thirumAlai – 6 – maRam suvar

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avathArikai (Introduction

samsAris told AzhwAr that even though sensual pleasures have faults such as being lowly and being transient, we will not give them up. Even if we cannot enjoy total satisfaction in any one sensual pleasure, since there are so many of them we can get satisfaction in one or other of these pleasures and what we missed in one, we shall make up in the other. Azhwar responded saying that for enjoying these pleasures, the person who enjoys (samsAri) should be permanent. But even he has limited life and he is as short-lived as these sensual pleasures are. He goes on to paint a picture of the samsAri’s transient state in this pAsuram. First let us enjoy the pAsuram:

மரம் சுவர் மதிள் எடுத்து மறுமைக்கே வெறுமை பூண்டு
புறம் சுவர் ஓட்டை மாடம் புரளும்போது அறிய மாட்டீர்
அறம் சுவராகி நின்ற அரங்கனார்க்கு ஆட்செய்யாதே
புறம் சுவர் கோலம் செய்து புள் கவ்வக் கிடக்கின்றீரே

maRam suvar madhiL eduththu maRumaikkE veRumai pUNdu
puRam suvar Ottai mAdam puraLumbOdhu aRiya mAttIr
aRam suvarAgi ninRa aranganArkku AtseyyAdhE
puRam suvar kOlam seydhu puL kavvak kidakkinRIRE


Meanings of words

maRam suvar – wall of cruelty as nature [speaking or acting in a cruel way]
madhiL eduththu – raise as protective wall
maRumaikkE – for benefits in the other world
veRyumai pUNdu – take on poverty
puRam suvar – as outside wall
Ottai – to be destroyed
mAdam – this [physical] body
puraLumbOdhu – the time when the body falls on to the ground
aRiya mAttIr – you will not know
aRam suvar Agi ninRa – one who is standing with dharmam (righteousness) as wall
aranganArkku – to SrI ranganAthan
AL seyyAdhE – instead of being a servitor
puRam suvar – this body which is like the outer wall
kOlam seydhu – decorate this body
puL kavva – being pecked by vultures
kidakkinRIRE – lying down, wasted


maRam suvar  madhiLeduththu –  samsAris construct a protective wall with their cruel thoughts, cruel words and cruel action. Cruelty is the only “auspicious” quality that they have, it appears to AzhwAr.

maRam – without mercy; being angry; being proud are the meanings of the word maRam. If good people look at a cruel person and think, “Oh! Why he is always so angry? He is inviting problems” and want to correct him, they cannot even approach him because of his deep anger which he has spread out as a protective wall around himself. When mArIchan, mAlyavAn, kumbhakarNan and SrI vibhIshaNAzhwAn tried to counsel rAvaNan he was not willing to listen to them. As a result, some of them, like mArIchan and kumbhakarNan died with him while others, such as SrI vibhIshaNAzhwAn were driven out of the country. This is what happens when someone tries to advise the lowly person.

madhiL eduththu – construct a wall. This means that it is not there as a natural behaviour. Since it has been constructed by the jIvAthmA around himself, it also means that one day, when bhagavAn decides to take the samsAri under his wings, the wall will come down in pieces. The next word describes the result of his building the wall…..

maRumaikkE veRumai pUNdu – The samsAri’s action [borne out of cruel thoughts, speech and actions] in this birth leads to an abject state as far as SrIvaikuNtam is concerned. Along with providing whatever the body wanted, had he thought about providing food for AthmA also, emperumAn would have given him all the protection, thinking of the samsAri’s commitment to improve himself. Just as varAha perumAn said, “…dhAthu sAmyE sthithE smarthA…” (when the jIvAthmA is having his senses in balance and thinks of me for protecting him) emperumAn would have provided him with all benefits including mOksham (liberation from samsAram) as varAha perumAn said further in the same SlOka, “…aham smarAmi…” (I shall think of him when he is in his final stage like a stone or a log of wood and take him to SrIvaikuNtam). On the other hand, if he remains as a cruel person, when he dies, there will not be a single person who would look at him with comforting eyes. If a person lives physically in poverty in this world, the poverty will end on the day the body ends. But if his AthmA lives in poverty, there is no end to that poverty and it will become permanent.

puRam suvar Ottai mAdam puraLumbOdhu aRiyamAttIrpuRam suvar refers to the physical body. It should have been used for good deeds, as desired by emperumAn, in going towards him. Instead the samsAri uses it for indulging in worldly pleasures. Hence it is referred to us puRam (outside) suvar (wall).  But the same body would very much become likeable if it were used for doing something good for AthmA (doing kainkaryam for emperumAn and becoming his servitor).

Ottai mAdam – “It fell on this day” “It fell on that day” is what people say about this body. It is that transient, so fleeting it is in its existence. Another meaning for Ottai mAdam – having a roof and lock; hence called as house. “mAdam”  is a big house. It is thought to be big, in samsAri’s opinion. samsAris told AzhwAr that he is telling them only now about the problems with this body and what they should do. We shall follow your advice in due course of time, they said. His response was……

puraLumbOdhu aRiyamAttIrAzhwAr says “you do not know as to how long you will live”. He says “the messenger of death is close at hand. Can you afford to delay doing good for the AthmA under these circumstances?  All along, you were engaged in worldly pleasures and forgot to do any good for the AthmA. Now on the throes of death, you do not have the strength to search for the good deeds. By saying that you would do good things in due course of time, you are only going to destroy everything for yourself”

aRam suvarAgi ninRa – the one who is standing with righteousness as wall (emperumAn). vyAkhyAthA quotes from several parmANams (authentic proofs) to state that emperumAn is dharmam (righteousness). He says that it is natural for emperumAn to be dharmam. First he quotes from SrI rAmAyaNam “lOkAnAm thvam parO dharma:” (you are the superior dharmam for all the people in the world). Then he quotes again from Sri rAmAyaNam “rAmo vigrahavAn dharma:” (rAma is dharmam personified). He quotes from bhAratham AraNya kANdam “krishNam dharmam sanAthanam” (krishNa is dharmam from time immemorial) and finally from SrIrangarAja sthavam “upAyOpEyathvE thadhiha thaththvam na thu guNou” (providing both the means of attaining you and enjoying your kainkaryam are natural to you)

Agi ninRa – unlike other upAyams (paths or means for attaining emperumAn) where the samsAri has to take efforts [referred to as sAdhyOpAyam in our sampradhAyam], emperumAn is ready to be attained through himself [this is called as sidhdhOpAyam in our sampradhAyam]. Unlike the other upAyams which will look up to him for providing benefits, this sidhdhOpAyam does not look at anything or anybody else for providing benefit [granting SrIvaikuNtam]. Is there anything that the samsAri has to do for this, asks the vyAkyAthA and says that taking shelter under this wall and not rejecting him is the only expectation from him.  As it says in mahAbhAratham “prakArassarva vrushInAm…” bhagavAn provides shelter to all those who accept him as their protector.

ninRa – sumanthran said in SrI rAmAyaNam “ASayA yadhi vA rAma:….” (expecting that SrI rAmA will call me I was waiting along with guhan for several days, said sumanthran). In the same way, emperumAn took position at the banks of kAvEri waiting for samsAris to take refuge under him.

aranganArkku – There is no shortcoming that the object to be attained is too far away. Asking “who will utilise my presence and attain me” lies emperumAn in SrIrangam, saying that he will stay here till he grants mOksham to all samsAris.

AL seyyAdhE – the samsAri need not even carry out surrendering. It is enough if he involves in carrying out kainkaryam (service). His basic nature is being a servitor to emperumAn; this is the benefit that has been mentioned in SAsthras. This is precisely the wealth that he had lost from time immemorial. When he is a samsAri he  is a servitor to his karma (deeds). Once he becomes the recipient of emperumAn’s causeless mercy he becomes a servitor to emperumAn. He is a servitor to karmas due to past deeds in innumerable births. He did not become a servitor to emperumAn due to these sins. Another meaning given for AL seyyAdhE  is that it is like staying without food.

puRam suvar kOlam seydhu – decorating only the physical body and not the AthmA. Can AthmA be decorated? vyAkyAthA quotes from thaiththiriya upanishath “asannEva sa bhavathi….” (a person exists only if he knows that there is brahmam (superior power)  and does not exist if he does not know of brahman). Hence realising this AthmasvarUpam (knowledge of emperumAn) and carrying out kainkaryam to emperumAn is the decoration for AthmA. Instead of doing that, the samsAri keeps decorating the body which is incidental and not a permanent feature. In the olden days, palm leaf manuscripts were protected on both sides with wooden planks and tied with a string. The vyAkhyAthA says that decorating the body and leaving the AthmA to rot is like the manuscripts being eaten away by termites and rodents and the wooden planks and string being decorated with flower, sandalwood paste etc.

puL kavva – being bitten by bird. Even birds (like vulture) which eat carcasses take a bite of the samsAri’s body and refrain from eating it further because the birds know that this is the carcass of a person who was treacherous. [the act of treachery here is that the samsAri, who was granted the body and the senses, instead of submitting them to emperumAn through kainkaryam, indulged in worldly pleasures]

kidakkinRIREAzhwAr mocks at samsAris saying that while emperumAn was waiting nearby (at SrIrangam) to provide them sustenance, the samsAris went their own ways so much that even vultures are not interested in their carcasses. He is saddened because of the difficulties that the samsAri encounters in the samsAram by not following the correct path. nammAzhwAr, in the decad “kOvai vAyAL” (thiruvAimozhi 4.3) talks about his body being the sandalwood paste, garland and vasthram (divine dress) for emperumAn. A similar body of the samsAri is being pecked by birds instead of being offered to emperumAn through kainkaryam, feels the AzhwAr. Is he saying these words after the samsAri has encountered death? No, even when the samsAri is alive and spending his life in worldly matters, AzhwAr is able to conclude for sure, the events to come (including pecking by the birds) and feels sorry for such samsAris and tells them what they should instead do. Even when rAvaNan was alive and sitting on his throne in his court, thiruvadi [hanuman] told the courtiers “nEyamasthi purI lankA na yUyam na cha rAvaNa: ….” (since you have invited the enmity of the great warrior and descendent of ikshvAku kulam, SrI rAma, this lankApuri, you and rAvaNa will not be there soon). This was said even when rAvaNa was alive. When dhuryOdhana and his clan were lying dead in the battlefield, vEdha vyAsar says with contempt that they did not pay heed to his advice and have paid the price. In a similar vein, AzhwAr feels contemptuous of the wayward lives of samsAris and warns them of what would happen if they do not mend their ways.

We shall move on to the 7th pAsuram in the next article.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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