periya thiruvandhAdhi – 2 – pugazhvOm pazhippOm

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In the first pAsuram, AzhwAr said that he will speak about the auspicious qualities of emperumAn with the words “nAvIn thodaikkiLavi utpodhivOm”. However, just as vEdhas came back empty handed when they set out to measure the qualities of emperumAn as mentioned in the thaiththirIya upanishath SlOkam “yathO vAchO nivarthanthE …  ” AzhwAr too steps back saying that this is not a matter that he could speak about [describing the auspicious qualities of emperumAn]. This is similar to ALavandhAr (one of our principal preceptors) saying in his sthOthra rathnam 7thathvEna yasya mahimArNavaSIkarANu: SakyO na mAthumapi SarvapithAmahAdhyai: I karthum thadhIya mahimasthuthimudhyathAya mahyam namO’sthu kavayE nirapathrapAya II ” (I started praising about emperumAn, in whose ocean of greatness, even a drop could not be estimated by Siva, brahmA et al; I must salute myself, who am shameless and who earned the name of being a poet). The opinion indicated here for stepping back from praising emperumAn is – singing paeans about a matter is to mention about all the greatness regarding that matter and to further praise the matter with greatness which it does not possess. In the case of emperumAn, even listing out his greatness in the first place is an impossible task. This is why SrI ALavandhAr spoke disparagingly of himself when he started singing the greatness of emperumAn. What is the reason for nammAzhwAr to praise emperumAn in the first pAsuram and to step back in the second pAsuram by saying that praising emperumAn is similar to ridiculing him? Both acts (of praising and stepping back) are due to the greatness of matter related to emperumAn. When one sees something great, it is apt to enjoy it for himself. In the same way, when one starts praising emperumAn and finds that it impossible to do so as the greatness of emperumAn is beyond one’s faculties of mind and speech, it is apt to step back, thinking “my attempt to praise emperumAn and create a greatness for him is ending up as a ridicule for him”

Let us go through the pAsuram and its meanings:

pugazhvOm pazhippOm pugazhOm pazhiyOm
igazhvOm madhippOm igazhOm madhiyOm maRRu
engaNmAl sengaNmAl seeRal nee thIvinaiyOm
engaL mAl kaNdAy ivai

Word by Word Meanings

pugazhvOm – if we are to praise (you)
pazhippOm – (since it won’t be apt for your auspicious qualities) we will end up ridiculing you
pugazhOm – if we do not praise
pazhiyOm – we will refrain from ridiculing (since my faulty words will not come anywhere near your auspicious qualities)
maRRu – moreover
madhippOm – if we think (about you)
igazhvOm – we will end up insulting you
madhiyOm – if we do not think (of you)
igazhOm – we will not end up insulting you
engaL mAl – having affection towards us
sem kaN mAl – having reddish, divine eyes
nee – you (who cannot be estimated)
seeRal – do not be angry
ivai – engaging in praising you and refraining from praising you
thIvinaiyOm – horrible sinners
engaL – our
mAl kaNdAy – bewilderment, please see.


pugazhvOm pazhippOm – If we praise matters related to emperumAn, we will actually end up ridiculing him.

pugazhOm pazhiyOm – If we refrain from praising him, that itself will be equivalent to not ridiculing  him. But will this meaning not be derived in the earlier verse itself (pugazhvOm pazhippOm)? It is more strongly emphasised in this negative assertion (vyathirEkam) than in the positive assertion (anvayam) there.  Thus, AzhwAr has shown that it is better not to indulge with the faculty of speech, in matter related to emperumAn. Next, he shows the same with the faculty of mind.

igazhvOm madhippOm – We should change the order of the verse to madhippOm igazhvOm. The opinion here is that if we think of emperumAn through our heart, we will end up insulting him. Just as it is mentioned in thaiththirIya samhithA 7-5-3 “mana: pUrvO vaguththara:” (it is the mind which precedes speech), we speak through our faculty of speech whatever the faculty of mind thinks. But, will it not be construed here that whatever has been mentioned in pugazhvOm pazhippOm is being repeated here? This is not correct since even though we have to carry out atonement for the sins committed through the faculty of thinking, AzhwAr is bringing this up here in order to show that we would have committed the sin of insulting matters relating to emperumAn even if we think of them.

madhiyOm igazhOm – If we do not think of matters relating to emperumAn we would not have insulted them.

maRRu – this shows that the activity of saying something through the faculty of speech is different from thinking of the same through the faculty of mind. Thus the word maRRu should be brought forward to get the verse maRRu igazhvOm madhippOm and the meaning should be taken accordingly. It is by combining the meanings in these two lines and the meaning in kEnOpanishath which starts with the verse yasyA matham that SrI parASara bhattar mercifully composed in his SrI rangarAja sthavam 1-13 the SlOkam “amatham matham mathamathAmatham sthutham parinindhitham bhavathi nindhitham sthutham I ithi rangarAjamudhajughushath thrayI sthumahE vayam nimithi tham na Saknuma: II ” (The thamizh and samskrutha vEdhas say “when it is thought that the supreme being cannot be known, it becomes known. And, if it is thought that the supreme being is known, it becomes unknown. When it is thought that the supreme being is praised, it becomes insulted. If it is thought that it cannot be praised, it becomes praised”. How are we, the ignorant people, engaging in praising that supreme being, SrI ranganAtha? We are not capable of praising him).

engaL mAlemperumAn who is very affectionate towards us so that we do not ridicule him.

sengaN mAl engaL mAl – one who is proclaimed by vEdhas as the supreme being because he has eyes described as in chAndhOgya upanishath 1-6-7 “thasya yathA puNdarIkam EvamakshiNI ” (that supreme being (who is at the centre of the solar system) has two eyes which are like lotus blossomed by sun) and one who cannot be estimated by anyone, developed deep affection for me. The word mAl which occurs at the beginning denotes one who is a great person and the second mAl denotes one who has affection.

nee seeRal – do not get angry with us and shower your mercy on us.

sengaNmAl seeRal – thinking that emperumAn’s eyes have become reddish because he is angry on account of his praising him without knowing his greatness, AzhwAr tells emperumAn not to get angry. Alternatively, it can be construed that after hearing AzhwAr’s first pAsuram when he set out to praise emperumAn, like a famished person taking a large leaf to take the food offered which will satiate his hunger, emperumAn was very anxious to hear what AzhwAr had to say. When AzhwAr stepped back in the second pAsuram since he would end up ridiculing emperumAn if he set out to praise him, emperumAn might have become angry and hence AzhwAr is requesting him not to get angry.

thIvinaiyOm – While you are anxious to hear being praised, we are not fortunate to praise you due to our sins. This meaning would gel with the second meaning for the world seeRal (emperumAn was waiting to hear AzhwAr praise when he stated as much in the first pAsuram and became angry when AzhwAr stepped back since he would end up ridiculing him). Alternatively, this can be construed as referring to the sins due to which, without knowing emperumAn’s greatness, AzhwAr set out to start praising emperumAn.

engaL mAl kaNdAy ivai – setting out to praise you in the first place after seeing your greatness and stepping back from that as it would be inappropriate, are both borne out of our bewilderment. mAl here refers to bewilderment.

We will take up the 3rd pAsuram next.

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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