Today, November 19th 2013, Karthigai Rohini marks the Thirunakshatram of Thirupanazhwar. Here is a detailed article written by Sri U.Ve. Vidwan Vangipuram Navaneeetham Sri Rama Desikacharya Swami about Thirupanazhwar.
Tamil Commentary to be continued in Part 2…
On a Kaisika EkAdasi day in the month of kArthigai, our ThiruppANAzhwAr, an incarnation of Sri vatsa mark, the mole on Lord’s Chest, where Sri MahAlakshmi resides, appeared (as an “ayOnijA”, one who is not born of mortal beings) and was picked up and brought up by a childless pANar couple who belong to pANar caste (untouchable “Harijan” caste)(in uRaiyoor near SriRangam on the other side of river kAuvEri at Tirucchirappalli). PANars were known for their sweet voice and singing in praise of BhagawAn Sriman NarayaNan.
Our pANan also grew up singing in praise of Arangan. He used to come daily to the banks of River KauvEri and stand there and sing for hours together in trance enjoying the beauty of Srirangam temple from afar and imagining the Lord’s ThirumEni deeply(whom he had not seen since pANars were not allowed to even enter the temple).
On one such morning, the temple chief priest by name “sAranga muni” (known as muni for his devotion and piety towards the Lord Arangan) came to the River bank to collect water for NamperumAL’s Thirumanjanam(Sacred Bath of Archa moorthy). When he saw one pANan standing on the way, since he belonged to untouchable category(as per the traditions existed then), sAranga muni ordered him to give way and go away from that place. Our bhAgavatA was totally lost in his world of Bhajan. sAranga muni shouted angrily and even threw a small stone at him to make him come to senses(!). The stone hit him on his forhead and it started bleeding! Our pANan realized his blunder and apologised to muni and left the place immediately feeling sorry for his action towards the priest of Arangan. Muni came back to the temple and found the Lord’s forehead bleeding and muni was totally astonished and shocked. He felt really sorry for throwing a stone at that pANan and recognised his apachAram. The entire place came to know of the bleeding scene from Lord’s idol; but not aware of the reason. During his restless sleep, Arangan appeared and ordered the priest to bring His bhaktA “pANAn” (whom he had scolded and wounded that day) to the temple as a prAyaschittam for his apachAram to His bhaktA. Loka sArangha muni realised the greatness of PANan and the next morning he rushed to the river bank. He narrated the entire incident to pANan and prostrated to pANan pleading for his pardon. pANan was very much embarassed and was deeply moved by the Lord’s grace and dayA on him. But he refused to enter into the temple as he did not want to spoil the purity and sanctity of the earth at Sri rangam. He said that he was not fit to set his foot in the Holy place. Immediately muni carried our “pANan” on his shoulders! (Dearest bhAgavatOttamALs, our muni is also a great person to immediately realise his mistake and did all necessary things to do prAyaschittam incuding carrying the pANan on his shoulders knowing fully well of the superficial caste and untouchablity rules existed in the society. We wish we too are blessed with such mentality to do immediate prAyachittams for all our day to day apachArams without bothering about what others will think of such actions).
Our pANan was carried by Sarangha muni and was brought to Srirangam RanganAthar sannidhi (the Sanctum sanctorum). People thronged to witness this great scene (of a high caste individual none other than the Chief priest bringing on his shoulders the lowest caste pANan to the sannidhi and everyone was moved by Lord’s greatness. Our pANan throughout the journey on muni’s shoulders was having his eyes closed since 1. he was highly embarassed and 2. he was greatly moved by His daYA and His mercy with which he has been blessed to enter into the temple, which otherwise would have been impossible. That is the reason pANan is called MunivAhanar even today. (Sri vEdAntha Desikan wrote a Sanskritized Tamil commentary in four verses called “Muni vAhana Bhogam”.)
On reaching the inner sannidhi of Arangan where the Majestic Lord Sri Rangan, the Black Emerald is having His Yoga NidrA and on seeing that Eternally Beautiful, Merciful Lord’s ThirumEni our AzhwAn PANan got down and stood with folded hands glued to each other; faced the Lord and was looking at His entire Soiwlabhya ThirumEni. He thoroughly enjoyed His mEni azhaghu and sang TEN EXCELLENT PASURAMS THEN AND THERE FOR WHICH THERE IS NO COMPARISON AND PARALLEL. Out of 4000 pAsurams, this ThiruppANAzhwAr sang just ten! and those ten are RATHINANGAL. One should recite these TEN PASURAMS dialy and should atleast be blessed with one millionth enjoyment of our Sri Rangan’s ThirumEni azhaghu. All subsequent seers and AchAryAs greatly pais regards to these pAsurams and ThiruppANAzhwAr. (Sri vEdAntha Desikan composed BhagavadhyAna sOpAnam on similar lines admiring Lord Arangan’s ThirumEni azhaghu- One can see in the top verse mentoned herein at the beginning of these posts, VedAntha Desikan refers to PANAN as “NAMPAANANATHAN” (our pANanAthan)).
At the tenth pAsuram (the end) our ThiruppANAzhwAr says: “Lord RanganAthA is the Supreme Sovereign of the Whole World and all the residents therein; He, who is of the Black Colour and the Nature of (merciful) clouds; who ate the stolen butter with his mouth and his sweet hands; who has stolen my mind and the heart fully; and HAVING LOOKED AND ENJOYED HIS BEAUTY (I swear) my eyes can NOT see and will never see any thing ELSE;” With that excellent pAsuram OUR THIRUPPANAZHWAR merged and united with the Lord Sri Ranganathar.