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The 103rd samadhi day of the saint composer Shri. Neelakanta Sivan was observed by the Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai on the 24th of July, 2003. The book Lalitha Mahatmyam written by Smt. Saraswathi Ram, great-granddaughter of Neelakanta Sivan and two cassettes, Pancha Natana Keerthanas and Sree Lalitha Devi Mahatmyam of the saint composer were released on this occasion.

Smt. Saraswathi Ram spoke to V. Padmasini about her great-grandfather, bringing to light the personal side of the spiritual genius, the many miracles he is said to have performed and his views on life.

"Mahatma Neelakanta Sivan was born in the year 1839 at Vadiveshwaram village near Nagercoil. His parents had no children until then. So they prayed to Goddess Alagammai, the deity of the place by taking paal kavadi. When the child was born he was appropriately named Subramaniam. Hence, Smt. Ram says, "All his songs are not on Siva, he never failed to sing about his family deity Murugan"  ("unnai kula deivam enru ninaithu sada un ullam ninaivadai nee ariyadha") The family left his birthplace and came to Padmanabhapuram near Tirunelveli , the place of Lord Neelakanteshwara and Goddess Aanandavalli. Even in the early stages he had no interest in studies and mostly spent his time going around the temple precincts with his friends singing bhajans and songs of Muthuthandavar and Arunachala Kavi taught to him by his mother. In those times early marriage even for boys was a must! So in accordance with the existing customs his parents decided to get him married, at the age of 14. At that time Dhanu Iyer, an astrologer had foretold that if the girl  (later Sivan's wife) got married she would become a widow within a year. So it was decided that "this man is bhakti-mad and also good looking, so we will tie this girl to him". When Subramaniam came to know of this he ran away from home to Suchindram, to the dAnu nAdar Koil. Here a strange incident took place. A 'divine voice' was heard by him, which said "illaramae nallaram". In deference to this, deciding to continue in the worship of Shiva while being in family life, he returned to wed the girl of his parents' choice.

"At the age of 18 he once again left home unknown to anybody and hid himself in the chariot of the temple for three days bereft of food and water, surrounded by vermin, snakes and scorpions. His only aim at this juncture was to have a darshan of his beloved god and His consort. He devoted his time to meditating on them. His wish was fulfilled when the couple appeared before him on the third night and the divine Mother fed him with fruits and milk and thrust folded betel leaves inside his mouth. Immediately his face was filled with tejas just like Tirugnanasambandar was when he came out of the temple after drinking milk offered by the goddess. He sang:

"pandenna poosayAn seidha payanOvaladhu
paramanin karunayilO pAvi ennai Atkolla vendumenna en manapari..."

Looking towards the goddess Anandavalli he sang:

"thAye enakku aruL thaa
anaithulaga thaye ennai kai vittu vidathae..."

"At the end of this gesture, having obtained the blessings of the Lord he began singing in Tamil, his first composition in the precincts of the temple, the 'Shri Neelakanta Dasakam' of 10 stanzas of 10 lines each. Thence Subramaniam came to be called Neelakanta Sivan (dAsan). He returned to family life and took up the job of a magistrate. However he who was an apostle of truthfulness and justice was persuaded to give false evidence in a case. Finding the circumstances against his motto he quit the job. The prevailing situation made him lament thus: "enna vidham pizhaipOm eliyOre naam eppadi thEruvOm solvire". "Panamae nee oru pinamae", was his view on money . 

"The Lalitha Mahatmyam is one of his greatest contributions. His father-in-law, not knowing the value of his compositions once threw hundreds of his compositions on the streets. He did not pour oil into the lamps with the idea of stopping Sivan from writing. Ponnu Sivan, my grandfather, used to write down what he dictated even faster than today's shorthand writings. Dasar used to chew betel leaves a lot. pOta kutrAla aruvi mathiri vizhum tamizh! When the lamps did not burn, Dasar immediately in a spiritual frenzy, took the jug of water kept nearby for rinsing his mouth and poured it into the lamps.  "avar enge irrukarO..bhagawane nennachindu seyimbOthu! The lamps burned brightly and Dasar continued his work till it was completed. He performed a similar feat, when the lamps at the temple burnt out due to lack of oil. He filled them with tank water and made them light up again. During his life time Shri Neelakanta Sivan visited 108 kshetras and performed many miracles. A village Karunkulam near Tirunelveli suffered from acute drought due to lack of rains. The people turned to Dasar and took him to their village and begged him to relieve them from their misery. Moved by their plight, he sang a viruttam in praise of Lord Maarthandeshwarar and Mother Kulasekhari:


"pizhaigallelam nee poruppai petravalae
pillaigalukku un kazha vinayae thunaiyallathor
kadhikanom kanndarivai,
mazhaiyenna vandarul tharuvai"

"The viruttam was sung with so much faith and bhakti that torrential rain lashed the village for several days afterward. Just as the bard Thyagaraja was confronted by robbers in the forest, robbers attacked Dasar too on one of his journeys. As the robbers were running away with the loot, he called them and requested them to take away his musical instruments too as booty. The robbers did so, only to find that their hands and legs were immediately swollen and they could not lift or run anymore. They fell at his feet and begged pardon and he advised them to lead a life of fair means. That Dasar was in the possession of extraordinary spiritual powers is shown by two incidents. In a village, Dasar's disciples had selected the porch of a house to rest for a night. The owner refused them permission to do so. Hearing this Dasar told his disciples "naallai ennai theyithu kullithu irakka pogum ivan thinnaiyai koduthu udava marukkiranae". The man died the very next day when he was caught in a current in the river. Even if we were to scold or criticize god he will tolerate it but not criticism of his bhaktas. The other incident was that he always had the habit of coming home and asking his folks to prepare food for a certain amount of people in the afternoon, without knowing if there was enough rice. Once he asked for food for a thousand people to be prepared. His eldest son, my grandfather said, "It is late already, where are we to get the rice from?" Dasar's reply was "Ettu maniacchunu solriyae nallaikku aaru manikku paaru" , and the next day at 6 a.m. cartloads of groceries were delivered by the Maharaja's bhaktas and important people.

"Dasar was well aware of his imminent end, even at the commencement of his 60th year. He had made it known to his family also. "Ennakku ulaga vazhkai porum." His wife was greatly disturbed by his decision but he was adamant. Invitations were typed and sent to all that Dasar was going to attain 'kapala moksha' and bhajans were sung for three days continuously. When the time came he said "mahadeva mahadeva mahadeva enrunai azaithen", lifted his hands aloft, the Kapalam broke and he united with the lord. He used to worship a linga and my mother said that the door housing it broke open and the linga rose and mixed with air. He was totally against widowhood in the conservative sense. "Thali onuthAn edukkanum. Vesham ellam kalaikakudathu". Like Muthuswami Dikshitar and Thyagaraja, he has composed in Sanskrit and Tamil and also by combining both. He was very much The Tamil Thyagaraja."

 

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