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Avaiyar's Vinayagar Agaval

English rendering by Layne Little

In the 14th century, a female ascetic, often envisioned as a wise wandering crone, took the name of Avaiyar. Her namesake of the ancient Sangam age was the prototypical Mother Goose of South India who authored the canon of moral guidelines that still form a mainstay to children's education in contemporary Tamil Nadu. The character of the Sangam Avaiyar sharply contrasts the Avaiyar of the 14th century whose occult leanings parody the benign, granny-like persona of her ancient predecessor. The 14th century Avaiyar was perhaps the third female poet to assume this name, but the distinctive character of her work, the Vinayagar Agaval, has forever immortalized this obscure figure as a poetical giant in Tamil literary history. Though the Vinayagar Agaval is recited in temples and homes at the shrines of the jovial elephant-headed god Ganesha (the mystical Janus of the Hindu pantheon), the text is at the same time ridden with the occult imagery of the Tamil Siddhas. How this incomprehensible text became a mainstay of contemporary Hinduism in Tamil Nadu is a mystery; for its obscure references to kundalini yoga and tantrism is sure to mean very little to the average devotee of the portly god. At first glance the work seems conservative enough; as it begins with the traditional contemplation of the god from foot to crown. But it promptly veers off into the domain of the mystic as she invokes Ganesha as the embodiment of Turiya. Turiya, or "the Sleepless Sleep" is a state of deep yogic trance, where the aspirant sleeps to the illusionary and transient realm of gross sense phenomena and wakes to the infinitude of the inner realm. By first invoking her patron as this adept state of consciousness, her perception and expression shifts from the outer image of the god and the external realm of perception to the inner mystery she perceives as both her own and the god's internal landscape. Though not officially recognized as such by the often hostile orthodoxy, Avaiyar's work follows the familiar pattern of other Tamil Siddha literature. Of course the most obvious distinction between the orthodox Saiva Siddhanta literature and that of the Siddha heterodoxy, is the latter's emphasis on tantric imagery and practice. Though the Tamil Siddha tradition retains a propensity for employing the same bhakti rhetoric of the orthodoxy, the pervasive presence of the goddess further betrays its divergence from the conservative Shaivite patriarchy which insists that the unruly goddess image be subordinate to that of a male god. Avaiyar's experience of Ganesha manifesting as "a mother" is a sure sign on her crossing the line of Brahminically sanctioned tradition. Her intricate weaving of devotion, world-denying asceticism, and occult symbolism enriches the Vinayagar Agaval with the versatility of the Tamil Siddha tradition. Because of the obscure nature of this symbolism, I recommend that you refer to 'Shaking the Tree', also found here in the Alchemy Virtual Library. A more thorough explanation of these verses is presently under preparation and should be online shortly. Questions are welcome, address them to Layne Little at:
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Avaiyar's Vinayagar Agaval

The anklets
on the red lotus feet
of the cool baby elephant
sing many songs.

The golden waist chain
and fine skirts
resting upon his rainbow waist
beautifully shining.

His weighty tusk!

His elephant face
& the auspicious orange mark
is easy to perceive.

Five hands,
goad & noose,
his body of deep blue
has made my breast its home.

His hanging mouth,

four sets of shoulders,
three eyes,
and three musk trails...

His two ears,

with golden hair shining,
and three threads intertwined
upon his glowing breast...

He is the true knowledge:

Turiya, the Sleepless Sleep,
goes beyond
the word's meaning.


has stood personified
as the Wish-fulfilling Tree!
As the Bull Elephant!

He who rides the mouse
sniffs out the three fruits.
I begged him,
"Take me now...
as your servant!"

He appeared as a mother
and showered his grace upon me.
Cleaved from me
the confusion that...
"Once born, I shant die."

Thus the pristine
and primal letters five
shall unite with me.
Shall came and enter my heart.

Assuming the Guru's guise
and keeping a sacred foot
upon this Earth,
he establishes life's meaning.

He joyously bestowed the grace
of the Path of No-Suffering.

Wielding his tusk as a weapon,
he weeds out
the cruel fruits of action.

My ears devour his teaching
without ever being filled.

He reveals the insatiable
Clarity of Wisdom.
The means to master the five senses.

He has sweetly graced me
with joyous compassion.

He proclaimed
that single thought
which shrinks
the delusionary power of the senses.

Putting an end
to this birth
and the next,
he has removed darkness,
and graced me with all
the four stages of mukti (enlightenment).

He cuts off the delusion
of the three impurities.

With one mantra
he showed how
the Nine Openings
and the Five Sense Doors
can be shut...

This is the Ankusha (elephant-goad)
of the six chakras:

Without stopping...
Standing firmly...
Let idle chatter be discarded.

He announced the letter
of the Idylla & Pingala
and showed that the end
of the Circle's Edge
is in the skull.

The snake hangs
on the pillar
that is the junction
of the three realms.

He helped me realize
it's tongue.

In the Kundalini
one joins the silence...

It breaks open...
and the mantra that rises up
comes out
because of his teaching.

The rising flame,
breaking out
of Muladhara,
is caused to rise
by the wind.

Born of the single thought
which he has taught.

He related...

The state of drinking Amrita,
The movements of the Sun,
& the character of
The One Who Favors the Lily (the Moon).

He revealed
the 8+8 facets
of Vishudha Chakra
along with all the qualities
of my bodies wheels.

He sweetly graced me
with the ability to contemplate
the six faces gross
and the four faces subtle.

He enabled me to perceive
the subtle body,
and gain the darshan
of the Eight States.

He has revealed
within my mind
the Skull's Gate,
and given the sweet grace
of being established in mukti.

He made me know myself.
He showered me with grace.
He pulled out past karma...
by its root.

Without a single word or thought
my mind is one with him.

He has concentrated my mind,
clarified my intellect,
and said,

"Light & Darkness
share a common place."

He presses me down
into the grace giving ecstasy.

In my ear
he renders limitless bliss.

He has weeded out all difficulty
and shown the path of grace.

He has revealed Sada Shiva
within the sound.
He has revealed the Shiva Lingam
within the mind.

And he has revealed that...

The smaller than the smallest,
The larger that the largest,
stands within…
like ripe sugarcane.

He made me understand
the role of the ash
smeared on the brows
of the devotees merged in truth,

with whom
he made me

He made both heart & mind
achieve the state of knowing
the precious meaning
of the Five Letters.

Having given to me
the True Nature of All Existence...

I am ruled
by the wise Vinayagar...

at whose feet
I take refuge.