Seeing Red


Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:

When do you your eyes acquire a reddish tint? When you contract Conjunctivitis! (popularly known as Madras Eye) remarks my daughter, looking over my shoulder at the computer. Levity apart, when your eyes take on a reddish hue for whatever reason, they acquire an unseemliness, which makes people avert their faces. We do not associate blood-shot eyes with anything good. In fact, in some, such eyes are indicative of excessive intake of alcohol, while in others, the condition is caused by sleeplessness. In women, the condition is induced by prolonged crying. Whatever be the reason therefor, red eyes do spoil your looks and indicate an abnormality.

Surprisingly, however, the same condition is the subject matter of admiration and adoration, when it is found in the Lord. People have written pages on the very same reddishness in the Lord’s eye, which they find unseemly in others. Kangal sivandu periyavaai remarks one Azhwar, while another enthuses about the Sentaamarai Kannan. When Tiruppanazhwar catalogues the captivating features of the Lord’s eyes, reddishness is one trait, which he finds remarkable—Kariyavaagi pudai parandu milirndu sevvariyodi neenda apperiyavaaya Kangal.

The Lord is extremely colourful—His curly hair is jet black (Mai vanna narum kunji), His broad and beautiful eyes are tinged with red, His teeth are a dazzling white, His lips a captivating red again (Kovvai chevvaai), He wears a Vanamaala with a selection of vividly colourful flowers and His complexion that of brilliant beaten gold (Pon meni kanden). However, amidst all this riot of colour, it is His bewitching eyes, which captivate the devotee and make him lose all self-control. The beauty of these lotus eyes is enough to drive us mad with desire, says Tiruppanazhwar—periyavaaya Kangal ennai pedamai seidanave. Even seasoned Rishis who have banished all desire and emotion from their hearts are floored by these captivating eyes, says the Jitanta Stotram—Jitante Pundarikaksha!. It is these eyes that rivet the onlooker’s attention and prevent him from proceeding further to enjoy other parts of the Lord’s tirumeni. It is these eyes which show Him up to be the Overlord of the Universe, says Sri Nammazhwar—anaittulagum tozhum aravinda lochanan.

If Emperuman’s eyes are of such scintillating beauty, they owe it in no small measure to their reddish tint. We have a doubt here—why should the Lord’s eyes be red, of all colours? Why not green or blue, for that matter?

A quick look at Srimad Ramayanam and Aruliccheyal reveals several reasons why the Lord’s eyes are red.

1. The Paramapursha’s eyes are verily lotus blooms. (Ramo Raajeeva lochana:Sentaamarai Kannan) And lotus flowers are red (though there is a white variety too—Ven Taamarai—the majority of these blooms are red). Hence there is no surprise that Emepruman’s eyes sport a reddish tinge. This is the purport too of the name Lohitaaksha: occurring in Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam—Rakta Raajeeva nayano Lohitaaksha: prakeertita:

2. The Divine Consort sports a complexion like a lotus—Padma Varnaam says the Sri Suktam. Our eyes reflect what is constantly opposite them. Since Sri Mahalakshmi is the inseparable Consort, who has vowed to stay with the Lord without a second of separation, Her colour rubs off on Emperuman too, so to say, imparting a reddish tinge to His eyes.

3. As we have seen above, sleeplessness can be a cause of eyes being red. If you want to test the truth of this, try keeping awake for a whole night and look at your eyes in the morning. But why should the Lord be sleepless? To the contrary, He is always to be seen reclining on His soft and smooth snake bed, which would lull even an incurable insomniac to sleep. However, we are told that the Lord never sleeps, but only feigns slumber—uranguvaan pol yogu punarnda oli mani vannan Kannan. With His eyes shut, He is always devising newer and newer strategies for ensuring emancipation for the vast majority of souls suffering in bondage. It is hence no wonder that without sleep, the Lord’s eyes are red.

People say that wealth is sure to drive away sleep, because the rich man is always worried about what would happen to his wealth and constantly thinks about safeguarding and multiplying it manifold. Similarly, Emperuman, who is the Lord and Master of all sentient beings and non-sentient objects, cannot but keep awake with worry as to their well-being.

4. On some occasions, the Lord’s eyes acquire a deep reddish hue due to anger. Though He is by nature extremely compassionate and a stranger to anger, yet, in His role as the Universal Protector, He has occasions to display anger. Srimad Ramayanam speaks of several instances of Sri Rama’s eyes acquiring a reddish tinge on account of anger. One such is the unresponsive attitude of Samudra Raja, when Sri Rama lies on the seashore on a bed of grass, seeking the former’s permission for building a bridge across the waters to Lanka. When, despite sincere entreaties, the God of Waters doesn’t appear and fails to oblige, Sri Rama’s justifiable anger makes His eyes blood-red, we are told—

Samudrasya tata: kruddho Ramo raktaanta lochana:. In His legendary confrontation with Ravana, Sri Raghava’s eyes acquire a deep shade of red due to anger, with His brows knit in a terrifying frown—Sa kritvaa bhrukutim kruddha: kinchit samrakta lochana:

5. The commentaries to Tiruppavai tell us of another reason why Emperuman’s eyes are red. Expanding on the phrase, senkan tirumukhatthu selva Tirumal, Sri Jananyaacharya observes that the pleasure of regaining Jeevatmas (Chetana laabham) also makes the Lord’s eyes red. Considering our propensity to go astray and away from Him, when we reform, perform Prapatti and reach Him at His divine abode, the Lord is as delighted as a father would be, at the return of a long-lost prodigal son. Thus immeasurable happiness also imparts reddishness to Emperuman’s eyes, says the commentary—alabhya laabhattaale sivanda kangal

6. Vyaakhyaana Chakravartthi Sri Periyavacchan Pillai, commenting on the line Senkan siru siride emmel vizhiyaavo (Tiruppavai) ascribes another reason for the ever-present tinge of red in the divine eyes—Vaatsalyattaale sivandirukkai says he, telling us that Emperuman’s overflowing love and compassion for us makes His eyes red. Swami Desikan too concurs with this interpretation, in his Munivaahana Bhogam—ananyar pakkal anuraagatthukku keetru edukkalaam padiyaana sivanda varigal.

7. According to Saamudrikaa Lakshanam, the eyes of royals are tinged with red. And since the Lord is the King of all Kings–Raajaadi Raaja: sarveshaam, is it any wonder that His eyes have such a tint?

Red is indeed a beautiful colour. When we chose the very first saree the bride is to wear during the wedding (Koorai Pudavai), we chose red. The deep beauty of corals is a thing all women enjoy and appreciate. Most of the beautiful flowers, whether it is a rose or a lotus or Iruvaaakshi, are red. More than anything else, it is because Red is the colour Emeperuman’s eyes are tinged with, that our liking for the tint goes up manifold. It is this reddish tint sported by the lotus-like eyes that floors and enslaves onlookers, say Azhwars and Maharshis—Taamarai kangalukku attru teerndu. Red is the colour of the cloth Matadors use to enrage and ultimately subdue the Bull. It would appear that the Lord too uses this matchless colour in His eyes, to win over our hearts.

Srimate Sri LakshmiNrisimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:

dasan, sadagopan

Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

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