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"mahanAy pirandu"...mahanAy oLittu vaLara" (2 of 2)

From: sampath kumar (
Date: Mon Jan 10 2000 - 11:23:55 PST

Dear friends,

Continuing from earlier post today (1 of 2) carrying
the same title as this one...

In ancient times in India, the month of "mArgazhi"
actually marked the first month of the new year. It
used to be called "aagrahAyani"... "hayana" means
"year" and the first month of the year is
'AgrahAyana'. The 1st of January which we all
celebrated last week with such fanfare, as you all
know, falls during the middle of "mArgazhi". So it may
not be unsafe to surmise that the Western civilization
took the idea of commencing its Gregorian
calendar-year with 'mArgazhi' or January from the
ancient Indians. Later  the Indians changed their
system but the West stuck to theirs.

Now, during the month of "AgrahAyana", the ancient
Indians who were followers of the Vedas usually
performed "pAka-yagnyA-s" i.e. "small" ritual
sacrifices which any householder could himself perform
easily at home. Such a yagnya was called "AgrahAyani".
Hence, "mArgazhi" was a very important month for Vedic
practitioners since they had to earmark it exclusively
for the performance of ritual-sacrifices like

Our poetess of SriVilliputtur, "soodi-kOduttha-
nAcchiyAr" AndAl, was the daughter of a very devout,
very orthodox Brahmin priest, Peria-AzhwAr, who was
known to have been very well-versed in the Vedic
dharma. It is therefore quite likely that even as a
young child our "gOdA-pirAtti" must have closely
watched her father practising and following the vedic
discipline of several "yagnyA-s" including (perhaps)
those such as "AgrahAyani". Our "pirAtti" must surely
have grown up amidst a domestic environment where
Vedic chants, rituals and "yagnyA-s' must have been
frequent if not constant occurences. She must have
grown up with extremely intimate and deep
understanding of several "yagnya-karmA-s" and "yagnya-
kAryam"---  the body of ritualism, sacraments and
rites which the Vedas contain in that part of
themselves known popularly as "karma-kAndam".

(All of us are aware that the Vedas contain 2 parts:
"pUrva-bhAgam" or "karma-kAnda"... the anterior part
dealing with ritualistic worship... and the
"uttara-bhAgam" or "gnyAna-kAnda": the latter or
terminal part dealing with the vedAntic inquiry into
Upanishadic Truth where there is no place for

Watching her father several times perform "yagnyA-s",
surely, therefore, the child AndAl must have quickly
learned too that for any Vedic "karma", the 3 most
essential equipment are (a) "havis" or oblation (b)
"agni" or the carrier of the oblation and (c)
"yajamAna", the performer of the "yagnya" or he who
offers the oblations into the fire as worship.

Andal must have also had a very thorough idea of how
the "agni" or "neruppu" (in Tamil) meant for a 
"yagnya" is ignited and how the 3 sacrificial-fires...
"trEtAgni"... are lit: 

(1) It is written in the "sutrA-s" (practical manuals)
of the Vedic "karma-kAndA", that the first thing that
Vedic ritualists must do is to go into the forest in
search of "arraNi-kattai"... two pieces of a special
birch-wood which when struck together for a prolonged
period of time ignite into a small spark of flame.
This flame they will carefull cup with their hands and
cover inside a small bowl to make sure it is not

(2) Holding the small bowl of flame covered over his
head thus the ritualist will return from the forest
via a small stream or ford which he will wade across
before returning home. The act of wading across the
stream is a sort of purificatory rite in preparation
for the performance of the "yagnya".

(3) Back home, the "small flame from the forest" will
then be transferred to a small, circular earthen mound
and fed with pieces of birch-wood until the flame
grows into a small fire. This fire is called
"gArhyapatya" and it belongs to the householder... the
"yajamAnan". In this fire or 'agni' no oblations are
to be made.

(4) Fire must be taken from the "gArhyapatya" and
transferred to another larger oval-shaped mound
situated in a southerly direction to the
'garhyapatya". This fire is called "dakshinAgni" (the
"southern" fire). This fire is tended and certain
rites and "yagnyA-s" are performed with it. Oblations
are offered into it.

(5) But large sacrificial offerings are generally made
to various deities in another "fire" called
"aahavaneeya" which is square in shape. The first fire
in the "aahavaneeya" is also transferred from the

(6) Very big "yagnyA-s" like "sOmayagnyA-s" and others
meant to propitiate deities like Vishnu etc. are
conducted from great, big and roaring fire-mounds in a
big hall called "yAga-shAlA-s". The fire for such
sacrifices are taken from the "aahavaneeya" fire.  

This is how the Vedic "karma-kAndA" describe  "yagnya"
must be conducted.

Now, our dear AndAl-pirAtti must have surely watched,
day in and day out in her home in SriVilliputtur, with
wide-eyed girlish fascination the conduct of various
Vedic rites, as per the various "karma-s", by her
father, Vishnuchittan. But being of feminine gender
she may not have been given an opportunity to indulge
her fascination and actually participate in the
proceedings strictly meant for duly investitured males
only. So it is probable that AndAl, from a distance,
may have only yearned for but never actually
experienced the supremely elevating feelings that
conducting a Vedic "yagnya" arouses in a man.

Now, discerning scholars point out to us that what
'Goda-pirAtti' could never experience first-hand, i.e.
actually performing a Vedic rite, she certainly did
seek to vicariously experience it by composing
Stanza#25 of the "tiruppAvai" the whole of which is
nothing but poetic symbolism for all the "karma-
kAnda" procedures described above for tending the
sacrificial fires of the "trEtAgni".

Let's examine Stanza#25 closely now:

In the Stanza, Lord Krishna is hailed by AndAl as
"neruppenra nedu mALe"... a clear reference to
"fire"... "neruppu".

She talks of "orutti mahanAy pirandu"... which is
Krishna being born in Mathura... but which is also the
allegorical symbol of the "gArhyapatya" fire which is
first lit out of the "flame" from the forest is
carefully stoked to life. Devaki's "womb" is here held
to be the symbol of the "garhyapatya" fire. Although
the sacrificial fire is first lit here, no oblations
however are made in the "gArhyapatya". So also, though
Devaki gave "birth" to Krishna, she did not have the
occasion to make "oblations" to Him....i.e. she did
not "feed" Him which only the foster-mother Yasodha
was fortunate to do.

Next, Vasudevan carried the child Krishna on his head
across the Yamuna from Mathura to Gokulam in one night
("Or-iravil"). We saw above how the fire from the
forest too is held by the Vedic ritualist over his
head as he wades across a stream to reach the

Vasudevan transported the "fire" of Krishna from the
"gArhyapatya" of Mathura to the southern hamlet of
Gokulam ... the "dakshinAgni" that we saw described
above. This "dakshinAgni" is the allegorical symbol of
YasodhA who lovingly tended the "fire", Krishna,
exactly as Vedic "rt-viks" would do in carefully
tending their sacrificial fires. Thus, AndAl uses the
expression here "orutti-mahanAy ollittu vaLara". The
fire of "dakshinAgni" we saw above was also used to
enable great "yagnyA-karma-s" .... and this too is
symbolised by the love and "bhakti" that the
"gopika-s" of Brindavanam lavished on Lord Krishna as
their "havis" or oblation. 

>From "garhyapatyam", it was observed above that, that
the sacrificial fire is transferred to "aahavaneeya".
And from "aahavaneeya" we saw  the fires are taken to
huge "yAga-shAlA-s" for the purpose of conducting
"yagnyA-s" on a much grander scale and format. The
"fire" of such large "yagnyA-s" is what is symbolised
by the events where Krishna returned to Mathura to
slay the evil Kamsa and then later moved or
"transferred" Himself to Dwaraka from where He
accomplished the great missions and tasks of his
lifetime....those great "maha-yagnyA-s" whose
allegorical equivalents are the defeat of the evil
Kauravas, the protection of the Pandavas and the
revelation of the highest wisdom of the Bhagavath-Gita
to all mankind....
    *********    **********      ***********

Thus, in Stanza#26 of the "tiruppAvai" our great
"pirAtti" of SriVilliputtur showed how that even as a
member of the feminine gender she was more than
well-versed in the hallowed ritualisms of Vedic
"karma-kAnda" (the exclusive realm of male
practitioners) and also how she had intuitively
understood that the subject-matter of the
"karma-kAnda-s" was the same as that of the Vedic
"gnyANa-kAnda" --- Sriya:patih: Bhagawan vAsudEvan and
none else!

AndAl tiruvadigaLE saranam,



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