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Desika's enjoyment of arangan and thiruppaaN aazhvaar

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Fri Oct 04 1996 - 11:06:32 PDT

Dear bhaktas,

I would like to record here the immense joy I experienced
while reading a very short excerpt of Swami Vedanta Desika's
``munivAhanabhogam'', his maNipravALa commentary on the
``amalanaadhipiraan'' of thiruppaaN aazhvaar.  

I happened to receive yesterday my first copy of the Journal of
Vaishnava Studies (subscription information to follow),
in which Professor Steven Hopkins, a Desika scholar at
Swarthmore University, Pennsylvania, has written a thoroughly
engrossing paper on Desika's unique and mesmerizing contribution 
to Vaishnava poetry.

Here is the relevant section that so moved me:

    Along with writing Sanskrit and Tamil poems modelled after
    the Alvars, Desika also composed at least one maNipravALa
    prose commentary on an aazhvaar poem (it is claimed he wrote
    many more, but only one survives).  Desika wrote a separate
    maNIpravALa commentary on thiruppaaN aazhvaar's poem that
    is itself studded with original Tamil and Sanskrit poems
    that leap out of the body of his commentary, part of a
    complex polyphonic texture of gloss, prose paraphrase, and
    original poems.  In his commentary he calls thiruppaaN's
    poems a spontaneous ``outpouring of ecstatic enjoyment''
    (anubhava parivAham Aha), the ``thick juice of experience''
    (anubhava ghana rasa), but not before he has begun the
    commentary with his own Tamil poem about the poem he
    intends to gloss and ``enjoy.'' But Desika's metatext is not
    merely a serviceable finger pointing to the other poet;
    its exuberant imagery points a finger at itself:

	After we see him joined to our hearts
	   as our creator,
	standing in his temple, mingling with his loving slave,
	   our protector and husband,
	in the ten stanzas sung by the Lord of bards
	that bestow the fruits of the Vedas
	   in Tamil song---

	we take a hint from the cowgirls who did their kuravai dance
	   that day long ago
	for the Lord who became 
	   their cowherd
	   and king:

	we leave behind the loneliness of sinners,
	   uniting with him
	   like the hen with her cock!

As I read this, enjoying Desika's enjoyment of thiruppaaN, who 
in turn was enjoying Ranganatha, who in turn was enjoying 
Himself, I realized that this was perhaps only slightly 
different from Nammalvar's statement in thiruvaaymozhi that
about being the servant of the Lord's servant, seven times
removed from PerumaaL:
    adiyaarntha vaiyamuN daalilai
      yanna sanceyyum,
    padiyaathu milkuza vippadi
      yenthaipi raan_dhanakku,
    adiyaar adiyaar thamadi
      yaar_a di yaardhamak
    kadiyaar adiyaar tham,adi
      yaaradi yOngaLE.	    3.7.10

As I thought about this chain of love and admiration this
morning, I felt a supreme sense of satisfaction and pride
in my relationship to such great saint-poets.

namo nArAyaNAya,

P.S. I suggest people subscribe to The Journal of Vaishnava Studies.
It is a scholarly publication, i.e., not always devotional in intent, 
but always interesting.  It is published four times a year, in
December, March, June and September.  Send a check payable to
"FOLK Books" with a short note asking to subscribe to the Journal
of Vaishnava Studies. The address is 

    FOLK Books
    P.O. Box 400716
    Brooklyn, New York 11240-0716

Subscription rates for one year are US$35.00.

P.P.S. If anyone has Desika's munivAhanabhogam, I would love
to get a copy.