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Re: A 'mArgazhi' diary: some reflections-4

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Thu Dec 23 1999 - 13:53:25 PST

Sri Sampathkumar writes:
> The tiruppAvai 'vratam' is not for "personal
> favours".(How Sri.Mani gets this impression from
> adiyEn's few posts, I really don't know, especially
> when adiyen had taken pains to indicate the exact
> opposite!).

with further elaboration excerpted below.

Dear Sri Sampathkumar,

Please feel free to offer your personal anubhavams of
Tiruppavai. Certainly many others over the years have 
explored the depths of this poem over the years. But,
honestly, if you are going to publicly "muse" and offer
position statements authoritatively about Andal's 
intention, it behooves you to study our Purvacharyas'
opinions on the matter.  All of them have analyzed this
poem in far greater depth than we have and can offer
sublime insights into Andal's mind.  It is a matter of
standard procedure to "stand on the shoulders of 
giants" who preceded us, to use a phrase from Newton.

It is with this idea that I offered Swami Periyavaaccaan
Pillai's careful elucidation of Andal's mindset in my
email yesterday. Honestly, if one studies the words of 
ancients such as Swami PVP as well as modern scholars 
such as Sri Uttamur Viraraghavacharya, all of whom have
thoroughly researched the context of Andal's nOnbu and
the purpose with which she must have wrote, one simply 
would not be able to write, as you do, that

> adiyen finds it very difficult to believe that
> "vratam" and "yagnyam" are to be regarded as, what
> Sri.Mani calls, "pretexts" in the 'tiruppAvai'. AndAl,
> adiyen thinks, intended them as real. They ARE real.
> Reading the lines of the "pasurams" you cannot deny
> that there is a clear message viz.: "perform "yagnyam"
> and reap universal welfare". 

Quite frankly, it is not *I*, dear Sudarshan, who describes
the 'pAvai nOnbu' as a pretext. It is Periyavaaccaan Pillai (PVP),
based on what actually is described by Andal in the 
tiruppAvai.  It is critical to understand what Swami PVP sees
as his basis, and why describing Andal as performing a
"yajna" for "universal welfare" takes away from the central
theme of the poem.

As I stated yesterday, Andal describes herself as seeking
a "paRai" (drum), signifying bhagavat-kainkaryam, in the
first verse.  Contrary to what you are saying, she is not 
asking for rain or worldly welfare.  These are mere pretexts
for her to get up early and seek the service of Lord Krishna.
In the phalaSruti verse (v.30), the fruit of recitation of 
tiruppAvai is described only as "the grace of Lord Krishna" 
(thirumaalaal engum thiruvaruL peRRu).  Uttamur Swami writes 
that if she were truly seeking worldly welfare, she would have 
stated this as a fruit of the nOnbu in the phalaSruti.  

Instead, she describes these as side-effects, in the second
and third verses.  You write:

> pirAtti boldly asks the rain-devas to pour down and to honour
> their obligations under the pact between mortals and
> super-mortals

Unfortunately, nowhere is this indicated.  Andal is only intent
on serving Krishna and is using the pAvai nOnbu as a pretext,
as she herself says -- "nam paavaikku *caaRRi* neeraadinaal".

We have to understand why this is a pretext.  While it is
noble to seek worldly welfare (lokakshema) by performing a ritual,
quite frankly, from Andal's perspective, even this would be a "kAmya" 
rite, and runs contrary to her desire to only serve Lord Krishna.
To ask other gods to rain because of her performance of a vrata
would be tantamount to seeking personal gain, in her mind.  

How do we know that Andal does not perform this nOnbu for this
reason? Here, once again, our acharyas cite examples from the
poem itself. 

  (a) She boldly *commands* Varuna Deva to rain in the *second*
      verse (she does not pray or ask). If this were all she desired, 
      she should have stopped here and not written 28 more verses.
  (b) Whenever she describes her vrata, she mentions it in the context
      of Krishna-anubhavam.  Please note that she has declared her
      sole object in the first verse -- "Narayana alone will give us
      drum (of divine service)" (naaraayaNanE namakkE paRai tharuvaan)
  (c) Her descriptions of worldly prosperity ends at the beginning of
      the poem itself, and here too, they are merely a side-effect of
      singing the Lord's name and engaging in his service (ulagaLandha
      uththaman pEr paadi). She evinces no serious interest in securing 
      such a lesser goal.
  (d) While waking up the girls for the supposed nOnbu, time and time
      again she mentions service of Krishna and nothing else. Let's take
      one example. In the eighth verse (keezh vaanam), she declares that
      "if we fall at the feet of the God of gods, he will carefully look
      into our concerns, thoughtfully saying, 'Ah, ah!'." (dEvaadhi dEvanai
      cenRu naam seviththaal, 'aa aa' enRu aaraayndhu aruL).
  (d) To make the point clear, in her penultimate verse, she even abandons
      the idea of asking such a lofty goal as the drum, and makes it clear to 
      Krishna that she seeks nothing whatsoever for herself. (siRRam siRukaalE
      vandhunnai sEvittu ... pORRum poruL kELaay ... iRRai paRai koLvaan anRu).  
      She concludes that she wishes *all* desires of hers to be changed to match 
      whatever's Krishna's wish is (maRRai nam kaamangaL maaRRu). This being 
      the case, why would she evince an interest in praying to ordinary 
      "super-mortals" to pour rain down?

Given all this, I find it hard to see the Vedic model of "yajna" 
for worldly welfare as being Andal's purpose in this poem. Only if
one were ignore the last 27 verses could someone conclude in such
a fashion.

> Goda asks for "teenginri nAdellAm tinggal mummAri
> peyydu...". She is not asking for any personal gain
> here. She is asking the rain-gods to shower their
> bountiful blessings on all the world! And for that,
> she says the "aayarpAdi" maidens have duly observed
> the sacrificial norms of "neyy-unnOm, pAl-unnOm...
> etc". In other words they have performed it all in the
> true spirit of a Vedic "yagnyAm".


> If the tiruppAvai was all about a "vratam" which is
> merely "pretext" then why would Goda-pirAtti have gone
> to the extents she has done in the 30 pAsurams to
> celebrate the "mArgazhi-nOnbu"? I find it rather
> difficult to be persuaded by Sri.Mani's point of view.

I trust that your doubts have been answered above. However, please
don't think that I have conjured these ideas up out of thin air.
They are based solely on the expositions of pUrvars such as 
Swami PVP et al.  At the very least, please read their words
respectfully before performing solo elaborations that contradict
their principal conclusions.

To read a detailed analysis of the textual and historical sources
of Andal's nOnbu, please see Uttamur Swami's carefully treatment
of the theme in the introduction to his "prabandha rakshai" 
commentary on tiruppAvai.

raamaanuja daasan,