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by Sri P. Dileepan
February 6, 1996

This year Tirumazhisai Alvar's tirunakshathram (tai makam) falls on Tuesday, February 2, 1999. This Alvar gave us 216 verses in two prabandhams, nanmugan thiruvandhaadhi (96) and thiruch chandha viruththam (120).

Tirumazhisai Alvar
at Tirumazhisai, his birthplace

It is this Alvar's instructions that the Lord of Thiru Vehkaa (Poygai Alvar's birth place and near Kanchipuram periya kOvil) followed and came to be known as ``sonna vaNNam seydha perumaaL'' (the Lord who obeyed). This wonderful story involves Kanikannar, a disciple of the Alvar. Kanikannar provoked the wrath of the local king and got himself exiled when he refused to restore the king's youthfulness unlike the devout old lady for whom Kanikannar had obliged. Not wanting to be separated from his pupil, Alvar went to the temple and declared to the Lord, ``I am leaving town with Kanikannan, fold Your serpent bed and follow me.'' Ever waiting to please His devotees, (true to Nammalvar's words in the 53rd paasuram of periya thiruvandhaathi -- ``unnadiyaarkku en seyvadhu enRE iruththi nee''), the Lord got up immediately, folded his ``painnaagap paay'', and went behind the Alvar. Thus, He came to be known as ``sonna vaNNam seydha perumaaL''. Then, the story goes, the king apologized to Kanikannar and brought all three back to Kanchi.

It is claimed that the Alvar was born to Bhargava munivar and his dEvi Kanakaangi, but was abandoned because the baby, at the time of birth, was a lifeless mass. Upon the grace of Lord Sriman Narayana, the abandoned lifeless mass turned into a fully formed and perfect baby in every way. The baby was then found and raised by a ``low caste'' devout family. Due to this, it is clear that the brahmins of his time did not readily accord respect to our Alvar. The Alvar himself declares in thiruchchandha viruththam (90) that he was not born into one of the four castes (``kulangaLaaya eeriraNdil onRilum pirRandhilEn'').

During an encounter with the brahmins of Tirumazhisai, our Lord had to directly intervene, by appearing with His sangu and chakram in Alvar's body, to stop the brahmins deriding our Alvar.

In another interesting episode Alvar rescued a group of brahmins from the ignominy of getting stuck during a recitation of the Vedas. The brahmins had halted their recitation upon noticing the Alvar approaching. The Alvar moved away to make the brahmins comfortable. Then, the brahmins tried to resume, but couldn't. They had forgotten the place where they had halted. Noticing this from a distance, the Alvar gave a sign to the brahmins and helped them resume at the correct place. At this time the Alvar shined with such luminosity that the brahmins where put to shame. Swami Sri Desikar reminds us of this instance when he characterizes this Alvar as ``mazhisai vandha jOthi'' (the shining light of Mazhisai).

Another interesting story I once heard about this Alvar involves Tirukkudandai Aravamudan (Lord Saranga Pani). After a long and arduous journey, the Alvar reached the Kumbakonam temple, tired and hungry. When he entered the temple the tirumanjanam (ritual bathing of the Lord) was just getting underway. Intent on comforting the Alvar, the Lord interrupted the tirumanjanam and instructed the priest to take ``amudhu'' to the Alvar immediately. It seems this practice is continued to this day with the ``thaLigai'' (food) offered to the Alvar sannidhi first, and only then to the Lord. (This needs verification.)

Tirumazhisai Alvar is said to have dabbled in a variety of religions of his day, and was finally and firmly turned to Sri Vaishnavam by his acharya and guru, Pey Alvar. In his paasurams the Alvar is unequivocal in asserting that Sriman Narayana is the supreme Lord declared by the Vedas. He starts out his naanmugan thiruvandhaathi (NT) with:

	naanmuganai naaraayaNan padaiththaan,
	   naanmuganum thaan mugamaay
        sankaranaith thaan padaiththaan

	Narayanan created the four-faced Brahma,
	and Brahma created Sankaran
and ends NT with:
   	ini aRindhEn kaaraNan nee, kaRRavai nee,
	   kaRpavai nee, naRkirisai naaraNan nee,
        nan_gaRindhEn naan.

	I have finally found these truths, You are the
        primordial reason, what is comprehended is You, 
	what is to be comprehended is You, all good deeds 
	is You, I have now realized these without any doubt.

Between the first and 96th verses of NT, the Alvar repeatedly asserts the theme that Sriman Narayanan is the only Lord we need to worship for salvation. Alvar's thiruchchandha viruththam is filled with abstract spiritual references. Even with commentaries on hand it is difficult for me to comprehend some of these paasurams.

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Mani Varadarajan
Last modified: Tue Feb 2 15:50:18 PST