The Eternal Embrace

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An embrace is the ultimate expression of endearment. When we are overwhelmed with affection or love for a person, we tend to embrace him or her. It has also become customary for people to embrace each other when they meet after a long separation. The most frequent practitioners of the gesture, however, are our politicians, who tend to embrace each other as if they are long—lost brothers: in fact, they may well be surreptitiously searching each other for concealed weapons which may springan unpleasant surprise. What we would be seeing in this piece are embraces born out of true love, which are being remembered till today for their sincerity and significance.

The first and foremost embrace is the one we remember daily during ThiruvArAdhanam. While offering Mantrapushpam to the Lord, we recite the following sloka from Srimad Ramayana-

“Tham drishtvA shatru hantAram, MaharshINAm sukhAvaham
babhoova hrishtA VaidEhi, bharthAram parishasvajE”

At the request of the Rishis of DandakAraNya, Sri Rama wages war against the rAkshasAs of JanastthAnam and annihilates them single-handedly, after a bloody battle. In the process, Sri Raghava too sustains superficial injuries all over, and returns to his abode in the jungle, victorious but bleeding profusely from the various wounds. Exhibiting enthusiasm at Her husband’s triumph, Piratti embraces Him warmly. This is the purport of the aforesaid sloka. When there are literally thousands of slokas in Srimad Ramayana, which are more significant and sweeter, extolling the praise of the Lord, why should our Poorvacharyas be so enamoured of this particular couplet, to prescribe its recitation for the Lord’s pleasure, every day as part of Mantrapushpam?

Normally, Sri JAnaki is not given to exuberant displays of affection. As a model of womanly virtue (“nArINAm utthamA vadhoo”), She is endowed in adequate measure with shyness (better described in Tamizh as “nANam”). For such a person to rush to embrace Her husband is quite out of character. Obviously, She must have been overwhelmed by emotion. What could be the reasons behind such a gesture? The sloka itself provides us clues to this puzzle.

“Shatru hantAram”- For any woman, the spectacle of her husband emerging victor in physical combat with another strong male, is eminently edifying. And for Sri VaidEhI, raised as the daughter of a Kshatriya, the pride at Sri Rama’s single-handedly destroying fourteen thousand asurAs of the caliber of Khara, DhooshaNa, Trisiras, etc., must have prompted Her to embrace Sri Rama.

“MaharshINAm sukhAvaham”- The RishIs of DandakAraNya perform saranagati to Chakravartthi Thirumagan for protection from the rAkshasAs who torment them in numerous ways and create hurdles in the performance of yagas and yagyas. It is in response to this prayer that Sri Rama wages war with the nisAcharAs and destroys them. Piratti is pleased at Her husband having successfully attended to His principal duty of protecting the Saranagatas. Thus Her concern for the welfare of MaharshIs and Saranagatas, and Her satisfaction at the successful completion of their mission prompts Her to embrace the Protector in appreciation.

“Babhoova hrishtA”- Piratti’s bliss at Her Lord’s scintillating performance on the battlefield knows no bounds. She is overwhelmed by the pleasure of personally witnessing the triumph of a loved one against heavy odds, that too for the noble cause of Saranagata Rakshanam.

“BharthAram ParishasvajE”- There might not be anything extraordinary about women embracing their spouses, but it is usually a reciprocative and not an original gesture on the part of the fairer sex. Thus, for the lady to take the initiative to hug the husband must indeed warrant a special occasion.

What could be more special than the circumstances described above?

With Sri RaghuvIra bleeding all over, Sri Sita’s first thought is to attend to the wounds, for which she is ill equipped, with neither medicine nor dressing readily available in the dense jungle. Hence She applies the only medication on hand, the “Healing Touch” or an affectionate embrace which would relieve the Prince from all pain of battleand serve as a pleasurable balm for the bleeding wounds. This is quite in tune with mothers “kissing the place to make it well”, and as the Universal Mother, Piratti too adopted this mode of treatment. It is this embrace that remains evergreen in the Lord’s memory, so much so that He is loathe letting go of the encircling arms of Nappinnai in Sri Krishnavatara too, despite the lapse of aeons. Sri Andal too reminds Him of this episode, when She addresses Him as “Malar Marba!” (“Kutthu viLakkeria kOttukkAl kattil mEl metthendra panchasayanatthin mElEri kotthalar poonguzhal Nappinnai kongai mEl Vaitthu kidanda Malar Marba!).

The next embrace is again from the ItihAsa shrEshttam. When you come to think of it, the characters in Srimad Ramayana seem to have a penchant for embraces, for you find quite a few of these gestures strewn about in the epic.

It is time for Raghunandana to conclude His avatara and return to Srivaikuntam, and he takes leave of all the vAnara veerAs, one by one. He honours Sri Hanuman too with a close hug indicative of His undying affection and gratitude, in addition to adorning Maruthi’s neck with a dazzling garland of gems. It is natural for anyone endowed with even the glimmerings of true knowledge to seek liberation fromthis samsara. However, Hanuman, who is described as being in the forefront of the learned, (“BuddhimatAm varishttam”) seeks permanent residence in this mundane world, full of sadness and sorrow. He refuses to accompany Sri Rama to the latter’s natural abode, and prefers to remain in this world of suffering. He tells Sri Rama, “ My heart is full of love and devotion for You and try as I might, my mind does not leave You and Your auspicious attributes. I do not want to leave this body to go to Svarga or even Sri Vaikunta. This body of mine has been honoured and sanctified by your embrace and I would not forsake it even for the eternal pleasures of paradise. I would rather remain in this world, as long as Your divine glory is sung somewhere or the other. As long as Your tirunamam and history are recounted in this world, I would like to listen to it with tears of joy in my eyes, with my hands folded and head bowed in devotion.”.

Moved beyond measure by this poignant outpouring, Sri Raghava, overcome by emotion, comes down from His throne to embrace Maruti again, and tells him, “ You have done so much for me that I cannot repay you even with my life. Even if I were to do so, I would still remain in your debt forever. As you wish, you shall remain in this world as long as my name remains.”

The Lord’s embrace imparts to Maruti even greater glory, brilliance and bhakti and he remains till today,ever present wherever Rama kathA is recounted, listening with rapt attention, with his eyes full of tears of joy, the powerful arms that lifted the SanjIvi parvatha folded on top of his head in devotion. Even if it is only a half-baked pourANika doing injustice to the majestic tale of Rama, even if it is only a child lisping the Rama nAma inaudibly, even if it is only the lowliest of the lowly with an incorrect diction or improper pronunciation of the divine name, Sri Hanuman is present there, listening spellbound, the very name of the Lord bringing to his mind the innumerable auspicious attributes he had the good fortune to enjoy from close quarters, the unforgettably majestic tirumeni of the Lord with His broad and merciful eyes, His perfectly proportioned limbs, His indescribably handsome visage, His lotus feet that were forced to traverse hard jungle paths filled with needly thorns, et al.

While the first of the embraces described above was initiated by Piratti and made the Lord drunk with bliss, (so much so that He could not forget it even during Krishnavataram), the secondwas originated by the Lord Himself and made His ardent devotee so deliriously happy that he would not forsake the body which had been the beneficiary of the embrace, even for the sake of the pleasures of the Paradise.

Srimate Sri LakshmINrsimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:
Dasan, Sadagopan.

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