Kanyakumari & her penance on one foot: The hidden meaning

The great memorials in the ocean are an unspoken salute to Mother India for she symbolises much of what Kanyakumari embodies and epitomises.  

Kanyakumari & her penance on one foot: The hidden meaning Vivekananda Rock Memorial.

At the southernmost tip of mainland India, the ocean roars; it heaves and sighs as if enthralled by the spectacular glimpse of two black boulders jutting out of its bosom and bearing on them testimonies of India’s greatness.

On one rock stands the statue of Tamil saint Thiruvallur and on the other, larger one, is built the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. It is the same consecrated cairn on which many millennia back Goddess Parvati had stood in penance on just one foot as a virgin girl, praying to obtain Lord Shiva as her consort.

It is also the same hallowed ground which had beckoned the youthful Vivekananda to swim across from the shore and spend three nights in meditation before he embarked on his journey to the US. 

This year saint Morari Bapu paid obeisance to Ma Kanyakumari, and disclosed the transcendental meanings behind Devi’s tapasya (penance).

Legend has it that Sati immolated herself after her father Daksha insulted Lord Shiva by neither inviting him to his yajna nor keeping a portion for him in the special ceremony. She then took birth as the daughter of Himalaya and practiced severe austerities so as to obtain Shiva as her husband again.

While the descriptions of her rigours are varied, one specific form of meditation that she undertook was by standing for several years on just one foot and praying. 

On the face of it, penance on one foot means to stand on one leg for a prolonged period and to chant or meditate, like we see many savants doing in the Kumbh Mela.

However, Morari Bapu, while speaking on Ramayana, said Ek Pad Tapa (one-foot penance) has 5 specific meanings. If a person, especially in contemporary context, has conviction in these, it can be said that he qualifies to have done Ek Pad Tapa:

  • Guru Pad (lotus feet of a Guru): When a disciple is committed at the lotus feet of one Guru alone and has full faith and devotion in him. It is possible that a saint sends his disciple to learn from other sages, however, his spiritual fidelity must stay in one place.
  • Guru Vachan (words of a Guru): A disciple must hold on to and follow the words of his Guru with one-pointed steadfastness. In Ramayana, when the seven sages came to test Parvati’s love for Shiva and lured her with the proposal of what they described as a more suitable prospective husband - Vishnu, she remains unmoved and stays committed to the advice given to her by her Guru Narada: 

          "Narada Bachana Na Main Pariharau, Basau Bhavanu Ujarau Nahin Darau.

           Guru Ke Bachana Pratiti Na Jehi, Sapanehu Sugama Na Sukha Sidhi Tehu."

(I shall not abandon Narada’s advice; whether I get a home or it collapses.  He who does not have conviction in the words of his Guru, cannot obtain happiness or special powers even in his dreams.)

  • Guru Granth (Holy Book): One should accept and do swadhyaya (self-cultivation / reading and learning) of the sacred scripture that has been referred to us by the Holiness (Sadaguru).
  • Guru Mantra: We must chant the Mantra accorded to us by the Guru.
  • Guru Sthan (Abode of the Guru): We must consider the abode of the Guru or the places associated with him as pilgrimage sites for ourselves.

Morari Bapu also gave an extraordinary meaning to the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean at point of our country’s extremity.

He said Kanyakumari is a symbolic convergence of the stream of Ma Kanyakumari’s Tapa or penance.

The second stream is that of Swami Vivekananda’s Tyaga or sacrifice. He gave up his secluded life to visit the US and take to it the message of India and the wisdom of the sages.

The third stream was the stream of Kanyakumari’s Titiksha or forbearance. There is much that Devi Parvati suffered during her trials and travails. But Bapu said that there is another meaning of Titiksha. It is when a person tolerates the fiery speech of another person, and endures criticism and derision even though the person has appropriate answers to silence the other. If one chooses not to answer back while bearing the insults heaped upon by another, then that too is Titiksha.

Standing at the ebb of India’s geography, a pensive thought settles on a visitor’s mindscape. How much has India too endured; silently, resiliently and lovingly. How much has India sacrificed.

The great memorials in the ocean are an unspoken salute to Mother India for she symbolises much of what Kanyakumari embodies and epitomises.