Written by London swaminathan


Date: 12 JULY 2018


Time uploaded in London – 15-42  (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5211


Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Wikipedia, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks. Pictures may be subject to copyright laws.



COLOMBO MUSEUM IN SRI LANKA HAS GOOD BRONZES OF Lord Nataraja and Tamil saints Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Maniikavasagar. Parvati’s statues and Kathirgama Karthikeyan are also remarkable pieces.


Following are some good bronzes:














Alexander and Tamil Saint Pattinathar


Alexander and Tamil Saint Pattinathar


Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was the king of Macedonia. He conquered several countries from Greece to India. Pattinathar was a Tamil saint who lived in tenth century AD in Tamil Nadu. Alexander and Pattinathar were born rich. Both of them sent a powerful message by their deeds: “ In the end we leave empty handed”.


When death was neaing Alexander reflected within himself: “ I have committed so many evil deeds to amass all this wealth. Now death’s call has come. When departing I have to leave all the riches behind and go alone without taking a single coin”. He told his followers and courtiers : “when my body is taken t the grave, you have to seethat my two hands are stretched out, with palms open, and fully exposed,while the rest of the body is covered, so that my subjects may see that I, a great king, the richest man in the world, went on my final journey, quite empty handed, as I could not take anything with me”. Alexander was buried according to his wish.


Happiness does not consist in storing or accumulating wealth. We bring nothing with us when we came in to the world and we take nothing with us when we leave the world. Pattinathar story was another example to emphasize this.


Pattinathar was a rich man doing roaring business in the harbour city of Chola country. He had no issue. A bright child was picked up from a garden in Tiruvidaimarudur and was reared by Pattinathar. Ne day the boy disappeared after asking his mother to give a box to Pattinathar. When Pattinathar opened it he found an eyeless needle and a palm leaf on which a conundrum was written. He immediately distributed his wealth, renounced life and became an ascetic. He has sung lot of hymns in praise of Lord Shiva.


We see the message of leaving empty handed in most of his hymns. Alexander showed it in body. Pattinathar said it in his poems.

In Thiruvekampamalai, he says,


Nothing was brought at the time of birth

Nothing will be taken at the time of death;

What then shall I say of that class which

Knows not giving, well realising that the wealth

Gained in the interval is that which  was given

by Shiva, Oh Kachi Ekampa.


Stamp released by Greece in 1968


In another verse he says what happens to emperors,

Crowned kings and others , in the end, are burnt

And reduced to a handful of ashes and dirt;

(This article is posted by me in Tamil as well—london swaminathan)

Pattinathar Poems translated by Dr T N Ramachandran.


For Tamil readers:


பிறக்கும்பொழுது கொடுவந்ததில்லை பிறந்து மண்மேல்

இறக்கும்பொழுது கொடுபோவதில்லை இடை நடுவில்

குறிக்கும் இச்செல்வம் சிவன் தந்ததென்று கொடுக்கறியா

திறக்கும் குலாமருக்கு என் சொல்லுவேன் கச்சி ஏகம்பனே


முடிசார்ந்த மன்னரும் மற்றுமுள்ளோரும் முடிவில் ஒரு

பிடி சாம்பராய் வெந்து மண்ணவதுங் கண்டு பின்னும் இந்தப்

படிசார்ந்த வாழ்வை நினைப்பதல்லால்  பொன்னின் அம்பலவர்

அடிசார்ந்து நாம் உய்யவேண்டும் என்றே அறிவாரில்லையே.


(பட்டினத்தார் பாடல் கருத்துக்களை நான் முன்னர் எழுதி வெளியிட்ட பட்டினத்தாருடன் 60 வினாடி பேட்டி என்ற கட்டுரையில் காண்க.)

Pictures are taken from other blogs.

Map of Alexander’s empire


Elephant Miracles


Picture shows Buddha taming ‘Nalagiri

Interesting stories about elephants are found in Indian literature. Like the Indian elephants that travelled up to Rome 2300 years ago, Indian story about six blind men’s encounter with an elephant also travelled to different parts of the world. John Godfrey Saxe (1878) wrote an English poem on it.

Ascetics have mysterious powers. They can control animals. Hindu literature is full of anecdotes about animal miracles. In the vicinity of ascetics both the tigers and deer (natural enemies) drink water from the same river undisturbed, say Sanskrit and Tamil literature. When a Hindu enters Sanyas Ashrama (ascetic life), he takes an oath standing in the water that he wouldn’t  harm any living being on earth. Hindus are always one step ahead of others. When they take the oath they say by word, deed and thought no harm will be done to anyone. If anyone does this that person develops miraculous powers.

We have several miracles of controlling mad elephants by Mantra, Tantra and heroism in Tamil and Sanskrit books.

1.Krishna’s Encounter with elephant

When Krishna was invited by Kamsa, along with his brother Balarama, to a wrestling bout, he arranged an intoxicated elephant at the gate of the arena. The two brothers saw the elephant at the gate, with the rider at the top; and the rider suddenly marched on to the brothers. Krishna, having accepted the challenge, broke the tusks of the elephant and hurled the elephant into the air. It was killed instantaneously. Its name was Kuvalaya Peetam.

2.Buddha’s encounter with a mad elephant:

Taming of an elephant called Nalagiri by the Buddha comes in Culavagga (VII-2-5). Devadatta sets upon the elephant against Buddha. This is very similar to Krishna’s taming of an elephant set upon by Kamsa. When Buddha  looked at the elephant with a fixed but calm gaze the elephant was calmed down. One can answer the question who copied whom? Easily. Since Buddhism was a proselytizing religion unlike Hinduism, Buddhists copied Ramayana Story, Mahabharata Story, Sibi Story and many more to attract the Hindus into its fold. They attributed all the Pre Buddha stories to the Buddha and told the people Buddha was born in these forms in his previous births.

3.Tamil Saint Appar’s encounter

Appar’s other names are Marulnikkiyar, Tirunavukkarasar and Vageesar. When he was converted to Jainism, he was named Dharmasenar. After his reconversion to Hinduism he was subjected to lot of ordeals by the Pallava king Mahendra Varman (600-630 AD). At the instigation of some jealous Jains he was thrown in to sea and a burning kiln, but he escaped unharmed. Lastly a mad elephant was sent to kill him.

Here are the words of Sekkizar in Periyapuranam about the elephant encounter: “At the king’s command an elephant the size of a mountain came rushing out. The elephant attacked and trampled upon everything on its way. It outdid even Yama, the God of Death. Knocking down walls and verandas in its path, it finally emerged into a wide open square. It was driven towards Appar. But quite unafraid he meditated on the golden feet of Lord Shiva. With heartfelt devotion he sang in praise of the Lord. The elephant walked reverently in a circle round him, then bowed before him to the ground in worship. When the mahouts tried again to drive it in the direction of Appar, it threw all of them to the ground and killed them by the score. The king was totally dismayed. At the end the king himself was reconverted to Hinduism. It happened around 600 AD in Tamil Nadu.

4. Udayana’s Taming of elephants

King Udayana of Vatsa Kingdom (6th Century BC) was fond of elephants. He was such an expert in playing the Veena that he can tame even wild elephants with his music! Lord Indra gifted him a divine elephant, which left him because of a mistake he committed. Shocked, he went in search of it. Meanwhile, he met a princess, Vasavadatta. The two fell in love and faced many problems. Both of them were separated like Rama and Sita and at the end they met again and lead a happy life. His elephant came to his rescue when he was in trouble.

Picture shows Sathya Sai Baba with elephant Sai Geetha

5.Tamil Woman’s Music tames elephants

Elephants are said to have keen ear for music and enjoy good songs. This fact has been mentioned in a number of classical works. In the Tamil anthology Akananuru 102, we have the following interesting line:

“ The Lord of the country, where, on hearing  the huntress who was drying her hair tresses sings the Kurinjippan ( a tune of hill country), the war loving young elephant stood motionless without eating the corn sheaves, closed its eyes and fell fast asleep”.

In Tamil Kalitogai (2), we have the following lines:

“Just as the turbulent king elephant that evades and does not mind the iron hook of the mahout voluntarily submits itself to the sweet sound of the lyre”.

In Perunkathai, a Tamil translation of Brhatkatha, we see how an elephant became a slave to Udayana’s lyre and came to his rescue when he was in trouble.

Ancient Indians were keen observers of animal behaviour. They studied animal psychology even before Freud and Jung and even wrote about animal dreams. I have dealt with these themes elsewhere in my posts.

6.Kanchi Sankaracharya’s encounter

Source:-A book on Paramacharya by name Ganni by Sri Sudarsananda-published by Sri Bhagavat Seva Ashramam,TriplicaneApril 1986.
Once when Periyava (Shankaracharya) was camping at a place PUCHAMALAIKKUPAM, the shed where the Mutt’s elephant was kept got fire and the elephant broke its chain and ran away. Next day morning the employees of the mutt noticed that the shed where the elephant was kept was burned down fully and the elephant was missing. Later it was found that the elephant was near a tank some five miles away and the mahout went there to fetch the elephant but the elephant refused to accompany him despite great efforts. Then Periyava went there and the elephant slowly got up from the tank and came near Swamiji and saluted him. There were few burns on the body of the elephant. Swamiji patted the elephant with HIS own hand and ordered that proper treatment for burns should be done.

On another occasion also, when the elephant refused to move, Swamiji was informed. He came patted the animal lovingly. The elephant acted normally from the minute Swamiji touched it. Others were too scared to go near the elephant.

7.Elephants choosing future kings by garlanding

It would interest here to note that in ancient times, the royal elephant was let loose in order to find a suitable successor for the throne that was rendered vacant by the death of a king who died without a heir. The story goes that Tamil kings Karikal Choza and Murthy Nayanar were elected as kings in the above manner. In the North we see elephant helping King Udayana this way.

Also read 200+ Tamil Proverbs on Elephant posted already in this blog.