White crane feathers on Shiva

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 28 16:39:12 UTC 2000

While reading TEvAram verses, I came upon an interesting usage of the
word, "pIli" which is not common.

Generally, 'pIli' means a) peacock feather or b) shoot of an umbrella.
But 'pIli' can refer to the feathers of a common crane which in
tamil is 'kokku' and in telugu is 'koGga' and this drav.
kokku/koGku > Skt. kaGka 'heron'.

Shiva wears the crane feathers, milk white in color, just as he
likes things that are white: a) bhUti (ash) b) erukku flowers
c) pULai flowers d) white bones and kapAlam. Remember white
is the color of mourning, and Indian widows wear white as
symbol of inauspiciousness.

For the rare usage of pIli as feathers of the common crane, 'kokku':

akku ulAm araiyin2an2kAN; aTiyArkku en2Rum Ar amutu Ay
         aNNikkum aiyARRAn2kAN;
kokku ulAm pIliyoTu kon2Rai mAlai kuLirmatiyum kUr aravum
         nIrum cen2n2it
tokku ulAm caTaiyin2an2kAN; toNTar cellum tUneRikAN vAn2avarkaL
         tuti ceytu Ettum
tikku elAm niRainta pukazt tiru ArUril tiru mUlaTTAn2attu em
         celvan2 tAn2E.

A closeup view of the kokku feathers on the head of the famous
TiruvAlangADu Nataraja (on whom A. Rodin wrote a praise poem when
A. K. Coomaraswamy took him to Madras museum) can be seen in
the figure of T. Nataraja in H. Zimmer, The king and the corpse :
tales of the soul's conquest of evil.  Princeton University
Press, 1957, 1970 printing.

This point is completely missed out by Sanskritist/Arthistorian
C. Sivaramamurti in his magnum opus, Nataraja in art, thought and
literature. [On this point, some other time].

N. Ganesan


OTL entries:
kokku 01 1. common crane, grus cinerea; 2. stork; 3. paddy-bird;
4. the 19th naks2atra

pIli 01 1. peacock's feather; 2. peacock; 3. peacock-fan, small
circular fan; 4. white umbrella

pIli 03 1. the first leaf or shoot of a palmyra; 2. heart of the
palmyra root,  being the embryo of the future leaf; palmyra sprout;
3. water trough or spout irrigation; 4. dice for casting lots

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