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Inputs for CD ROMs : Part VII.1--> ThoNdaradippodi AzhwAr Charitham

From: Sadagopan (sgopan_at_computer.net)
Date: Fri Feb 02 2001 - 06:16:42 PST

Life  of Thondaradippodi
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Thondardippodi Azhwar was born in Marghazhi Kettai at 
the Chozha Naadu village of Thirumandangudi. His name
was Vipra Narayanan at birth. He is considered as 
an amsam of the Lord's Vaijayanthi maalai. Later, he chose 
the Bhagavatha naamam of Thondaradipodi or the dust of 
the feet of the Lord's servants(Thondars) to show his 
utmost reverence for them .He was saved by the redemptive 
grace of Lord RanganAthA at a time when he became infatuated 
with a beautiful courtesan and gave up his cherished garland 
kaimkaryam to the Lord in favor of her.He acknowledges 
the divine intervention of Lord RanganAtha at the time
of his distraction from Bhagavath kaimkaryam in the 16th
verse of ThirumAlai this way( Dr.K.C.Varadachari) :

" At the time , when I was a gambler and a thief and ,
caught in the net of a woman's fish-like eyes , was 
helpless, was it not the Lord of Srirangam , who called
me , entered into my mind and made my love increase for Him?" 

Lord Ranganatha's intervention
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Vipranarayanan followed the foot steps of Periyazhwar 
to perform maala kaimkaryam to the Lord .He built a garden
in Srirangam and cultivated Tulasi bushes and flower trees 
for making maalais for Ranganathan's pleasure . He remained
a bachelor and was dedicated to a pious way of life. 

One day , a beautiful courtesan by the name of Devadevi 
was passing by the garden of Vipranarayanan and stopped 
there to rest from the heat of the midday sun under 
the shade of a tree . Her maid mentioned that the owner
of the garden was a great devotee of Ranganatha and would 
not even look at a woman. The haughty Devadevi was intrigued
and vowed to her maid that she will bring the pious brahmin
under her total control in six months and if she failed 
in her effort , she would become the servant of her maid.

Next day , Devadevi wore simple clothes and showed up
at the hut of Vipranarayana and begged him to accept her 
as his helper in bhagavath kaimkaryam . She explained to him 
that she was born of a deva daasi caste and regretted over
the wasted days pursuing her trade . She mentioned that she
wanted to turn a new leaf in her life and hence wanted to
join in Bhagavath kaimkaryam .The guileless Vipranarayanan
trusted her and accepted her as a helper in the garden chores.
She was diligent in her assigned duties. 

One day , there was a heavy down pour of rain and both
Devadasi and Vipranarayanan ran for cover into the hut. 
Devadasi was drenched in the rain and the kind Vipranarayana
gave his (spare) dry upper garment for her to dry herself. At
that time, Vipranarayana got a glimpse of her extraordinary 
beauty and became infatuated with her irresistible charm.
Devadevi thus accomplished her goal and won the bet with
her maid. Vipranarayana got passionately involved with Devadevi
and neglected completely his duties to Ranganatha . Devadevi
took all the property of Vipranarayana and when he had nothing
more to give her, she left him and went back to her own home.
Vipranarayana was heart broken and begged at Devadevi's
door for reunion . She chased him away through her servants.

Sri Ranganayaki took pity on her child's suffering and
appealed to Her Lord to intervene and save His devotee.
Lord took on the role of a servant of Vipranarayanan 
by the name of Azhagiya MaNavalan and went to Devadevi's home 
and gave her a golden cup used in His daily Aaradhanam  and
told her that it was a gift from Vipranarayanan , His master.
Devadevi was pleased and invited Vipranarayanan back to 
enjoy her company. 

Next day , the archakas at the temple noticed that the golden cup
was missing and notified the king . The search revealed
that the missing cup was in the possession of the courtesan.
Devadevi's maid told the king's men that a servant of Vipranarayanan
by the name of Azhagiya manavalan brought the cup to her
mistress. The king arrested both Devadevi and Vipranarayanan ;
latter pleaded that he had no servant and that he was not
guilty of the crime of stealing.Yet , he had to spend the night
in the king's prison. During the night , Ranganatha appeared 
in the dream of the king and told him that it was His play
(bringing the golden cup to Devadevi as the servant of 
Vipranarayanan)to reclaim both Vipranarayana and Devadevi
as His devotees.Ranganatha said that the humiliation suffered
by Vipranarayanan was sufficient punishment and that he should
be released form prison . After the release from the prison,
Vipranarayanan realized his folly and understood the depth of 
love of Ranganatha to rescue him from his utter disgrace . He vowed
to rededicate himself to the Lord's service and took on the name of
Thondaradippodi and composed two prabhandhams --Thirumaalai
and Thiruppalliyezhucchi--to celebrate the divine anugraham of 
the parama dayAlu , Lord Ranganathan. He continued with
his Tulasi garland kaimkaryam to the lord all his life.

Thondaradippodi has performed Mangalasasanam for four 
dhivya desams in his two prabhandhams : Srirangam , AyOddhi,
Thirupparkadal and Vada Mathurai . Strictly speaking , we can
conclude that all of this AzhwAr's paasurams are about 
Ranganathan , since the Moolavar and Uthsavar at Srirangam
are recognized as KrishNan(Vada Mathurai) and Raaman (Ayoddhi)
respectively .He is indeed a Ranganatha pathivrathai.  



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