Heritage History & Culture

Periyazhwar’s maternal instinct

Sri Periazhwar at Koodal Alagar Perumal temple, Madurai.

Sri Periazhwar at Koodal Alagar Perumal temple, Madurai.   | Photo Credit: S_Krishnamoorthy

The Azhwar’s birth will be celebrated on June 30

Sri Vallabha Deva was a popular king of Madurai. On his nocturnal rounds, he comes across an old Brahmin seated on a pyol in a remote street. The king enquires of his condition. The Brahmin replies with a subhashitham:

Varshartham ashtauprayadeta maasaan

Nishartham artham divasam yadetha

Varthakya hethor vayasa navetha

Parathra hethoriha janma naasa

(Work hard for eight months to save for the four months of rainy season. Work in day time for a peaceful night. Attempt something useful during youth for a peaceful old age. Make efforts in this birth for attaining Moksha.)

The king starts wondering about his own life. What is expected of him? What should he do to gain eternal bliss?

He consults Acharya Selva Nambi, who advises a conference of scholars who will debate and arrive at a consensus on the concept of the Paramathmaswaroopa. Out goes the announcement inviting scholars to assemble at the conference hall. Selva Nambi sends out a special invitation to a scholar he has been admiring at Srivilliputtur. This is Vishnuchitta, a priest at Vatapathrasayee temple, Srivilliputtur. (His father, Mukunda Bhattar, named him as Vishnuchitta in the hope that his mind and heart will be focused on Lord Vishnu).

Vishnuchitta, a native of Tirukoshtiyur, goes to Madurai and participates in the debate. Incidentally, Selva Nambi also hails from that place. Quoting sruthi, smrithi and other sacred texts, he establishes the parathvam of the Thiruashtakshara mantra. Even as he is expatiating, the pot of gold hoisted at the hall falls into his hands, showing divine acceptance of his view point. The king names him Bhattarpiran. A flash in the sky is followed by the appearance of Lord Narayana with His consorts on Garuda.

This happens, The whole gathering was stunned into reverence. This happened in front of the Koodalazhagar temple. Even as he is worshipping, along with others, Vishnuchitta fears some harm for the Lord. Spontaneously he chants,

Pallandu Pallandu Pallayirathaandu Palakoti Noorayiram

Mallanda Thin Tholl Manivanna un sevadi sevvi thirukappu

This is the first verse in the Divya Prabandham. His deep concern for the Lord Himself earned him the name Periyazhwar.

Pongum Parivaale Villiputtur Bhattarpiraan Petraan Periyazhwar ennum peyar.” (Manavalamamunigal)

Vishnuchitta was wondering from an early age what form of worship would please the Lord. He drew inspiration from Malakara of Mathura, whose humble house was visited by Krishna to get garlanded by him. Periyazhwar started laying flower gardens. He worshipped the Lord Vatapatrasayee with several kinds of flowers.

Shenbaga malligaiyodu sengazhuneer iruvatchi yenbaga poovum konarthen indru ivai sutta va endru

He also raised the temple tower with the gold coins he received. The poet in him woke up. His outpourings flooded the Srivaishnava world.

Focus is on Krishna

Krishna — baby krishna — was central to all his pasurams. It is all baby Krishna. He is born in Thirukoshtiyur ( Vanna madangal suzh Thirukottiyur). His benefactor Selva Nambi hailed from Thirukoshtiyur. Unlike other Alwars , Periyalwar was scared of any possible evil being attempted on the Lord. Concerned about Krishna’s safety, he doesn’t want to reveal the Lord’s birth place. He is Achyutha, born ten stars from Hastha Nakshatram. Count ten stars backward, you get Rohini; and count ten stars forward, it is Thiruvonam – Athhathin patham naal thondriya Achyutan. (1-2-8). Periyazhwar enjoys the childhood of Krishna — Krishna in the cradle, Krishna growing up, taking tiny steps to walk, the imprint of sangu and chakra on His feet and so on.

Oru kaalil sangu oru kalil chakaram ulladi porithu amaintha

iru kaalum kondu angu angu ezhithinaar pol ilachinai pada nadanthu

Perugaa nindra inba vellathin Mel pinnaiyum peithu peithu

karugaa kadal vannan kaama thathai thalar Nadai Nadavanoe

The Azhwar becomes Yasodha, invites the baby for a bath, the baby refuses. Yasodha cajoles and ultimately says Nappinai will laugh (Nappinnai kaanil sirikkum).Krishna, the butter-stealer,Krishna the cowherd, Krishna the flautist and Krishna holding the Govardhana Giri as umbrella , all this and more described in very great detail. No wonder Periyazhwar is considered the original pioneer of Pillai Tamizh.He employs the modern literary technique of stream of consciousness to jump from one avatar to another, not in the right order. The poetic excellence is marvellously executed in the pasuram, Moondrezhuthu athanai moondruezhuthu athanaal moondru ezhuthu akki (4-7-10) about Deva Prayag.

Of the 473 pasurams, the first 285 poems reflect the joy and ecstasy the Azhwar felt in describing the beauty and antics of baby Krishna. Suddenly, there is a complete reversal and the Azhwar is lost in melancholy. His only daughter has gone away with Lord Krishna. He assumes the role of the mother, the friend and the heroine and describes the agony:

Sambandhobaya balangalil unarthi thunivu padhatram aakira pragyanvasthaikalukku thozhi thayaar, makal endru peyar - Acharya Hridayam.

Pasuram No. 300 describes the agony best:

Oru magal thannai udaiyen Ulakam niraintha pugazhaal

Thirumagal pol valarthen Chengenmaal than kondu ponaan...

He had brought up his only daughter like Mahalakshmi. Krishna has taken her away. Sure, Yashodha will receive the daughter in law with affection. When Koorathazhwan attains Paramapadam, Ramanuja in his discourse quotes this pasuram and sheds tears.

Our acharyas and commentators don’t agree with the view that the change in the mood was brought about by the exit of Andal, who proudly described herself as Vishnuchittan Kodhai. Her authority is derived from Vishnuchitta. ‘Meimei peru vaarthai vishnuchittar kettiruppar.’

The second half of Periyazhwar describes various divyadesa yatras. Srirangam and Thirumaaliruncholai are repeatedly referred to. He even sings the glory of Lord Purushottama of Devaprayag (Kandam ennum kadinagar). He sings the glory of the devotees of the Lord. Periyazhwar completes his Prabandham with an invocation to Thiruvengadamudaiyaan. He is his Kula deivam, the tutelary deity. The Alwar has drunk deep the ambrosia of the Lord. He has rubbed the Lord’s name on his tongue like running nugget on a touchstone. He has placed the Lord in himself and himself in the Lord. He had declared earlier

“maarvam enbathu ore koil amaithu

madhavan ennum deivathai naatti

aarvam enbadhu ore poo ida vallarkku

arava thandathil uyyathum aame”

(Make your heart your Lord’s temple, install Madhava as its deity and worship with the flower called love. (Periyalwa 4-5-2)

He concludes that the Lord gave up the ocean of milk to take abode in the ocean of the heart of the Azhwar. Casting aside Vaikunta, Thirupparkadal and Dwaraka, the Lord chose to reside in his heart – Vishnuchittan manathae koil konda kovalan.

gurumugam anadithya praha veddan aseshaan

narapathi parikliptham sulkam aatha thu kaamaha

svasuram amara vanthyam ranganathasya sakshaath

thvijikula thilakam vishnuchittam namami

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 11:35:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/periyazhwars-maternal-instinct/article31922673.ece

Next Story