Beginner’s guide – nammAzhwAr and madhurakavi AzhwAr

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ANdAL pAtti is in the process of explaining the life of AzhwArs to vyAsa and parAsara.

vyAsa: pAtti, we have now heard about mudhalAzhwArgaL and thirumazhisai AzhwAr. Who is next pAtti?

ANdAL pAtti: I will tell you about nammAzhwAr who is considered as the chief among AzhwArs. I will also tell a little about his dear sishya madhurakavi AzhwAr.

nammazhwar-madhurakavinammAzhwArAzhwAr thirunagari, madhurakavi AzhwAr – thirukkOLUr

parAsara: Sure pAtti. We are looking forward to hearing about them from you.

ANdAL pAtti: nammAzhwAr means “our AzhwAr” in thamizh. He was honored by perumAL himself with this title. nammAzhwAr was born in AzhwAr thirunagari on vaikAsi month visAka nakshathram. He was born as the son of the local king/administrator named kAri and his wife udaiyanangai. kAri and udaiyanangai did not have any children for a long time. So they went and prayed to thirukkuRungudi nambi for a child. nambi blesses them that he himself will appear as their child. kAri and udaiyanangai returns to AzhwAr thirunagari and soon udayanangai gives birth to a beautiful child. He is hailed as an amsam of perumAL himself and as an amsam of vishwaksEnar at times.

vyAsa: Oh! very nice. So, is he perumAL himself?

ANdAL pAtti: Looking at his glories, surely we can say that. But as explained by our AchAryas, he himself proclaims that he was one of the jIvAthmAs wandering in this world since time-immemorial and was divinely blessed by srIman nArAyaNan out of his unconditional grace. So, we accept that he is some one who was specially blessed by perumAL.

parAsara: Yes pAtti, I remember you saying in the beginning that perumAL blesses certain persons with full knowledge and make them AzhwArs so that they will bring many of us towards perumAL.

ANdAL pAtti: Very true parAsara. It is so wonderful that you both remember these important points nicely. So, getting back to nammAzhwAr‘s birth, though he was born like a normal child, he did not eat, cry or do anything. His parents were initially worried and they brought him on the 12th day to Adhi nAtha perumAL temple and placed him in front of perumAL. Due to his distinctive nature from other babies, he was given the name mARan (one who is different). Seeing his unique nature, his parents considered him as a divine personality and placed him under the divine tamarind tree which is located at the south side of the temple and worshiped him with great respect. Since then he stayed for 16 years without speaking a word under the tamarind tree.

vyAsa: So, what was he doing all the time? And did he ever speak finally?

ANdAL pAtti: Being blessed at the time of birth, he was in deep meditation on perumAL throughout the time. Finally, it was the arrival of madhurakavi AzhwAr which made him speak.

parAsara: Who was madhurakavi AzhwAr? What did he do?

ANdAL pAtti: madhurakavi AzhwAr was born in thirukkOLUr on chithrai month chithrai nakshathram. He was a great scholar and devotee of srIman nArAyaNan. He was much older than nammAzhwAr and he was on a pilgrimage in ayOdhyA. He had already heard about mARan’s life. At that time, he notices a shining light from the south side and he follows that light which finally leads him all the way to AzhwAr thirunagari temple where mARan is staying.

vyAsa: Did nammAzhwAr speak to madhurakavi AzhwAr?

ANdAL pAtti: Yes, he did. madhurakavi AzhwAr engages him in a divine conversation and AzhwAr finally speaks. Understanding his glories, madhurakavi AzhwAr at once becomes his sishya and learns all the essential principles that are to be learnt. He also fully serves nammAzhwAr and takes care of him for the rest of his life.

parAsara: Oh, that is nice. So, it seems that age is not a criteria when it comes to learning the true knowledge. Here, even though madhurakavi AzhwAr was older than nammAzhwAr, he learnt these principles from nammAzhwAr.

ANdAL pAtti: Very good observation parAsara. Yes, one has to be humble to learn from any learned person even if the person is younger than him. That is the true quality of srIvaishNavas and is nicely demonstrated by madhurakavi AzhwAr here. After some years, at the age of 32, nammAzhwAr decides to ascend to paramapadham as he was unable to bear the separation from perumAL any longer. After singing the glories of perumAL in his four prabandhams namely thiruviruththam, thiruvAsiriyam, periya thiruvanthAdhi and thiruvAimozhi, by the grace of perumAL he ascends to paramapadham to be engaged in eternal kainkaryam to perumAL there.

vyAsa: That was too young to go to paramapadham pAtti.

ANdAL pAtti: Yes. But he wanted to be blissful eternally. And perumAL wanted him to be there. So, he left this world and reached there. madhurakavi AzhwAr then established the archA vigraham of nammAzhwAr which was received by boiling the water of river and arranged for proper worship of nammAzhwAr in this dhivya dhEsam. He composed a prabandham named “kaNNinuN chiRu thAmbu” in full glorification of nammAzhwAr. He also spread the glories of nammAzhwAr every where and established nammAzhwAr‘s greatness all over the region.

parAsara: So, it is because of madhurakavi AzhwAr we fully understand nammAzhwAr‘s glories.

ANdAL pAtti: Yes. He was totally dedicated to nammAzhwAr and he himself was glorified due to his dedication to nammAzhwAr. See, devotees of perumAL are more glorified than perumAL himself. So, glorification of devotees of perumAL is considered much greater than glorifying perumAL. We too should try to serve the devotees of perumAL whenever possible.

vyAsa and parAsara: Surely pAtti. We will keep that mind and look forward to such opportunities.

ANdAL pAtti: With this we have seen the life of nammAzhwAr and madhurakavi AzhwAr. Let us go to nammAzhwAr‘s sannidhi and worship him.

Author: sArathy rAmanuja dAsan

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