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Kulasekhara Azhwaar's Pasurams

Jaganath.Bharadwaj_at_nrecatao.nreca.org
Date: Tue Feb 13 1996 - 18:41:53 PST

Dear Members of the Prapatti Group,
Here is an English Article published in the latest Edition of Sri
Nrsimha Priya.  To see more such articles, please visit Sri Ahobila
Mutt web page.

Jaganath.

==========================================

            KULASEKHARA ALVAR'S SREENIVASA
                 (Sree.  M.S. Ramesh)

Kulasekhara Alvar, a king by birth, known as Kolli
Kavalan, Koodal Nayakan, Kozhikone was a great
Chera ruler who had defeated the Pandyas and Cholas.
He was popularly known as Kulasekhara Perumal
because of his intense devotion to the Perumal in his
Rama Avathar.  The Pasurams composed by him are
known as Perumal Thirumozhi, as they are the holy
words of a great bhaktha.  He has composed ten
pasurams in praise of the Lord at Thirumala.  Through
these pasurams it is evident that the Alvar wanted
Seshathvam, i.e., association in one form or another
with God.  In this article, I propose to briefly convey
the meaning of the soul-stirring verses composed by
Kulasekhara Alvar.

In his first pasuram (pasuram 677), the Alvar says that
he does not desire a life of prosperity and wealth where
only the wants of flesh are met and the body puts on
weight.  He says that he wants to serve that Lord who
subjugated the seven oxen and who is seen holding in
His hand the Conch and who is sitting at
Thiruvengadam.  He wants to be born as a Kurugu bird
and stay on the banks of Swami Pushkarinee Theertha
at Thirumala.

In the above pasuram the Alvar refers to an episode in
Krishna Avathar where the Lord had to subjugate the
seven oxen in order to win the hand of Nappinnai.
Similarly, the Alvar suggests that if one desires to
attain God, one has to overcome the temptations of
wealth and prosperity.  The Alvar wants to be born as a
Kurugu bird on the banks of the Swami Pushkarini,
near the temple on the Hill.  This bird, white in colour
like the Conch, represents the Sathvic gunas.  The
Alvar though born as a Kshathriya, does not want any
connection with Rajo or Tamo gunas.  What is more,
the Kurugu bird is known for its single-minded
approach in achieving its objective.  This bird usually
stands silently in the waters of a tank like a sentinel.
The fishes in the tank get deceived by this apparent
harmless immobility, until the stork suddenly darts it
beak into the flowing waters, gets at its prey to satisfy
its hunger.  The Alvar is perhaps suggesting that we
should also have a similar single-minded devotion in
order to attain our objective, namely Moksha and
attainment of Lord's Lotus like feet.  In brief, in the
very first pasuram, the Alvar makes it abundantly clear
that he does not want 'rajya sukham' i.e., 'aihikam'.
Instead, he hungers  for 'aamushmikam' i.e., the
happiness of the other world.

In the second pasuram (pasuram 678) the Alvar desire
to be born as a fish in the flowing streams in
Thiruvengadam He says that he would spurn even
Indraloka with its youthful damsels like Rambha,
Urvasi and other apsarasa sthrees He says that his sole
objective is to attain Moksha.  Tb joy to be got out of
seeking Moksha is 'nithyanandam i.e., eternal joy while
the pleasures of Indraloka- ar evanescent-passing
pleasures.  The Alvar makes it abundantly clear that
Rajyasukham is like iron shackles and Indraloka
sukham is perhaps golden shackles.  But neither of the
shackle is desired by him.  He wants to be born as a
free fish in  the flowing streams in Thirumala.

The Alvar in the previous pasuram wanted to be born
as a Kurugu bird; but in this pasuram wants to be born
as a fish.  The commentators, with their poetic fancy,
explain that this change of mind of the Alvar may have
be prompted by the fear that a Kurugu bird which has
wing may in a weak moment, fly away from the
Pushkarini theertham i.e., Swami's Saanidhyam!  The
Alvar, therefor does not want to take any chances, and
wants to live as a fish which can neither fly away from
the stream nor live outside the waters of the stream.
May be Alvar sought Bhagavath Sambandha, by being
born as fish and thus claim affinity with the
Mathsyavathara of the incident when Rama decided to
go to the forest to fulfil his father's wish.  At that time
Lakshmana and Seetha wanted to accompany Him.
However, Rama tried to dissuade them.  But
Lakshmana said that he would be like a fish out of
water if he were to live without Rama.  Perhaps in the
mind of Kulasekhara Alvar this sentiment of
Lakshmana influenced him to opt to be born as a fish
in a stream in Thiruvengadam.

In the next pasuram (pasuram 679) the Alvar wants to
be a 'Kainkaryadar' to the Lord at Thirumala.  He
wants to carry a golden bowl into which the Lord will
spit the water used for brushing His teeth in the
morning.  The Alvar says that the jatadhari (Lord Siva),
as well as Chathurmukha Brahma as also the Lord
Indra are not able to go through the 'Vaikunta Neela
Vaasal' at Thirumala!  The heavy crowds make it
difficult to enter the 'Sannidhyam' of Lord Sreenivasa.
The Alvar felt that by becoming the Kainkaryapara, he
will be able to gain easy access through Vaikunta
Vaasal and render service to his dear Lord, Sreenivasa.

The commentators say that the Alvar might have got
worried that the forest stream in Thiruvengadam may
run dry and as a fish he may also die without life
sustaining water in the stream!  He therefore opted to
do Kainkarya to the Lord.  The use of the words
"Vaikunta Neela Vaasal" by the Alvar is significant as
it is believed that the Thiruvengada Hill is the Kreeda
Parvatha in Paramapadha, brought to Bhooloka, on the
specific orders of Perumal, by his Vahana, namely
Garuda.  The commentators also say that amongst the
various kainkaryas, the Alvar chose to carry the golden
bowl as he was sure that when the Lord spits into that
vessel, His benign glance will definitely cover not only
the bowl but also the person holding it! The Alvar
refers to the milling crowds waiting near the temple
gates consisting of all the Devas.  This statement strikes
a sympathetic chord in us as the crowds that throng the
holy shrine even today are huge!

In the next pasuram (pasuram 680), the Alvar changes
his mind and wants to be born as a Shenbaga tree in
Thirumala.  He says that the Lord at Thiruvengadam is
none other than the one who is seen in Yogic slumber
at Thirupparkadal where the coral creepers are washed
ashore by the waves.  He says that as it is not possible
to go to Paramapadha and have the darsan of the
Divine Feet of Ksheera Sayana, one could have that
Padhaseva at Thirumala where the bees are singing
happily after having had their fill of the honey from the
myriad flowers on the Hills.

We find that in the earlier three pasurams the Alvar
expressed a desire to be born as movable objects in
Thiruvengadam Hill, namely as a bird, as a fish, as a
kainkaryaparar.  But in this pasuram the Alvar wants to
be born as an immovable object in the same
Thiruvengadam.  The commentators say that this
change of mind in the Alvar might have been the result
of a fear that as a movable object he might lose the
Bhagavath Sambandha.  The bird could fly away; the
fish could die for want of water; the kainkaryapara
might be dismissed if his service is not satisfactory!
Thus, he may lose his opportunity to be near God,
namely Sreenivasa.  He therefore opts to become an
immovable object in the same holy Hill which is
usually referred to as a 'Sindhu poo maghizhium
Thiruvengadam', i.e., Thirumalai where the air is filled
with the scent of flowers.  This is very true even today
as the gardens maintained in the Hill for providing
flowers to the Lord are breathtakingly beautiful, filled
with innumerable scented flowers.  In the idyllic
surroundings on the Hill the Alvar wants to be born as
a Shenbaga tree and provide the scented Shenbaga
flowers to adorn His Lord.

In the next pasuram, (pasuram 681) the Alvar wants to
be born as a bush in the enchanting Thiruvengadam.
He says he does not desire the trappings associated with
ruling over a kingdom.  It is not his wish to sit on a
caparisoned elephant inasmuch as he does not value
such evanescent aisvaryas.  He simply wants to be born
as a bush in beautiful Thiruvengadam where his
Thirumalaiyan, the Lord and the master of the world, is
residing.

The Alvar says that to be born as a bush will be a boon
conferred as a Thapobala rewards!  That is why he uses
the words "Thavam Udayen Aavene".  Earlier Alvar
desired to be a Shenbaga tree.  Perhaps he was afraid
that people may cut the precious Shenbaga tree and
take it away for replanting elsewhere whereas if he is
born as a useless bush, none will waste a second glance
at him and he can stay on in the Hill and satisfy his all-
consuming, sole passion, viz., to be near the Lord of
Thirumala.

The commentators say that the Alvar might have been
reminded of the episode in Krishnavathara, when at the
behest of Sathyabhama the Parijata tree was pulled out
of Indraloka and transplanted in Bhooloka.  He did not
want to face any such eventuality which could lead to
his being physically removed from Thirumala.  That is
why he chose to be born as a useless bush on which
nobody in their senses would cast a second glance.

In the next pasuram (pasuram 682) the Alvar wants to
be born as a tall stone in Thirumala. He has no desire
to witness the dance of the slim waisted beautiful
apsara women such as Urvasi or Menaka.  Instead he
will consider himself fortunate if he were to be born as
a mere stone in beautiful Thiruvengadam Hill,
reverberating with the pleasant humming of the bees.

Here the Alvar says that, the beauty of the divine
damsels hold no charm for him.  Perhaps he was afraid
that if he were to be an ungainly bush in
Thiruvengadam Hill, somebody with a desire to
beautify the Hill might clear the bush; he was afraid
that he might thereby lose his sambandha with the Hill.
He therefore wanted to be born as an ungainly tall
stone which would require a herculear effort to be
shifted from Thiruvengadam Hill.