Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part II: Infancy

  • The twin brothers Ponnar and Shankar, are being raised in a cave that their family goddess, Celatta, dug for them under her own temple sanctuary. They live there in secrecy, enjoying the goddess’ gentle care in a place where they are completely safe from the murderous intentions of the family’s jealous cousins.

  • But as these twin brothers grow they begin to ask questions about their “real” parents. Shankar is particularly insistent. Finally the goddess determines that they are old enough to be handed over to their human family. she has given them extensive training in the martial arts. She is confident that they will be able to defend themselves, if challenged.

  • So the goddess sets out to find the king and queen, with the two boys riding on her two shoulders.    

  • After traveling quite a long way, she becomes confident that she has found the spot where the boys “real” parents have been living in exile. She sets the twins down near a small shrine and tells them to wait for her there.

  • Just to be sure, Celatta draws a total of seven lines and tells the two brothers not to cross these, no matter what should happen around them. She promises to return soon.

  • After some time the goddess returns with the boy’s parents. Lord Vishnu also appears. She and he stand together to bless the young family’s sudden expansion. From now on the couple will be known to have three children rather than just one!

  • But the queen is not sure. How could these two boys be heroes when she has never known of their existence until now? Vishnu quickly reassures her, magically making milk flow from her breasts into their mouths. The seven sari he creates as a curtain between her and her sons are produced from thin air by the god, to protect her modesty.

  • The milk spouts are aimed accurately and reach the two boy’s mouths in an instant. This outcome proves to the queen that they are her “true” sons. She is happy and satisfied. Now they can return home and the clansmen cannot oust them on the pretext that there are no boys in the palace who can one day become heirs to the family’s fine lands.

  • Lord Vishnu, and his sister Celatta, wish the family well on their walk back to Ponnivala to reclaim their palace and their fertile fields. All are hoping for the start of a prospersous and threat-free new life.

  • Tamarai and Kunnutaiya, set off with their enlarged family. It will take them many hours to reach their old home. The little girl has fallen fast asleep but the two boys are alert and watchful. They are excited.

  • Once again the couple have to walk through the forest. Along the way they encounter a dark cave with a mother boar and her piglet sleeping at the entrance. Shankar notices this immediately and demands to know something about these animals that he has never seen.

  • His mother tells him that this mother boar is the very one she once kicked because it lay on her path and that the piglet is the very male she vowed to give birth to and that would one day kill her two sons! She urges that they move on quickly but Shankar wants to challenge the little piglet and to kill it right then and there. Kunnutaiya says no and insists that the family keep on walking.

  • The little piglet wakes up and is angry. His eyes are red with anger already and he is just a babe. He is sure to challenge the family when he grows up! But for now he is left alone with his mothr in their forest lair.

  • When the couple reach Ponnivala at last, the first thing they do is to visit their two family temples, one dedicated to the goddess Celatta and the to the god of all new beginnings, Lord Ganesh. They thank these protectors for their safe return and ask for their blessings as they prepare for the days, and months, ahead.

  • The palace looks deserted when the small family arrives. It has been protected by an army of bees and wasps during their absence. Kunnutaiya thanks these insects for their help and asks them to depart now that they are no longer needed.

  • Now the family enter their old home, through the main door. They are hoping that everything is still safe inside.

  • All is well. But the two boys make a rapid discovery. There is a tiny pup living there with its mother.

  • Excited, both brothers been over to have a good look.

  • Soon the twin brothers are having fun with their new pet. Eventually this little female pup will belong to their sister, but she hasn’t noticed it yet!

  • Now it is time for a grand ceremony. The maids lay out a rich array of fruits and other offers before the family goddess. The two boys are to receive their official names!

  • Lord Vishnu and the goddess Celatta are both present and are seated before the family temple. Celatta turns to Vishnu and asks how he wants to name the first child.    

  • Lord Vishnu says his chosen name three times, slowly: Ponnar, Ponnar, Ponnar.

  • Then Celatta turns to the younger twin and asks Lord Vishnu how he should be named. The great god answers: Shankar, Shankar, Shankar.

  • It is time for the god and goddess to depart. They bid farewell to the family and wish them a prosperous future. The little sister was named earlier in a separate ceremony when she was thought to the only child. But someone had a sense to what was coming as she was given only a descriptive kin term for a name: Tangal. This word simply means “younger sister.” But how could she be the youngest, unless someone, perhaps Lord Vishnu(?) knew that two “older” siblings would one day appear!

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