The Tears of Brahmā

Steven Paul Hopkins

in Singing the Body of God

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780195127355
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834327 | DOI:
The Tears of Brahmā

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After a brief survey of the history of vernacular bhakti literature in South India, Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists and the Tamil “cosmopolitan vernacular,” this chapter attempts to assess the riches of Vedåntadeóika's Tamil writing by looking at a long prabandham, the Meyviratamåúmiyam (“The Splendor of the City of True Vows”), a narrative account of the creator god Brahmå's building of the shrine at Kåñcâ and his grand sacrificial ritual performed for the sake of a vision of “Kaïïaú,” Vishnu‐Krishna, the Lord Varadaråja Perumåö at Kåñcâpuram. Chapter also includes analysis of Vedåntadeóika's maïipravåöa auto‐commentary on this poem (the Attikiri Måhåtmyam), which sheds light on the intimate relationship between poetry and commentary in the work of Vedåntadeóika. In this and in the following chapter, the study attempts to locate Deóika's poetics of devotion by using traditional Dravidian categories of feeling: the puõam, or “external,” “public” realm of heroic discourse, and the akam, or “interior,” “private” realm of love.

Creative but careful use of these traditional categories reveals in a way no other mode of analysis can the richness of Vedåntadeóika's devotional vocabulary in Tamil — a richness that also pervades his work in other genres and other languages. A close thematic and philological reading and poetic translation of the Meyviratamåúmiyam reveals this poem as dominated by motifs of the puõam genre, one that emphasizes the royal, “external”/heroic/public, historical, and “majestic” aspects of this form of Vishnu. Vishnu not as lover, but as King.

Keywords: Akam; Arcåvatåra; Attigiri Måhåtmyam; bhakti; Brahmå; cosmopolitan; Meyviratamåúmiyam; Puõuam; Tamil; Varadaråja Perumåö; vernacular; Vishnu as King

Chapter.  12971 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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