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Editor's Note - 37 (June 1, 2011)

An Azhwar And An Acharya — Rolled Into One

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

That Sriman Narayana Himself is the first preceptor is one of the cardinal tenets of our Sampradaya. There upon, the one-on-one lineage descends through Piraatti, Vishvaksena, Satakopa, Nathamuni, UyyakKondaar, Manakkal Nambi, Aala Vandhaar, Periya Nambi, Sri Ramanuja to Swami Desika, and further down through various Acharyas to each of the Sri Vaishnavites. It is a matter of great pride for all of us that each one of us can eventually be traced back to none other than the Lord.

The presence of Satakopa, that is, Nammazhwar in this line-up presents him with a unique status — the only one to enjoy a dual role of being an Azhwar and an Acharya as well. He is regarded as the Pioneer of the Prapaththi Movement and the chief of the clan of Prapannas (ப்ரபந்ந ஜந ஸந்தான கூடஸ்தர்).

It is thus, in the fitness of things that we remember the greatness of Nammazhwar in the lead up to his Thirunakshathram day which falls on June 13 this year.

Swami Desika pays this beautiful tribute to Nammazhwar:

யஸ்ய ஸாரஸ்வதம் ஸ்ரோதோ வகுளாமோத வாஸிதம்!
ச்ருதீநாம் விச்ரமாயாலம் சடாரிம் தம் உபாஸ்மஹே!!
(Yathiraja Sapthathi - 4)

“We meditate on Nammazhwar whose garland of Vakula flowers gets its fragrance exuded into the flowing literature of poetry (his Divya Prabandhams) which are enough for the Vedas to relax.”

Such is the greatness of Nammazhwar’s Aruli-Cheyals that they are a good match for the Vedas and are worthy substitutes.

The following is a brief account of the Azhwar’s Avathara:

By the infinite grace of the Lord and to enable people with a chance to end the miseries associated with the vicious cycle of birth and death, Nammazhwar was born on a Vaikasi-Visakha day at ThirukKurugur, a Divyadesam and one of the Nava Thiruppathis, as the manifestation of Vishvaksena. His parents’ names are Kaari and Udaiya Nangai. But the child neither opened its eyes nor cried. Struck by grief, they left the child on the floor of the temple of AadhpPiraan there. The stoical child crawled its way to a hole in a tamarind tree nearby and stayed put there without food, water, sleep or anyone to look after.

Even to this day, the tamarind tree itself has been mystical and divine. Unlike the other trees, the leaves never close at night. It flowers but doesn’t bear fruits.

This went on till the child became a boy of 16. That was when Madhurakavi, who was to become his disciple, met him. Lead by a divine light to ThirukKurugur, Madhurakavi approached Nammazhwar and asked him “if a child is conceived in the womb of a dead, what will it eat, and where will it lie?” The boy, for the first time ever, opened his mouth and replied “it will eat that and lie there” — a metaphorical answer to a metaphorical question.

That set on rolls the inseparable association steeped in divinity and devotion. Verses poured unceasingly from the Acharya and the disciple kept recording the same on palm leaves, for posterity — the outcome being the mesmerizing four Prabandhams as the essence of the four Vedas. They are: Thiruviruththam (100 Paasurams) -- Rug Veda, Thiruvaasiriyam (7) -- Yajur Veda, Periya Thiruvanthaadhi (87) -- Atharva Veda and Thiruvoymozhi (1,102) Sama Veda.

The disciple, Madhurakavi, was so devoted to his Guru that he went on to proclaim that he didn’t know any god other than Kurugur Nambi. A salient aspect of Nammazhwar, as juxtaposed to the other Azhwars, is that while the rest of the Azhwars went in search of the Lords and visited the Divyadesams, Nammazhwar simply sat in the tamarind tree and the Lords queued up to manifest before him to bequeath their blessings.

Lords of as many as 39 Divyadesams thus honoured Nammazhwar whose other names include Maaran, Satakopa, Kurugur Nambi, Vakulaabharanan and Parankusan. In all he has composed 1,296 verses — the maximum among the Azhwars.

Swami Desika, in his Prabandha Saaram, catalogues the works of Nammzhwas as follows:

முன்னுரைத்த திருவிருத்தம் நூறு பாட்டும்
முறையின் வரும் ஆசிரியம் ஏழு பாட்டும்
மன்னிய நற்பொருள் பெரிய திருவந்தாதி
மறவாதபடி எண்பத்தேழு பாட்டும்
பின்னுரைத்ததோர் திருவாய்மொழி
எப்போதும் பிழையற ஆயிரத்தொரு நூற்றிரண்டு பாட்டும்
இந்நிலத்தில் வைகாசி விசாகம் தன்னில்
எழில் குருகை வருமாறா இரங்கு நீயே.
(Prabandha Saaram – 6)

I invoke the blessings of Nammazhwar who is regarded as the sandal (ThirupPaadhukas) of the Lord on one and all.

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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