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Editor's Note - 19 (December 1, 2009)

Salutations To The Great Kaliyan

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

Thirumangai Azhwar, whose Thirunakshathram falls this day (Kaarthigai-Kaarthigai), commands a unique place among the Azhwars. Variously referred to as Kaliyan, Aali Nadan, Mangai Vendhan, Parakaalan, the ‘youngest’ of his tribe was born in ThirukKuraiyalur as the manifestation of the Divine Bow of Sriman Narayana.

If Nammazhwar composed four Prabandhams corresponding to the Vedas, Kaliyan came up with six numbers – one each for the auxiliaries of the Vedas known as Vedaangas. They are: Siksha (phonetics and phonology), Chandhas (meter), Vyakarna (grammar), Niruktha (etymology), Jyothisha (astrology and astronomy) and Kalpa (ritual).

All his works spanning 1,253 verses – Periya Thirumozhi (1084 verses), ThirukKurum Thaandakam (20), ThiruNedum Thaandakam (30), Thiruvezhu-Kootrirukkai (1), Siriya Thirumadal (40) and Periya Thirumadal (78) – ooze devotion, humility, beauty, class, variety, and to top it all, the doctrine of surrender. No wonder he is hailed as ‘Master of the Four-fold Poesy’ (Naalu Kavi Perumal in Tamil).

The four branches of poesy are:

Aasu Kavi: One with the expertise for impromptu composition – In fact, all his Prabandhams are spontaneous outpourings;

Madhura Kavi: One who can compose poems oozing sweetness and exuberance – Major part of Periya Thirumozhi is example to this.

Chithra Kavi: One who is well-versed in specially-structured poems – Thiruvezhu-Kootrirukkai which has been arranged similar to the temple car of Amudhan, the Lord of ThirukKudandhai, perfectly fits the bill;

Visthaara Kavi: One who is proficient in elaborate poems – The two Madals and many a stretch in Periya Thirumozhi wherein he performs Mangalaasaasanam to a particular Lord qualify for this variety.

It all started when as a tough young man he wished to marry Kumudhavalli. In order to accede to that she laid down a condition that he feted 1,008 Bhagavathas daily and partook the Prasadham and their Sri Paadha Theertham. This he duly did and as a consequence he became poor over a period of time and had to start borrowing. After some time even that would not suffice and he resorted to waylaying and robbery to make ends meet. His life turned for the worse. It was then that the Lord decided that enough is enough, reformed him and made him sing His praise with distinction. What's more, the Azhwar took from the Lord the Thiru Ashtaakshara Manthra at dagger point and surrendered unto Him. This incident finds a mention in the Thaniyan by Sri Ramanuja:

வாழி பரகாலன் வாழி கலிகன்றி
வாழி குறையலூர் வாழ் வேந்தன் -- வாழியரோ
மாயோனை வாள்வலியால் மந்திரம் கொள்
மங்கையர்கோன் தூயோன் சுடர் மான வேல்.

Thirumangai Mannan has the unique honour of presenting himself with his consort in the idol form, at the ThiruVaali temple. He travelled through the length of the country in pursuit of Mangalaasaasanam which eventually covered 86 Divyadesams. Thirunaraiyur, ThirukKanna Puram, ThirukKudandhai, Thiruvenkatam, Thiruvarangam may be termed as his most favourite as his indulgence in them is far too pronounced.

Thirumangai Azhwar once went to Thiruvarangam to worship the Lord on a Thiru-Kaarthigai day. During Thirumanjanam of the Lord and His Consorts, he proclaimed parity for Thiruvoymozhi with the Vedas. Not stopping with that, he brought Nammazhwar from Azhwar Thirunagari in procession to the Thiruvarangam temple and prayed to the Lord that he relished the recitation of Azhwar’s Aruli-Cheyal also during the Adhyayana Uthsavam beginning on Sukla Paksha Ekadasi day and Arangan gleefully agreed at once. Accordingly, during the 10 days, the Vedas were chanted in the morning and Thiruvoymozhi was recited in the evening. A delighted Ranganatha ordered that this practice be followed every year and Kaliyan ensured its continuance.

This provided a great fillip to the status of Thiruvoymozhi in particular and the entire Divya Prabandham in general in the centuries to come. Thus the Adhyayana Uthsavam has come to stay as a very important festival in every temple’s calendar with the importance of Dravida Vedam matching that of its Sanskrit counterpart. In most temples today it is a two-fold festival – the Pagal Paththu and Iraap Paththu – 10 days each observed either side of Vaikunta Ekadasi (which incidentally falls on 28th December this year).

The following Thaniyan by ThirukKottiyur Nambi on Kaliyan which is recited prior to Periya Thirumozhi, is a fitting tribute to the Azhwar.

கலயாமி கலித்வம்ஸம் கவிம்லோக திவாகரம்
யஸ்யகோபி: ப்ரகாசாபி: ஆவித்யம் நிஹதம் தம: !

“I salute and meditate upon Thirumangai Azhwar who is known as Kalikanri (destroyer of the evil effects of Kali Yuga), who is a great poet and a sun to the entire world, whose rays (in the form of glittering verses) destroys the ignorance-triggered inner darkness.”

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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