Taniyans (Invocatory Verses)
Sanskrit Sloka (by Mahapurnar)
Apada cudamanubhuya harim sáyanam
Madhyekaveraduhitur muditantaratma |
Adrstrtam nayanayor visayantaranam
Yo niscikaya manavai munivahanam tam ||
Meditate I shall upon saint Munivahana who swore,
His eyes shall none else behold anymore,
Having seen the Lord Hari, feet upwards, in splendor galore,
Tween twin branches of, Kaveri, in sweet repose.
‘Apadacudam‘ : From the feet to the crown – This might have been the Alvar’s resolve, to start with, but he could not lift his eyes of the Lord’s pair of lotus eyes, dazed and dazzled that he was. See notes under Song Eight.
Tamil Taniyan (by Srisaila Purnar)
Kattave kanta padakamalam nalladai unti
Tettarum udara bandam tirumar pukantam cevvay |
Vattamil kankal meni muniyerittani pukuntu
Pattinal kantu valum Panar talparavinome ||
Blessed are we to worship the feet of Panar, the bard,
By joy sustained, espying thro’ vision, by the Lord dowered,
His feet lovely, radiant robes, exciting navel, glittering waistband,
Winsome chest with Tiru, on it well-poised,
Lovely neck, coral lips, eyes lotus-red, the cloud-hued
Form enthralling, inside the sanctum on the Muni mounted. ||
In this treatise it is not proposed to tire out the readers with the mass of details, found in the several commentaries but to present the best parts of them all, in a compact and easily assimilable form, with suitable additions to make their reading intelligible.
Song One: Amalanadhipiran Adiyarkku
The exquisite charm of the Lord’s Supernal Form, His boundless wealth etc., in ‘Paramapada‘ (Heaven, the Lord’s transcendental abode), just sprout, (with just two leaves like beginnings of the infant’s teething) during His Avatars as Rama and Krsna and flourish as a fully-grown fruit bearing tree with numerous branches (corresponding to all the other pilgrim centers) in Srirangam, affording immense satisfaction to the beholders there, of His easily worshippable Form. Yes, easily worshippable, the more so, in the case of devotees of the caliber of the Alvar Saints unto whom the Lord relaxes the self-imposed constraints of silence, passivity etc., incidental to His iconic manifestation and displays His innate charm, in super-abundance. It is noteworthy that the Lord did not even wait till Pan Perumal entered the Sanctum to behold and drink in the beatific vision in front. He displayed to him, even en route, the wealth of His resplendence, step by step, from His lovely pair of feet upwards, lest the devotee be swept off his feet, rather dazed by the dazzling splendour of His Form, when exhibited in full, all at once. The Lord’s feet constitute not merely the rallying point in this mental exercise but also the focal point, the final goal of attainment of the devotee, his sole Refuge. That is why Saint Nammalvar also referred to the Lord’s “distress – dispelling – dazzling feet”, right in the opening song of Tiruvaymoli. This is like the new-born baby intuitively sucking the mother’s breast, the source of its sustenance, with no physical aid whatsoever to locate it. The new-born baby is totally devoid of vision which it gains only gradually from the second month onwards.
Amalanadipiran adiyarkkennai atpatutta
Vimalan vinnavarkon viraiyar polil venkatavan
Nimalan ninmalan nitivanavan nilmatin Arangattamman
Tirukkamala padam vanten kanninullana okkinrate! ||1||
Wonderful this, the lotus feet dainty, of our immaculate sire
At Arangam, amid ramparts high, first and foremost Sire, great and pure,
The Benefactor who did me enlist in the service of the devout,
Overlord of the celestials in high heaven, just and upright,
Who did atop Venkatam amid fragrant orchards alight,
Did, on their own, into my distant eyes project. ||
Amalan: The immaculate. Immaculate that He is, Lord Ranganatha cleanses the massive dirt of ignorance of the worshippers and imparts purity to them. Indeed He is the purest of the pure and the most auspicious among the auspicious – Pavitranam pavitram yo mangalanam ca mangalam. The manner in which Lord Ranganatha drew the Alvar unto Him is indicated here. In this song, the Alvar also refers to the Lord as Vimalan, the same as ‘Amalan’ etymologically but with this difference (as brought out by the Commentator), namely this refers pointedly to the Lord’s magnanimity in putting the Alvar on to the feet of His devotees for rendering them spotless service, ever and anon, a rare trait (gesture), not noticeable in anyone else. In this particular context, this refers to the manner in which Panan, who was keeping himself studiously aloof from the likes of Lokasaranga Mahamuni, was induced by the Lord to be submissive as not to disobey and flee from the Mahamuni, as in the past. Yet another appellation, bestowed on the Lord by the Alvar, in this song itself, is Nimalan, also meaning the same as Amalan etymologically, but used in a different sense, as highlighted by the Commentator. The special connotation of Nimalan is: it denotes the Lord’s extra-ordinary gesture in redeeming the Alvar, even unasked and unsolicited, enhancing His greatness still further.
[The reader is now invited to go through Sri Parasara Bhattar’s commentary on Names 157 and 252 (sucih): of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama. 157-Sucih: Pure (unsullied). Visnu Bhagavan is pure since He does not expect anything in return for all that He does to the subjects (in dire contrast to minor deities, who when sought after invariably seek something in return from the recipients); 252-Sucih: He, who is pure, the purity being natural to Him (innate), not induced or cultivated, as such. It is noteworthy that Lord Narayana, the Supreme Brahman is not only big (brhat) Himself but also makes His votaries big.]
What more ? In this very song the Alvar also refers to the Lord as ‘Ninmalan‘, the same as ‘Amalan’ etymologically, but in an even superior light, namely, the Lord looks upon the redemption of the Alvar as but His own job, for His benefit, that is, as a matter of supreme personal satisfaction – the benefactor redeeming Himself the beneficiary, once again redounding to His unique greatness and glory.
The way the Alvar has put it, in this song, the Lord’s limbs literally vied with one another to attract the Alvar, even when he was very much outside the Sanctum, the feet being the pace setter. They are said to have (figuratively) sallied forth from the Sanctum and got into his eyes (a forward, feast, as it were, ahead of the diner entering the dinning hall!)
Venkatam: Mounted on Lokasaranga Mamuni’s shoulders, Panan is on his way to the shrine of Lord Ranganatha. Why then, this reference to the Deity, atop the holy Mount Tiruvenkatam? It is only to remind us that the Lord descended from heaven and alighted at Venkatam, enroute to Arangam. Venkatam, the mountain-top came in handy for the Lord as a springboard from where He could jump down to Arangam and rest there. It is comparable with His stepping down to Madhurampuri (spelt as Mathura, these days) from the Milk-ocean, the Lord’s seat of creative activities whence His avatars take place and then moving further on to Gokul (Tiru Ayppadi). [Saint Nammalvar also refers to the Lord’s stepping on to Mount Venkatam as an intermediary stop-over, and thence jumping into the Alvar’s mind ‘Malaimel tan ninru en manattul iruntanai‘ Tiruvaymoli X-4-4]. With their deep insight and uncanny perception, the Alvars as well as some of our ancient preceptors could envision (1) the celestials moving down from the high heaven to Mount Tiruvenkatam to see for themselves and appreciate the Lord’s amazing simplicity (not so well discernable in heaven, that glorious setting with all its pomp and pageantry), His loving condescension to stay in the midst of monkeys and hunters, (2) their (celestials) going back to heaven where His Supremacy (Paratva) is very much in evidence, a feature which shone, all the more, in the eyes of the celestials, in sharp contrast with His amazing simplicity (Soulabhya), witnessed by them below, (3) their coming again to Venkatam, only to find that the Lord had by then moved to Arangam and (4) their further move to Tiruvarangam where they beheld the Lord reclining on the Serpent Counch, vowing as it were, not to raise up and go back to the celestium till the uplift to heaven of the last being down below].
Nilmatil Arangattamman: Reference to the lofty boundary walls by Pan Perumal seems to be an anachronism. Actually, the walls were built by Tirumankai Alvar (tenth in the chronological order), who must have taken cue from his immediate predecessor and rendered his vision realistic.
Arangattu Amman: The Lord at Arangam is presented as our kinsman. Yes, He is intimately bound to everyone through every conceivable relationship – father, mother, husband, son and so on. He is also our master, friend, donor, judge, so on and so forth. It behoves us, one and all, to take due note of this omnibus relationship binding us to Him intimately so that we do not run astray. See also 28th Song of Andal’s Tiruppavai.
Tirukkamala padam vantu en kanninullana okkinrate: The Lord’s lovely (Tiru) pair of feet, silken-soft and delicately massaged by Tiru, the Divine Mother, Herself, the very picture of softness and elegance, sallied forth from the Sanctum, straight inside Pan Perumal’s eyes, when he was still on his way to the temple. Earlier on, Panan was running away, in self denouncing humility, but now the Lord’s feet run after him, in keeping with the Lord’s inclination and get implanted in his eyes!
In sum, The opening song brings out (1) the Sovereignty of the Lord over the heaven (Nitya Vibhuti – the Eternal Land) as well as the worlds below (Lila Vibhuti – the sporting arena) – ‘Ubhaya Vibhuti aisvarya‘, (2) He is, at once, the goal of attainment (upeya), the means of attaining that goal (upaya) and also the beneficiary [Bhokta – who revels in the redemption of the individual soul (cetana labha)] and (3) in Him alone is the unique blending of unrivalled Supremacy, exhibiting Him as higher than the highest (Paratparan) and His astounding simplicity, presenting Him as lower than the lowest (soulabya parakastai); but for the latter aspect, His ‘Paratva‘ (Supreme Sovereignty) would just scare away His devotees and distance them from Him, irretrievably.
Song Two: Uvandha Ullaththanaai
In the opening song, mention was made of the entry of Lord Ranganatha’s lotus feet (shedding honey aplenty – Visnoh pade parame madhvautsah), on their own, into Pan Perumal’s eyes. The taste of ultra-mundane honey from the Lord’s blissful feet trickled down to his mind and kindled in him the yearning to move upwards and have a taste of the limbs, higher up, one by one. And so, the mind switched on to the radiant robes, flowing down to the ankles. This movement of the Alvar’s mind is described in this song. The Commentator draws a parallel to this, as follows: Unlike the human babe, the calf, just yielded by the cow, can see the mother’s teats, all right but it does not know that it has to suck them for getting milk, the source of its sustenance. And so, the mother introduces the the young one to the technique by inserting teats into the mouth of the calf and allowing it to suck. Having once tasted the sweet milk, the calf wishes to have more and more of it and dashes towards the mother’s teats even though the mother signals, at times, her disinclination to feed the calf by kicking her hind legs.
Uvanta ullattanay ulakamalantu antamura
Nivanta nilmutiyan anru nernta nicacararaik
Kavarnta venkanaikkakuttan katiyar polil arangattamman araic
Civanta ataiyinmel cenratam ena cintanaiye ||2||
Fine! My thought moved on the robes, red and radiant,
Of our Sire grand in Arangam enshrined, among orchards fragrant,
Who spanned the universe; the jubilant one, sporting the crown tall,
Kakuttan *, the warrior invincible, aiming lethal arrows, dreadful,
Who the other day slew the attacking Raksasas, one and all. ||
[* Lord Rama, who slew, single-handed, the Raksasa hordes, fourteen thousand strong, who attacked Him at Janasthana, in an amazingly short period].
Uvanta ullattan: The Lord was mighty glad because (1) He could reclaim a devotee of the excellence of Pan Permal, overcoming his ‘naichya‘ (self-denouncing humility) and (2) when He set foot on His subjects, one and all (high and low, the devout as well as the diabolic), while spanning the sprawling universe, as Trivikrama, none of them thought in terms of moving so as not to have the Lord’s feet on their heads. In this song, Lord Ranganatha is identified with Lord Trivikrama.
Nil mudiyan: The tall crown worn by Lord Ranganatha, symbolishes His Supreme Sovergnity, the overlordship of Brahma, Rudra, Indra and the rest.
Anru nernta nicacarar: The other day, when during exile, the trio, Rama, Sita and Laksmana were camping at Janasthana, Khara, Dusana and Trisiras and their army, fourteen thousand strong, charged toward Rama, courting disasterlike the fireflies rushing to fire and perishing in it.
Kavarnta venkanai Kakuttan: Lord Rama, whose arrows never missed their target, deadly as they were, literally scorching the enemy, vanquished the Raksasas, pitted against Him in such great strength, effortlessly, unaided, in an amazingly short period of a ‘muhurt‘. Of the twin aspects of the Lord’s operations, this episode highlights the second namely, the elimination of the obnoxious (ansta nivrtti), the first being the succour of the Rsis (devout, in general – ista prati). Earlier on, Lord Ranganatha was identified with Trivikrama and now, He is identified with Lord Rama.
Arangattamman: This signifies at once, Lord Ranganatha’s Supremacy as well as Simplicity, the latter denoting His intimate link with His subjects, in every conceivable manner, His multiple kinship and multi-faceted benefaction.
Song Three: Mandhi Paai
In the preceding song, the Alvar’s mind moved on to Lord Ranganatha’s robe, flowing from the waist down to the ankles. And now, looking up, the waist as well as the navel, just above it become visible. Rather, it is a case of the navel, with an elegance of its own, drawing him up to it to tell him its tale of unique glory. The Lord was referred to, in the opening song, as the first and the foremost, the Progenitor, who ushered in the Universe. This could, however, be challenged by votaries of minor deities, each group contending their god is first and foremost. The Lord’s navel from which the lotus stalk emerged, projecting Brahma, the lotus-born, however, repudiates their contention, in no time.
If the Alvar’s mind leapt from the Lord’s feet to His silken garment and thence to His navel, it was not as if the individual charm of the earlier ones had been enjoyed by him, in full (to the point of satiety), an impossible task, on the face of it. It only betrays the vacillating mind of the Alvar, jumping from the one to the other, just like a twig, getting tossed up from one wave to the other in the surging ocean of Lord Ranganatha’s exquisite beauty. Evidently, Pan Perumal was in the same predicament as Nammalvar in his attempt to enumerate the Lord’s auspicious traits – (Tiruvaymoli III-4). If it is now the Lord’s ‘Divya mangala vigrah‘ which defies description, in the case of Nammalvar, it was His ‘Divyatma svarupa‘. As the Commentator of Tiruvaymoli has put it, Nammalvar was in the same state of vacillation as the one who attempts to pick delicious fruits, dropping down the trees, in quick succession, under the impact of a violent gale. While picking up one, the picker gets attracted to another, yet another and so on, bewildered, not knowing what to pick first, and what next. So also, Nammalvar, who attempted to hit out the Lord’s auspicious traits, just did not know what to mention first and what next, in the order of priority.
Mantipay vatavenkatamamalai vanavarkal
Canti ceyya ninran Arangattaravinanaiyan
Anti pol nirattadaiyum atanmel ayanaip pataittatorelil
Untimelatanro adiyenullattinnuyire ||3||
Isn’t it the sweet core of my mind that alights
On the crimson robes and the navel above, seat
Of Ayan’s¹ origin, of the Lord who stood atop Mount
Vatavenkatam² where monkeys gambol and celestials meet
And obeisance make, who does on serpent-couch at Arangam rest. ||
¹ Four-faced Brahma. ² The sacred Mount in the northern frontier of the Tamil territory.
Mantipay Vatavenkata mamalai: In the ten songs, comprised in this hymnal, this is the second and the last reference to Mount Venkatam, the earlier one being in the opening song itself. Reference to the holy Mount in this song and to the monkeys, in particular, on their merry arboreal jaunts (jumping from one branch of the tree to another), has a special significance. In the Mount there are jack trees, loaded with fruits from top to bottom (root). The fickle minded monkeys would, while feeding on one fruit, look at another in a neighbouring branch, jump on to it and repeat the process. How apt is it to Pan Perumal’s present predicament ! Further, if the Lord in Mount Venkatam is on intimate terms with the monkeys, as mentioned by the Alvars, it reminds us of Lord Rama’s intimacy with Sugriva, Hanuman and the monkey hordes in general. Well, Sita, the captive in Lanka, was curious to elicit from Hanuman how indeed Rama, the prince royal, the disciple of Sage Vasista, could cultivate friendship with mere monkeys. She queried, ‘Vanaranam naranam ca katam asit samagamah?’. Pat came the clarification from Hanuman that very fact that he, a mere minion of Sugriva, had been sent on such an important mission as meeting Her in enemy territory, and conveying Lord Rama’s message was an eloquent proof of the intimate bonds of friendship between Rama and Sugriva.
Antipol nirattadai: ‘Antipol niram’ refers to the crimson colour of the western sky at sunset, as if that colour is inseparable from the sky. Even so, the crimson colour of Lord Ranganatha’s robes is inseparable from the robes. And then, what to say about the matching of this colour with the Lord’s sapphire complexion !
Ayanaippadaittator elil: The Lord’s beauty got enhanced even further after His creation of the four-faced Brahma for the propagation of the multifarious genera and species in the worlds, ushered by Him. It is a matter of common knowledge that the mother looks more charming than before, just after delivery.
Unti (elil unti): The Lord’s navel is deep-set (nimagna nabhih) and swirling too, giving rise to small whirlpools, the eddies. Srivatsankar (Kurattalvan) has put it admirably in his ‘Varadaraja Sthavam‘, as follows : The perennial stream of the Lord’s beauty emanated from the crown, the fountain source, flowed along the broad expanse of His winsome chest with great gusto and as it entered the narrow gorge, the thin waist, the whirling waters gave rise to the whirlpool (navel). Those, who venture to behold the Lord’s exquisite charm, are bound to get stuck, sucked into that whirlpool, the navel. Here is a telling anecdote, illustrating this. Pillai Alagiyamanavala Araiyar, the temple bard, once sought the permission of Lord Ranganatha to go on a pilgrimage to Tiruvenkatam to worship the Lord, enshrined there. The Lord asked the Araiyar to recite just once, in His presence, this hymnal (Amalanatipiran) and then go. The Araiyar did accordingly but got stuck up in the whirlpool, the navel of the Lord. Then he meekly acknowledged, in the Divine presence, that there was no question of his going to any other pilgrim center anymore. This at once demonstrated beyond doubt that, by worshipping Lord Ranganatha one can enjoy the aggregate of all the bliss one derives from all the other pilgrim centers, put together.
Adiyen ullattinnuyire: Adiyen – The vassal, enthralled by Lord Ranganatha’s exquisite charm.
Innuyir – Here ‘uyir’ denotes the mind; it is ‘innuyir’, the sweet mind, sweetened by the Lord’s beauty galore. Ironically, the navel is the very source of origination of the universe, the birthplace of Brahma and yet, it is that life generating center which has submerged within itself my sweet mind, making it lose its separate entity !
And now, before we pass on to the study and appreciation of the contents of the next song, it deserves to be noted that the first letter of each of the first three songs (AUM), put together, constitutes the Pranava Mantra (AUM). The First Song of Tiruvaymoli is similarly structured. ‘U’ is the first letter of the opening line, ‘M’, that of the second line and ‘A’, that of the third line. Thus, all three letters of the ‘Pranava‘ are there, though jumbled. Our Acharyas opine that, in doing so, the Alvar highlights Lord Visnu’s supremacy over all the rest. Letter ‘A’ denotes that He is the sole Protector of one and all, while letter ‘M’ denotes the objects protected (the Individual Souls). The middle letter ‘U’ denotes that, by virtue of the protection extended by the Lord and the final state attained by the wards, as a result of such projection, the latter are entirely at the disposal of the Lord, totally subservient to Him- ‘ananyarha sesatva‘.
The Fourth Song, beginning with the letter ‘ca’, always used in Sanskrit as the conjunction and’, denotes that the Lord is also the final goal of attainment (prapyam). Again, the letters ‘pa’, ‘tu’ and ‘kai’ with which Songs Five, Six and Seven begin, respectively, add up to ‘patukai‘, signifying that His feet alone can deliver the goods, that is lead the individual souls on to His lotus feet in heaven. How admirably and meaningfully structured are these inspired songs, the divine outpourings of the Alvar Saints !
Song Four: Saduramamadhil Soozh
Revolving though, in the encircling current of the Lord’s navel, the Alvar’s mind could envision His belly where the navel is located and the ornamental band around it and stroll along. There are three folds in His belly, signifying that all three categories of His subjects, namely ‘Nityas‘ (the eternal angels in heaven), ‘Muktas‘ (the souls, freed from bondage and granted entry into heaven) and ‘Baddhas‘ (the bound souls, still wandering down below, caught up in the dreadful cycle of birth and death) are under His control, as the Sovereign Master of the entire Universe. But then, there is also the scar, beneath the folds, resulting from binding of the belly by Mother Yasodha with a rope (small bits, knotted together). While the former (folds) points to His supremacy, the latter (scar) brings into focus His amazing simplicity, the other extreme. As Sri Parasara Bhattar puts it, the gold plate around the Lord’s belly is but the bridge linking the two extremities (supremacy and simplicity). Pondering over this unique blending in the Lord of dire opposites (see also Tiruvaymoli VI-3) the Alvar’s mind strolled along the belt greatly astonished.
Caturamamatilcul ilankaikiraivan talaipattu
Utiravotti or venkanai uyttavan ota vannan
Maturama vantupata mamayilata Arangattammantiru vayirru
Utarapantam ennullattul ninru ulakinrate ! ||4||
Saunters my mind along the belly-band of my Sire at Arangam
Where hum bees tuneful and peacocks dance in merriment,
The sea-hued Lord whose supermissile felled the heads ten
Of the monarch of Lanka, well fortified besides walls tall around ||
Catura ma matilcul ilankai: The impregnable city of Lanka with tall, square-walls around, apart from the outer fortifications in the shape of water, forests and mountains, in succession.
Iraivan: Ravana, the monarch, also fortified by many a boon, conferred on him by Brahma and Rudra, apart from his own formidable physical prowess and the military outfit with enormous striking power. Alas ! all these proved of no avail; his exclusive dependence on all these, in defiance of Rama, the Supreme Lord Visnu-incarnate, could hardly save him from final doom. On the other hand, Vibhisana, whose only fortification was his refuge at the feet of Lord Rama (sarvaloka Saranyan), is flourishing, down to this day, ruling over Lanka (not the neighbouring island, you and I know of, but the glorious one, hidden from human sight). Yes, he is worshipping Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam daily, during night; they say, there is tangible proof of this. It is noteworthy that he was crowned King of Lanka by Rama, symbolically, even ahead of the bunding of the ocean and engaging the enemy in battle. Of course, his formal coronation took place in Lanka after the overthrow of Ravana.
Talai pattu utira otti or venkanai uyttavan: The tyrant’s ten heads were felled down by Rama’s dreadful darts, like the palmyra fruits, dropped down the trees. As the heads rolled down, new ones cropped up in their place, the mischief of the boons, granted by those very minor deities who, later on, entreated Lord Visnu to annihilate Ravana and rid the worlds from his tyranny. As the Commentator puts it, the heads which came up, in replacement, looked at their tumbling predecessors and dreaded a similar fate overtaking them in a few moments. It is indeed puzzling why Rama did not slay the demon straightaway although such a heinous offender, who went to the abominable extent of abducting no less than Sita, the Divine Mother and keeping Her captive in Lanka, deserved to be slain at sight. Whereas the far more powerful Vali, the monkey chief, was shot down by Rama, mortally wounded, with just a single arrow and in no time, what was the logic behind Rama dragging the battle with Ravana over a whole week ? Well, the puzzle has been solved by the Acharyas, the intellectual stalwarts, with a rare vision as follows: At the end of the first day’s battle Ravana’s chariot, horses, charioteer, arms and all were destroyed by Rama’s unfailing bow and He could have done away with him, there and then. However, Rama, the ‘Dharmatma‘ called it a day (for the battle) on seeing His opponent, totally disarmed and His magnanimity bade him go back to Lanka for a night’s rest and recuperation and come back for fight, the next day, refreshed and equipped. Implied in this command of the Lord was the option thrown open to the opponent to surrender at His feet and seek His pardon that very moment. The felon was asked to turn up the next day, only to resume the fight. Alas! He would not bend. The Lord (Karunamurti – mercy personified), who just wanted to bend the evil-doer and not break him altogether, grieved over the opponent’s stubborn divergence. This way, the battle dragged on by Him for a whole week, during which He fondly hoped that Ravana’s enmity towards Him would gradually subside, egging him on to surrender at the Lord’s feet. It is a case of His incurable optimism rooted in His boundless magnanimity, that took a whole week to perceive the opponent’s incurable divergence. On the seventh day, the Lord saw no point in prolonging the battle any further and He started felling down the demon’s ten heads, one by one, only to find that they got replaced, there and then. Rama was, therefore, obliged to press into service ‘Brahmastra‘, the lethal supermissile and aim it into Ravana’s (heartless) heart, totally devoid of devotion to Him, contrary to His week-long expectation. And that was the end of a long, long reign of parlous terror. Sri Andal has, however, given a swift burial to this long-drawn episode, in just half a line of Song Thirteen of Tiruppavai – ‘Polla Arakkanai killikkalaintanai‘, that is, the malignant Raksasa was done away with, by Rama, effortlessly and, in no time, like clipping off the stem of the betal leaf with one’s finger nail !
‘Madhuramavandupada, mamayil ada’: The humming bees and dancing peacocks symbolize the singers and dancers in Lord Rangaraja’s court.
Arangatamman: This has already been explained at length. It will, therefore, suffice to point out the special background of the Lord reposing in Srirangam, in the present context. After slaying Ravana, the Lord entered the Shrine in Srirangam by the principal (southern) gate and retired to bed. When He came down from Tiruvenkatam in the north (Vatavenkata mamalai), He entered the shrine in Arangam by the north-gate – an intellectual treat indeed, provided by the learned commentators, with intuitive perception of God-head.
Tiru utara bandham ennullattul ninru ulakinrate!: The belly-band is the gold belt, adding luster to the womb of Mother Yasoda (the one who yielded Krsna for all intents and purposes), besides ridding the beholders of their earthly bondage. Little wonder then, it drew up Pan perumal’s mind, releasing it from the clutches of the navel, the whirlpool in the center of the belly and made it saunter (stroll along the belt), intoxicated with joy like the elephant in rut.
Song Five : Paramaya Pazhavinai
In the upward march of the Alvar’s mind from Lord Ranganatha’s feet to His crown, each limb, in the ascending order, is said to have pressed, according to the Commentator, its special claim to the Alvar’s attention. And now, when the Alvar’s mind was gaily strolling along the Lord’s golden belly-band, it looked as though the mind would simply stay on there. However, in its competitive exuberance, the Lord’s winsome chest, with its handsomeness, enhanced manifold by the gem-set ‘Vyjayantimala‘, the lovely mole (Srivatsam), the dazzling ruby (Koustubham) and, above all, the Divine Mother (Mahalaksmi), inseperably poised on it, compelled the Alvar’s attention. Did not the Divine Mother (Sita), Grace first, Grace last, Grace throughout, the very personification of Grace, try to turn even the fiend Ravana into Lord Rama’s friend ? Little wonder, the Mother, adorning the Lord’s chest, could easily draw up the Alvar’s chastened mind. After a good bit of introspection as to how an ace-sinner like him, woefully transformed, beyond recognition, by truck-loads of sins, dark and dense, could at all enjoy such felicity, the Alvar’s mind could trace it to the Lord’s chest, motivated by His conjunction with the Mother (Devya karunya rupaya). The Alvar acknowledges, rather reveals, in this song, his grand discovery. The Alvar aghast with wonder at this extra-ordinary turn of events, the Lord absolving him, in toto, of the age-long accumulation of sins and on the top of that, getting Himself firmly lodged inside him.
Paramaya palavinai parraruttu ennaittan
Varamakki vaittan vaittatanri ennul pukuntan
Koramatavam ceytanankol Arangattamman tiru
Varamarpatanro atienai atkontate ! ||5||
Surely, ’tis the bejeweled chest of my Sire at Arangam
With ‘Tiru’, well-poised, that fastened me unto Him;
Rooting out my age-long sins, dark and dense,
He got inside me; indeed, I know of no penance,
Tough and austere, gone thro’ by me in by-gone days ||
Paramaya palavinai: The Alvar is at loss to spell out the manner in which he committed sins, which have swelled up, down the ages, into mountainous proportions pressing him down miserably. It is said that the soul commits a vast variety of countless sins, in a trice, which cannot be neutralized by the resultant punishments, undergone over aeons of time(Brahma Kalpa, running into millions of years). The sins could be of various kinds, such as non-performance of duties, enjoined by the Sastras; performance of acts, specifically prohibited by them; moving in the company of sinners; bartering away God; seeking from Him petty gains; and owing allegiance to minor deities, keeping God away. Pity, the Alvar could not recollect the vast variety of sins committed by him and the manner in which they were committed. It is a staggering past and the sins are also countless, baffling enumeration. He could only mention it, in general terms, as too dense, pressing on him much-too-heavily. Well Nammalvar also fared no better, going by his utterances in his hymns. He could describe the sins committed by him ancient and massive like the long stretch of a mountain range. [The reader should not, at once jump to the conclusion that the Alvars were also ace-sinners like us. Far from it; they were spotless souls, untainted by sins of any kind and that is why they were sent, in our midst, as His chosen emissaries. If they, as well as our illustrious Acharyas have, in their hymns and stotras, presented themselves before God in such terms, it is only a matter of self-denouncing humility, setting pace for us to follow in their footsteps. That is how we can suppress the ego in us effectively, leaving no room for conceit, arrogance and the like to raise their ugly heads and damn us beyond redemption].
Parraruttu: Eradicated, root and branch. Normally, when one tries to atone for the sins through the methods, indicated by the Sastras, only specific categories of sins can be got over by the relative rites and rituals and not the rest. But when the Supreme Lord cuts the Gordian knot, as in this case, sins one and all, however numerous and dense, get rooted out, never more to raise their ugly heads, the erstwhile stink of all the sins also vanishing. [If the stench from the sewage of sins keeps lingering on, even after the sins themselves have been wiped out, there is the offchance of the sins sprouting again. In the case of bugs, crushed to death, the resultant smell is said to give rise to further crop of bugs].
Ennaittan varamakki vaittan: Not only did the Lord absolve the Alvar of all sins but He also admitted him into His fold as a hot favourite, inducing in him, at the same time, extreme liking for Him to the exclusion of everything else. What more ! (see notes below).
Vaittatanri ennul pukuntan: Even as the spiritually regenerated, fully sanctified Alvar lost his separate entity, soaked in God-love of intense magnitude, the Lord got inside the Alvar and became part of him. What a grand reciprocity ! What a marvel ! Like Sage Vasista entering the hut of the lowly- “Sarva bhutantaratma Narayano Harih“. This underscores Lord Ranganatha’s ‘Antaryami‘ aspect, as well.
Koramatavam ceytanankol ariyen: Amazed by the present turn of events, the Alvar is led on to an intense introspection as to whether at all he had, at any time, gone through any austere penance, including the severest mortification for a good length of time, to merit this much. But he draws a complete blank. However much he scratched his brain and searched his heart, he could not find the slightest trace of self-effort, indulged in, by him, for his spiritual uplift.
Sri Vedanta Desika, however, tries to examine the issue, the other way, interesting enough, although a bit stretched too far, according to his own admission. He wondered whether Lord Ranganatha, who left Ayodhya, bound for Lanka (as intended by Rama and fondly looked for, by Vibhisana), took His abode, instead, at a spot, chosen by Him, on the bank of the river Kaveri and lay on the Serpent-Couch at Srirangam, doing tough penance, to get at Panan, the long-lost treasure !
Tiru ara marpatanro adiyenai atkondate! Well, here is a flash ! “O, I see ! My Mother is so near at hand, right on the Lord’s chest, surrounded by the gold necklace, par excellence [the hiranya prakara for the Mother (Harini) – Sri Suktam]. In this grand milieu, the proximate promptings of the Mother have clicked so well. Not only that; Grace personified that She is, She has lit up my essential nature (Svasvarupa Jnana, hitherto lying dormant). So far, I was enthralled by the Lord’s exquisite charm but now, I am inseparably drawn to Him by His auspicious traits, innumerable, each one being of unlimited dimensions. Above all, the knowledge has dawned on me that He is my Sole Master and I am His exclusive vassal (servitor)-(adiyen)”. It is noteworthy, in this context, that Hanuman introduced himself, initially, to Sita, the Divine Mother at Asoka vana, as but Rama’s messenger (Dutoham). But with the influx of the Mother’s Grace on him, he instantly realized (the dawn of true knowledge) that he was the Lord’s vassal, not a mere messenger. From then onwards, he introduced himself to everyone in Lanka, that queried him who he was, as “Dasoham Kosalendrasya – I am the servant of Rama, the King of Kosala territory”.
Song Six: Tunda Venpiraiyan
And now, the Lord’s neck, higher up, tells its tale of superiority. Superiority apart, how charming it is, like the attractive neck of the tender arecanut tree, with three lovely streaks running around ! This does not, however, mean glossing over the greatness and grandeur of the Lord’s chest, just below. Of course, the Lord’s winsome chest is the seat of Mother’s residence, decorating it much more than the jewels. But then, how can the necklace etc. stay there without the support of the neck from which they are hanging ? Again, Mahalaksmi, poised on the chest, as well as His other consorts, throw their forearms around the Lord’s neck only, while embracing Him, as could be inferred from the imprints of their bangles on the Lord’s neck. When the King of the swollen oceans (Pralayadevata) wanted to gobble up, during the Great Deluge (Mahapralaya), the entire Universe and its enormous contents, the Lord, the King of kings, forestalled the former and preserved all beings and the worlds, containing them inside His belly. Otherwise, they would have all been swept off by the swirling waters of the surging oceans, in dreadful fury and dismembered. This, at once, brings into focus His extra-ordinary prowess, His unrivalled supremacy over the rest. Side by side, His Grace galore is revealed in that He rescued the vast wealth of the Universe, things and beings of enormous dimensions and kept them in the ‘safe deposit vault’ inside His belly for the duration of the Deluge; He did this, unasked and unsolicited by the subjects, one and all, the four-faced Brahma downwards. The Lord’s neck is the gateway through which all these entered.
Further, the neck tells us its tale of amazing simplicity, as well; figuratively, it still reminds one of the folded errand – scroll, tied on to it by the Pandavas to carry their message to King Dhrtarastra and his diabolic son, Duryodhana. In the olden days, messages used to be put across from one place to another through trained dogs and pigeons with the cudjon leaf on which they were inscribed, folded and tied around the necks of the couriers. They would reach the destination and effect the delivery, all right. Yes, the manner in which the Commentator has put it only reminds the reader of the role of an errand boy, played by Lord Krsna.
During the Deluge, the Lord’s neck played its part in rescuing all things and beings from the onrush of oceanic waters. Yet, it does not rest on its oars. Now, in the Lord’s iconic manifestation as Ranganatha, it continues to play its due part in rescuing us all from the ocean of ‘Samsara’ (earthly bondage), the very purpose for which the Lord, in His easily worshippable (iconic) form, is staying on, in the holy island.
In the preceding song, the Alvar claimed that his massive, age-long accumulation of sins got wiped off, at one stroke, by the Lord as soon as the Divine Mother, poised on His chest, put in a word to Him, pleading his (Alvar’s) case. But then, this might not be readily swallowed by the speculative philosophers and theoretical theologians. They would, in their very nature, certainly point to sastraik pronouncement that the sins committed by the individual in a trice, cannot be wiped off even through the resultant punishments, undergone over aeons of time. These skeptics, the superficial critics, the academicians, are, however, silenced by the Alvar in this song. The song begins with the episode of Lord Siva’s wandering along, begging alms, to get rid of his father’s (Brahma’s) skull which had stuck fast to the palm. It was only when, at long last, he approached Lord Badrinath in the Himalayas, and begged alms to fill the begging bowl (the skull, which did not look like filling up, in spite of the long term of his mendicancy), filled up fell off the palm. Yes, it was Divine Mother beside Lord Badrinath who pleaded for mercy, on behalf of the supplicant, and that very moment (tat ksanadeva) the skull got filled up and fell off, granting Siva instant relief from his long sufferings. See notes below, for further details.
Tuntavenpiraiyan tuyartirttavan anciraiya
Vantu valporilcul Aranganagar meya appan
Antaranta bakirantattu orumanilam elu malvarai murrum
Unta kantam kantir atiyenai uyyakkontate||6||
‘Tis our Sire, resting in the city of Arangam,
Amid orchards where abound bees with lovely wings,
Who the distress dispelled of Siva, sporting the Cresent Moon
On matted locks; but look, ’tis His neck superfine,
Which did the cosmic eggs and the worlds beyond gorge
With all their contents, terrains vast and mountains huge,
Which took this vassal on and granted him refuge’ ||
Tunda ven piriyan tuyar tirttavan: Lord Ranganatha, who dispelled the (dire) distress of Siva, who sports on his matted locks the cresent Moon (just 2 days old in its waxing period of a fortnight). The episode runs as follows : In a fit of rage, born of jealousy, Rudra (Siva) cut off one of the five heads of his father (Brahma). The latter could have no doubt retaliated, there and then and either cut off a head of Siva or slain him altogether. But he did not do either, as the fatherhood in him gained the upperhand; he simply cursed Rudra, ‘Kapali tvam bhavisyasi‘. That is, Siva was to undergo the torturing punishment of keeping the skull of the severed head stuck to his palm (with all its stench of flesh and blood) until such time that he got it filled with blood, seeking alms, employing the skull as the begging bowl. Alas ! all the wanderings of the mendicant for getting the bowl filled were of no avail and the skull did not look like filling up, at all. At long last, he went to Badrinath in the Himalayas and begged alms from Lord Narayana. Laksmi, the Divine Mother, seated by His side, also pleaded on behalf of the supplicant, to ensure the instant influx of the Lord’s mercy. As usual, She succeeded; the Lord shook off the sweat on His forehead into the skull, uttering the word, ‘aksayam‘ (ever full, with no depletion) and lo! it got filled up and fell off.
Siva, the supplicant, felt greatly relieved; he could not believe his eyes, whether he was awake or just dreaming, as he himself confessed to Parvati Devi, later on. The full text of his statement runs: “Tatra Narayanah Sriman maya bhiksam prayacitah Visnuprasadat susroni kapalam tat sahasrada sphutitam bahudayatam svapnalabdha dhanam yada“.
What Siva had committed was ‘Brahma hatya‘, the cruelest of sins. Our Acaryas, unreservedly, place the following categories of men, in our midst, on par with those committing ‘Brahma hatya’:
- Those, blest by God with the human body, with all the faculties, in tact, and still fail to make use of such a simple recipe as ‘namasankirtana‘ (recitial of Lord Visnu’s auspicious names, spelling out His great glory) and ford across the ocean of samsara (see also Slokas 37 and 38 of Kulasekharalvar’s ‘Mukundamala‘ where he laments, ‘What a pity ! The worldings can but do not utter the holy names of the Lord, and court instead, endless miseries’), and
- Those who foolishly believe that they are their own masters and not the Supreme Lord’s, the rightful owner to whom all things and beings, all over, belong; these folks virtually rob Him of His valued possession, the Jivatma (atmapaharanam), theft of a severe magnitude, on par with ‘Brahmahatya‘.
Arangangar meya Appan: The eternal Father of one and all, all over (in all climes) and at all times (in all ages), the Supreme Lord has graciously taken up His abode in Srirangam, in an exhilarating setting between two rivers, amid cool orchards, bright and gay, so as to redeem us over here, prone to commit sins, such as those mentioned above.
And now, the last two lines of this Song (as per original text) depict an altogether different posture of the Lord, different from the one, set out in the opening line of this Song. There, mention was made of His ridding Lord Siva of his traumatic sufferings, at the latter’s request (entreaty). But the lines, now taken up, describe the episode of the Lord’s succour of all things and beings along with the worlds, containing them, from the devastating waters of the ‘Mahapralaya‘ (the great Deluge) by sheltering them all inside His bowels, unasked and unsolicited by the latter – The Lord’s neck, by itself cannot obviously play an independent role, in this regard. And yet it is a pleasant (harmless) piece of poetic imagery, attributing the benefaction to the neck. As a matter of fact, the gate of entry is the mouth and the gulping is done by the throat (implanted in the neck), a feature, noticeable from Song One. Well, the Alvar Saints send their minds, quite often, as their messengers to the Supreme Lord as if the mind is a separate entity, functioning by itself. In Tiruvaymoli (III-8) the Alvar’s limbs and senses are portrayed as vying with each other in lauding the Lord’s multifaceted glory, with competitive exuberance.
Song Seven: Kaiyinaar Suri Sangu
In keeping with the trend of the earlier songs, the Lord’s mouth, situated, a little above the neck, compels the Alvar’s attention. Is not the mouth the actual opening through which all the worlds, referred to, in the preceding song were gorged in ? The gulping of them all, down the throat, rooted in the neck is but a subsequent process. It is also noteworthy that Nammalvar has specifically addressed the Lord, atop Mount Venkatam, as the One with a mammoth mouth, which swallowed all the worlds (on this side of heaven) during the Deluge (Tiruvaymoli VI-10-1). In the present context, Pan Perumal gets reduced to the sad plight of the swimmer aided by a raft, halfway through. That is the Alvar, who had hitherto employed his mind for imbibing the exquisite charm of the Lord’s limbs, one by one, now stands dispossessed of his mind. How ? The mind was whisked away by the enchanting red lips of the Lord’s mouth, crying halt to further contemplation of the limbs upwards, right upto the Regal Crown, tall and majestic.
Kaiyinar curicankanalaliyar nilvarai pol
Meyyanar tulapavirayar kamalnilmuti em
Ayyanar Ani Aranganar aravinanai micai meya mayanar
Ceyyavay aiyo ennaic cintai kavarntatuve ! ||7||
Alas ! my mind has away from me been whisked
By the coral lips of the wondorous Lord of exquisite charm,
Reposing on serpant-couch in ornate Arangam
Wearing the Crown tall with fragrant tulaci wreath bedecked
And holding spiral conch lovely and the fire-spitting discuss ||
Kaiyinar curicankanalaliyar: The Supreme Lord has innumerable celestial weapons, of rare excellence (Sarva praharana ayudhah). However, He has always on His person, the five principal weapons, the Conch, Discus, Sword, Bow and Mace. These weapons are highly destructive as well as decorative. As the Alvar is now enjoying the enthralling beauty of the Lord, reference to the Conch and Discus in the song, is to the decorative (ornamental) aspect. The destructive part of it is also wholesome inasmuch as the destruction, wrought by the weapons, is of the enemies of the devout. For instance, when, on the battlefield at Kuruksetra, Lord Krsna blew the Conch to signify the commencement of the battle, the tumultuous sound rent the air, causing the sky and the earth to echo and re-echo, piercing as it were the hearts of Duryodhana and others. Again, the mighty Discus would, the moment the Lord thought of annihilating an opponent, dart forth, deal a lethal strike at the intended target, scorching it with furious flames and then get back to settle down on the Lord’s right hand, as before.
Well, weapons destroy our sins also. Are they (sins) not our opponents, standing between us and God as the worst impediments for attaining Him? Here is a thrilling anecdote. When Sri Parasara Bhattar was staying in Tirukottiyur, he overheard the following dialogue that ensued between two local residents, Terkalvan and Kolarialvan and got stunned. The former queried the latter, far from fastidious with regard to religious rites and rituals, whether he would not take a bath even on that day, marking the commencement of ‘Dakshinayanam‘. Pat came the reply from him, “Well, sir! A hundred dips in the tank will not absolve me of my dense sins, which can however be rooted out by a single cut of the Lord’s Discus”.
Lord Ranganatha, in repose, referred to, as Periyaperumal, in Sri Vaisnava parlance, is seen by us all only with two hands. The extra couple of hands, sporting the Conch and Discus, referred to, in this song, are not at all visible to us. Was it then a mere figment of the Alvar’s imagination? No, not so. Such a rare vision is granted by the Lord, at His sweet volition, to devotees of the calibre of Pan Perumal and the Alvar Saints, in general, the hallowed mystics, blest by the Lord with the radiant joy of intuitive experience of this kind.
Sri Vedanta Desika has thrown additional light, namely, the Conch, with its configuration of ‘Pranava‘, symbolizes that mantra while the Discus symbolizes mind. The two, viewed in juxtaposition, denote the ‘Mantra’ and the ‘Mind’, meditating on the former.
Nilvarai pol meyyanar: The Lord’s body resembles an outstretched emerald mountain, ready to crush down and pulverize our mountainous sins.
Ani Aranganar: Sri Vedanta Desika’s comments are, as follows: The Lord’s auspicious traits of amazing magnitude, dearest to the hearts of the devout, are very much in evidence in the ornamental setting here, the Lord’s bedstead beneath the golden dome (Sri Rangavimanam), beaming forth the Lord’s astounding simplicity. Yes, these attributes are far more manifest here than in His Transcendental Abode (Sri Vaikuntha) and ‘Milk – ocean’ (the seat of His creative activities) so as to make it appear that the heavenly abode, down below, in Srirangam is the common link, constituting, as it were, a single (monolithic) ornament – ‘ekabharanam‘. Lord Ranganatha adorns such an ornament (it is not the ornament that adorns Him, who is infinitely charming, on His own), spanning both the spheres, namely, the ‘Nitya vibhuti‘ (Eternal Land-Heaven) and the ‘Lila vibhuti‘ (the sporting arena, embracing all the worlds, down below).
Aravinanai micai meya Mayanar: For the naked eyes, the Lord seems to be asleep on His sweet-smelling, cushiony Serpent-Couch. And yet, He looks very grand, a bewitching spectacle, deeply etched in the beholder’s mind, never to fade out of memory. See also Song twenty three of Tondaradippodi Alvar’s ‘Tirumalai’. This is in dire contrast to the slovenly state of disarray in which we, mortals, are noticed during sleep. But then, where is the question of the Lord, characterized by pure, unalloyed ‘Sattva’, succumbing to sleep, the domain of ‘Tamas‘. Well, He is in ‘Yoga nidra‘, seemingly asleep but actually revolving in His mind ‘ways and means’ of redeeming us all -the highest form of self-activisation of one’s psychic energy. But, what if He is asleep? Adisesa, His serpent-bed, serving the Lord in multifarious ways, is ever-alert and the mere sight of him is enough to scare away the enemies of the devout, the diabolic ones with their anti-God posture. This is like the petty animals getting scared away by the tiger in the lair, even when asleep. Yes, it is thus the wondrous setting of the wondrous Lord (Mayanar).
Ceyyavay, aiyo ! ennai cintai kavarntatuve! The lips are charming beyond description by dint of their tint and taste, red like lotus, sparkling like the coral reef and; tasty like the honey, shed by the lips in copious quantities. The Alvar’s mind was about to drink deep, both these, albeit like measuring the oceanic waters with a tiny measure which can hardly hold quarter litre. “Even that, alas ! has become impossible”, laments the Alvar, in this song, as his measuring gadget, the mind, has been stolen away by the Lord’s bewitching coral lips.
Song Eight: Pariyanagi Vandha
“Alas ! the Lord’s red-lipped mouth has whisked away my mind, thereby depriving me of the one and only means, hitherto employed by me for imbibing the exquisite charm of the Lord’s person, bit by bit, consistent, of course, with my all-too-meagre ability” was the Alvar’s deep dejection due to the abrupt halt of the upward march of his mind to the intended destination, namely, the Lord’s majestic crown, the Lord’s lovely pair of eyes accosted him, as follows:
“Well, you found the lips displaying, just one color, namely, red, so charming as to lose your mind, in the bargain. How indeed will you fare if you look at this pair, displaying a riot of colors, red, black and white ?”
Yes, the voluntary projection of the Lord’s white eyeballs with red streaks stretching along, the black pupil with a seductive luster and the bluish iris, encircling it, thoroughly unsettled the Alvar, sweeping him off his feet. Actually, this kind of self-projection by Lord Ranganatha’s limbs, one by one, seems to have been the pattern, right from Song One (see also the notes under that song). The same pattern holds good for this song as well as the next. This aspect of self-projection by the limbs is now emphasized lest the reader should feel puzzled how the Alvar sans his mind, could look above the Lord’s coral lips and envision the gleaming pair of eyes, throwing up a bewitching spectrum of colors and then proceed to behold the overall charm of the sapphire complexion of the Lord’s body (see Song Nine). The position is, however, entirely different regarding the Tenth (concluding) Song, the Alvar having got inside the Sanctum by then. Against this background, let us now delve into this song and enjoy its poetic embellishments, as well.
Pariyanaki vanta avunan utal kinta amararkku
Ariya Atipiran Arangattamalan mukattu
Kariyavakip putai parantu milirntu cevvariyati ninda ap
Periyavaya kankal ennaippetaimai ceytanave ! ||8||
Those eyes, long and broad, red streaks running along
Eyeballs white and pupils dark, on the face glistening
Of our Benefactor, first and foremost, unto celestials rare,
The Lord immaculate at Arangam, who the bowels tore
Of the burly demon, come to bully Prahlad, his young son,
Have by their charm exquisite overwhelmed me, on their own ||
Pariyanaki vantu avunan utal kinda(van): This refers to Lord Narasimha slaying the demoniac Hiranya, the fat bully. He was a veritable mountain of flesh, a stupendous mass of fleshy (corporal) ignorance (tamas), gathered from all the worlds, as Sri Vedanta Desika puts it. Yes, the demon had been fattened awfully by boons of all sorts, secured from the celestials, a grand feast indeed for Lord Narasimha’s robust, claw-like nails, of unimaginable strength. Pointing to a column of pillar, in front, the irate father threateningly questioned his son, Prahlada, whether that Hari, on the latter’s lips, all the time, was right there or not. The little one, a staunch, unflinching devotee of Lord Hari (Visnu Bhagavan), affirmed without the slightest tinge of diffidence or hesitation;
“Sire ! Hari is everywhere, inside the animate beings like You and I as well as the inanimate things like this pillar”.
As if to prove the youngster wrong, the demon slapped the pillar, with frenzied fury. And lo ! there and then Lord Hari, in the exotic form of ‘Man-Lion’, stepped out of the ripped- open pillar, a fully-grown adult (more than a match for that fat ram, Hiranya), ready for instant combat, His face blazing with fury (righteous indignation), His tongue drooping down the lip, His looks, fierce and piercing, clenched fist, ready to land devastating punches on its target and ominous peals of laughter, terrific and terrifying. The strange Visitor took the formidable opponent (by now, mentally roasted like a pig) by that very hand, which slapped the pillar, led him on to the threshold of the palace and tore open his bowels with His formidable nails like the dry fibre of the plantain truck and finished him off. Yes, He eliminated him physically as souls vest in Him and the one inside the physical frame of the opponent would get lost to Him altogether, if allowed to remain in that foul frame any longer.
But all these pale into insignificance before the achievement of the immaculate Lord at Arangam. Lord Narasimha responded to the prayer of just one devotee and put in His apperance between the two vertical halves of a pillar. But Lord Ranganatha came down here from His transcendental abode, on His own, took His abode between two rivers, making Himself visible to our naked (fleshy) eyes in the Sanctum between two pillars (Manttun-amoda sthamba) and retrieving numberless devotees through His indescribable beauty, an irresistible charm of unlimited dimensions, unasked, unsolicited (not prayed for, as Prahlada did). Therefore it is, Pan Perumal has referred to Him, in this song, as Arangattamalan, the immaculate Lord, possessed of purity of the highest order. (See also notes under Song One where the different facets of the Lord’s purity, par excellence, have been analysed). It may be recalled that, in the context of Vibhishana’s admission into Lord Rama’s camp, He solemnly affirmed that He would not give up the supplicant, at the doorstep on any account, whatever be the arguments, for or against admission. Even so, the immaculate Lord at Arangam would not give us up, not withstanding the host of infirmities, bedevilling us. It is also noteworthy that even while reposing on His serpent-bed at Arangam, He is facing the southerly direction, casting His sweet glances on Vibhisana.
Kariyavaki pudai parantu milirntu cevvariyoti: The beautiful setting of the Lord’s eyes is projected in this line. Yes, He is ‘Purdarikaksa’ – the one with eyes, resembling lotus, ever fresh and in full bloom. The colour of the eyeballs is white. The red streaks, running along the surface signify (i) the ‘Mahapurusa laksana‘, the vestiges of the Great One, the Soverign Master of the Universe, (ii) He is the spouse of Goddess Laksmi whose red complexion gets imprinted in His grazing eyes (see IX-4 of Tiruvaymoli) and (iii) His inordinate love for the devout turning His eyes red (blood-shot) with delight (see VIII-8 of Tiruvaymoli which opens with a description of the Lord’s exquisite charm, getting enhanced manifold on His mingling with Nammalvar). The pupils are black and lustrous, glistening, all the more, against the backdrop of the white eyeballs, interspersed with red streaks. So charming and graceful the eyes are that they seem to vie with the Lord’s exuberance to redeem His devotees, the eyes themselves wanting to shed all that benevolence. As a matter of fact, one’s benevolence as well as its opposite number, namely, wrathful displeasure gets reflected in one’s eyes.
Ninda: As Sri Parasara Bhattar, noted for his unique presentation, would put it, the Lord’s eyes embarked on a grand project, namely, enlarging themselves so as to occupy His entire body and thereby exhibit His innate Grace in super-abundance. But then, they got halted by the intrusion of the ear-lobes on either side and the two extremities of the nose-bridge – a grand piece of poetic imagery indeed ! Yes, the Lord’s eyes are not merely long but also big (periyavaya), too broad to admit of even the most ardent devotee enjoying their grandeur, in full, or they are big, with a vengeance, so as to attract even “the hard-hearted ‘me’ (Alvar)” and unsettle him, in this manner. Further, it is a twin operation, the dart from both the eyes aiming at the same target (Alvar) and destabilizing him completely. See also Sloka nine of Saint Kulasekhara’s Mukundamala (Kantimannetramine – whose dazzling eyes are like the flashy fishes).
‘Apperiyavaya kankal’, in this song, seems to follow the pattern of ‘Appancacanniyam‘ in the opening song of Periyalvar’s ‘Tiruppallantu’. The eyes as well as the Conch, right in front, should have been referred to as ‘Ipperiyavaya‘ and ‘Ippancacannyam‘, respectively. But they were referred to, as things, far off, because the Alvar, in each case, turned the face in the opposite direction lest he should cast an evil eye on the glorious setting of ‘white, red and lack’ in the former case and ‘white, red and blue’ (white Conch, red palm and the bluish back of the palm, gripping the Conch), in the latter.
Song Nine: Alama Marathin Ilaimel
[The destruction, wrought by the conventional arms, deployed, one by one or piecemeal, is very much limited, as compared with the wholesale destruction of an entire region, wrought by a single nuclear bomb].
Hitherto, the Lord pressed into service the missiles, one by one, in the shape of His limbs, but now, He throws His entire weight, the sum-total of the several regiments (members of the body, with the characteristic ornaments, worn by each) by exhibiting His enthralling Form, as a whole. The bewildered Pan Perumal exclaims, in this song, that, alas ! he has lost now his earlier composure, swept off his feet by Lord Ranganatha’s flooding beauty. The overall charm of His enchanting person and dazzle of His bluish complexion, of incomparable excellence.
Alamamarattinilaimel oru palakanay
Kolamamaniyaramum muttuttamamum mutivillador elil
Nilameni aiyo ! nirai kontatuennencinaiye ! ||9||
The endless charm of the peerless chains with sparking pearls and rubies set
And the bluish tint, in glorious blend, of my Lord on serpent-bed
At Arangam, who did once the worlds seven mouth and rest
As Babe unique on a tender leaf of the banyan tree vast,
Has the poor me thrown into awful disarray, distraught !
Alamamarattin ilai mel oru palakanay jnalam elum undan: Wonderful and unimaginable it was. What ? A tender babe [in comparison with whom Yasodha’s babe (Krsna) could be deemed a mature elder] devoured the worlds, one and all, with all their enormous contents, and rested on an equally tender leaf, plucked from a huge banyan tree, for millions of years (the entire duration of ‘mahapralaya‘ – the great Deluge). The whopping stuff, gulped down by the unique Babe, however, occupied just a corner of the Babe’s belly ! Had they all got jumbled, huddled together ? No, far from it. Layer by layer, they remained, in tact, their contours and configuration were not disturbed, in the least – so the texts say. One might question whether anyone has seen such a Babe and peeped inside the belly, so as to vouchsafe the veracity of seemingly hyperbolical statements, as above. A pertinent question indeed ! Well, sage Markandeya did, according to his own admission in Srimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata, of unquestionable veracity, personally verify and testify. In the ‘Aranyaparva‘ of Mahabharata, Sage Markandeya narrated to Yudhistira the marvelous deeds of (breath-taking exploits) of Lord Vishnu, when he beheld Him reclining, as a tender Babe, on a tender leaf of the banayan tree over the huge expanse of the furious waters of the Deluge. He said, “O King ! I was awe-struck when I saw all the worlds in that infantile bowel of the Lord. With His special permission to this solitary observer, long after, I was inside His body, looking around for a hundred years and still I could not see the farthest limit of the bowels, at any time. Baffled that I was, I could not but exclaim, ‘Ha ! where and how does this infant lie !”
Arangattaravinanaiyan: Why beat about the bush? The Lord, now reclining on the serpent-couch at Srirangam, is the same as the One, who secreted, inside His bowels, all the worlds with all their things and beings, thereby protecting them all from the fury of the swirling waters of the Deluge, out to devour them. In earlier songs, Lord Ranganatha was similarly identified with Lord Trivikrama, Rama, Krsna and Narasimha.
When the Lord lay on a small piece of leaf on the watery expanse, there was none around to worry about His personal safety, whether such a tiny bed, with little or no space to roll about, was not fraught with the risk of His falling down and getting drowned in the deep waters, the more so, because of the heavy load inside His belly. But the milieu here is entirely different. He is resting on the spacious, cushiony bed, the silken-soft bosom of ‘Adisesa‘ (Ananta) who also zealously guards Him against any possible danger. Of course, the Lord is potent enough to take care of Himself, unaided. And yet, it is Adisesa’s inordinate devotion which makes him apprehensive of the Lord’s personal safety, as did Perialvar and other Alvar saints of the same ilk.
Kolamamani aramum muttu tamamum mutivillator elil nilameni: Elegant rows of necklaces of infinite charm, inset with priceless gems of exceptional radiance like ‘Koustubha‘ and sparkling pearls, keeping the Lord’s cloud-hued person, cool and refreshing are referred to here.
Aiyo nirai kontata ennencinaiye: This points to the loss of the Alvar’s erstwhile stability and composure, in toto. Those traits had sustained him and made him feel elated and elevated while imbibing the exquisite charm of the limbs of the Lord, step by step. But now, by exhibiting the overall charm of His cloud-hued person, full and flooding, well-bedecked, the Lord has unsettled the Alvar to such an extent as to make him apprehensive of the safety of One, so charming and alluring besides pining for ocular perception as well, unable to brook separation from Him, any longer.
Song Ten: Kondal Vannanai
And now is the grand finale, grand in every way, as indicated below: The aloofness observed by his kinsmen, in terms of their low birth, deterred Pan Perumal from treading and defiling the holy precincts of Srirangam, holiest of the holy see. Even so, he stood daily on the southern bank of river Kaveri, harp in hand, facing the direction of the holy Shrine at Srirangam. He got lost in rapturous laudation of Lord Ranganatha, with a mind, wholly riveted in Him – sight for gods ! The lord, as the unfailing Cognisor, took note of the Alvar’s unique stance, in dire contrast to the ways of the worldlings around, hankering after worldly pleasures, putting Him far away. Therefore, He felt greatly attracted to him. The Lord enabled him to come down to Srirangam and that too, right inside the Sanctum, mounted on the shoulders of a high caste Brahmin, an extraordinary gesture !
What more? He was also granted, en route, the vision of His charming person, feet upwards, on a par with direct perception – ‘Darsana samana saksatkara‘. The Lord, who ought to be beheld and worshipped by everyone, donning a body (drstavyah sarva dehibhih), was also agog to bestow this bliss upon a devotee of such a high order. c.f. Yamunacarya’s Stotra Ratna-56 ‘Ksanepi te yadviraho atidussahah‘ -“Seperation from you, O, Lord ! even for a split second, of those who devoutly aspire to have, at least once, a glimpse of Your Supernal Form (Divya Mangala Vigrah), is unbearable to you”. From the Alvar’s songs, as above, Lord Ranganatha also noted, with immense pleasure, that he saw in Him the aggregate of His other hypostatic forms, ‘Para’, ‘Vyuha’ and ‘Vibhava’ as well as his Iconic manifestations elsewhere, a fact, which the Alvar has given expression to, in this concluding song, as well – “en Aranganaik kanta kankal marronrinaikkanave“. Little wonder then, He has now drawn Pan Perumal, right inside His very person, not merely His proximity ! Here then is the meeting ground of mutual longing, the spiritual consummation of the individual Soul (Jivatma) and the Super-Soul (Paramatma).
That the saint is no more a part of this mundane world is explicit from this song, as he has asserted that his eyes shall not behold anyone else, anymore, having seen Him who alone matters. That he has no name or roots anywhere in the mundane soil and has, in short, lost all sense of belonging here, is also patent from the fact that he has not mentioned, in this concluding song, his name and nativity (native place). One can however notice the other Alvars, with the exception of the first four and this Alvar, invariably incorporating their name, native place, rulership (if any), special attainments, the benefits accruing to chanters etc., (which however has to be appreciated in proper light). Even so, it can, in a way, be construed that the fruits of chanting this hymnal have been indicated in the concluding song. The highest fruit is a close rapport with the Lord in heaven drinking in the perennial beauty of the Lord, that fountain source of eternal bliss, flowing incessantly, a marvelous communication, baffling description – ‘Sada pasyanta surayah‘ – Visnu Suktam. The same bliss can as well be enjoyed in the holy Shrine of Lord Ranganatha, as demonstrated by Pan Perumal in this hymnal, short and (perennially) sweet.
Kontal vannanaik kovalanay vennai
Untavayan ennullam kavarntanai
Antarkon Aniyarangan ennamutinaik
Kanta kankal marronrinaikkanave. ||10||
None else shall the eyes look at, having Him beheld,
The Cloud-hued, who, is sheperd born, mouthfuls of butter gulped,
Sovereign Lord of Universe with ornate Arangam as His abode,
My nectar-nonsatiate, who my sweetened mind has grabbed.
kontal vannan: What ! He, whom the Vedik taxts proclaim as one beyond the range of naked vision (fleshy eyes), is now right in front of the Alvar ! (na mamsa caksurapi viksate -Rigveda, nacaksusa pasyate kasca nainam -Yajur Veda). It is this felicity galore bestowed, suo moto, by Lord Ranganatha on Pan Perumal that enabled him to describe His complexion of exquisite charm, at first hand. The Lord’s complexion is suggestive of the rain-laden cloud, the very sight of which will render the beholder, cool and refreshed, shorn of all his/her erstwhile drab, dreariness. The transparence of this kind of cloud reveals the Lord’s innate traits.[‘complexion’ also means character, nature (svabhavana)] c.f. ‘Mukil vannan adiyai adintu arulcudi uyntavan‘- Tiruvaymoli VII-2-11 – the one (referring to himself) who got redeemed through the attainment of the feet of the cloud hued Lord. It deserves to be noted, in this context, that the rain-cloud unleashes rains all over, without discrimination of the mobile and the stationary, caste, colour or creed, nourishing them all.
Kovalanay vennai unda vayan: By taking birth among the shepherds the dimwits (as Sri Andal puts it in Song Twenty Eight of Tiruppavai), the Lord has gone a step ahead of the rain-clouds. The clouds just rain and drift away. But the cloud-hued Lord comes down and mingles freely with all and sundries, high and low, in hall and hamlet. Himself, behaving as one among the shepherds, He, nevertheless, revealed to the simple folks His splendour galore besides eating mouthfuls of their butter with great relish as that produced by His devotees (asrta karasparsam). It has been pointed out by Alvar Saints like Andal that, even in His iconic manifestation as Lord Ranganatha, His mouth smacks of the smell of the butter of by-gone days (Kununku narram). Yes, the simple folks of Nada Vraja, Nanda, the chieftain and all the rest devoutly wished and prayed that the Supreme Lord be born in their midst to partake of their wealth of milk, butter and curds in that pastoral settlement. The Lord with His wonted magnanimity and transparence of conduct, readily responded and ate all that milk-produce with great relish, even gulping them down greedily like one famished !
Ennullam Kavarntan: Well, even as He grabbed butter in those by-gone days, as Krsna, (as Lord Ranganatha) has now grabbed unawares, Pan Perumal’s mind – a deft theft, leaving notrace of it behind, that is, the Alvar’s body was very much there (at this stage only and not afterwards) sans the content (soul), stolen away by the Lord, unknown to him, in the first instance. Was not that ace thief, Krsna, in the habit of leaving the bare pot behind but not a bit at all that butter, kept in it ? The Alvar revolves in his mind, ‘well even Arjuna, possessed of ‘Daivi sampath’ (divine wealth), confessed to Lord Krsna, in the course of the latter’s Gitopadesa, that it was impossible to fix his vacillating mind on the Atman for an appreciable time. He also made it clear that it was a task, just as impossible as impounding air in a pot or turning the direction of a whirlwind with a tiny, hand-worked fan, made of palmleaf – (Gita VI-34). How much worse is my mind and yet, how amazing, it has become the object of the Lord’s attraction and been seized by Him ! I cannot call it mine anymore. In fact, the Lord has been pleased to eradicate, root and branch, the ‘I-ness’ and ‘Mine-ness’, which were plaguing me hitherto.
Andarkon: The sovereign Master of the whole Universe and the Sole Ordainer of one and all, from the four-faced Brahma downwards.
Ani Arangam: “And yet, fully bedecked, He has taken His abode in Arangam, with its ornamental setting, making Himself Visible to one and all here, including this mean fellow !”
En Amutinai: Even the celestials got ‘Amrt’ churned from the Milk-ocean with stupendous effort whereas I have got it without any effort on my part. What more ? The ambrosia, I am tasting now, is far superior and sustaining than the one, churned from the oceanic waters and dished out to the celestials. This recipient also vastly differs from the self-centered celestials. Pity ! their attention was wholly on oceanic waters, without so much as casting a single glance at the exquisite charm of the Lord, who gave them a helping hand in that epoch – making churning (apart from the various other forms in which He played His part, in that episode), His garlands dancing along, as He churned. That grand spectacle was sorely missed by the extremely selfish celestials but envisioned and enjoyed, long after, by the Alvar saints. Yes, Pan Perumal and his confreres, the Alvar saints, looked upon the Lord as the sole object of their love, wanting none but Him. The celestials, on the other hand, drank that stuff, the so-called ‘Amrt’, got from the ocean, only to lengthen their life-spans and roll in luxuries, back home.
The Alvar saints would however want to drink in, all the time, that non-satiate Nectar, the immediate presence of the Lord, not brooking separation from Him, even for a trice. And so was He, Who shall never lag behind His devotees in rewarding them, duly responding to their deep, inner urges.
Kanta kankal marronrinai kanave: Here is marked departure from Panar’s earlier stance. It could be noticed from the earlier songs of his, that he referred to ‘enkanninul‘ (in my eyes), ‘en nencam’ (my mind), en cintanai’ (my thought) and so on. But now, instead of saying ‘en kankal’ (my eyes), he refers to his eyes in the third person as ‘kanta kankal‘ – the eyes, which feasted on the (immediate) nectarean presence of ‘Ani Arangan‘. This is a distinct pointer to the dawn, in him, of ‘Tattva Jnana‘ and the resultant detachement from the self and the material things around, in their totality. Even the little bit of ‘I-ness’ and ‘Mine-ness’ that was lingering in him, has now left him for good, the immediate result of his realization of his essential nature (svasvarupa) and one’s inter-relationship with God (supreme Lord). Well, this could be looked at from yet another angle. Even if he used ‘My’ and ‘Mine’, in the present context, the Alvar cannot be faulted, as the current obsession is on an entirely different footing from what obtained earlier. Formerly, the enjoyment was of the mundane variety, rooted in the senses, their interaction with relative sense-objects. The objects of enjoyment, in the present milieu, is however, the special gift of the Lord, with a divine aura, elevating the Alvar to a different plane altogether, if, as a result, he feels elated and gives expression to it, it is but a case of legitimate pride, delectable, all the way and, by no means, despicable.
c.f. Nammalvar’s utterances in Tiruvaymoli VI-4, ‘enakku evvulakam nikare?’, ‘enakkar ini nayakare!’, chuckling with pride over his new-found status as the Lord’s hot favourite. Reverting to this particular song, the Alvar’s detachment from the ‘self’ having risen to its full stature, he has lost his body-consciousness. There is, therefore, no question of his beholding anyone (anything) else, anywhere, anymore. The ‘self’ in him remains completely dissolved in the nectarean charm of the bejeweled Lord in His immediate presence. Yes, the Alvar is not interested in anything else, not even the Lord’s hypostatic forms (Para, Vyuha, Vibhava) nor the other pilgrim centers. Need it then be specifically mentioned that he is not all interested in those who hanker after worldly riches and those who strive hard for the sole enjoyment of the ‘self’ (Jivatma), liberated from material bondage (the kevalas), not looking beyond and thus foregoing the far more exhilarating ‘Paramatmanubhava’ (God-enjoyment).
This is precisely what Hanuman said to Lord Rama when he was invited by the latter to accompany Him to heaven. Hanuman said that he would not like to go anywhere else, nanyatra, including heaven where he would not be able to behold his exclusive Master (Rama) in the same form, as before, nor have the pleasure of listening to the recital of Ramayana as often as he could, over here. Further, he would not like to discard the body which enjoyed the great, good fortune of getting locked in Lord Rama’a sweet embrace. He would not even mention the name of the place (heaven) to which he was invited; his statement ‘Bhavo nanyatra gacchati’ (I shall not go anywhere else) sums up his feelings in this regard. At the same time, he asserted that his mind was well poised in steadfast devotion to Rama, the Price-valiant. Incidentally, it deserves to be noted that Rama fought Ravana mounted on Hanuman. Even as Hanuman enjoyed his role as Lord Rama’s chariot, it has been pointed out by our Acharyas that Lokasaranga thoroughly enjoyed his role as Pan Perumal’s mount, duly realizing the latter’s pre-eminent stature.
In the present case, on what pretext can Pan Perumal get away from, or lift his eyes off Lord Ranganatha ? Should it be because He lacks generosity or His personality is not that attractive (absorbing) or He is stuffed with superiority complex, devoid of grace and loving condescension or He does not have a commanding stature or He is not-by-any-means delectable ? No, he lacks none of these. On the other hand, He has each in super-abundant measure.
c.f. Tiruvaymoli I-7-4 where Nammalvar exclaims: “O, what pretext can I find from Him to part, The first Lord of Celestials, ever alert, A beautiful bundle of brilliance, heaping on me continually Torrents of knowledge and wisdom, who brought me Round and rooted out the ignorance in me lodged firmly ?”
[Extracted from Gwalior Sathyamurthi Iyengar’s Thiruvaimozhi – An English glossary]
Well, take the case of the babe whose only source of happiness, for the present, is the mother’s breast-milk (her breast corresponding to the Lord’s feet, our Sole Refuge). If anyone tried to snatch the baby away from the mother’s breast, the delectable feeder, the little one, lacking any other form of expression, will at once squeak, signaling its dislike for anything else. The Commentator likens the Alvar’s present predicament to that of such a babe.
Sri Vedanta Desika’s commentary, ‘Munivahana bhogam‘, has been included by him among his ‘Rahasya granthas’ (esoteric texts meant only for the initiated, rather the inner circle of adherents to his teachings, as distinguished from the exoteric ones, intelligible even to outsiders, not admitted to the esoteric teachings.) This particular commentary has been numbered as the twenty eighth in esoteric series. It is couched in terse highly sanskritised dialect, intelligible only to a limited coterie with the requisite background. An attempt has, therefore been made, in the present treatise, to cull out from the said learned commentary a good bit of juicy notes, here and there, and present them in an easily assimilable form. Sri Vedanta Desika has also added, at the end, two Tamil stanzas, composed by him. Easy to follow, the learned Commentator has presented ‘Pan Perumal’ in these songs, in true light, the correct perspective. Put briefly, he has acknowledged, in these verses as follows: Panan is the one who discovered in Arangam the ocean of Grace, proclaimed by the Vedic texts; his hymnal is the germ whose offshoot is the elaborate preaching of the Brahmins, well versed in Vedas. Let me proclaim to the world that the ten songs, graciously bequeathed to us by Pan Perumal, epitomize the teachings of the hoary Vedas. We shall not claim to be august and all-knowing but always shall be on the look-out for those who can guide us to the right path and studiously avoid the wrong one”.
English Translation of Amalanadhipiran by Gwalior Sathyamurthi Iyengar Ends
Blessed be the holy feet of Pan Perumal (Munivahanar)
Blessed be the holy feet of Periyavaccan Pillai (Vyakyana Cakravarti)
Blessed be the holy feet of Alagiya Manavalap Perumal Nayanar (the illustrious author of ‘Acarya Hrdayam’)
Blessed be the holy feet of Sri Vedanta Desika (Kavitarkika Simham)