Wednesday, March 16, 2011



Kaliyan endru peyarpettra Thirumangai AzhvArE,
kaliyin pidiyilirunthu emmai meetka vandhavarE!

Thirumangai endra oorin thalaivarAha irundhu,

varum vazhithanil Or kulakkaraiyil neer kanda;
orumangai azhaginil mayangi yaval chorkEttu,
perumdhanam vENdi kalavil neer irangineerO !

maNa kOlathil vazhiyil vandha Emperumanum,

palakAlam kaLavuthozhil purindha umaikandu;
kaNa nErathil oru mandhiraththAl mAttrivittu,
ParakAlan endra pughazhudan vilangachaidhArO !

The star Krittikai in the month of Kaarttikai (late November-early December) is an auspicious day for all Sri Vaishnavas for it is the birth star of one of their most revered saints, Tirumangai Alvar. He is the second most prolific author among the 12 Alvars, next only to Nammalvar. Of the 24 poems by the twelve Alvars consisting of almost 4,000 verses, Tirumangai's share is 6 poems with 1,253 verses. Nammalvar's share is 4 poems with 1,296 verses.

In his early days, as a man of the sword, our Lord Narayana was far from Tirumangai Mannan's thoughts. His spiritual journey started with a commitment he made to his sweetheart Kumudavalli in exchange for her hand in marriage. While most women may have asked for her suitor's everlasting love, or a diamond ring, or a gold bangle, all our gentle lady Kumudavalli sought from Tirumangai was that he must wear the marks of Sri Vaishnava and serve food (amudu) for 1,000 Vaishnavas everyday for a period of one year. This service, initiated as a price for carnal pleasure, turned into a labor of divine love towards the devotees of our Lord Narayana. Years rolled by. Tirumangai spent all his wealth in the service of Vaishnavas. With his coffers empty, Tirumangai could not continue the service. He could not bear the thought of having to turn away the Vaishnavas who by then were accustomed to blessing the Tirumangai's abode with their presence. 

The feeling of despair turned to anger at the sight of the greedy idle rich strolling around with all their gaudy and ostentatious jewels and showing contempt for the simple and devout Vaishnavas. This was enough to drive Tirumangai to actions that a certain individual of English folklore in Sherwood forest, a continent away, would resort to and become famous world over. But it was not just fame that was in store for our good Tirumangai. 

Our Lord Narayana decided to intervene and turn Tirumangai away from the ways of the sword. He and His consort, our divine mother Sri, appeared before Tirumangai as a newly wed couple bedecked with priceless ornaments. Tirumangai stopped the couple and forcibly relieved them of all the jewelry. But, there was one piece on our Lord's toe that wouldn't come off however much Tirumangai tried. In frustration Tirumangai put his head on the lotus feet of our Lord with the intention of biting the ring off. At that moment Tirumangai was drawn in by the beauty of the lotus feet and realized the true nature of the couple standing in front of him. The Lord then instructed the esoteric meaning of "Tirumanthram" (Om namO nArAyaNAya) for Tirumangai. Thus Tirumangai learnt of the efficacy of the divine name "Narayana" from our Lord Narayana Himself! 

Tirumangai immediately went on to sing the poem ``Periya Tirumozhi'' (Great divine poem) consisting of 1,084 verses. The first ten of these verses are dedicated to the name ``Narayana''. These first 10 emotional verses give aid and comfort to people like me who have strayed in their youth. Tirumangai comes down hard on himself with intense self criticism for the violence he had caused, albeit for a good cause, for having sought fleeting worldly pleasures, for having squandered his days on mundane pursuits. He ends each of these ten verses with a celebration of the divine name Narayana, for after finding this sweet name, Tirumangai declares, he was free from all the sins and assured of the everlasting bliss at the lotus feet of our sweet Lord Narayana. These 10 verses will bring emotional tears of longing for the lotus feet of our Lord Narayana to the eyes of any Vaishnava.

Here is the first of these ten Tamil verses: 

vaadinEn vaadi varundhinEn manatthaal

perunthuyar idumbaiyil piRanNdhu,
koodinEn koodi iLaiyavar thammOdu
avartharum kalaviyE karudhi,
OdinEn Odi uyvadhOr poruLaal
uNarvenum perumpadhantherindhu,
naadinEn n^aadi n^aan kaNdukoNdEn
naaraayaNaa ennum n^aamam.

Born into this worldly body, 

A receptacle of profound sorrow, 
I am weltering, I am filled with remorse;
I have let myself run after beautiful women, 
seeking the fleeting carnal pleasures 
of the union they give;
Lo and behold! 
Through the grace of our Lord I now realize 
there is a greater goal, 
That which will deliver me into eternal happiness;
I have searched for this state 
And have now found it 
In the sweet name NARAYANA.

The Azhwaar who is an incarnation of Saarangam (the divine bow) of Lord Vishnu was born as 'Neelan' in the fourth caste to Ali Nadu Udaiyar and Vallitiru at Tiruk kuraiyalur in the year Nala, Kartigai month, full moon day (a Thursday) in the constellation of Krittigai. The Chola king presented him Ali Nadu, a tributary with capital at Tirumangai and so, he was called 'Tiru Mangai Mannan'. He was also conferred the title of 'Parakaalan' meaning ' death to his enemies'. He rode a horse called Aadal Maa'. He had several ministers of repute.

Parakala desired to marry Kumudavalli, the beautiful daughter of a native doctor in Travancore. But, Kumudavalli laid a condition that she would marry only a person initiated into Vaishnavism. This Parakaala did but then she laid another condition that he should agree to feed at least a 1000 Vaishnavites daily for one year before they could consummate the marriage.Parakaala agreed. This proved an expensive exercise sapping the entire treasury of Parakaala. By then, he had not been through even half way to the target he had agreed to.

He could not remit the fief to the king and after a fight with the royal forces he was captured and taken before the king who put him in jail. The Lord appeared to Parakaala and told him about a secret place where he could find a treasure at Kanchipuram. Parakaala went there with the permission of the king and under heavy guard. He found the treasure and offered his tribute to the king. The king was amazed at the way he got the treasure and permitted Parakala to retain it.

In due course, even this had been spent and Parakaala returned to square one. With a view to keeping up his promise to his beloved wife, he resorted to highway robbery and with the booty he continued to feed the guests. One day, the Lord accompanied by his consort Sri Maha Lakshmi took the form of a ' just married' couple, bedecked with all the costly ornaments and were passing through the hiding place of Parakaala. Parakaala was mighty happy on sensing the windfall and immediately pounced on the couple and demanded them to surrender all they had. This they did. Parakaala could not lift the bundle containing the booty and with his sword unsheathed threatened the couple what Mantra they had uttered for disabling him in lifting the loot.

The Lord dragged him near and whispered the Tirumantra in his ear. Electrified as he was on receiving the initiation from the Lord himself, Parakaala realized the purpose of his birth in this world and started pouring out devotional hymns of unsurpassed beauty in praise of the Lord. His outpourings include :

(1) Periya Tirumozhi
(2) Tirukkurun Taandakam
(3) TiruNedum Taandakam
(4) Tiru vezhuk kurrirukkai
(5) Siriya Tiru Madal and
(6) Periya Tiru Madal

He employed four styles called Aasu, Maduram, Chitram and Vittaram in his compositions and hence he was called "Nalu Kavi Perumal"

When he was triumphantly returning, some of the disciples of the Saivaite saint, 'Tiru Gnaana Sambandar' intervened and objected to his honorific. He argued with Sambandar and finally poured out a hymn commencing with the words 'Oru Kural Yiru Nilam'. On listening to the esoteric meaning of this, Sambandar acknowledged that Parakaala deserved the honorific and let him go on his triumphant march. Later, Tirumangai Azhwaar built the ramparts of Srirangam temple without affecting the portion occupied by the flower garden of Tondar Adip Podi Azhwaar.


1. Composed by Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi
Kalayaami kalidvamsam kavim lOka diwaakaram/
Yasya kopi prakaasaabih aavidhyam nihatam tamah //
"I meditate on the great poet (Tirumangai Azhwaar) who dispels the evils of kaliyuga like the Sun whose rays dispel darkness"

2. Composed y Emperumaanaar

Vaazhi Parakaalan Vaazhi kalikanri
Vaazhi kuraiyalur vaazh Vendan ? VaazhiyarO
MaayOnai vaaL valiyaal mantiram koLL MangaiyarkOne
ThooyOn sudarmaana vEL
"Long live Parakaalan Long live the one who dispels the evils of Kali Long live the resident of Kuraiyalur! Long live the one who secured the great Mantra from the Lord Himself at the point of his sword! Long live the brilliant spear in his hand"

3. Composed by Koorathaazhwaan

Nenjukku iruL kaDi deepam aDangaa neDum piravi
Nanjukku nall amudam tamizh nannool turaigaL
Anjukku ilakkiyam aaraNa saaram para samaya
Panchuk kanalin pori parakaalan panuvalgaLE
"This work of the Azhwaar destroys my ignorance like beacon light. It acts as the very nemesis of the opponents. They are verily the anti-dote for the irrepressible and chronic venom of Samsaara. It is decorated with all the five basics of the Tamil language called "Ezhuthu, Soll, PoruL, yaappu and aNI. It is the essence of the Vedas. It acts as the spark of fire to the cotton bales of other faiths"

4. Composed by Embaar

YengaL gatiyE! Iraamaanusa muniyE!
Sankai keDuthu aaNDa tava Raasaa! Pongu pugazh
mangaiyarkOne eenda marai aayiram anaithum
tangu manam nee Enakkut thaa
"You are our refuge. Oh! Sage Ramaanuja! You shine as the very Emperor among those who are known for their power of penance. Please grant me the knowledge of the essence of the 1000 psalms of your work"

Ibid maalai taniyE vazhi parikka vENum enru

kOLip padivirunda kotravanE! ? vElai
aNaitharuLum kaiyil aDiyEn vinaiyait
thunithu aruLa vENum thunindu
"You deliberately hid yourself and successfully robbed Sriman Narayana Himself who cam in the garb of ?just married? couple and secured the invaluable mantra from Him. With the hands that wield the spear, please rid me of the miseries caused by my own evil deeds"

En nilamai ellaam arivithaal emperumaan
TannaruLum aagamum taaraanEl ? pinnaip pOi
ONDurai neer vElai ulagariya oorvan naan
VaNDarai poom peNNai madal
"If even after hearing my pathetic pleadings, if the Lord does not bless me with His grace, I will expose Him resorting to the practice of publishing through Palmyra palm leaf, His default to the entire world"


Seearaar tiruvezhuk kootrirukkai ennum santamizhaal
Aaraavamudan kuDantaipiraan tan aDiyiNaik keezh
Eraar maraip poruL ellaam eDuthu iv vulagu uyyavE
SOraamar sonna aruLmaari paadam tuNai namakkE
"Like giving the documents and also all the wealth, the Lord gave to Tirumangai Aahwaar not only the great mantra but also showed Himself in archaa roopa. The Azhwaar went to holy shrines all over the country and composed this work at the feet of Lord Araavamudan of TirukkuDantai, for the benefit of the entire world"


Composed by Pillai Tirunaraiyur Araiyar
MuLLi sezhu malarO taaraan muLai madiyam
KoLLkkenn uLLam kodiyaamE ? vaLLal
TiruvaaLan seerk Kaliyan Kaark kaliyai veTTi
MaruvaaLan tandaan maDal
Tirumangai Azhwwaar did not give me the garland made of thorny flowers but out of generosity, he gave the one representing the auspicious qualities of the Lord. With sword in hand, he cut asunder the mischief of Kali. Lest I should boil over with disappointment in not getting the grace of the Lord, he gave this weapon of his poetic composition


Composed by Pillai Tirunaraiyur Araiyar
Ponnulagil vaanavarum poo magaLum pOtri seyyum
Nannudaleer! Nambi naraiyooraar ? mannulagil
Enn nilamai kaNDum irangaarE yaamaagil
Mannu maDal oorvan vandu
"Oh! Damsels with broad foreheads! If the Lord of SrivaikunTam who is accompanied by Nityasooris and Periya PiraaTTi and who has taken His permanent abode in Tirunaraiyur does not show mercy on me, I will resort to the practice of publicizing His apathy to the world through my composition"


Paedai Nenjae Indrai perumai arindhilayoo
Yedhu Perumai indraikku en ennill ? Oodhugindraen
Vaaitha pugazh mangayar koon maanilatthil
Vandhudhittha Kaarthigayil Kaarthigai naal KaaN.
"Oh! My ignorant mind! Do you know the importance of this day? I will tell you the greatness of this day. This is the sacred day when the famous Azhwaar called "MangaiyarkOne" was born into this world"

(9) Maaran panitha thmizh maraikku mangayar koan

Aarngam koora avatharitha ? veerudaya
Kaarthigayil Kaarthigai Naal yendrendru kaadalippaar
Vaaitha malar thaalgal nenjae vaazhthu.
"Oh! My mind! Place your head as a flower at the feet of those who praise this day as the one in which the great Tirumangai Azhwaar was born into this world to compose his 6 works representing the 6 Angas of the 4 Vedas, theessence of which the great Namm Aazhwaar presented to us in his 4 works in Tamizh"

Parakala visited and consecrated (MangaLaasaasanam) of as many as 86 out of the 108 Divya Desams. It is easier to list those that he had not visited  than listing what Divya Desams he had visited.

We, in the 21st century, find it difficult to visit even a few of them in spite of modern facilities and convenience for boarding and lodging and comforts and luxuries of travel by car, train, plane and even chopper.

It is amazing how the Azhwaars managed to traverse (mostly on foot) sometimes by narrow footpaths through dense forests and steep mountains infested with wild animals and insects, fording swelling waters of rivers and braving blistering gales in an era when even creature comforts were a luxury. This is better imagined than described to understand the depth of their Bhakti.

Tirumangai Alwar Tiruvadigale Saranam

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