Tiruppavai Pasuram 1

ENGLISH TEXT

mārgazhi tingal madi niṛainda naṇṇāḷāl |
nīrāḍa pōduvīr pōdumiṇō nērizhaiyīr |
cīr malgum āyppāḍi celva cirumīrgāḷ |
kūrvēl koḍun tozhilaṇ nanda gopaṇ kumaraṇ |
ērārnda kaṇṇi yaśodai iḷañciṅgam |
kār mēṇi ceṅgaṇ kadirmadiyam pōl mugattāṇ |
nārāyaṇane namakkē parai taruvān |
pārōr pugazha paḍindelōr empāvāy || 

WORD BY WORD MEANING

Nērizhaiyīr – bejeweled maidens;

cīr malgum – prosperous;

āyppāḍi – in Gokula (Thiruayppadi);

celva cirumīrgāḷ -those blessed with youth and wealth (of relation with Krishna);

mārgazhi tingal – (vaishnavic month) of marghazhi;

madi niṛainda naṇṇāḷāl – auspicious full moon day;

pārōr – those in this world;

pugazha – celebrate/praise;

paḍindu – undertake this vow;

nīrāḍa pōduvīr – those interested to bathe in the divine experience;

pōdumiṇ – please come;

kūrvēl – one with a sharp spear;

koḍun tozhilaṇ – cruel in action (towards the small organisms that try to harm Krishna);

nanda gopaṇ kumaraṇ – son of that nandagopa;

ērārnda kaṇṇi yaśodai – love-filled beautiful eyed yesodha;

iḷañciṅgam – like a young lion;

kār – cloud-hued;

mēṇi – divine body;

ceṅgaṇ – red-eyed;

kadirmadiyam pōl mugattāṇ – face like sun and moon;

nārāyaṇane – (the universal master) narayana Himself;

namakkē – (His subordinates) for us;

empāvāy – as per our vow;

parai – drum (our goal/aspiration);

taruvān – will grant.

INTRODUCTION

The opening stanzas 1 — 5 deal with the four fundamental Śrī Vaishnava doctrines, a knowledge of which is an essential prerequisite for spiritual development. These are –

1. prāpya svarūpam — the nature of the goal of life;

2. prāpaka svarūpam — the means which can directly lead us to the goal;
3. adhikāri svarūpam — the qualifications required for an aspirant who wants to reach the goal through these means;
4. phala svarūpam — the results of such a spiritual quest:- the destruction of Karma and care for the wellbeing of others.

COMMENTARY

In this stanza a few of the Gopis invite the other Gopis from among the five hundred thousand families of Thiruayppāḍi (Gokula) to rise early and to join them so that they can all go together in a group to ask Lord Kṛṣṇa for “parai” (a drum — symbolic of puruārtha or the goals of life). Here we are introduced to the concept of satsang or pursuance of the spiritual goal in a company of like-minded seekers.

(mārgazhi tingal ) The month of Mārgazhi (mārgaśīrṣa in Sanskrit— December-January) is the most pleasing month of the year (Kṛṣṇa states in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita 10;35 that amongst the months He is Margaśirṣa), and according to astral time it corresponds to the early morning (brahmamuhurta) of the devas. The weather is cool and this is also the month in which the Sattva Guna is most predominant.

(madi niṛainda naṇṇāḷāl) — The full-moon day is considered to be most auspicious for the commencement of devotional activities. Besides, in the moonlight all the Gopis can see each other very clearly, and all of them can go together in a group to enjoy Lord Kṛṣṇa’s company. As these girls have moon-like countenances the whole area has the appearance of hundreds of full moons! The term naṇṇāāl further denotes that the days that have already passed have been unhappy ones, having been spent in vain being separated from Kṛṣṇa.

(nīrāḍa pōduvīr )— The act of bathing here also has a spiritual connotation of ‘bathing’ in the river or lake of Bhakti (Devotion) to Kṛṣṇa. Bathing in the river of Divine Love will remove the heat of suffering of this world and the dirt of material nature. It will bring peace of mind and purity.

“To bathe” in Tamil poetry is a euphemism for union. Union is often used in Classic Hindu literature as a metaphor to describe the union of the jivātman (individual Self) with the Paramātman (Supreme Self).

(nīrāḍa pōduvīr pōdumiṇō )— This expression indicates that there is no restriction whatsoever for anyone to attain the Universal Self by means of bhakti. Thus it is evident that all are equal in the eyes of the Lord and those who approach to worship Him should not go alone but always in company. Here the focus is upon a peculiar tenet of Śrī Vaishnavam; — a solitary quest for God is not likely to be as fruitful as a quest in the company of other devotees. Unlike the worldly pleasures which dwindle on being shared with others, divine bliss increases when shared with others. The company of a like-minded person whose heart yearns after the Divine, is a great asset in spiritual life. Furthermore, a devotee always desires to share enjoyment with others. In that mood, here, we find Śrī Aṇḍāḷ inviting all those who want to perform the ‘pavai nonbu’ to come to bathe and partake of the Divine Bliss along with her.

The basic requirement for this vow is only interest and anyone who has devotion needs to be respected;

(nērizhaiyīr)— This denotes that all the girls are bedecked with beautiful ornaments in order to attract Lord Kṛṣṇa. The jewels also refer metaphorically to the qualities of virtue and righteousness which are the true ornaments of the jīva. The gopis consider Kṛṣṇa as their sole refuge that adds to their beauty;

(cīr malgum āyppāḍi ) Thiruayppadi flowing with abundance — Gokula is flowing with milk, ghee, and food and other necessities, and so there is no lack of anything whatsoever, because the Lord Himself incarnated there in Nanda-gopa’s house. This is the place where Lord Kṛṣṇa’s qualities shine a thousandfold more than when He is in Paramapada as Sriman Nārāyaṇa. In Paramapada His ‘transcendence’ is the prominent quality, but here in this Gokula, sauśīlya (tender compassion) and saulabhya (accessibility) are the outstanding qualities that He displays.

(celva cirumīrgāḷ )— The Rishis of Daṇḍakāraṇya, fascinated by Rāma’s beauty, were greatly attracted to Him. In order to fulfill their desire, He ordained them to be born again as Gopis to enjoy His companionship in this the Kṛṣṇa Avatāra. The term Śrīman —’wealthy’ indicates companionship and service (Kainkaryam) to Lord Kṛṣṇa. In the Rāmāyana Vibhīṣaṇa is addressed as ‘antarika gata śrīman’, when he was lingering in the sky, though, empty-handed, seeking surrender to Sri Rāma. It is also said that Gajendra was addressed as śrīman when he was struggling in the jaws of death caught by the crocodile.  Lakshmana was celebrated as wealthy when he followed Sri Rama to exile;

Young girls who do not have ego like adults.

Thus from ‘marghazhi’ till ‘cirumirgal’ Andal has established the prApya or goal; the following lines highlight that Kṛṣṇa is the Upaya or the means;

(kūrvēl koḍun tozhilaṇ nanda gopaṇ) Nandagopa, the skilled and severe lancer: — Nanda-gopa is given these attributes to stress the fact that he was ever alert like a sentry guarding Kṛṣṇa from Kaṃsa. In actual fact Nandagopa, was by nature very peaceful and compassionate, but after the birth of Kṛṣṇa he became aggressive in order to protect Him. Some commentators take this description of a sharp spear to refer to Kṛṣṇa Himself because He is so cruel to the Gopis by stimulating their love for Him but not requiting it.  Spear is supposed to be the weapon of the cowherd clan.

(nanda gopaṇ kumaraṇ ērārnda kaṇṇi yaśodai iḷañciṅgam) — The words have a beautiful meaning; that Kṛṣṇa is a ‘archetypal Son’ always obedient to His foster-father and is even somewhat afraid of him. But to His mother Yasoda, He is a ‘lion-cub’, constantly causing trouble by His pranks and jokes.

Yasoda was able to enhance the beauty of her eyes by constantly looking on the divine Form and divine Pastime of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The expressions give the feeling that Nanda-gopa was guarding Kṛṣṇa with a spear, while Yasoda was guarding Him with her arrows (the word, arrows denoting ‘eyes’.)

Esoterically while talking about Kṛṣṇa as the means, Nandagopa is considered like a mediator, an acharya and Yasoda is similar to Thiru-manthra (Namo Narayana mantram).

(kār mēṇi ceṅgaṇ kadirmadiyam pōl mugattāṇ )— Cloud-hued and Red eyed; Similar to dark clouds very attractive to all and showers grace on everyone without any difference; The Lord is not only the means due to His divine qualities but His divine Form itself is capable of being the means;

The gopis aspire to hug the divine Body and enjoy divine love from His divine Eyes;

Kadir madiyam: has a dual meaning — just as the sun has power to nourish and to destroy, so has the Lord, but the power of destruction is used only against His enemies. For His devotees, He showers compassion and love, and like the full-moon brings joy to all beings.

(nārāyaṇane)— Narayana alone -The full import of this sacred name cannot be adequately conveyed in English. Sri Pillai Lokācārya defines the name as follows; —

The word ‘Nārāyaṇa’ is comprised of two words; — ‘Nara’ which is the totality of eternal substances, viz. — The Lord’s qualities of knowledge, bliss, purity, power, strength, tender love, condescension, etc; the Divine Form of the Lord, effulgent and youthful; divine ornaments and weapons; the Divine consorts; the eternally free selves; the umbrella and other emblems of the Lord’s sovereignty, the divine gatekeepers and other members of the retinue; the liberated selves, the great cosmic space; the primordial matter; the selves in bondage; Time, intellect and its manifestations; the various worlds and the devas; and all things, animate and inanimate. ‘Ayana’ means the refuge or substratum or ground for all these; besides, it also indicates, One who has all the above substances as His ’abode’ i.e., One who resides in all these substances. From this it is clear that all things exist in Him and He exists in all things.

(Namakkē) — Only for us – the suffix ē in Tamil is added for emphasis. By using it here Āṇḍāḷ indicates Her total conviction that the Lord Himself will produce the drum.

(parai taruvān) — This drum is one of the accessories necessary for the performance of the vow according to stanza. 26. However, what is actually indicated by this word here is not a physical drum, because in stanza 29 it is clearly stated that the ‘parai’ is symbolic of everlasting, unmotivated service to the Lotus Feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa

(pārōr pugazha paḍindu)- To sing His praise and gain the world’s— The intention of the headmen of Gokula in allowing the Gopis to go and enjoy Kṛṣṇa’s company and to celebrate the vow is to obtain rain. When the rains come everyone will shower praise on the Gopis.

(elōr empāvāy— This formula is the refrain of the lyric, it is called the Tiruppavai as each stanza ends with the words ‘Em-pāvāy ‘.

 

LITERAL MEANING

O cetanas (selves)! who are matchless in jñāna (wisdom), bhakti (devotion) and vairāgya (dispassion), who are the inhabitants of this place wherein reside great people totally absorbed in service to the Lord! Come and enjoy Bhagavat anubhāva (the union with the Lord) at this auspicious time. The Lord is the supreme ācārya of ācāryas, the Refulgent, the All-merciful. The sight of His Divine Form will remove all our distress. His eyes glow with love and power, He is like a raging conflagration to enemies and like cool moonlight to His devotees. He is Lord Nārāyaṇa, who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and repository of all good qualities. He is the only refuge and the only one able to fulfill our desire and to grant us the fruits of the vow which is being undertaken by us for the welfare of all beings.

 

LESSON FOR THE DAY

One cannot be happy when his friends and relatives or his community or his village or his country is in danger. So share and care for the well being of one and all.That is why Andal calls “neeradha pOdhuveer” i.e. inviting her friends also to join with her in this Maargazhi Vratham. Be ambitious and realize the goal properly. Determine the most appropriate way to achieve our goal. Application of the means in the appropriate time. Aspire for the well being of body, mind and soul and pray for the same to the almighty. All our activities if devoid of devotion cannot yield the required results.