THIRUCHINNAMAALAIYIL SRI VAISHNAVA SIDDHANTAM (Tamil): Lakshmi Srinivasan; Harivilas Foundation, 8, Narmada Flats, 23, Motilal Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Price notstated.

Tiruchinnam, a bugle of sorts shaped somewhat akin to nadaswaram, is traditionally sounded in Vishnu temples to proclaim the setting out of the deity on a procession and to send a signal to the devotees. God-intoxicated souls see Him everywhere and the sounds made even by different creatures recall to them God-related activities.

For Vedanta Desika, the poet-philosopher-polymath, the sound of the tiruchinnam in Varadaraja temple in Kanchipuram brings to mind the Lord's ravishing beauty, infinitely auspicious qualities, and valorous and playful deeds as well. And the outcome is a soul-stirring decad of verses in mellifluous Tamil, Tiruchinnamaalai, which represents an admirable mix of scintillating poetry and sublime philosophy.

Usually, two tiruchinnams are sounded in unison. But in the Kanchipuram temple, only one is sounded. Tradition has it that the Lord had gifted the other tiruchinnam to Desika as a mark of His appreciation for the Acharya's services in promoting Vaishnavism, by warding off attacks from rival faiths.

Commentary

The book under review provides an exhaustive commentary on Tiruchinnamalai. The basic tenets of Visishtadvaita philosophy — that Maha Vishnu is the Supreme Brahman; all the worlds, materials and souls constitute His body; He dwells in all, as their Soul; the summum bonum of life is to get liberated from the cycle of births and deaths; self-surrender or prapatti is the surest means of attaining it — are woven into this garland of poetry.

Even while enjoying the lyrical beauty, we get to know the esoteric meanings of the three core mantras of the Vaishnavites. If the ashtakshara is spoken about in the first six verses, the dwaya is referred to in the seventh and the charamasloka in the eight and ninth verses. The 10 verse captures the bewitching beauty and grandeur of Lord Varadaraja, whom he proudly claims to be his ancestral property. All these are well and adequately explained by the author, with supportive references and quotations from the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Nalayira Divya Prabandham, and various other texts.

The commentary makes interesting and absorbing reading. However, Sanskritised words have been used frequently in the commentary, which a non-Sanskrit-knowing reader may find difficult to understand. In some cases, the meaning of Sanskrit slokas quoted is not given.

On a question of fact, Ramanuja did not write commentary for all the three sacred texts (prasthana traya), as stated in the first chapter, but only for two of them. For the third text, namely the Upanishads, he commented on select, difficult and controversial passages in his Vedartha Sangraha. A full-fledged commentary, from the Visishtadvaita viewpoint, was written five centuries later by Rangaramanuja Muni.

Surely, this book will bring delight to an avid reader with some basic knowledge of Sanskrit.

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