Ayarpaadis had existed
in very olden days,
that is, in the times of early Sangam,
which was sub-merged after the 2nd sangam.
The sect called Ayar (equivalent of Yadhavas of the North), the cowherds
was an important group (kudi) in the land of the Pandyas.
Wherever, a city or township was located, there used to be an ayarpaadi at its outskirts,
to take care of the dairy needs of the people of the city.
The city folks were mostly in service of the King, engaged in activities
that required able-bodied ones known for their valour (veeram),
and the ayar paadi lads were mainly engaged in tending the cattle.
But this does not mean that they did not or could not possess physical prowess.
As veeram (valour) was an obsession with people in those times,
The aayar lads were also keen on demonstrating their valour
within the environment of which
they were a part.
And the environment full of cattle of different kinds
threw up a challenge to them to control and win over the toughest bull among the cattle.
Thus bull-fight was an important event for the aayar lad to show his valour.
It was not actually a fight, but an ‘embrace of the bull’
known as ‘yEru- thazhuvudhal’ in Tamil.
And what was the prize for the winner of this fight?
It was the aayar girl.
The aayar girl chose her groom who embraced her bull.
This happened as a social event and many marriages were fixed like this-
an event of many bulls in the fray and many lads chasing them.
The event was always followed by Kuravai-kootthu of the girls with the lads
whom they had chosen.
Silappadhikaram describes the second part of the event in Aichchiyar kuravai,
wherein the aayar girl, Nappinnai dances the kootthu with
The event prior to the kootthu,
is described in many verses in Kali-th-thogai.
The Aayar mother watches the event to choose the groom for her daughter.
who is eligible for “Aaya magaL thOL thazhuva” .
If someone wants to embrace the shoulder of aayar girl,
he must first embrace the bull.
The similar sentiment is echoed by Nammazhwar
in Periya Thiruvandhadhi, (2632)
“Men thOLi kaaraNamaa
“For the sake of embracing the soft shoulders of the aayar girl,
Going back to Kali-th-thogai again,
the aayar mother thinks
If he can not even embrace the horns of the bulls,
how can he wish to embrace the breasts of the aayar girl?
It seems to be a tradition or culture or “marabu”
for the aayars to liken the horns of the bull to the breast of the prospective bride
and win the bull fight
by embracing the two horns by two hands, with his chest thrust in between!
“yeLiyavO aai magaL thOL?
Vilai vEndaar, em-inatthu aayar magaLir-
Thaam veezhwaar maarbin
Kuravai thazhI yam, marabuLi paadi”
“Is it easy to get hold of the shoulder of the Aayar girl?
The aayar girl does not put up a price.
She wants only him who eagerly catches hold of the horns
As though they are the breasts,
And she will certainly embrace such a person,
and dance the kuravai with him.
This is as per tradition.”
This oft repeated description is also repeated by Andal,
who would have observed the aayar life style (Andal lived in Pandyan land)
and might have even mingled with them
The 3 paasurams in which she talks about Nappinnai
are all about the young aayar girl who married as per tradition
described above (from kali-th-thogai).
“nappinnai kongai mEl
vaitthu-k-kidandha malar maarba”
The time period is soon after their marriage.
“cheppenna men mulai”
again a decription of mullai-k-kali.
An interesting feature of this description is that
every aayar girl is looking for a “maayOn” in the aayar lads who are trying to embrace the bull.
The perfect winning pose is described in kali-th-thogai,
In which the lad mounts on the bull with his hands in embrace of the horns and
his chest thrust in between,
and riding on the bull which is now running around, unable to shake him off.
The lad riding the bull in this posture reminds the aayar girls of MayOn
when he won the bulls.
“Innan kol, maayOn endru udkittru en nenju”
Ha, is he (the one riding victoriously on the bull)
Such was the impact
that everyone of them saw
Periazhawar also voices this opinion (Periazhewar Thirumozhi -162)
Ennaiyum, engaL kudi muzhudhum aat kOnda”
“Nappinnai's husband has completely taken over the aayar clan.”
This is not just a scene from Aayar paadi.
This has a metaphorical allusion to Vedantic description
which has been encapsuled by Thirumangai Azhwar in Periya Thirumozhi. (1072)
“in thuNai padumatthu alar magaL thanakkum inbhan
Nar puvu thanakku iraivan,
Than thuNai aayar paavai
NAPPINNAI thankku iRAi,
mattraiyOrkkellaam va thuNAi..”
“Thirumaal is the sweet heart (inbhan) of Thirumagal (Sri devi)
BUT he is LORD of
Both Bhu Devi and the aayar girl, Nappinnai.
For the rest, he is a support.”
This verse seems to fill up the left blanks of the puzzle!!
The 3 consorts of Vishnu are Sri Devi, Bhu Devi and NiLa devi.
While the first two are explicitly mentioned here,
Nappinnai fits the bill as NiLa Devi.
Whatever description we have of Nappinnai
either as wife of
or as found in Kuravai,
it exactly describes NiLa Devi.
The kootthu which follows the victory in bull fight
And there is also another kootthu, called Kudamaada-k-kootthu.
According to Paripaadal, another ancient text in Tamil,
While Kuravai-k-kootthu happens at mortal plane
In the aayar padi,
Kuda-k-kootthu happens at cosmic plane
which we mortals can not see,
(Nammazhwar in 8-5 - maya-k-kootthaa )
but can understand from Vedas.
This is about the kootthu metaphorically described in Silappadhikaram
Of Nappinnai dancing with black-coloured
With Blue coloured Balarama on the other!
(to be continued in Nappinnai -4)