The word "Varudai" to mean Mesha rashi appears in a popular Sangam age compilation called "Paripadal". Paripadal is a compilation of music based poems written in all the 3 Sangam periods. The presently available compilation is likely to contain poems from both the 2nd and the 3rd Sangam. The Irunthaiyur temple of Koodal azhagar Vishnu that I explained in Part 10 was composed in 2nd Sangam when Madurai was not the Capital city of the Pandyans. The 11th poem in the compilation of Paripadal describes the planetary position in different rashis and relates them to the arrival of rainfall. This is a unique poem because it tells about the planets, their location in the rashis and the equinoctial position of the sun.
Earlier in Part 5 of this series, I explained a part of this verse on Veethi concept.
The zodiac is divided into 3 Veethis or streets of 4 rashis each, through which the sun moves around.
Just to refresh our memory, let me reproduce here the illustration of the 3-Veethis, Uttara (Mesha), Madhya (Rishabha) and Dakshina (Mithuna) Veethi. Madhya Veethi is the region of the zodiac where the equinox moves to and fro. This region consists of Meena and Mesha on one side and Kanya and Thula on the other.
Valmiki also made a mention of Veethi concept when he compared Setu with Swati Padam (Valmiki Ramayana 1-22-72). At that time of construction of Setu, Swati Padam was seen in the evening sky of Phlaguni month. Today, as we are moving through solar Kanni maasa, what we see is Uttra Bhadrapada padam in the evening sky. The corresponding Veethi in the other side of the Madhya veethi is Uttara Phalguni Padam as of today.
The verse on the rashi position of planets is as follows: Paripadal 11 - Lines 4 to 14
உருகெழு வெள்ளி வந்து ஏற்றியல் சேர
வருடையைப் படிமகன் வாய்ப்ப பொருடெரி
புந்தி மிதுனம் பொருந்தப் புலர் விடியல்
அங்கி உயர் நிற்ப அந்த்ணன் பங்குவின்
இல்லத்துணைக்கப்பால் எய்த இறையமன்
வில்லிற் கடை மேவப்பாம் பொல்லை
மதிய மறைய வரு நாளில் வாய்ந்த
பொதியின் முனிவன் புரைவரைக் கீறி
மிதுனம் அடைய விரிகதிர் வேனில்
எதிர்வரவு மாரி இயைகென இவ்வாற்றால்
புரை கெழு சையம் பொழிமழை தாழ.
உருகெழு- urukezhu = brightly shaped
வெள்ளி – veLLI = Venus
வந்து – vanthu = came
ஏற்றியல் – ERRiyal = Eru + iyal = bull- nature / in the nature of rishabha
சேர – sEra – joined
வருடையைப் – varudaiyai = in Varudai / goat / Mesha
படிமகன் – padimagan – son of earth / Bhoomi putran / Bhauman / Mars
வாய்ப்ப – vaayppa = aatained.
பொருடெரி – poruL theri = having knowledge of things
புந்தி – Pundhi = Mercury
மிதுனம் – Mithunam = Gemini rashi
பொருந்தப் – poruntha = fixed in
புலர் விடியல் – pular vidiyal = the breaking dawn
அங்கி – angi = Kritthika star
உயர் நிற்ப- uyar niRpa = stands high
அந்த்ணன்- anthaNan = Brahmin / Jupiter
பங்குவின்- panguvin = pangu = Saturn
இல்லத்துணைக்கப்பால் – illam + thuNaikku+ appaal = house + pair+ beyond = beyond the twin houses of Saturn = Beyond Makara and Kumbha = Meena rashi / Pisces.
எய்த – eytha = reached.
இறையமன்- iRai yaman – Yama as lord = Saturn
வில்லிற் – villin = of Dhanus (Dhanur rashi)
கடை – kadai = end, lower, below, back, boundary, entrance = below Dhanur rashi = Capricorn
மேவ – mEva = reached, fixed
பாம் பொல்லை- paambollai = paambu + ollai =snake joining
மதிய – mathiy = Moon
மறைய – maRaiya – hiding
வரு நாளில் வாய்ந்த– varu naaLil vaayntha = coming on such a day
பொதியின் முனிவன் – podhiyin munivan = the sage of Podhigai = sage Agasthya
புரைவரைக் – puraivarai = height of his place
கீறி – keeRi – crossed
மிதுனம் அடைய – mithunam adaiya = reaching Gemini
விரிகதிர் – virikathir – spreading rays (of the sun)
வேனில் – vEnil – summer season
எதிர்வரவு – ethir varavu – in front / following summer season.
மாரி இயைகென – maari iyaigena = it would rain
இவ்வாற்றால் – ivvaaRRaal = that being the nature (rule of nature for rain)
புரை கெழு – purai kezhu = high peaks of
சையம் – saiyam = Saiya mountain (Western Ghats)
பொழிமழை தாழ – pozhi mazahi thaazha = the rain poured down.
"The brightly shaped Venus in the Bull-natured sign (rishabha), Bhauman having attained Mesha (varudai), the knowledgeable Mercury fixed in Mithuna, the star Kritthika standing high at dawn, Jupiter having reached Meena which is beyond the twin houses of Saturn, Saturn fixed at Makara below Dhanus and the snake having joined the Moon by hiding it – on such a day the Sage Agasthya of Podhigai hill having crossed the peak of his place reaching Mithuna, it rained as per the rule, on the Saiya hills in the rainy season that arrives after the summer season."
The planetary position as explained above can be depicted as follows.
The position of Venus is impossible but I showed similar impossible combination of Venus and Mercury from Brihad Jataka in Part 5. One interpretation can be that such combinations existed in a remote past. Another interpretation can be that the poet is describing the ideal planetary combinations for rainfall or the ideal combination of Budha – Shukra saameephya that existed some time before the day of narration. The poet could have meant an ideal combination because he says that these combinations are as per rule for a good rainy season. But we cannot doubt is the sighting of Agasthya (heliacal rising of Agasthya) as that marks the day when the rains arrived.
Important to our discourse is that the knowledge of all the planets and the rashis had existed at the time of writing this poem. The poet "Nallanthuvanaar" was an expert in Mullai lands (forest tracts) and the associated rainy season. In all the other poems authored by him found in other Sangam texts we can see his keen observation of the terrestrial scenes in the rainy season. This makes it plausible that he has studied the celestial features too, related to rainy season and rainfall astrology. That is reflected in the above part of the poem. In fact this particular poem that begins with the planetary position on the arrival of rainfall goes on to describe the rituals and activities on Pournami at Arudra in Margashira month when the sun was in Purvashada. This marks the beginning of rain conception days which we can read in Brihad Samhita.
The sighting of Agasthya (canopus) is another important information that establishes that Varaha mihira had only re-stated the olden practices. According to Varahamihira, the sighting was possible in Ujjain when the sun was in 24th degree of Leo. This is the probable location of the sun at the time of narration for it was a Pournami –cum- eclipse time. So Moon must have been in Dhanishta. This puts the Sun in the last padas of Leo.
The Agasthya legends are too many in Tamil texts and this one saying that the sage crossed the peak of his place and reached Mithuna is related to the legend of Agasthya dwarfing the Vindhyas though the Vindhyas never came as an obstruction to sight this star from Tamil lands.
Here the symbolism of this legend is that there existed a time when the star Agasthya could not be seen by the people north of Vindhyas (Aryavarta). This was metaphorically told that the Vindhya was growing thereby obstructing the path of the sun.
The path of the sun stops at the tropic of Cancer near the Vindhyas. When the upper limit of the path of sun ended south of the Vindhyas in the past, it was metaphorically told that Vindhyas were growing high to block the path of the sun. For the people living in the north of Vindhyas, the sighting of Agasthya could have been hampered by the tall ranges of the Vindyas if the tropic of Cancer was much lower than now. But with the gradual change in the axial tilt of the earth, the upper limit of Sun's path is where it is now – and this could have facilitated to view parts of the sky which were not seen earlier. Once the star Agasthya came within sight, Vindhyas were said to have stopped growing.
The Agasthya legend of stopping the growth of the Vindhyas was followed by another legend of sage Agasthya drinking of the water of the ocean to facilitate the slaying of Kalakeyas. This is metaphoric of the times when the ocean level was much lower than now and kept lowering due to Ice Age. If some scientist can work on the date of these two incidents – tropic of cancer falling south of the Vindhyas in such a way that Agasthya could not be sighted from north of the Vindhyas and the lowering of the sea level in the corresponding period, we can say exactly when the observation of stars started in the Vedic culture. By a rough estimate I would say that such a period happened 15,000 years ago.
The above poem talking about the star Agasthya as having crossed its peak might refer to Podhigai hills behind which the star could have been sighted from Tamil lands.
The most crucial info in the poem is the mention of star Kritthika at dawn. Where does Kritthika fit in this description? It has no role in rainfall astrology too. The sighting of Agasthya makes it clear that the sun had moved past Mithuna and certainly not in Kritthika (Mesha or Rishabha). The mention of it at the break of dawn makes it to be the location of the sun in the backdrop of the zodiac. In other words this reference to Kritthika was made to indicate the vernal equinox at the time of narration. The mention of this as a way of expression of time, seems to be in vogue in those days. For example in Part 11 we saw a poem on Buddha's date where the Vishaka was mentioned as the star in the middle of the line of the stars of the zodiac. There is yet another verse from Sangam text on the measurement of shadows to fix the date of the equinox which I will write in another article of this series.
For the present article, I want to point out that the knowledge of planets and rashis had existed at a time when the equinox was at Kritthika. This clearly puts the time of this poem at 3500 years before present. This date is further supported by the other contents of the poem.
The poem is the oldest testimony for how the Paavai nonbu, a vratha that Andal brought out in Thiruppavai, was done. The details are totally new and different from anything that we gather from sources in the past 2000 years.
First of all the worship on Arudra Pournami takes it to a different time period. Nowadays the Pournami is aligned with Margashira and not Arudra. At times pournami may come on Arudra. But the verse specifically describes the pournami moon and Arudra together as being the time of worship that was done annually.
Secondly the worship was not done to any deity inside the temple. Instead the description is about Arudra Homa that was done on the banks of the river (Vaigai). This is also unheard of in any other records of the past 2000 years. The beautiful and extensive narration saya how the young girls took a dip in the river and went round the Homa fire that dried up their wet cloths. This happened at pre-dawn time on the day of Arudra Pournami.
The location was Madurai though there is no explicit mention of it. The other poems by the same author do speak about Madurai, but not by that name. It was "Koodal" as how Madurai was known before Pandyans made it their capital city in the aftermath of loss of the 2nd Sangam age capital called "Kavaata puram".
As explained in Part 10 this Koodal was the location of Koodal azhagar Vishnu or Irunthaiyur. In that poem on Irunthaiyur, the other names of this town were given as "Selvan Nagar", "Naagar Nagar" and "KuLa-vaai". It is interesting to note that the current poem under discussion has a reference to "Naagar" people and how they enjoyed their time with their womenfolk in this town. (Lines 67 to 69). It is usual to dismiss this reference to Naagar as a myth or a figment of imagination. But the town being called as Naagar Nagar, this reference seems to point out to the inhabitants of Naagar Nagar.
Like this there are other social and cultural information in the poem that puts it to the 2nd Sangam age or to the times before Madurai was occupied by the Pandyan kings who established Meenakshi temple. The only popular temple at that time was Koodal azhagar Vishnu temple. This Paavai nonbu Vratha getting aligned with Narayana worship in Andal's time shows the continuing influence of this deity in the rituals that originally started with Arudra Homa.
With this we are moving to the next word "Thagar" for mesha which we will see in my next article.
(to be continued)
My articles in Tamil on the Sangam age description of the vratha, Paavai nonbu, can be read in the following links:
Previous articles on this series can be read here: