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"U", "ku" and "mu"

From: sampath kumar (
Date: Sun Jan 02 2000 - 12:28:07 PST


adiyen continues to reflect privately into his
'mArgazhi' diary. Here are some pretty
straight-forward traditional "reflections" on
"tiruppAvai" with adiyen's personal liberties in
interpretation completely expurgated, leaving room
only for the impressions of great "purvAchAryA-s".

     *****     *****     *****

Today's verse of the day is Stanza # 18 beginning with
"undhu madha-galitran OdAtha tOl valiyan...". 
This verse begins with the sound "u".

The next verse Stanza # 19 begins with
"kuttuvillak-eriya ...". It begins with "ku" also
containing the sound "u".

And the following verse, Stanza# 20, also begins with
"muppatu-mUvar amararkku mun senru...". Here also the
first syllable is "mu" containing the sound "u".

So all three verses #18, #19 and # 20 of the
"tiruppAvai" in seriatum begin with the sound of "u"
which in Sanskrit is called "u-kAra shabdham" or the l
letter denoting "pirAtti-vAchakam"... the vowel that
constitutes "U" in the primordial sound of the
"praNava-mantra", A-U-M. 

Within the sonic timbre of the "U" in the A-U-M, the
Divine Mediatrix, the Consort of Lord Narayana,
"sAkshAt-mahAlakshmi" is said to reside.

"AchArya-s" point out that the three "u's" used here
in 3 contiguous stanzas by AndAl are not without
significance as each of them denotes respectively the

(1) the nature of "purushAkAratvam" of thAyyAr which
makes Her actively intercede  with the Almighty on
behalf of "jivA-s"and secure for them His Grace; this
is denoted by the expression "kadai-tira-vAy" and

(2) the nature of "nithya-yogam" of thAyyAr which
makes Her inseparable from the Almighty and which
constitutes His essential and inalienble Self; this is
pregnant in the expression "ettanai-yElum

(3)the nature of "upEyatvam" of thAyyAr which holds
within it the power of rendering a "jivA's" condition
acceptable to the Almighty; this is latent in the
expression "un maNAlaNai emmai nirAttu...".

All 3 essential aspects of thAyyAr are however
splendidly brought together in one single piece of
poetic imagery through the use of AndAl's rare
expression: "pandAr-viraLi" in Stanza 18. 

This phrase "pandAr-viraLi" is brilliantly explained
by that extraordinary giant amongst 'tiruppAvai'
commentators, Sri.PVPillai who wrote along the
following lines: 

The literal meaning of "pandAr-viraLi" denotes
thAyyAr, 'napinnai-pirAtti', as a "playful lass" in
the aayarpAdi and found to be ever distracting herself
twirling a ball on her nimble fingers ("pandhu").

When such a lass got the better of Sri.Krishna Himself
at playing ball, "napinnai-thAyyAr' came to be
affectionately known as "pandAr-viraLi"... a sort of
"expert ball-player".

So deeply does "thAyyAr" savour her victory over
Krishna, and so delighted over her exploits with the
ball, that even while asleep she keeps the ball
tightly clasped in one hand, while with the other, she
lies embracing the Lord. And so lost is she in her
wonder-filled slumber that "nappinnai" does not heed
other "aayarpAdi" girls calling out to her from her
doorstep to awaken and allow them audience with Her
Lord Paramour, Bhagavan Krishna.

It is to such a lass that in this verse of the
tiruppAvai that the "aayarpadi" girls call out:

Sri.Peria-achhAn pillai here explains that it is
Krishna who is the "instrument to be enjoyed" by
"nappinai"; the ball is merely her plaything!

She holds in one hand "that which is contained" i.e.
"naram" ... the "ball" ... while in the other hand she
holds "the container" i.e. "narAyanan". While in one
hand she holds "vibhuti" ... i.e. substance... in the
other she holds "vibhutimAn" ... viz. the underlying
principle of all Substance.

In one hand she holds "chetanA-s"; in the other she
holds "Iswara"... both are so dear to her she clasps
the one no less tightly in her embrace than the other!

Thus, is clearly established thAyyAr's nature of
"purushAkAratvam"... being the all-compassionate
universal mother ...the Divine Mediatrix... to whom
her errant and wayward children ("chetanA-s") are no
less precious than her own Lord Paramour ("Iswara"

"pandAr-virali" also subtly brings out pirAtti's
"nitya-yOgam" --- inseparability with not only the
Lord in whose embrace she ever resides but also,
seemingly, with the "pandhu" -- this great Ball of
Creation. She keeps it tightly clasped in her hand
never letting it slip out of her hands for even a
moment... the poetic imagery of a mother who will
never let go of her infant even when in the embrace of
her husband is indeed exquisite here. It reveals an
important SriVaishnava doctrine that says that a
relationship between "iswara" and "chetana" would be
well nigh impossible without the intervening agency of
divine intercession.

"pandAr-virali" also suggests how by virtue of being
clasped in her hand, a ragged piece of "ball"
("chetana") attains to the elevated status of intimate
proximity with the Lord. If not for "pirAtti" would
the "ball" ever attain the kind of proximity to God
that is available in his own bedstead? Is it not she
who renders "acceptability" to the lowly "jivA" and
enables it to achieve "parama-gathi"? Here thus is
established the "upEyatvam" of thAyyAr!

A most wonderful explanation by Sri.Peria-AcchAn
Pillai indeed !! 

(It is so fertile and grand in its interpretative
sweep that it triggers so many associative thoughts in
adiyen's mind. But what adiyen thinks is of no
interest to anyone else on the list but himself. So
adiyen will keep them to all to himself in his
"mArgazhi" diary.)

Stanza#18 is very important for one other reason. It
contains the lines 

   "sendhAmarai-kaiyAl seerAr vaLai-olippa
     vandu tiravAy mahizhendElor embAvAy !" 

The above lines literally mean : "With thy hand of
lotus-red hue and with the jingling of your beautiful
bangles, come forth, O napinnai,  and fling the
doorway of thy abode open!".

Sri.Ramanuja in his early days in SriRangam lived in
the traditional "yati" style... going around begging
for food through the streets of the holy city. He was
fond of reciting the stanzas of the "tiruppAvai" as he
went around. (A habit which earned him the sobriquet,

One day on one of his alm-gathering rounds he found
himself at the doorstep of his achAryA, 'peria-
nambi'. It remained bolted shut. 

Coincidentally, it so happened that Ramanuja happened
to be uttering the above lines of the "tiruppAvai" at
that very instant, and lo behold! no sooner were those
words uttered than the bolted door opened and
"attulAy", peria-nambi's little daughter sallied forth
daintily with that day's alms for the YatirAja-r!

So sudden and intense was the coincidence that it
simply took Ramanuja's breath away! For a moment he
seemed to have a vision of "napinnai-thAyyAr' herself
in the form of Peria-nambi's little daughter! He grew
giddy and fell into a deep and rapturous swoon !

Peria-nambi was not present at home then. But the fact
that Ramanuja had swooned and collapsed at his
doorstep quickly reached him in another part of the
town where he was tending to some other personal
chore. When the news reached him the venerable guru of
Ramanuja seemed to have already had a prevision of
what had transpired at his home, for he is reported to
have cooly commented, "undhu-madha-gaLitru
anu-sandhAnam- AyirrukkavadUkkum!" ...meaning, "it's
alright, I know what might have happened to that 
fellow Ramanuja. He must have recited the tiruppAvai
stanza beginning "undhu-madha-gaLitru..." at my
doorstep and must have lost himself in a trance!".


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