Singular devotion

CHENNAI: The Nalayira Divyaprabandham begins with the hymns of Periyazhwar (Vishnuchitta) and he alone among the Azhwars has the epithet “Periya”, meaning great. All were great mystics and hence it will be rewarding to know what distinguished Periyazhwar from the rest. He was not the first Azhwar as that distinction goes to the Mudal Azhwars — Poygai, Bhutam and Pey. He was accorded this rare privilege because all the others sang the glory of God seeking His grace while Periyazhwar’s Pallandu is a benedictory hymn on the Lord. In his overwhelming love of God, Periyazhwar was concerned about His well being and so he blessed Him. The other reason for his unique position is cited in an invocatory verse which states that he became the father-in-law of Lord Ranganatha Himself through Andal. A double blessing indeed!

In their discourse, Damal Sri Ramakrishnan and Srimathi Perundevi Seshadri said the objective of Periyazhwar and his foster daughter Andal was Lord Krishna. While Andal’s devotion was the natural expression of bridal mysticism, Periyazhwar’s devotion took the form of maternal love towards child Krishna in his hymn Periyazhwar Tirumozhi. Andal, the only lady among the Azhwars, was exceptional as She became the consort of the Lord. Father and daughter thus have an unparalleled standing in tradition.

Worldly people are attached to their body, kith and kin. The sages are greater than them because they had overcome all attachments and turned to God. The Azhwars excelled the sages as they were blessed with wisdom by God to sing His glory. Periyazhwar’s total surrender to God can be seen in this verse, “Like rubbing gold on a touchstone to check its purity, I have inscribed Your name on my tongue. Forever, I have placed You in me and myself in You…” The commentary on this verse notes Hanuman’s reaction after locating Sita in the Ashoka grove. He wondered how She was alive after being separated from Rama. Then he came to the conclusion that they had exchanged their hearts and so both had survived. Similarly these God-intoxicated mystics bore their separation from the Lord only because He had filled their very being.

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