28 April 2012

Kodikkavi of Umapathi Sivacharya

The previous posting in Arunachala Grace, narrates the part Umapathi Sivacharya played in the deliverance of a thorny Bush. In addition there are several elements connected with that story that throws light upon the custom of the flag-hoisting ceremony at most Siva Temples. 

Flag Hoisting Ceremony, Arunachaleswarar Temple

Umapathi Sivacharya was put out of caste and banned from the Chidarambaram Temple by the Dikshitars, of whom he was one, for partaking of the remanants of food eaten by his guru, Marai Jnana Sambanthar. 

The time for performing the Brahma Utsavam of the Temple approached, and the Tillai priests tried to hoist the flag on the Dvajastambha; but it could not be tied. God appeared to the Dikshitars in their dream and they were told that the flag would go up only if they brought back Umapathi Sivacharya. 

Upon the request of the priest, Umapathi Sivacharya agreed to come to the Temple and raise the flag. But when he arrived at the Temple, instead of trying to raise the flag manually, he stood beside the flag pole and sang four verses. As soon as he began to sing, the flag spontaneously began to move up the pole. By the time he had finished the fourth verse, the flag had reached the top of the flagpole. These four verses, which form part of the Saiva Siddhanta canon, are known as Kodikkavi (the Flag Verses). 

The Flag Verses 

Light dwells with darkness in same place 
One does conceal the other when strong, 
And yet darkness can’t prevail 
The Light of light of souls though shines 
The soul is plunged in Trimala. 
So that the soul may Grace attain 
I hoist aloft the holy flag 

Which is the Sat of Sat, which Bloom? 
Who is the seer? Which is light 
In darkness sure, which might, Oh Grace! 
In all the earth that owns your sway, 
That Thou mayst know, on Tower’s front, 
I hoist aloft the holy flag 

With speech and mind at any time 
His nature rare is hard to find. 
When seen too close, He dost appear 
As Ananya. His grace to get 
I hoist aloft the holy flag 

The letters five and eight and six 
The letters four and ‘va’ and ‘si’ 
These in the heart well impressed. 
The soundless one and that with sound 
To manifest them without doubt 
I hoist aloft the holy flag. 

At the end of the ceremony Umapati Sivam called all the senkundars (the weavers) and told them, ‘You are the ones who gave food to my Guru and assuaged both his thirst and his hunger. By this act you also enabled me to consume the Guru’s ucchistam. Therefore, out of gratitude, I am going to honour your community by issuing a proclamation that from now on your community will have the exclusive privilege of offering the cloth that is used in the flag-hoisting ceremony.’ 

This tradition is now followed not only in the Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram, but in most other Siva temples including Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai.