A Spark of Potent Divine Love

I have been spending a good amount of mind time trying to understand what led up to the transformation of Karaikkal Ammaiyar - from a devoted house wife to a demon devotee.

This is not just a social transformation, this is a transformation at many levels which simply baffles me ... on what really happened. The recorded story and its dilutions just talks about her ability to muster up the power to acquire a mango from the Lord himself, (which is a super wow factor) but in reality it would have been quite something else to witness it.

We are talking about the period of 6th Century AD, a time when the Pallavas were the rising rulers in the South, and invasion from the Chalukyas was a regular feature. We are also talking about a period when Tantricism was on the rise, more as a chosen spiritual path than a ground for black magic (you have got to view this differently). Added to this is the social structure of not allowing the woman too much liberty. Belonging to a merchant class she was a devoted house wife and recorded history doesn’t talk about her being blessed with children. This is her broad external landscape.

Her internal landscape talks a completely different tale. An ardent devotee of Shiva, so powerful that she could request for anything and He would bless her with it. She clearly didn’t wish for much, had no inclination to wealth or materialism and from what circumstances have in store for her, her husband clearly didn’t match up. It is evident from recorded history that he left her and went, not because he fell for someone else but more because he got spooked out when she gave him a mango, out of nowhere. She couldn't help herself. He ruled the house and she was the obedient wife; he asked for a mango and she produced one out of nowhere. It triggered the start of change in her life as a house holder. It would have taken the next 5-7 years for her to realize that he had left her for good as we get to know he went to another town, got married and had a kid. And she waited this whole time, still devoted, hoping he would come back. The turmoil in her mind is unthinkable, given the simplicity of her life, sprinkled with spiritual overtones.

When she found him at last, she was in for one of the rudest shocks of her life. He didn't just cheat her, he was in a marriage with a child to boot. To see one's husband, whom she loved a lot (we assume), with another woman and a child still is a great shock to most people (time doesn’t count here, its emotion). What would she have gone through?

There were only two in her reality who received her devoted love - Her husband and Lord Shiva. Her world was complete between them when the jolt of letting go one of them came up. The most powerful abilities of a woman is to unconditionally and intensely love someone and endure any amount of pain for them. But that intense devotion also comes with a caveat. Should a woman be wronged, she gets what she wishes for and that can be a life changer, not just for her but for everyone around her. We see the most bewildering transformation in her case.

In her anger or her disappointment, or her sheer superior maturity and wisdom, she gave up what she held on to all her life. She had remained sensuously dress for the period her husband left her and she gave it up, probably in sheer disgust. The beaten track of marriage was taken away from her, not by the Lord but by the man who married her. He simply acknowledged he was not good enough for her and beat a hasty retreat. In sheer determination she gave up Grihasta, family, society, order, materialism, beauty, sensuousness - the world we call "normal living" - and opted for everything outside of it. The familiar world had no meaning left in her life.

Karaikkal Ammaiyar, transformed into an emaciated demon and inhabited the cremation ground. She chose a world where no human would bother her easily and devoted her world to Lord Shiva, the only one who really really stood by her. Devotion has a different meaning here, far more potent, far more intense and Karaikkal Ammaiyar proves to us that we can reach that pinnacle of love. Here is the twist in her story though. Her poetry describes her love for her Lord, love even among ghosts and ghouls. Love that is as intense and doesn't have to be sensuous alone. Love that knows no relationship, love that works magic.

She describes a cremation ground where creatures roam, creatures who have demonic attributes, feed on melting brains from bodies burning in the pyre... yes she is very graphic. She writes about a world that you and I don't have the courage to see. She talks about another realm, a parallel universe in the same relative space and time where other beings also inhabit the same planet we live in. What power did she possess that made her live with as much ease in a deadly dark world of ghosts as she lived in a marriage? Karaikkal Ammaiyar went through a transformation neither you nor I can stomach. It was her sheer determination that either transported her to that world, or transformed her while blessing her with the divine vision (divya dristi) to sit in a regular cremation ground and still view all the different realms at play at the same time.

Temple walls depict her playing the cymbals as Ma Kali dances with Lord Shiva Nataraja in Urdhva Nataraja pose. Karaikkal Ammaiyar's poetry talks extensively about the world of ghosts in the middle of whom the great Lord dances. And yet, our version of Karaikkal  Ammaiyar's life appears so simple and naive! Why did recorded history not give us the actual facts, explicitly for us to realize that Karaikkal Ammaiyar's life speaks of human transformation, and the sheer ability of a woman to do so?

Why are we so incapable that we cannot look through all this to understand that spiritualism works best outside of social order? Why are we so scared that we cannot take a step away from safe haven? Why are we so useless that we happily settle for a million lives of suffering than take up one life to have the determination to look at the truth in the face and transform. She did it, we can! We just don't want to! Seriously, we need to get those grey cells working.

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