Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple | Photo Credit: SRINATH M
It was midnight, marked by heavy downpour, thunder and lightning. A spiritually inclined middle-aged man was seeking shelter. He entered the ramshackle ashram of Mrikandu Maharishi. So tired he was that he rested in the corridor saying “Oruvar padukkalam”. No sign of the rain abating. To seek light, he started singing:
“Vaiyam thagaliya,
Vaarkadale neyyaga
Veyya kadhirone vilakkaga.
Seyya sudar aazhiyaan adikkae
Soottinnen soll maalai
Idar aazhi neengugavae endru.”
“The earth is my lamp, the ocean is the oil, and the radiant sun, the flame. I offer this garland of songs at the feet of the Discus bearing Lord, so that we may cross the ocean of misery.”
Another person entered seeking shelter in the same corridor. The first answered, “ Welcome, Iruvar Irukkalam.” There was no sign of the rain abating. The second person, Boothathazhwar, recited his prayer:
“Anbae thagaliya, aarvamae neeyyaga,
Inbu urugu chinthai idu thiriya,
Nanbu urigi gyana chudar vilakku etrinen,
Naaranarkku, gnana tamil purintha naan”
“With the lamp of love, earnestness as oil, heart as the wick, melting myself here I light a lamp of gnana and offer this holy Tamil garland of knowledge to the Lord”.
Then entered the third person seeking shelter, who was welcomed with the words “moovar nirkalam”. And all three stood up. Suddenly, there was lightning amidst the thunder. And the third person was ecstatic and sang:
“Thirukkanden Ponmeni Kanden,
Thigazhum arukkan, aniniramum kanden,
Serikkilarum ponnazhi kanden,
Puri sangam kai kanden, ennazhi vannanpaal indru”
“Today I have seen Mahalakshmi on the frame of my ocean hued Lord. I have seen the golden Discus, dextral conch in the hands of the Lord with the radiance of the Golden sun.”
The first person, who entered the hermitage of Mrukandu Maharishi was Poigai Azhwar, born in the lotus pond attached to the Sri Yathothakari Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram. The second, Boothathazhwar, was born in Mahabalipuram, and the third, Peyazhwar, was born in Mada Mayilai Thiruvallikeni. Each rendered 100 sacred pasurams in Tamil extolling Narayana. They accidentally met at Tirukkovilur, where the lord is worshipped as Dehalisa.
‘Dehali’ in Tamil means the narrow portion of the house that connects the front door to the inner chambers. Dehali is also referred to as Rezhi, Idaikkazhi and Nadai in Tamil. The leelas of the Lord of Thirukkovilur in the Dehali in Mrikandu Maharishi's house resulted in us being blessed with the three Thiruvandhadhis associated with the three Mudal Azhwars.
Even today, this event, of the meeting of the three Azhwars, is celebrated as Thirukovilur Vaibhavam at all Srivaishnava temples. And this year’s festival will take place on November 1, 2, and 3.
“Aippasiyil onam avittam sathayam ivai oppilla va naatkal ulagathir,” said Manavala Mamunigal.
The importance of the Azhwar Divya Prabandham lies in the fact that they conveyed the message of the Vedas, Vedangas, Upanishads, Bhagavatha Purana and the Bhagavad Gita, written in Sanskrit, in chaste Tamil. The term Azhwar is difficult to translate, and A.K. Ramanujan translated it as the ‘Voice of the drowning’. The 12 Azhwars are ardent devotees of Narayana, and the temples they worshipped are known as 108 Divyadesams. The first of these is Srirangam. Poigai Azhwar was the first to refer to Srirangam:
Ondrum maranthariyen otha neer vannanai naan.
Indru marappeno ezhaikaal
Andru karu arangathul kidanthu kai thozhuthen kanden
Thiruvarangan meyyan disai
“Even when I lay in the room, I folded my hands in worship of the Lord of Srirangam.” The Lord of the Seven Hills, Lord Balaji is the second Divyadesam worshipped by all the Azhwars except Thondaradipodi Azhwar. The third is Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi. Boothathazhwar sang the glory of all the three Divyadesams in pasuram 28 of Irendam Thiruvanthathi.
Manathullan Venkadathaan, Maakadalan matrum ninaippariya
Neel Arangathu ullan ena palarum
Devathi Devan ena paduvaan
Mun orunaal maavai pilantha magan
Dr. M.A.V. Madhusudhanan explains the significance of this verse. The sky and earth praise Him as the Lord of Gods. The ocean reclining Lord resides in Thiruvarangam, in Thiruvengadam, and in Kanchipura. He is in my heart, Gokulam’s child. Hindu Philosophy emphasises several forms of Godhood.
Paramapada: where Sama gana is heard always, with the Lord in the company of Nithya mukthas;
Vyuham : Thirupparkkadal or the milky ocean
Vibhavam : the avataras of the lord
Antharyamithvam : residing in the heart of every individual
Archavataram – The temples, the mutts, and the homes of devotees where he is worshipped which worship Him
The Azhwars rendered nearly 4,000 paasurams in Tamil. They styled themselves Perun Tamizhan, Gyana Tamizhan, Nar Tamizhan, and Tamil Thalaivan. No wonder the Divya Prabhandham is called Dravidopanishad. Late in life, Max Mueller recognised the philosophical literature available in Tamil. It was Ramanuja, who asserted the importance of Divya Prabandhams of the Azhwars, and placed it on a pedestal equal to or greater than the Sanskrit Vedas.
The Chennai-based writer is a Carnatic music connoisseur.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2022 3:44:38 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/hymns-that-celebrate-the-beauty-of-tamil/article66060998.ece
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