The Tale of a thief and his enlightenment! | Milaap

The Tale of a thief and his enlightenment!

       Tamilnadu and culture are two factors that are bound up with each other. And when it comes to culture, temples play a great part in knitting them together. It is an astonishing fact that the Tamil kings wanted the temples to be the tallest and strongest architecture in their kingdom, even keeping the palaces and forts aside. That's one of the main reasons why the temples in Tamilnadu stand tall in grandiose even after thousands of years. I happened to find one such 2000-year-old temple during one of my evening walks, in Thirukanamangai village of Thiruvarur district. I moved into that place from my concrete jungles only a week ago and was excited to explore it.The age-old architecture stood around an Arcadian atmosphere with beautiful sculptures and eroding murals. They were the bearers of stories from the times of yore, stories that people had no time to listen to. But one day, I got lucky enough to not just hear it but also witness.

         It was on Pongal night, Tamilnadu's harvest festival and people in that village were reveling in the festive spirit. The temple's deity was a procession that day, inspecting his devotees and blessing them. Dressed in silk clothes, decked up with colorful flowers, jewels and gems, the deity was riding a white clay horse. There was folk music, small crackers been burst all along the way and people carrying fire torches.  I stood along the roadside, gawking at this amusing sight. All of a sudden there was a commotion and people were shouting, cheering and creating a bedlam. It was then I noticed a man running on the road and another chasing and whipping him. This whole chasing and whipping process took place for ten minutes and I was standing there wondering what it was all about.    

           It was then an old man standing near me, cared to explain this situation. The whole ruckus was because they were re-enacting an incident associated with the temple. The story goes like this, Thirumangai Alwar (Alwars are blessed devotees of Lord Vishnu) was once a dacoit who stole the temple jewels and money and ran away with it. He was caught while escaping and was said to be pardoned by the god himself. After this incident, he was enlightened and started writing beautiful hymns praising Lord Vishnu. It was in this temple, he stole and later attained the knowledge to understand his higher purpose. And the scene that was enacted was when he steals and gets caught by the people.    
             When I asked the old man for the need to re-enact he said," Every village in Thiruvarur has its own temples and practices. People here are in constant search to find reasons to celebrate. Even if its birth or death we come together and celebrate. We don't like staying within four walls. Look at the people standing on the roads, cheering and laughing at the things that amuse them. That's the reason for people inventing festivals, to come together and share their happiness". I was amused and at the same time felt his words to be a whack on my ideas of happiness. This village and the people around taught me what real happiness is; It is in sharing your joy and being with people who are genuine enough to share theirs too. That night it was not just the Alwar who was enlightened but also myself in certain ways.