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Who is an untouchable? -- vaarththaamaalai 283

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Mon Feb 22 1999 - 23:46:37 PST

vArtAmAlai 283:

    Nadadur Alvan was once walking down the street holding
    the hand of a Sri Vaishnava.  As they proceeded down
    the street, a 'holy caste' (untouchable) Sri Vaishnava 
    approached.  Seeing the caste of this person, the 
    Sri Vaishnava holding Alvan's hand yelled, "Go to the
        Hearing this, Alvan fainted.  As Alvan regained 
    consciousness, the surrounding Sri Vaishnavas asked, 
    "What happened?"
        Alvan graciously said, "Tell me, is a great soul
    who has taken birth in the 'holy caste' amidst the two 
    rivers (in Srirangam) the real outcaste? Or is it I,
    who have for so long stolen my very self and gone about 
    my merry way -- am I not the outcaste?

   1) Nadadur Alvan, also known as Varada Vishnu Acharya,
      was the nephew of Ramanuja and one of the 74
      disciples appointed to spread Ramanuja's philosophy.
   2) 'holy caste' (tirukkulam) -- the name given by
      Ramanuja to those who were considered pariahs or
   3) 'amidst the two rivers' -- Srirangam is located 
      between two branches of the Kaveri river.
   4) 'stolen my very self' (AtmA-apahAram paNNi) --
      this refers to those such as ourselves who confuse
      the body with the self and think that our AtmA (self)
      belongs to us, when in reality it belongs to Sriman
   5) This episode serves to show that "jaati nirUpaNam"
      or caste discrimination has no place among Sri Vaishnavas.
      It also demonstrates Alvan's utter humility, a
      characteristic that all Sri Vaishnavas should have.

aazhvaar emberumaanaar dEsikan jeeyar tiruvaDigaLE SaraNam


Original (p. 308, puththUr svAmi's edition)
nadaadhUr aazhvaan oru SrIvaishNavar kaiyaip
pidiththukkoNdu pOkaaniRka, naduvil thiruveedhiyilE
oru thirukkulaththil SrIvaishnavar aNugivara, kaikkoduththuk
koNdupOgiRa SrIvaishNavar avarai jaathi nirUpaNam
paNNi, "kadakkappO" enna, aazhvaan aththaik kEttu
mUrcciththaar; mUrccai theLindhapinbu aruguninRa
SrIvaishNavargaL "idhuven" enna; "thirukkulaththilE
thiruvavathariththu iraNdaaRRukkum naduvE varththikkap
peRRa mahaanubhaavanaa paRaiyan? nedunkaalam
aathmaapahaaram paNNiddhirindha naan anRO paRaiyan?"
enRu aruLinaar.