Category Archives: periya thirumadal

periya thirumadal – avathArikai – Part 1

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periya thirumadal, like siRiya thirumadal, is a prabandham in which AzhwAr gets bewildered, due to excessive affection, which does not allow him to realise his svarUpam (basic nature) and parasvarUpam (emperumAn’s nature). This attempt to attain emperumAn through the path of madal by  destroying one’s own nature is much similar to a person who, being unable to find paddy grains, sets fire to a heap of harvested paddy and munches the fried grains. The opinion of the nAyaki (leading lady) is that if her relatives desert her after seeing her over-zealous nature [of attaining her beloved] and the nAyaka’s (the male lead’s) relatives desert him after hearing from her all the blemishes in his character, the two of them could then go in their own way.

This prabandham is the result of AzhwAr’s bewilderment arising out of distress caused by his engagement with emperumAn’s auspicious qualities starting from his first pAsuram “vAdinEn vAdi” in periya thirumozhi and ending with his siRIya thirumadal prabandham and his efforts at somehow attaining emperumAn, even if he has to tread forbidden path. siRiya thirumadal too had stoked his distress due to his engaging with emperumAn’s auspicious qualities and his inability to see emperumAn. Just as those who have lost a minor battle go back and start building up a huge army in order to engage in a major battle, AzhwAr too engages with this prabandham [after not seeing emperumAn at the completion of siRiya thirumadal prabandham]. AzhwAr talks about his desire to see emperumAn even if he has to engage with madal since he is unable to sustain himself after separating from emperumAn, having been united with him earlier. But doesn’t madal create blemish in both the nAyaka and nAyaki? This prabandham says that when one does not get the results by taking care of the qualities, one can even take blame so long as one gets the desired results. Several references have been cited in avathArikai to show that great personalities such as sIthAppirAtti, bharathAzhwAn (bharatha), iLayaperumAL  (lakshmaNa) and nammAzhwAr have striven to protect the auspicious nature of emperumAn such as:

SrI rAmAyaNam bAlakANdam 1-26 “rAmasya dhayithA bhAryA nithyam prANasamA hithA ” (I am SrI rAma’s dear wife; I always strive for his benefit like his life-line)

SrI rAmAyaNam sundhara kANdam 38-47 “mamaiva dhushkrutham kinchin mahadhasthi na samSaya: I samarthAvapi thau yanmAm nAvEkshasE paranthapau II” (There is no doubt there is a grave mistake that I have committed since SrI rAma and lakshmaNa, who destroy their enemies and who are capable of achieving anything, are not bothered about me)

SrI rAmAyaNam sundhara kANdam 32-9 “svasthyasthu rAmAya salakshmaNAya thathA pithurmE janakasya rAgya: “ (let auspicious things happen to SrI rAma who is with his younger brother lakshmaNa and to my father, SrI janaka maharAja)

SrI rAmAyaNa SlOkam “na mantharAya na cha mAthu rasyA dhOshO na ragyO na cha rAghavasya” (The reason for SrI rAma going to forest is not the fault of mantharA or my mother kaikEyi or the king dhaSaratha or SrI rAma; it is only due to my sin)

SrI rAmAyaNam uththara kANdam 6-4 “yadhi prIthir mahArAja yadhyanigrAhyathA mayi I aihi mAm nirviSangasthvam prathigyAmanupAlaya II ” (Oh my Lord! If you have affection for me, if I am apt to be shown mercy, please give me up without an iota of doubt; protect your vow)

In periya thirumozhi 11-1-9 “mikka sIrththoNdaritta pUndhuLavin vAsamE vaNdu koNdu . . . ” this AzhwAr too has reflected the same opinion.

When such is the case, is it apt for the greatness of this AzhwAr who has mercifully said in periya thirumozhi 1-1-1 “uNarvenum perum padham thirindhu nAdinEn” (I ventured into analysing the benefits and faults by stepping into the great location called as knowledge) to engage in this activity [of engaging in madal]?

The fault is not due to any lack of knowledge. It is the fault of the beauty of the supreme being. It is not only the beauty; there is a part in this for his auspicious qualities too. When qualities as mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNam ayOdhyA kANdam 2-26 “bahavO nrupa kalyANa guNA: puthrasya santhithE  . .” (Oh King! Your son has many auspicious qualities) and in SrI rAmAyaNam kishkindhA kANdam 15-21 “dhAthunAmiva SailEndhrO guNAnAmAkarO mahAn . . ” (just as the mountain is the repository of many minerals, SrI rAma is a great repository of (auspicious) qualities) can bind common people, it is only apt that such qualities will engage AzhwAr who has great affection for emperumAn and will propel him into unknown paths (such as madal) in order to attain emperumAn.

It is said in SrI rAmAyaNam kishkindhA kANdam 16-5 “thulya Seela vayO vruththAm” (it is only SrI rAma who is most apt for sIthA who has matching qualities, age and conduct as well as clan and beauty. In the same way, sIthA, who has blackish eyes is most apt for SrI rAma). Thus, the nAyaki and nAyaka are most apt for each other in all aspects; they unite together due to their puNya (virtuous deeds) and then separate for the same reason. When they wait expectantly to see each other, for a long time, and do not get to see each other through known and unknown means, when they resort to the means of madal due to excessive love, it is only apt. It has been mentioned that the two could unite and separate due to their puNya. One could understand their uniting due to their puNya but how could they separate due to puNya? Just as it is mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNam kishkindhA kANdam 29-6 “vAthAthapa klAnthamiva praNashtam varshaNE bIjam prathisanjaharsha” (sIthAppirAtti looked more beautiful than before just as a seed which has been withering in sunshine and wind, sprouts in rain), since separation leads the hearts to grow fonder, separation could be termed to occur due to puNya. What are the known and unknown means employed by the nAyaki and nAyaka to see each other? The known means are sending messengers who are visible to the eyes while the unknown means are similar to the method followed by ANdAL in nAchchiyAr thirumozhi 1-1 “thaiyoru thingaL” (throughout the month of thai (middle of December to middle of January month) when she approached kAmadhEva (deity for love, Cupid), and which are accepted by SAsthras (sacred texts).

While it is acceptable to pray for emperumAn even through unknown paths, similar to what has been mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNam ayOdhyA kANdam 1-52 “sthriyO vruththAs tharuNyaScha sAyam prAthas samAhitha: I sarvAn dhEvAn namasyanthi rAmasyArththE yaSasvina: II” (the womenfolk, old people, nubile girls [of ayOdhyA] pray to all deities both in the morning and evening  for the famed SrI rAma (after he had defeated the demons thAtaka, subAhu and mArIcha)), is it proper to talk ill of him through the method of madal? The commentator for this prabandham, SrI periyavAchchAn piLLai says that it is proper. First he explains what madal is: foregoing food, bath etc, a person draws the picture of his (or her) beloved, roams around with this picture, and when the love-smitten person becomes delirious, falls over the picture, remains in the fallen state till termites start crawling all over him (or her) and over a period of time, gives  up life. Since these activities stem from love and are manifested to nurture that love, these are apt for the qualities of those in love. While even foolish people will not indulge in activities which are not beneficial, what is the benefit of these activities? The benefit is when he [emperumAn] comes hurriedly, with his dress and upkeep in dishevelled condition and shows himself to the nAyaki. Even if he does not show himself up, the nAyaki, manifesting her love for emperumAn and nurturing that love, will be the benefits of these activities.

There is a saying in SAsthras which goes as “kAminO varNayan kAmAn lObham labhdhasya varNayan I nara: kim palamApnOthi kUpEndhamiva pAthayan II ” (man does not attain any benefit by describing the desires of a lustful person, or describing the penurious behaviour of a miser. It is just like pushing a blind person into a well). This saying speaks very lowly of describing one’s love. The knowledgeable despise this (expressing one’s love) as the act of a lowly person. This act is thus inappropriate since it is negated by SAsthras and knowledgeable people reject it. Why then is it still followed? The reason for this is that a fault happens once a person starts indulging in sensual matters such as rUpa, rasa, gandha (form, taste, smell) etc. But this does not become a fault here since the situation is one in which, only devotion towards bhagavAn (supreme being), which is in line with vEdhas saying upAsItha, dhyAyitha (worship, meditate), is referred to as lust. mahAbhAratham SAnthi parvam 334-47 says “vyavasAyAdhruthE brahman nAsAdhayathi thathparam” (Oh brAhmaNa! If one does not have the deep faith (of devotion), (s)he will not attain the supreme being); bhArhaspathya smruthi says “paramAthmani yO rakthO virakthO’paramAthmani: I sarvEshaNAvinirmukthas sa bhaiksham bhOkthumarhathi II” (let the one who is deeply devoted to the supreme being and has hatred for other matters get rid of his desire for gold and other materials and take up sanyAsam (renounce everything and become a hermit)); katOpanishath 2-15 says “yadhichchanthO brahmacharyam charanthi” (those who desire the supreme entity and observe celibacy…). Thus, in all these cases, the firm belief of devotion towards emperumAn is termed as lust. ALavandhAr mercifully termed sanyAsam which is renouncing relatives and dear ones as madal. At the beginning of this madal thirumangai AzhwAr despises the three purushArthams of aRam, poruL and vIdu (rightesouness, material and paramapadham  (SrivaikuNtam) respectively). The reason for deriding the three benefits of aRam, poruL and vIdu is: jApAli maharishi (a sage), in order to somehow get SrI rAma back to ayOdhyA, started speaking about atheism in line with the philosophy of lOkAyatha, in the presence of SrI rAma himself. He was praised by vAlmIki bhagavAn as “jApAlir brAhmaNoththama” (jApAli, the greatest among brAhmaNas) due to jApAli’s deep love for SrI rAma. In the same way, this (engaging in madal by thirumangai AzhwAr in the form of parakAla nAyaki) is also praiseworthy. thirumangai AzhwAr’s aim is not to deride benefits of righteousness, material or SrIvaikuNtam but to praise his preferred benefit of lust.

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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periya thirumadal – thaniyan

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avathArikai (Introduction)

piLLai thirunaRaiyUr araiyar, who had composed this thaniyan, reflects the same opinion in his thaniyan which thirumangai AzhwAr had mentioned in the prabandham. The thaniyan says that if emperumAn, who is praised by everyone, who is complete in all respect and who harvests devotion in the leelA vibhUthi (materialistic realm), does not show his mercy on the greatness of AzhwAr who is cultivating the crop of parabhakthi, paragyAnam and paramabhakthi (three states of devotion in which the person has growing desire to be with emperumAn, envisions emperumAn and cannot sustain himself if emperumAn leaves him, respectively), AzhwAr will manifest his great affection for emperumAn. This debilitating affection which AzhwAr has for emperumAn is incidentally the manifestation that emperumAn is the means for attaining him.

The vyAkyAnam (commentary) for the thaniyan has been mercifully written by piLLailOkam jIyar.

Let us go through the thaniyan and its meanings:

ponnulagail vAnavarum pUmagaLum pORRiseyyum
nannudhaleer nambi naRaiyUrar mannulagil
en nilaimai kaNdum irangArEyAmAgil
mannu madalUrvan vandhu

Word by Word Meanings

nal nudhaleer – Oh those who have a beautiful forehead!
pon ulagil – in paramapadham (SrIvaikuNtam)
vAnavarum – nithyasUris
pUmagaLum – periya pirAttiyAr (SrI mahAlakshmi)
pORRi seyum – singing thiruppallANdu (wishing emperumAn well)
nambi naRaiyUrar – thirunaRaiyUr nambi (in archA form (deity) in the divine abode of thirunaRaiyUr) who is complete in all aspects
mannu ulagil – in the permanent bhUlOkam (earth)
en nilaimai kaNdum – even after seeing my condition
irangArE AmAgil – if he does not shower mercy
vandhu – reaching his place
mannum madal Urvan – I will surely ride madal (riding a horse made of palm leaves, dragged by children, announcing to the world how her beloved has not responded to her outpourings of love).

vyAkyAnam

en nilaimai – the words should be rearranged as nannudhalIr! naRaiyUrar nambi en nilaimai kaNdum irangArEyAmAgil mannu madalUrvan vandhu.

nal nudhaleer – Oh those who have a beautiful forehead! This is calling out to other AzhwArs who are resplendent with devotion towards emperumAn, just as calling out with the words vAN mugaththIr (those who have a resplendent face!)

ponnulagil vAnavarum – Just as it is mentioned in muNdaka upanishath 2-2-10 “hiraNmayE parE lOke ” (in the upper world which is golden hued), this refers to nithyasUris who inhabit the golden hued world of SrIvaikuNtam.

pUmagaLum – periya pirAttiyAr (SrI mahAlakshmi) who resides on a lotus flower; SrIdhEvi who is the epitome of all fragrances in flowers.

pORRi seyum – singing praises on the well being of emperumAn. Just as it is mentioned in periya thirumozhi 2-3-7 “bharadhanum thambi saththurukkananum ilakkumanOdu mythiliyum iravu nan pagalum thudhi seyya ninRa rAvaNAndhagandhanai ” (SrI rAma, the conqueror of rAvaNa, continuously praised during day and night by brothers bharatha, Sathrugna, lakshmaNa and wife sIthA), naRaiyUr nambi is praised by periya pirAtti and nithyasUris. If the text is pUmaganum, this will mean – being praised by brahmA and by dhEvas such as indhra et al who dwell in svarga (heaven). Isn’t it for being praised that emperumAn had created brahmA!

nambi naRaiyUrar – the nambi (complete in all aspects) who dwells in naRaiyUr;  one who has the divine name of thirunaRaiyUr nambi; one who is complete with qualities such as simplicity, easy approachability etc after reaching thirunaRaiyUr.

en nilaimai kaNdum – even after seeing the greatness of AzhwAr, who cultivated devotion in him, and who reaped the grains of paramabhakthi etc and became complete. Just as AzhwAr himself had mentioned in thirunedundhANdagam 20 “pErALan pErOdhum peNNai maNmEl perundhavaththaL enRallAl pEsalAmE” (This girl has been reciting the divine names of emperumAn. Can we say anything other than saying that she is fortunate, staying on this earth?) he has such greatness. The word en nilaimai refers to his greatness. Alternatively, it could be construed as AzhwAr’s condition which is pitiable.

mannulagil ennilaimai kaNdum – even after seeing my pitiable condition on this everlasting earth.

mannulagil – if this world were to get destroyed soon, my troubles also would have ended. But it is not like that. This world appears to last forever.

en nilaimai kaNdum – her position is similar to that which has been mentioned in periya thirumozhi 5-5-6 “thAdhAdu vanamAlai thArAnO enRenRE thaLarndhAL” (she became enervated after repeatedly asking whether he (emperumAn) will not give her the divine garland which has pollens).

irangArEyAmAgil – even in this condition if he says as in thiruvAimozhi 2-4-5vaNdu thivaLum thaNNandhuzhAy kodIr” (you are not giving me the cool, beautiful thuLasi garland around which beetles are humming) or as mentioned in thiruvAimozhi 2-4-3irakkamezhIr” (you are not taking pity on her condition) . . . .

mannu madalUrvan vandhu – as long as he [emperumAn] exists, my madal also will certainly exist.

 madalUrvan – I will destroy all his [emperumAn’s] qualities which are celebrated everywhere, with my madal.

This prabandham ends with AzhwAr’s threat that he will engage with madal to manifest his deep affection such that emperumAn will accept him. Will this attempt be classified as AzhwAr taking efforts on his own, to attain emperumAn?  No, it will not. All these will only be classified as AzhwAr’s anguish at not attaining emperumAn, knowing the greatness of emperumAn and knowing also that only emperumAn is the means for attaining him. Only those attempts of emperumAn in attaining AzhwAr could be classified as those which belong to taking efforts.

We will take up the avathArikai (introduction) for periya thirumadal vyAkyAnam (commentary for the divine hymn periya thirumadal) next.

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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periya thirumadal

Published by:

SrI:  SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:  SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama:  SrImath varavaramunayE nama:

thirunaRaiyUr nambi with nAchchiyAr

parakAla nAyaki (thirumangai AzhwAr in feminine mood)

There are two thirumadal prabandhams (sacred hymns relating to the love that the nAyaki (lady) has towards the nAyaka (the man loved by the lady)) composed mercifully by thirumangai AzhwAr – siRiya thirumadal which deals with matters relating to krishNa and periya thirumadal, which deals with matters relating to thirunaRaiyUr nambi (emperumAn who resides as archA mUrthy (deity form) in thirunaRaiyur (a dhivyadhEsam or divine abode, near kumbakONam). The term madalUrdhal refers to the courage exhibited by the nAyaki (or nayAka), who, after finding that the nAyaka (or nAyaki) is not responding to her (or his) love, abuses him (her) for the all the world to see, so that the people of the world would help her (him) in uniting with him (her). thirumangai AzhwAr, who attains the emotional build-up of a woman, manifests such courage in these two madals. This is one of the ways in which a lady displays her emotions when her love becomes irrepressible and she forgets her basic nature. Our pUrvAchAryas (preceptors) would say that this (composing madal) along with fasting and mangaLASAsanam (praising emperumAn) should be considered as great behaviour since it is born out of ignorance caused by excessive devotion towards emperumAn which is complimented by knowledge about him. thirukkuRaL (a composition in thamizh) says “kadalanna kAmaththarAyinum mAdhar madalUrAr maRRaiyAr mEl” (women will not engage with madal even if they have love which is as deep as the ocean, towards their beloved) and “kadalanna kAmam uzhandhum madalERAp peNNiR perundhakkadhil” (there is nothing greater than a lady who does not engage in madal on her beloved even if her love is as deep as the ocean). But thirumangai AzhwAr, not subscribing to this view, says in this periya thirumadal that he subscribes to the view of the culture of the northerners (north of vindhya mountain)  in which it is accepted that irrespective of a person being man or woman, if the love becomes irrepressible, one can engage in madal. It should be appreciated that when desire for a person breaks out of the banks, like the river kAvEri in spate, it will shatter all the boundaries of stated rules and regulations.

In siRiya thirumadal, this AzhwAr had attempted to engage with madal on emperumAn krishNa. Since krishNa lived in a different age and he himself was lacking in a sense of honour [he didn’t mind being tied to a mortar by his mother for stealing butter, he put up with all the abuses which the herds-women hurled at him when he indulged in such mischief etc], it did not fructify. Hence, he attempts to compose a madal on the archAvathArap perumAL (emperumAn in deity form) at thirunaRaiyUr, who was very much present during his time, as a symbol of simplicity. Just as nammAzhwAr said in thiruvAimozhi 5-3-9madal Urdhum” (I will engage with madal), this AzhwAr too frightens emperumAn that he is going to engage with madal in order to make emperumAn to come to him. But in essence, he only frightened emperumAn but did not engage with madal and hence it could be said that there was no harm to the AzhwAr’s basic nature of total dependence on emperumAn.

periyavAchchAn piLLai

The vyAkyAnam for this pAsuram has been composed by periyavAchchAn piLLai as well as by azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr. We will follow the vyAkyAnam of periyavAchchAn piLLai and add significant features mercifully given by azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr wherever required.

Note: This Introduction is based on puththUr u vE krishNaswAmy iyengAr’s introduction to periya thirumadal vyAkyAnam.

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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