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Re: prabandham and commentaries

From: Badrinarayanan Seshadri (
Date: Fri Jun 02 1995 - 15:31:28 PDT (Mani Varadarajan) asked:

* Badri,
* What does periyavaacchaan piLLai say about the more
* "objectionable" portions of the thirumaalai that have
* been discussed earlier on the net? I.e., the verses
* where he has harsh words to say about people of other
* religions?
* Mani

There are 2 verses in thirumaalai, (7 & 8), that talk about other

The beauty of periyavaachchaan piLLai's commentary is that, he
interprets thirumaalai as a conversation between aazhvaar and the
Lord of Sri Rangam, and then another piece of conversation
between the aazhvaar and a common man completely immersed in
worldly sensual pursuits. Thus one sees a complete
interconnection of all the paasurams.

I will try to translate the commentary for 7 & 8 together.  The
thamizh transliteration followed is compatible with ADAMI but the
sanskrit transliteration does not follow any convention (since I
do not know any). periyavachchan piLLai's commentary includes
quotes from many sanskrit texts but does not really identify
which texts were quoted. The book I have however provides the
source of the quotes as well as the meaning (which is really very

What follows is a (sloppy) translation of a translation of
piLLai's commentaries to verses 7 and 8 of thirumaalai. I
apologise for the sloppy translation because I am simply not
qualified enough to translate the deep philosophical points that
are discussed and my vocabulary is very limited.

7. pulaiyaRa maaki ninRa puththodu samaNa mellaam
   kalaiyaRak kaRRa maandhar kaaNbarO kEtpa rOdhaam
   thalaiyaRup puNdum saavEn* saththiyaNG kaaNmin aiyaa!
   silaiyinaa lilangai seRRa dhEvanE dhEva _naavaan.

* (paa) saakEn

aRa kaRRa maandhar - Those people who have learnt thoroughly and
understood the inner meaning of
kalai - [all the] sastras,
kaaNbarO? - will they even have a look at [the other religions]?
kEtparO thaam? - will they even listen [to them] with their ears?
pulai aRam aaki ninRa - lowly dharma (religion) like
puththodu samaNam ellaam - buddhism, jainism et al.?
thalai aRuppuNdum - Even if [my] head is severed,
saavEn - I will not die
aiyaa! - Oh Elders and Respected People!
kaaNmin saththiyam - [I shall show you!] See this truth [that]
dhEvanE - the Lord
silaiyinaal - [who] with [his] bow
ilangai seRRa - destroyed the city of Lanka,
dhEvan aavaan - is the only supreme Lord.

The samsaris ask the aazhvaar: What is the use of insulting us by
calling us "thoNdu pooNdu amudham uNNaath thozhumbar" (the lowly
people who do not serve the devotees of the Lord and eat the
remains of the food served to the devotees - thirumaalai 4) and
"puL kauvak kidakkinReerE" (live so that your body will be eaten
by vultures - thirumaalai 5)? The reality of the world is like
that. The Lord who you call as "thaN thuzhaay maalai maarban"
(the one with the cool thuLasi garland on his chest - thirumaalai
4) is too far off in paramapatham, so we can not really reach
Him. Further, there are thousands of barriers in between. Please
show us a way so that we can overcome the barriers and reach
Him. To this, the aazhvaar replies, "go and follow the son of
Dasarathan, Raman, who incarnated in this world with the sole
purpose of destroying the barriers."

"pulai aRamaaki ninRa puththodu samaNam ellaam" = The four kinds
of buddhism, and jainism etc. that the lowly people follow.
"pulai aRam" - lowly dharma. One sect among the buddhists called
vaibhaashikas say, "Only thing that exists in this world is the
knowledge. Nobody can understand this knowledge. Thus we rely
only on the 'pratyaksha' and the 'anumana'." The second sect
sauthrandhikas say, "Knowledge exists, and no one can understand
that. Since knowledge is multi-fold, we infer that there are many
objects related to the knowledge in this universe." The third
kind, yogasaras say, "There is only knowledge. There doesn't
exist any other knowledge related object that can be understood
through inference or by 'prathyaksha' (direct experience?)."  The
fourth kind, maadhyamikas say, "everything is just 'sunya'
(emptyness)." The jains who disagree with the all the above four,
say, "How can you say everything is 'sunya'?  The universe which
has a cause and an effect is 'nitya' as well as 'anitya', 'bheda'
as well as 'abheda', true as well as false. Thus the universe has
so many qualities." The aazhvaar calls all these religions as
"pulai aRam".

"aaki ninRa" - just like weeds in a paddy field, these religions
stand out and oppose the vedic religion. By using the word
"ellaam" (et al.) the aazhvaar refers to even the religions like
sankya and vaiseshika that are opposed to vedas ('baahya') as
well as saivism etc. that accept the vedas but provide a twisted
and wrong meaning to them ('kudhrushti'). How can you call these
as "lowly religion" ?  Because those who kill a person in this
world that belongs to the Lord are supposed to get immense
'papaa'. Thus it is fitting to call those who are planning to
destroy the Lord and his subjects with the knife called 'agnana'
as ultimate 'papis' and lowly people. So there is nothing wrong
in calling their religions 'pulai aRam'. These people are trying
to destroy the in-destructible truth through their arguments.

"kalai aRak kaRRa maandhar" - Those who have learnt sruti,
smruti, ithihasas, puranas, good tharkkas etc. and have
understood the inner meaning of the vedas - like

"kaaNbarO, kEtparOdhaan?" - Will the above people even look at
these lowly religions with their eyes or listen to them with
their ears? The following anecdote has to be carefully looked at:
kooraththaazhvaar's son had gone to learn a book called
'ishtasidhdhi' [is it an advaitic text? - badri] that belonged to
another religion and came late to his house. His father severely
reprimanded him for this, saying, "How can you go to learn this
when thoNdar adippodi aazhvaar has said 'kalai aRak kaRRa
maandhar kaaNbarO kEtparOdhaam?", how could you listen to that
book?" and then purified him by giving him 'sri padha theerththa
dhooLi' and then took him inside the house. Thus one should not
tolerate those who are against the vedas ('baahya') and those who
give wrong meanings ('kudhrushti'), even if they don't do us any
harm directly they are harming us indirectly. Likewise good
devotees, even if they do not do us any good directly, are doing
us immense good. One who realises this is the one who is steeped
in the worship of the Lord.

"thalai aRuppuNdum saavE(kE)n saththiyam kaaNmin aiyaa" - The
aazhvaar says, "I will prove to even those who do not have any
faith in the faultless vedas that the Lord (vishnu) is the only
one to be worshipped through 'pratyaksha pramana'.  At least by
seeing that, change your minds." In order to prove that a person
is saying the truth, he usually takes a hot iron rod in the hand
and declares that he will not be affected by the hot rod if what
he is saying is true.  Likewise, the aazhvaar says that even if
his head is severed from the body, he will not die and hence at
least by looking at that, people should realise that Sri Raman is
the only God who should be worshipped.

dharmaathmaa satyasanthaScha raamO dhaasarathir yathi |
powrushE saaprathidhvandhva: Sarainam jahi raavaNim || (ra, yu 91-73)

[addressing the arrow, Lakshmana says, "arrow!, if Sri Raman
happens to be a 'dharmathma', 'satyasanthan' and incomparable in
valour, then destroy this Indhrajith, the son of Ravana]

We see in Ramayana, Lakshmanan killing Indhrajith with the above
statement. Likewise, the aazhvaar tries to estabilish the
superiority of vishnu through the statement that 'he won't die
even if his head is cut off'. If the 'samsaris' ask how can one
live even after his head is cut off, he replies,

"saththiyam kaaNmin" - "Why do you have any doubts? You are going
to see this for yourself and are going to learn the truth."

"aiyaa" - The aazhvaar begs them to see this just in case the
people are feeling queasy about witnessing an execution.

So the samsaris tell the aazhvaar, "It is allright. We believe
you. You do not have to do such fantastic things to make us
believe this. We will just believe your word. Just tell us who
that absolute supreme Lord is."

To this replies the aazhvaar:

"silaiyinaal ilangai seRRa dhEvanE dhEvan aavaan" - All the
lesser gods and goddesses, without even the least bit of
thinking, gave countless powers to Ravana. In order to save these
gods/goddesses the supreme Lord came down to the earth (even
though that was beneath his dignity) in the form of a human being
and destroyed Lanka with the bow in his hand. He is the absolute
God to be worshipped. All these lesser gods fell at His feet and
asked Him to save them. From this, you can realize that these
others are not really the ultimate God and only 'emperumaan' is
the ultimate personality.

He (vishnu) destroyed the entire city Lanka that was built
with the powers given by Brahma, Shiva etc. In order to make
everybody understand that it was He who did that, He came
directly with a bow at hand. It is Him who is going to
destroy all the barriers between Him and you, and save you

"dhEvanE dhEvan aavaan" - the first word came from the root
'dhivu kaanthi' and the second word from the root 'dhivu
gathi'. The meaning of this therefore is, "The beautiful
person who stood with the bow in his hand with the 'kanthi'
(after the demise of Ravana) is your 'gathi'."

8. veRuppodu samaNar muNdar vidhiyilsaak kiyarkaL ninpaal
   poRuppari uanakaL pEsiR pOvadhE nOya dhaakik
   kuRippenak kadaiyu maakil koodumEl thalaiyai aangE
   aRuppathE karumam kaNdaa yaraangamaa nakaru LaanE.

veRuppodu - With hate [because of their inability to appreciate
Lord Narayan],
samaNar - Jains,
muNdar - Saivaites, [and]
vidhi il - unlucky, hopeless [not having heard good things about
our Lord]
saakkiyarkaL - Buddhists
pEsil - happen to say
poRuppu ariyanakaL - intolerable things
nin paal - towards you [Narayanan],
nOy adhu aaki - let that 'nindhai' kill me! [If not,]
enakku - if I [who can not stomach this 'bagawath dhooshaNam']
kuRippu adaiyum aakil - get a chance,
koodumEl - [and if I] have the power,
aangE - at that very place [where they denigrated the Lord]
thalaiyai aRuppadhE - I will cut of their heads.
karumam kaNdaay - That is the right thing to do.

Even after explaining to the samsaris that Sri Raman alone is the
God to be worshipped, samsaris do not realise the qualities of
the supreme Lord and as usual eat and sleep and denigrate our
Lord. So the aazhvaar thinks that the reason for this must be
their interest in the external religions.  Therefore he feels
that they are fit to be killed.

"veRuppodu samaNar muNdar" - These people hate our Lord due to no
reason - neither due to money nor due to women.  Whenever they hear
us praising our Lord, their face turns red due to hate.  Saivites
and Jains can not tolerate the praises showered on our Lord in the
vedas or the sacrifices done to Him in 'jyOthishtOmam'.  During
festivals when our Lord comes on a procession, these people hang
themselves and die! When they listen to the sounds coming from the
various instruments, they bang their heads against the wall! Here
'muNdar' denotes saivites. As mentioned in thiruchchandha
viruththam 71, "muNdan neeRan" might mean the saivites who had
shaved their heads. Otherwise, it could also be taken to mean
"samaNar muNdar", ie., jains who had shaved their heads.

"vidhiyil saakiyarkaL" - Buddhists who have no luck or 'bakyam' to
worship our Lord and learn about his great qualities.

"nin paal poRuppu ariyanakaL pEsil" - You are the greatest of all,
and you have the best qualities. If they happen to say intolerable
things about you ...  Jains deny the existence of the supreme Lord
and the universe he created. Saivites call an ordinary 'jeeva'
Shiva as the 'paramaathma' and consider insulting the real
paramaathma sriman narayaNan as their only duty. These acts are not
tolerated by the vedic people ('vaidikaas'). The aazhvaar does not
even want to repeat the utterances of these Jains and Saivites and
hence says 'poRuppu ariyanakaL'. The aazhvaarkaL can not even think
of even saying the offences committed by others. Refer to, 'thaan
theengu ninaiththa' (thiruppavai 25) and 'anRinnaadha sey
sisupaalanum' (naachchiyaar thirumozhi 47).

"pEsil" - if they happen to say that in from of us (within our
hearing distance)

At this stage, one should carefully study the following anecdote:

We find in the puranas, the following story: Mahabali went to his
grandfather Prahladha and asked him the reason for his state
diminishing in size. So Prahladha replied, "You have been hurting
the dhEvaas and so they went and complained to our Lord in the
milky ocean. Our Lord has therefore come and incarnated in this
world as a son of adhithi in order to win back all the land that
you have captured. Assume that your wealth is lost forever."
Hearing this, Mahabali started abusing the Lord. Prahladha closed
his ears and said, "You are going to be destroyed! Get out of my
eyes. You have denigrated our Lord in my presense. Instead, you
could have done me a big favour by cutting off my head. You will
lose your entire wealth for abusing our Lord."

nancheeyar asked battar, "How could a man as great as Prahladha
think of the mere wealth and a country as of any worth? Why did he
give that kind of a 'saapa'?" To this replied battar, "How does one
punish a dog? By removing the shit the dog likes to eat. Likewise
the best way to punish Mahabali is to remove from him the country
and the wealth, he so highly thinks of. The right punishment for a
Prince is to deny him the sandalwood paste and 'veRRilai'."

"pOvadhE nOyadhaaki" - Just like piLLai thirunaRaiyoor araiyar gave
his life for our Lord in thiru naaraayaNa puram, one should die if
they happen to hear people abusing our Lord. If one is too afraid
of dying, one should at least go away from that place.

kurOr yathra pareevaadhO nindhaa vaayapi pravarththE |
karNow ththra pidhaathavyow ganthavyam vaa thathOyanyatha: || (manu 2-200)

[Manusmrithi says that one should shut their ears where aacharyas
are abused or one should at least try to go away from that place.]

"kuRippenak kadaiyumaakil" - If one can not take away ones own life
or go away from that place as said before, if one gets the
opportunity to destroy the enemy. "kuRiththal" - To think of doing
an act and getting a chance to execute the act. "koodumEl" - if it
is possible to destroy the enemy - ie., if it is possible to
destroy the enemy without getting destroyed in the process. The
suffix "El" denotes that this job is not very easy.

"thalaiyai aangE aRuppadhE karumam" - The right thing to do is to
cut of the heads of those who have abused our Lord.  "karumam" - An
act for the good of a person. Since cutting off the head of the
abusers prevents them from doing further 'bhagavan nindhai', we can
escape from listening to the abuses, so it is good for us. This act
is even good for the abusers because they can not abuse Him further
and increase their 'papaa'. Sastras say that, in the agneekshOmeeya
yaga, both the sacrificial animal as well the person who sacrifices
that animal go to heaven. Likewise, here, this is good for both the
killer and the killed.

"kaNdaay" - no one will listen to me if I tell them this. But, you
- the Lord who destroyed the enemies of the sages in the
dhaNdakaaraNyaa - will understand. That is why I am telling you!

"aranga maa nakaruLaanE" - The reason you have incarnated in this
form in Sri Rangam is to avenge your enemies, right?  Therefore it
is your duty to destroy the enemies like Jains and Saivites.

How can an ultimately kind and calm person who follows the dharma,
aazhvaar talk about "killing" ? Further, even the vEdhaas which are
kinder to people than even ones own parents prohibit 'jeeva himsai'

na himSyaath sarvaa bhoodhaani [yajur 2-5-5]
[no living organism should be killed]

have prescribed sacrificing a cow in yagas like agneekshOmeeyam for
the benefit of the entire humanity.  Likewise, our aazhvaar too
talks about killing in the interest of the abusers of our Lord.
Therefore, it is not wrong. There is no relation whatsoever between
those who praise our Lord and those who abuse him. Did not
thirumangai aazhvaar say

"eNNaadha maanidaththai eNNaadha pOdhellaam iniyavaaRE"
[periya thiru 11-6-7]


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