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[sv-poetry] Overwhelming love that reversed roles

From: Malolan R Cadambi (
Date: Sun Jun 23 2002 - 15:26:11 PDT

Overwhelming love that reversed roles

CHENNAI JUNE 24 . The Nalayira Divya Prabandham of the Azhwars, in
Tamil, is revered on a par with the Vedas in Sanskrit in the
Srivaishnava tradition. Though the 12 Azhwars appeared at different
times and sang their hymns in praise of the Lord, Nathamuni compiled
their works into the Prabandham and since then these hymns are always
treated as a corpus because it is their unalloyed devotion and mystic
experience of the Lord which form their underlying theme. Among them,
Vishnuchitta (Pattarpiran), addressed popularly as Periyazhwar,
occupies the pre-eminent position due to his singular status of
becoming the father-in-law of the Lord whom even the celestials
worship, when he gave his foster-daughter, Andal, in marriage to Lord
Ranganatha. Commentators cite many interesting reasons why the
sobriquet "Periya", meaning great, is very apt for him. 

Periyazhwar who was born in Srivilliputtur (in the Tamil month of Ani
under the Swathi asterim) lived during the reign of the Pandya king,
Vallabhadevaraya, during the 8th Century A.D., and served the deity
Vatapatrasayi there by offering flower garlands strung by him. His
devotion became known to the world at large when it gained the
attention of the king who was ruling then in Madurai. The king had
invited scholars to an open theological debate, which reached
Vishnuchitta's ears, but he ignored it because his disposition was
that of loving devotion to God and hence he had no inclination to
engage in polemics. Lord Narayana appeared in the king's dream and
commanded him to invite His devotee to his court to proclaim His
supremacy on the basis of the Vedas. And, Vishnuchitta vanquished
everyone by his articulation of Vedic passages to substantiate his
position and won the prize. Periyazhwar indeed he became, for did he
not proclaim the pre-eminence of Lord Narayana Himself? 

In his discourse, Velukkudi Sri V.Krishnan said Periazhwar's works,
the Tiruppallandu and the Periazhwar Tirumozhi, comprised the opening
sections of the Nalayira Divya Prabandham. The reason for placing
them as the foremost among the hymns of the Azhwars is because his
overwhelming love of God differed from that of the other Azhwars. The
Upadesaratnamala states that just as the Pranava mantra is chanted at
the commencement of the Vedas, the Tiruppallandu leads the Prabandham
works. This hymn is in the form of a benediction to the Lord in which
it is instead the devotee, out of love and concern for the Lord, who
blesses Him. 

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