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“O Uma! In Thy slightly knit eyebrows, intent on dispelling the world’s fears, I imagine the bow of Rati’s lord (Manmatha), strung with the string of Thy shining bee-like pair of eyes, held in his left hand, with the middle parts of both concealed by the forearm and the clenched fist covering them.”
- Saundaryalahari, verse 47
In this verse of the Saundaryalahari composed by our Acharya, the eyebrows of the Divine Mother are described.
Sri Acharya went to Kailasa and by the grace of Isvara obtained along with the five Lingas the Saundaryalahari consisting of a hundred verses containing mantras and a description of the Mother’s form from the crown to the feet. As he was bringing the script of the poem, Nandikesvara obstructed him and succeeded in seizing fifty-nine verses. Sri Acharya was able to retrieve forty-one verses which contain the mantras and completed the poem by adding his own composition of fifty-nine verses describing the divine form from the crown to the feet. In these fifty-nine also there are mantras embedded. Of these, the present verse praises that aspect of the Mother’s form which dispels the fears of all the worlds.
For removing fear, it is usual to knit the eyebrows slightly. Therefore, in the verse, the Mother is described as being “intent on dispelling the world’s fears”. When the brows are knit for the sake of removing fear,they bend like a bow. If the brows are knit out of anger, the brows will be raised. Then, they will not resemble a bow. Because the Mother knits the brows slightly for the sake of removing fear, they bend like a bow. They are seen to resemble a bow. So, the Acharya says, “bhruvau bhugne kinchit”: “bhugna” means, “slightly knit”. The two eyes extend upto the ears. The black pupils shine like the black-bees. If it were asked, whose bow is this, the reply is that it is the bow of the Lord of Rati, Manmatha. Because he is the lord of beauty, his bow also is beautiful. The poets describe that bow as ikshu (sugar/cane). The string for that bow is constituted by bees. Thus, the pupils of the eyes that extend upto the ears are said to be like the bees that constitute the bow-string of Manmatha. In another verse of the Saundaryalahari, Sri Acharya says, “maurvi madhukaramayi” (bow-string made of black-bees, v.6). If the knit brows and the pupils of the eyes are compared to the bow and bow-string respectively, there is some difficulty, so thinks the Acharya. There is a region in between the two eyebrows. And between the two eyes there is the nose. These two partially hide the bow and the string. The Acharya gives a thought to this.
There are ten names of Arjuna:
phalgunah, parthah, kiriti, svethavahanah,
vijayah, krishnah, savyasachi, dhananjayah.
It is usual to recite these ten names when it thunders. This is because thunder is Indra’s bow, and Arjuna was Indra’s son. Of these ten names, Savyasachi is one. The meaning of this name is “one who can shoot arrows even with the left hand”. Ordinarily, one holds the bow with the left hand and shoots the arrow with the right hand. But Arjuna’s distinctive greatness was that he could hold the bow with the right hand and shoot with the left hand also. In the same way, Manmatha too is Savyasachi. If the bow is held with the right hand and the arrow with the left we know how it would be. So are the Mother’s eye-brows and eyes. Thus says the Acharya. Mushti is closed fist. Prakoshta is the forearm near the wrist. Savyetaragrhitam means “held with the hand other than the left”. Here the description is “like the bow held by Manmatha with the right hand”. It is when the bow is held with the right hand that the closed fist and the forearm will hide respectively the middle part of the bow and of the string. This will not be so if the bow is held with the left hand. Therefore it is that the Acharya says "savyetaragrhitam." The region between the eye-brows and the part of the nose between the two eyes are like the fist and the wrist.
There is a place of pilgrimage called Madhuvana. In Tamil, it is known as Nannilam. The legend in regard to this holy place is that there the bees offer worship to the Mahalinga. Till today there is seen a honey-comb in the temple there. That is why the place is called Madhuvana.
There was a Chola king by name Kochengat Chola. “Ko” means a king who wears a crown. “Chengan” means “red eyes”. In Sanskrit, he is referred to as “Raktaksha Chola”. That Chola king was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He undertook renovation works in regard to several temples. For such works the name is “yanai-erat-thiruppani”. This means “reconstructing the temple-disposition in such a way that elephants will not be able to enter”. From this it can be inferred that in former days the elephants could go in. In ancient times, great sages were worshipping the Mahalinga for their own sake on the banks of rivers, in forest regions and underneath trees. In those times, other people did not go near. But, in the Kali-age, in order to make available the worship of Lord Siva to others also, the kings arranged to build temples in accordance with Agamic rules. The kings made provision for those performing Siva Pooja daily. Thus, in places where the sages had been worshipping by themselves the Mahalinga, the kings built temples and appointed for worship those priests who had received the necessary initiation (diksha). Because in the Dharma Sastras, it is laid down that Brahmins should not worship for monetary emoluments, the arrangement for a section to receive initiation was made. Thus, in all of these regions, the Siva temples were constructed by the kings later on for the Mahalingas which were being worshipped in those temples according to the Agamic rules. In each of the temples, even today, there is to be seen a sthala-vriksha, a sacred tree. There are also such names as Thillai-Vanam and Tejani-Vanam. In Thiruvanaikkaval there is the jambu tree; in Kanchi there is a mango tree; in Mallikarjuna, Putarjuna and Madhyarjuna the tree is Arjuna. These are the Sthala Vrikshas in the places mentioned.
When the renovation work was done for the Thiruvanaikkaval temple, there was only a bark left of the jambu tree. The Chettiyars of Kanadukattan, who did the renovation were afraid that , that bark too might go, and so they had the ekaadasa rudrabhishekam performed for it. By the power of mantra that bark began to sprout and has become a tree again. Even now, there is a place called Vennaval near Thiruvanaikkaval,. Naval is the Tamil name for the jambu tree.
Why did Kochengat Chola undertake the renovation work referred to as yanai-erat-thiruppani? He began to hate the elephant. In those days, if there was hatred for some one, it used to be said that, one should forego devotion to Siva. That, they thought, was the greatest harm that could befall one. Why did this king hate the elephant? In regard to this, there is a legend. We should believe the sthala puranas (legends about holy places). Just because some sthala puranas might have been fabrications, we should not think all the legends are so.
In the Devaram hymns, the incidents connected with the holy places have been referred to. These incidents are related in the Puranas. The age of the Devaram is about one thousand and five hundred years by now. Relying on the evidence, which is much more ancient, the saints who sang the Devaram hymns recorded those incidents. Those who followed in the post-Devaram period have also alluded to the same incidents. Even now there are corroborative indications. In Thiruvanaikkaval, there is still a jambu tree. Beneath the tree, there is a Linga and figures, by the side of it, of an elephant in the pose of performing abhisheka, and of a spider nearby and seals of copper plate inscriptions. Similarly, in Madhuvana there is to be seen a honey-comb. The symbolic representations at Thiruvanaikkaval indicate the legend connected with that place, which is as follows: In those ancient times, there was a sage by name Jambu, who was performing austerities at that place. Because he was performing austerities lost in meditation for a every long time, an anthill covered his body, and plants and creepers grew as also a jambu tree. The Mahalinga, which he had been worshipping, was now being worshipped by a spider. Since the Mahalinga was in the open, the spider was weaving constantly a web over it so that the sun would not fall on it. An elephant was performing abhisheka to the Mahalinga everyday with the water from the Kaveri river brought in its trunk. By the spilling of the water, the spider’s web was getting destroyed. The spider got annoyed at this. It entered the elephant’s trunk and bit it. In Ayurveda it is said that the poison of luta is the most harmful. Luta means spider. The elephant killed the spider by razing it to the ground, and it also died on account of the poison. The spider was reborn as Kochengat Chola. Because the spider’s eyes were red with anger at the time of death, it was reborn as the Chola king with red eyes. Hence, the king was angry at the sight of elephants. And, he had done yanai-erat-thiruppani for seventy temples. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. His devotion to Siva has been praised even by Alwars in the Periya Thirumozhi. While mentioning that Kochengan built the Vishnu temple at Nachiyarkoil, it has been stated that he was the builder of many Siva temples.
"Place with devotion on your head the sacred feet of the Lord who is the consort of Nappinnai with roseate lips and who, in the past (at the time of His incarnation as Parasurama), destroyed all the kings and overcoming the might of enemy king, Karta Veeryarjuna, in the battle-field and cut off his head. Go to the temple at Thirunaraiyur which was visited for worship by the Chola kings of noble lineage who built seventy temples for the Lord with eight shoulders whose lips repeat the Purushasuktha of the Veda.”
-- Periya Thirumozhi, 6, 6, 8.