Apirāmi in the <i>Apirāmi Antāti</i>

Francis X. Clooney

in Divine Mother, Blessed Mother

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780195170375
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835379 | DOI:
 Apirāmi in the Apirāmi Antāti

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The Apirami Antati is an 18th century hymn consisting of 100 Tamil-language verses in praise of the goddess Apirami, “the Beautiful One,” a goddess still worshipped in the popular Tirukkataiyur temple in south India. It was composed by Subrahmanya, known familiarly as “Apirami Bhattar.” Stories about him highlight his simplicity, piety, and single-hearted devotion to Apirami, as well as the crisis arising from his devotion to Apirami — skepticism of the local people and of the king — but also the bliss arising from his contemplation of Her. In popular images, much is made of how he was an ecstatic who from youth loved Apirami and was graced with visions of Her that took verbal form in his poetry. Our previous hymns surely reflected their authors’ religious experience and interiority, but more obviously and with greater intensity, the Apirami Antati arises from Apirami Bhattar’s experience of Apirami. In almost every verse he addresses Her directly, as if amazed that She is so lovely and so close by, and he devotes much of the hymn to detailed, vivid glimpses of Her. Deceptively simple, the hymn seems to arise from deep personal experience and aims at drawing the listener or reader into the luminous joy of that interior bliss. Mary is here represented in the Mataracamman Antati, a hymn of the same 100-verse length and in the very same style as the Apirami Antati; the argument is made that now – in 19th-century India-Mary fills the role hitherto occupied by goddesses.

Keywords: religious experience; interiority; bliss; popular images

Chapter.  11889 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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