Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
The Lord tells us in the Gita that it is He who forms the profound purport of the Shruti and that it is He who is to be found in every syllable, word and sentence of the glorious VEdAs—“VEdaischa sarvam ahamEva vEdya:”. Tiruppavai is acclaimed to be the very seed of the Vedas—“VEdam anaittukum vitthu”. Hence it follows that Sri Andal’s outpouring too has for its content only the Paramapurusha. It is a garland of thirty eternal and evergreen verses strung together with boundless affection by a passionate devotee.
Sri Andal might speak of several avatArAs of the Lord in Tiruppavai—She talks about the “Ongi ulagaLanda Uttaman” (Trivikraman), “ManatthukkiniyAn” (Sri Rama), “NandagOpan Kumaran” (Sri Krishna). It would appear, from a superficial study, that the Hero of the Prabandam is indeed KaNNa PirAn, the darling of YasOda, the apple of NandagOpA’s eye, the heartthrob of all the girls of Gokulam and the undisputed leader of all its urchins. It would also appear that every alternate line of these pAsurams bears a mention of Sri Krishna, attesting to their mission of eulogising Him. Tiruppavai would thus seem to be an elaboration of the obsession with Krishna that characterised Sri Nammazhwar’s existence, to the exclusion of all else—“uNNum sOru, parugum neer, tinnum vettrilai yAvum KaNNan Emperuman”.
However, if we go in for a deeper and discerning analysis, we would find that Sri Andal’s real intent is to adulate not Sri Krishna alone, but, in the guise of that, to direct Her praise to yet another entity. Her words might appear on the surface to eulogise the son of YasOda, but the spirit behind those words indicates quite a different person. While She might hold the garland in Her hand and stare at Sri Krishna, Her real intent appears to be to adorn someone else’s neck with it. Who could that be, who is exalted enough to steal Sri Andal’s affections, while Sri Krishna looks on in disappointment?
Poets normally give an indication of what lies in their mind, in the very beginning of their composition as well as in the final verse, providing a clue to what undercurrent of emotion runs through the entire work. Thus “upakramam” (the beginning) and “upasamhAram” (the conclusion) provide a definite indication as to what the work is all about. Adopting this rule, we find a leonine motif dominating the broad canvass of Tiruppavai. We may therefore safely conclude that the secret lover Sri Andal had enshrined in Her heart was Sri Nrisimha and none else. To those supporters of Sri Krishna who rise up in arms against this statement, my request is to read on and find for themselves the irrefutable evidence in favour of Andal’s infatuation with Nrisimha mUrthy.
In the very first pasuram, Kodai Naachiar speaks about the glorious lion—“iLam singam”. To the superficial reader, this may appear to be a reference to the irrepressible lion cub that the young KaNNan was. However, if we care to look beyond the obvious, we find that it is indeed an allusion to Sri Nrisimha, who alone is the undisputed owner of the brand name, “Simham”. There might be any number of contenders to the throne of “Simham” like the RAghava Simha and the YasOdai’s Simham—but the genuine article, the original and magnificent lion, is only our Nrisimha. If anything, the words “iLam singam” would emphasise the immaturity of the toddler Krishna, when compared to the splendorous, mature and majestic Lion that Sri Nrisimha was. The further reference to “SenkaN”, a reddish eye, would suit Sri Nrisimha to a T, as His eyes were veritable orbs of fire, blazing with rage at Hiranyakasipu.
“Kadir madiyam pOl mugatthAn” is also very much an allusion to Sri Nrisimha, whose one eye, directed at Hiranya, resembled the scorching Sun, while the other, looking with love at Sri Prahlada, was cool as the Moon. And the word “Narayanan” in this pasuram must indeed refer only to Sri Nrisimha, for it was He who resided as antaryAmi in all beings and objects, ready to spring out of whichever place or being Hiranyakasipu smote with his mace. Thus Sri Nrisimha fits the definition of the Narayana Sabdam (“NArA: yasya ayanam, sa Narayana:”), as all sentient beings and non-sentient objects had Him inside them—“TrailOkyam Etat akhilam Narasimha garbham”.
The “Ongi ulagaLanda Uttaman” too is Sri Nrisimha only, for during this unprecedented avatAram, the Lord’s tirumEni was huge beyond measure, tall and broad enough to pervade the entire universe.
“Azhi mazhai KannA!” too is a call to Nrisimha, whose eye showered benevolence on Sri Prahlada like a veritable torrent of rain, drenching the latter in a deluge of Mercy, as sought by Sri Tirukkacchi Nambi—“KAruNya mAruta Aneetai: sheetalai: abhishincha mAm”.
“MAyan” has to be Sri Nrisimha. The name denotes the ability to perform the impossible—“aghatita ghatanA sAmarthyam”. Sri Nrisimha’s glorious avatAra, springing out of Hiranyakasipu’s palace pillar the moment it was smitten by the asurA, in a form which was neither lion nor man (“na mrigam na mAnusham”) but a mixture of both, totally devoid of any serious weapon with which to slay the demon, is indeed a splendid demonstration of making Mission Impossible come true and of the display of unprecedented prowess. Hence this “adbhuta KEsari” is indeed the “MAyan” of the fifth pasuram.
“ari endra pEraravam”—It is this lion-god whom Rishis and Sages have in their mind when they wake up from sleep, for “ari” in Tamizh refers to the lion. If you have any doubt, listen to Sri PeriyAzhwar telling us that this “ari” is indeed Sri Nrisimha- “ari uruvAgi ariyayi azhittavanai bandahnai teera pallANdu pallAyiratthAndendru pAdudumE”. Another Azhwar confirms that “ari” is indeed Sri Nrisimha—“azhagiyAn tAnE, ari uruvan tAnE”. Immediately after waking up, these Sages chant the name of Sri Nrisimha with devotional fervour, filling the air with Nrisimha nAmam—“ari endra pEraravam”. And why should the wise think of such a terrifying form as Nrisimha, first thing in the morning after waking up? Because He is auspiciousness personified—“Bhadram”.
In the next pasuram, “Keesu Keesu” too, we have evidence of Sri Andal’s secret love. When She says, “Kesavanai pAdavum nee kEttE kidatthiyO”, She obviously refers to the Leonine Lord with His beautiful mane. If Kesava: is taken to mean one with beautiful hair, then it is Nrisimha who is alluded to here.
The three hallowed names that find a mention in the eighth pasuram, “MAmAyan, MAdhavan and Vaikunttan” refer to the lion god. The “MAya” sabdam’s connection with Nrisimha was indicated in the context of the fifth pasuram. MAdhavan refers to Sri LakshmINrisimha, who is forever in the company of His Consort—“MAlOlan”, whom Sri Kalian adulates as “alli mAdar pulga nindra Ayiram tOLan”. The irrepressible Lord is also known as “Vaikuntta:”, which word has a special connotation to Sri Nrisimha, as can be seen from the DasAvatAra Stotram—“Vaikuntta kanteerava:”.
“PuLLin vAi keeNdAn” refers to the exploit of Sri Nrisimha in subjugating the “Sarabha” pakshi, which dared to confront Him immediately after the slaying of Hiranyakasipu, which episode is indicated by “pollA arakkanai kiLLi kaLaindAnai”.
“Sangodu chakkaram Endum tada kaiyan” too is Sri Nrisimha only. During this avatara, in which the Lord could not use weapons for destroying the asura due to the special boons the latter managed to obtain, the inseparable Sudarsana Chakram transformed itself into the deadly nails the Lord sported, we are told. “Pangaya kANNAn”—The Lord did not forsake His lotus eyes even during this terrifying avatara and they remained as lotus-like as ever, says an Acharya, who addresses Sri Nrisimha as “VArija vilOchana!” (“VArija vilOchana! mad antima dasAyAm, klEsa vivaseekrita samasta karaNAyAm—Ehi RamayA saha sharanya! VihagAnAm nAtham adhiruhya Narasimha! Narasimha!”
The boundless infatuation the Lord has for Piraatti and the pleasure He derives from Her company, are described in the pasuram “kutthu viLakkeriya”. This must doubtless refer to Sri Nrisimha, who is always to be found in the embrace of His Consort—“LakshmyA samAlingitha vAma bhAgham”.
All the thirty-three crore and odd celestials were paying tribute to Hiranyakasipu, who had them all under his thumb. By liberating them from the dreaded asurA, Sri Nrisimha became the “Muppatthu moovar amararku mun chendru kappam tavirkkum kali”. As the whole world witnessed His prowess in slaying the asura with His bare hands, He is indeed the “Tiral udayAi”. And, as Hiranya found out to his chagrin, Lord Nrisimha is indeed a terror to His foes—“SettrArkku veppam kodukkum Vimalan”.
The next pasuram, “Ettra kalangaL” too contains several references to this Lion God. “PeriyAi”—Sri Nrisimha’s was a mammoth figure, striking terror with His very form. And He shone with the brilliance of a thousand rising Suns—“tOttramAi nindra sudar”.
Fearing the blazing orbs that the Lord sported during His encounter with the asurA, Sri Andal prays to Him to look at Her with merciful glances out of pleasant, lotus-like eyes, one like the Sun to destroy all the gloom of ignorance in our hearts and the other cool and consoling like the Moon, to provide us the instant bliss of Bhagavat anubhavam—“TAmarai poo pOlE sengaN siru siridE emmEl vizhiyAvo, TingaLum Adityanum ezhundAr pOl angaN irandum koNdu engaL mEl nOkkudi”.
It is the next pasuram, “MAri malai muzhainjil” that speaks graphically about Sri NrisimhA’s fragrant and bountiful mane (“VEri mayir”), His majestic gait (“pOtharumApOlE”), His stentorian voice (“muzhangi”) which is enough to strike terror in the heart of His foes, etc. The beautiful allusion to “Seeriya Singam” identifies beyond doubt the real Hero of this Prabandam, for the word “Seeriya” speaks volumes about Andal’s admiration for this loftiest of Lords. And the word “SimhAsanam” can refer only to the seat of Sri Nrisimha, as it can be construed as “Simhasya Asanam”. As befits a “Seeriya Singam”, His throne too is a “Seeriya SingAsanam”.
It is Sri Nrisimha who triumphs over His detractors with ease—“KoodArai vellum seer Govindan”.
It is He who has as His profession, the Creation, Sustenance and Destruction of the myriad varieties of life, which is symbolised as cows (“pettram”), in the pasuram, “Chittram siru kAlE”. And it is to Him that Sri Andal offers eternal service. It is with this Nrisimha that She professes eternal bondage and desires everlasting kainkaryam to — “ettraikkum EzhEzh piravikkum un tannOdu uttrOmE AvOm, unakkE nAm AtcheyvOm”.
In the final pasuram, “Vanga kadal” too, Sri Andal refers to Sri Nrisimha with the epithets, “MAdhavan”,”Kesavan” etc. The words “SengaN Tirumukham” indicate conclusively that is Sri Nrisimha who is Her Hero, for it was during this avatara that the Lord’s eyes blazed with the reddishness of anger against the unrepentant asurA. “Selva TirumAl” is indeed the lion god, who is forever in the embrace of the Goddess of Wealth and who has incredible and unfading infatuation for Her, despite innumerable millennia of married life. And it is the worship of Sri Nrisimha, which would confer upon us all types of auspiciousness and ultimately the endless bliss of Bhgavata anubhavam—“engum tiruvaruL pettru inburuvar”.
To those who are inclined to scoff at the aforesaid as being far-fetched, I would recommend a visit to Srivilliputtur, where, till date, the shrine of a majestic Nrisimha greets everyone and whom we have to worship before passing on to the sannidhi of Sri VatapatrasAyee, as Sri Andal must have done too, in Her times.
Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore