Friday 11 October 2019

Silapaddikaram's Manimekalai Revered in Penang's Buddhist Temple

Silapaddikaram, the ancient Tamizh Epic introduces Manimekalai - a not so famous personality today.

Manimekalai to most people today

Manimekalai is the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi. She was named after the worshiped sea deity - Goddess Manimekhala.

Most of us are aware of Kannagi's feat in bringing justice to her husband Kovalan - which forms the nucleus of Silapaddikaram.

Manimekalai's story is a sequel to Silapaddikaram.

Manimekalai grew up with a heightened spiritual consciousness. She studied the philosophies of Hinduism and other religions.

Through the influence of a Buddhist monk -  Bhiksu Aravana Adigal, she becomes a Bhikshuni ( Buddhist nun ).

She progressed rapidly in awareness and attained enlightenment. She possessed a begging bowl which yields a never-ending supply of food.

Not known to many, Manimekalai also had the ability to fly. On one occasion, she used this shakti to save a Buddhist guru.

What I have narrated is a compressed microchip of the elaborate poetry. The literature describes many other fascinating episodes in the life of Manimekalai - heavily illustrating the Hindu and Buddhist culture.

Wat Chaya Mangalaram Temple - Penang Island

The famous reclining Buddha temple in Penang, Malaysia houses various iconographies of Buddhism.

The painting above can be found today behind the large reclining Buddha in the Wat Chaya Mangalaram temple,Penang, Malaysia.The above portrait illustrates Goddess Manimekhala - The Sea Goddess who had a very close association with Manimekalai.She was the protector to Manimekalai.

The Goddess Manimekhala illustrated in the portrait above finds vast reference in the stated Tamizh literature.

According to my father, an additional portrait occupied the wall some 3 decades ago. Manimekalai's flying ability and inexhaustible food pot were illustrated.It is now missing.

Nevertheless,like a parallel to Bodhidharma and many other Tamizh figures who have a prominent reverence in Buddhism,Manimegalai is an enlightened being who is underrated in the present Tamizh community.It is best we venerate such icons as our pride.

To me,Manimegalai,like Bodhidharma - is as Buddha as Gautama.Let's not bury Her within a limited scope of literature alone.

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