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Thirumangai aazhvaar

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Sat Dec 02 1995 - 16:30:28 PST

I am sure the story of Thirumangai mannan is familiar
to most in this group.  However I am posting the
following having prepared it for the newly formed NG SRV.
Please pardon me for any and all mistakes.  Thank you.

-- Dileepan


The star Krithigai in the month of Kaarthigai (December
5, 1995) is an auspicious day for all Sri Vaishnavas for it
is the birth star of one of their most revered saints, Thiru
Mangai Alwar (TMA).  He is the second most prolific
author among the 12 Alwars, next only to Nam Alwar.
Of the 24 poems  by the twelve Alwars consisting of
almost 4,000 verses, TMA's share is 6 poems with 1,253
verses.  Nam Alwar's share is 4 poems with 1,296 verses.

In his early days, as a man of the sword, our Lord
Narayana was far from TMA's thoughts.  His spiritual
journey started with a commitment he made to his
sweetheart Kumudhavalli in exchange for her hand in
marriage.  While most women may have asked for her
suitor's everlasting love, or a diamond ring, or a gold
bangle, all our gentle lady Kumudhavalli sought from
TMA was that he must wear the marks of Sri Vaishnava
and serve food (amudhu) for 1,000 Vaishnavaas everyday
for a period of one year.  This service, initiated as a price
for carnal pleasure, turned into a labor of divine love
towards the devotees of our Lord Narayana.  Years rolled
by.  TMA spent all his wealth in the service of
Vaishnavas.  With his coffers empty, TMA could not
continue the service.  He could not bear the thought of
having to turn away the Vasihnavas who by then were
accustomed to blessing TMA's abode with their presence.

The feeling of despair turned to anger at the sight of the
greedy idle rich strolling around with all their gaudy and
ostentatious jewels and showing contempt for the simple
and devout Vasihnavas.  This was enough to drive TMA
to actions that a certain individual of English folklore in
Sherwood forest, a continent away, would resort to and
become famous world over.  But it was not just fame that
was in store for our good TMA.

Our Lord Narayana decided to intervene and turn TMA
away from the ways of the sword.  He and His consort,
our divine mother Sri, appeared before TMA as a newly
wed couple bedecked with priceless ornaments.  TMA
stopped the couple and forcibly relieved them of all the
jewelry.  But, there was one piece on our Lord's toe
that wouldn't come off however much TMA tried.  In
frustration TMA put his head on the lotus feet of our Lord
with the intention of biting the ring off.  At that moment
TMA was drawn in by the beauty of the lotus feet and
realized the true nature of the couple standing in front of
him.  The Lord then instructed the esoteric meaning of
"Thirumandhiram" (Om namO Narayanaya) for TMA.
Thus TMA learnt of the efficacy of the divine name
"Narayana" from our Lord Narayana Himself!

TMA immediately went on to sing the poem "Periya
Thirumozhi" (Great divine poem) consisting of 1,084
verses.  The first ten of these verses are dedicated to the
name "Narayana."  These first 10 emotional verses give
aid and comfort to people like me who have strayed in
their youth.  TMA comes down hard on himself with
intense self criticism for the violence he had caused,
albeit for a good cause, for having sought fleeting worldly
pleasures, for having squandered his days on mundane
pursuits.  He ends each of these ten verses with a
celebration of the divine name Narayana, for after finding
this sweet name, TMA declares, he was free from all the
sins and assured of the everlasting bliss at the lotus feet of
our sweet Lord Narayana.  These 10 verses will bring
emotional tears of longing for the lotus feet of our Lord
Narayana to the eyes of any Vaishnava.

Here is the first of these ten Tamil verses:

 perunthuyaridumbaiyil piRanNdhu,
koodinEn koodiyiLaiyavarthammOdu

"Born into this worldly body, a receptacle of profound
sorrow, I am weltering, I am filled with remorse;
I have let myself run after beautiful women, seeking the
fleeting carnal pleasures of the union they give;
Lo and behold, through the grace of our Lord I now
realize there is a greater goal, that which will deliver me
into eternal happiness;
I have searched for this state and have now found it in the
sweet name _Narayana_."

When you offer your prayers this Friday, think of this
great Sri Vaishnava saint.

-- Dileepan

1.  This post is based on my recollection of TMA's story
narrated by elders.
2.  I have not included many epsiodes from TMA's long
life story.  This may be found in many publications
including the one by Ramakrishna Mutt in English titled
"Sri Ramanuja."