Thirumaalai – Soodhanaai


As the saying goes ” Thirumaalai (the prabandham) ariyaadhaar, Thirumaalaye (Perumalai) ariyaadhaar”, we all need to learn and understand Thirumaalai , sung by Thondaradipodi Azhwaar, to know more and more about Perumal. In the first three hymns of this Divyaprabandham, Azhwaar enjoyed the experiences, graced by Perumal on him and in the subsequent eleven hymns, Azhwaar was preaching us his experiences with Paramathma.

After Azhwaar realised that people did not follow him or his preaching, he denounced such people. They pleaded Azhwaar that Paramapadha Nathan was unapproachable, as He would not be in this world, but somewhere else. Azhwaar responded by asking them to follow Sri Rama, when he mentioned “silaiyinaal ilangai setra devane devan aavaan”. But they then stated that Sri Rama was a King and it would be difficult to approach or follow Sri Rama. To this Azhwaar, by stating ‘katrinam meitha kazhalinai panimin asked us to follow Sri Krishna, who herded the calves, and showed His simplicity. We again complained that Sri Krishna went back to Paramapadham after completing the purpose of that incarnation. Azhwaar took us along to Thiruvarangan, by mentioning ‘uybhavarku uyyum vannam Thiruvarangam kaatinaan”.

Since people did not follow his preaching, Azhwaar decided to leave us there and started to sing about the greatest helps and benefits graced by Periyaperumaal on him in the next ten hymns. We discussed the first of these hymns earlier which is the fifteenth paasuram, ‘Meiyerke Meiyanaagum‘. In that hymn, Azhwaar sang that Perumal does all the things for those who show truthful devotion to him; He also protects those who do things related to devotion which are not really truthful, but could be classified as truthful; He lets down those who are not even showing such a false devotion. Azhwaar concluded the hymn that Perumal uses His beauty to clear all the doubts and resides in Srirangam. Now let us go into the next hymn.

Thirumaalai – sixteenth hymn

soodhanaai kalvanaagi thoortharodu isaintha kaalam, maadharaar kayarkan ennum valayul pattu azhundhuvenai, podhare enru solli pundhiyil pugundhu thanpaal, aadharam peruga vaitha azhaganoor Arangamandre. (Thirumaalai 16)

Let us look at the overall meaning of this hymn. There are people who deny the existence of God and principles of morals and immorals . They also think that the soul inside them belongs to them, which in fact belong to Paramathmaa. Such people are interested only in worldly matters and Azhwaar said that he got associated with such group of people and got trapped into women, with eyes looking like fishes. Azhwaar completed the hymn, singing that Perumal stopped Azhwaar who was involved in such activities and brought him to His fold by entering Azhwaar’s heart and swelled his devotion towards Perumal. Azhwaar cherished the beauty of Perumal in Thiruvarangam and said that we do not need to go to Paramapadham to enjoy His beauty, we can enjoy His beauty here in this word, in Thiruvarangam.

Here Azhwaar talks about the benefits he got from Perumal. In the first two lines of the hymn, he states how he was before and in the subsequent two lines he states how Perumal had blessed him and the benefits he got out of it. In the previous hymn, Azhwaar said that Perumal had clarified his doubts and shown him that He is the route and He is the destination. In this hymn, Azhwaar said that Perumal had made him to show his profound love and affection towards Him.

Soodhanaai Kalvanaagi

Here Azhwaar thinks about his past life. When one is leading a material life, he/she needs money to spend on the worldly things. That could lead people to engage themselves initially in stealing and when the demand for money increases, would also get involved in fraudulent activities. Fraud is an activity that happen in front of the eyes of the loser, whereas stealing happens when the loser is not aware of the same. When someone assumes others’ property as his own, it can also be considered as theft or stealing. Some of these people would start stealing and frauds alone, and then gradually engage in a group to do similar or bigger crimes. It could also extend to other vices like getting towards women who attract through their beautiful eyes. Azhwaar stated that all these things happened to him in the first two lines of this hymn.

Since some of the jeevathmaas think that the inner soul also belong to them like the body, Azhwaar calls this as stealing, as the soul belongs to Paramathmaa. Similarly Azhwaar calls those people who refuse to accept the truths stated in all the puranams and vedas, (like Jeevathmaa is Subservient to Paramathmaa; what is liked by Perumal is ‘punniyam‘ or good act and what is not liked by Him is a sin) and convert some of the other jeevathmaas as atheists like themselves as frauds.

The punishment given for stealing varies depending on the items that are stolen and also the person from whom they are stolen. For example, if someone steals twigs from forest or from unused land, the punishment is relatively less compared to someone who steals gold or diamond. Similarly if someone steals an ordinary object from a normal citizen, the punishment will be relatively less compared to the same object stolen from a King’s palace or some ministers’ house. The object that was considered stolen in this case is the soul, a very valuable object as it is always compared with the ‘kousthuba mani’ a gem adorning the chest of Paramathmaa. And also, the owner of the object is Paramathmaa who is the supreme. Hence Azhwaar stated that he deserved to get the highest punishment for having stolen the costliest article from the supreme most person.

Here Thondaradipodi Azhwaar said to Perumal about himself being a thief and fraud. Similar points were told by Madhurakavi Azhwaar to Swami Namazhhwaar, his Aacharyaar. When Madhurakavi Azhwaar mentioned “nambinen pirar nan porul thannaiyum” (Kanni nun siru thaambu, 5), he meant that he was a thief and fraud, as he desired for others great materials. The word nanporul, meaning great material, is really representing the soul, which belongs to Paramathma. The word nambinen means desired or longed to own.

Thoortharodu isaintha kaalam

Generally people who steal and commit fraud will normally find alignment with similar people and this is what Azhwaar meant, when he mentioned “thoortharodu isaindha kaalam’, meaning moving closely with such people who are interested in the worldly pleasures. The word isaindha’ means the alignment of thoughts, liking etc. The word kaalam’ means period, a longer duration instead of ‘time’, which is shorter duration. Azhwaar uses this word ‘kaalam‘ to indicate that he was with these worldly pleasures for a long time or felt as if he was like that for such a long time. Azhwaar further states that it is as good as being with Perumal, if he had been with His devotees, whereas it was like pushing him down further, when he was with people who are involved in the worldly pleasures alone. We can recall the sixteenth hymn of Muthal Thiruvanthaathi of Poigaiazhwaar, ‘pazhudhe pala pagalum poyinavendru, anji azhudhen’, meaning that he wasted many days in the past and crying with fear for the same.

Maadharaar kayarkan ennum valayul pattu azhundhuvenai

People involved in worldly pleasures, will look only at the beautiful features of the girls, but never look at their virtues, behaviour and discipline. Azhwaar compared that the eyes of such women to the trap used to capture animals. Azhwaar by the words “valaiyul pattu‘ meant the person caught in the trap the never being able to come out. The word “valaiyul‘ indicates that there is only distress and no happiness. The word, azhundhuvenai ‘ means that the people inside the trap without even realising that they are in distress and mistaking the distress as happiness and enjoying the same.

Again let us again go back to the same Kanni nun siru thambu hymn 5, where Madhurakavi Azhwaar mentioned “nambinen madavaaraiyum mun ellaam“. As Thondaradipodi Azhwaar mentioned to Perumal in Thirumaalai, Madhurakavi Azhwaar said to Namazhwaar that in his earlier days or before meeting Namazhwaar, he wanted to be with other women.

Here let us see a few incidents in our tradition. The first one regarding Thirupaanazhwaar, we have yet to discuss. When Periyaperumaal showed His beautiful form (Thirumeni) to Thirupaanazhwaar and after seeing Periyaperumaal, Azhwaar did not want to see anything else in this world. This he mentioned in the last hymn (10) of Amalanadhipiran, “en amudhinai kanda kanngal matronrinai kaanaave” and Periyaperumal took him to moksham directly from there, according to our tradition. Thirupaanazhwaar sang about Periyaperumal’s eyes as “kariyaavaagi, pudaiparandhu, milirnthu sevvari odi, neendava periyavaaya kangal, ennai pedhamai seidhanave‘ (Amalanathipiran, 10), meaning that His large eyes black with red lines, that kept extending, made Azhwaar go crazy.

Next is about Pillai Urangavilli Dasar. Once in Srirangam, when Swami Ramanuja was coming with his disciples, Dasar holding an umbrella for his wife, came across them. Ramanuja asked Dasar why he was doing such an act. Dasar said that his wife’s eyes were beautiful and he was protecting them. Ramanuja asked him, would Dasar be interested in seeing more beautiful eyes and change his loyalty to the better eyes. Dasar agreed and Ramanuja took him to Periyaperumal and requested Perumal to show Dasar the beautiful eyes He showed to Thirupaanazhwaar. Perumal showed His beautiful eyes to Dasar and from that instant Dasar surrendered to Ramanuja and requested him to take him as a disciple.

This is one is not about Periyaperumal, but about eyes. The king of Uraiyur, on the advice of his minister Naaluraan, ordered the arrest of Ramanujar. Koorathazhwaar, the chief disciple of Ramanjua dressed like Ramanuja and went to the king’s palace.There, the king ordered the removal of the eyes and Koorthazhwaar’s eyes were taken out. Koorathazhwaar lost his eyes for Swami Ramanuja and for Srivaishnavam. After the death of the king, Ramanuja returned to Srirangam and requested Koorthazhwaar to go to Kancheepuram and pray to Kanchi Varadharaja Swami to get back his eyes and vision. Koorathazhwaar went to Kancheepuram and prayed to Varadharaja Perumal for getting his eyes back. According to our elders, Koorathazhwaar requested for his vision only to see and serve his Acharyaan and Perumal. Kanchi Varadharaja Perumal blessed Koorthazhwaan to get his vision back.

Podharey enru solli

The next two lines of the hymn highlights how Periyaperumal showed Azhwaar the way and helped Azhwaar to get releived from his sufferings. Azhwaar states that when he was under the influence of the beautiful eyes of women, Periyaperumal changed him by showing His beautiful eyes. The beauty of the eyes of Periyaperumal was explained as the most ethical eyes and not comparable with anything else. “thaayaai alikindra thann thaamarai kanna‘ Periya Thirumozhi (7.1.9) of Thirumangai Azhwaar is referred here. Here the cool red coloured lotus flower is glorified to be compared with the eyes of Perumal, as the eyes bless everyone like a mother.

Hanuman praised the beauty of the eyes of Rama to Seetha in Ramayanam. He said that Rama’s eyes were like the petals of the lotus flower and they were capable of attracting every heart. Hanuman added that Rama not only had the external beauty, but also internal good qualities like benovelence.

Pundhiyil Pugundhu

Pundhi, refers to memory or remembrance. It also denotes, the route of the memory is heart and that is where the antharyami, one of the five states of Paramathma resides in all jeevathmaas. Paramathma entered and went inside the heart of Thondaradipodi Azhwaar, which till now did not allow the Azhwaar to get closer to Perumal . Perumal stayed in the heart of Azhwaar, so that the heart would not be able to go back to the previous stage or in other words, Azhwaar would not be able to go away from Perumal. The commentator states that Perumal had made a sankalpam or vow that Azhwaar should never leave Him. The fact is that if Jeevathmaas start living for themselves, their hearts would remove the thoughts on Perumal. So Perumal wanted Azhwaar to stop living for himself and wanted him to live for Paramathma and hence He remained in the heart of Azhwaar.

Let us look one more time into Kanni nun siru thaambu, hymn 9, where Madhurkavi Azhwaar sang how Nammazhwaar by singing Thiruvaimozhi, made him understand the inner meaning of vedham, “mikka vedhiyar vedhathin utporul nirka paadi en nenjul niruthinaan”. Here Madhurakavi Azhwaar also mentioned that the inner meanings went into his heart and stayed there itself for ever, by the words “en nenjul niruthinaan”. This is much similar to ‘punthiyil pugunthu’ by Thondaradipodi Azhwaar, as quoted by our elders.

Aadharam peruga vaitha

What Perumal did after entering the heart of Thondaradipodi Azhwaar was that He diverted all the love and affection shown by Azhwaar to others towards Himself. According to the commentator, Perumal did that like the water flowing through the waste lands being diverted and flown into fertile lands. This was the meaning given for the word ‘aadharam’ that Perumal with His kindness stopped the wasted efforts of Azhwaar and diverted Azhwaar’s efforts into the most meaningful life for Azhwaar and through that for all jeevathmaas also.

The next word is ‘peruga’, was explained with the phrase, ‘adhanil periya‘ from Thiruvaaimozhi hymn (10.10.10) by Nammazhwaar where he stated that his love and affection towards Perumal was made to grow much bigger by Him, than the philosophies chit, achit. Namazhwaar continued to state the love and affection grew even bigger than the philosophy of Paramathmaa Himself, which is the reason for even experiencing chit, achit.

Finally our commentator wondered why Perumal had to increase Azhwaar’s devotion towards Himself and he could not find any reason, concluded by stating that He did it casually, like setting up a free water station which is beneficial to thirsty jeevathmas. What Perumal did was beneficial to Azhwaar and through Azhwaar, beneficial to jeevathmas also.

Azhaganoor Arangamanre

The reason for Azhwaar’s devotion growing boundless as mentioned above is, Perumal simply showing His overall beauty to Azhwaar. Here the commentator used Thiruvaaimozhi (5.3.4) where Namazhwaar mentioned “peramar kaadhal kadal puraiya vilaivitha, kaaramar meni nam kannan“, the meaning of the same is explained below.

This hymn is written by Swami Namazhwaar assuming himself to be the lady love of Perumal, which was not known to any. However one day the people in that town, as if adding fertilizer once in a while to grow plants, through some controversy started talking about and made this known to many. Like watering a plant, Azhwaar’s mother by repeatedly talking about the love between Azhwaar and Perumal made the love to grow even more. Perumal also did His part by bringing the rains through the clouds and cherished the love with Azhwaar. Azhwaar as a lady love mentioned the reason for the abundant love with Perumal, was the beauty Paramathma or Lord Sri Krishna or Kannan.

Karma, Gnana, and Bhakthi yogams are generally known as the possible routes to take the Jeevathmaas abode. To be more precise, Karma Yogam and Gnana Yogams help the jeevathmaas to move from wherever they are, towards the Bhakthi Yogam, which takes the jeevathmaas abode. Here according to Azhwaar, the beauty of the Perumal’s thirumeni, guides the jeevathmaas to move towards abode. Here Azhwaar glorifies the kindness of Perumal for making it easy for us to get abode by just having His dharsan and enjoying His beauty.

In the previous hymn, Azhwaar said “aiyapaadu aruthu thondrum azhagan“, meaning that His beauty would help to clear all our doubts. In this hymn, Azhwaar said “aadharam peruga vaitha azhagan“, meaning that His beauty was the reason for Azhwaar to increase his bhakthi towards Perumal. Azhwaar completed the hymn that Perumal resides in Thiruvarangam, just waiting for the right time to move into the heart of Azhwaar. As we have seen in the previous hymn, Paramapadham is a King’s court and after finishing the work there, the King comes to Thiruvarangam to stay comfortably. By this, the commentator clearly indicated that devotees could visit Thiruvarangam and enjoy His beauty, unlike Paramapadham, where the devotees could not reach whenever they want to have a dharsan of His beauty.

Let us meet in the next weblog, thanks

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