SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavara munayE nama:
kumbhE punarvasu jAtham kEraLE chOLapattaNE I
kausthubAmSam dharAdhISam kulaSEkharamASrayE II
(I take refuge under kulaSEkara (AzhwAr) who incarnated in kEraLa country, in its capital city of kolli nagar (vanjikkaLam), under the divine star of punarvasu in the [thamizh] month of mAsi, as a representative of kausthuba garland which dwells on the divine chest of emperumAn (SrIman nArAyaNan), and as the king of chEranAdu)
gushyathE yasya nagarE rangayAthrA dhinE dhinE I
thamaham SirasA vandhE rAjAnAm kulaSEkharam II
(I bow my head down to that kulaSEkharap perumAL in whose capital city an uproarious sound is raised everyday about going on a pilgrimage to SrIrangam).
kalyabdhE sukhasankhyayA vyabagathE mAsE cha mAgAbhidhE
varshE chApi prAbhavE suragurOrvArE cha pakshE Su chau I
dhvAdhaSAyAkhyathithau punarvasu dhinE prIthyAkhyayOgAnvithE
thrAthum na kulaSEkhara: kshithipathiS SrIkausthubAthmA’bhavath II
(In kaliyugam, after the passage of 27 years which were formed with the letters ‘sukha”, in the year ‘prAbhava’, in the [thamizh] month ‘mAsi, during Suklapaksham (waxing phase of moon), on the dhvAdhaSi thithi (12th day after new moon day), on a Thursday, in punarvasu star, in ‘prIthi’ yOgam, a king with the name kulaSEkhara AzhwAr incarnated as a representative of kausthubam (a gem stone on the divine chest of SrIman nArAyaNan), in order to protect us).
thasyAmabhUch chErakula pradhIpaS SrIkausthubAthmA kulaSEkharAkhya: I
mahipathir mAghapanarvasUdhyadhdhinE harE: pUrNa katAkshalakshya: II
(As representative of SrI kausthubam, being the target of paramapurushan’s (supreme entity’s) complete mercy, king kulaSEkharar incarnated in mASi month, under the distinguished punarvasu star, bearing the torch of chEra clan).
As seen in the aforementioned thaniyans (special hymns) and vaibhava SlOkas (hymns praising the greatness of his incarnation), and as expressed by our predecessors, this AzhwAr was born to King dhrudavrathan who ruled the chEra kingdom with kollinagar as its capital. He was born as a representative of kausthubam, on the 28th year of prabhava, after kali yugam started, in the month of mAsi, during Sukhla paksha dhvAdhaSa thithi, on a Thursday, in punarvasu star. His father, king dhrudavrathan, after seeing the resplendence on his face, thinking that he will be the crest-jewel for his entire clan, gave him the divine name of “kulaSEkharan” (head of the clan).
The son of the emperor grew with each passing day like the waxing moon, underwent samskArams (rituals) such as chauLam (dressing the hair to have a tuft), upanayanam (wearing the sacred thread as an indication of having the attained the stage to learn vEdhas), learnt the four vEdhas with the six auxiliaries, legal treatises fit for regal duties, through appropriate teachers; he also learnt, through appropriate texts, on how to conduct chariots, horses and elephants, and became an expert on all these. The emperor, finding the abilities of kulaSEkharar, anointed him as the prince, for his kingdom.
In line with kshathriya dharmam (duties of warrior clan), kulaSEkharar embarked on expanding his kingdom, waged wars with chOzha and pANdiya kings, by leading his army with four divisions (chariots, elephants, horses and foot soldiers), defeating them, winning several honours and fame such as being called as “kolli kAvalan kUdalarkOn kOzhikkOn kulaSEkharan” (protector of kolli nagaram, head of thirukkUdal (another name for madhurai, the capital of pANdiya kings), head of thirukkOzhi (uRaiyUr, the capital city of chOzha nAdu)) through these efforts. dhrudavruthan, the emperor, handed over the duties of king to kulaSEkharar and withdrew to the forest to spend the last part of his life there, in line with the path laid down for royal clan members. kulaSEkharar, comforted by his council of ministers, overcame the separation from his father, took over the reins of the kingdom, ruling it in such a way that people called it as rAmarAjyam (ruling in a just manner, with bigger entities not troubling the smaller ones). He married a regal lady and sired a son, whom he named after his father, as dhrudavruthan, and a daughter, who had the leanings of neeLAdhEvi (consort of SrIman nArAyaNa), naming her as iLai and chErakulavalli. He ruled his kingdom in a distinguished way.
Delving into the aspects of who is that entity who is without a beginning and an end, and who is capable of granting happiness in this world and in the other world as well as liberation, he studied Sruthi (vEdhas), smrithis (explanatory treatises on vEdhas), ithihAsas (epics) and purANas (sacred texts which dwell into the narratives of SrImAn nArAyaNa and celestial entities). Taking this as cue, SrIman nArAyaNan granted him knowledge and devotion without any trace of ignorance, manifesting his svarUpam (basic characteristics), rUpam (divine forms), guNas (auspicious qualities) and vibhUthi (possessions such as leelA vibhUthi (materialistic realm) and nithya vibhUthi (spiritual realm)). AzhwAr (hereafter in this translation, the term AzhwAr will refer to kulaSEkharar unless preceded by another name), who attained clarity with this knowledge based on devotion, started worrying about what ill will befall emperumAn (SrIman nArAyaNan) and became a mangaLASAsanaparar (one who carries out words of praise and wishes well-being for emperumAn). This AzhwAr, who was deeply engaged with the ocean of emperumAn’s auspicious qualities, was especially attached to Sri rAma and krishNa among emperumAn’s divine incarnations and to thiruvarangam, thiruvEngadam, thirukkaNNapuram, thiruchchithrakUdam and thiruviththuvakkOdu among the archAvathArams (emperumAn in divine idol forms in 108 divine abodes). He spent his time listening to SrI rAmAyaNam kAlakshEpams (discourses), welcoming SrIvishNavas (followers of SrIman nArAyaNa) and honouring them in a distinguished manner, and was totally detached from the pleasures offered by his regal paraphernalia.
One day, when he was listening to a discourse on SrI rAmAyaNam, the paNdithar (expert) who was delivering the discourse, narrated about the war in janasthAnam (a location in central India) where SrI rAma was fighting with 14000 demons. AzhwAr got agitated and immediately asked his troops to march ahead to help SrI rAma who was battling alone. He readied himself to lead his army. Immediately, the paNdithar told him that SrI rAma has won the battle, killing all 14000 demons. AzhwAr was happy on hearing this and told the army not to go ahead. From that day onwards, the SrI rAmAyaNa paNdithar started speaking extensively about narratives whenever SrI rAma was displaying his valour and cutting short the discourse to a bare minimum whenever SrI rAma was in danger. One day, due to some other work, the expert could not go to the king’s court for giving discourse on SrI rAmAyaNam. Instead, he sent his son to carry out the task. On that day, it was the narration about rAvaNa abducting sIthAp pirAtti and carrying her to lankA. The son had not been informed about AzhwAr’s deep attachment towards SrI rAma and his penchant for readying his army to help SrI rAma whenever SrI rAma was in difficulty. As he was narrating about how rAvaNa had planned to abduct sIthAp pirAtti, kulaSEkhara AzhwAr ordered his army to set sail in the ocean towards lankA to bring back pirAtti. He too got ready for the journey and started entering the ocean waters. Looking at his deep affection, SrI rAma, along with lakshmaNa and sIthAp pirAtti showed himself to AzhwAr and told him that he was able to defeat rAvaNa and bring back pirAtti. He told AzhwAr to return to his capital and carry on with his regal duties.
SrI kulaSEkarap perumAL showed eagerness in listening to ithihAsa purANams (epics and purANams). He learnt about the greatness of SrI rangam from these works. He wanted to go to SrI rangam and worship periya perumAL (mUlavar deity in SrI rangam). He mentioned a particular date for this purpose. His council of ministers thought to themselves “If he goes to SrI rangam and worships periya perumAL there, he will not return ever”; they thought up a way to prevent him from proceeding to SrI rangam. Since kulaSEkhara AzhwAr was very much enthusiastic about conducting thadhIyArAdhanam (providing a sumptuous feast to the followers of SrIman nArAyaNa), on the day that AzhwAr had set the date for going to SrI rangam, the ministers sent a lot of SrI vaishNavas to kulaSEkhara AzhwAr. AzhwAr too, realising that carrying out service to the followers of SrIman nArAyaNa is more important than carrying out service to SrIman nArAyaNa himself, postponed his trip to SrI rangam and welcomed the SrI vaishNavas. The ministers carried out this method to prevent kulaSEkhara AzhwAr from proceeding to SrI rangam, every time that he fixed a date. This narrative is captured in one of the thaniyans (special hymns) about the AzhwAr “ghushyathE yasya nagarE rangayAthrA dhinE dhinE” (in whose capital, the sounding of the words ‘rangayAthrA’ (travelling to SrI rangam) is trumpeted every day).
Soon many SrI vaishNavas started coming to his palace and were given special permission to visit his palace, the conference halls (where the ministers of the king’s council meet and discuss confidential matters) and even the special quarters of the king. This created jealousy in some ministers and they wanted to create in AzhwAr a sense of hatred towards the SrI vaishNavas. On the day of SrI rAma Navami (the birthday of Sri rAma), when thirumanjanam (divine bath) was being performed for the vigrahas (idols) of SrI rAma et al, they surreptitiously removed an expensive pearl necklace from among the costly jewels of emperumAn (the supreme lord). At the end of the thirumanjanam, the archakars (priests) informed the king about the missing pearl necklace. AzhwAr beckoned the ministers and ordered them to find out the thief. Waiting for this opportunity, some of the ministers said that only SrI vaishNavas have the liberty to roam around freely in all the places inside the palace and one of them should have carried out this heinous act. AzhwAr, unable to hear these words, closed his ears and told them “The divine followers of emperumAn would not even think of carrying such a lowly act”. He vowed that he would demonstrate to them the purity of the followers of emperumAn. He asked for a pot with a poisonous snake kept inside it. He said that he would put his hand inside the pot. If any of the SrI vaishNavas had indulged in such a hideous act, the snake will bite and kill him. If, on the other hand, the SrI vaishNavas are pure in all their three faculties (of mind, speech and action), the snake will spare him. The snake, proving the steadfastness of the king, did not bite him. The ministers, realising that their game was up, brought out the pearl necklace and took refuge under the king, revealing their intention. AzhwAr said that it was not sufficient if he alone were to forgive them. He told them “The way to atone for the great grief which you have brought upon the SrI vaishNavas is to carry out service to them constantly. Make it as a practice”. The ministers followed that counsel and became the servers of SrI vaishNavas. This narrative is captured in one of his thaniyans “Arangedap parananbar koLLAr enRu avargaLukkE vArangodu kudappAmbil kaiyittavan ” (the meaning for this will be explained under the chapter on thaniyans).
We will enjoy the concluding part of this introduction in the next article.
adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan
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