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Re: Madhurakavi Alvar

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Wed Apr 23 1997 - 16:11:29 PDT

Dileepan wrote:
> "periyadhu vayiRRil siRiyadhu piRandhaal adhu eththai thinRu engE niRkum?"
> (If great begets little, what will it eat, where will it rest?)

> To this the boy replied,

> "adhu aththaith thinRu angE niRkum."
> (It will eat that and it will rest there)

This may be a variant, but I have always read the question
and reply as:

Madhurakavi Alvar: "seththaththin vayiRRil siRayadhu piRandhaal
                    eththai thinRu engE kidakkum?"

"If some small thing is born in something dead, what will it
eat, and where will it lie?"

Nammalvar: "aththai thinRu angE kidakkum."

"It will eat that itself and lie there itself."

There is a not so subtle difference in these two variants.
In the version as I have written it, Madhurakavi is asking
how something (the jiva) which is born in something inert
(the body) can survive at all.  Or alternatively, Madhurakavi,
seeing the small thirumEni (sacred body) of Nammalvar sitting
in the hole in the tamarind tree, meditating, jokingly 
wondered if the Alvar was born in the tree itself and how
he had subsisted all along.

I think this version has a lot more meaning to it.

One understanding of Nammalvar's answer is that he subsists
on God alone and rests in God alone, since everything to him
was God.

There is also another understanding of the question and
answer -- but it is evading my memory right now. Perhaps