Sri Ramanuja’s Favourite Tamil Hymn!

ramanuja

Article written by London Swaminathan
Article No.1443; Dated 28th November 2014.

Who is Ramanuja?
Sri Ramanuja was a Hindu philosopher born in a Tamil Brahmin family in1017. Considered a great teacher who spread Vishtadvaita, was born in a Vadama family to Kesava Perumal Somayaji Dikshitar and Kanthimathi Ammal at Sri Perumpudur near Chennai. He lived a long life of 120 years and died in 1137. He was a great social reformer and converted a lot of people from lower castes as Vaishnavite Brahmins.

What is Tiruppavai?
Thirty verses sung by Tamil poetess Andal of seventh century CE in praise of Lord Krishna is known as Tiruppavai.

Sri Ramanuja is called by many names and epithets such as Udayavar, Emperumanar, Yathirajar and Bhasyakarar. But Ramanuja himself preferred another name Tiruppavai Jeeyar. He liked the verse No.18 more than any other verse from the thirty verses of Andal’s Tiruppavai. There is a story behind this. Vaishnavites sing this verse twice in all the reciting events because it was liked by Sri Ramanujacharya.

Ramanuja used to go to the houses of the devotees every day for food collection, singing the glories of Lord. One day he was singing the verse no 18 of Tiruppavai (Tamil, “Undhu Matha Kalitran….) and went round the streets. When he approached the house of his teacher Perianambi, he finished the verse by singing the last line

“Come along, throw open delighted
To clang thy bangles bright
In pinky lotus hand a sight
Listen and consider our damsel”.

Suddenly the door opened and he saw his teacher’s daughter Athulai standing there with the alms. Ramanuja saw her as Nappinnai and prostrated before her. People of divine origin see god everywhere. We have heard such episodes in the lives of several Alvars and Nayanmars. And thus this verse gained added significance. When the Vaishnavites sing this verse they remember their great Acharya Ramanuja and Lord Krishna with his consort Nappinnai.

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Dancer Smitha Madhav as Andal (Photo from The Hindu)

Full Verse 18 of Tiruppavai goes like this:–
Oh! Daughter in law of Nandagopala
Who hath a shoulder mighty, never a fleer
A valiant Tusker emitting vigour; atop jasmine arcade
Again and again flock of larks had cooed;
Nappinnai! Thy hair perfume fragrant, door thou open!
Cock come around, have crowed with rigour
Though art asleep, ball agrip, as we sing thy groom;
Come along, throw open delighted
To clang thy bangles bright
In pinkly lotus hand a sight
Listen and consider our damsel – verse 18

Meaning : Andal and her friends request Nappinnai, Krishna’s wife, to open the door. She praises Krishna with a mighty shoulder like an elephant. Beautiful morning time is also described. Nappinnai with her fragrant hair had a ball in her hand which was used for playing with Krishna the previous day.

Source book: Concept’s of Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai by Dr Chenni Padmanabhan

New Research on Origin of Words: Bengal, Bangladesh & Vanga

chola-flag-2

bengal map

TAMRALIPTI

Tamralipt in Bengal is an ancient port.

Please click here for the article:
New Research

GODS AND BIRDS

Pictures of Goddess Meenakshi, Kamakshi and Andal

 

“ I suppose he (the crow) has no enemies among men. The whites and Mohammedans never seemed to molest him; and the Hindoos, because of their religion, never take the life of any creature, but spare even the snakes and tigers and fleas and rats”

–Mark Twain writing on Indian Crows

Hindus are great lovers of animals. They show kindness and respect to birds and animals. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of towns are named after birds and animals in the whole of India. From ant, snake to elephant, every animal is honoured. Each town has a long story about them, mostly connected to Gods. Birds and Gods are close. We have several Hindu gods carrying a bird in their hands. Why? What is the significance?

Meenakshi, Goddess of Madurai, carries a parrot on her right shoulder, so do Andal of Srivilliputur near Madurai  and Kamakshi of Kanheepuram (Tamil Nadu,India). Lord Muruga/Skanda  has  a cock in his hand or flag with cock.

Meenakshi Navaratna Mala, a Sanskrit hymn praises her in the very first verse as the carrier of a parrot. Such is the importance of parrot in her life:

“Meenakshim ,Madhureswareem, Sukhatharam Sri Pandya Baalaam Bhaje” =Salutations to Goddess Meenakshi, goddess of Madurai, who has a parrot in her hand, who is the daughter of Pandya king.

Madurai Meenakshi has got a parrot made of pearls. ( Please read about her amazing jewellery collection in my THE WONDER THAT IS MADURAI MEENAKSHI TEMPLE ).

Picture of Parrot made with leaves in Srivilliputtur, Tamil Nadu

 

When we were children we used to go to Meenakshi temple very often. There was a big cage near the sanctum sanctorum of goddess Meenakshi where 20 to 30 parrots were kept. If we call Rama  they will repeat RAMA. If we call  Meenakshi, they will echo MEENAKSHI. I have already explained in three or four posts the relationship of Brahmins and parrots. The parrots simply repeated the VEDAS, says the Indian literature.

Now we know the reason. All good things we say are repeated. Hindu devotees believed that our requests and prayers are also repeated to Goddess even after we leave the temple. Birds’ link to omens has been already explained in my post “Can Birds Predict Your Future?” Tamils, Etruscans and other Hindus strongly believed in such omens.

In Srivilliputtur, a parrot is made every day with leaves and kept In the left hand of goddess Andal. At the end of the day, It is given to devotees who believed it would bring good luck to them.

‘ Kili viDu Thuthu’  is a genre in Tamil. The meaning is sending parrot as a messenger to a loveror beloved. Andal is said to have sent the parrot to Lord Vishnu to give the message of her love. More over wherever parrot is there it is velieved Sukhabrahmam is repeating the mythologies.

In the story of Skanda/Kartikeya the cock was a subdued demon. It symbolises that our demonic thoughts would be subdued ‘in the hands of God. Hindu goddess Lakshmi and Sarawati have owl and swan as their respective vehicles (vahanas). Crow is the vahana of planet Saturn and Garuda/eagle of God Vishnu (Please read my articles on Vahans for more details).

 

Picture of Greek Goddess Artemis with birds and Hindu Swastika symbol, 700 BC

Parrot Upanishad= Taitriya Upanishad.

Upanishads are the highest philosophical treatise in Hinduism. One of the 18 main Upanishads is Taitriya Upanishad. Thiththi and Thaththai are words for parrot in Sanskrit and Tamil. The story of Taitriya Upanishad is interesting. Yagnavalkya’s teacher was offended and asked him to return the Veda. He “vomited it and the parrots ate it”. Even a child can understand the symbolic story. When Yagnavalkya’s Guru asked him not to repeat it, he gave it to his disciples (What he threw out was taken/eaten by others).

Once again this story proves the significance of parrots in Vedas and Gods hands/shoulders. The message is, repetition of good things, is essential. Taitriya Upanishad is a beautiful Upanishad with instructions for students, saints as well as laymen. Be a parrot and repeat God’s names or good principles!

Picture of Greek Goddess Athena with an owl

Vyasa’s Son ‘Parrot Saint’ = Sukha Brahmam

Vyasa’s son Sukha Brahmam was the one who recited all the Puranas (Hindu Mythologies). Hindu mythologies are voluminous running to millions of lines. This monumental work was done by Sukha (literally parrot). Needless to explain the symbolism behind it. Sukha’s dad Vyasa did another great task of compiling and dividing Vedas into four sections and entrusting them to four of his disciples. Nowhere in the world we see such immense task carried out by any human being. Till this day no one on earth has beaten Vyasa or his parrot son in compiling lost works. Humanly impossible task was done by both. When we talk about Vyasa and Sukha we can use only superlatives!

Sumerian and Greece

Gods in Sumerian culture also carried birds. Greek Goddess Athena carried an owl in her hand. Owl is considered a bird of wisdom. The Greek word for owl is Glaukos. It is derived from Sanskrit word Uluka=owl. In India also owl was considerd wise and Uluka, Kausika were used by Rishis. In Sumerian culturecertain gods and goddesses carried birds. There are lots of other stories about owls as well.

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Picture of Hindu Saint Ganapathi Sachidananda with a live parrot

 

Earlier related posts:

1. Animal Einsteins (Part 1 and Part 2) 2. Can parrots recite Vedas? 3. Why do animals worship Gods? 4. Mysterious Messengers for Ajanta, Angkor Wat and Sringeri 5. Elephant Miracles 6). 45 Words for Elephant 7. Can Birds Predict your Future? 8. Two Little Animals That Inspired Indians 9. Three Wise Monkeys from India 10. Mysterious Tamil Bird Man 11.Vedic Dog and Church Dog 11. Deer Chariot:  Rig Veda to Santa Claus 12. Mysterious Fish Gods around the World 13.  Serpent  (Snake) Queen: Indus Valley to Sabarimalai 14.Who Rides What Vahanas (Animal or Bird)? 15. Vahanas in Kalidasa and Tamil Literature 16. Vahanas on coins and in sculptures

Pictures of Greek and Sumerian Gods

Amazing Andal: Where did she see the Lion?

Andal  is one of the famous women poets of Tamil Nadu. She lived around 8th century. Though she is known as a devotional poet, her knowledge in several subjects is amazing. She has sung about various subjects from Astronomy to Zoology. In her A to Z dealings, I am going to touch A for Astronomy and Z for Zoo in this article. Ancient Tamil women were well educated. We have scores of female poets (poetesses) in Sangam Tamil literature. We had more than one Avvaiyar in Tamil literature. Among the devotional poetesses Karaikal Ammaiyar of fifth century and Andal of 8th century AD are more popular.

Andals’s 30 verses known as Tiruppavai and  another 143 verses known as Nachiyar Tirumozi are household names in Tamil Vaishnavite families. Her wedding song Varanam Ayiram (part of Nachiyar Tirumozi) is sung in all the Vaishnavite Brahmin weddings. She is the only one female in the twelve famous Vaishnavite Saints known as Alvars.

Two of the 30 Tiruppavai verses are known for her knowledge in Animal Behaviour and Astronomy. One may wonder whether she encountered a lion in a forest or a zoo when one reads her description of a lion. Unless she had keen observation power or a personal visit to a zoo in Madurai near her native place Srivilliputur she would not have described the lion in the following manner:

“ As a fierce lion, which throughout the rains

Within his mountain lair has lain asleep

And awakes, and flashes fire from the eye

And angrily with bristling mane he moves

All of his body, and shakes himself and stands

Upright and roars, and lordly issues forth:

So who flowerlike art, come graciously

Forth from thy shrine; in grace upon by throne

Of cunning craftsmanship, search out the cause

That brings us here. Ah, Elorembavoy  (23)

(From Hymns of the Alwars by J S M Hooper)

Andal and Astronomy

Andal must be an amateur astronomer. Though she was a teenage girl she knew ornithology, zoology, astronomy etc. She mentioned a particular bird called Anaichathan (Asian Drongo Cuckoo or Valiyan Kuruvi) . Her keen observation of Venus rising and Jupiter setting in the early morning sky 1200 years ago helped us to confirm her period. We know approximately her period because of her father Periyalvar and the Pandya king of his times. Andal’s precise date was determined by her astronomical reference in the following verse:

Singing the glory of him

Who split the bird’s bill and killed

And Him who plucked the wicked demon as a weed

Girlies all reached the site of deity

Venus ascended and Jupiter had slept sunk;

Birds too clanged behold, belle gild:

The eye is a la flower or deer flirting?

Yet asleep in bed

Enjoin to dip and shiver in bath of cold;

Shed off thy stealth untold

This day is auspicious, consider our damsel.

 

In the very first verse of Tirupavai, she says that it was Full moon day in the month of Markazi.( Markazi thingal mathi niraintha nannaalal in Tamil) and then she says Venus ascended and Jupiter went down. This happened on 18th December 731 AD according to scholars Raghava Iyengar and KG Shankar. Thanks to Andal we were able to pinpoint the date.

I am giving both the verses in Tamil for the benefit of Tamil readers:

 

Animal behaviour:

மாரிமலை முழைஞ்சில் மன்னிக்கிடந்து உறங்கும்

சீரிய சிங்கம் அறிவுற்றுத் தீவிழித்து

வேரி மயிர்ப்பொங்க எப்பாடும் பேர்ந்து உதறி

மூரி நிமிர்ந்து முழங்கிப் புறப்பட்டுப்

போதருமா போலே நீ பூவைப் பூவண்ணா உன்

கோயில் நின்று இங்ஙனே போந்தருளி, கோப்புடைய

சீரிய சிங்காசனத்திருந்து, யாம் வந்த

காரியம் ஆராய்ந்து அருள் ஏல் ஓர் எம்பாவாய் (திருப்பாவை 23)

 

Astronomy:

புள்ளின்வாய் கீண்டானைப் பொல்லா அரக்கனைக்

கிள்ளிக் களைந்தானைக் கீர்ந்திமை பாடிப்போய்

பிள்ளைகள் எல்லாரும் பாவைக் களம் புக்கார்

வெள்ளி எழுந்து வியாழம் உறங்கிற்று

புள்ளும் சிலம்பின காண்! போது அரிக்கண்ணினாய்

குள்ளக் குளிரக் குடைந்து நீராடாதே

பள்ளிக் கிடத்தியோ பாவாய்! நீ நன்னாளால்

கள்ளம் தவிர்ந்து கலந்து ஏல் ஓர் எம்பாவாய் (திருப்பாவை 13)

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