Category Archives: thirumAlai

thirumAlai – 3 – vEdha nUl pirAyam

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Reincarnation

avathArikai (introduction)

After hearing from AzhwAr in the previous pAsuram that he does not want paramapadham (SrIvaikuNtam), emperumAn tells him “since you do not want paramapadham, stay in samsAram, which is rubbing shoulders with kOyil [in our sampradhAyam, kOyil refers to SrIrangam] and keep enjoying my names”. AzhwAr tells him “ having gone deep into this aspect, I can tell you that this samsAram has so many faults that there is no time to recite your divine names. Hence I do not want this samsAram”. When emperumAn asks him as to what the shortfalls are in samsAram which prevent him from reciting his names, AzhwAr explains him these faults in this pAsuram. Due to such faults, AzhwAr says that reciting emperumAn’s divine names generates a sweetness in him. This makes him hate the samsAram despite being habituated with samsAram due to innumerable births. Let us look at the pAsuram:

வேத நூல் பிராயம் நூறு மனிசர்தாம் புகுவரேலும்
பாதியும் உறங்கிப்போகும் நின்றதில் பதினையாண்டு
பேதை பாலகன் அதாகும் பிணி பசி மூப்புத் துன்பம்
ஆதலால் பிறவி வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகருளானே.

vEdhanUl pirAyam nURu manisarthAm puguvarElum
pAdhiyum uRangippOgum ninRa ippathinaiyANdu
pEdhai pAlagan adhAgum piNi pasi mUpputh thunbam
AdhalAl piRavi vENdEn arangaMa nagaruLAnE

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Word-by-word Meaning

aranga mA nagar uLAne – Oh, one who is dwelling in the town of thiruvarangam
manisarthAm – samsAris (those who live in this materialistic realm)
vEdha nUl – as per vEdha SAsthram (as laid out in the holy scriptures)
nURu pirAyam puguvarElum – though they may live for hundred years
pAdhiyum – half of that, i.e. 50 years
uRangippOgum – will be spent  sleeping
ninRa ippadhinaiyANdu – the balance 50 years
pEdhai – in the ignorant state of infancy
pAlagan – in childhood state
adhu Agum – (later) going after worldly pleasures in the state of youth
piNi – being trapped by diseases [in each of the states mentioned above]
pasi –time spent in satisfying  the hunger that is created by the five senses
mUppu – being in old age
thunbam – time spent in various other sorrowful ways
AdhalAl  – since the entire life is being spent in such activities,
piRavi – (such lowly) birth
vENdEn – I will never desire

vyAkhyAnam (Explanatory Notes)

vEdha nUl pirAyam nURu – As manu smrithi says “vEdha SAsthrA virOdhi nA”  – one who delves into vEdhas (which have been approved by rishis), smrithis which discuss dharma (righteousness) and delves into these using logic,  without being inimical to vEdha SAsthras, understands dharma; others do not.  AzhwAr has replaced the word SAsthras with “nUl” and has called it as “vEdha nUl”. Another meaning for vEdha nUl is it is a combination of vEdhas and texts. Texts are SrIsUkthis (great works) composed by learned persons  such as rishis, AzhwArs and AchAryas, who had full knowledge of vEdhas.

pirAyam nURu – vEdhas say “sathAyurvai purusha:” – the life of jIvAthmAs is 100 years. This is the boundary as determined by vEdhas. This is the upper limit and does not mean that every jIvAthmA will live upto the age of 100 years.

manisar – this limit of 100 years is as measured by yardstick applied to badhdhAthmAs (human beings bound in leelA vibhUthi or materialistic realm) and not by dhEva mAnam or brahma mAnam (yardstick applied to celestial persons or brahmA). Instead of 12,000 years for dhEvas or kalpam (thousands of lakhs of years) for brahmA, it is 100 years for “manisar” (bhadhdhAthmAs).

thAm – The bhadhdhaAthmA can die any day from the day that he enters the womb, but still believes that he has a long life and makes many plans in his life for holding onto several things. Taking pity on such bhadhdhAthmAs, AzhwAr says “manisar thAm” [such people], both with a sense of wonder and sorrow.

puguvarElum – if at all they live this life [for 100 years]. [This is because, as mentioned earlier, there is no definitive period that has been granted to bhadhdhAthmAs ,unlike dhEvas or brahmA]. The bhadhdhAthmA may die (i) in the womb itself, (ii) at the time of coming out of the womb, (iii) just after being born, (iv) within a few days of being born, (v) in infancy, (vi) in youth when the person goes about with arrogance, (vii) in middle or old age. Hence it is difficult to specify the longevity for bhadhdhAthmAs. This is quoted from vishNu purAnam (garbhE vileeyathE bhUyO jAyamAnOsthamEthi cha…..). People, not knowing the uncertainty of their life-span, get excited with sunrise and sunset – at sunrise they feel happy that they are going to earn by working during the day and at sunset they feel happy that they can spend their time with their families, using the money earned during the day. The same meaning was mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNa (nandhanthyudhitha AdhithyE  nandhanthyasthamithE ravow…… – they feel happy when sun rises and they feel happy when the sun sets, but they do not understand that a day has passed [when they haven’t thought of bhagavAn] in their lives). Thus, despite so many uncertainties, if they still live for 100 years by some means or the other…..

pAdhiyum uRangippOgum – half the life is wasted in sleep. This is similar to half a farmer’s produce getting wasted through various means [eaten by insects, rodents, swept away by breeze etc]. AzhwAr feels saddened that half the time, which should have been spent in reciting the divine names of emperumAn, has been wasted in such sleep. lakshmaNa had kept himself awake to carry out kainkaryam to perumAL (SrI rAma) and sIthA. We should have been like that, says AzhwAr. “sathatham kIrththayantha….” (SrI bhagavath gIthA 9.14) – they keep reciting my names always, says krishNa about his devotees.

For the next phrase, there are two versions: one is ninRadhil padhinaiyANdu and the other is ninRa ippadhinaiyANdu. Let us consider both.

ninRadhil padhinaiuANdu – of the remaining part of life, fifteen years are spent as infant and child (when the jIvAthmA is ignorant and is totally dependent on others) and another fifteen years are spent as youth, indulging in worldly pleasures [as youth, the jIvAthmA is expected to know about emperumAn but chooses not to know].

ninRa ippadhinaiyANdu –  here it says that the remaining part of life is ten times 5 years, viz. 50 years. Instead of saying “appadhinaiyANdu” (with some amount of superiority), AzhwAr refers it to as “ippadhinaiyANdu” as he considers it being lowly, as all the planning of the jIvAthmA does not appeal to him.

pEdhai – infant days. This is a stage when the jIvAthmA is not even qualified to recite the divine names of emperumAn. For its needs, good and bad, it is dependent on its mother. This stage could include a part of childhood also.

pAlagan adhAgum pAlagan is childhood stage when it engages in playful acts for which one cannot even get angry with the child. It is not the age when one would get angry with the child for not reciting emperumAn’s divine names.

adhAgum – it is the stage after childhood, when he becomes a youth and starts indulging in worldly pleasures. Now, he accrues knowledge but wastes it totally. It would appear that he was better off as an ignorant child, dependent on his mother, than this stage of youth when his knowledge is wasted on pleasurable ways.

piNi pasi – disease and hunger. Due to his indulgence in wrongful activities, before his youthfulness ends, he is attacked by diseases. He tries to cure these by suitable medication. By then, he gets hungry – the hunger here is of his five senses, each of which demands its needs for satisfying.  Just as nammAzhwAr said in thiruvAimozhi 7.1.10 “aivar thisai thisai valiththeRRuginRanar” (the five senses pull me in different directions) and as thirumangai AzhwAr said in periya thirumozhi 7.7.7 “aivar aRuththuth thinRida anji ninnadaindhEn” (i surrendered to you, in fear, as the five senses are prying and eating me), these five senses keep demanding appeasement. As the disease gets cured, the demands of the five sense increase. In olden days, when a person is in the throes of death, he would gift a golden idol of yama (the dhEvathA for righteousness) so that he can escape death. The person who receives it would know fully well that he would come under yama’s grip, but he still takes it so that he can make money out of it and satisfy his senses. Thus, people would do anything (including hurting others to extract money, working fervently to earn money) to satisfy their senses. But this ultimately leads to illness.

mUppu – old age.  By now, old age settles in. This old age is a terrible thing for all. Even when he is not fit to enjoy the worldly pleasures, he still gets tempted. As thirumangai AzhwAr said in periya thirumozhi 1.3.5, “paNdu kAmarAnavARum” (he was a pleasure-seeker in younger days), he wants to keep talking about his deeds in satisfying the senses in younger days, and satisfy himself in his old age. Around this time, death approaches him like a bolt from the blue (thunbam that we are going to see next, is referred to as death).

thunbam – grief (death). Thus, as he keeps suffering in his old age, death sneaks in on him suddenly. This is most grievous. He loses connection with his friends, relatives, cows (wealth), properties etc. As said in vishNu purANam “bAlye krIdanasakthA:  youwanE vishyAnmukhA: I agyA nayanthyaSakthAScha vArdhakam samupasthitham II” (he indulges in playful acts in childhood, in worldly pleasures as youth, and as he goes about his life without proper knowledge and getting to be an invalid, he is seized by grief and death). Thus, AzhwAr says

AdhalAl piRavi vENdEn – hence I do not want birth. Just as a farmer, who goes to buy a piece of land for cultivation, tells the existing owner of the land that “this much of area is too deep; this much of area is too high; this has lot of sand; there is a stream going in between” and tries to reduce the price of the land drastically, AzhwAr tells emperumAn “of the 100 years that you have given me, I spend 50 in sleep, balance 50 in infancy, childhood, youthful state, disease, hunger, old age etc; hence how can I recite your divine names? Hence I do not want birth”. emperumAn tells AzhwAr, “you said in the first pAsuram that you do not want SrIvaikuNtam and in the second pAsuram, you do not want samsAram. I have only two vibhUthis (properties- nithya vibhUthi or SrIvaikuNtam and leelA vibhUthi or samsAram). Where do I keep you?” AzhwAr responds

aranga mA nagar uLAnE – outside the two vibhUthis, is it so difficult to find a place for me in the third vibhUthi , kOyil? (in our sampradhAyam, kOyil refers to SrIrangam). emperumAn asks AzhwAr, “would not the issues that you had mentioned earlier with infancy, childhood, youthful state etc not trouble you in SrIrangam?” AzhwAr says “even in infancy, for annaprAsanam (first time that solid food is given to the infant), elders will take the infant to kOyil; as child, he will join with other children and follow the procession of selvar (processional idol of emperumAn); as youth, he will go to the temple looking for his lady-love; thus, the child is always connected with the beauty of emperumAn without any break. This will purify the person and remove his attachment to worldly pleasures”. How about old age? He cannot walk to the temple for having dharSan of emperumAn. When this happens, emperumAn (uthsavar) comes out of the temple and gives dharSan to the old person and keeps the connection strong. Even in dreams, it will be emperumAn’s form which will be seen. As mentioned in gAruda purANam about SrIrangam “pavithram paramam puNyam dhESOyam sarva kAMa dhuk” – this dhivyadhESam (holy place) is sacred, will lead the dwellers to a high status [giving them SrIvaikuNtam] and will grant all their noble wishes.

Hence this dhivyadhESam (SrIrangam) possesses all the special features that the AzhwAr desires is the summary for the third pAsuram.

We shall next move on to the 4th pAsuram “moyththa valvinaiyuL”.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – 2 – pachchai mA malai – Part 2

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periyaperumal

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In the earlier part we had seen how thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr enjoyed the whole thirumEni (pachchai mA malai pOl mEni) of emperumAn and certain divine parts of his thirumEni such as “pavaLa vAi” and “kamala chengaN”. He then called him as “achchuthA” to denote that he is unchanging. We shall continue from there.

amararERE – this refers to those who constantly enjoy the above-mentioned beauty of emperumAn (“amarar” here refers to nithyasUris – those who dwell in SrIvaikuNtam always). Even though they constantly keep having dharSan (audience) of bhagavAn, they have not seen the end of that experience – i.e. they have not got full satisfaction of having ‘seen’ him fully. If they are able to have this experience of enjoying him, viz. experiencing him fully, they may not exist anymore. Hence they are called as “amarars” – those without an experiential end. emperumAn is their Lord (ERu – master or Lord). Both rig vEdha and sAma vEdha say “sadhA paSyanthi sUraya:” (the nithyasUris see [experience] him always).

Is it that he is fit to be experienced only by pirAtti (SrI  mahAlakshmi, bhUdhEvi, neeLA dhEvi), vishvaksEnar, thiruvananthan, garudan et al? [vishvaksEnar is head of his army, thiruvananthan is his serpent-bed, garudan is his vAhanam (vehicle) – they are the primary members among his nithyasUris]. No……..he is also experienced by …

Ayar tham kozhundhE – Just as he is the controller of those who are taken as the limiting boundary for all that is great and superior, he is also easily accessible to the cowherds and cows themselves [at the other end of the spectrum]. In other words, while the first quality (guNa) of his is called as “parathvam” (greatness), the second quality (when he is accessible to cows and cowherds) is called as “souSeelyam” (simplicity). Thus by describing his beauty (kamalachchengaN, achchuthA), his greatness (amararERE) and his simplicity (Ayar tham kozhundhE), AzhwAr confirms that the entity who is amidst cows is indeed the paramAthmA [among several auspicious qualities which are exhibited by parmAthmA are soundharyam, parathvam and  souSeelyam- beauty, greatness and simplicity respectively]

ennum – emperumAn asked AzhwAr whether he derived sweetness by looking at his thirumEni (physical form) and thinking of his auspicious qualities. AzhwAr replied that this was not the reason for deriving sweetness; it was by merely pronouncing his divine names that he got the sweetness. The word “ennum” should be added to each of the qualities mentioned earlier such as “pachchai mA malai pOl mEni ennum”, “pavaLa vAi ennum”, “kamalachchengaN ennum”, “achchuthA ennum”, “amararERE ennum” , “Ayar tham kozhundhE ennum” to get the full meaning of the qualities described. It is by saying each of these that AzhwAr derived the sweet taste that he is going to speak of, next.

ichchuvai thavira – leaving aside this elixir. chuvai – elixir. Instead of enjoying this elixir (of reciting his divine names) is there any point in looking for some other taste? AzhwAr tells emperumAn that he has to elucidate about the divine names of emperumAn only because emperumAn has never pronounced them himself [He has only heard them from his followers and not pronounced them himself and hence does not know how sweet they are].

yAn – I, who has a tongue suited to reciting your divine names. Another meaning – I, who does not have the patience to wait for a delay in going to SrIvaikuNtam.

pOi – to go. Instead of enjoying here, at SrIrangam, itself or any dhivyadhEsam close to SrIrangam, you are asking me to go to some place which is so far away, tells AzhwAr.

indhiralOgam – SrIvaikuNtam. The land of one with unlimited wealth. Here the word “indhira” does not refer to the head of swargam, but to emperumAn. Moreover any word that we pronounce ultimately points to SrIman nArAyaNan only, as per vEdhas and hence “indhira” refers to emperumAn only.

ALum – rule. AzhwAr is being invited by emperumAn to do as he pleases at SrIvaikuNtam. He can be the king there. But even then…..

achchuvai – ichchuvai – achchuvai (SrIvaikuNtam) refers to something which is to be learnt through vEdhas only whereas ichchuvai (reciting emperumAn’s divine names) refers to something which is evidently clear to AzhwAr. That has to be heard from someone else whereas this is right in one’s hands.

peRinum vENdEn – even if I get, I will not take it. emperumAn tells Azhwar “now you would say that you don’t want it, because you have not got it. But if you were to get it, you would change your mind”, to which AzhwAr responds, “ why don’t you give it to me? Then you will realise whether I desire it or not”.  This is why AzhwAr says “even if I get it” (peRinum).

Again, AzhwAr says “vENdEn” (don’t want it) instead of saying “uRAdhu” (not superior). If he had said “uRAdhu” he would have belittled the enjoyment of those who are superior (such as nithyasUris, the dwellers of SrIvaikuNtam) who enjoy emperumAn constantly. He would also be rejecting the pramANams (proof or evidence) about the superiority of SrIvaikuNtam. (one proof quoted is from SrIvishNu purANam which says

nirasthAthiSaya AhlAdha sukha bhAvaika lakshaNA I
bhEshajam bhagavathprApthirEkAnthAthyanthikI mathA II

(That which does not have in terms of joy anything superior to it, that which is full of mirth, that which has enjoyment as its identity, that which does not have anything sorrowful, that which is endless – attaining bhagavAn is thought to be the antidote (to samsAram))

If someone says that milk is sour or it is bitter, one can argue with that person. But if the person says that he does not want milk, there is nothing that can be done. AzhwAr says in the same way that he does not want indhira lOgam (SrIvaikuNtam).

Is there anyone who said that he does not want SrIvaikuNtam, asks the vyAkhyAthA, and gives the answer himself that hanuman had refused it when offered by SrI rAma (….bhAvO nAnyathra gachchathi) […my thought will not be with SrIvaikuNtanAthan].

emperumAn asks him, “you are saying that you do not want paramapadham (SrIvaikuNtam). What is the good thing that you have here?

arangamA nagaruLAnE – AzhwAr responds saying “ you have left paramapadham experience and have come down here so that the inferior people (samsAris) can enjoy your beauty (pachchai mA malai pOl mEni, pavaLa vAi,kamalachchengaN) and your simplicity (Ayar tham kozhundhE). Is this not enough for me to stay back here? Moreover, the nithyasUris are coming here to experience the quality that you are displaying here (to allow the inferior samsAris to have your dharshan). So, why do you want to somehow take me there?”

In summary, even paramapadha anubhavam (the enjoyment in SrIvaikuNtam) is not equivalent to enjoying your divine names here. Your divine names are that sweet.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – 2 – pachchai mA malai – Part 1

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

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periyaperumal

avathArikai (Introduction)

In the first pAsuram, AzhwAr spoke about the purity that reciting emperumAn’s divine names gave him and how it made him great (to the extent of keeping his feet on the heads of yama and his followers). In this pAsuram (the 2nd) he speaks about how great the divine names are, as a source of enjoyment. vyAkhyAthA (commentator) asks here as to why AzhwAr had mentioned about the purity that the divine names give in the first pAsuram and how sweet they are and fit for enjoyment in the 2nd pAsuram, and not vice versa? i.e. why did he not say first that they are sweet and fit for enjoyment in the first and how they purified him in the second pAsuram? He himself gives the explanation – if a person were sick, the sickness has to be cured first and only then he can enjoy milk. In the same way, when the fear of yama is there in the mind, one cannot enjoy the sweetness of reciting the divine names. First the fear of yama has to be removed. This is the reason that AzhwAr mentioned about the purity that he obtained by reciting emperumAn’s divine names first and then the joy that he found, in the second. Reciting the divine names will bestow whatever benefit that a prayOjanAnthaparar (one who is engaged in worldly pleasures and pursuits) desires; it will remove the hurdles in the path of a upAyANtharanishtar (one who is attempting to reach emperumAn through means other than prapaththi or surrendering) and purify him; it will provide the means for spending remaining days (like a pastime) for a prapannan (one who has surrendered to emperumAn). This is similar to a pearl diver exchanging his pearl for rice or fruits or such lowly materials; or selling it to a merchant for a price and the merchant who knows its value offering it to the king for a higher price and the king wearing it as on ornament. Thus the same pearl can be sold for a very low value, for a high value or be an ornament adorning the king. This is the case with divine names at the hands of a prayOjanAnthaparar, an upAyAntharanishtar and a prapannan.

The vyAkhyAthA gives another explanation for connecting the first and second pAsurams: emperumAn tells AzhwAr that he has recited his divine names. He would like to present a gift (SrIvaikuNtam) to the AzhwAr. emperumAn says that it is not possible for him not to give that gift to one who has recited his names and it is also not possible for the person to whom he has given the gift, to reject it. So, please accept this gift, says emperumAn. AzhwAr says that the joy of reciting his divine names itself is enough for him and he doesn’t want any other gift to enjoy, as a gift for this.

பச்சைமா மலை போல் மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா அமரரேறே ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான் போய் இந்திரலோகம் ஆளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகருளானே.

pachchaimA malaipOl mEnip pavaLavAik kamalach chengaN
achchuthA amararERE Ayartham kozhundhE ennum
ichchuvai thavira yAnpOy indhiralOgam ALum
achchuvai peRineum vENdEn arangamA nagaruLAnE

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Word-by-word meaning

arangamA nagaruLAnE – Oh emperumAn! who is residing permanently in thiruvarangam for the sake of his servitors
pachchai mA malai pOl mEni – having thirumEni (divine physical form) similar to a huge emerald mountain
pavaLa vAi – having coral like bright, divine,  lips
sem kamala kaN – having divine eyes similar to lotus
achchuthA – one who does not let go of his followers [Oh achyutha!]
amarar ERE – the controller of nithyasUris
Ayar tham kozhundhE – the leader of cow-herds
ennum – like these [as a figure of speech]
ichchuvai thavira – leaving aside this wonderful taste
yAn – I (who takes pleasure in reciting your divine names)
pOy – go far off
indhira lOgam ALum – if I have to rule over SrIvaikuNtam
achchuvai – that enjoyment
peRinum – even if I were to get that
vENdEn – I will not like (that)

vyAkhyAnam (Explanatory Notes)

AzhwAr describes the physical features of emperumAn‘s thirumEni (physical form) and says that he cannot take his eyes off even one angam (part of his thirumEni) and asks emperumAn as to how he expects AzhwAr to leave all these things and go to SrivaikuNtam.

pachchai mA malai pOl mEni emperumAn’s thirumEni is green in colour like a green top mountain and is also special (mA). It is pleasing to the eyes as well as to the heart. Since it is green in colour, it is cool (pleasing) to the eyes and heart. chEthanas (sentient entities) suffer from three types of bodily discomforts, collectively called as thAPathrayam AdhyAthmikam, Adhi dhaivikam and Adhi bhoudhikam – discomfort brought on by the chEthan himself, brought on by God and brought on by other living beings respectively [Example for the first type is fever, stomach ailments etc; for the second, it is cyclone, hot summer etc; for the third trouble from animals, reptiles etc]. emperumAn’s thirumEni would be an antidote to these thApathrayam. Just as ghee solidifies on top of food when the food cools, the auspicious qualities of emperumAn also come out from deep inside and settle on top (of his thirumEni) and exhibit as a green mountain.

When we attempt to reach emperumAn (through bhakthi yOgam, path of meditation), we keep our five senses on his thirumEni so that these senses remain under control and do not wander as they please, allowing us to meditate in bhakthi. His thirumEni is called as subhASrayam (auspicious resting place) for our senses. Once we attain emperumAn and the time comes to reap the fruit of our labour, it is the same thirumEni which is the object of enjoyment [purushArtham or fruit of enjoyment]. This is the reason for qualifying the mountain as special (mA malai).

While mountain was taken as a simile for emperumAn’s thirumEni, it can at best be taken as an equivalent for firmness and growth. There is nothing to enjoy in a mountain unlike emperumAn’s thirumEni or the wondrous nature of his thirumEni with all auspicious qualities.

mEni AzhwAr is not concerned with emperumAn’s svarUpam (basic nature) or auspicious qualities. He sees only the thirumEni of emperumAn, which is full of joy. Just as SrIvishNu purANam says “ichchAgruhIthAbhimathOrudhEha:” emperumAn, who is full of auspicious qualities and who bears the universe through an infinitesimal part of his physical form, exhibits many forms of his physical body as he desires. Similarly, periyAzhwAr says (in periyAzhwAr thirumozhi 4-8-9) that emperumAn lies like heavily laden clouds that cannot take a step further because of their heaviness and rest atop a mountain; he displays himself like a flower in a pond which we can see and admire; at the same time he is like the ocean which we cannot enjoy completely as it is so huge and expansive; and he is like the colour of the peacock’s neck. Peacock is taken as a simile here because we will never tire of seeing a peacock and in the same way we will never tire of having emperumAn’s thirumEni dharSan (vision).

pavaLavAi kamalachchengaN – If emperumAn’s thirumEni is like an ocean, different divine parts of his thirumEni are like the swirling waters in that ocean. Just as we get trapped in the swirling waters, we can be trapped by different divine parts of his thirumEni. AzhwAr first describes his divine lips. The lips are red in colour like coral. Just as a coral-spread would add beauty to an emerald green mountain, his reddish lips add beauty to his green coloured physical form (pachchai mA malai pOl mEni). Another explanation given is that sea, on a full moon day, would be very excited and in its excitement would throw up the waves repeatedly. In the same way, emperumAn, like the sea, looks at his moon-like ASrithars (his followers) who come to have his dharSan and the waves thrown are his lips and his eyes.

kamalachchengaN – For those jIvAthmAs who escaped the trap of the first swirl in the ocean (lips, as seen above) due to their long life, this swirl (the divine eyes) would certainly trap them. What the lips try to speak to, is completed by the eyes. When SrI rAma received vibhIshaNa at the sea-side camp when he came to surrender, he felt sad that he had made him wait for a while till he was able to convince sugrIva and others to allow vibhIshaNa inside. After hearing vibhIshaNa, SrI rAma comforted him with his words and further looked at him softly with his eyes. Thus when words are not sufficient, it is the eyes that come to the rescue to complete the task. The divine eyes of emperumAn bring out the auspicious qualities such as vAthsalyam (motherly love), souSeelyam (simplicity) etc from his heart. While it would have been sufficient to say “kamalakkaN” (lotus-like eyes) why did AzhwAr further qualify it with the word “chengaN”? While lotus would have been a (somewhat inadequate) simile for softness, coolness and sweet smell, how could it bring out the meanings of the auspicious qualities of emperumAn such as his vAthsalyam etc? This is the reason for calling it as sem kaN (chengaN when the two words are joined into one) [“sem” means beautiful].

achchuthA – unchanging. The similes taken earlier (mountain for his thirumEni, coral for his lips and lotus for his eyes) may over a period of time change their form. However when it comes to emperumAn, his divine thirumEni and its components will not change. vyAkhyAthA quotes from SrIvishNu purAnam “…sadhaika rUpa rUpAya” (he is always with the same form which is unchanging at all times). Another explanation given is that AzhwAr is singing mangaLASAsanam (singing praises of emperumAn) by saying that he is always unchanging. A third meaning given is that he does not let go of his followers who get trapped by his divine lips or eyes or thirumEni.

We shall enjoy the remaining portion of this pAsuram in the next part.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – 1 – kAvalil pulanai vaiththu – Part 2

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periyaperumal-art

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We had seen in the previous part as to how AzhwAr feels that he can very well keep his foot on the heads of yama and his followers after learning the divine names of emperumAn and at the same time yama would feel that the purpose of being given a head is to keep it at the feet of one who has learnt the divine names of emperumAn.

Is there any pramANam (proof) to say that yama is looking forward to such a person to keep his head?

vyAkhyAthA periyavAchchAn piLLai quotes from SrIvishNu dharmam and SrIvishNu purANam. In   vishNu dharmam, yama himself says “thasya yagyavarAhasya vishNOramithathEjasa: I      praNamam yEpi kurvanthi thEshAmapi namO nama: II” – I repeatedly salute that person who worships vishNu who is yagyavarAhar, and who has unlimited radiance. In SrIvishNu purANam, yama tells his followers “svapurushamabhivIkshya pASahastham, vadhathi yama: kila thasya karNamUlE | parihara madhusUdhanapprapannAn, prabhurahamanyanruNAm na vaishNavAnAm II” (yama beckons his follower who has the lasso (to take the life of samsAris) in his hand, and tells him softly in his ears “do not go near those who had surrendered to madhusUdhanan; I am lord for all human beings other than SrIvaishNavas”). The same meaning was conveyed in thamizh pAsuram by thirumazhisaippirAn in nAnmugan thiruvandhAdhi pAsuram 68 “thirambEnmin kaNdIr thiruvadi than nAmam……irainjiyum sAdhuvarAip pOdhumingaL enRAn ..”. yama tells his followers to carry out possible kainkaryams to such SrIvaishNavas and leave their presence softly. Thus yama himself is afraid of SrIvaishNavas and ordains his followers too to be wary of them.

While all the samsAris are afraid of yama and his followers, how is this AzhwAr saying that he would walk atop yama and his followers? What is the special feature that he has?  …. wonders periya perumAL. AzhwAr says…..

mUvulagu uNdu umizhndha mudhalvaAzhwAr says – if I am surrendered to a demi-god, I have to be scared of him (yama). But I have surrendered to the one entity who is responsible for the creation of the universe, the one who swallows the universe during deluge, protects it inside his stomach, and spits it out at the appropriate time so that the jIvAthmAs could get out of a crowded space into outer lands (outside his stomach) [and some of them could reach his SrIvaikuNtam by following the SAsthrams laid out by him]. Both during the time of deluge and during the time of creation, both yama and I were together inside your stomach, without any difference between us. And, it was you who ruled over both of us (mudhalva).

emperumAn then asks the AzhwAr, “so, you surrendered to me and hence you got all these benefits, is it?”. AzhwAr responds, “where did I come anywhere near you?

nin nAmam kaRRa Avalippu – It is the strength of learning your divine names; the pride of learning your divine names, says the AzhwAr. But why use the word “nin” while referring to divine names? He would have not got the strength and pride had it been someone else’s names. Hence he emphasises that it his nin (your) names. AzhwAr further says that he is like pure gold and his names are like ornamental gold. The difference is that pure gold, though superior, cannot be converted into ornaments and made to adorn oneself while ornamental gold can be. Hence his divine names are superior to him in that respect, he says. He (emperumAn) protects him during deluge and at the appropriate time, spits him out again. But his divine names protect him from the ocean of samsAram (repeated births) and he doesn’t have to return to the universe again, ever. But why call it as “nAmam” and not “manthram” (such as thirumanthram) which are superior to the other divine names and can deliver a person from samsAram? The reason is that certain qualifications are required to recite “manthram” (such as time of the day (only after taking bath), thraivarNikars – brAhmaNa, kshaththriya, vaiSya – only can recite it etc) while anyone can recite divine names, at any time of the day and get the benefit. When a person trips while walking, he automatically cries out “ammA!”. Recalling mother does not require any conditions to be met like having a bath or sitting facing east etc. Since one is reciting emperumAn’s divine names, these can be recited without observing any formalities. “kaRRa” – learn. Instead of saying “sonna” – told, AzhwAr is using the term “kaRRa” which means that someone else (a guru or teacher) has taught him and he learnt it from him. That teacher is none other than periya perumAL himself. Another explanation given is that he recited the divine names by their mere sound (phoneme) and not after knowing the meanings of those divine names. “Avalippudaimai” – We have seen that Avalaippu means pride.  udaimai would mean possession (such as a house or treasure or any such wealth). “vaiSravaNan” is the dhEvathA (demi-god) for wealth. AzhwAr feels that learning emperumAn’s divine names was equivalent to getting the wealth of vaiSravaNan.

kaNdAiAzhwAr beseeches thiruvarangan to open his eyes and see the pride that he (AzhwAr) has got after learning his divine names. AzhwAr says that there is  no need to give a discourse to emperumAn to know how he has changed after learning his divine names. By merely looking at him, emperumAn will know. He (Azhwar) has imbibed nectar like medicine (the divine names) whereas emperumAn has imbibed the three worlds (only sand and mud and such-like). His face will glow much brighter than that of emperumAn, who has taken only sand.

arangamA nagaruLAnE AzhwAr tells emperumAn “you left SrIvaikuNtam and lay down in an inclined position at thiruvarangam with a desire to see if there would be at least one person who has learnt the divine names. Your desire has been fulfilled (since you are sathyasankalpan – whatever you desire to happen will happen). mAnagar – an emphasis given to SrIrangam, the place where thiruvarangan has taken position. If a king passes an order from his court-hall, even he cannot rescind it. In the same way, AzhwAr says, thiruvarangan has blessed the Azhwar from SrIrangam, and even if he wants, he cannot withdraw his grace. Another explanation given for mAnagar is that it is the place where samsAris will no more argue with emperumAn as to who is bigger, and why samsAri has to carry out kainkaryam to emperumAn.

In summary, there was a person who lived life only by illegal ways, was not fit to approach a gathering of learned people and was ashamed to show his face in an assembly of any four persons.  Such a person suddenly got to know the king of the land. There will be a huge turn in his fortunes. Now he will ignore the gathering of learned persons and approach the king directly, while the learned persons will bow down to him. In a similar way, AzhwAr, who was so scared of yama and his followers, by learning emperumAn’s divine names, obtained the courage to walk atop the heads of yama and his followers. The main characteristic of divine names here is to purify the person who has learnt them.

We shall see how the divine names are also enjoyable (bhOgyam), in the next pAsuram.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – 1 – kAvalil pulanai vaiththu – Part 1

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thondaradippodiazhwar-yama

avathArikai (Introduction)

We (the jIvAthmAs) have been under yamadharmarAja’s control because of the sins that we have committed and are committing. Reciting emperumAn’s  divine names will deliver us from these sins and thus from yamadharmarAja. Hence these divine names purify us. Also, reciting his divine names gives the person who recites it, a special status, such as belonging to a regal heritage (in other words, the person who recites it will be held in high esteem).

pAsuram

காவலில் புலனை வைத்துக் கழிதன்னைக் கடக்கப் பாய்ந்து
நாவலிட்டு உழி தருகின்றோம் நமன்தமர் தலைகள் மீதே
மூவுலகு உண்டு உமிழ்ந்த முதல்வ நின் நாமம் கற்ற
ஆவலிப்பு உடைமை கண்டாய் அரங்கமா நகருளானே

kAvalil pulanai vaiththuk kalithannaik kadakkap pAyndhu
nAvalittu uzhi tharuginROm namanthamar thalaigaL mIdhE
mUvulagu uNdu umizhndha mudhalva nin nAmam kaRRa
Avalippu udaimai kaNdAy arngamA nagaruLAnE

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Word-by-word meanings

mU ulagu – all the worlds
uNdu – (during  the time of deluge or annihilation) keeping in the stomach (and protecting)
umizhndha – (later) brought them out
mudhalva – the entity responsible for the creation of universe
nin nAmam kaRRa – by learning (through AchAryan) your divine names
Avalippu udaimai – due to the sense of pride (of learning the divine names)
pulanai – the five sensory perceptions (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and eating)
kAval il vaiththu – letting the senses wander about without securing them firmly

despite that
kali thannai – all the masses of sins
kadakkap pAyndhu –  get rid off, with all traces
nAvalittu – with a victorious war-cry
naman thamar thalaigaL mIdhE – both atop yama (dhEvathA or demi-god for justice and righteousness) and his  followers
uzhi tharuginROm kaNdAy – we keep walking, see for yourself

vyAkhyAnam (Commentary)

kAvalil pulanai vaiththu – keeping the sensory perceptions free from any control (allowing them to roam around freely without any inhibitions). There are certain disadvantages to this. It will not help in any way in reaping the advantage stated later in the pAsuram (of walking atop yamadharmararAjA’s and his followers’ heads). It will also make the person (who has no control over his senses) to behave like an animal (nrupaSu – an animal in the form of human being). Animals do not have any control over their senses; human beings are expected to have control. But if a person lets his senses loose, he will not be different from an animal. Such a person will not follow what the SAsthras have ordained us to do – do what is permitted and refrain from doing, what is prohibited. How then did such a chEthanan (a jIvAthmA) get the power to walk atop yamadharmarAja? It is the prowess of emperumAn’s thirunAmam (divine names) alone which can elevate the jIvAthmA by removing his dhOshas (faults) and providing him the required resource to walk atop yamadharmarAja.

When a person is stung (or bitten) by a poisonous janthu (creature like a scorpion or snake), there are several restrictions imposed on him to negate the effect of poison. He cannot have oil bath or he cannot eat certain types of foodstuff or he cannot sleep. But if an expert in providing antidote to such poisons tells the person bitten that he need not observe any of these restrictions and that he can lead a normal life, but that his medicine will still be effective, will it not be wondrous? In the same way, reciting the divine names of emperumAn will provide succour to a samsAri bitten by the poison of samsAram.

vaiththu” (kAvalil pulanai vaiththu) – it is not that the jIvAthmA had allowed the senses to wander  without his knowledge; here it means that knowingly he had allowed his senses to do so and indulge in wrongful acts.

kAvalil – “kAval illAdhapadi” – without any control: will this meaning be appropriate when it should really be taken as “keeping the senses under control”? Experts in language will confirm that the meaning – without any control – is superior to the meaning – with control. This is so, because it is like the expert in antidote to poison saying that the person bitten need not follow any restrictions. If restrictions are imposed, it is a normal case. Only when restrictions are withdrawn, will it translate into a superior treatment. It is the same way here.

Now we can consider the meaning of the same phrase (kAvalil pulanai vaiththu) with the second meaning for “kAvalil” – i.e. keeping the senses under control. In this case, this act (of keeping the senses under control) becomes the fruit (end result) of reciting emperumAn’s divine names. This is like the situation in a kingdom when there is no king and everyone breaks the law. When a new king takes over, all the wrong doers are brought under control. Here (in the case of the pAsuram), the divine names are like the new king, the senses are the wrong doers and keeping under control is taking the wrong doers inside the prison cell and correcting their behaviour. A third meaning to this term is that the senses which were wandering in all the improper entities were made to focus on the proper (ordained) entity – emperumAn’s thirumEni (physical form of bhagavAn). This was made possible by reciting his divine names. The vyAkhyAthA (commentator) raises a doubt here – is this possible? And, he himself gives the explanation that this had indeed happened in SrI rAmAyaNam, wherein it is stated that SrI rAma had the ability to conquer the sight and mind of those who laid their eyes on him (dhrushta chiththAya apahAriNam).

kali thannaik kadakkap pAyndhu – Getting rid of all the sins (kali) which are the basis for inability to keep senses under control, with all traces. The term “thannai” would appear to give a special emphasis to kali. The reason for this is – it (kali) is the cause for jIvAthmA getting engaged with worldly matters of enjoyment. After death, it is the cause for suffering in hell. It is also the cause for jIvAthmA for not only not getting engaged with emperumAn, but also showing hatred towards him and it is also the cause for believing that (physical) body is AthmA (dhEhAbhimAnam). It is also the cause for various other wrongful acts of a jIvAthmA. Another explanation given is that the term “thannai” denotes an enemy who was controlling me and ordaining me all along and now I have won over him and to emphasise that, this word has been used.

kadakka – to cross over. To what extent was it crossed over? vyAkhyAthA says that it was to such an extent that all contact with samsAram (materialistic realm) was cut off (making the person like a nithyasUri, as only nithyasUris are the AthmAs who do not have any contact with samsAram). Earlier two meanings were given for kali – one as a collection of sins and another, as an enemy. Now kali is considered as time (period). For this, the meaning of crossing over is that the person is now in krutha yugam (the first yugam) and does not have any connection with kali yugam [he is far removed from kali and hence will not be affected by it].

pAyndhu – How was it (kali) crossed over? Just like thiruvadi (hanuman) crossed the ocean to reach lankA by flying over it, without touching it any way, AzhwAr crossed the ocean of sins without touching any part of it.

“nin nAmam kaRRa” – the fact remains that he had got the power to oppose yama and his followers only because he had learned the divine names of emperumAn. Why then does he state here that he had crossed over the ocean of sins on his own effort? This is because of the nature of the divine names. Despite doing so much, the divine names will stand aside and not take any credit for carrying out the tasks. This is similar to what is usually referred to by our pUrvAchAryars as “irAmadam UttuvAraippOlE” [a son fought with his mother and told her that he will not stay with her anymore and went to a free shelter in the area. At nightfall, the mother knows that her son will be hungry and that he will not get any food in the shelter. She takes food for him, but instead of giving it to him directly, for fear of rejection, she hands the food to the owner of the shelter to feed her son. Hiding herself from the sight of her son, she sees her son eating the food and feels satisfied]. Another explanation is that since the benefit of learning the divine names is his, it is not inappropriate to say that he had crossed over the ocean of sins. Moreover, we should remember that he is still in this realm (samsAram) only, with his body. But he feels as if he has already left this realm and gone to SrIvaikuNtam. That is so because of the special affection that emperumAn has for him.

nAvalittu uzhi tharuginROm – “nAvalO nAval” and “aRaiyO aRai” are slogans raised by the victorious warriors in a war. Here AzhwAr, who was earlier scared of the name yama, with the backing of having learned the divine names, now has the courage to call yama and his consort, and tell them that he is going to walk on top of their heads. yama is the dhEvathA (demigod) who gives punishment for those who have indulged in sins in samsAram. But he is powerless in front of emperumAn’s divine names. This is similar to the situation in kishkinthA where sugrIva, earlier afraid of his elder brother vAli, now goes to his palace and calls him for a fight after befriending SrI rAma. There it was the strength of the bearer of the name (emperumAn). Here it is the strength of the name itself.

uzhitharuginROm – he walks regally in front of yama and his dear ones, without any fear. He tells yama to bring the account book which he maintains (written by yama’s assistant, chithraguptha) for jotting the sins of samsAris so that he can tear them off, with the strength bestowed on him by emperumAn’s divine names. Instead of saying in the singular number (tharuginREn), why is AzhwAr saying it in plural? (tharuginROm). One explanation is that he grows in size as he learns the divine names and since he has become huge now, he feels that he is equivalent to many persons. Another explanation is that he teaches the importance of learning the divine names of emperumAn to others and these people now leave behind their hatred for emperumAn and join him. It was only one hanuman who crossed the ocean in search of sIthAp pirAtti and waged a mini-war in lankA. But all the monkeys in his group felt that they had themselves engaged in the mini-war and hence destroyed the wonderful garden (madhuvanam) of sugrIva out of great joy when they returned to kishkinthA. It is similar to that, here, with only thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr walking atop yama and each of his followers feeling that he himself accomplished this task. It is similar to one person getting to know the king of the land and that person’s relatives enjoying that benefit.

naman thamar thalaigaL mIdhE – Since AzhwAr has got many others to come with him, he feels that one head alone will not be enough for so many people to walk on and hence calls yama’s supporters too. When people in this world commit sins, they will name their children after yama and his assistant chithraguptha and offer salutations to them so that the real yama will be pleased. But now, having learned the divine names, AzhwAr feels that he can very well keep his foot on their heads. However, yama would feel that the purpose of being given a head is to keep it at the feet of one who has learned the divine names of emperumAn. This may sound strange. Is there any pramANam (proof) for this?

We shall see the remaining portion of this pAsuram in the next part.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – avathArikai (Introduction) – Part 2

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periyaperumal-art-2

In the previous part of avathArikai, we saw how the jIvAthmA keeps taking births repeatedly through the process of panchAgni vidhyA and how emperumAn helps the jIvAthmA in getting out of this cycle. We saw towards the end that emperumAn shows another way to jIvAthmA to get rid of his sins – by learning his divine names.

What is the pramANam for this? [pramANam is proof taken from SAsthras or similar widely accepted works, accepted by our pUrvAchAryas or preceptors] In SrIvishNu sahasranAmam, yudhishtra asks of bhIshmAchArya, “kim japan muchyathE janthur janma samsAra bhandhanAth?” (by reciting what, does a chEthana (or jIvAthmA) get out of the strong bonds of repeated births and samsAram?) This query is made at the beginning of the chapter of SrIvishNu sahasranAma. The answer is given at the end, in the SlOka “vAsudhEvASrayO marthyA vAsudhEva parAyaNa: sarva pApa viSudhdhAthma yAthi brahma sanAthanam” (by taking refuge under vAsudhEva and by accepting vAsudhEva as the path and the fruit of servitude, a jIvAthmA gets rid of all sins and attains bhagavAn, who is there from time immemorial). The question has been raised in the beginning and the answer is given at the end. In between the two, are the thousand names of vishNu, confirming the benefit of reciting bhagavAn’s divine names. Since thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr is fully immersed in reciting the divine names of bhagavAn, he extols the virtues of bhagavAn’s divine names in this thirumAlai.

vishNu dharmam is the basis for his deep attachment to bhagavAn’s divine names. How did this vishNu dharmam come about? Who spoke about it? Who heard it? For finding answers to these queries we should go to a few generations after pANdavas. There was a king in that dynasty called “SathAnIka”. Since he came in the lineage which was blessed by emperumAn, he was full of sathva (pure good) qualities. While he ensured that the mighty did not trouble the less-abled, he was worried that he had not done anything for his citizenry for their journey after life. He approached “SrI Saunaka bhagavAn” (a famous rishi or sage) and asked him, “my people are looking after their physical needs very well. Could your highness show a way for their welfare after this life?”. SrI Saunaka bhagavAn replied that “this is kali kAlam (the era of kali, the 4th yugam among the chathur yugam (chathur (four) yugams are krutha, thrEthA, dhvApara and kali). In this yugam, the life expectancy is the least among the 4 yugams; thus the time for learning SAsthras comes down. Efforts put in are also lowest. Intelligence levels are also low. The people are surrounded by sins all through. Their only salvation is reciting bhagavAn’s divine names”. Now we know that vishNu dharmam came about a few centuries after start of kali yugam. Sri Saunaka bhagavAn recited it and “SathAnIkan” heard it.

In a similar vein, here the one who recited is thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr. The one who heard it is periya perumAL (SrI rangaNathan at SrIrangam). Just as it was vishNu dharmam there, it is thirumAlai here. There it was agyAna praSnam (the one who heard it was ignorant, i.e. SathAnIkan). Here it is gyAna praSnam (periya perumAL who heard thirumAlai is omniscient, the all-knowing emperumAn). One may ask, why should the omniscient emperumAn listen to something which he knows already? The answer is “kim mrushtam sutha vachnam” (when asked of a mother, “which is the sweetest?” her response would be “my child speaking”). In the same way, bhagavAn listens to his child (AzhwAr) reciting his names with overflowing joy.

Apart from the distinction of periya perumAL himself listening to his pAsurams, there are other distinctions too to this AzhwAr. There are quite a few areas in which his work is superior – a) compared to the vEdhas which highlight bhagavadh vishayam (important aspects of bhagavAn), b) compared to the upabruhmaNam of rishis (works which were composed to explain vEdhas such as ithihAsas and purANas) and c) compared to the works of other AzhwArs. For the first, the example quoted is from thaithriya upanishath, brughuvalli (yathO vA imAni bhUthAni jAyanthE…) where the name of the bhagavAn has not been given at all. Why this example was taken was due to this (from atharva Sikhai) “kAraNanthu dhEya:” – meditate on the one who is the reason. Reason for what? was asked, and the first verse was given. Finally in mahOpanishath, it is said, EkO ha vai nArAyaNa ASIth (only nArAyAna was there during deluge; neither brahmA nor Siva). Thus vEdham showed who is the bhagavAn in a circuitous way. rishis, explaining bhagavAn, said “ajAyamanO bahudhA vijAyathE” (purusha sUktham) – he does not have any birth, has several births. Among the rishis, SrI vAlmmIki bhagavAn was fully engrossed in SrI rAmAvathAram; SrI paraSara bhagavAn was engrossed in krishNavathAram. SrI Saunaka bhagavAn was engrossed in archAvathAram. If one considers the AzhwArs, the first three AzhwArs were attracted to parathvam (paravAsudhEvan – SrIvaikuNtanAthan), the supreme state among the five states of bhagavAn. At the same time, they also glorified his simplicity as thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn in thirumalai. nammAzhwAr and periyAzhwAr were deeply immersed in krishNAvathAram. thirumangai AzhwAr went to many dhivyadhEsams to sing glories of emperumAn in those dhivya dhEsams. But this AzhwAr (thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr) did not know of any emperumAn other than SriranganAthan, among archAvathAra emperumAns. This is what distinguished this AzhwAr from other AzhwArs.

In what way is SrIrangam different from and superior to all the other dhivya dhEsams? Even though river kAvEri flows in many places, it has a special significance at ammAmaNdapa padiththuRai (a ghat near the temple where devotees get down for a holy dip in the river) at SrIrangam from time immemorial. In the same way, compared to the aruLichcheyal (dhivya prabhandham) works of other AzhwArs, this pranbhandham of thoNdardippodi AzhwAr is much different. In what way? In thiruvAimozhi 6.9.1, nammAzhwAr says (of bhagavAn), “nIrAy nilanAy thIyAy kAlAy neduvAnAy, sIrAr sudargaL iraNdAy sivanAy ayanAnAy”, in which he equates achith (insentient) entities such as water, earth, fire, wind and ether as well as chith entities such as Sivan and ayan (brahmA) with emperumAn. That emperumAn is superior to all these achith and chith entities has to be established through SarIrAthma nibhandhana sAmAnAdhikaraNam [his anthyAmithvam (residing inside the achith and chith entities through his all-pervading nature)]. Similarly in thiruvAimozhi 10.10.1, “muniyE nAnmuganE mukkaNNappA”  nammAzhwAr would appear to equate the other two dhEvathAs (demi-gods) – Siva and brahmA with SrIman nArAyaNan, but here again, it has been established that emperumAn is antharyAmi to the other two and is thus superior to them. In such cases, other AzhwArs have not categorically stated in  all their works at all places the superiority of emperumAn and have given room for different interpretations. There is no such shortcoming in the works of this AzhwAr. While vEdham as well as the works of all AzhwArs are like the ocean (in terms of the depth of knowledge that they impart), since the water is very clear one can see the sea-bed  in the work of this AzhwAr [one can get clear meanings in the work of this AzhwAr]. The simile here is to the choice of words used by this AzhwAr and other AzhwArs. thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr has used such apt words in his thirumAlai pAsurams that there is no way in which anyone can interpret it in a different way whereas this is not the case with the other AzhwArs’ pAsurams. The words are simple enough yet they carry lot of meanings in thirumAlai. praNavam (in ashtAkshara mahAmanthram) which has only three letters but meanings of that are heavily laden or mahAbhAratham which has 1,25,000 verses but inner meanings of that are difficult to decipher. thirumAlai does not suffer from such shortcomings. It is not too short like the three letter praNava manthram nor is it too long like mahAbhAratham. It has only 45 pAsurams.  Also, unlike those two, meanings of which are difficult to learn, its meanings are very clear and easily comprehensible. Thus compared to other works (vEdhams, works of other AzhwArs etc), this work of thoNdadippodi AzhwAr is very distinguished.

There is a particular order in the way the pAsurams have been composed by AzhwAr. In the first three pAsurams, he enjoys reciting the names of emperumAn (sva-anubhavam). In the next 11 pAsurams (from 4th to 14th) he shares with others what he had learnt (this is called as parOpadhESam – telling others). But the samsAris were immersed in their own deeds and did not pay heed to him. He then thought of the all the good deeds that bhagavAn had done for him, and composed these in the next 10 pAsurams (15 to 24). This is called as acknowledging upakAra paramparai (the favours done by bhagavAn). From the 25th to the 34th, he confessed that he does not have any good qualities in him and also all the vices in him (this is a must when surrendering to bhagavAn –called as Akinchanyam,  we must admit our dhOshams (vices) and absence of guNams (good qualities)). From 35th to 37th pAsurams, he lamented about his lowly nature (naichyAnusandhAnam). bhagavAn thought that even the only AthmA who would come to him is now trying to leave him. Worried about this, he told AzhwAr about the incidents that happened during his avathArams (incarnations) and told AzhwAr not to leave him. AzhwAr gained confidence after this and surrendered to bhagavAn in the 38th pAsuram, by bringing in the meanings of dhvaya mahAmanthram (the two lines that are recited at the time of surrendering to emperumAn). From 39th to 44th pAsuram, he extols the virtues of those who had surrendered to bhagavAn. In the 45th pAsuram he gives out the benefit for those who sing these pAsurams and completes thirumAlai.

This brings us to the end of avathArikai. Let us proceed to the first pAsuram, “kAvalil pulanai vaiththu….” in the next article.

periya pirAttiyAr periya perumAL thiruvadigaLE SaraNam
thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr thiruvadigaLE SaraNam
periyavAchchAn piLLai thiruvadigaLE Saranam

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – avathArikai (Introduction) – Part 1

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periyavAchchAn piLLai, the vyAkhyAthA (commentator) for thirumAlai, has written a very detailed avathArikai for it. It is a fairly lengthy one and we shall see it in two parts.

emperumAn SrIman nArAyaNan is the purushArtham (ultimate goal) for all AthmAs, whether they are in nithya vibhUthi (SrIvaikuNtam or spiritual realm) or in leelA vibhUthi (samsAram or materialistic realm). The nithyasUris (those who are in nithya vibhUthi) know this fully well and enjoy emperumAn. samsAris (those who are in materialistic realm), on the other hand, mistake physical body for AthmA and spend their time in satisfying its needs by feeding on sensory perceptions. This goes on from time immemorial. thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr, before he became AzhwAr, was in such a frame of mind. emperumAn, desiring to bring  the AzhwAr into his fold, mercifully shows the greatness of his thirunAmam (exalted name). His thirunAmam, in turn, explains the features of his svarUpam (basic nature), rUpam (his thirumEni or exalted physical form), guNam (his auspicious qualities) and his vibhUthi (his wealth). AzhwAr immerses himself in the greatness of emperumAn’s thirunAmam in the first 3 pAsurams (hymns) of thirumAlai . In the next 11 pAsurams, he shows this greatness to all the samsAris (people like us) so that they could also move away from samsAram and move towards the path to liberation. Finally he makes emperumAn himself very pleased, in the 45th (final) pAsuram.

[periyavAchchAn piLLai next writes about samsAram and who a samsAri is. When we read it, we would start wondering whether we should stay in this samsAram any more. Even if it is not possible to leave it immediately, as we age (grow old), we should at least show some sense of detestation towards it; otherwise, all the works of AzhwArs, SAsthras, purANas, ithihAsas, upanishadhs etc will go waste. We should read this wonderful avathArikai of periyavAchchAn piLLai every few months, to affirm to ourselves that we will not indulge in worldly pursuits ad infinitum.]

SamsAris earn pApa and puNya in this materialistic realm by carrying out various deeds (one earns a puNya when he/she does what is prescribed in SAsthras and avoiding what is forbidden by it; he/she earns pApa by doing what is forbidden by SAsthras and not doing what is prescribed). They then reach naraka or swarga (hell or heaven) to get rid of the accumulated pApa or puNya and return to leelA vibhUthi (materialistic realm) in another form, repeatedly. SAsthra describes this journey of Athma in panchAgni vidhyA prakaraNa (chapter called panchAgni vidhyA) in chAndhOgya upanishath.

After getting rid of pApa in naraka (hell) and puNya in swarga (heaven), the AthmA is thrown into ethereal layers (vettaveLi, in thamizh) where it takes a subtle form. Sun, with his warm rays, melts the snow atop himavAn (himAlaya mountains) and converts it into moisture laden cloud and enables the AthmA to enter the cloud. At the appropriate time, the moisture laden cloud opens out as rain drops and falls on land, with the AthmA. Thus AthmA reaches land with rain water. The rain water flows into the fields to help paddy crops. AthmA enters paddy grain (paddy is taken as an example here; AthmA could enter wheat or pulses or vegetables or any other material equally). At the right time, when the paddy grains mature, the farmer harvests the field and the AthmA with the paddy (or any other grain or vegetable) enters a house where the grain is cooked as food. That food eaten by a male, carries the AthmA into the reproductory organ of the male. At the appropriate time the AthmA enters a female’s womb and takes a form there. Now the AthmA is called as “purusha” as he takes a human form. Not every AthmA which was thrown out from hell or heaven will enter a womb of a female and become “purusha”. There are a number of obstacles to it as it could fall into the sea instead of land. On land, it could fall in a forest, enter the fruit of a forest tree which could be eaten by insect or bird or animals. Even if it enters a grain [as we had seen earlier], the grain may fall on the floor at the time of cooking, by mistake, instead of into the cooking pot. Thus, based  on emperumAn’s will, the AthmA could turn out to be a “purusha”. Inside the mother’s womb, the AthmA suffers due to the eating habits of the mother. If she takes excessive salt or spicy food or sweet or sour materials, the AthmA suffers the effects of all these materials as they reach the “purusha” through the umbilical cord. He feels as if he is inside a pot containing molten lead when he is inside the womb. As the foetus grows inside the womb, it  is unable even to stretch its limbs freely and grows in a crouched form. Around the 7th month inside the womb, the AthmA prays to bhagavAn to spare him all these troubles and to grant him mOksham. But bhagavAn sends a type of vAyu (gas) called “Satam” which presses against the foetus’ bones and makes it ignorant completely (ignorance of SAsthra, hence of bhagavAn) and comes out of the womb, with lot of pain, upside down (head first and legs finally), the same way he was pushed out of hell or heaven in the first instance.

Once he is born, as an infant, he cannot even look after his needs and is dependent on others for cleaning him, feeding him, moving him etc. He cannot scratch himself if it itches. As time passes by, he starts looking after himself. Till the age of 15, he spends time playing and not thinking about bhagavAn. After that, as a youth, he starts engaging in worldly pleasures, still not thinking of bhagavAn. He gets married, gets children and struggles for their welfare. By the time he realises that he has spent the better part of his time in worldly pursuits only and has not bothered to do anything for his after-life, old age sets in. His mind is now turned towards bhagavAn, but physically he is unable to do any kainkaryam (service) for bhagavAn. At young age, the body was willing, but the mind wasn’t and at old age, it is the reverse. Death catches up with him at last and the cycle repeats itself with journey to hell or heaven and back to panchAgni vidhyA states that we have seen earlier. Thus he comes out of his mother’s womb in pain and leaves the world in pain, to suffer in hell.

Looking at this continuous suffering of the jIvAthmA, emperumAn taking pity on him, and being a suhruth (good at heart) gave the jIvAthmAs,  SAsthram which is like a bright lamp in the darkness of samsAram. In SAsthram (SvEthASvara upanishath), he explains the three thathvams (entities) namely chith (sentient entity), achith (insentient entity) and ISwara (bhagavAn himself) so that jIvAthmAs can learn the difference between the body and the inner residing soul and about paramAthmA. Further bhagavAn explained in antharyAmi brAhmaNam (subhAlOpanishath) that paramAthmA pervades all jIvAthmAs and that he is apahathapApmA (not touched by sins or virtues (pApa/puNya)) of the jIvAthmAs, the only Lord and that he is nArAyaNa. jIvAthmAs should forget about enjoying achith and take efforts to reach ISwara so that they can finally come out of the vicious cycles of birth and death.  This was similar to giving vision to a person blind from birth and lighting a lamp in a dark room. He showed that both chith and achith are his servitors; that he is the soul and the other two are like his body. In muNdakOpanishath he showed that it is due to karma only that chith is bound to achith and that if he gets rid of karma (getting rid of pApa and puNya) completely, he will reach SrIvaikuNtam and enjoy paramAthmA in ways similar to how nithyasUris (permanent dwellers of SrIvaikuNtam such as viSvaksEnar, ananthAzhwAn, garudan et al) are enjoying him there.

But the jIvAthmAs, instead of leading their lives as stated by SAsthram (vEdham) and reaching bhagavAn, either did not accept vEdham (vEdha bAhyar) or interpreted vEdham wrongly (vEdha kudhrushti). bhagavAn then decided to take incarnations as one among jIvAthmAs so that they will rectify their wrong doings at least after seeing him. However, this did not happen and he had to only fight people such as hiraNyAksha, rAvaNa et al. Before he could get one vibhIshNa, there were lakhs of rAkshasa who were bent on opposing him. Same was the case with one vidhura. However, just as the owner will not let go of his possession, bhagavAn could not give up his attempts at correcting the jIvAthmAs.

bhagavAn, through his goodwill, creates a change of heart in the jIvAthmA, as a result of which he blesses him. This in turn makes the jIvAthmA not to oppose bhagavAn, leading to further grace from bhagavAn. Now the jIvAthmA goes towards bhagavAn. He gets interested in SAsthras and with his AchArya’s (guru or teacher) upadhESam (instructions about bhagavAn), the jIvAthmA realises that bhagavAn is the supreme master and that he is a totally dependent servitor to bhagavAn. Once he realises that he is a servitor, he understands that bhagavAn is the purushArtham (ultimate goal) for him and that he should reach bhagavAn, as that becomes his svarUpam (basic nature). Then he gets the desire to find a way to reach bhagavAn. SAsthram tells us that one can reach bhagavAn through karma yOgam, gyAna yOgam and bhakthi yOgam (thorugh deeds, knowledge and devotion to bhagavAn, respectively). But he realises that these are difficult paths for reaching bhagavAn as any shortcoming while observing these could lead to further delay in attaining the goal. Due to these reasons, bhagavAn shows the way through upanishaths (the end part of vEdham) to reach him by surrendering to him.

The first one (through karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgam) is called as sAdhyOpAyam (where we have to take effort to reach bhagavAn) and the second one, where we reach bhagavAn through bhagavAn himself, is called sidhdhOpAyam (readily available path). This path (surrendering or prapaththi as it is called) has one important requirement. The prapannan (one who carries out prapaththi) should have unshakeable faith that bhagavAn would free him from samsAram (materialistic world) and would take him to SrIvaikuNtam and that we need not take any effort. This is called as mahAviSvAsam (deep faith). It is not easy to get this mahAviSvAsam [because we feel that we do not have to take any efforts and bhagavAn himself would take us at the appropriate time].

Hence for such jIvAthmAs, bhagavAn shows another way. This is called as thirunAma sankIrthanam (singing the divine names of bhagavAn). This will not take us to mOksham directly, but will create the mahAviSvAsam when surrendering later to bhagavAn. Thus reciting bhagavAn’s divine names will enable us to get rid of our sins and induce us into either karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams or induce us into prapraththi (surrendering to bhagavAn) with the mahAviSvAsam required for it or it will by itself be a goal for us to recite it. i.e. instead of looking for a path by singing bhagavAn nAmams (the divine names of bhagavAn), singing his name itself will be the purushArtham (goal) for us.

We shall see the remainder of avathArikai in the next part.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – thaniyan

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Mandangudi Thondaradipodi Azhwar-003

The thaniyan for thirumAlai has been composed by thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar, a disciple of ALavandhAr and one of the five AchAryas (teachers) of rAmAnujar.

maRRonRum vENdA manamE mathiLarangar
kaRRinam mEyththa kazhaliNaikkIzh – uRRa
thirumAlai pAdum sIrth thoNdaradip podi em
perumAnai eppozhudhum pEsu

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Word-by-word meanings

manamE – Oh! my mind!

mathiL arangar – the one who is residing in thiruvarangam (SrIrangam) with seven prAkArams (circumambulations)

kaRRinam (kanRu+inam) – herds of cattle

mEyththa – emperumAn who grazed the cattle

kazhal iNai kIzh – under the two exalted feet

uRRa – one who has deep devotion

sIr – and with auspicious qualities

thoNdaradippodi – and who goes by the name of thoNdaradippodi

em perumAnai – our swAmi (lord)

eppozhudhum – at all times

pEsu – keep talking about

maRRu onRum –  other purushArththam (goal)

vEndA – is not needed

Concise meaning:

thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar instructs his mind to keep talking about thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr all the time. “Why should I?” asks the mind. araiyar says that this AzhwAr, who has composed thirumAlai,  is bestowed with auspicious qualities. And what he is doing with these qualities? He is completely devoted to the two exalted feet of thiruvarangan. And who is thiruvarangan? He takes supreme pleasure in looking after cattle, when he assumed the incarnation of krishNa. Do not look for any other benefit, the araiyar tells his mind.

vyAkhyAnam (Explanatory note):

The vyAkhyAnam for this thaniyan has been written by piLLai lOkam jIyar. Let us enjoy the vyAkhyAnam:

maRRonRum vENdA manamE – what is thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar indicating by the word “maRRonRu”? Is it other dEvathAs (celestial beings) such as Siva, brahma, indhra? No, he is not referring to these people. araiyar tells his mind not to speak even about the five states of emperumAn (para, vyUha, vibhava, antharyAmi and archai). Another meaning is: do not recite the names of emperumAn (thirunAma sankIrththanam – singing the revered names of emperumAn). He tells his mind not to consider what is likeable and what is good. Here “likeable” refers to carrying out kainkaryam (service) to bhagavAn and “good” refers to reciting bhagavAn’s revered names. Reciting bhagavAn’s names and carrying out kainkaryam to bhagavAn are considered as being in prathama parva nishtai (being in the primary stage of devotion) while doing the same to bhagavAn’s devotee (bhAgavatha) is considered as being in charama parva nishtai (being in ultimate stage of devotion). araiyar, by inference, is in the ultimate stage of devotion.

manamE – the mind is the cause for both attachment (to worldly matters) and liberation from the same. araiyar tells his mind to discard being attached and enjoy being liberated. How do I do this, asks his mind….

mathiLarangar – thiruvarangar who is residing inside the temple whose compound wall was built by thirumangai AzhwAr.

kaRRinam mEyththa kazhaliNaikkIzh uRRa thirumAlai pAdum – araiyar says that thiruvaranganAthan (SrI ranganAthan – the lord of SrIrangam) grazed cattle. But it was krishNa who did this. When did thiruvarangan look after cattle? In thirumAlai, thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr refers to thiruvarangan as kaNNan (another name of krishNa) in the beginning (9th pAsuram), in the middle (36th pAsuram) and in the end (45th pAsuram).  Since he has referred to thiruvarangan as kaNNan  at these three places, one can emphatically state that thiruvarangan is indeed kaNNan.

kazhal iNaik kIzh – here the reference to the thiruvadi (exalted feet) of thiruvarangan is to be taken as representative of his thirumEni (entire physical form).

kazhal iNaik kIzh uRRa thirumAlai pAdum – thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr devotedly engages with the exalted feet of emperumAn, who, as krishNa, had taken care of cattle while grazing with the same feet that the AzhwAr is now worshipping. AzhwAr decides to decorate such exalted feet b y stringing a garland of hymns (thirumAlai), similar to what nammAzhwAr had said in thiruvAimozhi 2.4.11 (adi sUttal Agum andhAmam – the exalted feet should be decorated with beautiful flowers).

pAdum sIr – singing (composing hymns) is thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr’s SrI (wealth) or kainkaryam.

sIrth thoNdaradippodi – being thoNdardippodi is his sIr (wealth), as he himself states in the 45th pAsuram (thuLabath thoNdAya sIrth thoNdaradippodI – thoNdaradippodi for whom carrying out stringing of flowers is kainkaryam )

thoNdaradippodi emperumAnai – for thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr, namperumAL (thiruvaranganAthan) is emperumAn. For thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar (who composed the thaniyan), AzhwAr himself is emperumAn. Is it apt to refer to AzhwAr as emperumAn? It is certainly correct as we should consider someone, who considered emperumAn as everything to him, as emperumAn. Moreover, for SrIvaishNavas, one who is SEshan (servitor) to emperumAn is the nAthan (lord) and hence thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar refers to AzhwAr as emperumAn. About such a swAmi…..

eppOdhum pEsu – Oh! my mind! Keep talking about him at all times. Mind asks “why should I talk about him all the time?”. This is because it is said in prapanchasAram, “gurOrnAma sadhA japEth” – keep reciting guru’s (AchAryan’s or teacher’s) name all the time.

We shall move on to the vyAkhyAnam of periyavAchchAn piLLai in the next article.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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thirumAlai – Audio

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thirumAlai

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periyaperumal-art-3SrIranganAthan

thondaradipodi-azhwar-mandangudithoNdarippodi AzhwAr

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The 45 divine hymns of thirumAlai were composed by thoNdarippodi AzhwAr. As his name suggests, he called himself as the dust on the feet of bhagavAn’s servants. He took greater effort in serving bhagavAn’s servants than bhagavAn himself. This is called as being in charama parva nishtai (in the ultimate state). Such was his greatness. He composed two works, thirumAlai and thiruppaLLiyezhuchchi, dedicating both to SrI ranganAthan of SrIrangam. In thirumAlai, periya perumAL (SrI ranganAthan) awakened AzhwAr to realise his SEshathva gyAnam (being a servitor to bhagavAn) and to carry out kainkaryam to bhagavAn. In thiruppaLLiyezhuchchi, AzhwAr awakened periya perumAL from his sleep to bless his devotees. Let us briefly look at the history of the AzhwAr.

He was born as vipranArAyaNan in a brahmaNa family, 289 years after the start of kali yugam, in the year ‘prabhava’, in the month of mArgazhi (dhanur mAsam), in the star kEttai (jyEshtA nakshathram), on chathurdhasi of krishNa paksha, on a mangaLa vAram (Tuesday), in a village called thirumaNdangudi, near kumbakONam, in chOla dhESam. He is considered as an amsam (an incarnation) of the vanamAlai (divine garland) on SrIman nArAyaNan. Right from his young age he was not interested in worldly matters. He decided to remain a steadfast brahmachchAri (celibate bachelor), and carry out kainkaryam to emperumAn. He set up a garden near SrIrangam and cultivated plants that gave fragrant flowers. He strung these flowers into wonderful garlands and adorned the thirumEni (physical body) of thiruvarangan (SrI ranganAthan).

One day while he was busy in his garden, two courtesans from thirukkarambanUr (a nearby dhivya dhESam) walked past him. One was dhEvadhEvi, a very beautiful damsel, and the other, her elder sister. vipranArAyaNan was engaged in his garden work and did not take notice of the courtesans. dhEvadhEvi was surprised that there could be a man who did not look at her beauty and admire her. She asked her elder sister the reason for this and the elder sister replied that he serves bhagavAn fully and is not interested in worldly matters. dhEvadhEvi took a wager with her elder sister saying that she will make him attracted to her beauty and be beholden to her and if she succeeds in this, her elder sister should serve dhEvadhEvi for 6 months and if she fails, she will work as a servant of her elder sister for 6 months. They then proceeded to their place.

After a few days, dhEvadhEvi returned to vipranArAyaNan’s garden and requested him to allow her to help him in his kainkaryam. Initially he refused but later relented when she said that if he doesn’t take her under his fold, her mother will force her to engage in their family hereditary profession. He told her to stay in a different hut inside the garden and to help him in watering the plants and stringing the flowers.

One day, due to emperumAn’s thiruvuLLam (will), the two got drawn to each other and she moved with him into his hut. After a few days of staying with him, dhEvadhEvi, having conquered him and won her wager with her sister, left him and returned to her village, thirukkarambanUr. vipranArAyaNan, unable to bear her separation, went to her house. But dhEvadhEvi’s maid servant asked him to leave as he was without any monetary wealth. vipranArAyaNan stayed in the threshold of her house and slept there. emperumAn, desirous of bringing AzhwAr into his fold, assumed the form of a young boy, took one of the vattils (golden vessels) used in his thiruvArAdhanam (daily pUjA) to dhEvadhEvi’s house and gave it to her saying that his master, vipranArAyaNan, had asked him to hand it over to her. Delighted at seeing the expensive gift, dhEvadhEvi invited vipranArAyaNan into her house, and he followed her, not knowing what had happened.

The next day, when the temple bhattar (priest) opened the sannidhi inside the temple, he found that one of the golden vattils was missing and reported the matter to the king. The king ordered the employees to be brought to the court for questioning. One of them was dhEvadhEvi’s maid-servant’s acquaintance. Seeing all these events happening, she informed the king that the golden vattil is in her employer’s house. After getting to know that it was vipranArAyaNan who had gifted it to her, the king imprisoned vipranArAyaNan. Deciding to put an end to all the sordid drama, emperumAn appeared in the dream of the king that night and ordered him to release vipranArAyaNan forthwith, briefly telling the king about vipranArAyaNan, his dedication to him and his deeds-to-come for the benefit of the whole mankind. The next morning, the king duly complied with emperumAn’s order and released vipranArAyaNan, and honoured him in the court. vipranArAyaNan realised his folly in giving into carnal desires and decided to spend the rest of his life in emperumAn’s kainkaryam.

He changed his name to thoNdaradippodi and composed two major works on thiruvaranganAthan. The first is thirumAlai, consisting of 45 hymns and the second, thiruppaLLiyezhuchchi, consisting of 10 hymns. He is the only AzhwAr, among the 10  AzhwArs who sang pAsurams (hymns) only on thiruvaranganAthan and not on any other dhivyadhESa emperumAn. It is said of his “thirumAlai” that one who does not know thirumAlai (his hymns) will not know thirumAl himself (emperumAn, who is the consort of SrI mahAlakshmi).

periyavachan-pillaiperiyavAchchAn piLLai

The deep, inner meanings of thirumAlai would not have been known to us but for the commentary of periyavAchchAn piLLai, a famous preceptor and Sishya (disciple) of nampiLLai. He has written an extensive commentary on these 45 hymns of thirumAlai and this translation is based on periyavAchchAn piLLai’s vyAkhyAnam (commentary).

Before going into the vyAkhyAnam, let us first see the thaniyan for thirumAlai. thaniyan is a short verse giving specific information about the author of the particular work, what it says and who it talks about.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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