation,” she said.
The Chennai-based author writes on music and heritage.