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nammAzhwAr, the Greatest AzhwAr

From: V.MADHAKKANNAN (madhavan_at_cyberway.com.sg)
Date: Sun Oct 26 1997 - 01:04:36 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
magizhndhupAdum/ seyyatamizh mAlaigaL nAm theLiyavOdhith theLiyAdha
maRainilaNgaL theliginRomE/ (from AdhikAra sangragam by Srimad vEdAntha
Desikan)

Let us not worry or bother and attach importance to the time period of
nammAzhwAr as it has different time periods; some theories claim 3100 B.C
(5000 years ago) and others claim 8 th century A.D. However, the pAsurams
composed by nammAzhwAr contain the depths and visions of philosophy equal
to vEdAs, (or even more). These pAsurams along with those of other azhwArs
were onlt compiled by nAthamuni and later propagated by embermAnAr (Sri
Ramanujar) and hence, is even considered as the foster mother of
ThiruvAimozhi (nammAzhwAr's 1102 pAsurams).

nammAzhwAr's parents, kAri (a veLLALa agriculturist) of Thirukkurugoor and
udhayanangai, the childless couple, after praying to the Lord AdhinAthA,
(who himself had announced through the archakA that his amsam will be born
to them soon) were blessed with a male child with a divya tEjas in the year
pramadhi, vaikAsi  tamil month and visAkam nakshatram on a friday (an
incarnation of VishvaksEnA, the Chief administrator of MahAvishNu). The
parents' happiness was shortlived only as the baby did not even cry, move
or open its eyes or mouth. Since the baby was different from others it was
named "mARan" (later called kArimARan).

It may be noted that this Divine baby AzhwAr did not eat/move; but did grow
like other healthy kids (similar to baby ThirumazhisaiAzhwAr). The
griefstricken parents, due to this unusual uncommon child went to Lord
AdhinAthA, put the "immobile" baby in an emerald cradle under a tamarind
tree besides the temple. This puLiyamaram(tamarind tree) also is supposed
to be "AdhisEshan" (the Serpent of mahAvishNu) which grew here before the
azhwAr's birth. This tree has flowers, which tield unripened "puLiyngAi"
and not  a ripened one (puLiyampazham). This tree, unlike other tamarind
tree does not fold its leaves in the nights; and it is still called uRangAp
puLiyamaram (the tree which does not sleep), like LakshmaNa. (Even today
one can witness this phenomenon ay AzhwArthirunagari.The parents observed
penence by putting the kid in the cradle at the temple daily. One day when
they relaxed by closing their eyes and fell into a short nap, the "little
azhwAr" crawled towards the tree bottom and sat down crosslegged and closed
its eyes. From then on, the divine child grew in the same state of
meditation for 16 years. Needless to say, all sorts of people in that
region from all walks of life; and from all religions came to see this
marvel. The boy was a 16 year old divya tejas, Golden hued divine form.
People affectionately named him nammAzhwAr(our azhwAr), sadagopan,
parangusar, etc. (Brothers, It is very clear and certain that it is nothing
but His grace and order to bless us with this marvellous AzhwAr who has
composed pAsurams whose depths of meanings will vary with the readers'
capabilities and GnAna /Bhakti to the AzhwAr- A GREAT AZHWAR, REALLY)

The Elephant comes after; while the bell sound can be heard before. Like
that the Graceful Lord had sent a brahmin saint by name "Madhurakavi"
before this azhwAr's birth. This madhurakavi of Thirukkoilur was on his
pilgrimage tour (by walk, of course) to North India and was fascinated by
the Beauty of ayOdhyA. He chose to saty there. Suddenly one night
madhurakavi saw a very bright star (a new one which was not there before;
nor was it seen by others even when madhurakavi saw it) in the southern
direction. He was pulled by the magnetism of this light (in the nights) and
started his journey back to south following the course and guided only by
THIS SOUTHERN STAR. He found himseld at Lord AhinAthA temple and the star's
brightness in nammAzhwAr's tEjas. He was simply excited and deeply
attracted by the Divine figure and Golden hue of AzhwAr's face. Since he
was a sanskrit and Tamil scholar and a great philosopher, too he wanted to
test the azhwAr, without knowing that the azhwAr does not talk or open his
eyes. 

He just threw a small stone tnto a nearby pond and for that splash sound,
our azhwAr opened his lotus eyes. Madhurakavi asked in tamil "Seththathin
vayiRRil siRiyadhu piRandhAl yetthai thinRu engE kidakkum?" (meaning: If
the small is born in a dead's body(or stomach), what will it eat and where
will it stay?)
nammAzhwAr, the one who has not opened his mouth since his birth (not even
for food) opened his lips and answered "aththaith thinRu angE kidakkum"
(meaning: It will eat that and stay there).
(Too abstract-Is it not? The interpreation and discussion has been widely
done among Bhakti group members; However, for the sake of completeness- a
small explanation/interpretation is furnished)
The small one refers to the individual soul and the dead one refers to the
gross matter, the body. When the soul enters the body, the body comes into
life; and when it leaves, it becomes a corpse. The soul experiences the
pleasures and pains thorugh the body and its senses and reaps only what it
has sown quite unaware and unconscious of its true nature of its being part
of the Almighty, as His body. So the soul will eat that and stay there;
When the soul realises it true nature and does prapatti to Him Srman
nArAyaNan (realising the body/mind and intellect as not attached to its
nature), it will eat His thoughts. verses and pAsurams as his "annam" and
will stay there( at His abode as His servant rendering service to Him).

Madhurakavi was greatly impressed at AzhwAr's depth of answer and his
philosophy. He prostarted at the feet of AzhwAr and with tears in his eyes
said " O, souther sun! Please take me as your disciple: Please make me
cross the ocean of Births and deaths. Please protect me". Seeing him at his
feet, nammAzhwAr said " Stay with me and write my pAsurams on Sriya:patih".
>From then on nammAzhwAr sang with utmost Bhakti, pAsurams on Sriman
nArAyaNan and The Lord along with MahAlakshmi on His Garuda appeared before
nammAzhwAr and blessed him. Not only that, my dear brothers. It is also
told that all perumAls from various thiruthalams (Divya Desams) appeared
one by one before him and got their quota of pAsurams. Such is the
Greatness of "our AzhwAr". nammAzhwAr stayed under that tamarind tree for
35 years.His pasurams are compared to essence of Rig, yajur, sama adharvaN
vEdAs. After living for 35 years he wished to reach His abode (and so did
the Lord, too). Madhrakavi's eyes were welled with tears and was immensely
pleased and excited when he saw his AchAryA became one with the Lord and
united with Him. Simulataneously, he was also blessed with a swarNa vigrahA
(Golden statute) of nammazhwAr which he consecrated at the Tamarind tree.
He performed daliy ArAdhanA to his AzhwAr and even ignored the Lord Sriman
nArAyaNana since then. 

This NammAzhwAr was always a favourite for Sri RamAnujA , Sri vEdAntha
dEsikA and all seers of visishtAdvaita, due to its essence of our great
vaishNavA philosophy and the doctrine of saraNAgathi.

NammAzhwAr composed the following:
1.Thiruviruttam (100 verses as the essence of Rg vEdA)
2.ThiruvAsiriyam (7 verses as the essence of yajur vEdA)
3.Periya ThiruvandhAdhi (87 verses as the essence of atharvaNa vEdA)
4.ThiruvAimozhi (1002 verses as the essence of sAma vEdA)

The sentiments expressed in every single pAsuram of nammAzhwAr reflect
Bhakti ecstasy of nammAzhwAr and will take us to such an interest and
Bhakti for Sriya:pathih sriman nArAyaNa. It is impossible to select the
best verse as all are equally excellent.(We will discuss his pAsurams in
another series)

parAsara bhattar's thanian on nammAzhwAr:
vAn thigazhum sOlai madhil arangar vAn pugazh mEl/
Aanra thamizh maraigal Ayiraum- EenRa/
mudhal thAi sadagOpan moymbAl vaLarttha/
Edhat thAi ErAmAnujan/
" ThiruvAimozhi' 1000 verses are the vEdAs which declare the auspicious
qualities of Sri RanganAthA. The natural mother is sadagOpan(nammAzhwAr)
and the foster mother is Sri RamAnujA, since he based his enire
kAlakshEpams on ThiruvAimozhi.

mikka iRainilaiyum meyyAm uyir nilaiyum/
thakka neRiyum thadaiYAgi -thokkiyalum/
Oozh vinaiyum vAzhvinaiyum Odhum kurugaiyOr kOn/
yAzhin isai vEdaththiyal.
"The ThiruvAimozhi(tamil Vedam) composed by kurugaiyOr kon-nammAzhwAr,
contains the five realities namely.,1. the nature of the Eternal ParamAtma
2. the nature of the Eternal jeevAtma  3. the means for the jeevAtma to
attain the goal of ParamAtma 4. the blocks and hurdles on the way and 5.
the goal of life i.e mokshA.

NammAzhwAr thiruvadigaLE saraNam

Ram Ram

adiyEn madhava dAsan