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Avvaiyar – Vinayagar-Ahaval And Avvai-Kural

The Avvaiyar, who is credited with Vinayagar-Ahaval and Avvai-Kural, is believed to have lived during the 7th century CE.  Vinayagar Ahaval is a hymn on Ganesha, containing 72 lines in ahaval meter (blank verse), in which she records her own experience. Avvai Kural is a treatise on Yoga containing 310 couplets of Kural venba meter, classified into three parts consisting of ten chapters each, with every chapter containing ten couplets.

She follows the Siddha School of Yoga which emanates from Saint Tirumular whose work, Tirumantiram, is an elaborate treatise on the subject. Eighteen siddhas were enumerated by Tirumular, whose works were well known as Siddhar-songs among the Tamil people. The style of their composition is similar to that of the folk songs. Hence they are popular among the adherents of Yoga as well as the common man. Being treatises, Avvaiyar’s works are not only popular but are considered to be authoritative.

The word yoga means union with the object meditated on.

Avvaiyar deals with all the salient aspects of Yoga. A few are given below –

Life Force – The forces involved in Yoga are – prana shakti (life force), atma shakti (soul force) and daiva shakti (divine force). The purpose of Yoga is to awaken the atma shakti utilizing the prana shakti and to empower it with the divine force in order to realize the supreme being. The significant aspect of Yoga is that, while it leads to divine bliss, it is accompanied by an invigoration of the entire body system. Hence the body merges into the basic elements, while the self attains true knowledge. The realization of the ultimate is attained, even while being in the body.

While dealing wit the life force, Avvaiyar describes the subtle body, the dasanadi (ten nerve centers), and pranayama (the regulation of respiration). She explains how the yogic practices of pranayama, pratyahara and dharana help awaken the self-force. She prescribes meditation on Pranava mantra to achieve this. According to her, respiration saturated with Pranava kindles the life-force embedded in one’s loins to rise above and pass through adharas (the centers of consciousness) which are located in the source of sushumna nadi which, running at the center of the body, connects the muladhara (loins) and the sahasrara (the crown of the head). On its way, the life force is empowered by the kundalini shakti and the forces of five agnis (fires), surya (the sun) and Chandra (the moon) which are innate forces in the body.

The divine force as is immanent in the life force is called kundalini. Shaivism would call it tirodhana shakti, being one of the functional forms of Goddess Parashakti from Shiva, but would explain Shakti as his grace.

Avvaiyar insists that the adherent of Yoga must get Shiva’s grace in order to get divine bliss (Kural 110). She indicates the process of energizing the self with the divine force of Parashakti (Kural 108).

This is followed by dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption). As a result of prolonged practice of these, the yogi is blessed with a divine vision, especially that of a great light, at the center of his eyebrows and at the top of his head. Avvaiyar correlates this vision with spiritual enlightenment (Kural 132, 287).