Tiruppāvai of Āṇḍāḷ | verses 4-5

Stanza 4

O Great Varuṇa, God of Rain, withhold not anything!
 Plunge into the sea, fill up, rise with splendour;
Assume the dark hue of the Primordial Cause;
 Blaze with lightning like the Discus in Padmanābha’s hand.
Thunder like the conch above His strong shoulder;
 Pour down your showers in abundance,
like arrows from His bow Śārṅga. That we and the world
 may live, and bathe in the joyous month of Margali.

Commentary

Here Godā again stresses her desire for rain, and addresses this invocation to the Rain-god Varuṇa. He is not addressed as an independent deity but is referred to as an executive of the Supreme Being Kṛṣṇa.

After poetically describing the precipitation process she requests Varuṇa to assume the dark blue form of Kṛṣṇa who is the Primordial cause of the universe. Kṛṣṇa is known as Meghaśyāma — "cloud coloured One".

Godā now uses similes of Kṛṣṇa's three weapons to describe the phenomena associated with rain:

The lightning is likened to the discus Sudarśana ('Pleasing to behold'.)

The discus which moves at the speed of light represents the Universal Mind. It is discharged for the punishment of the wicked and the salvation of the devotees.

The conch — Pañcajanya, was born of the sea; from the primordial ocean of creation. It is symbolic of the emanation of the cosmos and of the sound AUM:

Its tumultuous sound is meant to proclaim the Lord's saving grace. In His incarnation as Rāma, the lord used the bow — Śārṅga, to defeat the demonic host of the Rākṣasas lead by Rāvaṇa. Here the bow is invoked to destroy the demon of drought.

Esoterically the cloud is said to represent the great preceptors (ācāryas). They collate spiritual knowledge from many sources, distil the essence and then spread it all over the world in a form easily understood by the masses. This they do without any expectation of gain or selfish motive, the only reason being their boundless compassion for suffering beings.

Most of the Āḻvārs who preceded Āṇḍāḷ in their hymns compared the Lord to the clouds, but Śrī Āṇḍāḷ on the contrary compares the clouds to the Lord. To her the Lord is upamāna, the known object, with which the object of description. i.e., nāmeyam is sought to be compared. This shows Āṇḍāḷ’s excessive devotion to the Lord.

O Rain-god! — this expression can be split into two forms:—

(1) āzhi mazhaikku annā and
(2) āzhi mazhai kannā The second rendering implies that whatever the Gopīs see appears to them as the All-seeing Godhead. Kṛṣṇa takes the place of food to eat, water to drink and betel and nut to chew.

enter the depths of the deep seas — for the water on the surface and that which is near the shore will be polluted.

Thundering — “You should not behave like Kṛṣṇa who hides Himself when performing His duty of protection, but you must demonstrate your presence to us by rising into the sky with a thunderous sound.”

The Primordial Cause of the universe — Kṛṣṇa protects all the beings in the world by keeping them safe in His abdomen during the deluge and then bringing them out again with the next cycle of creation. This concept has been well described by the word 'nābhan' in the term 'padmanābhan' in line four. The word connotes "He who created Brahman from His navel who in turn created the world."

Assume the dark hue — 'O Parjanya! You may be able to emulate the dark complexion of Lord Kṛṣṇa and appear in the form of a rain cloud, but you can never posses His boundless compassion.'

thunder like His conch — 'Unlike the sound of Kṛṣṇa's Pañcajanya which terrifies His enemies and delights His devotees, your roar of thunder delights the hearts of all (both enemies and friends) and all creation dances in joy'.

Pour down your showers in abundance, like arrows from His bow Śārṅga — This expression connotes that even if the Lord delays in destroying His enemies, His Śārṅga bow will shower rain of arrows unceasingly upon them. —

'O Parjanya do not to rain like the arrows of the bow causing destruction and misery but rain in such a way as to make the world flourish.

We can also take our Margali bath — The attitude of the girls is that their rejoicings are only secondary to Universal well-being, which is primary. This expression implies that they live for others and not for their own sake.

Esoteric Purport

“O ācārya-puruṣa! who fully comprehends the various auspicious qualities of Bhagavan Śrī Kṛṣṇa. By your wisdom you are able to prepare those who take refuge in you, for receiving Kṛṣṇa's grace!

Please never cease preaching about Kṛṣṇa (bhagavad viśaya) to your disciples. Dive deep into the ocean of divine attributes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, obtain wisdom and realisation about the communicable attributes and then be seated upon the Vyāsāsana (ācārya's seat).

O ācārya, you are full of grace and radiant like the form of the Lord. You, in whose heart Bhagavān dwells along with His consort Lakṣmī, should spread your brilliance around like that of Sudarśana Cakra.

You should preach the meaning of the sacred name (praṇavārtham) to everyone, like the roar of Pañcajanya. Through understanding the true meaning of the mantra they will gain wisdom about the intimate relationship between the Lord and the Self (śeṣa-śeṣi relationship). As a result of this self/God-realisation they will be saved from the Ocean of Samsāra.

If we, who consider service to the Lord (Bhāgavata kainkarya) as our aim in life, with a joyful heart perform the obligatory and periodic rites (nitya & naimittika karmas) which are greatly appreciated and observed by the devotees (Bhāgavatas), we are sure to obtain our reward which is the welfare of all beings (loka- saṅgraha).

Stanza 5

Northern Mathura's mysterious child,
 The one who plays in the pure waters of the Yamuna river,
Emerald -like; the radiant lamp of the cowherd clan,
 The Lord Dāmodara who has illumined his mother's womb,
Let us, all pure, adore him with fresh flowers, pay our obeisance
 and sing his praises. Let us meditate upon Him.
Our sins both past and present and those yet to come will vanish
 like cotton in a fire. Therefore let us sing His glory.

Commentary

Godā in this verse teaches the means of devotional service; — making simple offerings of flowers, chanting Kṛṣṇa's name and silently meditating upon His refulgent form. The result of such spiritual practice is the absolution of sins and the attainment of spiritual purity.

The Mysterious child — Kṛṣṇa is addressed here as Māyan, this epithet sums up the nature of the Supreme Being as being inscrutable, beyond the comprehension of the human mind. The activities and pastimes of Kṛṣṇa will always remain a mystery.

[Born in] Northern Mathura — Yet this Transcendent Godhead (Para-Vāsudeva) has taken birth due to His boundless compassion, in the humble circumstances of a prison in the Northern city of Mathura (here differentiated from the Southern city of Madura).

In the pure waters of the river Yamuna — it is said that the purity of the waters of the Yamuna is due to Lord Kṛṣṇa and the Gopīs playing in them, gargling and splashing themselves. The waters experienced the Divine touch of the Lord and therefore have become pure.

The Godāvarī River never imparted any information to Rāma about Sītā, due to fear of Rāvaṇa, though Sītā had specifically requested her to do so. Yamuna by contrast, assisted Vāsudeva to carry the child Kṛṣṇa to Gokula, not being afraid of Kaṁsa, although she was flowing underneath the very palace of the demon — herein lies the purity of the Yamuna. 

The Yamuna helped Vāsudeva by flowing knee- deep at first, then with a desire to touch of the lotus feet of the Lord, she began to rise up higher and higher until she reached the mouth of Vāsudeva. Vāsudeva in fear raised the child  from his shoulders over his head and while he was doing so the child Kṛṣṇa stretched out his leg and touched the waters and lo and behold, the water-level suddenly dropped and flowed once again knee-deep.

Dāmodara, who illumined (purified) His mother's womb — Kṛṣṇa brought such fame to His mother that the entire world wonders what austerity she did in order to beget such a son! Kṛṣṇa was born to Devakī but was fostered out to Yaśodā; so here the reference to "mother's womb" applies to Yaśodā who acted as the functional mother of Kṛṣṇa, and not to Devakī who was the natural mother. The name Dāmodara refers to His pastime of breaking the butter pots and Yaśodā in order to restrain him tried to bind Him with a piece of rope needless to say she did not succeed in her endeavour!

Once guru Nañjiyar was asked why the wet garment of the Lord Ranganātha was slowly removed from beneath only after the dry garment was placed up to the chest. Nañjiyar replied that this was to prevent the imprint from the rope from around His waist becoming visible to the Gopīs, and thus to avoid giving them the chance to jeer at Him!

Let us, all pure, [in thought, word and deed] — How is it that the Gopīs declare that they have become pure before they have even taken a bath? Here the purity referred to is mental-purity obtained by love of the Lord (Bhakti). Rāma accepted the fish brought by Guha, the hunter, by declaring that it was perfectly pure because it was offered to him with love. Draupadī cried to the Lord for help, when she was in her period, the Lord responded immediately.

adore him with fresh flowers, pay our obeisance and sing his praises. Let us meditate upon Him — The purity of the flowers consists in their being placed at the lotus feet of the Lord.

The sequence of performing an action is first to conceive of it in the mind, then express it by speech, and thereafter perform the physical action. This is the usual order in doing any karma or action, but here we find the order reversed. The implication by Śrī Āṇḍāḷ is that the Lord will shower His grace on us even if we worship Him in the reverse order.

By worshipping Lord Kṛṣṇa with all our three Kāraṇas (instruments); — through the mind by engaging in contemplating the glories and pastimes of Kṛṣṇa:

Through speech by singing His glories and chanting the Holy Name, and through the body by engaging ourselves in the service of the Lord by offering flowers at His feet —

we will be absolved of all our sins, those already committed and those we are likely to commit in future;– like a bundle of cotton burnt by a spark of fire.

Esoteric Purport

If we, with hearts aching for Kṛṣṇa, sing of His glories and Divine pastimes, meditate with a steady mind on His Divine form, surrender ourselves completely unto Him and serve Him

who resides in Mathura and other holy places where His Divine presence is always felt; who is omniscient, who has liberated His mothers Kauśalya and Devakī from the bonds of future births and deaths by granting them liberation;

who is easily swayed by the love of His devotees and responds as if they were in control — then all our sins — past and future, will vanish like a bale of cotton touched by a spark of fire.