S. N. Kandaswamy. The Yoga of Siddha Avvai. Eastman, Canada: Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and Publications, 2004. Paperback, 263 pp.
This work, which is volume 4 in the Yoga Siddha Research Center Publication Series, introduces the well-loved Tamil woman mystic Avvai (or Avvaiyār), one of the 18 great siddhas (accomplished ones) of South India.
Prof. Kandaswamy, who has authored over 30 books, is well qualified to tackle the challenging task of explaining the intricate and highly symbolic writings of the Tamil siddhas.
In his valuable survey of siddha elements in the Tamil classics, the author favors an early (pre-Christian) date for the siddha cult but seems to agree with the consensus of scholarly opinion that places the famous Tirumūlar not later than the fifth century A.D. As for Avvai, her dating is somewhat problematical, as she either lived for an extremely long time (not unheard of among siddhas) or comprised three different individuals living respectively during the Sangam era c. 100 B.C.), the eighth century, and the twelfth century A.D. Prof. Kandaswamy appears to champion the eighth century A.D. for the woman mystic and poetess treated in these pages.
Avvai worshiped the Divine in the form of Vinayaka ( Ganesha), and the present publication includes a chapter on this aspect of her pious life. At the heart of Prof. Kandaswamy treatment of Avvai is his rendering of her long didactic poem Vināyakar Akaval, consisting of 72 metrical lines. The word-for-word translation is given along with the original Tamil text both in the Tamil script and in transliteration. The translator’s commentary is uniformly illuminating and brings out the esoteric dimension of Avvai’s poem, which is that of Kundalinī-Yoga.
Tamilnadu’s spiritual tradition has suffered from scholarly neglect, and this volume along with the other monographs of the series undertaken by Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and Publications under the guidance of M. Govindan Satchidananda signals a welcome change. Tamil Yoga is finally being made accessible.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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