Sunday, July 14, 2024

Lotus eyed Vishnu, holding Conch and the Discus

14. Tiruppavai

Madabhushi Sridhar

29 December 2023

Tiruppavai by Godadevi from Tamil






Nangaai! Ezhundiraai! Naanaadai! Naavudayai!


Pangaya-k-kannanai-p-paadu-el or empaavaai

English Translation from By Madabhushi Sridhar

In your backyard pond, red lotuses

Blossomed and black lilies closed,

Sages with white teeth wearing clothes,

Brick red in color, are going to temples to

Blow the sound of the conches,

In sweet words you promised to wake us up,

But breached, Shameless, O matured lady, Awake,

To worship Lotus eyed Vishnu, holding Conch and the Discus

Goda and Gopika dialogue

The previous day this Gopika promised to wake all others up, but she was still sleeping. The red lotuses in the pond of your backyard are blossoming and black Lillie’s (Nalla Kaluva) which open during the night are closing as the Sun rose. The ascetics with saffron robes and shining white teeth are on their way to the temple to blow the Conch. Oh! clever speaking girl, please wake up, let us sing the praise of the Lord who is holding the Conch and the Chakra in His hands and who has such lotus-like eyes and worship him. The conversation between Goda and Gopikas:

Goda: We are waiting outside your door, why are you not coming out?

Gopika: When did the Sun brighten?

Goda: Yes. Red Lotus in your pond have blossomed, and black lilies (Kaluva) closed as the night ended, Haven’t you seen?

Gopika: Your lotus eyes have opened with the happiness of reaching my house and your beautiful lips have closed like Kaluvas with anger due to lack of my response.

Also read: Splitting mouth of crane-Baka demon

Goda: Not only the flowers inside, the outside garden is full of blossoms. Some are closing.

Gopika: You are moving all over the garden and your bright faces are opening the lotuses and closing the kaluvas and other flowers too.

Goda: Those flowers are beyond our reach in the deep pond. The flowers are blossoming on their own; not because of us.

Gopika: They are not real flowers, but your beautiful eyes and closed lips!

Goda: Okay, you please get up and see in your backyard.

Gopika: No, I think flowers are affected by you only. You are so closely related to Krishna, hence you are capable of doing anything.

Goda: Even without the Sun rays, the flowers are blossoming naturally. Why are you not coming out?

The seven Chakras

The garden is symbolic of the body. The Naadi system facilitates flow of consciousness, which is in the spine. That is water-well. Lotus flowers are Naadi Chakras. Moolaadhaara, Swadhisthana, Manipooraka, Anaahata, Vishuddhi, Ajna and Sahasraara Chakras are symbolized by Kaluvas, petals which are closed at the sunrise. The Garden here is Asthaakshari mantra. The well is ‘namah’. Lotus is dependent on others, while Kaluva flower is not. The stones reflect the desire-ridden minds. Red is the colour of material desire. We must mix powder, which means uniting those things which are related to Bhagawan. Saffron clothing means strong desire for God, His great deeds and dependence on God. Whitened teeth indicate purity of food and word. The sages are devotees. Shameless means they do not hesitate to share their experiences of God. Calling Gopika as Paripoorna means the expertise in explaining the disciples. Conch means Omkaram. Chakra is Sudarshana that clearly shows the God. Kunchekola of sages indicates the Jnana mudra of Achaarya. Index finger is Jeeva and thumb is God. Unless the other three fingers (middle, ring and little fingers indicating Satwa, Rajas, TamoGunas) are separated, it is not possible for Jeeva to meet God. For this we must approach the Acharya who wears Sankha and Chakra Mudras on two shoulders. This is the inner meaning of 14thPaashuram.

Also read: Bharath was sure that Ram will not return

The lotus is in the middle of the body, which is minute, where Papaamatma resides in the heart of Jeevi.  To deeply meditate on God, His beautiful forms along with His great characters need to be studied. This is called “Poornopaasana”. When Goda used expression like Nangaay (Poornurala), she was referring to this Poornopasana.

Three kinds of proofs

How do we prove certain aspects? We look for proofs. There are three kinds of proofs (Praamanas)- Pratyaksha (direct), Anumaanam (indirect), and Shabda (spoken by others). If we can see, hear, touch, or smell and taste, we can understand them. Second class of evidence believes existence of a thing because of some other circumstances. For example, through smoke we can infer fire. When a credible person or elderly personality like Rishi tells us about it, it is called Shabda, another class of proof.  It is Shriti.  Veda is called Shabapradaamana. Raamanuja, Goda and Gopikaas believe all these three Praamanas. But Charvaka and non-believers insist on the first kind of Pratyakshapraamana, while Bouddhas agree on first two and reject Shabda. 

Jeeyar says, Goda is revealing the nuances of Vedas, and Vedantha, which were mentioned by Rishis, and which are beyond ordinary five senses of human body. Though we have three Praamanas explained above, it is difficult to comprehend Pratyaksha totally because our five senses may be defective. It is also difficult to derive the necessary wisdom from Anumaana. Thus, the only alternative left is Veda or Shabda or Aapta Vakya route. Raamayana and Bharatha etc taught us the Dharma ordained by the Vedas. What is vaidik or avaidik? The Gopika inside questions Goda and others about Praamana to establish what Goda is saying. Ultimately Goda asks her to wake up and adopt the third path Shabdapraamana to approach Krishna.

The conch and the discus

This song refers to Shankha and Chakra of Vishnu. Vishnu descended on the Earth in the prison of Kamsa to Devaki and Vasudeva, with four hands holding Shankha and Chakra (Conch and Disc). Gopikaas always like Sankha, because it is so close to him touching His lips and filled by His air besides always being in hands. Gopikaas want to have pleasure of touching His lips and hands.  Vishnu informs distant devotees about His presence there, and cautions the rivals that He is ready to strike. Sudarshana facilitates the clear visualization of the God. And Disc can kill the enemies even at distance and comes back to the hand of Vishnu. Krishna has broad hands, Aajaanubahu. With broad chest and long hands, he can embrace the loved ones. He showers kindness with his lotus eyes- Pundareekaaksha.

Also read: Jnana Soundarya, the beauty of wisdom attracts Krishna

SrimannaathaMunaye Namah

In this 14th song, Goda is waking up the ninth Gopika and Tiruppani Alwar. Acharya prayed to in this song is “SrimannaathaMunaye Namah”.

Nathamuni was also known as Sri Ranganathamuni, (823 CE – 951 CE) has compiled the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, and also the author of the Yogarahasya, and the Nyayatattva. His birth name was Aranganathan; however, he was known as Nathamuni or literally the Saint-lord (Nathan – lord, muni – saint)

When he was on pilgrimage to Kumbagonam Sarangapani Temple, he heard priests singing 10 particular Pasurams (hymns). They found that Aravamudhan (Sarangapani temple’s main deity) by the saint Nammalvar.

They would be impossible to retrieve unless one had the grace of Narayana. Hence, he got interested in this and had set to the pilgrimage to the Kumbakonam Sarangapani Temple, where Vishnu is worshipped under the epithet of Aravamudhan. There, he heard priests singing 10 particular pasurams (hymns) dedicated to Aravamudhan (Sarangapani temple’s main deity) by the saint Nammalvar.

But the priests stated that only 10 pasurams was known to them out of 1,292 written by Nammalvar. He placed immense faith on the deity Aravamudhan and he visited Thirukurgur, birth place of Nammalvar. He enquired about the Prabandhams written by Nammalvar to Madhurakavi’s direct descendants who lived at Thirukurgur. There, the descendants of Madhurakavi gave 10 pasurams written by Madhurakavi by the name of KanninunSiruthambu.

They also informed Nathamuni that whoever sings these 10 pasurams with dedication would meet Nammalvar himself at the shrine in the city. He kept full faith in Nammalvar and started singing the pasurams with dedication under the tamarind tree under which Nammalvar himself is believed to have sat during his lifetime. Once he completed the count 12,000 times, the deity Aravamudhan sent Vishvaksena, the commander of Vishnu’s armies, to bless Nathamuni again as Nammalvar (Nammalvar is believed to be the avatar of Vishvaksena). Thus, Nammalvar himself came in front of Nathamuni and granted him all the 4,000 pasurams of all the Alvars, instead of just 1,292 written by him. He joyously returned and expressed his gratitude to Aravamudhan and Nammalvar profusely. Nathamuni, thus, is regarded to have revived the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, hence becoming the first acharya of the Sri Vaishnava tradition. Nathamuni is considered to be an incarnation of a nityasuri in Vaikuntha, named Gajananar. His grand disciple is Ramanuja himself, who is considered as an incarnation of Adishesha.

T RajagopalaChariar, (23 June 2016). “The Vaishnavite reformers of India: Critical sketches of their lives and writings”wrote:

The story goes that Nathamuni, while at the Vishnu temple at Kattumannar Koil his native place, heard some Brahmins from the Southern end of the Peninsula recite Tamil verses of Satakopa addressed to the Vishnu God of Kumbhakonam and was charmed with their sense and diction. He also found that these verses concluded with the words “These 10 out of the thousand, composed by Satakopa”. Nathamuni thus placed in the track of research seems to have finally recovered the whole of Satakopa’s works and then rearranged them and the extant works of the other Alwars into four collections of about a thousand stanzas each.”

Nammalvar’s songs are sung to this day at Srirangam and other places of where Vishnu is worshipped. Nathamuni is said to have set them into music after his discovery of these verses. One of Nathamuni’s most illustrious disciples was Pundarikaksha, who hasn’t left any literary work behind him. It is believed that Nathamuni had a vision where he foresaw the birth of his grandson Yamunacharya and deputed Pundarikaksha to be his spiritual guru (who in turn deputed his disciple Ramamisra to guide Yamunacharya. And Yamunacharya was the Guru of Ramanuja).

(Shrine of Tiruppan Alvar in Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Temple, believed to be his birthplace).

An “Untouched” Devotee Tiruppan Alvar

Tiruppan Alvar was one of the twelve Alvars.The verses of the Alvars are compiled as the Naalayira Divya Prabandham and the 108 temples revered in the text are classified as Divya Desams. Tiruppan Alvar is considered the eleventh in the line of the twelve Alvars.

Srirangam in the 8th or 9th century CE, Paanars are a community of musicians and traditional song makers who are capable of moving their audiences to states of ecstasy and bliss. While later traditional legends treat the Tamil Tiruppan community as outcastes historically, they have never been outcastes or untouchables.

Saranga thrones stones at Tiruppan

A sage by the name Loka Saranga came to the river Kaveri for drawing water for the temple. Tiruppan was in deep devotion and was unaware of his surroundings that he missed the voice of Saranga asking him to leave way. The sage threw a small stone in his direction to wake him, but the stone hit the forehead of Tiruppan and he started to bleed. Tiruppan realised what had happened and quietly retired.

Sri Ranga injured

Unaware of the injury caused to Tiruppan, the sage returned to the temple. He was taken aback on seeing blood oozing out from the forehead of the image of Ranganatha. That very night, Vishnu appeared in the dream of Loka Saranga and commanded him to fetch Tiruppan to the temple the next morning in his shoulders. Accordingly, Loka Saranga requested Tiruppan to come to the temple. But, Tiruppan, referring to his lowly birth, declined to enter the holy place. When he was told of Vishnu’s commandment, Tiruppan was beside himself and was lost in a deep trance. Loka Saranga said that if that were his objection, he could carry him on his shoulders to the temple. When they reached the sanctum,

Tiruppan experienced the bliss of Ranganatha and composed the Amalanadhipiraan, a poem describing the beauty from the divine feet to the face of the Lord of Srirangam in ten verses, and ultimately laid his life at the feet of the deity. Thus, it also portrays how a devotee should pray at any temple starting to first look at the divine feet and be immersed in the Lord’s presence. The poem is considered to be sweeter than even the sound of music of the veena.

Also read: Vishnu descended to see three aalwaars together

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.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Stay Connected


Latest Articles