Being the Tamil month of Purattaasi, an auspicious month consecrated to Lord Vishnu, I thought it would be great if there is a post about the great Thirumangai Azhwar. There are other Azhwars who are equally worshipped as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu except Aandal who is worshipped as the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, but Thirumangai Azhwar inspires me a lot. His endurance in his devotion to Lord Vishnu has exalted him to the position of an Azhwar. He has travelled extensively to all the 108 Dhivya Desams, of which 106 are in this Earth and the remaining two are in the Heavenly Abode. He is said to have lived for 105 years and then attained salvation at the Lotus feet of Lord Vishnu at a place called Thirukurungudi. He has sung a majority of the songs in “The Naalayira Dhivya Prabandham”, a collection of 4000 hymns, sung in praise of Lord Vishnu. His works in the Naalayira Dhivya Prabandham are Periya Thirumozhi, Thiru Kurunthaandagam, Thiru Nedunthaandagam, Thiruvelukootrarikkai, Siriya Thirumadal and the Periya Thirumadal which count to over 1200 hymns in all. He was a crude person before he became an Azhwar, same as what Valmiki was before writing the Ramayana.

His original name is Kaliyan, born to the Army Chief Command Neelan (as Abithana Chintamani state), he was cheftain of the Chola Empire and later crowned as King by the Chola Emperor for a small kingdom called Thirumangai as a token of the friendship and the gratitude for winning the war on the enemy, and hence the name Thirumangai Mannan – subsequently Thirumangai Azhwar. He explains in his songs that he slayed innocent lives, has not even uttered kind words to the poor and needy, plundered the wealth of people and had a affinity towards women. But later when he was crowned as a King he was attracted to a great lady called Kumudhavalli, who was the main reason for Kaliyan to divert his attention to the devotion to Lord Vishnu. He wanted her in marriage, but Kumudhavalli accepted his proposal conditionally stating that she would marry only a person who feeds 1000 devotees of Lord Vishnu daily and the one who helps the construction of the Vishnu temple at Srirangam. Kaliyan agreed and Kumdhavalli married him. He ardently carried on with the tasks. And later, troubles started to crop up, his reserves started to dwindle and there was pressure from the Chola Emperor, on the dues of taxes to be paid to the Chola Empire, but Thirumangai King was very serious in completing the work of the temple he started and feed the devotees of Vishnu. And later he was imprisoned for not respecting the orders of the Chola Emperor. Later while in the prison he heard the instructions from the voice of Lord Vishnu (Lord Kariperumal) asking him to come to Kanchipuram to pay off the dues to the Emperor. He informed the Emperor about it and Lord Vishnu directed Kaliyan to the place where there was treasure and he paid the dues, but he was dethroned out of his kingdom and he wandered lonely in the forests, where he got into the company of thieves. But even at that time his intention and endurance was to complete the temple of Lord Vishnu. Before he got into the company of thieves, he begged the wealthy people in his kingdom telling the reason that he needed money to complete the temple and their help is very much needed, but in vain. Then he started the booty and started plundering from the wealthy men. His looting continued and he got a lot of wealth enough to complete the temple work.

One fine day, he planned looting a marriage party, he intimidated the people of the marriage party to put all the jewels and valuables in one place and it happened. But when he tried to lift the ransom, he could not. This suprised him as he has lifted more that what he had plundered now, but he was still struggling to move the bundle, but it didn’t budge. Then, Lord Vishu and Goddess Mahalakshmi reveal themselves from the incarnation they took as a groom and the bride respectively and then he realised and fell at Lord Vishnu feet and pleaded mercy and apologies. Lord Vishnu blessed him and told that the hardships he went under were to test his endurance in his commitment and thereafter Kaliyan be called “Thirumangai Azhwar” thereby exalting him to an Azhwar. Later he got back his kingdom and wealth, and started to continue with the good deeds and devotion to Lord Vishnu. After this he sung the Periya Thirumozhi in praise of the Lord Vishnu.

The enthralling effect and the greatness of his songs are simply out of this world. In most cases, we would try to justify our faults or mistakes that we committed, but Thirumangai Azhwar accepted all his crimes, mistakes and faults at their face value without any justification offering his complete surrender to Lord Vishnu. The songs not only consist of repentance, but also the eloquence in the praise that shows the devotion and the high regard and respect he had for Lord Vishnu. This along with his endurance has exalted him to an Azhwar. Let us see some of his songs

“Kulam Tharum Selvam Thandhidum
Adiyaar Paduthuyar Aayinavellaam
Nilandharam Seyyum Neel Visumbarulum
Arulodu Perinilam Alikkum
Valam tharum mattrum thandhidum Petra
Thaayinum Aayina Seyyum
Nalam Tharum Sollai Naan
Kandukondaen Narayana Ennum Naamam”

meaning, It gives you status, wealth, eliminates sorrow by demolishing them to the ground. It bestows you with lengthy heaven along with lots of land. It blesses you with strength and all sorts of good things. It does more than what a mother would do to a child. And I found that all good bestowing name, Narayana. Here land means not only the materialistic property land, but grounds on which the person is recognised.

Kulam – status
Tharum, Thandhidum – provides
Selvam – Wealth
Adiyaar – devotees
Paduthuyar – sorrow
Aayinavellaam – all of the sorrows
Nilandharam – ground level
Seyyum – Does
Neel – Lengthy
Visumbu – Heaven
Arulum – Blesses
Arulodu – Along with the blessings
Perunilam – A huge piece of land
Alikkum – Provide
Valam – Strength
Mattrum – Others
Petra Thaai – Mother who begets a child
Nalam – Goodness
Soll – Word,
Kandukondaen – Found and realised
Narayana – Lord Vishnu’s name
Naamam – Name

The next songs illustrate his meekness and great devotion. His acceptance of his mistakes at their face value without any justification, but all he requests was salvation

“Vaadinaen Vaadi Varundhinaen Manaththaal
Perunthuyar Idumbaiyil Pirandhu
Koodinaen Koodi Ilayavar Thammodu
Avartharum Kalaviyae Karudhi
Odinaen Odi Uyivadhor Porulaal
Unarvenum Perum Padham Thirindhu
Naadinaen Naadi Naan Kandukondaen
Narayana Ennum Naamam”

meaning, I anguished, felt weak and sad in my heart just because I was born in this whole lot of sorrow and distress. I had friendship with the mean and cheap people, just for the mean pleasures they gave me. Then I ran and ran because of the Supreme Being changed my instincts and senses to search for the Supreme Being. Then I because of search I found the Supreme Being in the name of Lord Narayana.

“Maanei Kann Madavaar Mayakkir Pattu Maanilathu
Naane Naanavidha Naragam Pugum Paavam Seidhaen
Thaenei Poompozhilsuzh Thiruvenkatamaa Malai Enn
Aanai Vandhadainthaen Adiyaenai Aatkondarulae”

meaning, I fell for the attractive deer like eyes of women and committed sins that will take me to all the four kinds of hell. The Lord, Lord Venkatachalapathy, of the Thiru Venkata mountains, that have flowers bearing nectar; I have come to surrender at your feet, please accept me and bless your devotee.

“Theriyaen Paalaganai Palatheemaigal Seithumittaen
Periyaen Aayinapin Pirarkae Uzhaithu Yaezhaiyaanaen
Karisaer Poompozhilsuzh Kanamaamalai Venkatava
Ariyae Vandhadainthaen Adiyaenai Aatkondarulae”

meaning, As a young child that commits mistakes, I have committed a lot of sins. And when I grew up (mental maturity), I became a poor fellow just by working for others (Feeding 1000 people daily as per Kumudhavalli’s request). The Lord Venkatachalapathy, of the great mountains that have majestic elephants. Lord Hari, I have come to Tirupathi to fall at your feel, grant me an asylum in your heart and bless me.

“Kondraen Palluyirai Kurikkole Ondrillamayinaal
Endranum Irandhaarkku Inidhaga Uraiththariyaen
Kundraei Megamadhir Kulirmaamalai Venkatavaa
Andrae Vandhadaidhaen Adiyaenai Aatkondarulae”

meaning, I killed many lives aimlessly, I never spoke benignly to those who came for help. Lord Venkatachalapathy, the lord of the mountains covered with misty chill clouds, I have come then to surrender at your feet and take asylum in your heart, bless me.

As already told, the greatness of Thirumangai Azhwar was his simplicity and the attitude to accept his mistakes at their face value, and most of all his endurance and the devotion to Lord Vishnu and his incarnations. His poetic eloquence has bestowed us great songs that have to be remembered for days to come and indeed sung in all the Bramhotsavam’s celebrated in Tirupathi and various other Dhivyadesams. One such eloquence is the Thiruvelukootrarikkai covered in the earlier post about Chithira Thaer in the Saarangapani temple of Kumbakonam. Thirumangai Azhwar stands as an example of how a devotion to the their God should be, whatever religion be it. Let us praise Thirumangai Azhwar during the month of Purataasi and get the blessings of Lord Vishnu.

More to come, until then…