Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
Which would you say is the best part of the day?
Some would plump for the morning, which generates uplifting emotions in us, being a time of the day when the Sattva guNa comes to the fore. It is this time of the day which is suited best for elevating emotions, when we feel most inclined to engage in prayer, worship, etc. You would definitely have felt the difference that a cleansing early morning bath makes —you feel clean, pure and nearer to God than otherwise. It is this feeling that prompts many to favour the Morning as the finest part of the day.
Diametrically opposite are those who prefer the Night, for the rest it affords to the body and mind, exhausted with a hard day’s toil. It is during night that we forget all the tensions of mundane existence and give ourselves up to blissful sleep, which enables us to wake up the next morning, well prepared to face the challenges of yet another day. Thus there is nothing like the night to wipe off both physical fatigue and mental ennui. Is there any wonder, therefore, that some consider this as the culminating glory of every day?
There is however one more part of the day, that is neither day nor night, but carries the best features of both, without the negative aspects of the two. This is the time of day when the blazing Sun that makes the mornings and afternoons torrid affairs, is on the wane. However, the gloom and murkiness of the night, that make it such an opportune time for nefarious activities, are yet to make their advent. A pleasant twilight envelops everything, imparting it a reddish-golden hue, the wind picks up the fragrance of flowers opening their petals to welcome the birds and bees who have rid themselves of the stupor induced by the hot day, the cheery chirping and tweeting of birds, returning to their nest for a reunion with their little ones after a day in search of food, adds music to the ambience—in short, to quote a kindred spirit, “God is in His heaven and everything appears to be all right “ with the world, in the evening. The Evening, therefore, appears to be the best part of the day, heralding, as it does, the dawn of peace and tranquillity vis-à-vis the fierce competition and turbulence of the day and the absolute inaction of the night.
All this is from the outlook of a layperson. From that of the Vaidka too, the Evening easily triumphs over the other parts of the day. To mention but one reason, this was the time chosen by the Lord to manifest Himself as the magnificent man-lion Nrsimha. To this day, every evening is a glorious reminder to us of this spontaneous avatara that the Lord assumed, apparently without any premeditation. And apart from the avowed objectives of all avatAras, those of protecting the good and destroying evil (“SAdhu paritrANam and dushkrit vinAsanam”) the third and most endearing objective of this evening avatAra was validating the words of an ardent devotee—“Satyam vidhAtum nija bhritya bhAshitam”. It was to confirm Sri PrahlAdA’s golden words that Hari was present everywhere, be it a blade of grass or a pillar of stone, that Sri Nrsimha popped out of a column in Hiranyakasipu’s palace, of an evening. To honour the terms of the boon the asurA had obtained from an indiscriminately generous demigod, that he should face death neither in the day nor in the night, Sri Nrsimha manifested Himself in the evening, which is neither morning, afternoon, nor night. It is to commemorate this event that evenings are prescribed as an ideal period for the worship of this adhbuta KesarI. PradOsha kAla is therefore ideal for the ArAdhanam of Sri Nrihari, which is sanctified by the practice obtaining till date in Sri AhObila Mutt, with PAnaka ArAdhanam being performed to Sri MAlOla at every sundown.
If Speech is silver, Silence in golden, says the adage. The value of silence need not be overemphasised. When we come to think about it, our tongues are continually engaged in vocalisation of some thought or the other, with scarce consideration for whether or not the listener really wants to hear it all. Often what emanate from our mouth are words unpalatable to others, invective, innuendos and worthless gossip. What better atonement could there be for such offences, than to refrain absolutely from using this faculty, at least for some time? And the beneficial effects of absolute silence are to be experienced to be believed—if observed in all sincerity, it would result in a rejuvenation of the spirit and even a communion with the elusive Inner Dweller. If Mahatma Gandhi was an ardent votary of Silence and practiced it with regularity and earnestness, it is because of the glorious inner peace it brought him. When we cease to speak either with the tongue or the mind, it silences not only the external noise but also the inner clamour and clatter, enabling us to listen to the Inner Voice, which is otherwise lost in the din of speech and thought. It is with this in view that the Shruti enjoins upon us to devote the glorious Evening to absolute silence, to contemplation of the Ultimate in blissful quiet. The Vedas tell us to practice silence daily and with devotion, at sundown—“ativriksha SooryE vAcham visrujati”. Thus the Evening represents a welcome change from the constant racket and din of the day, being a time of hush and quietitude, to be spent in blissful contemplation of the Almighty, with all faculties focussing on Him, with the silence prescribed by the Shruti.
The evening belongs to the Lord of all Lords, as we saw from the NrisimhAvatAra. This is confirmed by the SAyam SandhyAvandana mantrAs too, which tell us to meditate upon GAyatri as a “VishNu dEvata”, with magnificently mature looks, astride on Sri VainatEya and holding the Sudarsana Chakra, reciting the glorious SAma VEda—
“SAyam SarasvatIm shyAmAm Ravi mandala madhyakAm
SAma VEdam vyAharantIm chakrAyudha dharAm shubhAm
DhyAyAmi VishNu daivatyAm vriddhAm Garuda vAhanAm”
While every evening is a time for silence, devotion and worship as aforesaid, there are Great Evenings that occur every fortnight (“MahA PradOsham”), which are characterised by the presence of the TrayOdasI tithi at sunset. Similarly, there are the CharutthI PradOsham and the SaptamI PradOsham too. During the MahA PradOsham, such emphasis is laid on silence that even VEda adhyayanam is prohibited.
The Shruti also tells us that asurAs battle with the Soorya every morning and evening and it is the waters of the arghya pradAnam, thrown at the Sun every evening during SandhyAvandanam, that act as a veritable VajrAyudha and bundle off these asurAs, comprehensively vanquished, to a God-forsaken island called the MandEhAruNa dveepam. One who contemplates on the ParamAtmA residing in the Soorya mandalam in the evening and morning attains everything auspicious, says the Shruti—“udyantam astamyantam Adityam abhi dhyAyan kurvan BrAhmaNo vidvAn sakalam bhadram asnutE”.
The Evening might be a time for rest, relaxation and rejoicing for us, but for Sri Nammazhwar, it is a time of torment and torture, as he describes graphically in all of ten pAsurams, collectively known as “MAlai poosal”. Though every moment of separation from Sri Krishna, the Divine Lover, is indeed an ordeal for Azhwar , the evening is especially cruel, with the threat of the impending, long night of separation looming large. The gentle evening breeze from the south carrying the intoxicating scent of the Jasmine (“Malligai kamazh tendral eerumAlO”) appears to him to be worse than the sharp winter wind, which chills you to the morrow. The bewitching music of Kurinji rAga that the breeze carries sounds little better than a raucous screech. The slanting rays of the setting Sun induce a stupor, not of bliss but of distress. Reddish clouds, instead of generating joy, cause only anguish. The mellifluous chime of bells adorning the necks of cows sounds to be an unbearable din, as does the incredibly sweet calling of the Koels. The rising Moon, normally a symbol of romance, with its soft and inviting luminescence, now appears to virtually blaze like a scorching Sun. While all the allurements of the golden evening are indeed enchanting in the company of Sri Krishna, the same sources of attraction turn into tormenting factors, in His absence. Azhwar, assuming the role of a GOpi weary with waiting for the wonderful cowherd, laments that the promised evening of reunion has arrived, in all its splendour, but there is no sign of Krishna turning up—
“MAlayum vandadu MAyan vArAn”.
On the other hand, the NArAyaNeeyam portrays the indescribable bliss of an evening with Sri Krishna, amidst the sands of Yamuna, with the rising Moon drenching those present with his soft beams, the balmy spring breeze bearing the intoxicating scent of innumerable blooms and the strains from Krishna’s flute transporting everyone to new heights of delight—“SAyam kAle vAnAntE kusumita samayE saikatE chandrikAyAm”.
Whenever we think of finer things like music, dance or uplifting lectures on Bhagavat KathA, we find that they are invariably associated with the evening. Music concerts or Hari KathA expositions are held mostly in the magical evening rather than the prosaic morning, for captivating the hearts of audiences. Even filmgoers appear to prefer the evening show to the matinee, if the crowds are any indication. So, looked at from the religious angle or the secular, readers would agree that the Evening is definitely the preferred portion of the day.
Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore