28 September 2011

Parrots and Arunachala

In Hindu mythology a vahana or vehicle (sometimes called a mount) is an animal closely associated with a particular deity. Similarities can be found in the religious associations of Hindu vahanas to animal totems and familiars in non-Hindu belief systems.

Sacred animals who become the vahanas of various Hindu gods, symbolize and complement the energy or character of the deity and come to be integral to the iconography of that God and are thereafter always depicted with them. Each God or Goddess is in charge of a particular energy they control. These vehicles actually symbolize the various energies that exist in the Universe as well as in human beings.

The parrot in Hindu mythology is associated with Kama, the god of love and his consort Rati. Kama is depicted as riding a parrot and taking aim with his bow made from sugarcane and arrows made of flowers. To find out more about the Rose Ringed Parakeet which can be found in abundant numbers around Arunachala, go to my Arunachala Birds at this link here.

Goddess Meenakshi

In many South Indian temples, the Goddess holds a parrot in her hand. This is the gentle form of Devi, associated with the Goddesses Meenakshi and Kamakshi and Lalita Tripurasundari.

Goddess Kamakshi

These goddesses are various forms of Parvati, wife of Shiva. In this form she is the love-goddess or enchantress who charms Shiva and transforms the hermit-god into a householder, thus ensuring a participation of god in worldly life.

Parrot at Arunachaleswarar Temple

The parrot, has a curious connection with Arunachaleswarar Temple where an ornately painted mortar image of a parrot (Kili) can be seen in a niche in the Kili Gopuram tower at the Temple. The story involves Arunagirinathar, a famous saint and Murugan bhakta of Tiruvannamalai, who legend has it happily spent the last years of his life in the form of a parrot resident at the Temple.

Saint Arunagirinathar

One story has it that after orator Sambandan lost a challenge to Arunagirinathar, he tried to get revenge. He went to the king, who had been blinded by the darshan of Murugan, and told him:

‘If your highness can persuade Arunagirinathar to bring a parijata flower from svargaloka [one of the heavenly worlds], a few drops squeezed from the flower onto your eyes will restore your eyesight.’

The king, eager to regain his vision, commissioned Arunagirinathar to fetch the flower. In order to reach the heavenly world, Arunagirinathar entered the body of a parrot that had recently died and reanimated it. He left his own body in one of the niches of a gopuram in the Arunachaleswarar Temple and flew off to collect the flower. After the parrot had departed on its mission, Sambandandan, who had been watching Arunagirinathar’s movements, announced that the lifeless body was dead, and asked for permission to cremate it. The king agreed and the body was quickly burned.

Some time later Arunagirinathar returned with the flower only to discover that he no longer had a human body to return to. He went to the king in his parrot body and restored the king’s eyesight with parijata flower juice and explained what had happened. Realising that he had been tricked, the king was struck with grief because he knew that it would now be impossible for Arunagirinathar to resume human form. However Arunagirinathar, was untroubled by events and happily spent the remainder of his life in the parrot’s body continuing to compose poetry in praise of Lord Murugan

Kili Gopuram, Left Side

Parrot Statute on Kili Gopuram

Parrots at Adi Annamalai Temple

With careful attention to detail during renovation of Adi Annamalai Temple, the little openings at the top of the compound walls surrounding the Temple were preserved so they could continue to remain as nesting places for: parrots, doves, pigeons, sparrows, owls and bats.

Parrots Nesting at Adi Annamalai Temple

If you enter the compound of Adi Annamalai during bird nesting season, you will often be met with clouds of parrots and doves going on flypast.

To read of the restoration of Adi Annamalai Temple go to this link here:

The Celestial Parrot

Shuka means tropical bird, particularly, parrot. This bird has the special privilege of resting on the right shoulder of Goddess Meenakshi, who is none other than Goddess Raja Matangi also known as Raja Shyamala. Meenakshi is identified with Raja Mathangi or manthrini, the minister of SriLalitha Tripura Sundari. The parrot resting on Her shoulder is a celestial partner of the Goddess, imparting knowledge of all the 64 arts to Devi.

The 64 bahyakalas (practical arts) are:

(1) singing (2) instrumental music (3) dancing (4) painting (5) forehead adornments (6) making decorative floral and grain designs on the floor (7) home and temple flower arranging (8) personal grooming (9) mosaic tiling (10) bedroom arrangements (11)creating music with water (12) splashing and squirting with water (13) secret mantras (14) making flower garlands (15) head adornments (16) dressing (17) costume decorations (18) perfumery (19) jewelry making (20) magic and illusions (21) ointments for charm and virility (22) manual dexterity (23) skills of cooking, eating and drinking (24) beverage and dessert preparation (25) sewing (26) embroidery (27) playing vina and drum (28) riddles and rhymes (29) poetry games (30) tongue twisters and difficult recitation (31) literary recitation (32) drama and story telling (33) verse composition game (34) furniture caning (35) erotic devices and knowledge of sexual arts (36) crafting wooden furniture (37) architecture and house construction (38) distinguishing between ordinary and precious stones and metals (39) metal-working (40) gems and mining (41) gardening and horticulture (42) games of wager involving animals (43) training parrots and mynas to speak (44) hairdressing (45) coding messages (46) speaking in code (47) knowledge of foreign languages and dialects (48) making flower carriages (49) spells, charms and omens (50) making simple mechanical devices (51) memory training (52) game of reciting verses from hearing (53) decoding messages (54) the meanings of words (55) dictionary studies (56) prosody and rhetoric (57) impersonation (58) artful dressing (59) games of dice (60) the game of akarsha (dice board game) (61) making dolls and toys for children (62) personal etiquette and animal training (63) knowledge of dharmic warfare and victory (64) physical culture.


Anonymous said...

Green Parrots, i could see, use to fly towards the SUN, while other birds are against, i.e.,towards east in the morning and west in the evening. Why?

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Found this post really interesting. Have noticed however that there seems to be less rose-ringed green parrots around Arunachala than there used to be. Could it be because of all the development?

Oakleaf700 said...

We have these amazing green Parakeets living in West London, UK since about 1990..they are very noisy, and have taken over a lot of the oak trees in Richmond Park. They survive the London Winters and I wish they would spread West to where I live..120miles West of London. Beautiful birds..but they might oust indigenous species.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

It is as you say, when an imported species comes into established flora and fauna, it often quickly becomes a threat to indigenous life.

Be that as it may the Rose Ringed Parakeet is an appealing, attractive bird. To find out more about this bird and also to watch an amazing video about the Birdman of Chennai who daily feeds thousands of Rose Ringed Parakeets, go to this link here: