srimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:
avathAra sthalam: thirumazhisai
sishyas: kaNikaNNan, dhrudavrathan
Works: nAnmugan thiruvanthAdhi, thiruchandha viruththam
Place where he attained paramapadham: thirukkudanthai
mAmunigaL glorifies AzhwAr as the one who has absolutely clear knowledge about the essence of sAsthtram – i.e, only srIman nArAyaNan is worshippable and we should not even have a tinge of association with anya dhEvathas (other demi-gods). mAmunigaL uses the phrase “thuyya mathi” meaning pure mind for AzhwAr. piLLai lOkam jIyar explains the purity of AzhwAr here means having no tinge of parathvam (supremacy) for dhEvathais other than srIman nArAyaNan and removing any such doubts from our minds as well. In many pAsurams, AzhwAr identifies how srIvaishNavas conduct themselves in relation to anya dhEvathais. For example:
- nAnmugan thiruvanthAdhi – 53 – thiruvillAth thEvaraith thERElmin thEvu (திருவில்லாத் தேவரைத் தேறேல்மின் தேவு) – dont consider the one who is not related to srImahAlakshmi as worshippable dhEvathai.
- nAnumugan thiruvanthAdhi – 68 – thiruvadi than NAmam maRaNdhum puRaNthozhA mANdhar (திருவடி தன் நாமம் மறந்தும் புறந்தொழா மாந்தர்) – even if they forget srIman nArAyaNan who is sarva swAmy, srIvaishNavas will not worship other dhEvathais.
In their introduction for their vyAkyAnams for nAnumgan thiruvanthAdhi, both periyavAchAn piLLai and nampiLLai beautifully explains thirumazhisai AzhwAr’s act of clearing the doubts in the minds of everyone on emperumAn’s supremacy and other dhEvathAs limitations.
periyavAchAn piLLai‘s explanation:
mudhalAzhwArs establish that emperumAn is the only person to be perceived and enjoyed. thirumazhisai AzhwAr removes the weeds in that process. He explains to the samsAris who perceive other dhEvathAs as Ishvara (controller) that these other dhEvathAs are also kshEthragya (jIvAthma – knower of the body) and they are also controlled. He explains that srIman nArAyaNan is the only controller of the entire universe.
mudhalAzhwArs understood sarvEshvaran through the worldly vision, vision of sAsthram, through their bhakthi and ofcourse through emperumAn’s nirhEthuka krupai. thirumazhisai AzhwAr also understood and enjoyed emperumAn in the same way. But looking around in the world, he feels sad that most people have not understood that srIman nArAyaNan is the controller and everything else is controlled as explained in the sAsthram, out of his utmost mercy reveals the secrets of vEdham. He says “Since brahmA (the first progenitor) himself is a jIvAthmA and is appointed by srIman nArAyaNan during srushti and since srIman nArAyaNan is the antharyAmi for all sentient and non-sentient entities, as clearly explained in vEdham, srIman nArAyaNan is the supreme person. Hold on to this principle clearly without losing it”.
Beyond these, in the thanian for thiruchandha viruththam, it is beautifully explained that once when great sages wanted to do thapas in a nice secluded place, they compared the entire universe with thirumazhisai (which is the avathAra sthalam of AzhwAr), thirumazhisai was determined by them as greater. Such is the greatness of AzhwAr/AchAryas avathAra sthalams that they should be glorified even more than dhivyadhEsams since AzhwAr/AchAryas showed us who emperumAn is and without them we would not have acquired great these anubhavams on emperumAn.
With this in mind, let us enjoy the charithram of AzhwAr now.
AzhwAr is like krishNan – kaNNan emperumAn was born to vasudhEvar/dhEvaki and then raised by nandhagOpar/yasOdhai. Similarly, AzhwAr was born to bhArgava rishi/kanakAngi and was raised by thiruvALan/pangayachelvi (a wood cutter and his wife). He is also known as srI bhakthisArar, mahIsApirAdhIsar, bhArgavAthmajar, thirumazhisaiyAr and most importantly thirumazhisai pirAn. pirAn means one who has done a big favour and AzhwAr has done the biggest favour of establishing nArAyaNa parathvam.
Once the maharishis such as athri, bhrugu, vasishta, bhArgava, AngIrasa, etc., went to brahmA (chathur mukan) and asked him “We want to live in the best place in bhUlOkam. Please establish factually the best place”. brahmA, with the help of viswakarmA, measured the whole universe in one side and thirumazhisai in another side and thirumazhisai wins the competition. It is also known as mahIsAra kshEthram. So, the maharishis go and live there for some time.
At that time, When bhArgava maharishi was performing a yagyam named dhIrga sathra yAgam on srIman nArAyaNan, his wife becomes pregnant and after 12 months, she gives birth to a piNdam (lump of flesh – early stage embryo) who is thirumazhisai AzhwAr. He appears as sudharsana amsam (looking at the glories of AzhwArs, some AchAryas have said that they are amsam of nithyasUris, but our pUrvAchAryas have firmly explained that AzhwArs were in samsAram time immemorial and blessed suddenly by emperumAn). bhArghava maharishi and his wife did not want to support that child which had no form yet and just left that under a bush. bhUdhEvi nAchiyAr, by the divine will of srIdhEvi nAchiyAr, took that piNdam and protects that and by her touch that piNdam becomes a beautiful child. Immediately, he starts crying out of hunger, and jagannAthan emperumAn (of thirumazhisai) appears in front of AzhwAr, shows him the divine form of thirukkudanthai ArAvamuthan, blessed him with full knowledge and soon enough, once emperumAn disapppeared from his vision, he started crying out of separation.
At that time a wood cutter named thiruvALan who was passing by, notices the young and crying baby, and with great joy, picks him up and brings him to his wife. Since she did not have a child, she happily accepts that child and starts raising him. Out of motherly affection, she attempts to breast-feed AzwAr, but AzhwAr being fully engaged in bhagavath kalyANaguNa anubhavam does not show in eating, speaking, crying, etc., but still by the grace of bhagavAn continues to grow beautifully.
Hearing about this astonishing news, an old man who is born in chathurtha varNam, along with his wife, one day, prepares nice warm milk, visits him early in the morning, looks at the child’s magnificent thEjas, offers him the milk and requests him to kindly accept the same. Azhwar being greatly pleased with their devotion, accepts the milk, drinks some and gives them back some of the sEsham (remnants) of the milk. He tells them to consume that milk prasAdham and blesses them that they will have a sathputhan (good son) soon. At once, by the grace of AzhwAr, they regain their youth, and the woman becomes pregnant soon. After 10 months, she begets a child like srI vidhurar (who was extremely attached to kaNNan emperumAn). They name him kaNikaNNan and teach him everything about emperumAn.
AzhwAr, after becoming 7 years old, since he is the son of bhArghava rishi and also blessed by emperumAn during his birth, wants to perform astAnga yOgam. To do that he first wants to understand the parabhrammam properly and he searches through all different mathams (so he can firmly establish that they are defective) such as bhAhya mathams (sAkhya, ulUkya, akshapAdhat, kshapaNa, kapila, pathanjali) and kudhrushti mathams (saiva, mAyAvAdha, nyAya, vaisEshika, bhAtta, prabAkara, etc) and clearly analyses/establishes that all of these mathams dont lead to the ultimate truth. Finally, he becomes firmly situated in the srivaishNava sidhAntham which is the sanAthana dharmam.Thus 700 years pass by.
sarvEsvaran then blesses him with divine blemishless knowledge, and shows him
- his divine svarUpam,
- his most auspicious qualities,
- his divine forms (which showcases the svarUpam and qualities),
- the beautiful ornaments on those divine forms,
- his divine weapons which are also viewed like ornaments by anukUlars,
- his mahishIs (srIdhEvi, bhUdhEvi, neeLA dhEvi, etc) and nithyasUris who constantly enjoy emperumAn with all of the above (svarUpam, qualities, forms, ornaments, weapons, etc),
- parampadham – their eternally beautiful residing place and finally
- samsAram – which contains prakruthi, purusha, kAla thathvams and where there is continuous process of srushti, sthithi, samhAram is done by emperumAn both directly himself as well as indirectly through other dhEvathAs.
emperumAn with such great qualities, shows AzhwAr how he creates brahmA (his first son) from his nAbhi kamalam (lotus flower in his naval) according to svEthasvathAra upanishadh “yO brahmANam vidhAdhAthi pUrvam” meaning parabrahmam is one who creates brahmA and as per chAndhOgya brAmaNam “brahmaNa: puthrAya jyEstAya srEshtAya” – rudhran, who is the first and best son of brahmA. AzhwAr seeing this immediately declares the same meanings in his nAnumgan thiruvanthAdhi as “NAnmuganai NArAyanNan padaiththAn NAnmuganum thAn mugamAych chanGkaranaith thAn padaiththAn” (நான்முகனை நாராயணன் படைத்தான் நான்முகனும் தான் முகமாய்ச் சங்கரனைத் தான் படைத்தான்) meaning nArAyaNan created brahmA and brahmA inturn created rudhran, and clearly removes any doubts in the minds of samsAris about the supremacy of emperumAn. AzhwAr himself declares that he learnt various mathams and finally by the mercy of emperumAn he attained the lotus feet of emperumAn. After that, he was constantly meditating on the most auspicious qualities of sriya:pathi (husband of srI mahAlakshmi) on the banks of kairvaiNi pushkariNi in thiruvallikkENi (brindhAraNya kshEthram).
One day, rudhran along with his wife, was passing by on his rushabam on the sky. When their shadow was about to touch AzhwAr, AzhwAr moves away. Noticing this pArvathi tells rudhran that they should go and meet him. rudhran replies that he is a great soul and devotee of emperumAn and he will simply ignore them. She insists that she wants to go down and meet him and rudhran obliges. AzhwAr does not even bother to look at him. rudhran then asks AzhwAr “How can you ignore us, when we are right next to you?”. AzhwAr replies “I have nothing to do with you”. rudhran says “We want to give you some benediction”. AzhwAr says “I dont want anything from you”. rudhran say “My visit will be wasted, you ask for whatever you desire”. AzhwAr with a smile says “Can you give me mOksham?”. rudhran says “I have not authority to give that. Only srIman nArAyaNan can give that”. AzhwAr then asks “Can you postpone the death of some one?” and rudhran replies “That is based on the individual’s karmA. I have no control over that”. AzhwAr then shows his needle and thread and asks rudhran sarcastically “Can you send this thread into the needle?”. rudhran becomes very angry and declares that he will burn him down like he burnt kAma dhEvan. He opens his 3rd eye and fire starts flowing from there. AzhwAr also opens his 3rd eye from his right toe in retaliation and great fire flows from there too. rudhran unable to bear the heat of that fire from AzhwAr’s thiruvadi, at once surrenders to srIman nArAyaNan, and all the dhEvas, rishis, etc also approach emperumAn and request him to stop the chaos. emperumAn, immediately orders the praLaya clouds to bring a great rain and when they ask if they have the power to subside AzhwAr’s fire, emperumAn says he will give them the power. A great flood gets formed after subsiding the fire, and AzhwAr being fixed on emperumAn continues his meditation without any disturbance. rudhran being amazed at AzhwAr’s nishtai gives him the title “bhakthisArar”, glorifies him and explains to his wife that “dhurvAsar was punished for his apachAram to ambarIshan. So, bhAgavathas cannot be defeated” and leaves to his place.
AzhwAr continues his meditation, and one kEcharan (an aerial being) was travelling in the sky on his tiger and on seeing AzhwAr, he is unable to cross him due to AzhwAr’s yOgic powers. He comes down and offers his praNAmams to AzhwAr. Magically, he creates a divine shawl and says to AzhwAr “Please give up your torn shawl and please accept this beautiful one”. AzhwAr easily creates a more beautiful shawl with gems and stones and he becomes embarassed. He then removes his hAram (necklace) and submits that to AzhwAr and AzhwAr removes his thuLasi mAlai and shows him like diamond necklace. kEcharan understands the yOga shakthi of AzhwAr, glorifies him, offers him praNAmams and takes leave from him.
Hearing about AzhwAr’s glories, a magician named konkaNasidhan arrives to meet AzhwAr, offers his praNAmams and submits him an alchemy stone (that which will transform stone/metal to gold), AzhwAr disregards that. He then collects some dirt from his beautiful body (ear portion) and gives that to the magician and tells him that the piece of dirt will transform stone to gold. He tests that out and it works – he becomes very happy, offers his praNAmams to AzhwAr and leaves.
AzhwAr continues his meditation in a cave for some time. mudhalAzhwArs (poigai AzhwAr, bhUdhathAzhwAr, pEyAzhwAr) who are who are constantly travelling and glorifying emperumAn, oberves the divine thEjas from the cave where AzhwAr lives and comes to the cave. Immediately realizing thirumazhisai AzhwAr’s glories, they enquire about his well being. AzhwAr also understanding mudhalAzhwArs glories, enquire about them. They continue to share their bhagavath anubhavam together for some time. They all leave from there and reach thirumayilai (mylapore) which is the avathAra sthalam of pEyAzhwAr and stays on the banks of kairava thIrtham for some time. Subsequently, mudhalAzhwArs continue on their divine journey and AzhwAr returns to thirumazhisai, his avathAra sthalam.
He searches for thirumaNkAppu but does not find that. He feels sad and thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn appears to AzhwAr in his svapnam and shows him the place where he can find thirumaN. He happily retrieves the same and applies dhvAdhasa Urdhva puNdram (12 thirumaNs on various parts of the body as instructed in sAsthram) and continues his bhagavath anubhavam. Desiring to go to poigai AzhwAr’s avathAra sthalam, he arrives at kAnchipuram-thiruvekkA which is glories as the best among puNya kshEthrams. He continues to stay there for 700 years worshipping the emperumAn who is lying down beautifully on AdhisEshan and being served by srIdhEvi and bhUdhEvi. He stays on the banks of the pond where poigai AzhwAr appeared and spent him time meditating on poigai AzhwAr.
yathOkthakAri with nAchiyArs, thiruvekkA
At that time, kaNikaNNan arrives to him and takes shelter of his lotus feet. An old woman comes and serves AzhwAr everyday with great devotion. AzhwAr, being pleased with her devotion and service, asks her if she has any desires to be fulfilled. She says, she wants to regain her youth again and AzhwAr blesses her with the same and she thus becomes a beautiful young girl. The local king, pallavarAyan, becomes very much attracted with her and requests her to marry him. She agrees and they both marry and enjoy the married life together. One day, pallavarAyan, noticing that he ages by day while his wife (blessed by AzhwAr) stays young, asks her how she got her divine youth. She explains AzhwAr’s blessing and instructs the king to humbly request kaNikaNNan (who visits the king for materials for his kainkaryam) to recommend to AzhwAr to bless him also with the same divine youth. The king summons kaNikaNNan and requests him to bring AzhwAr over to the palace for him to worship. kaNikaNNan replies that AzhwAr does not go anywhere other than emperumAn’s temple. The king requests kaNikaNNan to glorify him and kaNikaNNan says he will not glorify anyone other than srIman nArAyaNan and his devotees as per sistAchAram (by elder’s principles and acts). The king becomes angry and asks kaNikaNNan to leave his kingdom since he refused to glorify him. kaNikaNNan at once leaves the palace, reaches AzhwAr, explains him the incidents and takes leave from him. AzhwAr says “If you are leaving, I am going to leave as well. If I am leaving, emperumAn will also leave. When emperumAn leaves, all dhEvathAs will also leave from here”. He then says “I will go to the temple and wake emperumAn up and bring him with me” and goes to the temple. AzhwAr then sings in front of thiruvekkA emperumAn:
kAmarupUnGkachchi manNivanNnNA NI kidakka vEnNdA
thunNivudaiya cheNNAppulavanum pOginREn
NIyum unRan paiNNAgappAy churuttikkoL
காமருபூங்கச்சி மணிவண்ணா நீ கிடக்க வேண்டா
துணிவுடைய செந்நாப்புலவனும் போகின்றேன்
நீயும் உன்றன் பைந்நாகப்பாய் சுருட்டிக்கொள்
Oh! one with the beautiful form staying in thiruvekkA! kaNikaNNan is going, I am (the firmly situated poet) also going, you wind up your AdhisEshan and leave with us”.
emperumAn accepts AzhwAr’s words and at once follows him and kaNikaNNan. Thus he got the name yathOktha kAri (kAri – one who performed, yathA – as, utktha – instructed). All the dhEvathas also follow emperumAn and thus kAnchIpuram becomes lifeless due to the absence of all auspiciousness. Due to that, the sun does not rise also, the king and his ministers understanding the problem, run behind the travelling party and falls at the lotus feet of kaNikaNNan and asks for pardon. kaNikaNNan then requests AzhwAr to return and AzhwAr prays to emperumAn to return to yathA sthAnam as per:
kAmarupUnGkachchi manNivanNnNA NI kidakka vEnNdum
thunNivudaiya cheNNAppulavanum pOkkozhiNthEn
NIyum unRan paiNNAgappAy paduththukkoL
காமருபூங்கச்சி மணிவண்ணா நீ கிடக்க வேண்டும்
துணிவுடைய செந்நாப்புலவனும் போக்கொழிந்தேன்
நீயும் உன்றன் பைந்நாகப்பாய் படுத்துக்கொள்
Oh! one with the beautiful form staying in thiruvekkA! kaNikaNNan is returning, I am (the firmly situated poet) also returning, you open up your AdhisEshan and lie down as before”.
Such was emperumAn’s saulabhyam-NIrmai (நீர்மை – simplicity) and this is why AzhwAr was immersed on this quality of emperumAn and sung veHkanNaikkidaNthathenna NIrmaiyE (வெஃகணைக்கிடந்ததென்ன நீர்மையே) – how merciful emperumAn is by lying down in thiruvekkA per my request.
Subsequently, AzhwAr with great desire starts his travel to thirukkudanthai (kumbakONam) to perform mangaLAsAsanam to ArAvamudhAzhwAr (emperumAn). It is said in the thirukkudanthai mAhAthmyam that “one who stays in kumbakONam for even a moment will be guaranteed a place in srIvaikuntam, what to speak about wealth in this world” – such is the greatness of this dhivyadhEsam. On his way, in a village named perumpuliyUr, he is resting on the veranda of a house. There were a few brAhmaNas who were doing vEdha adhyayanam at that time and looking at AzhwAr, they misunderstand him from his ragged looks and stops their recital. AzhwAr, out of great humility, understanding that, starts leaving the place. The brAhmaNas, wanting to resume their recital, but unable to do that since they forgot where they left. AzhwAr, immediately takes a grain of black rice and splits it using his nail and indicates the exact verse which is “krishNAnAm vrIhiNAm nakanirbbinnam” from yajur kANdam. The brAhmaNas immediately realise his greatness and offer their praNAmams and beg for forgiveness for their mis-conduct.
When AzhwAr was looking for materials for his thiruvArAdhanam, the emperumAn in the village temple was constantly turning towards his direction. The archakas show this amazing incident to some brAhamaNas and in turn they go to perumpuliyUr adigaL who is performing a yagyam in that village and informs him about the incident and greatness of AzhwAr. perumpuliyUr adigaL, at once leaves the yAgasAlai (yagya bhUmi) and reaches out to AzhwAr and looking at his aprAkrutha (divine spiritual) thirumEni (body), offers his praNAmams and requests AzhwAr to visit his yAgasAlai. On his visit, adigaL performs the agra pUjai (foremost respects) to AzhwAr in his yagyam. Some of the priests object to that like sisupAlan and his friends objected to dharmaputhran giving agra pUjai to krishNan during their rAjasUja yAgam. adigaL feels sad and informs AzhwAr that he cannot bear their words. AzhwAr decides to reveal his great position sings a pAsuram towards the antharyAmi emperumAn requesting him to reveal his presence within AzhwAr’s heart to everyone. emperumAn, obliging at once, reveals his presence with his dhivya mahishIs, AdhisEshan, garudAzhwAr, etc., in AzhwAr’s heart. All the priests who opposed AzhwAr realise his greatness and falls flat at his feet and beg for his forgiveness. They then performed brahma ratham (carrying AzhwAr in a palanquin) and became the target of AzhwAr’s mercy. AzhwAr then explained them the essence of sAsthram in great detail. Then, he left to thirukkudanthai to meet ArAvamuthan emperumAn.
After reaching thirukkudanthai, he then throws all his granthams (palm leaves) in to the river cauvery. By emperumAn’s thiruvuLLam, nAnmugan thiruvanthAdhi and thiruchchantha viruththam float against the tides and return to AzhwAr. He picks them up and goes to ArAvamuthan sannidhi and worships the most beautiful emperumAn from his thiruvadi (foot) to thirumudi (head). With great love, he instructs emperumAn “kAvirikkaraik kudaNthaiyuL kidaNthavARezhuNthiruNthu pEchu” (காவிரிக்கரைக் குடந்தையுள் கிடந்தவாறெழுந்திருந்து பேசு) meaning “Oh the one who is lying down in thirukkudanthai which is on the banks of cauvery! stand up and speak to me”. Hearing AzhwAr’s words, emperumAn literally tries to stand and AzhwAr becoming overwhelmed by emperumAn’s act performs mangaLAsAsanam to emperumAn in “vAzhi kEchanE” (வாழி கேசனே) meaning “Oh the one with beautiful hair! Long live”. Meditating on this divine form, AzhwAr spent another 2300 years in thirukkudanthai without accepting any food other than milk. Thus he spent 4700 years in this bhUlOkam and gave the most important essence of sAsthram through his prabhandhams for the upliftment of everyone in this samsAram out of his divine grace.
He became to be known as thirumazhisai pirAn (since pirAn means one who does great favours and this word is usually indicated to glorify emperumAn) – since he did the greatest favour in clarifying the supremacy of emperumAn – AzhwAr became to be known as pirAn. In turn, thirukkudanthai ArAvamudhan emperumAn became to be known as AzhwAr (since AzhwAr means one who gets immersed in the name, form, qualities of emperumAn and this word is usually for the great devotees of emperumAn) – since he got immersed in the name, form, qualities, etc., of thirumazhisai AzhwAr, ArAvamudhan emperumAn became to be known as ArAvamuthAzhwAr.
Let us pray for AzhwAr’s divine mercy, so we can also develop the same attachment towards emperumAn and his adiyArs.
sakthi panchamaya vigrahAthmanE sUkthikArajatha chiththa hAriNE
mukthidhAyaka murAri pAdhayOr bhakthisAra munayE namO nama:
சக்தி பஞ்சமய விக்ரஹாத்மநே சூக்திகாரஜத சித்த ஹாரிணே
முக்திதாயக முராரி பாதயோர் பக்திஸார முநயே நமோ நம:
His archAvathAra anubhavam is already discussed in here – http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/2012/10/archavathara-anubhavam-thirumazhisai-azhwar.html.
adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan
Sources: vyAkyAnams, 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhAvam, periya thirumudi adaivu