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"Cleanliness in temples" and TiruppAn-AzhwAr

From: sampath kumar (
Date: Sat Nov 06 1999 - 01:03:32 PST

Dear members,

In last post adiyen reported some members' private
comments on subject of "cleanliness in temples, DD,
mutts etc." that adiyen had earlier posted. The
following is my reply to them which adiyen is also
sharing with you all just for your interest:

"dear sirs,
All of you are saying that "cleanliness" is such an
ordinary and self-evident subject that it needs no
great amount of "prachAram" (holy propaganda) by
present day achAryAs and pontiffs like
Azhagiya-singar, Andavan swami, Jeeyar amd munitreeyam
acharyAs. You are all saying that I am unnecessarily
"exaggerating the commonplace" and trying to turn
"cliche into great cause."

Sir, you are also asking adiyen where in our
'sampradAyam' there is philosophical inspiration
behind the stress that I am unduly laying on the
importance of "shuddhi-kainkaryam" in temples, dd,
mutts etc. You are asking adiyen to show if there is
some "siddhAntic" weight behind the call to bring
"cleanliness" into our temples again.

Sir, adiyEn is boldly saying without iota of doubt
that just as "samAshrayanam" and wearing
"urdhva-pundhram" is part of sri-sampradAyam so also
performing cleaning or janitor service in temples, dd
etc. is very much part of a good vaishnavan's way of
life. This is the truth and this is what we must let
our children understand too at a very early age.

Sir, to support my above statement I do not have to go
to any 'pramAnam' in the Vedas, 'smriti' or 'purAna'.
I only have to draw your attention to the life-story
of our great and beloved achAryan, the Saint of
Nichulapuri (Uraiyur), 'tiruppAn-azhwAr".

Who was "tiruppAnazhwAr'? What was his message to us?
What did he achieve in his life? What lesson or
inspiration we get from his deeds in life? 

If we answer above questions truthfully and with
proper understanding we will clearly know that
tiruppAn's whole life is one big message that we
should spare no effort to constantly ensure there is
"cleanliness" in perumAl's temples.

tiruppAn's celebrated "amalan-adi-pirAn"  (10
pAsurams) is the azhwAr's claim to immortality, no
doubt. But Sir, I am saying that "amalan-adi-piran" is
only climax in the azhwAr's life and it happened when
he was nearly 50 years old. The question to ask is
what did the azhwAr do for 50 years before the climax
in his life? What did he do for fifty years that he
came to deserve that beatific moment of Ranganatha's
vision and Grace? How did the ecstatic stanzas of the
"amalan-adi-pirAn" pour forth from the azhwAr's heart
and why? Did he, like Peria-AzhwAr officiate as
venerable Vedic head-priest at SriRanganatha's temple?
No. Did he like Tondar-adi-podi tend to the flower
orchrds of the Srirangam temple? No. Did he like
Tirumangai-mannan go about raising resources to feed
brahmins and bhagavatA-s? No. Did he like Madhura-kavi
completely surrender himself to a superior vaishnavan
like maran-sadagopan? No. 

Sir, we all know that the Saint of Uraiyur, was born
into backward circumstances of life. He was from
"panchama" descent ...(what in those times used to be
called "chandAla" or "paraya" castes.) TiruppAn lived
on the southern banks of Kaveri and as a young boy
used to gaze from a distance across the river at the
northern banks stretching across Kolladam beyond the
temple of SriRangam. The sight of the temple bewitched
him and it strangely stirred his soul in a way that
nothing else in life did.

tiruppAn's father was low-caste street minstrel
("pAnnar") who taught his son too early in life to
play the lute and sing folk and doggerel verse.
However, when father and son were not performing in
the streets and in the villages, they managed to eke
out a living by sweeping the outer "prAkAra-s"
(concourses) of the great temple of Ranganatha. 

Thus from a very young age tiruppAn was engaged in
cleaning, clearing rubbish and debris from the temple
precincts at SriRangam. 

One day tiruppAn while cleaning the temple outer areas
asked his father if they could also enter the inner
temple to clean. The father told him that they could

Young tiruppAn asked why. 

"Because, my son, inside the temple there is no
rubbish to clean. It is the abode of our beautiful
King, SriRanganathan. He is mighty and good. There is
no need to clean anything in the Lord's presence for
he is Purity ("shudda-sattva") Himself. On the other
hand, if you and I enter the temple, far from clearing
out uncleanness, we might only end up defiling Lord
Ranga's sacred soil."

Little tiruppAn then began to wonder,"If there is such
a place on earth as Lord Ranga's which, as father
says, is Purity itself and needs no cleaning, one day
I must see it."

His father told tiruppAn,"Perhaps one day you will be
able to see Him, my lad. But for now let's get on with
our job of clearing Ranganatha's doorstep of any

For the next fifty years tiruppAn did nothing else but
what his father said he should do if he really wished
to one day "see" Ranganatha by entering into His
Presence.THUS, whenever he was not engaged otherwise
in the day-to-day occupation of his "pAnnar" caste,
the azhwAr took up a broom and kept cleaning the outer
"prAkAram-s" of the great Srirangam temple. 

Sir, fifty years of performing janitor service
("shuddhi-kainkaryam") to a temple did  not go waste.
One day, the chief temple priest, Loka-sAranga-muni,
came up to him and told tiruppAn that Ranganatha
Himself was summoning him. THe azhwAr protested saying
that he could not enter the temple of Ranga as he
would never tread on the holy soil there for fear of
defiling it with his soul. Saranga-muni told him that
in that case Ranganatha had bade him carry the azhwar
on his shoulders into the Deity's presence. 

tiruppAn thus placed his feet on the body of 
Saranga-muni and climbed onto his shoulders. The chief
priest thus conveyed tiruppAn into the presence of
Lord Ranganatha inside the temple.

The azhwAr was so embarrassed and overwhelmed by all
these events. He closed his eyes. He did not open it
until Saranga-muni had carried him right into the
Presence of Ranganatha and then asked him to open his
eyes and behold the Lord of ALL creation. 

tiruppAn opened his eyes and he saw God Almighty!

And the immortal verses of the "amalan-adi-pirAn"
burst forth from his lips in divine ecstasy.

tiruppAn lost himself in beatific contemplation. The
Universal Spirit embraced him.

Sir, what are the lessons in this story of Saint
TiruppAn? What are we to learn from the life of a
"panchama" who did little more in life to deserve
spiritual exaltation other than carry out the
caste-duties of a street-minstrel and to sweep the
floors clean in Ranganatha's temple exteriors? What
are we to understand of Rangantha's command to
Saranga-muni that he should let tiruppAn set foot on
his shoulders if that were the only way to convey the
azhwar into his presence in the temple? What are we to
gather from this event where a "chandAlA's" feet that
were considered unfit to set foot on the soil inside
the Lord's temple was however ultimately given the
privilege of using a "muni's" Vedic head-and-
shoulders as both foot-stool and palanquin? 

Does it not all show us, Sir, that tiruppAn actually
showed us all a special pathway to Godhead... a very
special "upAyam"... by which we too can attain
"parama-gati"? Is "cleaning temples" not thus
tiruppAn's great gift of inspiration to us all?

Sir, what more "siddhAntam" do you all want? What more
doctrinal inspiration do you want for bringing
cleanliness into our temples, dd etc.? Is the
life-story of tiruppAn-azhwAr not enough, adiyEn is
asking you? 

Sir, if I were in my life to one day make my
"CITTA-SHUDDHI" project a reality ( adiyen is praying
I can), with the blessings of Azhagiya-singar and
other great pontiffs, I will request them to insist
that on  tiruppAn-azhwAr's "tirunakshatram" every
year, Vaishnavas and sishyas not only simply recite
"amalan-adi-pirAn" and make holy speeches and then
retire to eat 'chakkarai-pongal'. 
adiyen will request azhagiyasingar to insist that on
that special day every Srivaishnavan should go out to
some pre-designated divya-desam and sweep the floors
of the temples, interiors and exteriors there. Those
who do not do so, adiyen would say are unfit to recite
or talk about 'amalan-adi-pirAn".



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