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nAcciyAr tirumozhi III - kaNNan's vastrApaharaNam - Introduction

From: Kalyani Krishnamachari (
Date: Wed Aug 05 1998 - 19:14:45 PDT

                SrI ANDAL samEta SrI rangamannAr tiruvaDigaLE SaraNam

         nAcciyAr tirumozhi III - kaNNan's vastrApaharaNam - Introduction

A. Translation from SrImAn SaDagOpan's tamizh treatise:

ANDAL and her friends, who just prayed to kaNNan not to destroy their 
ciRRil, arrive at a pond close to their village, very early in the morning 
before sunrise.  Thinking that kaNNan would still be sleeping after becoming 
tired from all His mischiefs during the previous night, they decide to take
a bath in the pond quickly and return to their homes before kaNNan gets 
up.  They take off their clothes and place them under the kurundai tree, and 
take their baths, playing cheerfully.  And lo! kaNNan was well up before them 
and was at the pond even before they had come and was sitting on the branch of 
the  kurundai tree, watching carefully what is transpiring underneath.  godai 
and her friends were still taking their baths as per the tiruppAvai call 
"nIrADappoduvIr, pOduminO nErizahiyIr".  kaNNan gets down from the tree very 
quickly, takes all the clothes from the ground and climbs up the tree again and 
sits on the tree branch as usual.

When the girls finish their baths and come out to get their dresses, 
they can't find them and stand perplexed. They then listen to a
sweet, melodious vENu gAnam coming from up the tree.  They now 
understand this is one of  kaNNan's mischief.  Understanding that He has all 
their clothes, they get back into the water and with folded hands,
try to appeal to Him, by submissive, praising, blessing and chiding 
tones, to please give them back their clothes.  Just like a pUrvAcAriyAr 
once said, they think "ivan nammai aDi pidittu vanDAn; nAmum
ivanai maDi piDittu (fight for our clothes) get back our clothes" - "He 
came after us; we will also go after Him and fight for our clothes".  The 
outbursts of these girls are what godai is giving to us for our enjoyment, as 
the ten pAsurams of the third tirumozhi.

The incident described in this tiruvAi mozhi comes from SrImad 
bhAghavatam tenth skandam - gOpikA vastrApaharaNam.   The gOpis are observing 
kAtyAyini vratam, and go to the banks of the yamuna to take an early morning 
bath. kaNNan steals all their clothes and makes them all apologize for bathing 
without any clothes on, thus insulting varuNan, the water god. He makes them
pray to Him and then returns their clothes, promising them that He will 
bless them all with rAsa krIDai that night as a boon from the kAtyAyini vratam 
they all observed.

Till the days of  periyAzhwAr and ANDAL, the youthful leelAs done by 
kaNNan in AyarpADi had not become famous in South India.  Both periyAzhwAr and 
ANDAL expose to us all the playful mischiefs of  the "karugiya nIla nanmEni 
vaNNan SentAmaraik kaNNan" in the eyes of mother yaSodha and in the eyes of a 
lover, through their aRul vAkku-s - tirumozhi-s.  Through them, they reveal to
us, SrImad bhAghavata sAram - the nine kinds of relations between paramAtmA 
and jIvAtmA.  The third tirumozhi - "kaNNan's vastrApaharaNam" is 
one such attempt.

B. Some additional thoughts:

Lord kr*shNa declares that He will punish those who do not abide by 
dharma SAstrams ("na kshmAmi, .. kshipAmi AsUrIshu yonishu - I will not 
tolerate, I will throw them into demoniac wombs").  Then we see Him performing 
all these kinds of lilAs.  And the elders have supported these and supported 
these as moksha sAdhana-s.  How is this to be understood?  ParIkshit poses 
these questions to SrI Suka maharshi, and this is the explanation he gives in 
response.  (SrImad bhAgavatam skandam 10, chapter 33, slokams 30 - 40)

ISvaran is great in all ways; His actions are not to be under-estimated 
or viewed as lowly any time.  His actions are not a result of His karma, 
like ours are. His love for gOpis is not like the ordinary love that mankind 
experiences due to the senses.  The explanation offered is that these gOpi-s 
were great maharshi-s who had performed intense tapas in their previous births 
with a desire to enjoy Him through all these senses.  The great elders who 
have tried to introduce us to the importance of selfless bhakti have 
made these narrations more appealing by introducing these Sr*~ngAra 
rasa-s.  Love towards bhagavAn is not to be compared to the bodily love 
between humans.  The idea behind presenting these in the form of common 
day-to-day events is so that we first get interested in the topic of 
bhakti, and then slowly we will start understanding the deeper significance 
and underlying philosophy. Just as the elders give sour medicine with a piece 
of jaggery for swallowing, we are presented with some sringAra rasam
along with bhakti mArgam, just so that less intelligent mankind would 
take enjoy the anubhavam first and learn to analyze the deeper meanings later.

The sneaky way kaNNan followed the girls to the pond is described sweetly by 
SrI PVP. The mothers try to imprison (kind of !) the girls in the cellars 
(after kaNNan embraces them - nAmam Ayiram pAsuram end) .  The girls become 
thinner and thinner every day with viraha tApam; then the mothers decide that
they can go to the pond to take early morning baths and do vratam to get 
married quickly. With their permission, the girls rush to the pond before even 
the cock starts crowing. Thinking that KaNNan will locate them if they go as 
a big batch making noise, they decide to go one by one, each girl trying to 
erase her own foot prints. kaNNan having "iRulanna mAmEni" (dark hued body!) 
is following each girl without being noticed in that dark time of the day!  
He is not to be fooled like the people in tiru ayOddhi, who got misled in 
their paths (when rAma asked sumantran to drive the chariot the opposite way 
and destroy the tracks to mislead the people who were going to follow Him into 
the forest)!

sarvam SrIman nArAyaNAyEti samarpayAmi.

Kalyani Krishnamachari