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Editor's Note - 42 (November 1, 2011)

Kulasekhara Azhwar And Nrusimha — A Weird Case Of The Missing Thread

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

A strange fact would have been a startling revelation to many a participant of our quiz programme ‘Trail Our Glorious Sampradaya’ of October 2011.

The final question quiz (contributed by Vidya Parthasarathy, Lake Zurich, Illinois, U.S.A.) read — Which of these Avatharas does not find Mangalaasaasanam in Perumal Thirumozhi and the options given were Varaha, Nrusimha, Vamana, Rama and Krishna. The answer, of course, is Nrusimha which 64% of the participants identified.

Thought I would share a few resultant thoughts with you on this point.

The Lord is birthless. No one has ever created him either. However, of his own free will he allows Himself to be born on the earth taking various forms from time to time (அஜாயமாந: பஹுதா விஜாயதே). These manifestations are called Avatharas.

The agenda of the Lord’s incarnation is mainly three-fold: To protect noble people (devotees), to annihilate the evil forces and to establish righteousness.

பரித்ராணாய ஸாதூநாம் விநாசாய ச துஷ்க்ருதாம்!
தர்ம ஸம்ஸ்தாபநார்த்தாய ஸம்பவாமி யுகே யுகே!!

Though there are numerous Avatharas undertaken by the Lord, ten are considered to be the foremost and they are called Dasa Avatharas (Mathsya to Kalki). Of these, Rama and Krishna are the ones with full life-span and hence are called ‘Poorna Avatharas’. Varaha, Nrusimha and Vamana constitute the next level. Though these three are momentary in nature, the legends attribute great significance to them as they fulfil all the three purposes of an Avathara. Of the three, Nrusimha Avathara stands out as it happened to prove the words of the devotee right.

Aptly, along with Rama and Krishna, Nrusimha is a favourite of Azhwars and they extol the three incarnations extensively in their great Tamil works collectively known as Divya Prabandham.

There are about 160 references to Nrusimha Avathara in the entire Divya Prabandham, which is quite a substantial representation for a momentary manifestation. Besides Perumal Thirumozhi, both the Prabandhams of Thondar AdipPodi Azhwar (Thirumaalai and ThirupPalli Ezhuchchi) are devoid of references to Nrusimha, while even Amalanaadhi Piraan — a small Prabandham of 10 Paasurams by ThirupPaan Azhwar — extols this Avathara (Paasuram No. 8).

Thondar AdipPodigal’s silence on Nrusimha is hardly surprising as his fondness for Archa form of Lord, that too Lord Ranganatha, to the exclusion of the Lords of a whopping majority of other Divyadesams, has been well documented and is widely known. Only Ayodhya, Mathura and ThirupPaarkadal are exceptions.

Madhurakavi Azhwar may well be excluded from this study as he has sung solely on his Acharya Nammazhwar.

The Azhwars who have experienced the glory of Nrusimha in surfeit (as a proportion to the number of Paasurams composed) are the Mudhal Azhwars, Thirumazhisai Azhwar, Nammazhwar, Periyazhwar and Thirumangai Azhwar. Andal too has her own little share of Nrusimha adulation sprinkled though her Naachchiyaar Thirumozhi. This completes a broad overview of Azhwars and their Nrusimha experience.

Coming back then to Kulasekhara Azhwar, let me explain why his missing out on Nrusimha is strange. Perumal Thirumozhi is a reasonably large Prabandham comprising 105 Paasurams.

Kulasekhara Azhwar’s devotion to Ranganatha and Rama as also the devotees is legendary. He has dedicated the first three decads to the Lord of Srirangam, with the second one especially glorifying His devotees. The subject matter of the last three decads is Rama. In the fourth decad, he expresses his yearning to be born in Thiruvenkatam in some form or the other. The next one is on the Lord of Thiru ViththuvakKodu, while decads six and seven are exclusively on Krishna Avathara.

Besides, even Avatharas like Koorma (8-8), Varaha and Vamana (both 2-3) find a mention each. Under the circumstances, for the Azhwar not to have a single reference to an important Avathara like Nrusimha through the length of the Prabandham is difficult to comprehend.

Of course, it is arguable (albeit unconvincingly) that the mention “ஆலிநகர்க்கு அதிபதியே” (8-7) refers to Nursimha as the presiding deity of the Divyadesam Thiruvaali is Lakshmi Nrusimha. But the emphasis here is on the Archa (idol) form rather than Vibhava (Avathara).

Also, Kulasekhara Azhwar is credited with the authorship of Mukunda Mala, a lovely hymn of 40 verses steeped in devotion. The Naama ‘Hari’ occurs in a few Slokas (Nos. 8, 9, 10, 34 & 36) but they all connote ‘Narayana’ or ‘Vishnu’ and not ‘Nrusimha’.

And the case of the missing thread between Nrusimha and the Azhwar is even more perplexing!

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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