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Thirucchinna Maalai of Swami Desikan : Part 1

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Tue Mar 18 1997 - 18:07:10 PST

Dear Members of the Bahkthi group :

One of the respected members of the group asked me to 
write on the master piece of Swami Desikan revered as 
Thiruchinnamaalai . I am glad to do so . 

Swami Desikan was born as VenkatanAthan in the AgrahAram 
known as Thoopul , which is very close to Kanchi VaradarAjan"s
temple . Swami"s family was deeply involved with the worship
of Sri VaradarAjan . As a child , VenkatanAthan (Swami)was blessed 
by the great NadAthur AmmAL (Sri Vaatsalya VaradAchAr Swamy ) ., 
He was a great Acharya  recognized by Sri VaradarAjA 
as His own  mother out of the concern and vaatsalyam (affection ),
the AcharyA showed in presenting hot milk at  the right temperature 
to the Lord during His evening aarAdhanam . Sri VaradaAjA was 
moved and exclaimed , " Yen AmmAvO " .The name AmmAL thus  
got attached to Sri Vaatsalya VaradAchAr , the author of Prapanna
PaarijAtham and a great exponent of Bhagavadh RaamAnuja 


NadAthur AmmAL recognized the VaradarAja anugraham on
Swami Desikan , when he saw latter as a child accompanying
his maternal uncle , Sri ApuLLAr to his KalakshEpam at the temple .
It was the desire of AmmAL to bring up Swami Desikan as his 
own direct disciple . AmmAL however was advanced in age and 
could not carry out his own wish. He instructed his disciple ApuLLar
to serve as a Guru and prepare VenkatanAthan for the great  role 
he was destined to play  later as a Parama VaishNava Guru 
and defender of the Bhagavadh RaamAnuja SiddhAntham . 


Swami Desikan spent his youth at Thoopul/Kanchi and attended 
the many uthsavams of Sri VaradarAjan . During those uthsavams ,
Swami Desikan was thrilled to hear  the naadham generated by 
the pair of Thirucchinnams, which served an important purpose 
in the Uthsavams of theLord of Kaanchi . Thirucchinnam 
is a  ceremonial mangaLa vaadhyam used to announce Lord 
VaradarAjA's PurappAdu for the Uthsavam and his progression 
through the routes of travel assigned for the uthsavam .


At one time after Swami Desikan "s  return to Kaanchipuram 
from Thiruvaheendrapuram and Srirangam , he  was pained to 
witness a dispute at Kanchi . The dispute centered around  the  
appropriateness of  reciting  Divya Prabhandham of AzhwArs 
in front of Lord VaradarAjA during His uthsavams . The protesting  
group objected to the nonsacredness of the compositions 
of AzhwArs since number of them were not born as Brahmins 
and averred further that the Tamil prabhandhams did not have 
the same level of sacredness as that of Sanskrit Vedaas .


Swami Desikan's reverence for the Sri Sookthis of AzhwArs
was profound. He had composed MunivAhana Bhogam 
earlier to celebrate the greatness of ThiruppANAzhwAr .
Swami Desikan volunteered to debate the protestors and 
won handily in the debate . He proved that the Vedic doctrines 
are the central topic of theAzhwAr's divya prabhandham and 
quoted chapter and verse from the Sanskrit VedAs and 
Upanishads and related them to the aruLiccheyalgaLs 
of the AzhwArs. The protestors were dumb founded and agreed 
with Swami Desikan that it was very appropriate to have 
Divya Prabhandha Ghoshtis leading Sri VaradarAjan's 
bhavani during His uthsavams . 


Lord VaradarAjA was very pleased wiht the skill and devotion 
of Swami Desikan . The Lord ordered through the ArchakAs that
one of the two Thirucchinnams used in His uthsavams should
be presented to Swami Desikan as SammAnam (Reward for the 
service rendered to estblish the supermacy of Tamil VedAs ) .
>From that day on until now ,only one Thirucchinnam is used 
during Lord VaradarAjA's uthsavams .


When one hears the sound of Thirucchinnam at the 
temple uthsavams , one can not help admire the majesty
and sweetness of this mangaLa vaadhyam . When Swami Desikan
heard the naadham of Thirucchinnam at the vahana mantapams
and the Raja Veedhis of Lord VaradarAjA , he was overcome by 
that sound and what it symbolized . That Vaadhyam through its
high pitched notes announced the purappaadu and
sanchAram  of the Lord , who is the object of description of 
AshtAksharam , Dhvayam an the Sarama Slokam . The naadham
of Thirucchinnam reminded him of the arrival of the Lord ,
who is the object of celebration by the Arya VedAsand the Tamil
VedAs . It was the type of Heccharikai to alert the VaradarAja bhakthAs
to get ready to greet the Lord , the Veda Prathipaadhyan and 
to receive His blessings . The association of the Naadham of
Thirucchinnam with these blessed thoughts made Swami Desikan
compose a Tamil prabhandham called "Thirucchinna Maalai " .
He thanked Lord VaradarAjA for  honoring him with one of 
the two sacred Thirucchinnams  and placed his new composition 
at the lotus feet of the Lord of Hasthigiri known for His
affection for the Sri Sookthis of the AzhwArs .


This compositon of Swami Desikan has 11 verses set
in the Tamil Meter known as YeNN SeerAsiriya Viruttham 
containing 8 lines in each of the verses .

The first six verses cover the essential meanings
(saarArtham ) of Thirumanthiram ( AshtAksharam ).
The seventh verse provides the visEshArtham of
Dhvayam . The 8th and the 9th verses describe 
the mukhyArthams of Sarama Slokam . The tenth verse
is a general salutation to the Vaibhavam of Lord VaradarAjA .
The 11th verse is the saaram of AchArya Upadesam .
Here Swami Desikan points out that the sweetness of 
this Prabhandham can be enjoyed only by those , whose
devotion for Lord VaradarAja (pErinbham ) exceeds 
that of their devotion for the vanishing pleasures 
of this life (SiRRibham ) . 


The first  7 lines of each of the 10 verses of
Thirucchinnamaalai end with the word , " VandhAr ".
The last line ends with an assertion , " VandhAr thAmE ".
Every one of the first 7 lines announce the arrival
of Lord VaradarAja as indicated by the naadham of 
Thirucchinnam .The last line is a celebration recognizing
almost with awe , Yes  indeed , He has arrived ( VandhAr
thAmE ) . 

Each of the first 7 lines of the ten verses describe the great
Lord who arrived and salute one or other of his kalyANa
GuNAs or His miraculous deeds related to the protection 
of His devotees or the punishment of the enemies of 
His bhakthAs . The musical effect of reciting or listening
the verses of Thirucchinnamaalai is most deelctable . It
brings VaradarAjA's uthsavams and His bhavani to the 
accompaniment of the Veda and Prabhandha ghoshams 
right in front of our mind's eye .     


This verse is also included in yet another Tamil Prabhandham
of Swami Desikan known as " Meyviratha Maanmiyam "
( The glory of Sathya Vratha Kshethram /Kanchipuram ) .
This verse is the result of Swami Desikan's anubhavam 
of the sound of Thirucchinnam as the sound raised by 
Nitya Sooris with that visEsha vaadhyam during the uthsavams
o fthe Lord at kanchi . The verse is the one , which 
Mrs.Satyan wrote to me few weeks back :

atthigiriaruLAlapperumAL vandhAr
    aanaipari thErinmelazhahar vandhAr 
KacchitanniR kaNN kodukkum PerumAL vandhAr
    karudhavarantharu Daiva PerumAL vandhAr
mutthimazhai pozhiyumuhil vaNNar vandhAr
    moolamena volamida vallAr bvandhAr
uttaravedhikkuLLEyuthitthAr vandhAr
    umbar thozhum kazhaludayAr vandhAr thAmE 

(meaning ) : PeraruLaLa PerumAL is the most beautiful
Lord , who rides on the elephant , horse and Ratham 
during His uthsavams. He is the one , who gave back
the eye sight to the blind bhaktha , Haritha VaaraNa
Bruthyar . He is the one , who showers His boons on 
those , who meditate on Him. He is the one , who is 
present as the dark rain cloud ( KaaLa Megham ) ,
who blesses us with MokshAnugraham . He is
none other than the Gajendra Varadan , who came to 
the rescue of the elephant , when it cried out
 " O Adhi Moolam , Please save Me from the grip of the 
crocodile " . He is the Lord , who appeared in the sacred 
fire of the Asvamedha Yaaga Vedhi of His son ,
Brahma Devan on top of Hasthi Giri . He is the same
Lord , who is worshipped by the Muktha Jeevans and
the Nitya Sooris.  Our PerurALa PerumAl of this many 
attributes has indeed arrived amidst us .

PerundEvi ThAyAr Sametha Sri VaradarAja SwaminEh Nama:
Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri Sadagopan