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Part I Alwars-Section 2.5 (1)

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Date: Sat Apr 27 1996 - 05:56:16 PDT

Part I : Alwars and Acharyas  Section 2.5

[  Note : Several theories have been expounded regarding the dates of Alwars,
some placing them about 5100 years back ( e.g) Nammalwar is reported to have
been born on the 43rd day of the commencement of the present Kali Yuga in
3102 B.C. and the first three Alwars  at a much earlier period. The findings
of  modern research scholors like  Dr. M Rajamanickanar Vide his
 "Aazhwaargal Kaala Aaraichi" ( Research on the periods of Alwars) and
 certain others do not correspond with any  of the traditional details and
they place the dates in the 8th century A.D.Irrespective of when they were
born, the fact that their births and lives have shaped the lives of their
contemporaries and successive generations is unquestionable. ]

2. 5. Nam Alwar ( Vaikasi - Visakam )
Nammalwar, an incarnation of Vishvaksena ( the Chief of staff of Lord Vishnu
) was born im the year Pramadhi, Vaikasi month, Suklapaksha,on Pournami day,
a Friday in the constellation of Visaka. as the son of Kari, a Vellala
agriculturist of Tirukkurugur on the banks of Tamraparni river and his mother
was Udayanangai of Tiruvanparicharam in Kerala. Since the child did not open
its eyes to see or mouth to eat, never cried like other children, the parents
named it as 'Maaran"-' one different.' Since he controlled the wind called '
Sadam ' which afflicts the just born and banished it with indignation even as
he was born and established himself in yoga, he was called ' Sadakopa'

His  parents prayed to Lord Adhinatha and put the child  in a cradle and left
it  under the tamarind tree  that stood beside the temple.  It is believed
that the tree is an incarnation of Aadhisesha, the serpent couch of Lord
Narayana.The child grew up in the same state of trance for 16 years. People
wondered at this marvel of a boy and everyone called him  Nam Alwar- Our
Alwar.It is said that even Christians, Muslims, Bouddhas, Jains and Saivites
marvelled at this phenomenon and claimed him to be one of their own.( Vide
Introduction to 4000 Divya Prabandham published by Lifco Associates, Madras )

There was at that time a brahmin saint by name Madhurakavi  of Tirukkolur who
was visiting holy places in the north. When he was at Ayodhya, he saw a
bright light shining in the far south which seemed to beckon him. Following
the direction of the light, Madhurakavi reached where Maran was. When
Madhurakavi  posed a 'bit question' to the boy, he  opened his  eyes, looked
at Madhurakavi  and gave a 'fit answer.' Immediately, Madhurakavi
acknowledged the boy as his Guru and the latter acknowledged Madhurakavi as
his disciple. 

The manner in which the individual soul is afflicted when entangled with
`Prakriti' or matter which includes our body is vividly portrayed in the
conversational session of Sri MADHURA
KAVI with his preceptor NAMMALWAR.  
MADHURAKAVI asks NAMMALWAR "If the `small one' is born in the womb of the
`dead one' what will it eat and where will it lie?".
NAMMALWAR answers :" `That' it will eat, and `There' it will lie". The `small
one' refers to the individual soul ( subtle spirit) which is believed to be
atomic in size. The `dead one' refers to the (gross matter) body. Only when
the soul enters the body, the body comes to life. Before the soul entering it
and after the soul leaving it, the body is only a dead matter or corpse. The
soul when it gets into the body and so long as it remains therein it
experiences the pleasures and pains through that body and the senses, quite
oblivious of its own innate nature of knowledge and bliss and unaware of its
creator, the Paramatma. This is the meaning of the reply of NAMMALWAR. In
other words, the distinction of the three entities and the behaviour of the
soul when in conjunction with the body have been dramatically displayed. This
brought the master and disciple together. After his encounter with
Madhurakavi, Nammalwar stayed under the tamarind tree for 32 years

Nammalwar is also known as Satakopa, Satari, Parankusa, Kurugai Piran, and
Vakulabharanan etc. His involvement with the wonderful experiences of Krishna
Avatar was such that Bhattar observed that it is the thirst of the love of
Krishna that had personified itself and came down to earth as
Parankusa."Krishnaa Trishnaa Tatvam Iva Uditham".

He is considered to be the foremost among the Alwars and foremost among the
Acharyas as well. His works brim with devotion, love, poetic excellence and
literary flavour that hold in its grip the attention of anyone who cares to
read. They explain the essence of Vaishnavism, Tattva trayam, Artha panchakam
etc and is deservedly called the 'Tamil Veda'.

The four works of Nammalwar written down by Madhurakavi are considered to be
the essence of the four Vedas.
(i) Tiru viruttam in a special style in Tamil called Viruttam in 100 verses
is the essence of RigVeda.
 (ii) Tiruv asiriyam in  7 verses is the essence of Yajur veda.
(iii) Periya Tiruv antadhi in Antadhi style of 87 verses is the essence of
Atharva Veda and
( iv) Tiru voi mozhi in 1002 verses is the essence of Sama Veda .

The sentiments expressed in every single verse of his works would kindle an
insatiable interest and transport one to an enrapturing state of Bhakti
ecstasy. It is very difficult to select one verse in preference to another
for appreciating the poetic excellence or the emotional content of his works.
It is more because of our own limitations, space and time restrictions that
we have  to restrict ourselves to just a few of his expressions. But, even
one among the many of his incompoarable verses can bestow on the reader an
unprecedented delectable experience.We will attempt to have a glimpse of a
few of them for our edification. 

Tiruviruttam
In the very first verse, the Alwar dramatically stops Bhagavan asking him to
listen to his petition.
Poi Ninra Gnaanamum Pollaa Ozhukkum Azhukku Udambhum
Inninra Neermai Ini yaam Uraamai Uyir Alippaan
Enninra Yoniyumaai Piranthaai ! Emayor Thalaiva !
Mey Ninru Kettu Arulaai Adiyen Seyyum Vinnappame 

The Alwar for whom the Lord granted absolute wisdom by His grace (Mayarvara
Mathinalam) starts Tiruviruttam with a plea to detach him forever from the
endless chain of 'Samsara'.
" O! Lord of Nityasuris ! You came down to earth several times on your own
accord to save the jivas. But we are born with deep attachment to our filthy
and impermanent bodies and despicable conduct.Thus, we are irrevocably
immersed in misery. Only you can salvage us from this plight.You MUST listen
to my petition. There is no other way for us "
Poi Ninra Gnaanam : Viparita gnaanam = Misguided knowledge.
Pollaa Ozhukku : Conduct tainted by feelings of  I, My and Mine.
Azhukku Udambu : Body that is constantly subject to transmutation and
deterioration
The Alwar indicates all the five realities in this first stanza itself :
Paramatma Swarupam : in ' Emaiyor Thalaivaa'
Jeevatma Swarupam in 'Adiyen'
Virodhi Swarupam in 'Poi Ninra gnaanam and Inninra neermai '
Upaya Swarupam in 'En Ninra yoniyumaai Piranthaai' ( the Lord who takes
Avatar is himself the means)
The Phala Swarupa in ' Seyyum Vinnappam' i.e ' Kainkaryam'



Thanian ( Dedicatory Verse ) on Tiruviruttam.
(composed by Kidaambi Aachaan)
Karu Viruttak Kuzhi Neetha pin Kaamak Kadum Kuzhi Veezhndu
Oru Viruttam Pukku Uzhalveer ! Uyirin Porulkatku
Oru Viruttam Puguthaamal Kurugaiyur Kone Uraitha
Tiruviruttathu Ore Adi Karru Ireer Tiru Nattakathe
" O! Those who are caught in the swirl of births and deaths ! You come out of
the womb; Again, you fall into a pit seeking sensual pleasures; You grow into
old age. What have you achieved by going through this interminable cycle of
birth- silly pleasures - old age and death? If you really desire to escape
the clutches  of such a 'Samsara' - you learn at least one stamza of
Tiruviruttam and act according to it. You can enter the portals of Paramapada
and attain everlasting and Supreme bliss without  let or hinderence there"

The word ' Viruttam' in 1st line refers to the circular shaped womb; in the
2nd line it refers to old age; in the 3rd line, it relates to impediments and
in the 4th line the name of the work, Tiruviruttam
Karru Ereer mean ' learn  it '

In this work,the Alwar simulates the ' Nayaki Bhava'( Lady love) in relation
to the Lord who is visualized as the Nayaka ( Lover), as the mother and
finally as the Sakhi (friend) of the ladylove.Thus, he expresses  his
feelings in three different modes.

And, in each verse can be discerned an inner esoteric meaning
 (Swapadesam) hidden behind the manifest meaning
 (Anyaapadesam). Periyavachan Pillai, Nampillai, Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar and
Appillai have written commentaries not only bringing out these meanings but
also quoting interpretations of Poorva Acharyas. As the Alwar himself
reminded in the last verse, if one studies this Prabandham, one is sure to
escape from Samsara and attain Moksha.

Tiruvaasiriyam
In this work, the Alwar praises the beauty and qualities of the Lord. His
Bhakti spirit as an overflow of his enjoyment of the form, qualities and
exploits of the Lord is almost palpable. The blend of the Lord's "Paratvam' (
Omnipotence) with his 'Karunyam'
(compassion) is beautifully brought out. In the last verse, he establishes
how Lord Narayana is THE Lord of everyone.

O! O! Ulagin Iyalve! Eenrol irukka Manai Neeraatti Padithidanthu Undu
Umizhndu Alandu Therndu Ulagalikkum Mudar Perum Kadavul Nirpa / Pudaippala
Thaanari Deivam Penudal Thanaathu / Pullarivaanmai Poundhak Kaatti / Kolvana
Mudalaa Allana Muyalum / Inaiya Seigai Inbu Tunbali / Ton Maa Maayap
Piraviyul Neengaa / Pan  Maa Maayathu Azhundumaa Nalirndhe /

" The Lord created the entire universe. Once, he saved it by taking the form
of a wild boar; At the time of deluge, he kept the whole universe with all
its inhabitants in his tummy and when the time came he released them for
another lease of life; He takes care of all the needs of everyone. When such
an all merciful Lord is there, it is intriguing why people ignore him and run
after petty deities mentioned in some insignificant contexts in the Sastras
and thus are permanently condemned to the miserable cycle of existence. It is
like disregarding  one's own mother and celebrating a mere log of wood by
giving it ceremonial bath and offering it even meat by killing creatures.
They do so only in the false hope of securing some  evanescent worldly
benefits. Though they may at first  appear pleasant, ultimately, they will
lead to further misery by pushing them down into the mire of "Samsara'."

He feels sorry for such ignorant folk and exhorts them not to be misled but
to return to the royal road to Moksha viz., Devotion to Lord Naaraayana.
Manai: A piece of wood used as seat, Pudai : In some remote corner, Nalirndu
: Deeply immersed.

Thanian on Tiruvaasiriyam 
( composed by Arulala Perumal Emperumanar)
Kasiniyore Tham Vaazhak Kali Yugathe Vandu Udithu / Aasiriyappaa Adhanaal Aru
Marai Nool Virithaanai /
Desikanai Paraankusanai Thigazh Vagulathaaraanai /
Maasu Adaiyaa Manathu Vaithu Maravaamal Vazhthuthume /
" Nammalwar known as Parankusan was born in Kaliyuga and sang this work
called Tiruvaasiriyam to save us of the world. He has elucidated the essence
of the Vedas in this. He is our Acharya. Let us always remember and worship
him- who adorns the beautiful garland of Magizha flowers."
Kaasini ; World, Marai : Vedas, Desikan : Guru, Maasu Adaiyaa: a mind
cleansed of all dirt ( of doubt and agnosticim)

[ Note : We will continue with Periya Tiruvantadhi and Tiruvoimozhi in our
next posting ]