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Thondaradipodi Thirunakshthram -- Part 2

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Sun Dec 28 1997 - 19:10:26 PST

Dear BhakthAs : I will post some reflections on 
Thondaradipodi AzhwAr's Thirumaalai in this posting
On his birthday . This divya prabhandham is considered 
the essence of VishNu Dharmam , a work in Sanskrit . 

ThondaradipodiAzhwAr is recognized as the amsam
of the VanamAlai ( Vaijayanthi ) that  the Lord wears .
This Maalai of the Lord is considered as a potent
VaishNavi - asthram that destroys the mahA paapams 
and sets one on the course to Sri Vaikuntam . Therefore ,
it is the most sacred maalai ( ThirumAlai ) and  assures us
freedom from fear of death and helps us attain immortality
and enjoy  the bliss of paramAnandham at Sri Vaikuntam
through Nithya Kainkaryam to Sriman NaarAyaNA . With 
all these symbolism in mind , Thondaradipodi , who
was engaged in Maalai Kainkaryam for the Lord of 
Srirangam named his prabhandham as ThirumAlai .   

For Sri VaishNavAs , an understanding and practise 
of the following great doctrines are considered essntial  
to gain the boon of Moksham :  The prabhAvam of 
the Lord's NaamAs , the glory of those who are engaged in 
Naama-Sankeerthanam , the supermacy of Bhagavathas and 
the redeeming sanctity  of the dust ( rENus ) of
the feet of those BahgavathAs . ThirumAlai focusses on 
these most important doctrines for our benefit .

Regarding the Naama MahimA and particularly 
its importance in Kali Yigam is indicated by the following 
slOkam :

" HarEr nAmaiva nAmaiva nAmaiva mama bhEshajam I
kalou nAsthyEva nAsthyEva gathiranyathA II "

This statement with its triple emphasis on the greatness
of the nAmAs of Hari , as the sure medicine for the disease
of SamsAram ,  is very emphatic . 

The sacredness of the dust of the BhagavathA's feet 
led Thondaradipodi to choose that name . The uniqueness
of the angri rENU of the BhagavathAs has been emphasized
in mahA BharathA , PurANAs , and SamhithAs repeatedly .

The act of driving away one's paapAs by wearing the Sripaadha
Theetham containing the dust of the BhagavathA''s feet 
is known as Bhagavadh-Bhaktha paadOdaka nisEvanam . 
This act is described by the SaasthrAs to be the equivalent
of MahA PrAyascchittham and is prescribed as being far more
powerful than bath in the waters of holy Ganga originating
from the Lord's sacred feet .

The relationship of Thondardipodi with the Lord of 
Srirangam was a special one . He was  a devout BrahmachAri 
deeply involved in the Garland Kainkaryam for 
the Lord of Srirangam like PeriyAzhwAr before him .
He " fell from virtue and was  redeemed " by the most merciful 
Lord of Srirangam . He was forever grateful for that intervention
by the Lord. He refers these autobiographical incidents 
and his near spirtual death as a result of his disastrous
encounter with DevadEvi in paasuram 16 of ThirumAlai :

SoothanAi kaLvanAhi dhUrtharOdu isaintha kaalam
matharAr kayark kaNN yennum valayuL pattu azhundhuvEnai
pOtharEyenru sollip punthiyil puhumdhu 
tann paal Atharam peruha vaittha AzhahanUr arangamanrE ?

( Meaning ) : At the time , When I spent my hours as a gambler 
and as a thief and was trapped in the net of a woman's fish-like eyes ,
I was hopelessly lost . At that time of spiritual disaster , was it not
the beautiful Lord of Srirangam , who called me to His side and 
entered into my mind and made my love for Him grow many fold 
and thus rescued me ?

In the 25th verse of ThirumAlai ( KuLitthu mUnRanalaiyOmpum ---) ,
he makes another indirect reference to what happened to him and 
appeals movingly for the SaraNyan's dayA . The meaning of
this verse is as follows :

O Lord of Srirangam ! I have lost my qualifications to be a
Brahmin ( VarNAsrama Dharmam ) that required me to
take thrikAla SnAnams and offer worship to the three Agnis
in a faultless manner( without manthra lObham ) . I do not
possess the aathma J~nAnam . With respect to Thee , I have
become devoid of love for You . Which way can I ( without 
compassion and virtue ) regain my lost status ? O Lord of
anantha KalyANa GuNAs ! O Lord of Srirangam with the hue of 
the ocean ! I am imploring You with my loud appeals to make me 
the object of Your DayA and thus save me from this pitiable state .

In the thirty third verse , once again the AzhwAr recalls with a shudder 
the disaster that happened to him and his prayer that was 
answered by the Lord of Srirangam ( MeyyallAm pohavittu 
virikuzhalAril pattu---) . Here , the AzhwAr movingly describes 
himself as a false one three times in the last line of the paasuram  :

" PoyyanEn vanthu ninrEn poyannEn poyannEnE " 

The triple mention of his falsity ( duplicity ) refers to 
the mental , vocal and physical falsity . He describes 
himself as a " pOzhkkan " ( one who has transgressed 
and lost his way ) . Kaayika , Vaachika and Manaseeka
aparadhams are covered here . The meaning of the entire 
slOkam is as  follows :

O Supreme Lord of Srirangam !  I am a pathetic one.
I have let go of all that is true and worthy of preservation 
and got myself caught in the snares of women ( DevadEvi ) .
Fie me! Out of desire to receive Thy grace , I am standing now
before You shamelessly  . Alas ! False am I ! False am I !
False am I ! 

AzhwAr's prArabdha KarmAs got him ensnarled in the trap
set by DevadEvi , who made a wager with her companion 
to attract the devout VipranArayaNA performing ThirumAlai 
kainkaryam to the Lord of Srirangam . She won in her wager 
and the AzhwAr lost his spiritual footing and wandered away
from the Lord . He was saved from this disaster by the most 
compassionate Lord Himself at the prompting of His concerned
Consort , Sri RanganAyaki .

Elsewhere in ThirumAlai , Thondaradipodi cries out to us in 
the role of a compassionate AchAryA and appeals to us to
become the object of love of the most compassionate Lord 
and perform kainkaryam to Him and His BhagavathAs . He 
condemns false devotion , avaidhika mathams and declares
his ananya bhakthi in many of the ThirumAlai paasurams . 
I will cover some of them and relate them to the experience of
another parama VaishNavA , Saint ThyagarAja in the concluding post 
on Thondardipodi AzhwAr .

Sri RanganAyaki SamEtha Sri RanganAyaka SwaminE Nama:
AzhwAr AchAryAL THiruvadigalE SarNam 
Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri SadgOpan