thirumAlai – 9 – maRRum Or dheyvam

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avathArikai (Introduction)

After listening to his previous pAsuram, the samsAris, afraid of being despised by the learned AzhwAr, told him “we have not attempted to reach emperumAn, not because of any affection for the other sects such as baudhdham etc. dhEvarIr (your highness) had asked us to reach [dhaSaratha] chakravarthy’s son SrI rAma. But he is dwelling inside a huge palace with many security guards guarding him throughout, not allowing common people like us to approach him. Even if we were to go past these security guards, there are sages such as vaSishta who would not allow ignorant persons such as ourselves to approach him. Hence to us, SrI rAma is very similar to paravAsudhEvan [who is in SrIvaikuNtam] in that we cannot approach either of them. We can approach only that entity who will not mind our lowly nature and our lack of qualification. Show us such a person” AzhwAr says “in that case you have to approach only kaNNan (krishNa) who, unmindful of any qualification or lack of it, falls head over heels on his followers and gives them refuge” in this pAsuram. Let us first look at the pAsuram:

maRRUmOr dheyvam uNdE madhiyilA mAnidangAL
uRRapOdhanRi nIngaL oruvan enRu uNara mAttIr
aRRamEl onRu aRiyIr avanallAl dheyvamillai
kaRRinam mEyththa endhai kazhaliNai paNimin nIRE


word-by-word meaning

madhiyilA – without vEdhAntha (upanishath) knowledge
mAnidangAL – Oh men!
maRRum – (other than the entity mentioned by me) another
Or dheyvam – (fit to take refuge) a God
uNdE – is there anyone? (No, there is none)
nIngaL – you people
uRRapOdhu anRi – (only at the time when the dhEvathA [other than SrIman nArAyaNan] that you had surrendered to is in) difficult times

(at other times)
oruvan enRu – he is (the supreme) one entity
uNara mAttIr – you will not know
mEl – more than (the meanings given in SAsthram (sacred texts))
aRRam – the hidden entity
onRu aRiyIr – you will not know at all
avan allAl – other than him
dheyvam – Lord (fit to take refuge under)
illai – (there is) no one

kaRRu inam mEyththa – the one who herded cattle
endhai – my swAmy (master) [krishNa’s]
kazahliNai – the two exalted feet
nIr paNimin – you hold on to, as in surrendering
nIr – you


maRRUmOr dheyvam uNdE – other than the entity that I am talking about, will any other entity be supreme enough to attain? While there may be those who claim “I am the Controller” there is no one who is divine enough and of natural affinity towards us, for us to attain. As said in SrI bhagavath gIthA (9.23) “yE thvanya dhEvathA bhaktha:…” (when the devotees of other dhEvathAs (celestial beings) pray to those dhEvathAs with faith, they pray to me only; but in an improper way) kaNNan makes a distinction between himself and the other dhEvathAs. AzhwAr also points out to a similar disparity.

Or dheyvam – just as people living in abject poverty are counted among the citizenship, these dhEvathAs are also considered as “Gods” even though they will be lacking in the auspicious qualities associated with a God, if one delves deeper.

uNdEAzhwAr is not asking if there is any other dhEvathA who is equal to him. He is emphatically denying that there is anyone else who qualifies to be called as a God. Another interpretation is that he is asking if he is not the only famous protector. As said in thiruvAimozhi 2.2.2, if someone were to ask “Ezhulagum IpAvam seydhu aruLAl aLippArAr?” – in all the worlds, who else is there who will protect the samsAris and remove their sins? Even his enemies will respond saying that it is only he [emperumAn]. He is that famous. That he is the protector of all cannot be denied by anyone.

madhiyilA mAnidangAL – rig vEdha 8.1-12-6 says “thrINi SathA sahasrANyagnIm thrimSachcha dhEvA nava chAsaparyan” (agni claims that three thousand three hundred and thirty nine celestial people did service to me). samsAris, quoting this, ask the AzhwAr, when vEdhas say that there are thousands of such dhEvas  (celestial beings) who are being worshipped, how can he say that no one else has divine qualities? To which Azhwar responds, derisively, “madhiyilA mAnidangAL” – Oh men, without the wealth of vEdhAntha knowledge. The vyAkhyAthA quotes from several pramANams here to establish the supremacy of emperumAn:

  1. From yajur vEdham 3-11-21 “chathurhOthArO yathra sampadham gachchanthi dhEvai:” – various karmas starting with agnihOthra dharSapUrNamAsa karma, derive their pride from various dhEvathAs only because these dhEvathAs form the body of emperumAn who remains their inner soul (antharyAmi) for all.
  2. From SrI bhagavath gIthai 9-24 “aham hi sarvayagyAnAm bhOkthA cha prabhurEva cha” – It is true that for all yagyams (rituals), I remain the bhOkthA (one who enjoys) and one who gives the benefits. Those who attempt to reach other dhEvathAs do not realise this and they slip away from me.
  3. From dhaksha smruthi 355-4  “yE yajanthi pithrUn dhEvAn ….” – those who worship pithrUn (forefathers), celestial people, brAhmaNas and agni, worship vishNu who remains their inner soul.

Thus, those without knowledge of the sacred texts (Sruthi and smruthi) are born as chEthanas (sentient entity) who, by definition, are supposed to be with knowledge and AzhwAr laments on their misfortune. The vyAkhyAthA quotes from thirumangai AzhwAr’s periya thirumozhi 11.7.9  “AnvidayEanRadhARku ALAnArallAdhAr mAnidarallavenRu en manaththE vaiththEnE” – I did not consider as chEthanas those who were not blessed by krishNa and from bhUthaththAzhwAr’s  iraNdAm thiruvandhAdhi 44 “chengaNmAl nAmam maRandhArai mAnidamA vaiyEn” – I will not consider as chEthanas those who forget the glory of emperumAn. thaiththiriya upnishath also says “asannEva sa bhavathi I asath brahmEthi vEdha chEth I” – one who does not have the credit for knowing brahmam is considered to be non-existent. SrIvishNu purANam 6.5.87 says “thath gyAnamagyAnam anOnyadhuktham” – that is gyAnam which knows the one who is faultless, pure and shining. The rest is agyAnam. poygai AzhwAr says in the mudhal thiruvandhAdhi -67 “oN thAmaraiyAL kELvan oruvanaiyE nOkkum uNarvu” – gyAnam will consider only the lord of mahAlakshmi. Finally the vyAkhyAthA quotes from SrIvishNu purANam 1.19.41 “vidhyAnyA SilpanaipuNam”  – that which is not reason for bondage (to samsAram) is karmam; that which is reason for liberation (mOksham) is knowledge. The rest of the karmas is for looking after the physical body and the rest of knowledge is suited for repairing one’s sandals.

Thus AzhwAr says that samsAris are without knowledge since they have not gained knowledge of the one entity about which they should have gained. Hearing this, the samsAris told him “since we do not have knowledge, you, the knowledgeable, please enlighten us” AzhwAr responds….

uRRapOdhanRi nIngaL oruvan enRu uNaramAttIr – Azhwar says “however much I tell you, until the day of praLayam (deluge) comes and both you and the Gods that you took refuge under go together into the mouth of emperumAn, you will not realise that the supreme being is purushOththaman (emperumAn).

oruvan – non pareil; peerless; without any equal.

uRRapOdhu – when deluge strikes

Another interpretation given is that  “only on that day when the Gods that you took refuge under are troubled by demons such as rAvANa, hiraNya, basmAsura et al and they cry out to emperumAn will you realise that emperumAn is the supreme entity”

oruvan enRu uNaramAttIr – “samsAris like you who are worshipping other dhEvathAs will not even know until the troubled times (as mentioned earlier) come that emperumAn is also a God like the other dhEvathAs” is another interpretation to these words. AzhwAr feels dejected that the samsAris are not having affection towards emperumAn, who can grant mOksham itself, that they are having towards the other dhEvathAs who can fulfil only their insignificant wishes.

aRRamEl onRu aRiyIraRRam – meanings hidden. The reason for samsAris’ ignorance is that in the vEdhas, they know the meanings only superficially but not the inner, deep meanings. In jithanthE slOkam 1.7, it says “vachasAm vAchyamuththamam” – great people would know that you [emperumAn] are the cause behind all the effects, the real, superior meanings of words and the greatest goal to be reached. krishNa, in bhagavath gIthA 15.15 says “vEdhaiScha sarvairahamEva vEdhya:” – it is I who is known by all the vEdhas (sacred texts). SrI bhAgavatham 2.15.15 says “nArAyaNaparA vEdhA:” – vEdhas talk about nArAyaNa, the supreme being. Even when SAsthras praise other deities, it is only their antharyAmi (inner dwelling soul) SrIman nArAyaNan who is praised.

avan(aiy)allAl dheyvamillai  – no one else has total divine quality. AzhwAr is not saying that there are no other deities. As said in thaiththiriya upanishath SIkshAvalli 5.1 “sa AthmA angAnyanya dhEvathA:” – the other dhEvathAs exist as his forms and physical body; he is their soul. When emperumAn with complete, natural divinity is there, it is not proper to take refuge under other dhEvathAs who have only a fraction of his divine qualities, which were also granted only by him. AzhwAr refers to krishNa, who is mentioned next, as “avan

Please identify the person who you are referring to as “avan”, say the samsAris. AzhwAr responds….

kaRRinam mEyththa endhai kazhaliNai paNimin nIrE – Instead of calling him as krishNa, AzhwAr is using the term “kaRRinam mEyththa” – one who herded the cows and calves. This is to emphasise the fact that unlike other deities who are difficult to worship, he is very simple and makes himself available even to cows and calves. “kaRRu” is a modified form of “kanRu” which means calves. Instead of saying “Avinam mEyththa” (herding cows) AzhwAr is using the term “kaRRinam mEyththa” because cows, being grown up, would know where to go for grazing grass and take care of themselves while calves do not know even this. Cows are like nithyasUris to emperumAn who do not need constant care from him while he is more considerate towards calves, who are like samsAris, unable to protect themselves. As nammAzhwAr said in his thiruvAimozhi 10.3.10 “thivaththilum pasunirai mEyppuvaththi” – he takes more immense pleasure in herding calves than in being in SrIvaikuNtam. thirumangai AzhwAr in his thirunedunthANdakam 10 conveyed similar meaning “kanRu mEyththu inidhugandha kALAy” – you were pleased about herding calves.

endhai – father. You can also get attracted to this krishNAvathAram (incarnation of Lord krishNa) just as I got attracted to, says AzhwAr.

kazhaliNai paNimin nIrE – hold on to his two exalted feet. Just as iLaiyaperumAL (lakshmaNan) said in SrI rAmAyaNam kishkinthA kANdam 4-12 “ahamasyAvarO bhrAthA guNair dhAsyamupAgatha:” – by his (SrI rAma’s) account, I am his brother. But I am a servitor to his qualities. I fell at the exalted feet of emperumAn seeing how fond he was of calves and cows. You could also hold on to his exalted feet. It is only emperumAn who, even when he takes incarnation in a lowly birth, allows his ASrithars (followers) to enjoy to the same extent whatever he himself experiences. Other deities cannot share this pride as is clear from events that happened in krishNAvathAram (kaRRinam mEyththa) and as seen in ithihAsas and purANas. In mahAbhAratham, there is a story on yayAthi. He was a king who attained the position of Indhra by his sheer puNya (good deeds) and sat on the same throne that Indhra sat on, along with Indhra. Indhra was very jealous of him and wanted to push him out of his place somehow. Very casually, he asked yayAthi as to who, in his time on earth,  was the one who had done greatest puNya? Afraid of telling a lie, yayAthi very truthfully said that people used to say that it was he who had done the greatest puNya. Indhra thundered that he had indulged in vanity and said that such a person was unfit to sit on his throne and toppled him from his seat. nanjIyar, one of our pUrvAchAryas, told his AchArya, SrI parASara bhattar that the purpose of this incident in mahAbhArath was not clear to him. bhattar responded saying that this was quoted to explain that other deities (such as indhra) cannot bear others coming anywhere near them and partaking in their enjoyment and that only emperumAn allows that and hence only he is fit to be surrendered to and not the other deities.

We shall move on to the next (10th) pAsuram.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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