thiruviruththam – 15 – kayalO numa kaNgaL

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avathArikai (Introduction)

When the leading man had separated from the leading lady earlier, he had hinted that he would come again, after sometime, and meet her. Once that time has arrived, he comes to the field to meet his beloved. On seeing that she is with her friends and not alone, he is perplexed. He tells them “I have come looking for an elephant” in order not to reveal his intention in coming there. The lady’s friends tell him “You had said that you were leaving in order to earn wealth. You are now saying that you have come to find an elephant. You are also hinting that you are suffering due to separation from our friend. However, we do not see any connection among these three”. There are two interpretations for talking about elephant, as given by the commentator, periyavAchchAn piLLai – to imply the first meaning, he said that the leading man is a warrior. In other words, he said that he goes for hunting elephants. Secondly he said that he had come looking for an elephant. To imply the second meaning, the commentator says that he has come looking for an elephant which has lost its female elephant. He implies that just as a male elephant wanders here and there, in exultation, after losing its mate, the leading man too is wandering in order to overcome the anxiety of separating from his leading lady.

Let us go through the pAsuram and its meanings:

kayalO numa kangaLenRu kaLiRu vinavi niRRIr
ayalOr aRiyilum Idhenna vArththai kadal kavarndha
puyalOdu ulAngoNdalvaNNan punavEngadaththemmodum
payalOvileer kollai kAkkinRa nALum palapalavE

Word-by-Word Meanings

numa – your
kaNgaL – eyes
kayalO – are they fish?
enRu – asking this way
kaLiRu – elephant
vinavi – querying
niRRIr – you stood
ayalOr – outsiders
aRiyilum – if they know of this
Idhu – this
enna vArththai – what sort of words
kadal – ocean
kavarndha – cleaning it up completely
puyalodu – along with the water
ulAm – roaming
koNdal – like a cloud
vaNNan – thiruvEngadamudaiyAn who has the complexion, his
punam – having fields
vEngadam – at thiruvEngadam
kollai – fields
palapala nALum – for a long time
kAkkinRa – those who are protecting
emmodum – with us
payalO ileer – you have not become familiar

Simple Translation

The leading man complimented the leading lady about her eyes. Seeing this, the leading lady and her friends queried him “You came looking for an elephant, but you are talking about our eyes. If others hear these words, what will they think of this? We are residing in the hills of thiruvEngadamudaiyAn who has the complexion of cloud which has imbibed all the water from the ocean and is roaming. We are protecting the fields which are in this place, for a long time. We do not know as to who you are”


kayalO numa kangaL – the leading man had come to the field in order to talk to his leading lady about an elephant which had come there. However, he had not expected her to be with her friends there. Becoming perplexed on seeing them, he asks the leading lady “Are your eyes fish?” like a person closing his mouth while eating. The commentator cites an example to show how the leading man will forget about the elephant on seeing  the eyes. chAndhOgya upanishath 8-12-9 says nOpajanam smaran idham SarIram – mukthAthmAs (those who are liberated from samsAram and are leaving for SrIvaikuNtam) will not think of samsAram. He [the leading man] stood as if he had forgotten about himself and the matter which he wanted to talk about (since he asked whether her eyes are fish, the opinion here is that he forgot about himself; matter related to emperumAn is such that it will not allow anything else to be thought of; matter related to followers of emperumAn will also act in a similar way). chAndhOgya upanishath 7-23-1 says “yathra nAnyath paSyathi nAnyath SruNOthi nAnyath vijAnAthi sa bhUmA” (that, which when seen will not require others to be seen, which when heard will not require other things to be heard, which when known will not require other things to be known, is supreme). This is because of the fact that matter related to brahmam (supreme entity) is superior to everything else. Is it apt to equate eyes with fish? Why can’t the eyes be compared to the eyes of a deer? This is because the eyes [of the leading lady] keep darting, like fish. Why should they [the eyes] be referred to in plural? Just as emperumAn has thousands of friends, the leading lady too has thousands of friends. They may be with her, but will their eyes too be similar to hers? The commentator quotes from muNdaka upanishath 2-1-9 “niranjana: paramam sAmyam upaithi” (they too attain the same state of being without any fault). Just as he forgot about himself, he forgot about those he saw. He did not seem to know beyond what he saw.

kaLiRu vinavi niRRIr – wondering as to who this person who is talking in a contradictory way, they looked at him quizzically. If they are not able to see him clearly, his existence itself may be in doubt. Hence he asked them whether they had seen an elephant. Would they see him as soon as he uttered these words? Even if they do not see those who get destroyed, since they look after the fields which get destroyed, they saw him. Since they saw him, he was able to recall what he wanted to ask them earlier. He asked them the same question which he had been asking others too [have you seen an elephant?]. Those who are deceitful and those who are lustful, will say something initially; when queried about it, they will look like a statue as if they do not know anything at all. In the same way, the leading man initially spoke about eyes and now, he was speaking about elephant. Wondering about this, they looked at him. Since they looked at him with wonder, he stood without saying anything further, like a statue. She started speaking further.

ayalOr aRiyilum – why refer to “others”? Just as he was infatuated with her, she too was infatuated with him. All the others who were not infatuated with him like she was, are referred to by this term. She affirmed the distinction that she had over the others.

aRiyilum – even after uniting with him, she does not know much about him. In such a situation, will it be apt for the others to know more about him than she does? Just as it has been said in periya thirumozhi 10.10.9 “innArenRu aRiyEn” (I do not know about his nature) when he had come in person, since she had not asked him anything, it has come to this pass. When no one could know about him, why does she have a doubt as to whether others would have known about him? Should not the fault of doubt be removed?

Idhu enna vArththai – how are you saying unconnected words such as “Are your eyes fish? Have you seen the elephant?” If you talk like this, what will others think of you? How are you saying words which we have not heard of, to someone whom you have not seen before at all? When we are protecting the fields, why are you saying that we are driving away birds with the word “AyO”? Why are you speaking words with inner meanings, as if they are mixed with gentle breeze and rain drops? She is wondering as to what all secrets are contained in his words. She is asking whether he is adept with words in his speech. She says that it appears that his activity is to engage with others with word-play. Our activities [she refers to herself and her friends] may not be centred around carrying out apt work at apt time. Do you have activities without this fault?

kadal kavarndha puyalOdu ulAm koNdal vaNNan – aren’t we living in our houses, on this hill, with the hope that you would come? thiruvEngadamudaiyAn has the divine complexion of cloud which has drunk all the water from the ocean and has become immobile since it is pregnant with all the water. SrI rAmAyaNam kinshkindhA kANdam 28-22 conveys the same meaning  ”samuthvahanthas salilAdhibAram”.

koNdal vaNNan – water mentioned in the simile does not sustain the people on the hill. It is the physical beauty of the entity who is compared with water [thiruvEngadamudaiyAn], which sustains the people here.

vEngadaththup punaththu emmodum payalO ileer – the lady tells the leading man “You are calling yourself the Master, and as said in jithanthE SlOkam, ‘pUrvajar’ – one who had been there from the beginning” If that were the case, shouldn’t you have come here ahead of us? We have attained the most pious thiruvEngadamalai, which is apt to be attained. Hearing this, the leading man asks “Are you implying that we have not taken hold of you? What is the necessity for us to do that?” The lady responds saying “Should you not give refuge to us who are without a refuge? If we step out of our house, it is a fault. If you do not step out, it is your fault. Since you are the master and the protector, it is a fault on your part if you do not come to protect us without waiting for us to call you. Since we are your servitors and are protected by you, if we attempt to protect ourselves, it is our fault” Just as it has been said in perumAL thirumozhi 2-6 “thIdhil nanneRi kAtti” (manifesting the correct paths which are without faults) she implies that they should not do anything to protect themselves but could carry activities which would please emperumAn.

kollai kAkkinRa nALum palapalavE – Are we looking at the fields? Are we not looking at you? She says that they had been looking for such a long time that the crop has become mature, ready for harvesting; she is fearful that they may not be allowed to come to the field anymore by their parents. We had been waiting for you, all along. Did you come now, to manifest your sorrow in separation? She implies that though they had been waiting for him, only now it has dawned on him. Just as you came here with the excuse of going for hunting elephant, we had come here with the excuse of looking after the fields. We are now returning home, since we had done enough of looking after the fields. Just as we had been protecting the fields all along, you may now protect the field, after we leave. Since we are leaving now, did you come as a protector for us, on our way back home? Or else, did you think that we are on our own and hence you failed to show up all along, in order not to accept us?

svApadhESam (distinguished meaning): AzhwAr had told the SrIvaishNavas “We would like to instruct you about matters related to emperumAn; hence please come soon” However, the SrivaishNavas arrived, after a delay. AzhwAr tells them “What is the purpose in coming now? He [emperumAn] has granted us SrIvaikuNtam. You have come this late!”

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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