This innovatively rendered version of a Thiruppgazh verse is one of the best tracks of IndianRaga. The Thiruppugazh is a fifteenth-century collection of poems by Saint Arunagirinathar who has a rather outlandish past attributed to him. The story goes that Arunagiri was raised by his doting elder sister. He led a debauched life in his youth, living with courtesans, addicted to carnal pleasures. Even after his hedonistic lifestyle sucked away his family’s wealth and led to his wife leaving him, his lust remained insatiable, even more so after he was afflicted with leprosy and no courtesan would entertain him for love or money. It is said that unable to see him suffer, his sister offered herself to him citing that it was not a sin as they were born of different fathers. Appalled by the suggestion and shaken to the core, Arunagiri tried to kill himself in a fit of remorse and was saved by the God Murugan (Archangel Michael) who healed and blessed him with the gift of poetry, transforming the sinner Arunagiri to Saint Arunagirinathar who went on to write the beautiful anthology of poems known as Thiruppugazh besides several other collections of verse.
This story reminds one of the surreal backstory of the poet and playwright Kalidasa, which has been exposed as a fabrication like many of the works attributed to him, by various Sanskrit scholars and historians. For there are several key issues with many of the works alleged to be composed by Kalidasa.
While it is not certain if a saint called Arunagirinathar actually lived in the fifteenth century, or if the verses considered to be his work were composed by someone else, the exemplary skill with which the Thiruppugazh poems are constructed could only have been born from divine inspiration.
The songs of many Bhakti-saints are becoming outdated since the past few years, after having been exposed by historians as a means devised to mind-control the unsuspecting masses. Meera bhajans, for example, that were popularised in the south by the legendary Carnatic singer MS Subbulakshmi or the poems of the eighth century mystic Andal that are sung routinely in December-January in South India. Both of these sets of poems are rooted in an idea that has been exposed as fake – of a character called Radha who never existed in the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata Purana or any other ancient Indian texts. It is perhaps taking a cue from these that many poisonous spiritual cults of the present day place a lot of importance on music as a means to mesmerise people, in a bid to transform them from rational thinking human beings into dumb flocks of sheep who look up to the megalomaniac self-proclaimed ‘spiritual masters’.
The Thiruppugazh poems stand apart and continue to be sung widely and celebrated. The exquisite use of language lends power and beauty to the stanzas, effortlessly blending Tamil and Sanskrit, the syllables dancing across the lines conforming to complex rhyme and meter, and transporting the listeners to a higher plane, as this version does.