Tiruppavai Pasuram 28


kaṛavaikaḷ pin cennu kānam cērndunbōm |
 aṛivonnum illāda āykkulattu | undannaip
piṛavi peṛundanai puṇṇiyam yām uḍaiyōm |
 kuṛaivonnum illāda govindā |  untannōḍu
uṛavēl namakkiṅg ozhikkavozhiyādu |
 aṛiyāda pillaikalōm anbināl |  undannai
śirupēr azhaittanavum cīriyarulādē |
 iṛaivā! nī tārāy paṛai ēlōr empāvāy ||


kuṛaivonnum illāda govindā – Immaculate Lord, Govinda;

yām – we;

kaṛavaikaḷ pin cendru – go at the back of the cattle;

kānam cērndu – we reach the forest;

unbōm – eat while roaming ;

aṛivondrum illāda – completely ignorant;

āykkulattu – menial cowherd clan;

piṛavi peṛundanai puṇṇiyam uḍaiyōm – we have the good fortune of You being born in our clan;

iṛaivā! – Oh our Lord!

untannōḍu uṛavu – the bond between us;

namakkiṅg ozhikkavozhiyādu – cannot be broken here by you or we;

aṛiyāda pillaikalōm – unsophisticated milk-maids;

anbināl – due to love;

śirupēr azhaittanavum – called with trivial Names;

 – you (who is compassionate towards your devotees);

cīriyarulādē – don’t get angry;

paṛai tārāy –please grant (our desire) the drum;


 After receiving the drum for the sake of the elders Kṛṣṇa very well knows that Andal will next ask for what they intended personally. So He enquired if they have some sadhana-anushtanam (following some way to attain the goal); Andal in this verse clearly declares that they are totally ignorant and incapable of doing anything to achieve their goal and the only good fortune they have is Kṛṣṇa Himself, who is complete and capable of filling all their shortfalls;

 In this verse Godādevi declares that Kṛṣṇa is the means and in the next verse that He is the end. These humble cowherd folk do not follow the way of knowledge (jñāna), works (karma) or even devotion (bhakti yoga); they have simply surrendered themselves totally to the Lord (prapatti). The prapanna recognises that he or she is worthless, lacking in intelligence and means to effect ones own mukti, once the prapanna has placed complete faith in Kṛṣṇa, it becomes His obligation to redeem the fallen one. This verse deals with the means (prāpakam) which can directly lead us to the goal (prāpyam). The means is the Lord Himself, the magnitude of whose glory and grace infinitely exceeds the depth of our lowliness and impurity. The gift of Grace is entirely dependent upon the will of Kṛṣṇa — no good works, knowledge or devotion or even self-surrender (prapatti) can induce Grace from the Lord. Though there is no means except the Lord Himself, we must and ought to make ourselves fit for receiving Grace by acknowledging our helplessness (akiñcinyam), realising that there is no other means (ananyagatitvam) and take refuge in Sriman Narayana alone, having realized the indissoluble relationship between ourselves and him. This is done by contemplating upon the Lord’s infinite goodness and mercy and on our weakness and sinfulness, by submissively apologizing for past misconduct and by praying for Him to take us under His gracious Feet.


 Kṛṣṇa enquires to the gopis “As per the sastras, for one to attain devotion towards the Lord one should have done karma, Jnana and bhakthi yogas for innumerable births; Do you possess any of these”

 Andal: Oh Kṛṣṇa just by seeing our practice and our knowledge levels, cant you understand that we are totally incompetent to do any of the above?

 (kaṛavaikaḷ pin cendru kānam cērndunbōm) See this is our karma yoga, remarks Andal sarcastically;

 Those who follow karma yoga have to first learn the Vedas along with its angas; any male born in the first three varnas after his initiation (upanayanam) is expected to learn the Vedas and Śāstras under a Sat-ācārya noted for his birth, erudition, and conduct. After learning and gathering sufficient knowledge, he is expected to perform his duties regularly; then, conquering the senses, he must cultivate dispassion and then through Yoga, he must attain self-realisation (ātma-jñāna) to realise the essential natures of the jīvatma and Paramatma and lastly, attain the Supreme abode. So one is expected to mount up these steps initiated by his ācārya;

 The gopis say, but we follow the cattle that are devoid of good birth, knowledge or good conduct; Generally a person who lacks knowledge is equated to a cow but now the cows have become the gurus so can you imagine what sort of people we are?

 Here they mention karavaikal (cows that give milk) and not just cattle (including milking, non-milking cows and bulls);  Because if they say cattle then it can be considered as their svadharma (duty prescribed for their clan) and hence considered to be karma yoga but now they are not doing it as duty but with a selfish motto;

 The Lord told the gopis that their vocation of tending the cattle in holy places can be counted as ‘Karma Yoga’ (and therefore you have adopted some means). They reply that these forests are not sanctified like the Daṇḍakāraṇya or Naimiśāraṇya by the presence of sages, but they are thorny forests where the wicked demons and hunters reside.

 To this, the Lord replied “As you are milkmaids, your ordained profession is the tending of cows,” and it can be reasonably counted as Vara-Dharmānuṣṭhāna; further, your stay in the forests can be considered as equivalent to Vānaprastha-Dharma. Thus, under these circumstances, your vocation may be counted as KARMA YOGA.

 Hearing this, the Gopis refuted all His arguments in one word, viz. unbōm — “we do nothing but eat. O Lord! we go to the forest not with the idea of doing Vara- Dharmānuṣṭhāna or of upholding the Vānaprastha-Dharma, but only with the sole idea of filling our belly and eking out our livelihood.”

 (aṛivondrum illāda āykkulattu) “O Kṛṣṇa! Do you think that we have any learning whatsoever? Not at all, for how can you expect knowledge in gluttons?” We are not wise like Vidura or Sabari. Our knowledge is due to our vocation (karma) and not due to devotion (bhakti). Even that vocational knowledge is directed only to eking out our livelihood and not towards attaining salvation. When such is our case, you may perhaps be under the impression that we can attain wisdom at some time in the future. But O Lord! We are born in a race which occupies one of the lowest rungs on the social ladder. Being so ignorant, we take the liberty of approaching you because we are fortunate in having you born in our tribe!”

 (undannaip piṛavi peṛundanai puṇṇiyam yām uḍaiyōm) We have actually brought you up, the embodiment of virtue, by feeding You with milk and food. When you are in our midst, it is not necessary that we should do any other Dharma. You are the guiding-light to our tribe. The expression goes “Kṛṣṇam Dharmam Sanātanam” and Yaśoda achieved all greatness by having you as her son. Similarly, we also achieved all our greatness by being born as contemporaries among the Ayar People in which you are born. This statement denotes the pride they feel for, the Lord, who of His own accord, has come to their very abodes and also endeared Himself without any reserve so that they can utilise Him in whatever way they pleased.

 (kuṛaivonnum illāda govindā) The All-perfect Govinda! — the Ayar girls hint that “You (Lord) are on a higher level and we are on a lower level. Please direct your flood of grace into the abyss of our hearts.

 Oh Lord you are not deficit in goodness to look 

  • For some goodness in us;
  • at our faults/sins and send us away;
  • For some action from our part to get your grace which is limitless and will not reduce on showering the same on us;
  • For some support to grant our wish;

 Your greatness shines only when You shower Your grace on ignorant menial jiva’s like us; how will You be complete if You don’t acquire us.  Actually all the other means will send us away from you since it will make us depend on our self effort and not that easy to achieve you; But only Your divine grace has to flow on us since we are incapable of any other means; You are Govindan, who protect the cows that are not capable of protecting themselves or to request help; You left Your divine abode and came here to protect us and then why should You wait to do the same;

 But why should I accept You just because I am perfect and You are deficit?

 (untannōḍu uṛavēl namakkiṅg ozhikkavozhiyādu) The relationship between You and ourselves cannot be dissolved, no matter how much You or Your relatives try, or we or our relatives, or all of us together try!

 Leave alone the ever existing relationship between a jivatma and Paramatma (nara and Narayana), the relationship we gopis have with you Kṛṣṇa our beloved cannot be broken at all;

 The relationship between the Paramatma and the Jīvatma is said to be of nine kinds — nava vidha sambandha.

 In these nine ways, the Paramātma and Jivātma are inseparably intertwined and cannot exist in isolation from each other. Separation between the two is impossible! 

1 Parent -child

2 Protector -The protected

3 Master -Servant

4 Husband- Spouse

5 The Goal- The seeker

6 The owner – The possession

7 The supporter -The supported

8 The Super-Self – The Body

9 The Enjoyer – The Enjoyed

While you lifted the govardhana giri, You called Yourself our relative have you changed your views now?

 ‘Ok in this and the previous verse you called me with my favourite name ‘Govinda’ but why did you earlier call me with other names’, said the furious Kṛṣṇa;

 (aṛiyāda pillaikalōm anbināl  undannai śirupēr azhaittanavum cīriyarulādē) This expression gives reasons for addressing the Lord by familiar terms requesting at the same time His forgiveness. The reasons are (1) ignorance (2) innocence and (3) abundant love.

 śirupēr — small name — The ‘small name’ here referred to is “Nārāyaṇa”. The ‘great name’ is “Govinda”. Nārāyaṇa signifies His transcendence (paratva) and Govinda, His accessibility (saulabya). Arjuna absorbed in the accessibility of the Lord, forgot His transcendence, and later upon seeing the Cosmic Vision (viśvarūpa darśana) had to beg for forgiveness. But the gopis being absorbed in the transcendence of Kṛṣṇa, forgot His accessibility, and are now begging for His forgiveness; for, are they not guilty of eulogising His transcendence, when the Lord has purposely descended on this earth to demonstrate accessibility? Are they not guilty of calling Him by His small name — Nārāyaa, Devathideva etc, when He attained the Great Name ‘Govinda’, after the coronation by Indra!

 The greatness of ‘Govinda nāma’ can be demonstrated by the fact that it was able to safeguard the chastity of Draupadi, when she cried in utter distress, holding her hands up, “Govinda! Govinda!”  in  Duryodhana’s Court.

 (iṛaivā!) You are our master and we Your property so only You have to take efforts to get us; You are omnipotent and if You wish to give no one can stop but if you think against no one can grant us our wish; To uphold Your supremacy over us please grant us the parai.

 (nī tārāy paai— “You give us the drum” — The stress is on the word ‘You’. The bhāvārtha is — He turned to Nappinnai, standing near and asked her to bestow what they wanted because as a woman, she knew the mind of the gopis better; to this they retorted:— “she has already bestowed what we wanted i.e. You!  And hence it is now Your turn to bestow the‘parai’ or the purushartha“.


 The following important points are made by Godā in the 28th verse:—

 karavaika pin śenu— In this line, the Gopis refer to (1) their dearth of meritorious actions, i.e., their vocation is simply to “follow their cows to the forest” — this is the result of their past karma and indicates a lack of merit.

 aivonum illāda āy kulattu — A people which has no claims whatsoever to knowledge – they refer here to their (2) simplicity and lack of any social status.

 kuaivonum illāda govindā  You, Govinda! Who have no wants and no imperfections whatsoever — here they refer to the (3) Perfection of the Lord’s attributes

 uavēl namakku ingu ozhikka ozhiyādu — the relationship between you and ourselves here cannot be dissolved not matter what either of us may do. They refer to the (4) Indissoluble relationship between the jīvas and the Lord.

 śīriyarulādē — “Pray, do not get offended at our failings” – they beseech (5) forgiveness for their past sins and failings.

 iaivā! nī tārāy paai — O Lord! Grant us our hearts’ desire — here they refer (6) to the attainment of their Puruārtha.

 The above-mentioned six points are the stages to perfection for a prapanna or one who has taken refuge in God. Even if our Acharyas like Sri Ramanujar had all merits like great birth, family and meritorious actions greater than even Rishis, they were of this mindset only.