The morning dawned with determination to get up early. You see, Parthasarathy was technically up from 02:30 in the morning preparing for the Ther (Ratha).
But lazy, confused and caught up as i had been, it was a late 05:30 that i pulled myself out of my bed.
i was in such a horrible mood, i thought i would save PSP the misfortune of staring into my sullen face by not going.
This was something that would usually have me excited, but all i could do was pull a long face. My head was already aching so hard, as though a bullet was hiding inside.
But, i did force myself into His presence.
i haven't been to many ther festivals. i remember one as a kid, and one i went to last year, both in my native place of Thenthiruperai.
These thoughts, and the sound of the autorikshaw combined to churn out some sloshy weight in my head. Add to this my mom complaining over my rather ordinary choice of dress for such an extraordinary event (i was in no mood to celebrate), my eyes begged me to let them cry. Somehow, i was not exactly jubiliant or excited. i did not expect PSP to even look at me. i was convinced He would act like a piece of stone when i got to see Him (that is the thing that hurts me the most, when i cannot read anything on His face).
And, then my eyes wanted to cry all the more. But, for a different season. He loomed into my sorry eyes, ever so majestic, ever so breathtaking. The ther (ratha) had been done up in a red canopy. The red canopy was like a makeshift roof, shielding Him from the sun. On all sides of the ther were horses, beautifully painted for the occasion, His guards, with their feet on the heads of asuras, and surrounding His ther were hundreds of people.
His ther was pulled by frenzied devotees. Their cries of "Govinda Gopala" were too infectious. They resounded in my ears which were feasting eagerly on their excitement, on that maddened devotion. In front walked the great learned people, singing the beautiful hymns of the Prabandham, even as those words filled my brain, and cleansed it of all its worries.
i felt dazed, dazzled even. The majesty of the whole thing was too much for my rattled brain.
But, all this i noticed later. What i noticed first was my dear Lord, my dear ParthaSarathy, seated beautifully within the ther. With Sridevi and Bhoomidevi on each side, He looked so breathtakingly majestic. ParthaSarathy- the Ruler.
But, more amazing to me was ParthaSarathy, the Driver.
Yes, how will PSP not drive?
Isn't He the one who drove Arjuna in the battlefield?
Isn't He the one who drives us through the battlefield called life?
Doesn't He drive our hearts to His feet?
While inside stood ParthaSarathy, dearest Lord; outside sat ParthaSarathy, my Lord.
There, He sat- His right leg folded in, His left angled out, almost as He were relaxing, and His left hand resting, almost carelessly, on His left knee. In His right hand was a red whip. His face exuded so much charm, i was dazzled. His moustache framed the most beautiful smile.
And, in His left hand, He held the reins of four white horses.
When i first saw Him like this, i was thrown back by surprise.
This particular form of His had enchanted me so much.
As is usual to work on polish, paint, etc., this particular idol of His had been placed in front of the Aandal sannathi inside the temple for the past one month.
i usually have a habit of telling PSP that He must not stand too long, that He should have been sitting instead of standing. i used to tell Him to do that, atleast for the sake of Rukmini Thaayar. So, as i saw Him sitting, i was totally enchanted.
i remember the pressing impulse i had to steal Him from the temple and place Him at home. (i hope they dont arrest me for this confession) The thought seriously crossed my mind. :)
And His left hand- it was folded, so as to hold something. It was the most intriguing, inviting. So many times, when i was sure no one was watching in the temple, i would place my index finger within His thumb and fingers curled together.
One evening, i had even secretly placed my index finger to my lips, and passed on a secret kiss. i still remember not washing my hands the whole night, even as it had turned a certain red colour after touching His palms.
He was present as Parthasarathy times two.
So, as i saw Him there, as the ruler, and also as the one driving, it left me amazed, spellbound.
He is the ruler who ruled the Universe, and yet, He is also the bhaktavatsala, forever there for His devotees, ready to do anything for them. Even pick up the dusty reins of the horse, and do the littlest of jobs. Even sit braving the Sun, at the helm of the vehicle, while Partha sat inside.
He is the puppeteer, who holds our reins, like He held those horses.
My joy knew no bounds. The whole atmosphere tugged at my heart. He was chiding me for ever wishing to stay back, in His own unique, sweet way.
The shouts of "Govinda Gopala had now reached a new high. The women were drawing large kolams to welcome Him. i made a mental note to improve my rather poor, and awfully basic skills in this department.
But, the most lasting memory was standing in front of those singing the Prabandham hymns. The jeeyar was there, leading a group of atleast 50 devotees singing. My hairs stood on one end, as they sang the Alwar's loving verses in their unique rhythm. i stood quite close, just in front of them, my hands folded, my senses lost to words, which magically found meaning in my head, by His grace. It was the most filling, satisfying memory of the day. As they were going to move away, they started next with the hymns. My mom smiled at me, an all-knowing smile. i didn't realize it then, but a couple of words floating in my ears told me it was sung on Thirumaaliruncholai (Azhagar, Madurai). i have a lot of fond memories of Azhagar, and it was too much of a coincidence.
Everywhere you turned, you could see devotees mesmerized by Him. Their involvement was infectious. It got into you. It inspired you to keep looking at Him. Maybe, this is how Vaikuntha is supposed to look.
Meanwhile, my mom left me with a family friend, a dear akka, as she had some work.
Now this dear family friend hadn't yet realized i was no longer a kid, and insisted on holding my hands (!!!!)
But, the way she held my hand reminded me of PSP, that i told myself not to complain. :)
i forgot to mention, we were not allowed to "pull" the ther. We, being the fairer sex.
The "vadam" was an iron chain, which would bruise our manicured hands.
So, that fun was not for us.
A lot of thoughts ran through my head- of the longest airports in the world (i have been in two of the top three), and a rather heavy handbaggage.
Of busy, crowded railway stations, and a supposedly light bag in my hand.
Of a sweaty tennis racquet, anticipating the next razor sharp ball.
Of the sprain i usually got after hours of throwball practice. Of my red fingers after a match.
Of how my fingers ached after playing the piano in fortissimo (hard playing).
All these things had bruised my hand. All these things had reddened my hands so evidently.
All these mundane things had been allowed to bruise my hands. And i wouldn't have minded it a least bit even if my hands sprained themselves in the effort. In His effort. But, i kept these thoughts to myself.
Also, it had been raining quite a bit in Chennai. The ground was quite sloppy, and wet sand was everywhere. My feet looked like they had been smeared with mehendi. But, the devotees even overlooked that litle problem.
At around 08:30 in the morning, the ratha came to a standstill. To watch this, we had caught the best place, and watched, as the majestic vehicle finally came to a standstill. Almost everyone was screaming His name. A huge round of applause went through the crowd. i responded with tears in my eyes. My morning had swung like a pendulum. These people, clapping joyously, didn't know how much they had helped.
And, when the bhattacharya took the aarti, as the flames of fire danced in front of Him, my heart threatened to jump out of my mouth.
If i had stayed back, i would have missed this magical, out-of-the-world experience.
But, He is most kind. He knew of my stupid reason for staying back. i hadn't wanted Him to have a sulker in His joyous crowd. But, He had pulled me along, and made me dance to His joyous tunes. Every devotee out there was dancing to His tunes.
Sorry about the long post. The little details may have been a bit on the personal side, and not exactly a description, but this is the least i could do in terms of sharing what i had experienced. Forgive me, for glossing over the details by filling them in with what i was thinking. In all, if u can capture in your hearts the magic of PSP, i will be glad. The photos, i will upload within the next couple of days.