Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Robber turned Aalwaar: Tirumangai

  • Aalwaar referred by Goda

Goda referred to Tirumangai, a legend Aalwaar in her 15th Pashuram of Tiruppavai. Tirumangai Aalwaar, the Tenth of 12 Aalwars was born in 399 of Kali Yuga which could be 2702 or 2706 BC and he is considered the last of the Aalwar saints.

Tirumangai is the name of capital city of small territory called Ali Nadu. He is born to Nilam in Thirukuraiyalur in Tamil Nadu in Kallar community. His other names are Kaliyan or Kalikanti.  Thirumangai’s father Nilam was a general under the Chola Empire. He was skilled in archery and worked as a military commander himself for the Chola King.  Recognizing his valour, King conferred upon him the title Parakala and rewarded a small territory called Ali Nadu to govern, for his military services. He earned the title Thirumangai Mannan or chief of Thirumangai, a name he maintained even when he became a saint.

He is considered one of the most learned Aalavar and the most superior Aalvaar in the context of composition of verses.  He holds the title Narkavi Perumal, an excellent poet, and Parakala (Beyond Time).

He composed 6 poems in Tamil, together accounting for 1361 verses of Naalayira Divya Prabandham, the most composed by any Aalvaar. The Vaishnavas consider them as the six Tamil Vedangas or Angas of the 4 poems of Nammalvar, considered as reincarnation of the Vedas.  His celebrated work is Periya Tirumoli, composed of 1084 hymns. The others are: Tirunedunthandakam (30 verses), Tirukuruthandakam (20 verses), Tiruvelukkutirukkai (a single long poem of 47 lines), Siriya Tirumadal (155 lines) and Periya Tirumadal (297 lines).

Also Read : Goda wakes up Tenth Alwar and Gopika

Tirumangai’s marriage and his transformation after marriage is very interesting. Before becoming Aalwaar, he turned from Administrator to Robber. He used to rob the rich to feed poor and build temples. Perhaps our traditional version Robin Hood of Italy.  The legend goes that Deva Kanyas descended to a water pond in Thiruvellakulam (a Narayana Divya Desha), to swim, play and relax. One of Divya Kanyas could not go with all and remained near the pond. A Vaishnavite found her and considered as boon of God for him. He named her Kumudavalli and brought her up as his own daughter.

Robbery to build temples

Thirumangai loved her and wanted to marry. But Kumudavalli imposed some conditions, such as that he should convert from Shaivaite to Vaishnavite, observe all traditional rules of Vaishnava and feed 1008 Bhagavatas every day for whole of a year without murmur.  He agreed and practiced meticulously. To feed 1008 every day is a very expensive affair. He exhausted all his money and appropriated the tax revenue of his territory. Angry King sent commander in chief to collect dues by force. But, Tirumangai, who born with the element of Sharnga (Bow) of Vishnu, rode on horse and defeated the chief with in skilful arrow fight.  When King himself stepped into battle field, Tirumangai fiercely fought. King was facing defeat. Then Tirumangai thought it was not proper on his part to fight his King, and agreed to be confined. From prison he appealed to Kanchi Varada Raja, who showed source of treasure trove in Kanchi. He found and brought the treasure to pay back dues to King.  After hearing that Kanchi Varada blessed Tirumangai with wealth, King refused to take it and requested him to spend that amount on his daily feeding to 1008 Vaishnavaites. But after exhausting this amount too, Tirumangai resorted to wayside robbery with the aid of four trusted disciples, who can break locks easily.

He noticed that Srirangam Temple needed repairs and compound walls. He resorted to robberies for constructing Praakaaras and renovation. The legend also says that Tirumangai has re-constructed the entire temple which we see today, except the gigantic Gopuram, which is built recently. During one waylaying Tirumangai found a new couple with dazzling gold ornaments walking. Tirumangai stopped them and demanded the couple to hand over all the ornaments, which they did.  But the toe rings got stuck and would not come off easily.  Tirumangai fell on the ground and tried to bite the ornaments on the Lord’s feet.  At this point of time, the Lord took this as Tirumangai’s “SARANAGATI”, and blessed him with Tirumantropadesham.  And Lord gave him the title “Kaliyan”.   Narayana mantra gave him lots of knowledge and wisdom

This was another turning point in his life. Tirumangai started writing prabandhams contributing more than 1361 Pashurams to Naalaayira Divya Prabandham and conquered many pundits in fierce debates on shastra. During one of such victories, Gnana Sambandar gifted hi the Vel, a weapon, which was in his hand. That’s why we find in some of his idols with Vel in hand.  After living for 105 years he reached abode of Bhagawan at Tirukurungudi.

The Robber turned Aalwaar: Tirumangai

Image of the granite and festival image of Thirumangai in Alwarthirunagari Temple

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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