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THE HINDU articles on Thiruppaavai (part 4 of 5)

From: Venkatesh Elayavalli/DCOM (
Date: Thu Jan 11 1996 - 12:45:31 PST


Tiruppaavai-the spiritual ascent

Date: 31-12-1995 :: Pg: 39 :: Col: a

Cl: Religion

         Saint  Sri Aandaal's thirty hymns (called Paasurams)  in
celebration of Lord Naarayanaa's multi-faceted glory,  constitute
a  treasure-house  of Bhakti, of devotion unsullied  by  personal
covetousness.  Tiruppaavai  is a confluence of  poetic  elegance,
religious ardour and philosophical sublimity. Although the  whole
poetic  outpouring is placed in the context of the  Paavai  nonbu
(the austerities of young maidens in quest of worthy partners  in
life), Tiruppaavai is very much more than a literary magnum opus.

        To  say that it is a depiction of the cultural  mores  of
the  cowherd community of a bygone age would be to  overlook  the
fact that the practice of singing Tiruppaavai during the month of
Maargazhi  continues  to this day in Tamil Nadu. Nor  can  it  be
forgotten that Sri Aandaal and her legendary devotion to the Lord
have  transcended the confines of Tamil as a language.  Her  fame
and  the  legacy of single-minded devotion to  Sri  Krishna  have
become  an  integral  part of the Bakthi movement  all  over  the

        The  hymns in Tiruppaavai fall broadly into  two  groups.
First,  the  hymns  1-15  constitute both  the  preface  and  the
'awakening' part. Maiden after maiden is awakened from sleep with
the intention of helping them to participate in the  austerities.
It  could  well be that this is all an allegory  suggesting  that
people are at different levels of spiritual dormancy and so there
can  be  no  one method of waking them up  to  higher  levels  of
consciousness of the divine intervention in human affairs.

        The  second  group  of  hymns  (16-30)  relates  to   the
'experience',  the  rites  and  the  rewards.  Herein,   literary
meanings apart, the hymns contain a wealth of spiritual insights.
Bhakti,  devotion pure and noble, involves the  subordination  of
the ego of the devotee and the complete immersion of the self  in
the exhilaration of singing the infinite glory of God.

        Hymns  19-24  included  in  this  part,  cover  the  most
important  sequence  in  the allegorical  representation  of  the
participants  in  the  Paavai Nonbu  invoking  the  blessings  of
Nappinnai  and Sri Krishna, the divine couple. The Lord  and  His
consort  are  inseparable and for the true devotee  there  is  no
salvation  except through the grace of Sridevi which is the  real
key to mukti.


        Kuthuvilakkeriya-k-kottukkaal kattil mel
        Methenra pancha sayanathin meleri
        Koththalar Poonkuzhal Nappinnai kongaiymel
        Viththu kidantha malar maarbha! vaai thiravaai! p73
        Maiththadam kanninnaai, nee un manaalanai
        Eththanai podhum thuyilezha vottaai kaan
        Eththanai elum pirivaatrakillaaiyaal
        Taththuvamanru thagavel or empaavaai

        Oh  Lord!  Resting  as you are on a  couch  supported  by
elephant  tusks, on a bed which is soft, cool,  white,  beautiful
and  fragrant, with bright-lit lamps all around, with your  broad
chest on the bosom of your consort, Nappinnai wearing bunches  of
fragrant flowers on her tresses, please open your mouth and speak
to us!

        You  Nappinnai! With your eyes darkened  with  collirium!
You  never  would  let  your Lord get  up?  You  can't  bear  the
separation from Him even for a minute, ah? This is hardly in tune
with your nature and temperament (preventing Him from granting us
His grace).


        Muppaththu moovar amarar-ku-munsenru
        Kappam thavirkkum kaliye! Thuyilezhaai!
        Seppamudayaai! Thiraludayaai! Settraarku
        Veppam kodukkum vimalaa! Thuyilezhaai!
        Seppanna mennulai-ch-chevvaai-ch-chirumarungul
        Nappinnai nangaai! Thiruvey! Thuyilezhaai!
        Ukkamum thattoliyum thanthun manaalanai
        Ippothe emmai neer attelor em paavaai.

        Oh  Lord,  You who always rushes to the aid  of  all  the
thirty  three crores of Gods! Do wake up! You, the perfect  union
of  thought, word and deed! You who have the matchless valour  to
subjugate  your foes! Blemishless Lord, you make  life  miserable
for those who challenge your might. Please get up!

        (To Nappinnai): Oh, the incarnate of Goddess Lakshmi! You
with  your exquisite beauty, soft and lovely breasts, coral  lips
and  slender  waist! Please wake up and give us the fan  and  the
mirror which we need for the rites! And get our Lord to join  us!
Help us to get bathed at once!


        Yetra kalangal ethir pongi meethalippa
        Maatraadhe paal soriyum vallal perum pasukkal
        Aatra-p-padaithaan magane! arivuraai!
        Uuttramudayaai! Periyaai! Ulaginil
        Thotramaai ninra sudare! thuzhilezhaai!
        Maatraar unakku valitholaindhu un vaasarkann
        Aatraathu vandhu unnadi paniyumaa poley
        Pottriyaam vandhom pugazhndu el or empaavaaai.

        Awake, the son of Nandagopala who has reared those  large
cows which yield plentiful milk which overflows the  receptacles!
Your  zeal towards your devotees is so well renowned. Your  glory  p73
defies  our  comprehension.  You  are  the  great  Light  of  the
universe. It is time you got up. Just as your enemies, with their
valour  and pride exhausted in battle, surrender to you  at  your
doorsteps,   we  have  come  to  you  singing  your  praise   and
unburdening our ego.


        Anganmaa gnaalaththarasar abhimaana
        Bangamaai vandhu nin palli-k-kattil keezhay
        Sangam iruppaar pol vandhu thalaip-peydhom
        Kinkini vaai seidha thaamarai poo-p-poley
        Sengansiru-E-chiridhey emmel vizhiyaavo!
        Thingalum aadhityanum ezhundaar pol
        Angan irandum kondu engal mel nokkudhiyel
        Engal mel saabham izhindu el or empaavai.

        Oh  Lord! We have sought refuge at your feet in just  the
same way as rulers from all over the world, shorn of their pride,
gather  under  your  throne, seeking your  patronage.  Won't  you
favour  us  with just a glance with your gentle  eyes  resembling
partially opened lotus buds like kinkinis (bells which adorn  the
dancer's  feet)? If only you cast a glance at us, with your  eyes
shining  like  the sun and the moon, all our sins will  be  wiped


        Maarimalai muzhainjil manni-k-kidandhurangum
        Seeriya Singam arivuttru-th-thee vizhiththu
        Verimayirponga eppaadum perndhuthari
        Moori nimirndhu muzhangi-p-purappattu
        Podharuma poley nee poovai-p-poovanna! Un
        Koil ninru ingane pondharuli koppudaya
        Seeriya singaadhanath-thirundhu yam vandha kaariyam
        Aaraindhu arul el or empaavaai.

        Our Lord, of eternal enchanting bluish hue, the colour of
the  Kaayambu flower! Just as the Lion wakes up from  its  winter
hibernation in the mountain cave, opening its fiery flashy  eyes,
shaking  all  its  limbs vigorously, ruffling  its  mane  in  the
action, standing upright and stepping out with a mighty roar, may
you please proceed from your bed-chamber to your lofty ornamented
throne!  Won't  you please grant us your  gracious  audience  and
pray, listen to our entreaties?


        Anru ivvulagam alandhaai adi potri!
        Senru angu then ilangai settrai! thiral potri!
        Ponra-ch-chakatam udhaiththaai pugazh potri!
        Kanru kunilaai erindhaai! kazhal potri!
        Kunru kudayaai eduththaai! gunam potri!
        Venru pagai kedukkum nin kaiyil vel potri!
        Enrenru un sevakame eththi-p-parai kolvaan p73
        Inru yaam vandhom irangu el or empaavaai!

        Time was when you measured the three worlds with your two
feet!  Glory to you, Oh Lord! You strode into Lanka in the  south
and destroyed the evil Raakshasa, Raavana! Glory to your  valour,
Oh Lord!

        As  child Krishna, you kicked the cart with  your  tender
feet and destroyed the demon Sakataasura (in disguise)! Glory  to
you,  Oh Lord! Did you not use the demon Vatsaasura who  came  in
the   guise   of  a  calf,  as  a  missile,  to   destroy   demon
Kapiththaasura  as well, who had taken the form of  a  wood-apple
tree? Glory to you, the matchless Lord!

        Who can forget your great deed of lifting the  Govardhana
hill  and holding it as an umbrella for saving the cowherds  from
the deluge caused by the irate Indira? Hail to you, Oh Lord!  For
your compassion! Glory to the spear in your Hands which works the
destruction  of your foes! We are at your service at  all  times.
Bless our Nonbu! Shower your grace on us!



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