Vasuki, the name that has stood from the days of the legend till date. Vasuki refers to two identities, one is the five-headed snake that was used as a rope, tied around Mount Meru to churn the ocean of milk to get the Amirdham, the sacred potion that would give immortality. The other identity is the female icon who is eulogised as an epitome of chastity and the devotion to her husband has exalted her in the minds of the Tamil people and also considered virtuous. She is considered equal to Kannagi, Savithiri, Nalaayini and other women whose devotion to their husband exalted them in the minds of the people.
Devotion to the husband does not mean that the wife is a slave, and nobody in the legend and real life treat them that way. Devotion means the understanding, the belief and the faith they had in their spouse. This devotion also applies to men. And Lord Rama stands as an example of a devout husband by being an “Eka Pathini Viradhan” meaning, a devout husband to one and only wife.
Vasuki Ammaiyar was a devout wife of the great Thiruvalluvar, who wrote the 1330 couplets of the Thirukkural. Her exaltation was due to the fact of her devotion to her husband and the great respect she had in him. Also Thiruvalluvar had very great respect for her, on seeing her devotion and respect for him. He knew that she has the power to do anything because she was a “Pathiviradhai” – meaning a devout wife (Pathi means husband, Viradhai means woman devotee). When he went to ask her father to have Vasuki in marriage, he tested her by giving her a bag of sand and asked her to cook delicious food. She accepted and her undiverted thoughts made the sand into a great meal.
The reason that Vasuki is so exalted as a devout wife is a series of events that showed her power to the world because of the devotion she had. I am posting a few of them that I remember. These legends have been passed on for generations since Vasuki’s time.
Once was drawing water from the well that was in the backside of their house. And then Thiruvalluvar called for her. On hearing her husband calling, she left the rope that she was pulling and ran to address him. The pot that she was pulling out of the well while drawing the water, was in mid air. And when Vasuki ran to address her husband’s call, the pot did not fall into the water from mid-air. Instead it hung as Vasuki left it. It did not fall back into the well. People believe it is because of the devotion she had in her husband that all the things in the world came into her control without any question.
Another event in her life is that, Valluvar used to have his meal in the plantain leaf. One day, he told Vasuki that she should keep a bowl of water and a thorn nearby the plantain leaf, whenever she serves food for him. She did not question, why Valluvar asked her to do so. However after every meal, she noticed that Valluvar used neither the bowl of water nor the thorn. She was puzzled; however, she did not ask a question and start an argument, but thought that there could be some reason. And during her death, when she was was in her deathbed, Valluvar asked if she wanted him to do anything for her. She told that she was very much blessed to live a life with Valluvar, but she wanted to know the reason why he asked her to keep the bowl of water and thorn during every meal in spite of not using them. Valluvar replied that each grain of rice is a farmer’s effort and that should not go wasted. So while serving food if any grain of rice spilled out of the plaintain leaf into the sand, he could prick it with the thorn and then wash it in the bowl of water and then eat it. But Vasuki’s way of serving was so careful and more gentle that he did not have the need to use it. She was proud and happy when she died, that her husband had high regards and respect in her and she has fulfilled her part as a wife to the great man whom the world reveres.
There is one more incident that really proves her virtuousness. There was a Siddhar named Kongani Siddhar also called Konganavar. When Konganavar was meditating deeply as a penance, a stork that flew above dropped its excrement on him. He came out of his meditation in anger and furiously looked at the stork and the stork was burnt alive. This incident made him to take pride of the powers he obtained out of his penance. And one day, he went to Thiruvalluvar’s home to ask food. At that time, Thiruvalluvar was having his meal and Vasuki was serving him. She said that she will address Konganavar in a bit and asked him to wait. Konganavar could wait no long looked furiously at her. Nothing happened, Konganavar looked puzzled. Vasuki on seeing him puzzled uttered the following
“Kokku Endru Enninayo Konganavaa?”
meaning did you think that I am the same stork that you burnt earlier.
Kokku – Stork
Endru Enninayo – Think (Enni) that way (Endru)
Konganavaa – Kongani Siddhar.
Now, Konganavar was baffled even more. He was puzzled how Vasuki knew that he burnt a stork alive just by looking furiously at it. And then realised that it was Vasuki’s virtuousness that enabled her to visualise what had happened. He felt ashamed and apologised to Vasuki for her mistake and went away.
Vasuki’s virtuousness was the reason that Thiruvalluvar sang a complete Adhikaaram (Chapter) called Vaazhkai Thunai Nalam, meaning welfare of the spouse in which the following couplet appears.
“Dheivam Thozhaal Kozhunan Thozhudhezhuvaal
Peyena Peyyum Mazhai”
meaning, a woman who is devout to her husband need not worship any God. And she is comparable to the rains that pours when in great need, so virtuous and inevitable. There is even another interpretation, which means, The rains will pour when a wife, who is devout to her husband, orders the rains to do so. It symbolises that the even Nature will heed to the virtuous women.
Dheivam Thozhaal – Woman who does not worship God (Dheivam). Thozhudhal indicated worship
Kozhunan – Husband, Head of the family
Thozhudhu – Worship
Ezhuvaal – Raise after worship
Peyena – Order the rains to pour
Peyyum – The act of rains pouring
Mazhai – Rain
Vasuki and Thiruvalluvar’s virtuousness is an example for all of us on how to live a life that will bring happiness to all. The trust and the faith that the spouses have in each other exalts them in the way they live their life on the planet. Lets hail Vasuki for generations to come and let her serves as an example of a modest and virtuous woman for the generations to come
More to come, until then…