thirumAlai – 2 – pachchai mA malai – Part 1

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avathArikai (Introduction)

In the first pAsuram, AzhwAr spoke about the purity that reciting emperumAn’s divine names gave him and how it made him great (to the extent of keeping his feet on the heads of yama and his followers). In this pAsuram (the 2nd) he speaks about how great the divine names are, as a source of enjoyment. vyAkhyAthA (commentator) asks here as to why AzhwAr had mentioned about the purity that the divine names give in the first pAsuram and how sweet they are and fit for enjoyment in the 2nd pAsuram, and not vice versa? i.e. why did he not say first that they are sweet and fit for enjoyment in the first and how they purified him in the second pAsuram? He himself gives the explanation – if a person were sick, the sickness has to be cured first and only then he can enjoy milk. In the same way, when the fear of yama is there in the mind, one cannot enjoy the sweetness of reciting the divine names. First the fear of yama has to be removed. This is the reason that AzhwAr mentioned about the purity that he obtained by reciting emperumAn’s divine names first and then the joy that he found, in the second. Reciting the divine names will bestow whatever benefit that a prayOjanAnthaparar (one who is engaged in worldly pleasures and pursuits) desires; it will remove the hurdles in the path of a upAyANtharanishtar (one who is attempting to reach emperumAn through means other than prapaththi or surrendering) and purify him; it will provide the means for spending remaining days (like a pastime) for a prapannan (one who has surrendered to emperumAn). This is similar to a pearl diver exchanging his pearl for rice or fruits or such lowly materials; or selling it to a merchant for a price and the merchant who knows its value offering it to the king for a higher price and the king wearing it as on ornament. Thus the same pearl can be sold for a very low value, for a high value or be an ornament adorning the king. This is the case with divine names at the hands of a prayOjanAnthaparar, an upAyAntharanishtar and a prapannan.

The vyAkhyAthA gives another explanation for connecting the first and second pAsurams: emperumAn tells AzhwAr that he has recited his divine names. He would like to present a gift (SrIvaikuNtam) to the AzhwAr. emperumAn says that it is not possible for him not to give that gift to one who has recited his names and it is also not possible for the person to whom he has given the gift, to reject it. So, please accept this gift, says emperumAn. AzhwAr says that the joy of reciting his divine names itself is enough for him and he doesn’t want any other gift to enjoy, as a gift for this.

pachchaimA malaipOl mEnip pavaLavAik kamalach chengaN
achchuthA amararERE Ayartham kozhundhE ennum
ichchuvai thavira yAnpOy indhiralOgam ALum
achchuvai peRineum vENdEn arangamA nagaruLAnE


Word-by-word meaning

arangamA nagaruLAnE – Oh emperumAn! who is residing permanently in thiruvarangam for the sake of his servitors
pachchai mA malai pOl mEni – having thirumEni (divine physical form) similar to a huge emerald mountain
pavaLa vAi – having coral like bright, divine,  lips
sem kamala kaN – having divine eyes similar to lotus
achchuthA – one who does not let go of his followers [Oh achyutha!]
amarar ERE – the controller of nithyasUris
Ayar tham kozhundhE – the leader of cow-herds
ennum – like these [as a figure of speech]
ichchuvai thavira – leaving aside this wonderful taste
yAn – I (who takes pleasure in reciting your divine names)
pOy – go far off
indhira lOgam ALum – if I have to rule over SrIvaikuNtam
achchuvai – that enjoyment
peRinum – even if I were to get that
vENdEn – I will not like (that)

vyAkhyAnam (Explanatory Notes)

AzhwAr describes the physical features of emperumAn‘s thirumEni (physical form) and says that he cannot take his eyes off even one angam (part of his thirumEni) and asks emperumAn as to how he expects AzhwAr to leave all these things and go to SrivaikuNtam.

pachchai mA malai pOl mEni emperumAn’s thirumEni is green in colour like a green top mountain and is also special (mA). It is pleasing to the eyes as well as to the heart. Since it is green in colour, it is cool (pleasing) to the eyes and heart. chEthanas (sentient entities) suffer from three types of bodily discomforts, collectively called as thAPathrayam AdhyAthmikam, Adhi dhaivikam and Adhi bhoudhikam – discomfort brought on by the chEthan himself, brought on by God and brought on by other living beings respectively [Example for the first type is fever, stomach ailments etc; for the second, it is cyclone, hot summer etc; for the third trouble from animals, reptiles etc]. emperumAn’s thirumEni would be an antidote to these thApathrayam. Just as ghee solidifies on top of food when the food cools, the auspicious qualities of emperumAn also come out from deep inside and settle on top (of his thirumEni) and exhibit as a green mountain.

When we attempt to reach emperumAn (through bhakthi yOgam, path of meditation), we keep our five senses on his thirumEni so that these senses remain under control and do not wander as they please, allowing us to meditate in bhakthi. His thirumEni is called as subhASrayam (auspicious resting place) for our senses. Once we attain emperumAn and the time comes to reap the fruit of our labour, it is the same thirumEni which is the object of enjoyment [purushArtham or fruit of enjoyment]. This is the reason for qualifying the mountain as special (mA malai).

While mountain was taken as a simile for emperumAn’s thirumEni, it can at best be taken as an equivalent for firmness and growth. There is nothing to enjoy in a mountain unlike emperumAn’s thirumEni or the wondrous nature of his thirumEni with all auspicious qualities.

mEni AzhwAr is not concerned with emperumAn’s svarUpam (basic nature) or auspicious qualities. He sees only the thirumEni of emperumAn, which is full of joy. Just as SrIvishNu purANam says “ichchAgruhIthAbhimathOrudhEha:” emperumAn, who is full of auspicious qualities and who bears the universe through an infinitesimal part of his physical form, exhibits many forms of his physical body as he desires. Similarly, periyAzhwAr says (in periyAzhwAr thirumozhi 4-8-9) that emperumAn lies like heavily laden clouds that cannot take a step further because of their heaviness and rest atop a mountain; he displays himself like a flower in a pond which we can see and admire; at the same time he is like the ocean which we cannot enjoy completely as it is so huge and expansive; and he is like the colour of the peacock’s neck. Peacock is taken as a simile here because we will never tire of seeing a peacock and in the same way we will never tire of having emperumAn’s thirumEni dharSan (vision).

pavaLavAi kamalachchengaN – If emperumAn’s thirumEni is like an ocean, different divine parts of his thirumEni are like the swirling waters in that ocean. Just as we get trapped in the swirling waters, we can be trapped by different divine parts of his thirumEni. AzhwAr first describes his divine lips. The lips are red in colour like coral. Just as a coral-spread would add beauty to an emerald green mountain, his reddish lips add beauty to his green coloured physical form (pachchai mA malai pOl mEni). Another explanation given is that sea, on a full moon day, would be very excited and in its excitement would throw up the waves repeatedly. In the same way, emperumAn, like the sea, looks at his moon-like ASrithars (his followers) who come to have his dharSan and the waves thrown are his lips and his eyes.

kamalachchengaN – For those jIvAthmAs who escaped the trap of the first swirl in the ocean (lips, as seen above) due to their long life, this swirl (the divine eyes) would certainly trap them. What the lips try to speak to, is completed by the eyes. When SrI rAma received vibhIshaNa at the sea-side camp when he came to surrender, he felt sad that he had made him wait for a while till he was able to convince sugrIva and others to allow vibhIshaNa inside. After hearing vibhIshaNa, SrI rAma comforted him with his words and further looked at him softly with his eyes. Thus when words are not sufficient, it is the eyes that come to the rescue to complete the task. The divine eyes of emperumAn bring out the auspicious qualities such as vAthsalyam (motherly love), souSeelyam (simplicity) etc from his heart. While it would have been sufficient to say “kamalakkaN” (lotus-like eyes) why did AzhwAr further qualify it with the word “chengaN”? While lotus would have been a (somewhat inadequate) simile for softness, coolness and sweet smell, how could it bring out the meanings of the auspicious qualities of emperumAn such as his vAthsalyam etc? This is the reason for calling it as sem kaN (chengaN when the two words are joined into one) [“sem” means beautiful].

achchuthA – unchanging. The similes taken earlier (mountain for his thirumEni, coral for his lips and lotus for his eyes) may over a period of time change their form. However when it comes to emperumAn, his divine thirumEni and its components will not change. vyAkhyAthA quotes from SrIvishNu purAnam “…sadhaika rUpa rUpAya” (he is always with the same form which is unchanging at all times). Another explanation given is that AzhwAr is singing mangaLASAsanam (singing praises of emperumAn) by saying that he is always unchanging. A third meaning given is that he does not let go of his followers who get trapped by his divine lips or eyes or thirumEni.

We shall enjoy the remaining portion of this pAsuram in the next part.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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