thiruviruththam – 21 – sUttu nanmAlaigaL

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avathArikai (Introduction)

In the previous pAsuram, it should be said that both mother and friend (of the nAyaki) did not know the greatness of emperumAn. While the mother was in bewilderment, the friend told the mothers to adorn her with the divine thuLasi garland which had earlier adorned the divine shoulders of emperumAn. On hearing this, the nAyaki woke up. In other words, the mere mention of the word thuLasi was sufficient for the nAyaki to come to her senses and wake up. There was no need for adorning her with the garland made of thuLasi. Such was the greatness of emperumAn. How would we know that on waking up, the nAyaki engaged with krishNa’s incarnation? On waking up, she did not speak about thiruvAimozhi 1-1-1 “uyarvaRa uyar nalam udaiyavan” (one who had greatness nonpareil) but spoke about 1-3-1 “uralinOdu iNaindhirundhu Engiya eLivu eththiRam” (What simplicity did emperumAn have that he remained tied to a mortar!) The opinion is that followers of emperumAn, when they wake up after being in bewilderment for a long time, would engage with his incarnation as krishNa which only is apt for them [this pAsuram, which follows the earlier one, talks about krishNavathAram].

Let us go through the pAsuram and its meanings:

sUttu nanmAlaigaL thUyanavEndhi viNNOrgaL nannIr
Atti andhUbam tharA niRkavE angu Or mAyaiyinAl
Ittiya veNNey thodu uNNappoNdhumilERRuvan kUn
kOttidaiyAdinai kUththu adalAyar tham kombinukkE

Word-by-Word Meanings

angu – in that nithya vibhUthi (spiritual realm)
thUyana – being sacred
sUttu – apt to be adorned as an ornament on the divine crown
nal – distinguished
mAlaigaL – garlands
Endhi – holding them
viNNOrgaL – nithyasUris (permanent dwellers of nithyavibhUthi)
nal – sacred
nIr – with water
Atti – giving a divine bath
am – beautiful
dhUbam – fragrant smoke
tharAniRkavE – even as they were offering
Or – unique
mAyaiyinAl – with his solemn vow
Ittiya – gathered
veNNey – butter
thodu – stealing
uNNa – to eat
pOndhu – mercifully reached
imil – very strong
ERu – bulls’
val – powerful
kUn – curved
kOdu – horns’
idai – in-between
adal – strong
Ayar tham – the cowherd boys’
kombinukku – for nappinnai pirAtti
kUththAdinai – you had danced

Simple Translation

nithyasUris, who are the permanent dwellers of the spiritual realm, are holding ornaments and divine thuLasi garland, which are apt to be adorned on your divine crown, to submit to you, after divinely bathing you with sacred water. Even as they were waiting to offer you the divine fragrant smoke, you, with your incomparable divine vow, took birth in the clan of herdsmen in order to steal and eat butter which had been gathered by them. You danced in between the curved horns of the strong bulls in order to marry nappinnai pirAtti, who was also born in that clan.


sUttu – distinguished materials which are apt to be decorated on the head. If emperumAn’s followers wish to offer something to his divine feet, just as mentioned in the words “gruhNAthi SirasA svayam” he would lower his head and accept the offering on his head. When ponnAchchiyAr asked her husband piLLai uRangAvillidhAsar (a disciple of SrI rAmAnuja) as to why emperumAn accepts on his head what had been proffered to his divine feet, he responded by quoting SrI bhagavath gIthA SlOkam 9-26pathram palam pushpam thOyam yO mE bhakthyA prayachchathi | thadhaham bhakthyUpahrutham aSnAmi prayathAthmana: ||” (if one offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water with devotion, I partake of that article with pure consciousness). When he [emperumAn] is like that, should we even say that he would accept with his head any material which has been proffered to his divine feet?

nanmAlaigaL – these are not flowers of erukkam or thumbai (shrubs such as Indian madder plant or dead white nettle) plants which are offered to him because he is willing to accept any leaf or any flower; these are distinguished flowers which are apt and most appropriate for him. When krishNa was going along with balarAma to mathurA for participating in the bow-festival, he came across a washerman who refused to give the clothes which krishNa asked for; krishNa dealt him a blow which killed the washerman. Next he went to a garland vendor and got himself the beautiful garlands which he desired and donned them on his divine crown. Then he saw a kUni (grotesque woman) who was selling sandalwood paste. He asked for sandalwood paste to apply on his form. Thinking that these lads are cowherd boys who do not know the value of sandalwood, she gave him a watery paste; he smelt it and said “sugandham Ethath” (the smell of this paste is not appealing) and wanted a better paste. When she offered a better paste, he said “rAjArham” (it is fit to be applied to kings); I need better than this. She then gave him an even better paste; he said “ruchiram” – its colour alone is beautiful. On hearing this, the affection which the kUni had in her mind, for krishNa, spread to her face too. She was amazed, thinking “We thought that the herdsmen do not know about the differences in sandalwood paste, but these boys seem to know!” She then proceeded to offer him the sandalwood paste which she had kept for kamsan (the king of mathurA). krishNa told her “AvayOrgAthrasadhruSam dhIyathAm anulEpanam” (You are capable of offering the most distinguished type of sandalwood paste) Don’t you know which type of sandalwood would suit which type of person? You decide which type of sandalwood would suit my brother’s divine form and my form and offer that.

thUyana – garland, sandalwood paste etc which are offered by those who do not expect any benefit for their offering.

Endhi – just as offering these to him in itself is a benefit, waiting with these materials for him is a benefit for the nithyasUris. Just as periyAzhwAr had mentioned in periyAzhwAr thirumozhi 2-4-4 “manjaLum sengazhunIrum vAsigaiyum” (turmeric, reddish water-lily, string of flowers), they will hold distinguished garlands and give him thirumanjanam (a divine bath) so that they could adorn him with these garlands.

viNNOrgaL . . .  – he is one who accepts materials offered by people in this world. Should we even speak about his accepting such materials from nithyasUris in paramapadham? The thirumanjanam which those who are there [paramapadham] carry out is not in expectation of any benefit. It is carried out for the welfare of world.

andhUbam tharA niRkavE angu – he remains as the source of sustenance, nourishment and enjoyment for them there. While they are waiting to perform dhUpa hArathi (offer the fragrant smoke), he carried out an amazing act. Sage nAradha et al told him “In thiruvAyppAdi (SrI gOkulam) there is lot of butter available with those who are favourable to you”. Immediately he hid himself from nithyasUris who are referred to in rig vEdham as “sadhA paSyanthi sUraya:” (the nithyasUris keep looking at him constantly) when they offered him the fragrant smoke and went to thiruvAyppAdi.

mAyai – just as it is mentioned in the phrase “mAyAvayunam gyAnam” (mAyA, vayunm, gyAnam etc mean knowledge) he left for gOkulam on his desire.

Ittiya veNNey thodu uNNappOndhu – eating mischievously, the butter earned over a long period of time. He would not relish if someone offered him butter in his hand. He has to steal it and eat.  It was through this manner that he showed both his supremacy and simplicity to AzhwAr [for one moment he was in paramapadham, accepting thirumanjanam etc from nithyasUris, a mark of his supremacy; the next moment, he was in thiruvAyppAdi eating butter by stealing it, showing his simplicity].

Just as it has been mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNam AraNya kANdam 14-1 “atha panchavatIm gachchan” (SrI rAma came across jatAyu, the king of eagles, as he was proceeding towards panchavati), while his primary purpose in reaching thiruvAyppAdi was to steal and eat butter, he attained the gem among women, nappinnaip pirAtti (neeLA dhEvi) when he was there. It is similar to attaining a carbuncle while going to buy firewood.

imilERRi . . .  – he pounced on the strong bulls which had powerful, curved horns, in order to embrace nappinnaip pirAtti next. Since it was appropriate for him, AzhwAr calls it as kUththu (dance).

adalAyar tham kombinukkE – just as it has been said “krishNASrayA: krishNabalA: krishNanAthAScha: pANdavA:” (krishNa was the refuge, strength and lord for the pANdavas), after krishNa was born amidst them in the clan of herdsmen, the herdspeople looked upon him as their strength and did not respect their enemies. Why was nappinnaip pirAtti not offered to him immediately after he came to gOkulam by pouring water on his hands as symbolic of offering her, but bulls were lined up for him to fight with? If he had to embrace nappinnai who was like a kombu (she had waist as thin as a stick; the term kombu would refer both to thinness of the waist of a lady and to the horns of a bull), he had to fight with the bulls which had kombu (horns). The term tham refers to his identification with the clan of herdsmen, just as it has been mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNam bAla kANdam 67-22 “janakAnAm kulE kIrthim Aharishyathi mE suthA” (king janaka tells of his daughter “My daughter sIthA will bring celebrity to the clan of janakas”)

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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