Monday, November 23, 2009

Thiruppavai, an Introduction - Part I

I do not understand Tamizh. Though I have always liked to learn different languages my eagerness to learn Tamizh greatly increased when I heard about Thiruppavai. Eventually after spending quite some time with Thiruppavai, I heard about Thiruvaay Mozhi. I firmly believe that we eventually achieve what our mind consistently searches for. After doing some initial inquiries into Thiruppavai, by the mercy of the Almighty, I came across an Audio CD by his divine grace Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji. I liked the contents so much that I literally fell in Love with God as well as the Lovers of God. As they say, without love of God, all the rituals are mere sentiments and nothing else.

NONE of this is my original composition. I am not even qualified to completely understand the whole Thiruppavai on my own and give my own understanding, gist or opinion on that. This is only the gist of what I understood from that audio CD. I humbly request the readers to kindly excuse me for any errors that would have occurred in this article. I liked it so much that I could not restrain myself from writing it up so that those interested among my friends and well wishers would be benefitted from it.

For the human being endeavoring to get the highest possible benefit with minimum possible efforts, understanding and recitation of Thiruppavai is the single best process. This wonderful Thiruppavai has been gifted to the entire humanity by Andal. Sirivilliputtur is a place in Southern Part of India. Some years after the advent of Kaliyuga, Vishnuchittulu (or Periya Azhwar) found a girl crying in the backyard garden in their house among the Tulasi plants. That girl was none other than Andal. Andal gave us the process which not only benefits us with all the comforts of life for our spiritual growth, but also gives us the Love of God and helps us in God realization.

Some people live only to eat. Such people are known as Bhubhukshuvulu. Some people eat to live. Second category of people is considered to be in higher God consciousness. The Second category of people who are not just interested in bodily concepts of life but are interested in understanding the supreme goal of human life and gaining the knowledge of the supreme which is considered to be the highest are called Mumukshuvulu. These are the people who would like to grow from the stage where they currently exist on the spiritual platform.

If the knowledge possessed by Mumukshuvulu is compared to a mountain, then that possessed by Bhubhukshuvulu to progress in materialistic life is like an atom! Among those Mumukshuvus, there are some people who observe severe austerities in the forests in an attempt to understand the Supreme Lord. These devotees have a knowledge even higher than ordinary Mumukshuvus. Now again if we compare the knowledge possessed by ordinary Mumukshuvus as an atom, then that possessed by those elevated ones is like a mountain. There are some devotees who work as instruments of the Lord who are hand picked by the Lord Himself to establish and show to common people the way to worship the Lord and reach his abode. If the knowledge possessed by elevated Mumukshuvus is compared to an atom, then that possessed by the devotees picked by Lord is like Mountain.

There are ten such great personalities in South India. (Kindly note that actually there are Twelve of them, but for some reason, two pairs of those great personalities are considered as one each). They did not do a great deal of extreme penance. But they could realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They cherished the realization of God. They could not contain the happiness of the realization of God; so they sang the Love of Godhead in the form of hymns. Those hymns have become the gist of Vedas helping the jeevas in material world to cross this great ocean. All the hymns put together by Azhwars are called ‘Nalayira Divya Prabhandam’.

‘Nalayira’ refers to the fact that there are four thousand pasurams in Divya Prabhandam. Those who recited Divya Prabhandham are called DivyaSooras. Since they cherished the Love of Godhead by soaking themselves in the divine Love, they are called ‘Azhwars. They cherished the nectar of love of Godhead and also helped the jeevas to appreciate the sweetness of devotional service to the Lord. If the knowledge of the sages or the elevated Mumukshuvus is compared to an atom, that of Azhwars is like a mountain. The reason is simple, the former has their knowledge due to their self endeavor where as Azhwars have the knowledge given directly by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

All the Azhwars longed to see the Lord; they did not want any comforts in this material world. Since this body always longs for things that are materialistic in nature, they longed to end the relationship with the material body and that was their prayer to the Lord. Azhwars always wanted God to give them His divine Darshan.

Vishnuchittulu was one among the Azhwars. He is also a realized soul. He is also known as ‘Periya Azhwar’. Literal transition of the word ‘Periya’ is big, but contextually, it means the first among them. The reason for calling him first among Azhwars is neither his age nor his knowledge. Others used to long and pray to the Lord for his darshan; but on the contrary, Lord has shown His causeless mercy to Periya Azhwar with his divine darshan.

After cherishing the Lord's divine beauty, Periya Azhwar requested the lord to disappear immediately and go away so that nobody can cast an evil spell on the most beautiful Lord. He prayed and sang so that nobody casted an evil spell on the Lord. The knowledge that he had about the Lord got converted to the Love of Godhead and due to this, Periya Azhwar requested the Lord that it was okay even if Lord did not give him his darshan but that Lord should be fine and safe all the time. Such is the knowledge, wisdom and Love of Periya Azhwar towards Lord. He had a very great (big) fear that it would affect Lord’s well being if Lord gave him the darshan This ‘Big’ fear is the reason to call him ‘Big’ Azhwar hinting that he is the first among them.

All the Azhwars considered the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a Supreme person and wanted to cherish His company and divine beauty. Many Azhwars considered themselves to be feminine to cherish the Supreme Lord considering Him to be masculine. They were actually males but considered them selves to be feminine to attain the Lord.

Being feminine naturally, Andal did not need any kind of assumptions or mental consideration of being a feminine; naturally taking the darshan of Lord, being loved by the Lord Himself, reaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead, attaining the causeless mercy of the Lord is our ‘Andal’. Andal is Periya Azhwar’s daughter. Andal’s love and knowledge of the Lord is considered to be much higher than that of Periya Azhwar.

Vishnuchittulu (Periya Azhwar) found Andal among the Tulasi plants in his backyard. He used to do the service of preparing a garland of Tulasi leaves and offering it the Lord of Sirivilliputtur. Since the kid was found among the Tulasi plants, he named her as malika or kodai in Tamizh. That Kodai is none other than Godha Devi or Andal. Love of Lord was as natural to Kodai (or Godha) as fragrance to Tulasi plant.

Her father used to explain the glories of the Supreme Lord to Godha. After hearing constantly about Lord, Godha started feeling that she belongs only to Lord and no one else. Then she decided that she would serve only Lord and not any one else. Finally, she decided that she would marry only the Lord and none other than the Lord. But was it possible? We don’t know!

Godha was listening to Periya Azhwar’s description of Sreemad Bhagavatam. She was relishing the Sree Krsna Leela. She also wanted to enjoy being the consort of the Supreme Lord. She wanted to know how many different forms Lord has and when he would take those forms. Periya Azhwar described her the glories of 108 divya desams where the Lord has taken different forms. After visiting all those 108 Divya Desams, Godha devi fell very much in Love with Lord Ranganatha.

She was then very much eager to become the consort of the Lord. But she was not sure if that was possible. She was staying in Sirivilliputtur and Lord was at SriRangaKshetram. Neither could she stay without reaching the Lord, nor was it easy to reach Him. She thought how it would be possible to bear the separation from Lord. Then she began to wonder if there was some one else who had similar feelings towards Lord and if so how did they bear the separation from Lord.

She came to know of Gopikas in Nanda Vraja. Godha also wanted to go to Nanda Vraja to enjoy serving the Lord. But Lord was on this earth in Dwapara Yuga where as she was in Kaliyuga; She was in Sirivilliputtur while Lord was in Nanda Vraja. It was both different times as well as different place. She did not have the strength to reach Lord. But she was not able to bear the separation from Lord. While she was trying to find out the ways to bear the separation from Lord, she came to know the what Gopikas did to bear the separation from Lord. When Periya Azhwar was describing Bhagavatam, at the Sree Krsna Rasa Leela Ghatta, in the night of Sharad Purnima, when Lord wanted Gopikas to enjoy the feeling of separation from Him, He disappeared from them.

When Gopikas were feeling the separation from Lord and when they were unable to bear this, they all imitated the dance with Krsna. One of the Gopikas imitated Krsna and others became Gopikas and they all enjoyed the dance. Some times, some of Gopikas assumed the forms of Asuras and the one who imitated Krsna would kill asuras. In this way, by imitating the pastimes of Krsna, they used to bear the separation from Lord. Godha devi came to know the ways to bear the separation from Lord from this. She realized she can also bear the separation from Lord by imitating and enjoying the pastimes. She also wanted to imitate.

What should she imitate? She also wanted to become one of the Gopikas. She became a Gopika in imagination to imitate the pastimes of Lord. She was at Sirivilliputtur, but she assumed that to be Repalle (Nanda Vraja). She considered her friends around her to be other Gopikas. She assumed that the Vatapatrashai Bhavan around her is none other than Nandagopa Bhavan. She assumed the residing deity at Vatapatrashai Bhavan as Lord Shree Krsna. She became a Gopika in her ways of thinking, singing and living. She became a Gopika very naturally.

She started a sacrifice, a Vrata to obtain Lord. Before this Vrata, Godha always used to wonder if she was beautiful or not, if Lord would like her or not. She used to wear the flowers that were supposed to be offered to Lord. Her father used to prepare the garland for the Lord and keep it in a basket. The only intent of Godha was to see if she would be found beautiful by Lord in those flowers.

She would wear those flowers and decorate her and would see her reflection in water, alter the decoration and would think in which way Lord would like her. She was so small that she never even thought that it would be incorrect to offer the “used” flowers to Lord. After seeing herself adorned by those flowers, she would keep those flowers back in the basket. These flowers would later be offered to Lord Ranganatha. She was not so wise that she could think about it. But her intention was not wrong at all. She could not think if the flowers that she used should not be sent to Lord. By the time her father comes back, she would keep the flowers back in the basket.

This used to happen every day but her father did not realize it for many days. One day, her father found a hair in the garland. He immediately understood what has happened and he realized that the flowers have been used and that he cannot offer them to Lord. So he did not send those flowers to Lord. The same night Lord appeared to him in his dream and asked, “My dear Father-in-Law, why did you not send the flowers to me?” Vishnuchittulu was surprised. He realized that Lord accepted the flowers used by Godha. He realized that Lord called him as Father-in-Law because he accepted Godha.

He realized that the kid that was growing up in his house was not an ordinary girl. He knew she was a divine girl. He realized that she came to save him. So he named her as Ennai Aaala Vandaal – meaning: “She came to save me” – which became Andal.

Lord was eager to wear the garland that was used by Godha. So Godha has got one more name. This another name is due to the fact that she offered the used flowers to the Lord. This name is Aamuktha maalyada. In Tamizh, it is Sudi Koduthha Naachiyaaar.

Godha devi assumed that the whole villiage is Vraja. She started imitating the Kaathyani Vratam that Gopikas used to perform. For this purpose she had to awaken all the Gopikas around her, and for them, she wrote and offered one Pasuram (Shloka) per day to Lord. All those Pasurams/Shlokas or songs are famously known as Thiruppavai.

Thiruppavai is a vratam that can bring us all the necessary riches to live a good spiritual life. In imagination, Godha has already reached Vrajadhaam. Lord Krsna was growing up in Vraja. Lord was born in Mathura but He was not interested to grow up there. Since there were many people who would selflessly love Lord in Vraja, Lord decided to grow up in Vraja. Every body loved Krsna at Vraja. Evey one were very innocent at Vraja. Every one in Vraja knew nothing greater than loving the Lord. Since such people were there, Lord reached Vraja. He was shining there like a lamp in the darkness.

Lord will be at Paramapadam also. But he came to Vraja to enjoy the company of people who would love Him selflessly. Where ever He is, he would take care of the creation and protection of all the universes. He is there inside and outside of every living entity and matter. He lives in every living being to make them work the way their Karma dictates.

Krsna came to this world and was living in Vraja. He used to enjoy the company of Gopas and Gopikas there. He used to entertain them all. He used to get entertained by them all. All the Gopas and Gopikas innocently loved Krsna. It so happened that once the elders in Vraja did not allow the Gopikas to play with Krsna. They hid the Gopikas in their respective houses and did not allow them to go out. Krsna was also sad and Gopikas was also sad about the separation. Then, there was no rain in Vraja for some time. This turned out to be luck of Gopikas and Lord Krsna. Only Cows were the property of people at Vraja. Only if it rains, there would be grass and only if there was grass, cows can eat something and would live and give milk. So rain was vey important for Vraja vaasis.

There was a need to so some sacrifice (vrata) so that it would rain. They realized that it was important to do the Kathyani Vrata. That was to be performed by small kids. Gopikas were hidden by their parents. But they all had a collective problem of shortage of rains. So they had to bring the kids out of their hiding places. And the best part was that the Vrata has to be performed along with Krsna. They avoided their Gopikas to mingle with Krsna so far. But for the problem to be solved, there was no other way than performing the Vrata. Then they requested Krsna to help them perform the Vrata. Krsna acted as if He was angry because they did not allow Him to play with His beloved Gopikas till then. But He was happy that they finally surrendered to him.

Initially He acted angry but quickly He came forward to help them all when they requested him Elders were all very happy. They brought all Gopikas and handed them over to Krsna to perform the vrata. Krsna was also very happy. Gopikas were also extremely happy. They spent a lot of time looking at each other and talking to each other. Krsna promised that He would give them all the paraphernalia required for the performance of sacrifice. He said they should come to His place at the dawn of the next day to collect all the required material to perform the vrata. It was very difficult for each of them as well as to Krsna to part with each other. But since they had to go and any ways they were supposed to be meeting on the next day, they finally parted.

Every one woke up at the early morning the next day and gathered at one place. After checking if every one of them had joined the group, they all started to Nanda Gopa Bhavan. All of them reached the Bhavan, woke up Nanda Gopa, Yashodha, Krsna and Neeladevi. They explained their intent to Krsna. They said they came to see Him waking up, they said they came to see the divine beauty of Krsna. They wanted to see the beauty of Krsna and to glorify Him.

They asked for the material required for the performance of vrata. They told Him that it was not just the material that they had come for Since the elders had handed them over to Krsna they would still need to do the vrata so they needed the material but their actual intent was only to serve Krsna and to enjoy His company. They prayed Krsna that they should enjoy his company and should be able to serve Him for ever, for many life times. They indeed got that boon from Krsna. Godha gets invited to Lord Himself and reaches Shree Ranga Kshetra and then she serves the Lord. She married Lord Ranganatha who was the presiding deity (archya murthi) there. She still serves the Lord there.

Godha devi has performed the Dhanurmasa vrata. This vrata is something that should be performed by every one on this earth. Any one who wishes to be improved in life has to perform this vrata. It can get any of our desires satisfied. Usually, there would be some difficulties in performing other vratas. But in this Dhanurmasa vrata, there are no such difficulties. But it would get us all the benefits. Godha devi proved that it gets us all the benefits. If this vrata can get Godha the Lord Himself, how can it not provide us the smaller benefits? If we get a Rs.1000 note, we should know that we already have a Rs.10, Rs.20 or Rs. 100 in that. There is no doubt about it. Similarly, this vrata can get us the companionship at Lord’s feet, then what to speak of other small benefits.

There are three kinds of human beings on this earth. Some are in the mode of goodness, some in the mode of passion and others in the mode of ignorance. Those in the mode of goodness (Sattva Guna) would like to help others and do all the good deeds. They are lucky to have the faith in God. They are usually very polite to others. Those in mode of passion (Rajo Guna) are under the illusion that they are the ones who are the doers, that they should enjoy the results. They are under the assumption that if they were not there, the word would no more continued to exist. They have dominating false ego. Those in mode of ignorance (Tamo Guna) gives maximum importance to the body and every thing they do revolve around the pleasure of the body. They live a life completely away from serving the Lord.

Even in Vraja, we see different people with all three characteristics. Gopikas loved Lord selflessly. Some of the Gopakas have a little false ego. Gopikas who loved Lord were hidden by their parents so that they don’t play with Krsna. Some elders did not want Krsna, for them their life is important and that should be fine. Even such people who wanted to keep Krsna away, when they had to face a difficulty, they also needed Krsna to remove the obstacle for living their good life. They did not go to Krsna out of their love for Him but for their own requirements of good life and to safeguard their body.

But Krsna in Bhagavad Gita said it was okay even if we took His shelter for whatever reasons!! (Aartho Jignasu Artharthee Gyanecha, Chaturvidha Bhajante maam Sukruthinah Arjuna). So, even if we ask Krsna to help us in material benefits, even if we ask Him for more riches, or if we have to get back the lost riches, whether we ask Him for knowledge or the Lord Himself and services unto Him, anything is fine with Him. He will be more than happy if we took His shelter. He wants us to take His shelter. He will be more than happy if we could take His shelter. The reason is very simple: He is the natural relative to us. If some one is truly worried about us and truly interested in our wellbeing, it is only Lord Krsna. Others may also give us some benefit but that may not be in the true interest of our benefit.

Since the Gopikas wanted to serve Him, He gave them that benefit and the benefit of rain to the elders. In this world, there are some people who want ONLY to serve the Lord. They do not need any other benefits. Those are Sattvikas. They are very less in number in this word. Some others live a life as if they are equal to Lord. They are in mode of passion. Some of the elders in Vraja belong to this category. Some people live a life of ignorance, and would like to live away from serving Lord. For those who want to serve Lord, He gives them the benefit of serving them. He actually acts according to the wishes of those devotees. Lord makes them do things that will benefit the entire humanity and world. Even those Satvikas would like to do things which would benefit the whole world, which is also the wish of the Lord.

Although the Gopikas performed the vrata only for the sake of elders, they were happy that they could serve Krsna and that they could spend time with Him. Though they wanted to serve only Krsna, they also got benefitted by the rains. They also got the benefit of serving Krnsa. So if Satvikas perform this vrata, they would any way be doing things that would benefit the world, apart from this, they would also be serving Krsna – which brings them the highest happiness.

For those in the mode of passion, this vrata gives not only those things that they desire, but also gives the love for Lord. Those who are in mode of ignorance will also benefit from their standpoint apart from being given the ability to develop the love for Lord, which is the highest benefit. This vrata gives us the Love of Lord. There is no restriction that some one can do and others can’t. This vrata can get all kinds of benefits for any kind of people.

Andal performed this vrata for thirty days. Unlike the vrata being performed by Gopikas in one day, Andal performed this for thirty days by offering thirty pasurams to Lord. She wrote the Pasurams in such a way that those are beneficial to a good living even today. Gopikas did not tell other what they have have exactly done. But VedaVyaasa has recorded it for us. Godha devi has not only performed the vrata but also made them as thirty pasurams and gave it to humanity. Whoever wants to improve in their respective lives in what ever ways should perform this vrata.

Vedas are considered as very important for our correct living. There are so many different dharmas in Vedas. Different ways of achieving things to satisfy different needs are mentioned in the Vedas Thiruppavai has got a similar power. Vedam Anatthukkum Vitthahum Kodai Ayyaindum Aindum- These thirty Pasurams sung by Godha devi is NOT the meaning but is the origing on Vedas. This means Thiruppavai is much simpler and more prominent than Vedas. Simple to practice. Easy to perform to get the results. It is said that the life of human being is a waste if one does not learn the thirty pasurms sung by Godha. This earth would grieve the weight of such a living entity. (Vayyam Sumappadhum Vambu).

I will stop this here. In the second part, I intend to write about the exact message of Godha in Thiruppavai. If God wishes, I will come up with second part in next six months. Thank you J Hare Krsna.

Please feel free to write your comments or suggestions to me at

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