Simple guide to dhivyaprabandham – Part 6 (thiruviruththam, thiruvAsiriyam, periya thiruvandhAdhi)

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<< Part 5 (mudhal, iraNdAm, mUnRAm, nAnmugan thiruvandhAdhi)

We have seen the first four prabandhams of iyaRpA so far viz., mudhal thiruvandhAdhi, iraNdAm thiruvandhAdhi, mUnRAm thiruvandhAdhi and nAnmugan thiruvandhAdhi.

The next set of prabandhams in  iyaRpA  are  – thiruviruththam, thiruvAsiriyam and periya thiruvandhAdhi, all of which have been composed by nammAzhwAr. nammAzhwAr has composed four prabandhams, of which three are in iyaRpA, and the fourth is thiruvAiymozhi, that constitutes the fourth thousand of dhivya prabandham.

Before we get into the anubhavams (experience) of the gist of these prabandhams, let us take a brief look at the glories of nammAzhwAr. nammAzhwAr incarnated in the divine place called AzhwAr thirunagari, which was called as thirukkurugUr prior to the birth of AzhwAr, in the banks of river thAmirabaraNi, in thirunelvEli district of tamizh nAdu. When AzhwAr was born, his parents brought him to the temple at AzhwAr thirunagari, and AzhwAr took shelter at the bottom of the tamarind tree, called as thiruppuLiyAzhwAr, thus making him belong to emperumAn alone. nammAzhwAr remained there in the hollow of the thiruppuLiyAzhwAr, deeply meditating upon emperumAn in sitting posture, without indulging in any matters of this materialistic realm, and only being immersed in the divine qualities of emperumAn.

He only lived for 32 thirunakshathras (years) in this world, of which first 16 were spent in dhyAnam of emperumAn. Towards the end of those 16 years, madhurakavi AzhwAr gets nammAzhwAr’s dharSan. madhurakavi AzhwAr’s birth place is thirukkOLUr, near AzhwAr thirunagari. He had been in a yAthra to northern bhArath, visiting and experiencing emperumAns in various dhivya dhEsams there, when suddenly one day he noticed a divine light in the southern sky. Deciding to follow the light, madhurakavi AzhwAr started his southern journey and he was eventually led by the divine light to thiruppuLiyAzhwAr, where he found nammAzhwAr in deep meditation. When madhurakavi AzhwAr throws a stone nearby and asks, “seththaththin vayiRRil siRiyadhu piRandhAl, eththaith thinRu engE kidakkum?”, to which nammAzhwAr replies, “aththai thinRu angE kidakkum”. The question that madhurakavi AzhwAr raised was in relation to jIvAthmA, paramAthmA and achEthana – thathva thrayam. Hearing nammAzhwAr’s answer, madhurakavi AzhwAr realises that nammAzhwAr is highly knowledgeable, and accepts him as his AchAryan, as his everything and remained in service to him for many years. AzhwAr lived in this world for another 16 years, towards the end of which, he desired to attain paramapadham and ascended there.

Such nammAzhwAr has mercifully composed four prabandhams which are the essence of the four vEdhas.

  1. thiruviruththam – rig vEdham
  2. thiruvAsiriyam – yajur vEdham
  3. periya thiruvandhAdhi – atharvaNa vEdham
  4. thiruvAimozhi – sAma vEdham

Another interesting relationship, as explained by nampiLLai, in his commentary for thiruvAimozhi, is that, these four prabandhams composed by nammAzhwAr have the essence of rahasya thrayam – thirumanthiram, dhvayam and charama SlOkam, which is considered to be the essence of vEdhas. As per this analysis, thiruviruththam explains praNavam and nama: padham of thirumanthiram. thiruvAsiriyam explains the essence of nArAyaNAya padham. periya thiruvandhAdhi explains charama SlOkam and finally, thiruvAimozhi explains dhvayam.

There is another interesting relationship between thiruviruththam and thiruvAimozhi, i.e., the 100 pAsurams (hymns) of thiruviruththam are directly related to the 100 padhigams (decads) of thiruvAimozhi. This has been beautifully stated by azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr in his masterpiece AchArya hrudhayam and further explanation about the relationship has been given by many other AchAryas.

Let us now get the experience of the first prabandham composed by nammAzhwAr, which is thiruviruththam.

AzhwAr has composed hymns generally in two states of existence – his own knowledgeable state or thAnAna nilai and in the state of love or prEma nilai, where AzhwAr regards himself as a female, peN bhAvam. In peN bhAvam there are three categories viz., thAy (mother), thOzhi (female friend) and thalaimagaL (wife/female lover/heroine). In each of these three states, AzhwAr depicts the three attributes of any jIvAthmA’s relationship with emperumAn viz., upAyam (means to attain emperumAn), sambandham (the nature of relationship) and prayOjanam (goal after attaining emperumAn), respectively.

In this prabandham, the first and the last pAsurams have been composed by AzhwAr in thAnAna nilai (as AzhwAr himself, in the state of highest and blemishless knowledge). The other 98 pAsurams in between have been mercifully composed in prEma nilai (feminine state showing love towards him). After getting mayarvaRa madhinalam i.e. being blessed with blemishless knowledge and devotion by emperumAn, AzhwAr sends a message to emperumAn, which is the meaning of viruththam (message) – “I cannot sustain in this world anymore as it is giving me unbearable heat and I wish to attain you (emperumAn)”, in the first pAsuram itself. As it is a message (viruththam) sent by AzhwAr informing emperumAn about the condition of his state, this prabandham got the name thiruviruththam. In the first pAsuram, AzhwAr pleads with emperumAn to come and listen to his pleas. AzhwAr uses a phrase, “adiyEn seiyum viNNappamE”, the word viNNappam which we use while requesting or speaking to AchAryas and other SrI vaishNava elders, has been given to us by AzhwAr’s pAsurams.

In the next 98 pAsurams, AzhwAr sings in peN bhAvam, where all three states of thAy bhAvam, thOzhi bhAvam and thalaimagaL bhAvam appear in turn, depicting the condition of AzhwAr who is suffering due to separation from emperumAn.

In the saRRumuRai pAsuram, the last concluding pAsuram, AzhwAr once again reiterates how this samsAram (material world) is of mAyA (being deceitful) and van sERu  (pressing like a powerful quicksand), and how emperumAn is the only protector.

This prabandham has a beautiful commentary written by periyavAchchAn piLLai and in its introduction periyavAchchAn piLLai describes who is AzhwAr (nammAzhwAr). Some AchAryas prior to periyavAchchAn piLLai have called nammAzhwAr as mukthAthmA (a liberated AthmA), mukthap prAyar (an AthmA who is about to be liberated), a nithyasUri (AthmAs who are eternally residing in vaikuNtam) who has been sent by emperumAn and an incarnation of emperumAn Himself. To this periyavAchchAn piLLai says, these depictions arise due to the glories of nammAzhwAr. In reality nammAzhwAr is a jIvAthmA, as AzhwAr himself has described in thiruviruththam pAsuram 1, “inninRa nIrmai ini yAm uRAmai” (We do not want to put up with this nature of being born repeatedly in this samsAram), who has taken births and suffered in this samsAram. Due to emperumAn’s causeless mercy, AzhwAr got blessed with pure knowledge and devotion, and became AzhwAr. This change is only possible because emperumAn wished it so and happened purely due to His grace. The change of this magnitude only shows the glories of emperumAn. AzhwAr himself says, that it is emperumAn who is making him sing these prabandhams! He adds that emperumAn, being seated in AzhwAr’s divine tongue sang these pAsurams that glorify emperumAn.

The 98 pAsurams that were sung in peN bhAvam are said to be both in anyApadhESam (external  meanings) and svApadhESam (in depth meanings). vAdhi kEsari maNavALa jIyar has written a svApadhESa vyAkhyAnam, similarly, nampiLLai and periyavAchchAn piLLai have also given commentaries for thiruviruththam.

We have seen a gist of thiruviruththam.

Let’s have a brief anubhavam of thiruvAsiriyam.

In the introduction to his vyAkhyAnam (commentary) of thiruvAsiriyam, periyavAchchAn piLLai has beautifully set the premise for thiruvAsiriyam. In thiruviruththam, AzhwAr expresses his guNa, swarUpa and Arththi (sorrow) due to separation from emperumAn and suffering in samsAram. Realising AzhwAr’s incapability to hold on to this world, to make him carry on for a little while longer in this world, emperumAn blesses nammAzhwAr with the same divine blissful experience that nityasUris get to enjoy in vaikuNtam, while AzhwAr is situated in samsAram itself. Although he is trapped in samsAram, after getting to enjoy the beauty of emperumAn, AzhwAr decides to sing about it, and thus, seven beautiful pAsurams of thiruvAsiriyam came into existence. These 7 pAsurams are equivalent to the seven kANdas of yajur vEdham. This prabandham is set in Asiriyap pA, a literary structure as per thamizh literature.

AzhwAr dedicates these pAsurams to glorify emperumAn’s divine form and guNas. emperumAn’s divine body has a greenish hue like that of a reclining emerald mountain, says AzhwAr. AzhwAr explains that when emperumAn being related to us by all means is always there, people going and worshipping other dhEvathAs (deities), is similar to a person taking care of a wooden plank in the place of his own mother whom he owes so much. AzhwAr concludes by declaring that who else can be greater than the one who is reclining on a banyan leaf after swallowing the universe (emperumAn as Alilai kaNNan). Thus, in thiruvAsiriyam we have seen that nammAzhwAr has described emperumAn’s beauty and auspicious qualities.

Finally, we are going to discuss periya thiruvandhAdhi, which is the essence of muNdaka upanishad, that is related to atharvaNa vEdham. As mentioned in this article previously, periya thiruvandhAdhi is the essence of charama SlOkam. This has been beautifully emphasised by SrI puththUr swAmi in his work.

After AzhwAr composed thiruviruththam, emperumAn blessed AzhwAr with the joy of His anubhavam, which got expressed in thiruvAsiriyam and got magnified in periya thiruvandhAdhi. In the first pAsuram, muyaRRi sumandhu ezhundhu… AzhwAr says that his enthusiasm in singing the anubhavams of emperumAn is so high that his heart is one step ahead of him to talk about it. In the penultimate pAsuram (86th pAsuram), kAr kalandha mEniyAn… he wonders how and in what manner do the people of this samsAram while away their time and get rid of their sorrows (if not indulged in emperumAn’s divine form and qualities)! In the concluding pAsuram, 87th pAsuram, AzhwAr emphasizes on meditating upon emperumAn and his divine names to spend their time in samsAram.

As this is in andhAdhi style (beginning word of the pAsuram is the same as the ending word of the previous pAsuram), this is called as periya thiruvandhAdhi. But the question remains why the prefix periya (big), as it is neither big in size nor composed by periyAzhwAr? Other thiruvandhAdhi have 100 pAsurams, this has only 87. The reason is explained beautifully: nammAzhwAr, in pAsuram 75 puviyum iruvisimubum… asks emperumAn, “You are the controller of both the realms! If You are residing within me, who is the bigger entity, you or I, who is holding you within me after hearing about you (through SAsthrams)? As AzhwAr spoke about his greatness, this prabandham came to be known as periya thiruvandhAdhi. Also, nammAzhwAr has a name called periyan. That also justifies the name periya thiruvandhAdhi.

Thus we saw a glimpse of thiruviruththam, thiruvAsiriyam and periya thiruvandhAdhi.


adiyen vaishNavI rAmAnuja dAsi

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