Friday, February 2, 2007
Period 9th C. AD
Place Azhwar Thirunagari (Kurugoor)
Other Names Sadagopan, Paraankusun, Sadaari, Maaran, Vakulaaa Baranan, Kurugaiyar Kone
Star (Natshatram) Vishaakam (Vishaaka)
Hamsam Vishwaksenar (Commander of Sri Vishnu's army)
Nammalwar was born in a clan "Vellalar tribe" on the 43rd day of kali yuga on Friday, under the star “Vishakha”, during the sukla pakshi, chathur dashi, in kataka lagna, in the month of vrushabha (May-June), in vasantha ruthu, in the year of Pramadhi, in Thiru kurugoor (near Thirunelveli) in the Pandaya dynasty of Tamil Nadu, to kariyar and Udayanangayar.
The child was extraordinary. For several days, it lived with eyes closed in perfect health, without food (neither breast fed milk nor any other). For days together, it never spoke. Distressed at this, the parents place the child at the shrine of Aadinathar, the deity of Kurugoor, surrendering into Him the entire burden of upbringing the child.
As the child was totally different from the general human nature, he was named Maran. He was also called “Sadagopan” as, unlike other children, he did not allow earthly ignorance to envelope him.
For sixteen long years, Maran sat motionless under the tamarind tree in Adinathar temple without food or drink, eyes closed, in padmasana ( one of the meditative posture), in utter silence. He was verily a SUN in human form with an aura encompassing the universe. He is believed to be the Avatara of Vishwak-Sena, chief of the hosts of Sriman Narayana in Vaikuntam.
During that period, an elderly Brahmin scholar named Madhurakavi was on his pilgrimage to north Indian shrines. At Ayodhya, the pilgrim saw an extraordinary sweet glowing light as a star on the southern sky. Keen on knowing the source whence it emanated he traveled southward. Even when he reached Srirangam, (near Trichy in Tamil Nadu) the light was visible in far south. He continued his quest till he reached kurugoor, where the light merged with the person in Nammalwar, seated blissfully under the tamarind tree.
Getting Nammalwar to speak:
With great difficulty, Madhura kavi succeeded in drawing out Nammalwar from his deep samadhi. He learnt from Nammalwar the secrets of all the shastras by becoming his disciple. Thenceforward, he remained at his lotus feet, recording the divine poem swelling out of the heart of Nammalwar in great ecstasy of Krishna Bhakti, sometimes rapidly and other times slowly, depending on the intensity of intuition and inspiration. At the very thought of the birth and beauty of Sri Krishna, the Alwar used to go into deep trance for months together.
Nammalwar is the seer of Dravidian Vedas. He sang four immortal poems as the Tamil version of the of the four Vedas – Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvanda.
Nammalwar stayed on earth in flesh and blood only for a brief thirty-five years. His return back to Vaikuntam through the Archaradhi gathi has also been sung by him in the penultimate portion of Thiruvaimozhi.
Madhurakavi composed "kanni-nun chiruthambu"—a short prabandha of just eleven poems, in praise of Nammalwar, which in tradition occupies a very central place. Madhurakavi spread the music of the poems of Nammalwar far and wie. During those days, it is said that everyone-be he an oarsman, or trader, a chieftain or a Brahmin, reached the transcendent state by merely singing these verses.
The "Sataari" placed on the heads of all the devotees in Vishnu temples is supposed to be Nammalwar himself. All other Alwars are his limbs as brought out in the following invocatory verse:
“Bhootam Saraschya, mahadaavya Bhattanatha
Sri Bhakti sara kulashekhara yogi vahaan
Bhakataangri-renu parakala yateendra mishran,
Srimat paraangusa munim pranatosmi Nityam."
It was Sri Rangathaswamy of Sri Rangam who fondly referred to "Sadagopan" as Nammalwar (meaning, my devotee).
After this era, a gap of more than 600 years fell in the path of Vaishnava Bhakthi while religions like Jainism, Saivism etc seemed to grow.
In the ninth century, when the Divya Prabhandam, composed by all the Alwars was lost to human memeory, through yogic contact with Nammazhwar, Sriman Nadhamunigal resuscitated all the paasurams(verses) and systematized their singing at the Vishnu Temples. The great Ramanuja fostered this practice universally. He wrote 'Sri Bhashya' keeping the Sri-Sukthis of Nammalwar in mind. Manavala maamunigal and Vedanta desikar, by their compositions and discourses, gave the pride of place - Thiruvaimozhi occupies in Sri Vaishnavam.
Nammalwar gave the Tamil version of the Vedas in the following works:—
This constitutes the essence of Rig Veda. Thiru means “Sri”. It is a poem of 100 stanzas each a quadrate. Viruttam is a style of poetry. Viruttam literally means an event. The event of 'falling in love with the Supreme being' is narrated poetically. 'Bridal Mysticism' is symbolized in a mellifluent way.
This constitutes the essence of yajurveda. It is a poem in seven sections or seven poems of unequal length. The breathless flow of the continuity of expression of the sun-lit beauty of the lord takes the reader to ethereal heights. In all, it has 71 lines.
This constitutes the essence of Atharvana Veda. It is a poem of 87 lyrical stanzas. The style is at once simple and direct, moving and inspiring and transports one to see god face to face.
THIRUVAIMOZHI (literally means Divine words)
This is the magnum opus of Nammalwar—the treasure of Vaishnavism. it consists of 1102 four lined verses or passurams. These appear in groups of eleven. One group, which is an exception has thirteen paasurams. Each group is known as a Thiruvaimozhi. Ten such groups is called a pathu (meaning ten in Tamil). Thiruvaimozhi therefore has 10 pathus that is 100 thiruvaimozhis and 1102 paasurams. The melody produces by chorus singing of these paasurams by devotees is a feast to the ears.
?VAGHULABARANA PERUMAL VASI ARINDHIDU NAAL?
The above line is recited in the verse in the ?TirunaaL PaaTTu? dedicated to celebrate the birthday of Swami Desika.
What has this to do with Nammaazhwaar?
?Vaghula? is the fragrant flower of ?Magizhampoo? (in Tamil). Nammaazhwaar used to wear a garland of this flower. He is, therefore, known as ?VaghulaabharaNan?. It is said that the fragrance of this flower permeates to every syllable of his ?Tituvoimozhi?, considered to be the essence of Vedas. Says Desika:
? varNasthomai Vaghula sumano vaasanaam Udhvahantheem /
aamnaayaanaam prakritim aparaam samhithaam drishTavantham?
1. Those who have learned the Vedas are dear to Bhagavan; to help those not eligible to learn Vedas, Nammaazhwaar had rendered the Vedas in Tamil. Hence, he is known as ?Vedam Tamizh seitha Maaran?.
2. The moment one learns to recite Tiruvoimozhi instantly becomes dear to the Lord as if that one had learned to recite the Vedas. In fact, this is considered superior to the work of Paraasara in expounding the esoteric truths to be understood by even the lay folk.
3. For those, who cannot learn to recite even this Tituvoimozhi, Nammaazhwaar, out of his infinite compassion, took the incarnation of the ?Paadukas? of the Lord.
?DraminidOpanishaan nivesa soonyaanapi dhruvam aavisathi sma Paadhukaatmaa Satakopa swameva maananeeya:?
Through his Tituvoimozhi, Nammaazhwaar has given us some valuable message. The one who not only understood thoroughly the mind (Tiru uLLam) of the Azhwaar but also applied it in his own lifestyle was none other than Swami Desika. That is why we sing ?Vaghulabarana PerumaaL Vaasi ArindhiDu NaaL?.
Let us see how?
Nammaazhwaar looked around to see if there were any Vaishnavas who could give him company in enjoying the Gunaanubhavams of the Lord. He was totally disappointed to find none to dos so; they were so madly after filthy lucre and wasted their lives in singing the praise of mere mortals to earn their morsels. He lamented:
?True. I will antagonize) if I tell you the truth: Never mind; I will nevertheless tell what I have to. At least listen to me?
?Sonnaal virodham idhu; aagilum solven, kenmin?
In other words, ? I ask you not to sing the praise of mere mortals, if only for earning your livelihood. I know that if I say this to you, you will consider me as your enemy. Even if you do not ?follow? Oh! Friends, Vaishnavas, Countrymen! Lend me your ears?. For how long can these mortals provide you sustenance? If you sing the praise of Lord Venkata, He is sure to grant you all that you need and good for you, not for now only but forever. (KoLLak kuraivilan, veNDitrellaam tharum kOdhilaan).
So, please come on! Let us praise His glory?.
What was the response? None heeded his advice.
Swami Desika is the one who took this advice seriously.
Once, VidyaaraNya who was a minister to Vijayanagar empire wrote to Swami Desika ? Swamin: I described to the Emperor your poetic skills and how easily you demolish the arguments of your adversaries by sheer logic based on appropriate authority (PramaaNas). Since then, he has always been thinking of you. I beseech you to go over here and give us the pleasure of your abilities in praise of the Emperor?
Following the advice of Nammaazhwaar, he sent a slOka in reply commencing with the words ?kshoNeekoNa? meaning- ?What is the use of praising a petty king who takes pride in ruling over a miniscule bit of the land? How long can he provide sustenance? We do not care for this. We have decided to praise only Sriman Narayana who can grant not only ?moksha? but also all else as a bonus?
He goes on to substantiate this by citing the case of ?Kuchela Muni? who offered just a fistful of beaten rice (aval) and in turn was rewarded with unimaginable wealth and was transformed into a ?Kubera?, the Lord of wealth.
Azhwaar pleaded for a ?hearing? at least, even if his listeners did not ?heed? his advice but was sorely disappointed. Swami Desika removed his anguish through this incident In fact, Swami Desika employed almost the same words and sentiments which Azhwaar used. The ?Kuchela muni? was endowed with ?kubera sampath? in proof of Azhwaar?s general statement
?koLLak kuraivilan, venditrellaam tharum vaLLal?
Swami imagines that some materialistic minded poets posing a question to Azhwaar ?
?We are praising mortal kings for earning our livelihood. What is wrong in this? Can we do hard work like tilling the land which involves manual labor for which we are not cut out? What is wrong in adopting the easier means of gaining what we want by dishing out a few words of praise on ordinary human beings who could satisfy our needs of the hour??
The Swami replies:
?There is none in this world who could guarantee you whatever you need. Not only for now but forever. The only one who could grant all and more is our Lord?
When VidyaaraNya repeated his entreaty again, Swami Desika who was a ?Vairaghya nidhi? sent again another reply of 5 slokas commencing with the words-?silam kim analam bhaveth? These were also on the lines of Azhwaar?s Srisookti.
Swami asks ??What else do you want beyond food to eat, water to drink and clothes to wear? For securing these, you don?t need to do any hard labor. All you have to do is to gather a few grains from the fields, drink the copious waters that flow in the streams and use some bits of torn clothes to cover your body. These are all available for free. Why should you waste your talents on petty kings? I, for one, would never squander my God-given gift of fragrant speech and would never ever beg for anything which, for me, is no better in value than a piece of grass?/
Thus, Swami Desika followed the advice of Azhwaar and relieved him of his anxiety and also felt himself relieved. Thus, did Swami Desika understand the import of Azhwaar?s advice, as it is, and faithfully implemented it in practice.
Now, let us enjoy the couplet ?
Thamizhin Vaasi arindhiDu naaL
ThiruvoNam enu naaLe?
(Based on article in Swami Desika?s 7th Centenary Commemoration Volume, by Siromani, Sri Bhashya Simhasanam Srimad U. Ve. Vidwan Purisai Nadadur Krishnamachariar Swami, Editor & Publisher, Nrisimhapriya.)
MAAL UGANDHA AASIRIYAR ? SWAMI NAMMAAZHWAAR ?Life and works
by Sri V. Madhavakkannan
SrImathE Gopaladesika Mahadesikaya nama:
Let us not worry or bother and attach importance to the time period of
nammAzhwAr as it has different time periods; some theories claim 3100
B.C (5000 years ago) and others claim 8 th century A.D. However, the
pAsurams composed by nammAzhwAr contain the depths and visions of
philosophy equal to vEdAs, (or even more). These pAsurams along with
those of other azhwArs were onlt compiled by nAthamuni and later
propagated by embermAnAr (Sri Ramanujar) and hence, is even
considered as the foster mother of ThiruvAimozhi (nammAzhwAr's 1102
nammAzhwAr's parents, kAri (a veLLALa agriculturist) of
Thirukkurugoor and udhayanangai, the childless couple, after praying
to the Lord AdhinAthA, (who himself had announced through the archakA
that his amsam would be born to them soon) were blessed with a male
child with a divya tEjas in the year pramadhi, vaikAsi tamil month
and visAkam nakshatram on a Friday (an incarnation of VishvaksEnA,
the Chief administrator of MahAvishNu). The parents' happiness was
short-lived only as the baby did not even cry, move or open its eyes
or mouth. Since the baby was different from others it was
named "mARan" (later called kArimARan).
It may be noted that this Divine baby AzhwAr did not eat/move; but
did grow like other healthy kids (similar to baby Thirumazhisai
AzhwAr). The grief-stricken parents, due to this unusual uncommon
child went to Lord AdhinAthA, put the "immobile" baby in an emerald
cradle under a tamarind tree besides the temple. This puLiyamaram
(tamarind tree) also is supposed to be "AdhisEshan" (the Serpent of
mahAvishNu) which grew here before the azhwAr's birth. This tree has
flowers, which tield unripened "puLiyngAi" and not a ripened one
(puLiyampazham). This tree, unlike other tamarind tree does not fold
its leaves in the nights; and it is still called uRangAp puLiyamaram
(the tree which does not sleep), like LakshmaNa. (Even today one can
witness this phenomenon ay AzhwArthirunagari. The parents observed
penance by putting the kid in the cradle at the temple daily.
One day when they relaxed by closing their eyes and fell into a short
nap, the "little azhwAr" crawled towards the tree bottom and sat down
crosslegged and closed its eyes. From then on, the divine child grew
in the same state of meditation for 16 years. Needless to say, all
sorts of people in that region from all walks of life; and from all
religions came to see this marvel. The boy was a 16 year old divya
tejas, Golden hued divine form. People affectionately named him
nammAzhwAr(our azhwAr), satakopan, paraankusar, etc. (Brothers, It is
very clear and certain that it is nothing but His grace and order to
bless us with this marvellous AzhwAr who has composed pAsurams whose
depths of meanings will vary with the readers' capabilities and
GnAna /Bhakti to the AzhwAr- A GREAT AZHWAR, REALLY)
The Elephant comes after; while the bell sound can be heard before.
Like that the Graceful Lord had sent a brahmin saint by
name "Madhurakavi" before this azhwAr's birth. This madhurakavi of
Thirukkoilur was on his pilgrimage tour (by walk, of course) to North
India and was fascinated by the Beauty of ayOdhyA. He chose to stay
there. Suddenly one night madhurakavi saw a very bright star (a new
one which was not there before; nor was it seen by others even when
madhurakavi saw it) in the southern direction.
He was pulled by the magnetism of this light (in the nights) and
started his journey back to south following the course and guided
only by THIS SOUTHERN STAR. He found himseld at Lord AhinAthA temple
and the star's brightness in nammAzhwAr's tEjas. He was simply
excited and deeply attracted by the Divine figure and Golden hue of
AzhwAr's face. Since he was a sanskrit and Tamil scholar and a great
philosopher, too he wanted to test the azhwAr, without knowing that
the azhwAr does not talk or open his eyes.
He just threw a small stone into a nearby pond and for that splash
sound, our azhwAr opened his lotus eyes. Madhurakavi asked in tamil
"Seththathin vayiRRil siRiyadhu piRandhAl yetthai thinRu engE
(meaning: If the small is born in a dead's body(or stomach), what
will it eat and where will it stay?)
nammAzhwAr, the one who has not opened his mouth since his birth (not
even for food) opened his lips and answered
"aththaith thinRu angE kidakkum" (meaning: It will eat that and stay
there). (Too abstract-Is it not?
The small one refers to the individual soul and the dead one refers
to the gross matter, the body. When the soul enters the body, the
body comes into life; and when it leaves, it becomes a corpse. The
soul experiences the pleasures and pains through the body and its
senses and reaps only what it has sown quite unaware and unconscious
of its true nature of its being part of the Almighty, as His body. So
the soul will eat that and stay there;
When the soul realises its true nature and does prapatti to Him Srman
nArAyaNan (realizing the body/mind and intellect as not attached to
its nature), it will eat His thoughts. verses and pAsurams as
his "annam" and will stay there( at His abode as His servant
rendering service to Him).
Madhurakavi was greatly impressed at AzhwAr's depth of answer and his
philosophy. He prostrated at the feet of AzhwAr and with tears in his
eyes said " O, southern sun! Please take me as your disciple: Please
make me cross the ocean of Births and deaths. Please protect me".
Seeing him at his feet, nammAzhwAr said " Stay with me and write my
pAsurams on Sriya:patih".
From then on nammAzhwAr sang with utmost Bhakti, pAsurams on Sriman
nArAyaNan and The Lord along with MahAlakshmi on His Garuda appeared
before nammAzhwAr and blessed him. Not only that, my dear brothers.
It is also told that all perumAls from various thiruthalams (Divya
Desams) appeared one by one before him and got their quota of
pAsurams. Such is the Greatness of "our AzhwAr". nammAzhwAr stayed
under that tamarind tree for 35 years. His pasurams are compared to
essence of Rig, yajur, sama adharvaN vEdAs. After living for 35 years
he wished to reach His abode (and so did the Lord, too).
Madhurakavi's eyes were welled with tears and was immensely pleased
and excited when he saw his AchAryA became one with the Lord and
united with Him. Simulataneously, he was also blessed with a swarNa
vigrahA (Golden statute) of nammazhwAr which he consecrated at the
He performed daliy ArAdhanA to his AzhwAr and even ignored the Lord
Sriman nArAyaNana since then.
Swami NammAzhwAr was always a favorite for Sri RamAnujA , Sri vEdAntha
dEsikA and all seers of visishtAdvaita, due to its essence of our
vaishNavA philosophy and the doctrine of saraNAgathi.
NammAzhwAr composed the following:
1.Thiruviruttam (100 verses as the essence of Rg vEdA)
2.ThiruvAsiriyam (7 verses as the essence of yajur vEdA)
3.Periya ThiruvandhAdhi (87 verses as the essence of atharvaNa vEdA)
4.ThiruvAimozhi (1002 verses as the essence of sAma vEdA)
The sentiments expressed in every single pAsuram of nammAzhwAr reflect
Bhakti ecstasy of nammAzhwAr and will take us to such an interest and
Bhakti for Sriya:pathih sriman nArAyaNa. It is impossible to select
best verse as all are equally excellent
parAsara bhattar's thanian on nammAzhwAr:
vAn thigazhum sOlai madhil arangar vAn pugazh mEl/
Aanra thamizh maraigal Ayiraum- EenRa/
mudhal thAi sadagOpan moymbAl vaLarttha/
Edhat thAi ErAmAnujan/
" ThiruvAimozhi' 1000 verses are the vEdAs which declare the
qualities of Sri RanganAthA. The natural mother is SatakOpan
(nammAzhwAr) and the foster mother is Sri RamAnujA, since he based
his entire kAlakshEpams on ThiruvAimozhi.
mikka iRainilaiyum meyyAm uyir nilaiyum/
thakka neRiyum thadaiYAgi -thokkiyalum/
Oozh vinaiyum vAzhvinaiyum Odhum kurugaiyOr kOn/
yAzhin isai vEdaththiyal.
"The ThiruvAimozhi(tamil Vedam) composed by kurugaiyOr kOn nammAzhwAr,
contains the five realities namely.,
1. the nature of the Eternal ParamAtma
2. the nature of the Eternal jeevAtma
3. the means for the jeevAtma to
attain the goal of ParamAtma
4. the blocks and hurdles on the way and
5. the goal of life i.e mokshA.
Let us conclude with Sri AlavandhAr's sthOthra rathna verse paying
tribute to Swami NammAzhwAr:
mathA pithA yuvathayas tanayA vibhUthi:
sarvam yadhEva niyamEna madhanvayAnAm
Adhyasya Na: Kulapather VakuLAbhirAmam
Srimath Tadhangri YugaLam praNamAmi MoordhnA
For me and all those associated with me, Swamy NammAzhwAr is always
the Mother, Father, progeny, spouses and all other wealth. At the most
beautiful pair of Thiruvadis of the emperor of our Kulam [Kula
pathi], Swamy NammAzhwAr adorned with the most fragrant divine VakulA
flower garland, adiyEn salutes those holy feet with my head.
Swamy Desikan's tribute in UpakAra Sangraham:
"anthamilA pErinbham arundha yERkkum
adiyOmai aRivudanE yenRum kaatthu
munthai vinai nirai vazhiyil ozhuhAthemmai
munnilayAm Desikar tamm munnE sErtthu
manthiramum manthiratthin vazhiyum kaatti
Vazhippadutthi vaann yERRi adimai koLLa
Tanthai yena ninRa Tanit ThirumAl thALil
talai vaitthOm SATAKOPAN ARULAALE
----Mudal AdhikAram of UpakAra Sangraham
We bow unto the matchless thiruvadigaL of ThirumAl solely due to the
Krupai of Swamy NammAzhwAr, who made us fit to enjoy the measureless
aanandham of Moksham , who protected our eternal Dharma bhUtha
Jn~Anam , who saved us from being swept away by the ancient torrent
of karmaas by placing us at the feet of sadAchAryans, who in turn
initiated us in to Thirumanthiram and Saranagati [Prapatthi] UpAyam
and then helped us climb the steps to Sri Vaikuntam for nithya
Kaimkaryam to Sriya: pathi. [Translation by Sri V Satakopan Swami,
Swami Nammaazhwaar ThiruvaDigaLE SaraNam
Nammazhwar was born to a devout
couple by name Kaariyar and Udaya Nangai with the
divine anugraham of the Lord of Thirukkurungudi, on
the forty-sixth day of Kali yugam, which is around 9th
century CE, in the year of Pramadi, month of Vaikaasi,
Pournami, Friday in the constellation of Vishakha, as
the divine incarnation (amsham) of Sriman Narayanan
and Sri Vishwaksena Azhwan, the chieftain of the
Lord?s army, at a place called Thirukkurugur situated
in the land of Pandyas, on the banks of Tamraparni
river. Even after twelve days, the baby didn?t have
milk, didn?t cry, didn?t move and did not open its
eyes. It was then taken to the temple of Polindu NinRa
Piraan at Thirukkurugur and named as Maaran.
At the temple the baby crawled towards the tamarind
tree (Puliyamaram) , which was considered as the amsham
of Adi Sheshan, and sat under the
tree in a yogic posture and started meditating which,
lasted for 16 continuous years without any food, water
or sleep. Vishwaksena Ahzwan then in ekaantham
(solitary environment) administered the sacraments of
Panchasmaskaram on Maaran and initiated him into the
manthrams and their esoteric meanings. Maran was known
as ?Shathakopan? since he resisted the ?shatha vayu?
or the binding wind that encompasses a newly born.
He also came to be known as ?Vakulabharana? when he
accepted the garland of Magizhumpoo presented to him
by Polindu Ninra Piraan. With his powerful and
profound writings he subdued many other faiths and
philosophies and came to be known as ?Parankusha? and
having born at Thirukkurugur, also came to be known as
It is said that just as the name Rama always refers to
Sri Sita Rama, similarly the name Azhwar, though
twelve in number, always refers to Shathakopa. Lord
Krishna in his Geetha says ?Vaasudevas sarvamithi
samahAthmA sudhurlaba: which means, ?One who is
totally dedicated and surrendered to Vasudeva is very
rare to be found?. May be it is because of the reason
that the Lord during his incarnation as Lord Krishna
couldn?t see Nammazhwar who, throughout his life saw
Kannan or Lord Krishna, in whatever he ate or drank
and remained with his mind contemplating on the Lord
all the time.
Nammazhwar is also said to have lamented upon his
fate, for, had he born a few days earlier in dwapara
yugam then he would have had the bhagyam of seeing
Kannan directly during his manifestation on the Earth
as Lord Krishna.
Madhurakavi Azhwar, who incarnated in dwapara yugam
before Maaran, was touring the northern lands on a
pilgrimage. During this time at Ayodhya, when he
looked towards the southern direction and paid his
respects to the Lord there, he saw a strange
brilliance flashing in the sky. He followed that
brilliance and carried himself southward and finally
reached Thirukkurugur and saw the great luminary who
laid meditating under the tamarind tree. He clapped
his hands and Azhwar awoke from his yoga nidra hearing
the sound and opened his eyes and glanced at
Madhurakavi Azhwar. Madhurakavi Azhwar immediately
addressed Maaran with a question
setthathin vayiRRil siRiyadhu piRandhaal etthait
thinRu engE kidakkum ?
that is, ?If a young one is born out of a dead one,
what will it eat (have) and where will it live?? If a
Jeevatma that is atomic in nature enters into a body
created due to the influence of a lifeless primordial
nature or prakruthi, then what will it experience and
where will it live? To this maaRan replied
atthai thinRu angE kidakkum..
that is, it shall have the same and there it shall
live?. That is, due to its association with the body,
it shall experience happiness and sorrow and shall
live there saying ?inbutREn; vaadinEn?.
After hearing this, Madhurakavi Azhwar immediately
adopted Sri Nammazhwar as his acharya and prostrated
before him and requested Maaran to impart to him the
esoteric manthras. Maaran accepted his request and
after initiating him into the high truths, appointed
him as a scribe to record all his divine works.
Such Greatest AzhwAr, by being away and separated from
the Lord, born in this earthly world, longed to have a
darshan of Emperumaan Sriya: pathi. He suffered with
terrible pangs of love and languishing with a nAyikA
bhAvam, as Paraangusa nAyaki. Due to the grace of
Divya Dampati, He was blessed with growing Para
bhakti, ParajnAnam and Parama bhakthi, and was shown
the arcchiraadhi maargam too (refer 10.9), welcomed by
After living for 35 years he wished to reach His abode
(and so did the Lord, too). Madhrakavi's eyes were
welled with tears and was immensely pleased and
excited when he saw his AchAryA became one with the
Lord and united with Him. Simultaneously, he was also
blessed with a swarNa vigrahA (Golden statute) of
nammazhwAr which he consecrated at the Tamarind tree.
He performed daily ArAdhanA to his AzhwAr and even
ignored the Lord Sriman nArAyaNana since then. (He
composed KaNNinun chiRutthaambhu? 11 verses on our
Kulapathi Swami NammAzhwAr.
NammAzhwAr is also considered as the Chief of all
AzhwArs and is also reported as the One constituted by
other AzhwArs as the parts of his form. BhUthathAzhwAr
as siras (head), Poigai and pEyAzhwAr as his eyes,
PeriyAzhwAr as his Thirumukham (face), Thirumazhisai
vandha jOthi as his neck, KulasEkara PerumAL and
ThiruppANan as His two hands,
ThirumangaiAzhwAr as his chest and Thondaradippodi as
his navel. Madhurakavi as his Thiruvadi (Lotus Feet)
and Emperumaanaar Sri RamanujAchArya as Divya pAdukAs
Swami Desikan has equated Lord Sri RanganAtha PadukA
to NammAzhwAr Sri SatakOpar in toto. Hence, all Sri
vaishNava temples, the Emperumaan’s Divya PadukA is
called “sataari” or “satakOpam”.
NammaAzhwAr is the most outstanding AzhwAr both in
terms of his extensive composition of the verses and
the contribution that he has made for the
VisishtAdvaita Srivaishnava philosophy and religion.
Hence he is held at the highest position and esteem by
our Srivaishnava acharyans and everyone else as
Prapanna jana santhAna kooTasThar. He is our Kula
pathi, the founder seer of our Srivaishnavam.
[Reproduced below is from asmadhAcharyan His Holiness
PaRavakkOttai Andavan Swami’s tamil commentary on
Yathiraja Sapthathi- Translated into English by Sri CG
Balaji swami of Bangalore]
According to Srivaishnava Guru paramparA, Lord
VishvaksEnar forms the bridge to the Celestial Acharya
and the Acharyas who appeared in human form for our
sake. Senapathi VishvaksEnar himself came down to
Alwar Thirunagari, and gave pancha samskAram and
initiated Swami SatakOpa [Nammazhwar] .
Swami Desikan in his 4th verse of YathirAja saptathi:
yasya saarasvatham srOthO vakuLAmOdhavasitham |
srutheenAm viswa mAyAlam SatArim thamupAsmahE ||
We mediate on ShaTaari, (NammAzhwAr) whose garland of
VakuLa flowers gets its fragrance exuded into the
fluent flow of poetry - a work of literature at which
the Vedas, having been tired of imparting codes of
life, even ineffectively, can safely rest and relax
now, since AzhwAr's works will suffice and do the same
job more effectively!
VishvaksEnar revealed the meanings of the three
rahasyAs and yOgam to SatakOpan and thus became the
Achaarya for the latter. SatakOpan was blessed to wear
the Mahizhampoo garland of the Lord of Thirukkuruhoor
and as a result the prabandhams that came out of his
mouth carry the never-fading fragrance of those
flowers sanctified by the Lord. The blessed
prabandhams of the AzhwAr in Tamil instruct one and
all about the deep meanings of VedAntha in an easy
-to-understand manner. As a result of this unique
service by the AzhwAr to the Sanskritic VedAs , they
take a much needed rest . The flood of the paasurams
form the AzhwAr's lips flow and uplift us and bless us
with all kinds of auspiciousness.
Thus as a paramAchaarya , SatakOpan thru his most
merciful service deserves our uninterrupted meditation
on him and his most brilliant aruLiccheyalgaL.
Nammazhwar composed Thiruviruttam, a collection of
hundred psalms as the essence of Rig Vedam,
Thiruvaashiriyam with seven psalms as the essence of
Yajur Vedam, Periya Thiruvandadi with eighty-seven
psalms as the essence of Atharvana Vedam and
Thiruvaimozhi with a thousand hundred and two psalms
as the essence of Sama Vedam. He also sang thirty-six
divya deshams. Bhattar glorifies the works of
Nammazhwar and says ?drAmideem vEda samhithAm? while
Swamy Deshikan glorifies it as ?sahithA saarvabhoumee
samhithAm dhrushta vanthAm?
One should always remain in contemplation of the great
Shathakopa for his immense contributions to the
sampradayam. When a study of Vedas is undertaken, one
might find something in them to be of asaaram (without
essence), alpa saaram (with limited essence), saaram
(with essence), sarataram (greater essence) and
saaratamam (ultimate essence). It is required that one
accepts and studies only the ultimate essence of the
Vedas (saaratamam) suitable for paramaikantins after
having rejected the others. Azhwar?s srisooktis are
like the pure cloudburst which is free from the saline
qualities of sea-water and is rich in content like
(thirattu-paal) thick condensed sweet milk and the
ultimate truths (saratamam) depicted in them are
greatly cherished like the divine nectar.
Having adorned the garlands of magizhum-poo presented
by Paraman, it is not only Azhwar?s thirumeni that has
the fragrance of magizhum-poo but also the sri-sooktis
that were worded by him. What a fragrance! Having
extolled the divine glories of the Lord,
brahma-gandham emanates out of Azhwar while his tongue
is luscious with brahma-rasam.
Many philosophers, in order to show their native ideas
to be present in works of yore, have gone against the
rule of exegesis (mimamsa-nyaya) and have greatly
mis-interpreted those works in self-contradicting
ways. Having seen the statements of Vedic scriptures
being mis-interpreted, a deeply hurt Veda maatha finds
some solace in the divine outpourings of Nammazhwar.
Azhwar most beautifully speaks about the divine
attributes and glories of Paraman who is the sole
person exalted in the Vedas. Swamy Deshikan says that
may be it is for this reason that Vedamaatha moves
around in graceful paces in the divine outpourings of
Swamy Deshikan says that he bows in front of Azhwar,
who opposed the binding wind of Shata-vayu and the
debates of those adversaries who had incomplete
knowledge. He stands as an enemy to those passing
purposeless statements. Nammazhwar, who remains in
perpetual contemplation of Paraman attains divine
communion with him. Because of this Paraman gets the
ethereal fragrance of Azhwar?s magizhum-poo while
Azhwar gets the fragrance of Paraman?s thirutthuzhaai
malai (garland of basil leaves). It is not an
exaggeration to say that, having adored Nammazhwar who
remains glorifying the Lord all the time, the same
ethereal fragrance of magizhum-poo and thirutthuzhaai
could be found near Deshikan and his sri-sooktis too.
Let us conclude with Sri AlavandhAr's sthOthra rathna
verse paying tribute to Swami NammAzhwAr:
mathA pithA yuvathayas tanayA vibhUthi:
sarvam yadhEva niyamEna madhanvayAnAm
Adhyasya Na: Kulapather VakuLAbhirAmam
Srimath Tadhangri YugaLam praNamAmi MoordhnA
For me and all those associated with me, Swamy
NammAzhwAr is always the Mother, Father, progeny,
spouses and all other wealth. At the most
beautiful pair of Thiruvadis of the emperor of our
Kulam [Kula pathi], Swamy NammAzhwAr adorned with the
most fragrant divine VakulA flower garland, adiyEn
salutes those holy feet with my head.
In line with Sage Parasara?s Sa dhisathu bhagawaan
asEsha pumsaam- and in order to fulfil the same, this
AzhwAr who is Prapanna jana santhAna kootasthar-
blessed us with the most divine and wondreful verses
with clear truth on Tattva traya, Hitha purushaarthams
in a language understood even by common masses so that
all can be immensely benefitted; and in those works
(prabandhams) , in every verse touches upon the Lord
Sriman Narayanan alone and associated with Him; even
losing his heart, mind on the unparalleled Sriman
Narayana- the Most beautiful Purushan- Purusha
utthaman and enchant the reciters? and listener?s
hearts much more times that the purANAs themselves;
and even blessed the prabandhams of other AzhwArs as
well through Sriman Nathamuni- how merciful and most
compassionate is our SrI SatakOpa muni.
maatha pithaa yuvathayas thanayaa vibhuthi:
sarvam yadhEva niyamEna mathanva-yaanaam,
aathyasya na: kulabhthEr vagu-Laabhi- raamam
sreemath thathanGgari- yugalam praNa-maami moordhnaa.
[5th verse of Sthothra rathna]
For my vamsam [lineage], the pair of feet which always
are the Mother, Father, the spouses, the children; the
wealth, the bhOgyam (pleasure); those feet of our Kula
pathi Sri NammAzhwAr, wearing magizha maalai (garland
of magizha flowers).. I prostrate to those lotus feet.
I reverently bow down my head to the Feet of the Kula
Pathi [Srivaishnava Kula pathi] SrI SaTakOpar-
NammAzhwAr- that are enchanting with the vakula flower
garland therein [offered in worship to his feet] and
which are eternally our Father, Mother, spouses, son,
wealth and everything to everyone of my Srivaishnava
community..- says Alavandhaar
Mother takes care of us sacrificing all her
pleasures.. moonRu bhuvanatthu porul muRRUm kodutthu
yEnRa vazhipaadhu iyaRRidinum en thaay oru naaL
vaLartthathaRkku iyaiayAvE... says one tamil poet ..
Even if one pays back the three worlds at the feet of
one?s mother, it does not equate to one day of her
taking care of us.. so great are they. Father takes us
in his arms, teaches us, disciplines us..in our
childhood. During youth and later, the spouse takes
care of us like the mother and father and is loving,
At old age and even after death, the children pave the
way for alleviating pains (with pithru tharpaNam..)
Sri NammAzhwAr stood in all these places as bandhus
and bhOgam as well for my lineage (meaning right from
nathamuni- janma vamsam and vidhyA vamsam). He is our
Kula pathi (Srivaishnava kula pathi) for having
initiated and blessed my grand father Sri Nathamuni
with jnAnam and also with the unparalleled his
Thiruvaymozhi and also other AzhwAr?s pasurams the
entire 4000. He performed Prapatti at the Lord?s
Sriya: Pathi Sriman Narayanan?s lotus feet
[agalagillEn iEaium enRu] and showed SrIman nAThamuni
the path of Saranagathi and instructed him for passing
to the vamsam. He [SrI NammAzhwAr] is thus the
prapanna jana santhAna kUTashthar.
Every Acharya for having taught many sishyas various
sampradaic granthas and initiated could become
Kulapathi in due course. The first and foremost among
them is our NammAzhwAr and His lotus feet are to be
worshipped. I bow down to is feet.
What is so great about his feet? VibhEsshaNan,
Gajendran, Lakshmanan et al are blessed with the SrI
prefix to their names due to their kaimkarya SrI and
they longed for Bhagavad Kaimkaryam. Our NammAzhwAr
too longed and languished for the same; Ozhivil
kaalamellAm udanaay manni vazhuvilaa adimai seyya
vENdum naam? says AzhwAr.. Going to Dhivya Desams
alone should be one?s wealth ? AzhwAr says:
eyythiLaippadhan munnam adaiminO? ; Thus he blessed us
with very many verses; The Lord Adhipiraan being
pleased with his verse, blessed NammAzhwAr with the
makizh maalai [vakuLa maalai] that He had worn for his
chest; and sishyas and devotees of NammAzhwAr seeing
this, followed suit, and offered garland of vakuLa
flowers at the feet of NammAzhwAr; Thus the feet ?
wearing magizha maalai (garland of magizha flowers)..
I prostrate to those lotus feet.
I had bowed down to SrI nAThamuni first; Now I bow
down to the feet of NammAzhwAr with maanasa, vachaka,
kaayika prostration and hence is termed as praNAmams.
For AzhwAr, the mother, father, spouse, and everything
is KaNNan; [uNNum sORu, parugum neer, thinnum veRRilai
ellAm kaNNan] and for us his feet are the same? all
sukhams are in these feet; the immersing in AzhwAr
alone is enough for us; Not even that; just immerse
yourself in His Feet; that is adequate. Because His
feet are none other than the Acharyas from SrIman
Ya yEva[AzhwAr who]- was not mentioned by Sri
Alavandhar; yadhEva ? was mentioned in the verse- that
which is- i.e. the feet alone is referred to in this
verse. His CharaNam alone is SaraNam for us; In the
temples, the Lord?s lotus feet are to be addressed as
SrI SaTAri [Sri SatakOpam- i.e. NammAzhwar]. During
the period of Alavandhar, NammAzhwAr dhivya mangala
vigraham had vakuLa maalai at his feet and were
worshipped - it is told...
Our NammAzhwAr has always been the most favourite for
Sri RamAnujA , Sri vEdAntha dEsikA, Sri PiLLai
lOkAchAryA, Periyavaacchaan PiLLai, Sri
MaNavaaLa maamunigaL and all Great seers of
visishtAdvaita, till the AchAryAs of present times.
Swamy Madhava Kannan