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The Enchanting Eyes

We have come across several modes of establishing a person's identity. Scars and moles, the colour of one's hair, complexion, the structure of one's teeth etc. are some of the distinguishing features used for identifying a person.

Similarly, whenever there is confusion in identifying the Parabrahmam, and there are several contenders for the post, the Upanishad says that you only have to look at the rival contenders' eyes: if they resemble a lotus, you have a positive identification, and need to search no further for your Paramapurusha.

"Tasya yatA kapyAsam pundarIkamEva akshiNI" says the Chandogyopanishad, attesting to the fact that the Lord's eyes are lotus-like.

Sri Nammazhwar too concurs with this assessment at numerous places in Tiruvaimozhi, by addressing the Lord

as "SentAmarai kaNNA". "Minnum sudar malaikku kaN pAdam kai kamalam" he says, confirming that the Lord is indeed lotus-eyed. Sri Alavandar too says in his Stotra Ratnam that it is His lotus-like eyes that establish beyond doubt that Sriman Narayana is indeed the Paramapurusha-"ka: pundarIka nayana:?"

Azhwar hints at lotus-eyes being the decisive identification of the Supreme Being, by giving Him the sobriquet, "anaitthu ulagum tozhum aravinda lOchanan".

The Lord's eyes are thus a star-attraction, so to speak. They are broad, bewitching, gleaming with parental love, redlined and long, to quote Sri Tiruppanazhwar-

"KariavAgi pudai parandu miLirndu sevvariOdi neeNda ap

periavAya kaNgal ennai pEdamai seydanavE".

Each of these attributes described by the Azhwar conforms to the SAmudrikA lakshaNa, which lays down the dimensions and description of each of the body parts in various types of individuals. The Lord's eyes retain these attributes even during His avataras. Shoorpanakha describes RaghuvIrA's eyes to be broad and lotus-like-

" TaruNou roopa sampannou sukumArou mahAbalou

PundarIka visAlAkshou samupasttita youvanou".

And in Sri KrishnAvatAra, even at birth the Lord captivated His parents with His lotus eyes-" Tam adbhutam bAlakam ambujEkshaNam".

The Vishnu Sahasranamam too calls Him "aravindAksha:"

Dissatisfied with the bland likening of the Lord's eyes to the lotus, Sri Nammazhwar expands it to include a lotus that has just then bloomed- not any old flower, but one that is sparkling new, opened just that second- "appozhudai tAmarai poo kaN pAdam kai kamalam" says he.

Sri Ramanuja translates this verbatim in Sri Vaikunta Gadya-"tat kshaNa unmIlitha pundarIka sadrusa nayana yugaLam".

We have seen that Emperuman's eyes are captivating.

These eyes are capable of mesmerising the most hard-hearted person and transforming him into a melting mass, the moment he comes into eye contact with the Lord. The eyes are so enchanting that nobody can resist their alluring look. Thus we have the Rishis of the SvEtadweepa exclaiming "JitantE PundarIkAksha!" ("Oh Lord of the lotus eyes! We have been won over by you despite ourselves.").

Though He is handsome all over, yet His eyes hold a special allure, and their beauty has earned Him the special sobriquet "KaNNan". This could also be due to the fact that He serves as the eye of the whole universe, as the provider of vision, helping it to see straight, literally and figuratively. Sri Nammazhwar confirms this in the following pasuram-

"KaN AvAn endrum maNNOr viNNOrkkum

taNNAr VEnkata viNNOr verpanE"

Emperuman being the eye of the world and its inhabitants is brought out by the TaittirIya Upanishad-"visvata:chakshu:".

The Lord's two eyes are not a matching pair, it appears from the NarAyaNa anuvAka statement," oordhva rEtam VirUpAksham visvaroopAya vai nama:". One eye blazes hot and is forbidding, while the other is cool and inviting.

The VarAha purANa highlights this dichotomy in the Lord's vision-

"Tasya chintayatO nEtrAt tEja: samabhavan mahat

DakshiNam vahni sankAsam vAmam tuhina sannibham"

From the VarAha Murti's eyes, there issued a splendorous brilliance, fire-like from the right eye, and frost-like from His left. This is in tune with the Purusha Sukta statement that the Sun was born from the Lord's eye-"ChakshO: SuryO ajAyata". We find a concurring note in Tiruppavai, when Sri Andal likens the two eyes of the Lord to the Sun and the Moon respectively, the Sun-like eye focussed on those guilty of Bhagavat and BhAgavata apachAra, while the other eye, full of mercy and love, is reserved for the devotees-"TingaLum Adityanum ezhundAr pOl am kaN irandum". Swami Desikan too observes the dual function of the Lord's eyes, in Sri KamAsikAshtakam-"tapanEndu agni nayana:" He is described as "RavilOchana:" in the Sahasranama too.

Coming to the number of His eyes, against the normal two with which others are endowed, the Lord has innumerable eyes, as attested by the Purusha SuktA-"SahasrasIrsha Purusha: SahasrAksha: sahasrapAt". Here, the word "Sahasra:" denotes not one thousand, but countlessness. He thus has eyes everywhere, and nothing can escape His all-pervading vision. This is perhaps what enables Him to know what is happening everywhere simultaneously, in a "live relay", as Sri Nathamuni states in NyAya Tattva ("YO vEtthi yugapat sarvam"). However, He doesn't need to have eyes to see everywhere and everything, as He is quite capable of seeing without eyes, running without legs and grasping without hands, says the Upanishad. This is to say that He doesn't need mundane faculties for His functions, unlike we mortals.

An interesting sidelight is that the Lord is reported to have sported three eyes in Sri NrsimhAvatAra, normally the preserve of Rudra. We can see Narahari with these extraordinary features in many of the arcchA mUrtthIs, notably at PatalAdri (Singa PerumAL koil), T.Narsipur, etc.

In size too, the Lord's eyes appear to be big, apart from being broad, which is borne out by several independent sources-"MahAksha: (Vishnu Sahasranama) "sem mA KaNnan" (Sri Nammazhwar) periavAya KaNgaL" (Sri Pan PerumAL).

Though volumes could be written on the Lord's matchless eyes, adiyen stops here for fear of testing the readers' patience.

"disantu mE dEva sadA tvadeeyA:

dayA tarangAnucharA: katAkshA:

srOtrEshu pumsAm amritam ksharantIm

sarasvatIm samsrita kAmadhEnum".


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