Tiruppavai Pasuram 26

ENGLISH TEXT

mālē! maṇivaṇṇā! mārgazhi nīr āḍuvān |
 melaiyār ceyvaṅgaḷ vēṇḍuvana kēṭṭiyēl |
ñālattaiy ellām naḍunga muralvana |
 pāl anna vaṇṇattun pāñcajanniyamē |
pōlvana śaṅgaṅgaḷ pōy pāḍu uḍaiyanavē |
 cāla perum paṛaiyē | pallāṇḍiśaippārē |
kōla viḷakkē, koḍiyē vitānamē |
 ālin ilaiyāy! aruḷ ēlōr empāvāy |

WORD BY WORD MEANING

mālē! – Love incarnate!

maṇivaṇṇā! – Sapphire-hued One;

ālin ilaiyāy! – (during the cosmic destruction) One who relaxed on top of a banyan leaf;

mārgazhi nīr āḍuvān – to observe the marghazhi holy bath;

 melaiyār– our ancestors;

ceyvaṅgaḷ – practices/tradition;

vēṇḍuvana – the requirements;

kēṭṭiyēl – please listen;

ñālattaiy ellām – the whole universe;

naḍunga – tremble;

pāl anna vaṇṇattun pāñcajanniyamē  pōlvana śaṅgaṅgaḷ – Conches like Your Panchajanya, milk white in colour;

pōy pāḍu uḍaiyanavē  cāla perum paṛaiyē – great big drums;

pallāṇḍiśaippārē – choristers to sing benediction/praise;

kōla viḷakkē – decorative lamps;

koḍiyē – flags;

vitānamē – canopies;

aruḷ – kindly grant us;

INTRODUCTION

 ‘You have been insisting on getting the ‘parai’ and also say that your actual intent is union with Myself; What do you want Me to grant and in what manner?’ enquired Kṛṣṇa; Andal clarifies, ‘The cowherd elders ordered us to undergo a vow to get blessed with rains; our hidden purpose was to enjoy Your darshan. We have decided to undergo this vow for the benefit of the elders who have given us this rare opportunity and at the same time enjoy Your divine Self; This vow as per ancient tradition is called as ‘marghazhi nombu’ and the requirements for the same are divine conches, big drums, choristers (to sing pallandu), lamps, flags and canopies (to protect from dew); Please grant us the same.’ pleads Andal in this verse. 

COMMENTARY

(mālē!) Earlier Andal assumed that they had great love towards Kṛṣṇa but only on seeing Him did they realize that He is actually love incarnated (i.e. He loves His devotees much more).  How did you hide your love for so long? Wonders Andal;

 Though Andal and others were deeply in love still they had the strength at least take steps to undergo the vratha but Kṛṣṇa was so immersed that He was even unable to get up;

 Earlier we thought Your greatness was in Your transcendence (paratvam) but only now do we realize that it lies in Your overwhelming compassion and love towards Your devotees; Even Sita Devi in SriRamayana established that the prime quality of the Lord to be ‘saranagathavatsala:’ (motherly affection towards His devotees/those who surrender to Him); Same has been told by Kṛṣṇa Himself while talking about pandavas and in general about jnanis;

 Till devotees see Him they may think their devotion to be exalted but once they have a glimpse of His divine form then they realize how His love for them is thousands of times greater than theirs;  Whatever Love we possess is just a drop in the ocean of what He possesses;

 How did you recognize my love?

 (maṇivaṇṇā!) Oh! Sapphire hued One, Your love is reflected in Your divine Form; the colour of the Lord is described as being as blue as the sapphire. The sky and the ocean are seen to be blue in colour when in actual fact they are both colorless. The reason for the colour is due to their immeasurable depths. So it is with the Lord because of His immeasurable, unfathomable and inscrutable nature, He is described as being blue.

 Śrī Vedānta Deśikan (another Srivaishnava preceptor) enumerates the characteristics of a ‘gem’ in one of his stotras as follows; (1) it dispels fear; (2) it brings glory to the possessor; (3) it is indestructible; (4) it is pleasing, (5) it is bright; (6) it is valuable (7) it brings prosperity (8) it is highly regarded; (9) it is to be protected carefully; (10) it is easily transportable.

 All these ten characteristics are to be found in the Lord.

 Even if You do not possess love and be harsh on us, still Your beauty mesmerizes us; Even the divine Mother is attracted by Your divine Form;

 Even if You are a precious gem still Your divine quality of easy accessibility (sowlabhya) makes devotees carry You in their saree folds;

 ‘Leave alone my beauty. You beautiful charming ladies tell me the purpose of your visit’ enquired Kṛṣṇa

 (mārgazhi nīr āḍuvān) In the very first verse we have vowed to undertake the holy marghazhi bath.  On reaching the Lord, they have nothing much to do but for the sake of the elders the gopis want to keep up their words; this expression implies that, because they have now attained the Lord, they should not abandon their duties.

 Wanting to test the gopis Kṛṣṇa retorted, “What is the pramana (testimony) for this vow? Has it been attested by the sastras?”

 (melaiyār ceyvaṅgaḷ) This is the practice of our ancestors. From this it is evident that Marghazhi Bath is one of the observances from olden times and it belongs to the category of‘Sishācharam (i.e, observances of great men) they are considered to be more sacred than even those truths mentioned in the Vedas.

 If we follow the Vedas alone then there is always a doubt of getting the appropriate results but while following the practices of elders (scholars well versed inVedas/devotees), there is  more confidence as we have proofs of people getting the results;

 (vēṇḍuvana kēṭṭiyēl) As per ancient tradition we will now list out the requirements for us to undertake the vow if you listen. 

 Sometimes we might be incapable of following completely what our ancestors have done due to changes in time and authority so we will list out only those that suits our nature; 

  1. Kṛṣṇa stands in front, why should Andal ask Him to listen? Like the gopis mesmerized in His divine beauty Kṛṣṇa is now in a trance, for He has completely forgotten Himself in His ecstasy at realising the jñāna (wisdom), bhakti (devotion), vairāgya (renunciation); and anurāga (madness in love) of the gopis. While we are struggling how can You enjoy a treat?

 (ñālattaiy ellām naḍunga muralvana pāl anna vaṇṇattun pāñcajanniyamē pōlvana śaṅgaṅgaḷ pōy pāḍu uḍaiyanavē cāla perum paṛaiyē pallāṇḍiśaippārē kōla viḷakkē, koḍiyē vitānamē) The gopis now enumerate the accessories necessary for the vratam; milk-white conches similar to the Pañcajanyam, whose sound would resound throughout the whole world, making those opposed to the vow shudder with fear; the big parai (drum) to announce the festivities, the hymn-singers who will bless us standing in front facing us; the standing-lamps which are auspicious and which enable us to see one another clearly; the lofty banner-which would be seen from a distance by all and invite them to join the celebrations; and the canopy which prevents dew-drops falling on our heads.

 Andal’s intent in asking conches like panchajanya could be since there are no conches similar to panchajanya He will be forced to give the same and unable to bear the separation He will also come along.  Sound of panchajanya gives fear to foes and happiness to devotees;

 Kṛṣṇa gave them His divine discus panchajanya, the drum used for His kudakoothu (His childhood dance), Periazhvar for singing thirupallandu, gave Nappinnai piratti celebrated as ‘kulavilakkE’ as kola vilakku, gave the Garudakodi as kodi but didn’t have the heart to give Adisesha as the vitānam as both Perumal and adisesha can never exist without each other even for a moment; so He gave them the shawl worn over His body as the canopy. But the gopis insisted that just one is not enough in all the categories many are required.  After hearing what the Gopis wanted, Kṛṣṇa retorted “O gopis! How can I obtain all the accessories that you ask for! It’s impossible!” To this, the girls beautifully answered in addressing Him as ālin ilaiyāy! “You, who reclined upon the banyan leaf! Is there anything in this world impossible to be achieved by You — You who are able to protect the whole Universe during Pralaya by keeping it in Your small stomach, reposing on a tender banyan leaf?”

 (ālin ilaiyāy!) after the dissolution of the cosmos Lord Kṛṣṇa, containing the entire cosmos in His belly reclines upon a banyan leaf floating in the ocean of undifferentiated unity.

 (aruḷ) “Our resolve depends entirely on Your grace, if You refuse to give; there is none to compel you.” Further the expression ālin ilaiyāy! aru hints that the Lord is omnipotent and can therefore create any number of the accessories for us and give them.

 LESSON FOR THE DAY

 Many of the younger generations feel the past practices of their family elders and ancestors to be old fashioned and not suitable for the present day.  Analyzing deep one will surely realize that whatever our ancestors followed as per Vaidhika dharma (rooted in Vedas) surely has a meaning and will benefit all of us.  There might be certain practices that has been added very recently and aren’t supported by the Sastras.  But the age old traditions of our poorvacharyas (ancient preceptors) surely have a meaning and need to be followed by one and all.  We need to insist and teach our youngsters about our rich culture and tradition.  People outside our country have started realizing the greatness of Vedics culture and tradition whereas our own kith and kin are going far away from our ancestral practices.  This is highly pathetic.  

 Manu in his dharma Sastras at the end says, if you still have doubts about dharmic matters go and ask an elderly woman in your house.  Such was the confidence.  In those days, our grandmothers were highly proficient with the household practices and rituals.  The men of the house clarified their doubts on dharma from them.  Unfortunately our grandmothers today are more interested in the unwanted serials in TV or the present day technology and hence don’t concentrate on educating the youth about spirituality and dharma.   Even if they try to do the needy, the next generations do not respect them and listen to them.  But Andal in this verse insists the necessity of following the practices of elders more important than even following blindly what the Vedas say (‘mElayar ceivanagal’). 

 Let us all vow not to lose our rich culture, heritage and traditions.  Let our children learn and follow the practices that our elders followed and let us instill the value of sanathana dharma into the young minds.