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From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Tue May 30 1995 - 06:20:55 PDT
The name Nappinnai, or just Pinnai, is unique to Thamizh, NeeLaa being the equivalent in Sanskirit. Aazhvaars use Nappinnai almost exclusively for Lord Krishna's consort. References to Pinnai is found in non-sri vaishNava Thamizh literature as well, such as Chilappathikaaram and Paripaadal. These precede aazhvaar paasurams by at least 100 years. Who is this Nappinnai? Due to the association with Krishna and Gokulam it is intuitively satisfying to equate Nappinnai with Radha. But is this tenable? If not, what alternative association is plausible? Until just a few years ago I simply assumed that Nappinnai must be Radha. Then, I heard someone contradict this view. Now, in "Viraha-Bhakti" (page 221-225) F. Hardy  suggests that Nappinnai and Radha are NOT one and the same. However, the alternative he offers seems farfetched to me. First let me present the reasons for disassociating Nappinnai from Radha, followed by Hardy's alternative suggestion, and finally my own guesses. Nappinnai and Radha: -------------------- All of aazhvaar's works are free of specific references to the name Radha. Aazhvaars did not shy away from other northern names, albeit they Thamizhized them, such as, sireedharan, irudeekEsan, uruppiNi (RukmiNi), iraaman, vaidhEvee, ilakkumaNan, sanagaraasan (Janaka), iraNiyan, kancan (Kamsan), etc., etc. If they intended to refer to Radha, they surely would have used something like iraadhai, in stead of Pinnai. Interestingly, Hardy says Bhagavatham, a Sanskrit work by a South Indian in line with aazhvaar paasurams, is also free of the name Radha. Further, Nappinnai is portrayed by aazhvaars as Krishna's wife while Radha is supposed to be his mistress. One may then speculate that legend of Radha was not well known in the south during aazhvaar's time. Hardy's alternative: -------------------- First, Pinnai is to be understood as "after" and not plaits as in Pinnal. Thus, according to Hardy, Pinnai is younger sister and the Nal in Nal + pinnai (= Nappinnai) is just an adjective. Then, Hardy goes on to suggest that Pinnai is Krishna's younger sister, Subhadra. Further, this Subhadra is none other than Kali for Kali is referenced as Krishna's anujaa in Mahabharatham. Another unlikely source Hardy cites is Chilapathikaaram. In vEduva vari (12.20 - 22) we have the name Neeli for Kali with Kamsan referred to as her maternal uncle, i.e. maaman. (Here Chil. has Neeli kicking Sagadam to death!!) Thus, Hardy suggests, Neeli is indeed NeeLaa and she is Krishna's younger sister (pinnai) Subhadra. To reconcile all of this with the erotic association between Nappinnai and Krishna found in thamizh literature, Hardy hopelessly suggests that (1) Subhadra is only a step-sister for Krishna, not a real one, and (2) the Thamizhs making these erotic associations were not aware of or have forgotten the true identity of Nappinnai. My guess: --------- Hardy is right to reject "the one with beatiful plaits" for Nappinnai, but there is no justification for interpreting Pinnai as younger sister, that too to Krishna. If nappinnai is Subhandra that would be an important part of our puraaNaas. It is incredulous that aazhvaars, who otherwise show remarkable familiarity even with obscure legends described in puraaNaas would be unaware or forgotten such an important association. My guess is that pinnai simply means the one who came later. Then, pinnai is Lakshmi, the one who came after MoodhEvi, i.e. Munnai, from thiruppaRkadal. Or, pinnai could mean the second thaayaar, i.e. Bhu dhEvi, after the first, i.e. periya piraatti. Thus, Nappinnai is piratti incarnated as a gopikaa in Gokulam. What do you think? ----------------  "Viraha-Bhakthi: The Early History of Krsna Devotion in South India," Friedhelm Hardy, Oxford University Press, 1983.