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THE HINDU articles and Thiruppaavai (part 1 of 4)

From: Venkatesh Elayavalli/DCOM (
Date: Thu Jan 11 1996 - 12:41:32 PST


Poems in devotional fervour

Date: 10-12-1995 :: Pg: 39 :: Col: a

Cl: Religion

        THE   month   of  Margasiram,  otherwise   cherished   as
Maargazhi,  is  the  Tamil month  of  religious  austerities  and
devotional singing. It corresponds to the December-January period
culminating in the harvest festival called "Pongal".

        Maargazhit-thingal or the month of Maargazhi is  hallowed
all over Tamil Nadu as the most appropriate time in the year when
people,  old  and young, rise up at dawn, go  round  the  streets
singing bhajans and particularly two celebrated devotional hymns,
the Tiruppaavai, sung by the legendary Aandal - one of the twelve
Alwars,  and the Tiruvempaavai, sung by Saint  Maanickavaachakar,
one of the sixtythree Nayanmars. Both these immortal hymns belong
to  the  form of poetry called PAAVAI,  signifying  maiden  girls
seeking divine intervention for securing worthy husbands.

        Legend  has  it  that Andal  and  her  father  Periyalwar
belonged  to  Srivilliputhoor in the Pandyan Kingdom  during  the
ninth  century.  Andal was the foster child  of  Vishnuchitta  or
Periyalwar who found her as a child beneath a tulsi plant, in his
garden. The father brought up the girl with great care and  love.
His own overwhelming devotion to Lord Vishnu (known in the shrine
of  Srivilliputhoor  as  Vatapatrasaayin)  led  to   Periyalwar's
encouragement of Andal in her participation in the worship of the
Lord.  Andal thus grew up in a religious ambience and soon  began
to show a rapturous devotion to Lord Krishna. Her poetic  talents
were extraordinary and she composed the Tiruppaavai consisting of
30  hymns  and  the Naachiar Tirumozhi in 143  stanzas,  both  of
amazing  lyrical  felicity  and  rich  imagery  besides   puranic
allusions  evocative  of  the great epic  literature  of  ancient

        Andal,  also  known  as Kothai, was  believed  to  be  an
avatara of Sridevi, Mother Earth. It is said that one day,  Andal
decked herself with the garland which her father, Periyalwar, had
kept  for adorning the Lord. On discovering this, Periyalwar  was
filled with remorse and decided not to offer the garland to  God.
God Vatapatrasaayin appeared in Periyalwar's dream that night and
told  him  that he would be delighted to wear the  garland  which
Aandal  had worn. Periyalwar was thrilled that the  Lord  himself
had attested to the great devotion of Aandaal.

        In course of time Aandal's Bhakti knew no bounds and  she
took  to Paavai Nonbu (austerities) in expression of her  earnest
desire to have none other than Lord Krishna as her husband. It is
said that later, Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam appeared in a dream
and asked Periyalwar to bring Aandaal to his abode. It was  there
that  Aandaal, the saint-poetess, merged with the divine form  of
Lord Ranganatha.
        Tiruppaavai  is  a  lyrical poem of  thirty  stanzas,  of
exquisite   beauty  and  devotional  ecstasy.  The  hymns   which
constitute Tiruppaavai are as imaginative, in the literary sense,
as   they   are  vivid  portraits  of  the  life-style   of   the
Aayarpaadi's, the members of the cowherd-community.

        Traditionally,  the  thirty  hymns  of  Tiruppaavai,  are
classified into six groups of five each. Hymns 1-5, providing the
overview,  refer  to  the five essential  requisites  by  way  of
knowledge for Jeevanmukthi, namely, the nature of the  Paramatman
or the Supreme Being, of Jiva, the individual soul, mukthisadhana
or  means of redemption of which Bhakthi is the  most  accessible
means, the God of attainment, and the obstacles to redemption.


        Maargazhi-th thingal madhinirainda nannaalal
        Neeraadap pothuveer pothumino nerizhayeer!
        Seermalgum aaipaadi selvachirumeergaal
        Koorvel kodum thozhilan Nandagopan kumaran
        Er aarndha kanni Yasodai ilam singam
        Kaar meni-ch-chengan kadhir madhiyam pol mukathaan
        Naaraayanane namakke parai tharuvaan
        Paaror pugazha-p-padindhu-el or empaavaai.

        Now is the month of Maargazhi. It is the auspicious  full
moon day. Lovely young ornamented maidens of the cowherds  colony
which  is flourishing in wealth! Don't you want to bathe  in  the
Yamunaa?  Please come along! Take part in the  festival!  (Paavai

        Naaraayana,  the son of King Nandagopa who is the  terror
of  his enemies what with his sharp spear, Naarayana,  the  young
lion's cub of Yasoda, of charming eyes, Lord Naaraayana with  his
dark-cloud  like complexion and eyes of crimson lotus  hue,  with
his  lustrous  face shining like the sun and cool like  the  full
moon, He will surely grant us all our desires! Come, let us bathe
and celebrate the festival, for which the world will praise us.


        Vaiyathu Vaazhveerkaaal! Naamum nam paaavaiku
        Seyyum kirisaigal keleero! paar-k-kadalul
        Payya-th-thuyinra parama adi paadi
        Ney-unnom paal unnom! Naatkaale neeraadi
        Mai-ittu ezhuthom, malar ittu nam mudiyom!
        Seyyaadana seyyom; thee kuralai senrodhom
        Aiyamum pichayyum aanthanayyum kaikaati
        Uyyumaaru enni uganthu-el- or em paavaai.

        People of this earth! Listen to the austerities we  shall
follow during the paavai-nonbu!

        We  shall sing the praise of Naarayana who sleeps  gently
on the milky ocean. We shall abstain from ghee and milk. We shall  p73
bathe  before  daybreak.  We shall not  apply  collyrium  to  our
eyelids  nor  shall we adorn our locks of hair with  flowers.  We
shall not indulge in gossip nor perform actions which are  taboo.
Of  alms and gifts, we shall give liberally. We shall follow  the
path to a life of contentment and happiness.


        Ongi ulagalanda uthaman per paadi
        Naangal nam paavaiku chaatri neeraadinaal
        Theenginri naadellaam thingal mummaari peidu
        Ongu peru sennal oodu kayal ugala
        Poomkuvalai-p-podhil porivandu kannpaduppa
        Thengaade pukkirundu seertha mulai patri
        Vaanga-k-kudam niraikkum vallal perum pasukkal
        Neengada selvam miraindu-el-or empaavaai.

        When we sing the glory of the Lord (Trivikrama) who  took
his  cosmic  form and measured the three worlds in  two  gigantic
strides  and put his foot, for the third stride, on the  head  of
the  arrogant emperor Mahabali, and when we perform  the  paavai-
nonbu,  the whole country will be rid of all evils. It will  then
rain  three times every month. Fishes will gleam and leap  amidst
the  rich paddy plants. Spotted bees will fall asleep  among  the
water lilies. Cows milked tirelessly will yield  copious bounties
enough  to fill pots and pots. Prosperity will thus  pervade  the


        Aazhi mazhai kanna! Onrum nee kai karavel
        Aazhiyul pukku mugandhu kodu aarthu, eri
        Oozhimudalvan uruvam pol mei karuthu
        Paazhi am tholudai Padmanabhan kaiyil
        Aazhipol minni valampuripol minru adhirndhu
        Thaazhaade Sarngam udhaitha saramazhai pol
        Vaazha ulaginil peidhidaai; naangalum
        Maargazhi neerada magizhndu el or empaavaai

        Oh  Lord Varuna (God of rains), please do not  hold  back
your  gift of rains. For the sake of the prosperity of the  world
and  for  our sake so that we can gleefully bathe  in  the  river
during  this  sacred month, plunge into the sea, gather  as  much
water  as  there is, make thunder, and rise into the sky  in  the
form  of a cloud mass which would resemble, in its black  colour,
the body of our primordial Lord (Vishnu). May you then pour  down
your  bountiful  showers! You will then become  resplendent  with
lightning   like  the  discus  held  by  Lord  Padmanabha.   Your
thunderous   roar  would  reverberate  like  the   couch   called
Panchajanya  held  by our Lord in his left hand.  May  you  bring
forth  rains  in abundance without a pause in the manner  of  the
flow of arrows from the bow of Sri Rama, called Sarngam!

        Maayanai mannu vada Madhurai maindhanai
        Thuyap P peruneer Yamunai-t-thuraivanai
        Aayar kulathinil thonrum mani vilakkai
        Thaayai kudal vilakkam seida Dhamodharanai
        Thooyomaai vandhu naam thoomalar thoovi-t-tozhudhu
        Vaayinaal paadi manatthinaal sindhikka
        Poya pizhayum pugutharuvaan ninranavum
        Theeyinil thoosaakum seppu-el or empaavaai.

        Our mysterious Lord, born at North Mathura, who sports in
the  pure  deep waters of the great river Yamuna and who  is  the
veritable jewel-light of the race of cowherds, gloried his mother
Devaki  by  being born of her and transported his  foster  mother
Yasoda  into a world of joy by showing her his little belly  with
the imprint of the tiny ropes with which she had bound him to put
him out of mischief. If only we approach Him with a pure mind and
body and worship Him with fresh and fragrant flowers, singing His
praise and meditating on Him, we can be certain that our sins  of
the  past births and those which ensued without  our  intentions,
will all be extinguished the way cotton is reduced to ashes in  a


        Pullum silambina kaan; pull araiyan koilil
        Vellai vili sangin peraravam kettilaiyo
        Pillaai! ezhundirai! peymulai nanjundu
        Kalla-ch-chakatam kalakkazhia-k-kaalochi
        Vellathu aravil thuyil amarndha vithhinai
        Ullathuk kondu munivarkalum yogikalum
        Mella ezhundu UHari' enra per aravam
        Ullam pukundhu kulirndhu-el or empaavai.

        Young girl, don't you hear the chirp of the early  birds?
The beckoning sound of the white conch from the temple of  Vishnu
who  rides on the king of birds, Garuda? Wake up, innocent  girl!
The  sages  and ascetics with their minds ever  focussed  on  the
great Lord, who sleeps on the serpent-couch in the ocean of milk,
have  risen.  These sages have started chanting the  name  `Hari'
over  and over again, in a rising cresendo. While they chant  His
name, no doubt, they are reenacting in their own minds the  deeds
of  the  child-God who sucked the poison from the breast  of  the
demoness,  Putana and who kicked to death, with his  little  toe,
the  demon who came to destroy Him in the guise of a cart.  Don't
you hear all the loud chanting which enters our hearts and  makes
them rejoice?


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