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Editor's Note - 67 (December 1, 2013)

The ‘Dust On The Devotees’ Feet’ That Was Oblivious To All But Arangan

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

Vipranarayana was his given name and he came to be famously known as Thondar AdipPodi Azhwar. The name translates into ‘Bhakthaangri Renu’ as mentioned in the Thaniyans of Aala Vandhaar (Bhutham Sarascha) and Thirumaalai Aandaan (Thamevamathvaa). Thondar + Adi + Podi in Tamil and Bhaktha + Angri + Renu in Sanskrit, meaning the ‘Dust on the Devotees’ Feet’. If his devotion to Lord Ranganatha is legendary, his unswerving fidelity to the Lord’s devotees is exemplary.

Thondar AdipPodigal composed two Prabandhams — ThirupPalli Ezhuhchi (10 Paasurams) and Thirumaalai (45), both on Arangan. Interestingly, he is the only Azhwar who has not looked beyond a single Deity. None but Arangan mattered to him. He remained oblivious to everything else. It may be mentioned here that even ThirupPaan Azhwar, who was taken in by the splendor of Arangan’s form and sang ‘Amalandaadhi Piraan’ mentions Venkatam in it as a passing reference.

The Azhwar was born at Thirumandangudi in Chola Naadu on a Prabhava-Maargazhi-Kettai day, as the manifestation of Lord Sriman Narayana’s Vaijayanthi Vanamaala. His Thirunakshathram falls this year on December 31. Let us reflect for a moment on his devotion to the Lord and His devotees through ‘Thirumaalai’, the ‘Garland of Verses’. There is this popular saying “திருமாலை அறியாதார் திருமாலை அறியாதார்” punning on the words ‘மாலை’ meaning garland and ‘மால்’ denoting the Lord (Thirumaal). It means that those who are not familiar with the Prabandham ‘Thirumaalai’ have not known the Lord. Conversely, those who have learned ‘Thirumaalai’ have understood the Lord well.

The substance and style of the Prabandham make for compelling study. The Azhwar apparently is a non-believer of half-measures and subtlety. There is total finality in what he has to say. A distinct stamp of forthrightness, in the tone of ‘take it or leave it’ born out of absolute conviction, can be seen all through the work. In fact, there is a liberal dose of admonishment and even self-deprecation.

We shall take a peek into some of the highlights:

Paasuram No. 2: Nothing else is appealing than the experience
of admiring Him

பச்சைமா மலைபோல் மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா! அமரர் ஏறே! ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே! என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திர லோகம் ஆளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகருளானே!

“O, Lord of Aranga Maanagar with the hue of a huge green mountain! Lord of coral lips, lotus-red eyes, Achyutha! Lord of Celestials and Cowherd-Lord! — depriving the joy of admiring You thus, if I were given the opportunity to of rule Paramapadham, I shall not want it.”

Paasuram No. 3: Not desirous of any more birth as it is nearly a waste

வேதநூல் பிராயம் நூறு மனிசர்தாம் புகுவரேலும்
பாதியும் உறங்கிப் போகும் நின்றதில் பதினையாண்டு
பேதை பாலகனதாகும் பிணி பசி மூப்புத் துன்பம்
ஆதலால் பிறவி வேண்டேன் அரங்கமாநகருளானே!

“O, Lord of Aranga Maanagar! Even if one were to get the lifespan of a hundred years as mentioned in the Vedas, one half of that will be lost in sleeping; ignorant childhood and youth will take away plenty of years of the rest; disease, hunger, old age and distress will take their toll too. Hence I shall not desire birth anymore.”

Paasuram No. 10: There is no god other than Him

மற்றும் ஓர் தெய்வம் உண்டே? மதியிலா மானிடங்காள்!
உற்றபோதன்றி நீங்கள் ஒருவனென்று உணர மாட்டீர்
அற்றமேல் ஒன்றறீயீர் அவனல்லால் தெய்வமில்லை
கற்றினம் மேய்த்த எந்தை கழலிணை பணிமினீரே.

“Can there be another god? O, mindless men! Unless there is a disaster, you will never realise that He (Sriman Narayana) is the Lord. You do not know the Saastras (which say) other than Him, there is no god. Worship the feet of my Lord who grazed cows!”

Paasuram No. 12: The greatness of His names

நமனும் முற்கலனும் பேச நரகில் நின்றார்கள் கேட்க
நரகமே சுவர்க்கமாகும் நாமங்களுடைய நம்பி
அவனதூர் அரங்கமென்னாது அயர்த்து வீழ்ந்தளிய மாந்தர்
கவலையுள் படுகின்றாரென்று அதனுக்கே கவல்கின்றேனே.

“His names are so great that when the inmates of Hell heard them from the conversation between Yama and Mudgala, even Hell became Heaven. (But) even good men forget that He resides in Arangam and keep worrying! That, in fact, has me worried.”

Paasuram No. 14: Outraged by non-utterance of the name Thiruvarangam

வண்டினம் முரலும் சோலை மயிலினம் ஆலும் சோலை
கொண்டல்மீதணவும் சோலை குயிலினம் கூவும் சோலை
அண்டர்கோன் அமரும் சோலை அணி திருவரங்கமென்னா
மிண்டர் பாய்ந்துண்ணும் சோற்றை விலக்கி நாய்க்கிடுமினீரே.

“It lies amid groves where bumble bees hum, groves where peacocks dance, groves where gathering clouds lay low, and groves where cuckoos coo (sweetly)! Take away the food gobbled up by those ungrateful idiots who do not utter the name of the beautiful Thiruvarangam, and toss it up to the dogs!”

Paasuram No. 29: Pleading with Krishna for refuge, in helplessness

ஊரிலேன் காணியில்லை உறவும் மற்றொருவரில்லை
பாரில்நின் பாதமூலம் பற்றிலேன் பரம மூர்த்தி!
காரொளி வண்ணனே! கண்ணனே! கதறுகின்றேன்
ஆருளர்க் களைகண் அம்மா! அரங்கமா நகருளானே!

“O Supreme Lord, I have no place of my own in this world, nor any property; I have neither relatives nor friends. I have not secured your feet (as refuge). O Dark-hued radiant Lord! KrishnaI, I wail (calling You helplessly). Who is there to protect me (but for You)? O Lord of Aranga Maanagar!”

Paasuram No. 33: Self-deprecation even while longing for His grace

மெய்யெல்லாம் போகவிட்டு விரிகுழலாரில் பட்டு
பொய்யெல்லாம் பொதிந்து கொண்ட போழ்க்கனேன் வந்து நின்றேன்
ஐயனே! அரங்கனே! உன் அருளென்னும் ஆசை தன்னால்
பொய்யனேன் வந்து நின்றேன் பொய்யனேன் பொய்யனேனே.

“O Lord, Aranga! I am devoid of honesty, a flirt who fell to the charms of coiffured dames and an impious one steeped in deceit. Wishing for Your grace, I have come to you now. The pretender that I am full of falsehood with respect to mind, word and action, I stand before you shamelessly.”

Paasuram No. 44: Yearning for the Lord’s empathy and grace

பெண்ணுலாம் சடையினானும் பிரமனும் உன்னைக்காண்பான்
எண்ணிலா ஊழி ஊழி தவம் செய்தார் வெள்கி நிற்ப
விண்ணுளார் வியப்ப வந்து ஆனைக்கு அன்று அருளையீந்த
கண்ணறா! உன்னையென்னோ? களைகணாக் கருதுமாறே.

“The one with mat-hair where Ganga strolls, and Brahma perform penance for countless ages to see You but bow their head in shame (in being unsuccessful). In yore, taking the celestials by surprise, You came with concern and showered Your grace on an elephant. (Because You have not shown compassion towards me) O, merciless! How can You be deemed as refuge?”

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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