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mudhal thiruvandhAdhi – avathArikai (Introduction)

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The vyAkhyAnam for mudhal thiruvandhAdhi was divined first by nampiLLai and later on, by parama kArunIkar (the most compassionate) periyavAchchAn piLLai. appiLLai, one of the ashtadhikgajangaLs (eight protectors, like elephants, in the eight directions) of maNavALa mAmunigaL  wrote arumpadha urai (explaining the meanings of difficult terms) based on periyavAchchAn piLLai’s vyAkhyAnam, in order to bring out the meanings more clearly. This translation takes into account both these pUrvAchAryas’ vyAkhyAnams. nampiLLai’s vyAkyAnam had not been known to many until Dr. M. A. vEnkatakrishNan swAmy located the copy of the manuscript for the first thiruvandhAdhi at the Government Oriental Manuscript Library and later found a copy of all the four thiruvandhAdhis (of the mudhal AzhwArs and thirumazhisai AzhwAr) at the Academy of Sanskrit Research at thirunArAyaNapuram. We are deeply indebted to him for bringing out a book of these vyAkhyAnams along with his lucid explanation.

vyAkhyAna avathArikai

emperumAn, the consort of SrI [mahAlakshmi], who is unbiased and is an ocean of all auspicious qualities, resides in nithyavibhUthi (paramapadham or SrIvaikuNtam), constantly served by nithyasUris (the permanent dwellers of nithyavibhUthi), whose knowledge never shrinks [blessed with deep knowledge about bhagavath vishayam (knowledge about emperumAn) and their own servitorship]. While he should feel happy and contented with all these, emperumAn wishes to reform the jIvas (bound souls) in samsAram (materialistic world) who are the exact opposite of nithyasUris, being ignorant, not knowing that they are equally qualified to serve emperumAn, constantly engaging with samsAram with their deeds. Though emperumAn  gave them [after deluge] physical forms and SAsthrams so that they could know about him and approach him, they ignored SAsthrams and went about in their own ways, getting deeper and deeper into the quagmire called samsAram. emperumAn then incarnated himself as various avathArams such as SrIrAma, krishNa et al and tried to correct them with his physical form [beauty], deeds, upadhEsam (spiritual discourse) etc. But they did not bother about these and went about their engagement with worldly pleasures. Just as hunters use deer to catch deer, emeprumAn then decided to send the first three AzhwArs after his avathArams to correct the jIvAthmAs.

What is the greatness of these three AzhwArs? Due to the causeless mercy of emperumAn, they were endowed with deep knowledge of and devotion towards emperumAn; similar to nithyasUris, they were having profound experience of emperumAn from the time they were born; it is as if mukthars (another class of jIvAthmAs who had got liberated from samsAram and had attained mOksham or SrIvaikuNtam) with their profound knowledge of emperumAn had come to samsAram to live here; these three AzhwArs did not turn towards samsAram at all; they were celebrated by nammAzhwAr as in thiruvAimozhi 7-9-6 “inkavi pAdum paramakavigaL” (the great poets who composed sweet verses) and by thirumangai AzhwAr as in periya thirumozhi 2-8-2 “senthamizh pAduvAr” (those who sing in pristine thamizh). Just as an ocean is spread equally everywhere, these AzhwArs had the knowledge to enjoy simultaneously and equally all the five forms of emperumAn viz. param, vyUham, vibhavam, antharyAmi and archchai (supreme form in SrIvaikuNtam worshipped by nithyasUris and mukthars, his form in thiruppARkadal worshipped by celestial persons, his form when he incarnated as SrIrAma, krishNa et al, his pervading form inside all AthmAs and his physical archA (deity) form in various dhivyadhEsams respectively). Just like a river in spate flows ferociously everywhere, but still stagnates in a few places which are deeper, these three AzhwArs, enjoying emperumAn in all his five states, were greatly engaged with the experience of thrivikraman (the form of emperumAn when he measured all the worlds) among the vibhavAthArams and thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn (in thirumalai) among archchai forms.

They could not engage with samsAris, who, despite having the knowledge of emperumAn, did not bother about going towards him for succour. thirumangai AzhwAr says in his periya thirumozhi 11-8-9 “Anvidai Ezh anRadarththArkku ALAnAr allAdhAr mAnidavar allar enRu enmaththE vaiththEn” (I did not deem as humans in my heart, those who were not devotees of krishNa who subdued seven bulls). These AzhwArs also did not consider such persons as ones with knowledge of emperumAn. kulasEkarAzhwAr in his perumAL thirumozhi 3-8 says “pEyarE enakku yAvarum yAnumOr pEyanE yavarkkum” (those who do not believe in emperumAn and submit to him are fools to me and I am a fool to them). bhUdhaththAzhwAr, in his iraNdAm thiruvandhAdhi 44 says “siRandhArkku ezhu thuNaiyAm sengaNmAl nAmam maRandhArai mAnidamA vaiyEn” (the divine name of emperumAn is a source of huge support to jIvAthmAs who believe in him; I do not consider those who forget this, as human beings). Thus these AzhwArs avoided being with samsAris who are inimical to emperumAn and stayed mostly in forests among plants and trees, remaining for the night at the place where they reach in any given evening and were going about their lives, without meeting each other.

One day, by chance, all three of these mudhal AzhwArs reached thirukkOvalUr. Since it was raining heavily, with strong breeze, poygai AzhwAr entered the veranda space of mrugaNdu maharishi’s ASram and lay down there. After sometime, the second, bhUdhaththAzhwAr knocked on the door. poygai AzhwAr replied that there is space for only one person to lie down. bhUdhaththAzhwAr responded saying, “if there is space for one to lie down, there would be enough space for two to sit; please open”. poygai AzhwAr thought that samsAris do not like another person’s breath on them and hence the person who is knocking cannot be a kEvalar (one who believes in kaivalyam, enjoying his own soul) . He must be someone special, and hence he opened the door. Both of them sat down in that space. The third AzhwAr, pEyAzhwAr, knocked on the door now, asking for letting him in. The first two AzhwArs said that two of them are sitting and there is no further space to accommodate a third person. pEyAzhwAr said that in the space where two persons are sitting, three can stand. The first two AzhwArs thought that the third person is no ordinary person as ordinary persons do not like to jostle with other samsAris. All three AzhwArs now stood in that small space. Seeing the three AzhwArs together, emperumAn, who wished to remove his tiredness of having to follow each of them separately in their journey through forests etc, now decided to come amidst them with his consort, SrIdhEvi. This was in line with poygai AzhwAr’s 86th verse in mudhal thiruvandhAdhi (neeyum thirumagaLum ninRAyAl …….pUngOval idaikazhiyE paRRi ini”.  The three AzhwArs realised that suddenly two more people had come amidst them and wanted to see who they are.

poygai AzhwAr, found out through his knowledge of parabhakthi (knowledge of emperumAn) that all the chith and achith (the sentients and the insentients) in the world are under the control of emperumAn. Utilising the earth (with its cause and effect relationship) as lamp, he divined the first thiruvandhAdhai starting with the words “vaiyam thagaLiyA”. The next AzhwAr, bhUdhaththAzhwAr, utilising his paragyAna knowledge (gyAnam / knowledge matures into bhakthi / devotion) divined the next thiruvandhAdhi, “anbE thagaLiyA”. The third AzhwAr, pEyAzhwAr, then divined the third thiruvandhAdhi, “thirukkaNdEn” using his paramabhakthi knowledge (devotion maturing into sAkshAthkAram or ability to see emperumAn). Since these three states of gyAna, bhakthi and sAkshAthkAram (knowledge, devotion and ability to see emperumAn) develop in the same person, in succession, we can say that the three thiruvandhAdhis (composed by the three AzhwArs) were indeed one composition. This is similar to our considering the vyAkarNa sUthram, vruththi and bhAshyam of pANiNi, vararuchi and pathanjali respectively, to be one work though composed by the three persons, since they talk of the same subject, grammar. All the objects (chith and achith, the sentient and insentient) belong to emperumAn and he is their lord. Thus the first AzhwAr lit the lamp of knowledge. With the help of devotion that he attained with this knowledge, bhUdhaththAzhwAr lit a lamp. With the help of sAkshAthkAram (ability to see) which resulted from this bhakthi, pEyAzhwAr was able to have the vision of emperumAn, Apart from enjoying whatever they had seen, the three AzhwArs composed their experience as three prabandhams so that the world can also enjoy what they had experienced and enjoyed.

The reason for their using terms such as thagaLi (lamp holder), ney (ghee, i.e. clarified butter), viLakku (lamp wick) is to establish that the world is made of different components and thus establishing that the world is a created object. If it is created there must be a creator behind it and if it is variegated then the creator should have wondrous abilities. Here it says that emperumAn, holding Sankam (conch) and chakram (disc) is the creator. While explaining brahmasUthram 1-1-3 “SAsthrayOnithvAth”, SrI rAmAnuja has condemned those who establish emperumAn through anumAnam (conjecture). That being the case, why is it that emperumAn has been established through conjecture here? manusmruthi in 12-106 says “Arsham dharmOpadhESancha vEdhASAsthrA’virOdhi nA I yastharkENAnusandhaththE sa dharmam vEdha nEthara:  II” (only the one who inquires about vEdhas which have been seen by rishis (sages) and about smruthis which instruct about dharmam (virtuous deeds) through logical arguments without being at variance with vEdha SAsthrams, knows about dharmam; the others do not). Thus, since maharishis (great sages) such as manu et al have mentioned that one can use non-contrarian logic to know the meanings of vEdha SAsthrams but not contrarian logic (contrary to vEdham), and this is also accepted by sUthrakArar (sage vyAsa), there is nothing contrary to brahma sUthram in AzhwAr using conjecture which is not  at variance with vEdha SAsthrams, to establish emperumAn. bhAshyakArar (bhagavath SrI rAmAnujar) in his SrIbhAshyArambam says “nyAyAthukruhIthasya vAkyasyArthaniSchAyakathvarath” (only that sentence which has been blessed by nyAya (propriety, fairness etc) has the capacity to establish meaning).

We shall next enjoy the first pAsuram of mudhal thiruvandhAdhi.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dhAsan

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mudhal thiruvandhAdhi – thaniyan

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thaniyan for mudhal thiruvandhAdhi was divined by mudhaliyANdAn:

kaidhaisEr pUmpozhil sUzh kachchi nagar vandhudhiththa
poygaippirAn kavigyar pOrERu – vaiyaththu
adiyavargaL vAzha arum thamizh nURRandhAdhi
padi viLangachcheydhAn parindhu

The vyAkhyAnam for this thaniyan was divined by SrI piLLai lOkam jIyar.

Word by word meaning

kaidhaisEr – cluttered with water plants (fragrant screw-pine plant)
pUmpozhil sUzh – surrounded by beautiful gardens
kachchi nagar – in the city of kAnchi [present day kAnchIpuram]
vandhu udhiththa – having taken divine birth
poygaip pirAn – poygai AzhwAr
kavigyar pOr ERu – a bull among poets
vaiyaththu – of this world
adiyavargaL – SrIvaishNavas
vAzha – to enable them to live
arum thamizh nURRandhAdhi –  rare (to establish the meanings) nURRandhAdhi in thamizh language
parindhu – with affection
padi – on the earth
viLangach cheydhAn – divined, to make it glow


kaidhaisEr pUmpozhil sUzh….. – hasthigiri mahAthmyam says “ka ithi brahmaNO nAma thEna thathrAnchithO hari: I thasmAth kAnchIthi vikhyAthA purI puNya vivardhanI II” (“ka” is the name for brahmA. Since brahmA worshipped lord hari in this place, it came to be known as kAnchi. In such a famous place, on a lotus flower, in a lotus pond, this AzhwAr was born on the day of thiruvONam nakshathram (his birth-star is SravaNa). The thaniyan describes his birth and how his composition, the mudhal thiruvandhAdhi removed the darkness of ignorance from the world and allowed it to flourish.


kaidhaisEr pUmpozhil sUzh kachchi nagar vandhu udhiththa poygaip pirAn – this describes the greatness of his birth.

kaidhai (thAzhai) – a type of plant (screw-pine) which is found in watery places. Just as AzhwArs have sung in other prabandhams about this plant thAzhai (notably periya thirumozhi 1-3-10 “kaNdal vEli mangai vEndhan (kaNdal means thAzhai), thiruvAimozhi 4-10-8 “kokkalar thadam thAzhai vEli”) this plant is seen in abundance in watery places.

pUmpozhil kachchi –  periyAzhwAr in his periyAzhwAr thirumozhi 2-10-8 says “thAzhai thaNNAmbal poygai vAy”; nammAzhwAr in his thiruviruththam 26 says “am pum then iLam sOlai”, referring to the abundance of water in kAnchi. Thus this AzhwAr (poygai AzhwAr) reached the city of kachchi.

kachchi nagar vandhu udhiththa – In the city of kachchi with abundant supply of water, in a pond full of water, just as there is a lotus [navel] in the divine stomach of emperumAn, this AzhwAr was born on a lotus, on the day of thiruvONam (SravaNa) star, in the month of aippasi (thulA). His birth is like the birth of brahmA on the lotus flower [of emperumAn].

vandhu udhiththaudhiththal (to rise) is a term associated with sun. It is implied here that his birth is like the rising of sun. thiruvarangaththu amudhanAr in his rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi says in the 8th pAsuramvaruththum puRa iruL mARRa em poygaip pirAn…” Just as sun rises to remove darkness, this AzhwAr was born to remove the darkness (of ignorance)

poygaip pirAn – Since he was born in a pond (poygai), his name became poygaip pirAn. When sarasvathi tried to prevent the yagyam (ritual) of brahmA at thiruvehkA by flowing furiously as a river, emperumAn made himself as a dam to prevent the waters entering the yAgasAlai (the place of ritual) and thus made sarasvathi to flow underground. Hence this place is full of watery resources. poygaip pirAn – this AzhwAr became a benefactor [pirAn] to humankind, like an oasis in desert. As seen in iraNdAm thiruvandhAdhi 14 “thIrththa kararAmin thirindhu” this AzhwAr went about visiting various places to bring in sanctity to such places.

kavigyar pOr ERu – a bull in the clan of poets. Leader among poets. Since he is the first among the mudhal AzhwArs (the first three AzhwArs), he is referred to as the first poet. Both nammAzhwAr (in his thiruvAimozhi 10-7-1 [senchoR kavikAL]) and thirumangai AzhwAr (in his periya thirumozhi 2-8-2 [senthamizh pAduvAr]) have praised him handsomely. He was referred to in the texts of ancient tamil vyAkhyAthas (commentators) as “this can be seen in the works of poygai AzhwAr”. Thus he became the leader among poets.

piLLai lOkam jIyar (who has given commentary for this thaniyan) says further that poygai AzhwAr, who had such fame, composed with deep love, the great prabandham [mudhal thiruvandhAdhi] in order to enable the world full of SrIvaishNavas to flourish (vaiyaththu adiyavargaL vAzha arum thamizh nURRandhAdhi padi viLangach cheydhAn parindhu).

vaiyaththu adiyavargaL vAzha– the SrIvaishNavas who live on earth. Such people are also called as sUris on earth (as opposed to nithyasUris who dwell in SrIvaikuNtam). The nithyasUris, also called by bhUdhaththAzhwAr in iraNdAm thiruvandhAdhi as “vAnaththaNiyamarar” are in any case flourishing. It is only for the SrIvaishNavas on earth that help is required for flourishing. How does this  prabandham help them to flourish? It creates vaishNavaSrI (wealth of kainkaryam) to those who read it and practice it. Just as nammAzhwAr says in thiruvAimozhi 3-2-4nin thALiNaikkIzh vAzhchchi” (I can flourish only under your divine feet) – thus flourishing is realising one’s servitorship and carrying out kainkaryam accordingly. Another interpretation – merely reciting this prabandham is flourishing.

arum thamizh nURRandhAdhi – this prabandham holds rare meanings within itself. It is composed in tamizh so that even common people can understand it [unlike samskritham which needs scholarly people to interpret it] and is neither too long nor too short as it has just 100 verses. Since it is in the form of andhAdhi [in an andhAdhi [antha + Adhi], the last word of one verse becomes the first word for the next], it is easy to commit to memory.

The above two terms can be linked together to get

vaiyaththu adiyavargaL vAzhavarum thamizh nURRandhAdhi – this prabandham has been composed to enable the SrIvaishNavas of this world to flourish.

nURRandhAdhi padi viLangachch cheydhAn parindhu – from the first verse “vaiyam thagaLiyA” to the last verse “Oradiyum sAdudhaiththa”, the glow of this prabandham removes the darkness of ignorance in the world. rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi 8 says “varuththum puRa iruL mARRa em poygaippirAn maRaiyin kuruththin poruLaiyum sem thamizhthannaiyum kUtti onRath thiriththanReriththa viLakku” (the glow that poygaip pirAn created by combining the meanings of vEdhas with the fineness of pristine thamizh language in order to remove the darkness of ignorance). padi –  bhUmi (earth). viLangach cheydhAn – brightened it. Thus, poygai AzhwAr brightened earth with this prabandham. Another interpretation is: viLangum padi seydhAn – he made this work to remain on this earth forever. A third interpretation is: padi – analogy. He made this prabandham as an analogy to thiruvAimozhi which is considered as thamizh vEdham. A fourth interpretation is: padi – vigraham (thirumEni, the divine form of emperumAn); viLakkam – prakASam (brightness). poygai AzhwAr enabled the third AzhwAr (pEyAzhwAr) to locate the form of emperumAn in his mUnRam thiruvandhAdhi “thirukkaNdEn ponmEni kaNdEn” (I was able to witness the divine form of emperumAn with his divine consort).

seydhAn parindhuparindhu – with love. poygai AzhwAr composed this prabandham out of love for devotees of emperumAn who joined with him. As he himself said in the first pAsuram “seyya sudar AzhiyAnadikkE sUttinEn sol mAlai” he composed this pAsuram out of affection for emperumAn. The lamp glows out of affection. The prabandham glows out of affection.

We shall next see the avathArikai for the prabandham.

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mudhal thiruvandhAdhi

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poygai AzhwAr, the first among the mudhalAzhwArgaL (first 3 AzhwArs namely poygai AzhwAr, bhUthaththAzhwAr and pEyAzhwAr) divined a beautiful prabandham named mudhal thiruvandhAdhi. This is part of the iyaRpA section of the dhivya prabandham. iyaRpA is generally recited during puRappAdu (ceremonial procession of uthsava deity of emperumAn).

A beautiful correlation among the four thiruvandhAdhis is highlighted in the vyAkhyAnams. Let us see that briefly before we proceed to immerse ourselves in this prabandham.

mudhalAzhwArgaL met each other in thirukkOvalUr dhivya dhESam where emperumAn arrived and squeezed in between them when they took shelter of the front portion of a small hut during heavy rains in the night time. Each of the three AzhwArs, compiled a prabandham, which are known as mudhal (first) thiruvandhAdhi, iraNdAm (second) thiruvandhAdhi and mUnRAm (third) thiruvandhAdhi respectively. andhAdhi (antha + Adhi) is a style of poetry where the ending of one pAsuram is used in the beginning of the next pAsuram.

While compiling their prabandhams, in their first pAsuram itself, these three AzhwArs highlighted very important aspects. Let us briefly see these now:

  • poygai AzhwAr starts off his prabandham with “vaiyam thagaLiyA vAr kadalE neyyAga …“. In this pAsuram, without naming who bhagavAn is, AzhwAr establishes that bhagavAn is ubhaya vibhUthi nAthan (the lord of both the spiritual and material realms).
  • bUthaththAzhwAr starts off his prabandham with “anbE thagaLiyA …” and says “nAraNaRku” in between, in the first pAsuram. He establishes that, the bhagavAn explained by poygai AzhwAr is none other than “nArAyaNan”.
  • pEyAzhwAr starts off his prabandham with “thirukkaNdEn …“. He establishes that, such “nArAyaNan” is always united with SrI mahAlakshmi and is popularly known as “SrIman nArAyaNan“.

Subsequently, thirumazhisai AzhwAr, who is said to be a Sishya (disciple) of pEyAzhwAr and a contemporary of the mudhalAzhwArgaL, establishes in his nAnmugan thiruvandhAdhi that, only such SrIman nArAyaNan is supreme and worshippable and other dhEvathAs should neither be considered as supreme nor be worshipped [by SrIvaishNavas].

With this introduction, we will proceed with the translation for mudhal thiuvandhAdhi. The commentary for this prabandham has been written by nampiLLai and by periyavAchchAn piLLai (which has been explained by appiLLai, one of the ashtadhik gajangaLs of maNavALa mAmunigaL).

periyavAchchAn piLLai (sEnganUr) – nampiLLai (thiruvallikkENi)

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