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siRiya thirumadal – Introduction

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thirumangai AzhwAr’s chronological sequence of works is periya thirumozhi, thirukuRuNthANdakam, thiruvezhukURRirukkai, siRiya thirumadal, periya thirumadal and thiruneduNthAndakam. In thirukuRuNthANdakam, thirumangai AzhwAr saw parama purushan (supreme being) SrIman nArAyaNan in his heart through his internal senses, as revealed by pAsurams such as thirukkuRuNdhANdagam 1 “en manaththu vandha vidhiyinaik kaNdukoNda thoNdanEn vidugilEnE” (I, the servitor of emperumAn, having seen him when he came, with compassion, on his own volition into my mind, will never let go of him). In thiruvezhukURRirukkai, he yearned for SrIman nArAyaNan and expressed his desire to enjoy him with his external senses as well. He performed SaraNAgathi (act of surrendering) at the lotus feet of the lord at thirukkudandhai. This could be seen in verses such as “selvam malgu thenthirukkudandhai aNdhaNar mandhira mozhiyudan vaNanga, AdaravamaLiyil aRithuyilamarndha parama ninadiyiNaip paNivan” (Oh supreme being! You are reclining on the bed of AdhiSAEshan with his expanded hood in the southern town of thirukkudandhai which is full of opulence and where brAhmaNas are worshipping you, reciting vEdhic scriptures. I surrender to your twin divine feet in order to get rid of the difficulties in this materialistic world). Even after this SaraNAgathi, since his desire was not fulfilled.  thirumangai AzhwAr started to explore the reason for the futility of his SaraNAgathi. parama purushan SrIman nArAyaNan is not someone who does not know the situation which thirumangai AzhwAr is confronted with. He is not someone who does not have the power to reach the place where thirumangai AzhwAr is. He is not someone who is not wanted by thirumangai AzhwAr and so all these aforementioned reasons could not be valid. thirumangai AzhwAr had just then performed SaraNAgathi and so that would  mean that there is nothing that thirumangai AzhwAr needs to do more. Hence, that is also not a reason for the delay in showing himself. The reason for the delay on the part of SrIman nArAyaNan, is neither because of thirumangai AzhwAr’s efforts nor SrIman nArAyaNan’s lack of power and knowledge. The real reason is that SrIman nArAyaNan did not have in his heart, the desire to mingle with thirumangai AzhwAr at that point in time. Therefore, thirumangai AzhwAr decides that he is going to do whatever it takes even if it means to destroy his essential nature of pAranthanthriyam (total dependence on SrIman nArAyaNan). When emperumAn incarnated as krishNa and danced with pots, a pirAtti (lady) gets deeply involved with that. Not being able to attain him otherwise, she decides to engage with madal. thirumangai AzhwAr manifests his situation through the madal of that pirAtti, in this dhivya prabandham.

What is “madal”? Just as the SrI rAmAyaNam SlOkam sundhara kANdam 16-5 says “thulyaSeela vayOvruththAm thulyAbhijanalakshaNam I rAghavOrhathi vaidhEhIm thamsEyam asithEkshaNA II ” (for sIthAppirAtti who had matching auspicious qualities, age, discipline, clan and beauty, SrI rAma is the most apt person. For SrI rAma too, only sIthAp pirAtti who has black eyes, is the most apt person) both nAyaka (male lead of a play or story) and nAyaki (female lead of the play or story) should be of matching age with the nAyaka being complete in having the (masculine) qualities of knowledge, pride, inquisitiveness and firmness and the nAyaki being complete having the (feminine) qualities of shyness, obedience, fear, paleness of skin in separation. The nAyaki goes to a garden with her friends to pluck flowers. The nAyaka also goes to the same garden for hunting. Due to the act of destiny, the nAyaki’s best friend is engaged in some other work, leaving the nAyaki alone at that point of time. nAyaka and nAyaki look at each other at first and that leads to their union. Since continued union between them, if not checked, would lead to their end ultimately, just like crop would be destroyed by excessive inundation, providence decided to separate them so that they could enjoy for a long time, with patience, in future. Their respective relatives too noticed changes in their forms subsequently, just as it is mentioned in thiruvAimozhi 9-8-5 pAsuram  “punai izhaigaLaNivum Adaiyudayum pudhukkaNippum ninaiyum nIrmaiyadhanRu” (even if we try to enjoy her greatness in the way that she is wearing her previously worn ornaments (with added beauty now), the beauty of her clothes and her freshness, it is beyond our thoughts). The relatives kept the two in their respective custody so that they could not meet. However, the separation increased their distress a hundred, thousand times more. At this juncture, the nAyaka or nAyaki, unable to get to attain the other, indulges in a daring act which is referred to as madal.

The daring act is to destroy the beloved’s characteristics such svarUpa (basic nature), rUpa (physical beauty), guNa (qualities) and vibhUthi (wealth). The person draws a picture of his or her beloved, keeps staring incessantly at the picture without eating ghee and drinking milk. He or she does not take bath either nor decorates himself (or herself). He or she would sit on top of a horse made of palm leaves and pretend that he or she is travelling on the horse all over the place with disheveled hair. He or she would cry out saying “this person has estranged from me. He or she does not have any mercy towards me. He or she is a hard-hearted and cruel person. There is no limit to the harmful acts that he or she can indulge in”. Such an act, in which the person goes all over the streets, with those who hear such laments taking pity on him or her, is termed as engaging in madal. Isn’t the act of negating the innate nature, beauty, qualities and wealth of the beloved, equivalent to destroying that person?

What is the purpose of this cruel act of engaging in madal?  The relatives of the two lovers could try to unite them. It is also possible that the king of that country could help in uniting the two. If the friends and relatives of the two give up on them, the two could unite and sustain each other, like a heap of weapons where each weapon sustains the other weapons. If none of the above happens, then there will be the pride that the nAyaka or nAyaki ended his or her life because he or she could not get his or her beloved.

Just as nammAzhwAr had mentioned In his thiruvAimozhi 1-5 “vaLavEzh ulagil” decad, the AzhwArs are of the nature who would, thinking of their lowliness, say “If I go to such a great person (emperumAn), I would bring him lowly stature” and move away from him.  Given this nature of AzhwArs, could they be involved in engaging in madal which is a cruel act on emperumAn? They are not the ones who are going to destroy the qualities of SrIman nArAyaNan by engaging in madal till the end.  Just as namAzhwAr had threatened that he would engage in madal as said in his thiruVaimozhi 5-3-9 “ANaiyen thOzhi ulagu thOru alarthURRi, Am kONaigaL seydhu kudhiriyAi madalUrdhumE)” (Oh dear friend! We will certainly engage in madal, ridiculing emperumAn at every place, carrying out tough acts, as an uncontrollable girl) and in thiruvAimozhi 5-3-10 “yAm madalUrndhum em AzhiyangaippirAnudai, thUmadal thaNNandhuzhAi malar koNdu sUduvOm” (even if we have to engage in madal, we will do that and wear the garland of thuLasi which has sacred leaves and which is cool, offered to us by emperumAn who has the divine disc in his beautiful divine hand), this AzhwAr too threatens SrIman nArAyaNan that he would perform madal so that he would come to AzhwAr, as mentioned in siRiya thirumadal “UrAdhozhiyEn nAn vArAr pUm peNNai madal” (I will not stop from engaging in madal with the long, beautiful palm leaf) and in periya thirumadal “ulagaRiya Urvan nAn manniya pUm peNNai madal” (I will engage in madal with the great, beautiful palm leaf, with the entire world knowing about it) but did not fulfil the act of engaging in madal.

The act of performing madal is similar to what SrI rAma had said in SrI rAmAyaNam yudhdha kANdam 21-22 “chApamAnaya saumithrE! SarAmSchAshIvishOpamAn I sAgaram SOshayishyAmi“. (“Hey lakshmaNa! Get me the bow and arrows which are venomous. I will dry up the ocean). SrI rAmA threatened the ocean [just as thirumangai AzhwAr threatened emperumAn that he will engage in madal]. AzhwArs think that if they indicate their steadfastness, SrIman nArAyaNan will come running to them. They are not the ones who will complete the task of performing a madal. The reason for their running away from SrIman nArAyaNan after thinking of their lowliness is because of the greatness of bhagavath vishayam (matters related to emperumAn). It is because they are unable to tolerate their separation from emperumAn after meditating on the greatness of his qualities and the significance of the entity [emperumAn] that they indulge in activities such as observing nOnbu (penance, religious austerities etc) and engaging in madal which are against their svarUpam (basic nature).

Is the greatness of emperumAn the only reason for their attaining him and separating from him? When they look at the significance of emperumAn and think about their lowliness, they will separate themselves from emperumAn saying “We should not attain him”. When they keep thinking of his greatness, they will attempt to enjoy him, without thinking of their lowliness. When they are enjoying ArAmudhan (insatiable nectar) their lowliness will not appear to them. Hence they fall head over heels in enjoying him.

Even then, why do AzhwArs not speak in their own nature [as a male] but speak in the nature of a pirAtti (consort of emperumAn)? Since the AthmA’s svarUpa nirUpaka dharmas (basic defining qualities) manifest themselves radiantly like the extraordinary qualities of women, especially the qualities of a pathivrathA (a female who is totally dedicated to her husband) such as (a) ananyArhaSEshathvam (the quality of not being subservient to anyone other than SrIman nArAyaNan (b) ananyaSaraNathvam (the quality of not surrendering to anyone other than SrIman nArAyaNan) and (c) ananyabhOgyathvam (the quality of not being an enjoyable object to anyone other than SrIman nArAyaNan) which the AthmA has towards emperumAn, since great people like AzhwArs can sustain themselves only if they are with emperumAN and cannot sustain themselves in separation from him, since during the moment of liberation [from the material world] their knowledge blossoms and matches that of emperumAn’s consorts, since these AzhwArs have been granted faultless knowledge and devotion even when they are in the materialistic world and are on an equal footing with the consorts of emperumAn, the AzhwArs speak in the nature of the consorts of emperumAn.

Well known thamizh literature thirukkuRaL says “kadalanna kAmaththarAgilum mAdhar madalUrAr maRRaiyAr mEl” (even if their lust is as deep as the ocean, women will not engage in madal) and “kadalanna kAmamuzhandhum madalErAp peNNir perundhakkadhil” ( no birth is considered greater than that of those women who do not engage in madal even if they are troubled by lust). When it is clearly mentioned in such thamizh scriptures that it is the hallmark of women not to engage in madal, is it proper on the part of AzhwAr to assume the mood of a pirAtti and engage in madal?  If it happens that between men and women, only males have unabated love towards their beloved and that the women’s love towards their beloved is within limits, then what has been said in thamizh literature could be correct. However, in reality it does not seem to be the case as we see instances where the love towards their beloved is unabated for both men and women.  Thus, in line with samskrutham scriptures, which say that anyone can engage in madal if their love crosses boundaries, this pirAtti (AzhwAr in feminine mood) engages in madal.

While it is natural for both men and women to have uninhibited and unconstrained love towards their beloved, why did in thamizh literature such as tholkAppiyam (earliest known thamizh literature, composed more than 5000 years ago) thamizhas draw a line against madal? We do not know the reason for this restriction, just as we do not know the reason for a king’s order restraining manifestation of one’s desire. Since this AzhwAr himself has said in periya thirumadal “mAnOkkin anna nadaiyAr alarEsa Adavar mEl, mannu madalUrAr enbadhOr vAsagamum thennuraiyil kEttaRivadhuNdu, adhanai nAm theLiyOm mannum vadaneRiyE vENdinOm” (we have heard in thamizh scriptures that women, with the look of a doe and the gait of a swan, will not engage in madal over their beloved, as they would be abused; we not consider that to be apt; we would follow the method prescribed in the great samskrutham scriptures) we should consider that restriction imposed by thamizhas on women expressing their love has been done without knowing the nature of love (that it is unabated). 

These AzhwArs who have been blessed by SrIman nArAyaNan with knowledge and devotion (towards emperumAn) without any trace of ignorance will not follow the path of lust, if they have such knowledge. How is it that they are following lust which has been proscribed by the wise people? It is not the prAkruthakAmam (lust as seen in this materialistic world) that they preach in their prabandhams. It is rather the devotion towards bhagavAn as prescribed in upanishadhs such as bhruhadhAraNya upanishadh 4-4-5 “AthmA vA arE dhashtavya: SrOthravyO manthavyO nidhidhyAsithavya: (the supreme entity who is apt to be listened about and thought about, is the one who is to be meditated upon and is verily the one who is to be seen) which is referred to as lust here.

To the relatives of parakAla nAyaki (thirumangai AzvhAr in feminine mood) who tell her “The act of performing madal does not suit your feminine character that is made of total dependence towards SrIman nArAyaNan. Nor does it complement his supreme masculine qualities. What is apt for your feminine character is to wait for him to come on his own” parakAla nAyaki replies “I lost out my heart by getting engaged with the activities of that supreme entity which are attractive towards the heart. I had even remained steadfast saying ‘Let him come on his own. I will not engage in prohibited activities such as madal which will bring disrepute to his auspicious qualities’. Even then, he is not coming. I am unable to sustain myself in separation. Unless I engage in madal and attain him, I cannot sustain my life”. madal is stating one’s resolve like this. 

Instead of actually performing a madal, why should she express her resolve in performing the madal and procrastinate thereby?  It is because parakAla nAyaki has to (a) list out the reasons for engaging in madal, (b) make her relatives to agree to her action, (c) ensure that she does not destroy him who has great, auspicious qualities in a hurry and (d) allow time for him to come.

We will see the first part of this prabandham in the next article.

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siRiya tirumadal – thaniyan

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

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muLLichezhumalarO(r) thArAn muLaimadhiyam
koLLikenuLLam kodhiyAmE – vaLLal
thiruvALan sIrkkaliyan kArkkaliyai vetti
maruvALan thandhAn madal

The thaniyan was composed by piLLai thirunaRaiyUr araiyar. The commentary to the thaniyan was written by piLLai lOkam jIyar. We will first see the preface to the thaniyan followed by the explanation of thaniyan itself.

Preface to thaniyan

There are two interpretations for the preface to thaniyan.

Interpretation 1

This would be when the first phrase is treated as “muLLi chezhu malarOr thArAn”. There are five entities which are collectively known as “SabdhAdhi vishayangaL”. These are Sabdha, sparSa, rUpa, rasa and gandham. Sabdham is sound; sparSa is touch; rUpa is form, rasa is taste and gandham is smell. These five are primarily responsible for controlling one’s heart. piLLAi thirunaRaiyUr araiyar celebrates thirumangai AzhwAr who gave us this work called “siRiya thirumadal”. With the help of “siRiya thirumadal”, piLLAi thirunarayiUr araiyar says that devotees who are at the service of the lotus feet of thirumangai AzhwAr, are able to control the unwanted desires which emanate because of “SabdhAdhi vishayangaL” and consequently they are able to focus their mind and heart towards SrIman nArAyaNan. In this interpretation, the purport is that the prabandham (set of verses) called “siRiya thirumadal” acts as sustenance for devotees who would otherwise destroy themselves due to pain of separation from SrIman nArAyaNan.

Interpretation 2

This would be when the first phrase is treated as “muLLi chezhu malarO thArAn”. There are devotees of thirumangai AzhwAr who cannot live by separating themselves from their beloved AzhwAr. thirumangai AzhwAr gave this work called “siRiya thirumadal” so that these devotees are able to sustain themselves and not indulge in materialistic pleasures which are controlled by “SabdhAdhi vishayangaL”. thirumangai AzvhAr used to wear a garland that was made of “muLLi” flowers. However, he did not give his devotees “muLLi” garland. Rather he gave them something that is even more spectacular which is nothing but the garland of verses called “siRiya thirumadal”.

Word-by-Word Meanings

sIrkkaliyan – thirumangai AzhwAr who is also known as “kali kanRi” is full of auspicious qualities
thArAn – someone who is decorated with garland
chezhum – fertile 
Or- unparalleled
muLLi malar – muLLi flowers
thiruvALan – having enormous wealth called “service to SrIman nArAyaNan”.
vaLLal – magnanimous
maruvALan – having a sword, fitting (in his hand)
vetti – obliterated
kArkkaliyai – the black and evil effects of kali (4th of the four yugas or ages).
madal thandhAn – gave the dhivya prabandham called “siRiya thirumadal”.
enuLLam – my heart
kodhiyAmE – without any suffering
muLai madhiyam koLLikku – for the beautiful fire which is the rising moon.


muLLich chezhu malarO(r) thArAnthirumangai AzhwAr, the king of “thirumangai” , is one who is seen adorned with unparalleled muLLi flowers which seem to have blossomed exclusively for him. Just as nammAzhwAr is celebrated as “vaguLaththArAnai” (thiruviruththam thaniyan) (one who wears the garland made of vaguLa (or magizhampU) flowers), thirumangai AzhwAr is referred to as “Or thArAn”. The reason for using the word “unparalleled”  as an adjective for the “muLLi” flowers is because even in separation, the thuLasi garland (which adorns emperumAn and) which torments the devotee in separation is no match for AzhwAr’s garland. The above description fits in line with the first interpretation of preface to thaniyan. Now, we will explore the meanings of the second interpretation of preface to thaniyan in which the phrase is “muLLich chezumalarO thArAn”. We are devotees of thirumangai AzhwAr. He does not give us the great muLLi flowers which he wears. Since thirumangai AzhwAr considers himself to be a servitor for us (because we are SrIvaishNavas), he gives us an even more spectacular gift – the garland of his verses known as “siRiya thirumadal”.

Why is he giving the madal?

muLaimadhiyam koLLikkenuLLam kodhiyAmE – The moon which has just risen will appear to scorch those people who are in love but are separated. So the moon that is usually connected with coolness, is now referred to as an object that scorches, similar to “koLLik kattai” (burning wood). Did not this AzhwAr too say in periya thirumozhi 2.7.3 “pOndha veN thiNgaL kadhir suda meliyum”? (the moon is similar to sun in that it scorches him throughout the night when he is separated from SrIman nArAyaNan).  Just as it is mentioned in the saying “chandhras chaNda kArayathE” moon becomes sun with singing (burning) action for other people in samsAram (who are separated).

Did not SrIrAmApirAn say in SrI rAmAyaNam kishkindhA kANdam 1-70 “yAni sma ramaNIyAni thayA saha bhAvanthi mE I thAnyEvAramaNIyAni jAyanthE mE thayA vinA II”? (all those places or objects which were pleasant to me when she (sIthAp pirAtti) was with me have become unpleasant when she is not with me)

The verse  “muLai madhiyam koLLi” could be considered either as muLai madhiyam koLLi or as muLai madhi am koLLimuLai madhiyam koLLi would mean rising moon which is like a burning wood. muLai madhi am koLLi would mean rising moon which is like a  beautiful burning wood. am – beautiful. madhiyam – moon. Mentioning moon here is representative of the five entities which torment those who are in separation – moon, jasmine flowers, poetry in kurunji rAgam, wind that blows from the northern direction and a bed made of flowers. Did not nammAzhwAr say in thiruvAimozhi 9.9.1 “malligai kamazh thendRal IrumAlO vaN kuRunji isai thavarumAlO” (the southerly wind, with the fragrance of jasmine flower, appears to be cutting like a sword and the sweet kurinji musical tone appears to be drilling the skin) and in thiruvAimozhi 9.9.4  “vAdai thaN vAdai vevvAdai AlO mEvu thaN madhiyam vem madhiyamAlO men malarppaLLi vempaLLyAlO” (the northerly wind which is supposed to be cool appears to be spitting fire; moon, which is cool and is looked at desirously, appears to be with hot rays; the soft bed of flowers appears to be a bed of embers), thus bringing out all five entities mentioned above which torment those who are separated? Earlier, we saw that there are collectively five entities, known as “SabdhAdhi vishayangaL” which torture one’s heart. Similarly there is this set of five entities which torment people who are separated from their beloved.

The phrase muLai madhiyam koLLikku ennuLLam kodhiyAme is key to the two interpretations which were discussed in the preface to the thaniyan. This verse has to be set properly as mentioned below to get the meanings which had been explained earlier. 

Interpretation 1

The phrase muLai madhiyam koLLikku ennuLLam kodhiyAme should be set with muLLich chezhu malarO thArAn and so should be read as muLai madhiyam koLLikku ennuLLam kodhiyAmE muLLich chezhu malarO thArAn. This would mean, thirumangai AzhwAr gave “siRiya thirumadal” to us who are separated from SrIman nArAyaNan and are consequentially tormented and tortured by “SabdhAdhi vishayangaL”.

Interpretation 2

The phrase muLai madhiyam koLLi ennuLLam kodhiyAme should be joined with thandhAn madal and so should be read as muLAi madhiyam koLLikku ennuLLam kodhiyAmE thandhAn madal. thirumangai AzhwAr gave “siRiya thirumadal” to us, who are thirumangai AzhwAr’s devotees. He did not give the muLLi flowers which he decorated himself with. Instead he gave the garland of verses known as “siRiya thirumadal” with which we can continue to exist.

muLaimadhiyam koLLikkennuLLam kodhiyAmE thandhAn madal – What a great benefit did AzhwAr carry out for me so that my mind will not be singed by the rising moon which appeared like a burning wood for me!

Who gave such a benefit?

vaLLal thiruvALanvaLLal – great, magnanimous person. Even when emperumAn did not help him, AzhwAr helped him. Hence he is magnanimous. thiruvALan – one who has the wealth of kainkaryam (service) to emperumAn.

vaLLal thiruvALan – In order to be called as vaLLal, one needs to have wealth. The composer of this thaniyan, piLLai thirunaRayUr araiyar, says that AzhwAr has wealth too. Even if one has wealth, one needs to have the quality of compassion in order to give. Even that quality is there, says the composer. 

sIrkkaliyan – If kalikanRi (thirumangai AzhwAr) who has qualities such as compassion etc, has to give the madal (leaf of palm tree), the surrounding thorns have to be snipped. The pAsuram says that he snipped the thorn of dark kali (kali is the last of four yugas, signifying ignorance). Darkness here refers to ignorance. Thus the opinion is that AzhwAr cut out kali which gives ignorance, since he is called as kalikanRi (one who cut out kali). To cut the thorns, one needs a sword. Does AzhwAr have this too?

maruvALan – one who has a drawn sword. One who has a sword, fitting well in his hand. When explained as a single word, the term vAL would refer to knowledge. The implied meaning is that AzhwAr cut the darkness of ignorance with the sword of true knowledge.

maruvALan – maru also refers to fragrance. AzhwAr enabled us to smell the fragrance of bhagavadh anubhavam (enjoying matters related to emperumAn). As a support for this, reference is made to thiruvAimozhi 8.9.10 “ivaL andhaNdhuzhAy kamazhdhal” (the reason for this nAyaki (leading lady) to acquire the fragrance of thiruththuzhAy (thuLasi) ….).

maruvALanmaru also refers to attaining. Thus, this would refer to AzhwAr attaining parama purushan (supreme being) as a natural quality in him. Alternatively, it could be said that he attained chEthanas (sentient entities). He fell head over heels, of his own volition, on chEthanas and ruled over them. Thus he gave the chEthanas madal in order to make them like himself. In the second interpretation discussed above, it could be assumed  that AzhwAr gave madal instead of mAlai (garland).  The significance of this is that while AzhwAr’s followers desire the garland which he had worn and removed, since AzhwAr considers himself to be a servitor to his followers, as mentioned in periya thirumozhi 3.7.7 “annaiyum aththanum enRu adiyOmukku irangiRRilan” (she is  not having pity on us who are her parents) he gave them the madal prabandham itself instead of the garland which he had worn.

We will go through the pravESam (introduction) for this prabandham in the next article.

adiyEn santhAna rAmAnuja dhAsan

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siRiya thirumadal

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

vayalAli maNavALan with thAyAr

thirumangai AzhwAr with kumudhavalli nAchchiyAr

thirumangai AzhwAr has composed a beautiful prabandham named siRiya thirumadal. In this prabandham, he is feeling the separation from emperumAn and due to the great sorrow in separation, he assumes a feminine mood (as parakAla nAyaki) and performs madal [madal is an activity where the man/woman would hurl accusations on his/her beloved in the hopes to convince the other person for marriage].

periyavAchchAn piLLai

periyavAchchAn piLLai has composed a beautiful commentary for this prabandham. Let us enjoy this wonderful prabandham with the help of this commentary,

Translation by santhAna rAmAnuja dhAsan

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