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ThoNdar Adip podi AzhwAr (The Dust at the feet of BhAgavathALs)

From: V.MadhavakaNNan (
Date: Sun Nov 02 1997 - 14:11:04 PST

Respected sri vaishNavALs,

SrimAn vEnkata nAthArya kavitArkika kEsari /
vEdAntAchArya varyOmE sannidatthAm sadAhridi //

poigaimuni bhoothathAr pEyAzhwAr thaN porunalvarunkurukEsan vittuchitthan/
tuyya kulasEkaran naM pANanAthan thondaradippodi mazhisaivandhajothi/
vaiyamellAm maraiviLanga vALvElEndhum mangaiyarkOnenRivargaL
seyyatamizh mAlaigaL nAm theLiyavOdhith theLiyAdha maRainilaNgaL
theliginRomE/ (from AdhikAra sangragam by Srimad vEdAntha Desikan)

This biography is about ThoNdaradippodiAzhwAr, who called himself as "the
Dust at the feet of BhAgavatALs", was born to a vEdic brahmin by name, 
vEdavisArathar in Thirumandangudi in the month of Margazhi and in kEttai
nakshathram, in the family of sOzhiya vaishNava (who had their "kudumi"
(tuft) on the top front portion and not behind); He was an incarnation of
vanamAlA (Divine Garland of Lord MahA vishNu) and he was named
"VipranArAyaNa". He was taught Tamil, Sanskrit, vEdAs, upanishds, etc., at
an early age and he mastered them with no effort and shone like a bright
tEjasvi. He was also well versed in writing and singing Tamil poetry and
was fully well versed in ShAstrAs. He had no pride (vidhyA garvam) and was
humble and modest to the core and hence, he was respected by everyone in
the locality.

He became highly devoted to Sriman NarayaNa and he took a vow to stay as a
bachelor throughout his life so that he could devote his full time and
energy to perform kainkaryam to the Lord Sriya: patih. Like periyAzhwAr,
vipranArAyaNa too was interested only in poomAlai kainkaryam. He migrated
to Srirangam (which he was longing to visit) after his father's death) and
he made a beautiful nandhavanam with nice trees to give shadows and cool
breeze, flower creepers which yield excellent sugandha flowers,which can be
offered to Sriman NarayaNa, like, Lotus, karunkuvaLai, Alli(lily), Thulasi,
etc., stream of water flowing in the middle as an offshoot of CAuvEri where
swans swim gracefully, and so on and so on. It was a serene divine
atmosphere in the Nandhavanam and our VipranarayaNa stayed there within the
garden in a small hermitage. It used to allure anybody walking down there
to visit and get a divine experience. Not only that, our vipranArAyaNa's
singing pAsurams in praise of Arangan along with the sruthi of bees and
birds humming add beauty to the place. 

Every day our AzhwAr gets up in the wee hours, takes a holy dip in nearby
CauvEri, applies bright TirumaN kAppu, carries out NityakarmAnushtAnangal,
plucks the flowers and ThuLasi leaves, makes beautiful garlands, and takes
them to Arangan for adorning Him. He enjoys when archakAs place them on the
Lord and he stands stupefied by the inexplicable beauty of The Black
Emerald; He melts with tremendous amount of Bhakti rasam generated by the
sowndharyam of the Lord and enjoys His ThirumEni which is like a big huge
mountain; Red Coral lips and mouth(PavaLacchevvAi); Red Lotus eyes; He
addresses the Lord:"O AchutA! There is no enjoyment which is equal to
admiring your such beauty. Even you give me a post of Indra to rule the
Indra lOkam and enjoy that position, I still DO NOT NEED them; I just want
to serve your feet!". Such a great AzhwAr is he! 

The Lord wanted some fun (LeelA krishNan); One day, two sisters were coming
back after performing a dance performance in front of ChOzhA king and were
attracted by the beauty of our AzhwAr's nandhavanam. When they saw him
closing his eyes and meditating on the Lord, they were captivated by his
tEjas and charm. He ignored their beauty. Especially the more beautiful
younger sister, by name dEvadEvi got more offended and in fact, challenged
the other sister that she would make our AzhwAr her slave with her beauty.
In spite of her sister's warning and caution not to enter into such an
apachAram and endanger herself, dEva dEvi was adamant and decided to embark
on it.
Disguised and dressed as a sannyAsini, she requested him to accept her
service to him at his place. Unaware of the plot, he agreed; However he did
not let her stay inside his hermittage. He maintained the distance and was
as usual performing his kainkaryams unaffected by her presence. She was
desperate and felt sad that she was getting nowhere near her vow. One day,
when it rained heavily she got drenched and was shivering. VipranArAyaNa
could not say no for her coming into his hermitage (which he avoided till
then) and dEvadEvi slowly aroused his sensual desires and our poor
vipranarayaNar was hooked!. She virtually made him a slave for her beauty
and he forgot all sorts of kainkaryam and singing. His thoughts were only
about dEvadEvi and he became so engrossed in his desire for her that he
could not bear even a moment separation from her.

When she achieved what she wished, she went back to her place in
uttamarkOil (near SriRangam). Her mother didnot allow VipranarayaNa to see
her unless he brought some money, true to their profession (which he did
not have naturally). VipranarayaNa felt isolated and was heavily lamenting
the separation from dEvadEvi and did not know what to do. In the meanwhile,
our Lord Tiruvarangan felt it was enough for Him to playwith His bhaktA and
hence, appeared as a servant of VipraNarayaNa calling Himself "Azhagiya
maNavALa dAsan" and went to dEva dEvi's house. He handed over the Big
Golden vessel (Thanga vattil) saying that VipranArAyaNa asked him to give
this to her. dEvadEvi's mother went in search of our VipranarayaNar and let
him meet her daughter(without telling him why she allowed now; AzhwAr, too
did not ask). Next morning, the archakAs found one of the "vattils" missing
in the Lord's Sannidhi and immediately informed the king. The servant maid
of dEva dEvi informed in the meanwhile other homes where she used to work
for about this Golden vattil in dEva dEvi's house and the news reached the
king. The king after knowing the story arrested our VipranarayaNar without
listening to his pleas that he was not at all aware of any Golden vattil;
nor did he have any servant working for him, since he himself was so poor.
No amount of request or plea helped and he landed up in a dark cell! There
he realised everything; his mistakes, his follies, his apachArams of not
performing kainkaryams to the Lord etc.. 

The Lord appeared in the king'd dream and narrated the whole incident and
said that vipranArAyaNa, His dearest BhaktA, was innocent and he was at no
fault at all.  Immediately, the king released VipranarayaNa and prostrated
at his feet and begged for his pardon. VipranarayaNa felt greatly moved by
the Lord's mercy and dayA and sang pAsurams full of bhakti . Having gone
through a traumatic experience with dEvadEvi, he never looked back and
since then, he became a staunch bhaktA and called himself the dust at the
feet of bhakALs (ThoNdaradippodi AzhwAr). He composed two poems namely.,
ThirumAlai (a garland for the Lord)and ThiruppaLLiyezhucchi(waking up the
Lord). His pAsurams are really excellent marvellous compositions and one is
certain to get moved by the bhakti and longing for the Lord RanganAtha. He
did not sing any other sthalam ; He sang only in praise of SriRangan.

Before concluding Just one look at one of his GREAT PASURAMS and let us get
blessed by Him. 
"OorilEn kANiyillai; uRavu maRRu oruvar illai;/
pAril nin pAtha moolam paRRilEn parama moorthee;/
kAroLi vaNNanE (en) kaNNanE! kadharuginREn;/
AruLar kaLaikaN ammA! arngamA nagaruLAnE!/"

Meaning: I have no place; no properties; no relatves; none other than you;
I know only your Lotus feet; O Lord of Blue hued sky colour! You only are
my refuge. Can you not hear my cries? Is there any one else to save me
except you?"
An excellent pAsuram and how aptly it matches with our lives! May Lord Sri
RanganAthA and His AzhwAr ThoNdaradippodiAzhwAr shower Their grace and
blessings on us, poor mortals, (running amuck after material pursuits
knowing fully well (at least now after being in Bhakti group for quite some
time)) to help us get rid of this viscious circle of samsAra sAgaram.

ThoNdaradippodiAzhwAr thiruvadigaLe saraNam

Ram Ram

adiyEn madhavakkaNNan