.On the morning of the 25th of October 2016, I placed an antique terracotta icon in its niche at the site of my installation for the Singapore Biennale. This rare terracotta is a representation of the Myth of the Mango of Enlightenment (Nyana Pazham). A version of this story was given to me in a matrilineal descent ... 

 

Once, as Lord Shiva, Mother Parvathy and their children Ganesha and Muruga were enjoying a moment of family bliss in their heavenly abode, the Sage Narada paid them a visit. Holding a mango in his hand, Naradha addressed the boys, “Lord this mango is sweeter than amirtham (divine elixir) it is for you, but but it must be not be divided.” Shiva decided to offer it to one of his sons by way of a challenge, “The mango goes to the one who is the first to circumnavigate the world.”​​​

 

Knowing that he that must win this challenge, the sprightly Murugan bestrode his glorious peacock and set off around the world. Contemplating his own gait and his most modest vehicle, the mouse, Ganesha posed his father and mother a question, “Ammai, Appan, is it not true that parents are, for a child, the world?” “Yes”, his glowing parents replied in unison. Ganesha continued, “Is it not also true that the whole universe (Prakriti) is but a manifestation (an allegory, a metonym) of your Lordly selves (Shiva/Shakti)?” “Well, yes of course!” - the only possible reply! Ganesha slowly circumambulated Shiva and Parvathy, his father and mother, his world - the world, and sure enough, he won the mango.

 

When Murugan came flying back, expecting to win, he saw Ganesha with the prize. Stunned and feeling cheated, he became enraged. He pierced his brothers generous belly with his Vel (this part of the story seems to be a particularity of my grandmother's version) and abandoned and left his Heavenly Himalayan abode. Discarding all his celestial accoutrements, he journeyed South, to stand alone on Mount Palani in a meager loin cloth.​​ To this day, he stands there and is hailed as Palani Aandi (Mendicant of Palani), a form of the Lord that is dear to the hearts of the Shivites of South India and the diaspora.

© 2017 by Niranjan Rajah

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