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The Mother: Neela Devi, Nappinna Piratti

Tiruppavai -18

Madabhushi Sridhar

2 January 2024

Tamil Pashuram

Undhumadakalitran, Odhaadha Thol Valiyan

Nandagopalan Marumagale! Nappinnai!

Gandham Kamazhum Kuzhalee! Kadai Thiravaai?

Vandhengum Kozhi Azhaithana Kaann! Maadhavi-p-

Pandalmel Palkaal Kuyilinangal Koovina Kaan

Pandhaar Virali! Un Maiththunan per paada-ch-

Chenthaamarai-k-kaiyaal Seeraar Valai Olippa

Vandhu Thiravaai Magizhundhu-el or Empaavaai

English Poem 18

His army has thousands of elephants,

Nandagopa, strong warrior who never defeated,

His niece, Neela, with fragrant hair,

Please hear the wakeup calls of the Rooster and

Amidst leaves and fruits the nightingale’s sweet tweets,

One hand on Him and a playing ball in the other,

We praise your lover Krishna, walk with anklet’s sounds,

And open doors with your lotus hand of golden bangles

In previous Pashuram, Goda and Gopikas could wake up Yashoda and Nanda Raja. They could not ask Krishna to get up. They realized that they should approach Balarama and Neela Devi, niece of Yashoda and Nanda, first before Krishna. Neela was fondlyholding Krishna with one hand and a ball withthe other. She must have played ball games with Him throughout the night. She was neither disturbed by the wake-up calls of the rooster at regular intervals, nor was she able to hear the sweet sounds of the nightingale happily sitting on the creepers amidst flowers and fruits.

Several lakhs of Earths are called ‘Andam’ as a group. When such ‘Andams’ are joined together it is called Brahmaandam. He is the hero of several crores of such ‘Brahmandams’. The entire Universe is under her protection, even at the end of the creation. 

Neela is very beautiful. Wonderful fragrance is spreading from her well-decorated hair. Her anklets are making gentle sounds as she moves on in style. When she extends her lotus hands, the golden bangles are spreading bright light. Goda is asking Neela to get up and open the doors to shower the generosity to recommend to Krishna to meet and greet them.

Neela is called Nappinna. She mediates between Jeeva and Bhagawan. Sometimes, the God might be strict disciplinarian in the interest of His children, but it is Mother Neela who helps the Bhagawan understand the merits of her progeny and bless you. She isdynamic and living the link between the Jeeva and Brahman. Unless she is pleased, it is difficult for the progeny to get His grace. It is called the attribute of Purushakaram.

Krisha Tames Seven Bulls to win Neela

Neela Devi is to Krishna what Bhu Devi (Goddess of earth) is to Varaha and Sri Devi (Sita) to Rama. Neela Devi took avatar as Nappinnai, daughter of Kumbhaka (brother of Yashoda) and Krishna won her hand after conquering seven ferocious bulls owned by her father. Nappinnai’s brother is Sudama. Sri ParasaraBhattar describes that Sri Krishna, intoxicated by her beauty, as “Neelathunga Sthanagiri thati Suptham“. She is called Nappinnai in Tiruppavai and Dravida tradition. She is equated with Shakti Swaroopini called ‘Radha’, Radharani’, or ‘Radhika” in north India.

According to a dhyana mantra of Vishnu, in his Param aspect, he is depicted seated on the serpent Shesha with Sridevi on his right and Bhudevi and Niladevi on his left. (Srinivasan, T. N. (1982). A Hand Book of South Indian Images: An Introduction to the Study of Hindu Iconography. Tirumalai-Tirupati Devasthanams. pp. 96, 115)

Niladevi appears in the Vaikhanasa Agama text.Some texts mention that Vishnu’s iccha shakti takes three forms: Sridevi, Bhudevi, and Niladevi, representing the three gunas; The Sita Upanishad mentions that these three forms as those of goddess Sita; Niladevi is associated with tamas. Niladevi, besides tamas, is associated with the sun, the moon and fire. She appears as Krishna’s Gopi in Cherusseri Namboothiri’s Krishnagatha.

According to a dhyana mantra of Vishnu, in his Param aspect, he is depicted seated on the serpent Shesha with Sridevi on his right and Bhudevi and Niladevi on his left. Niladevi may be also depicted standing behind Vishnu with his two co-wives. In a depiction in the British Museum, Vishnu as Vaikuntha-Natha (“Lord of Vaikuntha”) is seated on Shesha between Sridevi and Bhudevi, while his foot is supported by Niladevi.The Alvar Andal is sometimes considered by the Sri Vaishnava denomination as an aspect of Niladevi.

S. M. Srinivasa Chari (Author (1997). Philosophy and Theistic Mysticism of the Āl̲vārs. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 205.) states that Andal, singing Nachiyar Tirumoli as a gopika in Thiruppavai, she mentioned Nappinnai. This stands for the identification of Nappinnai as Radha. Alvar mentions the three nachiyars (consorts) as Ponmangai (Sridevi), Nilamangai (Bhudevi) and Pulamangai (Niladevi). Niladevi is mentioned to be the goddess of senses. It is Niladevi who keeps mind stable by offering him her bliss.

(Nagnajiti and the other Ashtabharya of Krishna, Mysore painting.)

Andal, the Nappinai, or Nagnajiti

Nagnajiti is one of the most beautiful 8 wives or 5th Ashtabharyas of Krishna. She is famously called Satya. The Tamil community calls her Goddess Nappinnai, which translates into beautifully tressed or the goddess with beautiful hair. Goddess Nappinnai’s reference comes from Vaishnavite texts and Bhagawatam.

Andal was a poet-saint in South India. She is famously called by several names, such as Kothai and Goda Devi. She was born in the 7th or 8th century. Vishnu Chittar, father of Andal, found her near the Tulsi plant on the premises of a temple in South India. She was the only female and one of the twelve Alvar saints of the Vaishnava tradition in Hinduism.

Nila Devi, in her Andal incarnation, has declared her true identity as the Nappinai. She wrote Tirupavai and Nachiyar Tirumoli, where she mentioned that she incarnated as Nappinai, the daughter of King Nagnajita, brother of Yashoda (mother of Lord Krishna).

Andal expressed her love and devotion for Lord Krishna. She portrayed various avatars of Lord Vishnu, such as Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Vamana, Rama, and Narasimha, in her poems. She even gave vivid details of her marriage with Ranganath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the South Indian region. And how the Lord, along with divine beings, gods, goddesses, gandharvas, and other people from the different universes, came on earth to attend the wedding of Andal and Sri Ranganath.

Story of Nagnajiti and Krishna

Bhagavata Purana narrates the story of Nagnajiti and Krishna’s marriage. King Nagnajita of Kosala was a kind and pure-hearted monarch. He was a great devotee and follower of the Vedas. Nagnajita followed and read the four Vedas: the Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda, and other great ancient scriptures written by reversed sages. He was following righteousness, or Dharma, by giving respect and devotion to elders and love to young people. Nagnajita was pure in his heart and actions, or karma.

However, when Satya grew up, he arranged a swayamvara, or self-choice marriage, for his beloved daughter. Nagnajita put some conditions in place to check if the prospective groom or candidate can fulfill them in order to win his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The rule or condition was one should must defeat the seven ferocious bulls of the emperor in battle in noose around each of them to win Satya. They tried but failed. Shri Krishna set out on his journey towards Kosala after finding out about the battle with the bulls. Shyam reached the kingdom, and King Nagnajita welcomed him with great pomp. Nagnajita wished in his heart to give his daughter’s hand to Sri Krishna and gain him as a son-in-law. Therefore, he set the challenge so tough that no king or prince could defeat the bulls except Krishna, so that he could take his daughter as his principal wife.

Krishna and the Seven Bulls fight

Nagnajita, had taken a vow to marry off his daughter, Nagnajiti. Krishna entered the arena to fight the seven bulls. He expanded himself into seven divine forms and tamed the ferocious bulls by noosing them to win the challenge. Nagnajiti put a garland as a winning trophy on Krishna and accepted him as her husband.

Nagnajita presented gifts to Krishna, and they were: 10,000 cows, 9,000 elephants, and 900,000 chariots. He even presented Krishna with 90,000,000 female and 9,000,000,000 male servants in his service. Therefore, Lord Krishna took Nagnajiti, his newlywed, into his chariot and went for Dwarka to start their married life.

According to the Vishnu Purana, Harivamsa, and Bhagavata Purana, Nagnajiti was called Satya Nagnajiti. Mahabharat also called her Satya. She was very happy after marrying Sri Krishna and gave him ten sons as his princesses of Dwarka. Nagnajiti and Krishna’s sons were: Vira, Chandra, Ashvasena, Citragu, Vegavan, Vrsha, Ama, Shanku, Vasu, and Kunti, the youngest. However, Vishnu Purana narrates that Nagnajiti had many sons, and Bhadravinda was the eldest. Bhagawatam says Nagnajiti performed Sati of Krishna by jumped in the funeral pyre.In Vishnu’s avatar as Krishna, Niladevi is either regarded as Nagnajiti, the consort of Krishna in Dvārakā.Andal wanted to offer her devotion to her patron deity Krishna just as the Braj gopis did in Dvapara Yuga. In her Tiruppavai, Andal wakes up Nappinai before waking up Krishna. As per Sri Vaishnavism, complete surrender to God is performed through his consort, and in the case of Krishna specifically, it is performed through Nappinai.

Swami Desikan in Yadavabyuudayam narrates the story of Neela and how Krishna got married to her. When Nappinnai was born, happy Kumbakan purchases seven identical male calves from the market. He wants to raise seven along with his daughter. He also makes a vow that the young man who controls these seven will get her hand in marriage! A miracle happens. Those seven calves grow into adult bulls overnight as Asuras entered their bodies. Seeing them in the barn Kumbakan was surprised. The bulls start to torment the people and Kumbakan was unable to controlthem.  Soon Nappinnai turns three years old when Yashoda visits her brother along with a five-year-old Krishna. ‘Your son is very beautiful! I can see that He will turn into a handsome youth. I wish I can promise Nappinnai to Him, but I made a foolish vow that I will give her hand in marriage only to the man who can control all the seven bulls tied in my barn,’ said Kumbakan. ‘Uncle, don’t worry,’ said Krishna, ‘I will subdue those bulls this very second!’ Kumbakan laughed at the sweet child but was terrified when Krishna went in search of the bulls. ‘Yashoda! Stop your son! I am afraid that He might get hurt!’ As Yashoda and Kumbakan rush to the barn they find that Krishna has killed all the seven bulls with one blow! ‘What a marvel!’ exclaims Kumbakan. As promised he gives Nappinnai in marriage to Krishna but as they were only children, Kumbakan allows Yashoda to take Nappinnai with her so that she could raise the two together.  The Vedassing the glory of Goddess Nila in NilaSuktam.

Ramanuja is Tiruppavai Jeeyar

Ramanuja worships Goda and meditates on Tiruppavai and NappinnaPiraatti, i.e., Neeladevi. One day after meditating upon Neela, he goes to his guru Mahapurna and knocks at the door.Guru’s daughter Attullayamma opens the door. Imagining her to be Neela, he falls unconscious in ecstasy. Highly knowledgeable saint Mahapurna could guess what happened and tells his daughter that Ramanuja must have seen Neela in her. For this devotion of density, Ramanuja is known as TiruppavaiJeeyar.

Hanuman could not find Seeta in Sri Lanka in spite of his best efforts.  Thoroughly frustrated, Hanuma for a moment goes into depression and thinks of ending the life. But, he recovers soon realizing that such a senseless act would fail the entire mission of uniting Rama and Seeta. Unless they are together Jeevas cannot gain the grace of God. Shoorpanakha desires Rama alone without Seetha, attempts to separate Rama from Seeta and suffers the consequences. Ravana desires Seeta in isolated form separate from Rama, takes away Seeta and meets the end besides witnessing complete destruction of Lanka. Though he served Rama with great devotion, only when Hanuma unites them  and serves them together, becomes a complete devotee.

Kaakasura, the crow-demon

Lakshman wants to join Rama in exile. ButRama did not accept. Then Lakshman approaches Seeta to recommend and succeeds. Kaakasura, the crow-demon, harasses Seeta when Rama was resting in the lap of Seeta. Angry Rama converts a piece of grass into a dreaded missile as Brahmastra targeting that demon. The Demon runs from piller to post, begs Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva for rescue, but failsin his attempt. Finally, he surrenders to Seetha, who recommends Rama to generously excuse him and save his life.

Kaala Nemi becomes Kamsa

According to Harivamsham, an Asura Kaalanemi has six sons. They are called Shadgarbha, Six fetuses. They were attempting to do penance for immortality. Hiranya Kashipu was the king of demons at that time.Hiranya Kashipu proclaimed himself as God and prohibited worship of all other Gods. He insisted that everyone should worship him alone. Hiranya Kashipucurses those six sons for worshipping a different God, to die in the hands of their father only.  To comply with the curse, Kaala Nemi takes his next birth as Kamsa, and six fetuses are born to Devaki, the sister of Kamsa. We know the story that Kamsa kills his sister Devaki’s six sons. But as they are born as elder brothers of God Vishnu, the later blesses them with higher altitude to their souls.

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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