Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Goda’s love letter: A poetic garland



The poet-saint Andal (also known as Nachiyar, Kodhai or Goda Devi) composed Thiruppavai which is a set of Tamil devotional religious hymns. She is considered the manifestation of Bhudevi, the earth goddess, who had reincarnated as daughter of Vishnu Chitta also called Periyalvar’s, considered as Amsha of Garuda. She is said to have fasted (a ‘Paavai nonbu’) during the Margazhi month (December-January) and composed 30 hymns at the age of 5.

It consists of 30 stanzas called paasurams in praise of Ranganatha, a form of the deity Vishnu and the chief deity of the Srirangam Temple. It is a part of the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, a collection of the works of the twelve Alvars, which is considered an important part of the devotional genre of Tamil literature.

The Thiruppavai has also been translated into Telugu by Mullapudi Venkataramana as Melupalukula Melukolupu. (The title of book is here Courtesy: Art by Bapu)

In the Thiruppavai, Andal gives a universal call to all people to recite the name and glories of Lord Vishnu.

Tiruppavai Pashuram in English script.

Margazhi Thingalmadi Nirainda Nannalal           

Niradapoduvir, Podumino Nerizhaiyeer                  

Seermalgum Aayppadi Selva Chirumeergal        

Koorvel KodumThozhilam Nandagopan Kumaran     

Er Arndha Kanni YasodhaiIlansingam                        

Courtesy: Art by Bapu

Karmenichengann Kadir Madiyam pol Mugathan    

Naaraayanane Namakke Parai Tharuvan       

Parorpugazha Ppadintdul-el or empaavaai.      

Courtesy: Art by Bapu

Telugu Poem by Madabhushi Sridhar

Nature shines in the moonlight of Margazhi month

Come, dear friends let us bathe before the Sunrise

O Team of enriched and enlightened devotees of our rich village

Where Nanda wields protective spear for his son,

Lotus eyed young cub of mother Yashoda

His resplendent face with eyes shining like the Sun and Moon.

Aiming to reach ultimate Lord Naaraayana               

Let us commission the mission together.

(Explanation of Tamil Parusham by Goda)

In this month of Marghazhi,On this day filled with the light of moon,Come for bathing,Oh ladies who are richly dressed,And Oh ladies in rich homes of cowherds,For he with the sharp spear,He who kills his enemies without mercy,He who is the son of Nanda gopa,He who is the darling son of Yasodha,Who wore scented flower garlands,He who is a lion cub,He who is pretty in black colour,He who has small red eyes,He who has a face like the well-lit moon,And He, who is our Lord Narayana,Is going to give us protection,So that we bathe and that is our Pavai (Vratham or practice),In a way that the whole world sings about.

Aiming to reach ultimate Lord Naaraayana

Around 1200 years ago, Andaal also known as Goda Devi, penned unique poetry of 30 songs (Paashurams in Tamil) comprising eight lines each. It is called ‘Tiruppavai’, which is quite relevant even today and recited every day.  When women were denied access to education and caste restrictions were predominant, Goda learnt Sanskrit, Tamil, Vedas, Upanishads and Tamil prabandhams which explored Vishishta Advaiata (qualified monism) of Sri Vaishnavism (worshipping Vishnu as the ultimate God) and wrote Tiruppavai in her 13th year, in praise of Parabrahma(Supreme Lord) depicting ways of Jnana (the wisdom) and Bhakti (complete devotion) to attain solvation and liberation from vicious birth-death-rebirth cycle.

During Purattasi month (September-October) garlands from Sri Villiputhur are being sent to Tirumala Sri Venkateshwara Swamy regularly to continue the centuries old tradition. Each poem is a love letter to Sri Ranganatha and message of devotion for whole of the world. Andaal is another name which means, my mother, as stated by her father Periyalvar. She sang in praise of Sri Maha Vishnu in 11 ancient temples – DivyaDesha. She is one of the 12 Alwaars in Sri Vaishnava tradition.

Paavai means Vow or vratam in Telugu, or ritual observed throughout month of Marghazhi. She takes her friends to perform this vratam for thirty days. These wake-up songs contain the cardinal principals of Vaishnava Dharma – a school of thought, which are sang for peace, prosperity and Divine Grace. Let us all sing and assimilate the divine devotional love of Goda.

The Goda’s poem Tiruppavai has an in-built scheme of Vrata (the mission) with three parts. First part introduces the mission contemplated to worship Naaraayana in the form of Sri Krishna, Kanhaiah, or Kaanha. First part (initial five songs–Paashurams)– explains the rules of month-long Deeksha (MaasaVrata), do’s and don’ts in the first two songs, followed by description of glory of Naaraayana in 3 songs. Part 2 (Songs 6 to 15): Goda preaches togetherness as a strategy for mutual inspiration and sustaining the enthusiasm. Goda selects the members of the team, goes to each of their houses and wakes them up in the early hours of foggy winter.

In Tirumala, Tiruppavi is recited every morning in this month instead of Suprabhatam, because Goda has sung these songs to wake up Gopika’s to take them to worship Sri Krishna in Brindavanam, assuming so while connecting her friends in Sri Villiputhur, an ancient temple in Tamil Nadu, which one of the 108 Vaishnava DivyaDesha. Garland offered by devotees.

When someone asked Acharya Sri Ramanuja to explain the significance of Tiruppavai, Acharya said to have remarked that it would be difficult to find someone efficient to explain Tiruppavai. This statement shows significance and complexity of 30-poem Kavya of Goda Devi in praise of Lord Ranganatha, which is recited every day in Dhanurmasam – that starts in the middle of December and goes up to Bhogi January 15. Tiruppavai explains the essence of Vedas through examples from divine stories of SrimadBhagavatham and SrimadRamayanam. One should try to understand the enormous meaning, symbolism, alankara and in-depth concepts that form the content of eight-line Pashuram -Poem written by Goda Devi.

Like Radha, Mirabai in north, Goda is devotee full of love for Sri Krishna from southern part of India. Goda was found in Garden of Periyalwar – Vishnu Chitta. When her father collected flowers from Garden, which were later made into a garland, Goda used to wear it and verified how it looked on her person standing before mirror or watching reflection in water in the well, then she used to put the garlands in basket that was taken to Vatapatra Sai, the Lord of Sri Villiputhur. Once father notices a piece of hair, finds that his daughter has used it. He was worried as he offered used flowers all these days. The legend says Sri Maha Vishnu appeared in dream that he loved to wear only those were once decorated on Goda’s person. Since then she was called ChudiKoduthaNachiayaarmeaning the lady who wore and gave her garland to Lord Vishnu. This is the meaning of the title of great poem by Sri KrishnaDevaraya-AmuktaMalyada (one who wears and gives away garlands) in Telugu.

NAARA + AAYANA is a combination of two roots. All Naarams (beings) depend on Him. He bears all of them, resides in each and every iota of Nature. He is Vaasu Deva. Being in them, He protects the being. Or He preserves all beings in Him. Aayanareflects all divine and special qualities and characters of Krishna.  If you step out to reach Him, he rushes to meet your extended hand.  Accessing Him is the easiest way (Saulabhyam). He is near and dear to us as He resides in us or we reside in Him (Saameepyam). He is above all of us, all Lokas (Param), the Ultimate, in higher altitude. Goda is giving us the mantra to read him, showing the route to tread to Him, and scheme to achieve Him. There is no need for any preparation. Intense desire and strong decision to launch this mission is enough, the rest falls in line.

Goda asks her friends to wake up and join her in bathing in the light of moon on this day of Marghazhi month, and pray the Hero Sri Krishna, son of Yashoda and Nanda, who wears a weapon to protect all of us, his garlands spreads fragrance. He is a cub of lion in cloud colour, with sharp red eyes, whose face glows like a full-moon, non-other-than Shriman Narayana. Let us bathe and pray together to start our Vrata for thirty days. This is the message of Goda.


Bhagavan, in Paalakadali, the Ocean of Milk

The Verses and ‘Explanation’

‘Nila tungastana … ‘  is beginning of Tiruppavai thanyans. The Thiruppavai also includes three thaniyans (literally, ‘singletons’ or standalone verses) composed by later authors to introduce older texts. The first thaniyan, ‘Nila tungastana … ‘ in Sanskrit was composed by Parashara Bhattar, and the next two thaniyans, ‘Anna vayal pudhuvai … ‘ and “Choodi kodutha…” (translated below) were composed by Sri Uyyakondar.

This song is a prelude to Thiruppavai and is one of the 3 thaniyans.

Taniyan 1 – [ParAsara bhaTTar]
nIlA tunga stana giri taTI suptam udbOdhya kRshNaM
pArArthyaM svaM Sruti-Sata-Siras-siddham adhyApayantI
svOcchishTAyAm sraji nigalitam yA balAt kRtya bhunktE
gOdA tasyai nama idam idaM bhUya EvAstu bhUyaH||

Andal from the swan filled Puduvai,

Sang she, in her sweet voice,

Several enchanting sweet odes,

For being sung during,

The worship and adulation of Pavai.

They are but a garland to him,

From her who wore them first,

Before presenting them to Him.

Tiruppavai Pashuram by Goda Devi

Courtesy: Art by Bapu

Tiruppavai Pashuram by Goda Devi

VaiyathuVazhveerkal! Nanum Nam Pavaikku  

SeyyumKirisaikalKeleero! Paarkadalul

Paiyya-th-thuyindra param Adi Paadi

Neyyunnom Paal UnnomNaatkaleNeeradi

Maiy-ittEzhudom Malar Ittu Naam Mudiyom

SeyyadanaSeyyom Thee KkuralaiSenrodhom


courtesy: Art by Bapu



Telugu Poem by Madabhushi Sridhar

For bliss of world, come dear, join this divine mission.

To sing at the lotus feet of VaikunthaNatha of Milk Ocean

Forsake ghee and milk and forget not bathing in early hours.

Forsake flowers and eyeliner, avoid give facial make up.

Listen to elders, do not do the don’ts, do only the good.

Hurt not, donate as much as you can.

For salvation, engage with noble thoughts, awake, let us all go.

(Explanation of Tamil Parusham by Goda)

Oh, people of this world,

Be pleased to hear of those penances,
That we daily do for the worship of Pavai,
We will sing of those holy feet,
Of Him who sleeps in the ocean of milk,
We will not take the very tasty ghee,
We will avoid the health giving milk,
We will daily bathe before the dawn,
We will not wear any collyrium to the eye,
We will not tie flowers in our hair,
We will not do Any act that is banned,
We will not talk ill of any to any one else,
We will give alms and do charity,
As much as we can,
And do all those acts to make others free of sorrow,
This is our Vratham (Pavai).

No perfect being on this earth: say Seeta and Goda

Goda explains the NaaraayanaTatwa as His first location, Sthana,in her first Paashuram (Poem No.1). The Lord told Gopikaas about the ultimate, omnipotent, and omnipresent power of Naaraayana. His omnipresence is indicated by names Vishnu, Vasudeva, and Naaraayana. Vishnu means one who pervades the universe. Vasudeva signifies that he resides and shines in every inch of the creation.

Second song of Goda discloses that second abode of Bhagavan, that is Paalakadali, the Ocean of Milk. He is smaller than the smallest, Annu (micro cell)among the Annus, and at same time bigger than the biggest, Mahat or Brihat. He is the embodiment of five elements. Body of every creature consists of the same five elements. Earth is one of those five.  It is difficult to be peaceful on this Earth.

In this song, Goda is setting the rules and regulations for the NaaraayanaVrata. Do’s and don’ts are prescribed. We need to gain knowledge from elders as to what to do and what not to do. Many Gopikaas joined Goda, ready to learn about their mission.

The message of Tiruppavai

According to Vedic scriptures, the period just before the ensuing dawn is called Brahma-muhurtam (4 AM – 6 AM). It is an auspicious time, for it gives good thoughts and intentions. Practices like meditation and penances are done during this hour, giving favorable results.Brahmamuhurta (Sanskrit-ब्रह्म मुहूर्त, lit. ’time of Bramha’) is a 48-minute period (muhurta) that begins one hour and 36 minutes before sunrise, and ends 48 minutes before sunrise. It is traditionally the penultimate phase or muhurta of the night, and is considered an auspicious time for all practices of yoga and most appropriate for meditation, worship or any other religious practice. Spiritual activities performed early in the morning are said to have a greater effect than in any other part of the day.[Lochtefeld, James G. (2002). The illustrated encyclopedia of Hinduism (1st ed.). New York: Rosen. p. 122]

Brahmamuhurtha is the 14th muhurtha kala of the night. One muhurtha is a period of 48 minutes, with a whole night consisting of 15 muhurthas. The time of sunrise varies each day, according to geographic location and time of year, and the time of the Brahmamuhurta varies with it. For example, if sunrise is at 6:00 am, the brahmamuhurta begins at 4:24 am and ends at 5:12 am. [Brahma Muhurta: Everything You Need to Know”. Meditation Sphere. July 24, 2020.]

According to the Vedic calendar, 6 months on Earth (January-June) equals one celestial day. So the last six months (July-December) on the earth equal one celestial night. Hence, the predawn period, the Brahma-muhurtam, for the heavenly beings falls in the month of Dhanu, also called Margazhi (December-January). Andal undertook a vrata (religious vow) called Paavai Nonbu during this month. ‘Paavai’ is referred as a puppet or a doll, and stays still like a doll, with restricted movement. This vow is dedicated to the Goddess Durga, during the Navaratri featival, as referenced in the Tamil song “Naan oru vilaiyaattu bommaiya” . Through her verses, Andal tells us that by practicing the vow, one can attain not only materialistic happiness but also eternal bliss. Andal taught us this vow, because she wanted us to spend these auspicious days in contemplation of God. This vratham was performed for Krishna. Krishna is the bestower of happiness. Humankind is always in the quest for happiness, in order to attain which, he engages himself in various kinds of jobs. But pursuit of materialistic happiness will eventually lead to sorrow. So, Andal performed this vow desiring the eternal blissful God. She desired and attained Him.

It is not easy for man to know who God is and the means to reach him. Air is not visible to our naked eye. We know the presence of air, because if we stop breathing, we die. Similarly, according to the religious hymns, we must realize that there is a divine energy which is the cause and controller of our activities, our present form and name. He can be easily attained in His form as an idol. He exists as an idol with the same auspicious qualities as He is in His highest divine abode called Vaikuntha, also called Parama-padam. Let us worship Him and ask Him whatever we want. He will suitably grant us everything. Andal instilled such a faith through her Thiruppavai.

According to the religious hymns, God is only one and He appears in various forms for our sake. He accepts our offerings and blessings even when He is worshipped in an idol form in our house. It is for this reason, Andal performed the vow in the Srivilliputhur temple. She desired Ranganatha to be her husband, she worshipped Durga, who is said to be Ranganatha’s sister and is said to give good luck over marriages, she asked us to visit the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. She did this to create the faith that God exists in all forms. By whatever name one calls, He is there for us, dwelling in the Srirangam island, the primeval cause of the creation, the husband of Lakshmi who is Vishnu. In order to remind us of this, Andal prayed, so we might be able to do service in the temple of Ranganatha.

According to the religious hymns the symbolic undertone behind Andal’s entreaty to her friends to wake up and seek Krishna subsumes the essence of the three basic mantras in the Vaishnava tradition — the Tirumantram, Dvayam and Charama Sloka that signify the truth of the Supreme being who dwells in everything. There is a hidden meaning in the 27th stanza, for example, where Andal explains the importance of a spiritual master whose guidance is mandatory for a disciple to get these trio of mantras. If the meaning is taken literally, it appears that Andal is asking for some of the ornaments for the vow, but in there explains the importance of these three mantras in a symbolic way. Every stanza has this detailed undertone which must actually be realized.

Tiruppavai is said to be ‘Vedam Anaithukkum Vithagum’, meaning it is the seed of the Vedas.[“Vedas and Thiruppavai”. The Hindu. 21 July 2019] As the entire tree and the trees coming from it are hidden in the subtle seed, so is the entire essence of the Vedas is hidden in Thiruppavai which can be revealed only under the guidance of an acharya or a guru who is well versed in Vedic scriptures.This entire hidden essence is mentioned in the Andal’s verses in the form of poetry. [Collected from sources including English Wikipedia.org]


The dwarf who grew to measure the Universe

Periyalvar, originally called Vishnuchithan, was an ardent devotee of Perumal (Vishnu). According to literary and religious tradition, Periyalvar, originally called Vishnuchithan, was an ardent devotee of Perumal (Vishnu), who lived in Srivilliputhur and used to string garlands to the deity every day. He was childless and he prayed to God to save him from the longing for a child. One day, he found a girl under a Tulasi plant in a garden inside the temple. The child was considered to be the goddess Bhudevi herself. He named the child as Kothai, who grew up as a devotee of Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu. She is believed to have worn the garland before dedicating it to the presiding deity of the temple. Periyalvar, who later found it, was highly upset and remonstrated her. Vishnu appeared in his dream and asked him to dedicate only the garland worn by Andal to him because when the new garland was put on Vishnu’s idol, it fell down but when the garland was worn by Andal, Vishnu turned into gold. The girl Kothai was thus named Andal and was referred to as “Chudikodutha Sudarkodi” meaning the lady who wore and gave her garland to Vishnu. Periyalvar took Andal to the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam and Andal was reunited with Vishnu as his bride. The practice is followed during modern times when the garland of Andal from Srivilliputhur Andal Temple is sent to Tirumala Venkateswara Temple on Garudotsavam during the Tamil month of Purattaasi (September – October) and Azhagar Koyil during Chitra Pournami.[Rao, A.V.Shankaranarayana (2012). Temples of Tamil Nadu. Vasan Publications. pp. 195–99] Andal is also called as Nachiyar or Andalnachiar.

Kodhai was brought up by Vishnuchitta (Periyalvar) in an atmosphere of love and devotion. As Kodhai grew into a beautiful maiden, her fervor for God grew to the extent that she decided to marry only God himself. As time passed, her resolve strengthened and she thought constantly about marrying Ranganathar of Srirangam (the reclining form of Vishnu). Andal is referred to as Nachiyar. She wrote Tiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumoḻi.

In Tamil Nadu, Andal is remembered for her pure love and devotion. In the Tiruppavai, Andal, as a Gopi in Ayarpadi (Vrindavan),[Sampath Kumaracharya, V.S. (2002). Musings on Andal’s Tiruppavai: A Garland of Thirty Multifaceted Mystic Verses (in Tamil and English) (First ed.). Tirupati, India: Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.] emphasizes that the ultimate goal of life is to seek surrender and refuge at the Lord’s feet. It is believed that Ranganatha of Ranganathaswamy temple married Andal, who later merged with the idol. Since Andal married Ranganatha, the presiding deity is called Rangamannar.[Anantharaman, Ambujam (2006). Temples of South India. East West Books (Madras). pp. 177–181.]

Tiruppavai by Godadevi from Tamil

OngiUlagalandhaUtthaman Per Paadi


TheengindriNadellam ThingalMummaripeydhu





Courtesy: Art by Bapu

Selvam Niraindhu-el-or emPaavaai

English Poem by Madabhushi Sridhar

Sing of the dwarf who grew to measure the Universe.

As holy bath cleanses the heart to intensify the prayer.

Three rains a month to raise the wealth of crops.

Where fishes flourish with joy in farm-waters, and

Where bees doze within the folds of white lotuses

Grown up and healthy cows in herds are ready and

Generous enough to splash the streams of milk filling the pots

Wealth unlimited greets all of us, come & join my girls.

(Explanation of Tamil Parusham by Goda)

If we sing the praise of Him,

Who grew big and measured the world,
And worship our Goddess Pavai,
Then would there be at least three rains a month,
And the red paddy plants would grow big,
And in their fields would the fish swim and play,
And the spotted bees after sipping honey,
To their hearts content,
Would sleep in the flower themselves
After having their fill,
And the cows with big udder
Would fill milk pots to the brim,
And healthy cows and never diminishing wealth,
Would fill the country,
And all this I assure by our vratham / practice.



Vaamana, another form of Naaraayana, was a short boy – Vatuvu (one who is at the start of Vedic education) who secured the charity of three feet of land from King Bali, and then started growing up and up to measure the entire universe. He demands the place for the third foot of land, and bowing down Bali shows his head. Bali is sent to the underworld (Paataal) as punishment for his expansionism and eviction of Indra.  Praise him, we will not have any problems in our country. Come on my friends, let us do this Vrata. We will have three rains a month, Paddy grows fabulously. The fish jumps with joy in the green farm-field waters. Beautiful white lotuses blossom and attract the bees to sleep in the folds of their petals peacefully. Milking animals are no less in number, and several herds of cows are so kind that they rain the milk unasked and without any extraction. They yield many pots of milk. The vast wealth, unlimited and ever growing, is the reward of the Lord’s generosity.

God never hesitates to take any form like fish, tortoise, boar, dwarf etc to help the good and end the bad. He is the best personality, Purushottama, the best of all beings.

In his exile also Raama was holding his bow and arrows besides a Sword etc. Surprised, Seeta asks: “Are you really an ascetic who is expected to spend 14 years in forests doing penance?” Raama asks “Why do you doubt?”  She answers: “Where is the need for arms for a man who is supposed to silently pray like a Rishi”. Then he smiles and explains: “Dear Seetha, listen to me, I vowed to safeguard ascetics in the forest to free them from miseries caused by Demons. It is my Vratam…” to fulfil my promise. Raghukul Reeti Sadaa Chali Ayee, Praan Jaaye Par VachannaJaaye” (It’s the tradition of Raghu clan all along, that they may afford to lose life but not the word given).  Come what may, even if I lose you (Seetha), or my dear Lakshman I will perform my duty; hence I am ready with arms anytime”. That is the Greatness of benevolent Raama

Krishna, the God himself, born to a princely class, prefers to live with cowherds. He never minds about the level or the caste.  Krishna was so kind, that he granted an ending flow of clothes to Draupadi when she prayed addressing him as Govinda, in the worst crisis. Chanting the name of Raama made Hanuma cross the Ocean in one leap, whereas Raama could not cross it unless the bridge was built by his army. It means His name is more powerful than he Himself. Let us chant his name and attain all peace and glory.

Naaraayana in His forms as Vaamana, Raama, Krishna is very kind, under whose cover all of us can be fearless and happy.

There are six kinds of suffering according to tradition and Indian culture. They are 1. floods, 2. drought, 3. rats, 4. birds, 5. locust swarms, and 6. worst rulers. They are called in Telugu: Eethi Baadhalu for the country. Even individuals have six issues: 1. Considering Body as Soul, 2. Thinking that one is independent, 3. Feeling that one belongs to someone other than Supreme Soul, 4. Presuming that he can protect himself, 5. Considering that relations of Body are his relations, and 6. Desire to enjoy bodily pleasures.

As Goda referred to three rains in month, she was in fact, symbolically meaning: 1. Believing that she belongs to Paramaatma and no one else, 2. Trusting that except Paramaatma there is no other way, 3 Firm in her view that she does not like anything except the experiencing Him, the Paraamatma.

This poem refers to Raama and Krishna, besides explaining the power of Vaamana. Mantras might have stringent restrictions for chanting. But singing the name of God is easy and free from all limitations. Anybody at any time can spell His name.  Gopikaas were asked to come and bathe in early hours with chanting of Naarayana Naamam. It will relieve them from pangs of separation from Sri Krishna. Once you get into it there is no dearth for anything, says Goda.

Tiruppavai 4

Raining heavy to enrich and rejuvenate the world

Tiruppavai Paashuram by Goda Devi

Aazhi Mazhaikkanna! Ondrum Nee Kai Karavel

Aazhiyull Pukku Mugandhu Koda Aatthu Ari

Oozhimudalvan Uruvam Pol Mey Karuthu

Paazhiy Am Tholudai Padmanabhan Kaiyyil

Aazhipol Minni  Valampuripol Minru Adhirndhu

Thazhaadhe Sarngam Udiatha  Saraamazhai Pol

Vazha Ulaginil Peydhidaay Nangalum

Courtesy: Art by Bapu

Margazhi Neerada Magizhndu-el or em paavaai.

English Poem by Madabhushi Sridhar

Rain God Varuna, continue to shower and

the cloud comes down to usurp ocean water to fill itself

to pregnant with water becomes dark, like Krishna.

Lotus in the navel, weapons in His two strong hands

Lightning Disc and Thunderous Conch

Like his bow fast releasing stream of arrows.

raining heavy to enrich and rejuvenate the world,

Come on, friends, let us bathe in Margali Rain.

Courtesy: Art by Bapu

(Explanation of Tamil Parusham by Goda)

Please obey our wishes,
Oh rain God who comes from the sea,
Enter the sea, please, and bring water to your fill,
And with zest and sound take it up,
And like the God of the deluge become black,
And shine like the holy wheel in the hands,
Of The God Padmanabha who has powerful biceps,
And make booming pleasing sounds,
Like the right spiraled conch,
And rain with out stop like the arrow storm,
From Saranga the bow of Vishnu and descend on us,
To make this world happy,
And to help us take bath in month of Margahzhi

Goda repeats her sermon about bathing in Margali month. Tiruppavai is also called SnanaVrata, the mission with many baths at early hours, without fearing the morning cold and shedding the laziness to praise and pray to God not for any selfish gains but for rains to help whole the countryside to prosper.

Goda says, no, the cloud is God Himself, God of Cloud or Varuna. Be benevolent and rain on all without any dearth of your kindness. God of Cloud, you will go nearer to Ocean, absorb the salty water, fill the belly full, move heavily in the sky, and as Vishnu bears on his two strong arms – on the right, the lightning Chakra – the Disc and on the left –the thunderous Shankha (Conch), while His Shaarnga, the powerful Bow, releasing arrows, you shower the streams of rain.

Vishnu’s navel is the place of a lotus, wherefrom Brahma emerged. Being God of Gods, Vishnu rains bliss all over. Goda calls for her friends to take Margali bath in sacred water rained by Vishnu.  Rain is the real source of wealth of all villages. Rain does not make any difference between the haves and havenots, higher or lower castes or status. It equitably rains on all without any discretion.

Third, fourth and fifth Paashurams symbolise the Sandhya Vandan at three times in a day. Great preacher Sri BhashyamAppalacharya says, pray Mitra (Aruna) in the morning, Varuna in the evening and the Sun at noon. ChinnaJeeyar says Goda penned Tiruppavai to awaken the good qualities among the people and inspire them to work together for betterment of the society and the country. Goda wanted the nation to be prosperous, peaceful, and people help oneanother, with the grace of God and His equal showering of kindness and knowledge. When Gopikaas prayed with all these qualities and sincerity, cloud God rained enough of sacred water as if a good boon was granted to the devotees.

Goda first compares the cloud with Krishna and then explains the characteristics of a true teacher- Acharya by comparing him with Naaraayana and the dark cloud. As the cloud takes inconsumable salt water from the sea and converts it into potable good water showering as rain, the teacher Acharya studies the complex Shastras and converts them into knowledge easily understandable. Like a cloud, Acharya too rains the knowledge equally on all like Raamanuja who climbs up to the top of Temple and discloses the divine knowledge of Tirumantra to all, without any discrimination.

What a divine thought? Naaraayana and Achaarya are compared with dark cloud that rain benevolence and knowledge on allalike. Lightning spreads light of thinking with huge sound like the thunder through Sankha, so that everyone can hear the lessons.

Gopikaas never desired material things but prayed for welfare of all. They sang and danced in praise of God. Goda approached the ultimate God, who appointed different Devathas with specific and distinct duties like Brahma to create, Shiva to destroy, Gods of eight sides (AsthaDikpalaka) to safeguard the sides. All these Gods report to Paraamatma with accountability. They are also afraid of the devotees who chant the name of Paraamaatma.

Tiruppavai 5

Meditate upon Krishna before singing Him

Tiruppavai by Godadevi from Tamil

Maayanai Mannu Vada Madurai Maindanai

Thooya Peruneer Yamunai-t-thuraivanai

Aayar Kulathinil Thondru Mani-vilakkai

Thaayai Kudal Vilakkam seyda Damodaranai

Thooyomai Vandhu Naam Thoomalar Thoovi-t-thozhudu

Vayinarpadi Manathinaal Sindhikka

Poya Pizhaiyum Pugutharuvan Nindranavum

Theeyinil Thoosagum Sheppu-el or empaavaai

English Translation from By Madabhushi Sridhar

Krishna – the mysterious boy of Mathura in north

On the serene banks of sacred Yamuna river waters

The brilliant effulgence of Yadava clan

Who surrendered to Yashoda’s abundant love bond,

We reach you with flowers of our hearts -pure with affection,

Meditate upon Krishna before singing Him

to burn the past sins, present misdeeds & future wrongs

like a spark of fire turns piled up cotton into ashes

To Him the enchanter of all,
To Him the son of Mathura in the north,
To Him who played and frolicked,
In the shores of holy Yamuna,
To Him who is the ornamental lamp,
Of the family of cow herds,
And to the Damodhara who made,
His mothers womb holy,
We came after a holy bath,
And offered pure flowers at his feet,
And sang with our mouth,
And brought the thoughts of him in our mind,
And we were sure,
That all our mistakes of the past,
And all that we will do in future,
Will vanish as ashes in fire,

First five stanzas

The first five stanzas provide an introduction to the main theme, its principle and purpose. According to Andal one should give up luxuries during this season. Sincere prayers to the God would bring abundant rain and thus prosperity. Offering Lord Krishna fresh flowers would expiate sins committed earlier and those that may be committed in future.

In the next ten stanzas she describes the importance of community participation. She invites her friends to gather flowers. She essays the ambience at her village, the chirping of birds, colorful blossoms, the musical sound of butter-churning, herds of cattle with tinkling bells, the sounding of the conch from the temple.

She visits each household and awakens all her friends to join her for a bath in a nearby pond. She also praises the incarnations of the Lord. The next five stanzas describe her visit to the temple accompanied by her friends. She desires to render Suprabhatha gently to wake up the Lord. The group appeases the temple guards, enters the temple and recites prayers extolling the parents of Lord Krishna and begging them to wake up Krishna and Balarama. Then they approach Neela Devi, the consort of the Lord, to have a darshan.

The last nine stanzas are on the glories of the Lord. On receiving his blessings Andal lists her demands; milk for the vrata, white conch, lamps, flowers, and rich costume and jewellery, plenty of ghee and butter. The concluding stanza is an envoie identifying her as the daughter of Vishnucitthar (Periyalwar) who made this garland of 30 pasurams and says those who recite with devotion will have Lord’s blessings. [“Thiruppavai – OVerview”. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009.] 

Goda reminds us in this Paashuram of this wonderful Damodara Leela, which Vyasa in Bhagavatam and Pothana in Telugu Bhagavatam explained beautifully.  If not for love, is it possible for anyone to bind with a piece of rope, Naaraayana who contains the 14 Universes in his stomach, who resides as Vaasu Deva in all beings?

Goda says we all shall meditate upon his deeds in Brindavan, sing like Gopikaas, who purified their hearts and minds with serene waters of Yamuna, and offer our hearts as flowers at His feet.

Goda tells Gopikas and us, the doubting fellows, reassuringly not to doubt, have complete faith in Naaraayana, love him, without worrying about your past, present and future misdeeds that might not allow you to break the vicious cycle of birth-death-rebirth. If you love him unconditionally, that is enough; he will burn all your sins, the heaps of sins and misdeeds go away in fire like piled up cotton is burnt just by a spark of fire. He is benevolent enough to accept your love, provided you offer your mind and heart.

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.


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