Tiruppāvai of Āṇḍāḷ | verses 9-11

Stanza 9

With the lamps blazing in a bejewelled chamber on a soft bed,
 Fragrant smoke of incense wafting around; you lie asleep.
O Cousin! Arise! Open the bolt on the ornate door!
 Auntie Dear! Won't you awaken her? Is your daughter
Dumb or deaf, exhausted or tired?
 Or has she been bound by a spell of stupor?
Let us all recite as a remedy the names of Govinda;
 O Lord of Maya! O Mādhava! O Lord of Vaikuṇṭha!

Commentary

In this verse a Gopī who is a self-complacent devotee is being aroused.

Everyone perceives the world subjectively and this is why it is considered so important for one to seek the intercession of an independent objective person (ācārya) who can guide us to our higher goal God-realisation.

The aunt addressed here is taken by some commentators to refer to Lakṣmī who is the mediator between the jīvas and Kṛṣṇa.

In Scripture it is taught that chanting the names of God is the panacea for all the ills of the material world.

With the lamps blazing — It may also appear to one standing outside that there are many lights inside the chamber; but on the other hand it is due to only one light reflecting on the semi-precious stones embedded in the walls.

soft bed — The bed is so soft that one will fall asleep even if determined not to. The Gopīs think:— “Is the bed so comfortable as to assuage even the agony due to the separation from Śrī Kṛṣṇa? How is it that you are sleeping soundly on the soft-bed, when we find such similar beds to be like beds of thorns due to the agony of separation from our beloved.”

Auntie Dear! Won't you awaken her? — Finding that the Gopī did not arise after hearing her friends calling outside, her mother went near her bed and said:— ‘your friends are calling you! Get up at once and open the door’. Hearing the voice of the mother inside the chamber, the Gopīs addressed her immediately encouraging her in her efforts at arousing her daughter.

O Lord of Māyā! O Mādhava! O Lord of Vaikuṇṭha! — 'Lord of Māyā' denotes Kṛṣṇa's attribute of 'saulabhya' — accessibility. Gracious condescension to mingle with the lowest of the low; and 'Vaikuṇṭhaṉ' denotes His 'parattvam' — transcendence as the Supreme Godhead.

The intermediate term 'Mādhava' denotes that He is the Lord of 'Mā' or Lakṣmī. From this it clear that the Lord has 'accessibility' and 'transcendence' due to His inseparable relationship with Lakṣmī, the mediatrix of all grace.

He is Mādhava not only as the Lord who captivated the hearts the ordinary cow-maids of the Gokula, who could not distinguish between their right and left hands, but He is the Lord who has captivated the heart of Lakṣmī Herself, who dwells eternally upon His chest, never separated from Him, forming a part and parcel of Himself.

Esoteric Purport

“O Cetana! the beloved object of the Lord! You have a beautiful form; your face beams with intelligence and your behaviour is perfectly agreeable. We are overjoyed to see you, for you make no effort of your own towards Liberation but depend entirely upon the Lord.

We pray to you to redeem us from our possessiveness (mamākāra) and to guide us along the lines of your spiritual practice; but still you turn a deaf ear to our entreaties.

(Then turning to Goddess Lakṣmī) —

‘O Mother of the Universe! Can you not compel this qualified devotee (adhikāri) to teach us the way of surrender (prapatti)? Can you not make her reply to our entreaties?

Has she completely immersed herself in Bhāgavat viśaya with complete disregard for worldly affairs? or has she attained complete mystical absorption (samādhi) in her meditation?

We sing the glories of the Lord as — ‘He that is easily accessible, that He is the consort of Śrī or Lakṣmī, and that He is All-Supreme. We chant His names and laud his auspicious attributes (kalyāṇa guṇas).

Please, for the time being, arouse her from her meditation to join us, for only in the company of such a superior devotee will we be able to fulfil our vow successfully.”

This verse refers to Tirumalisai Āḻvār. This is inferred from the address ‘cousin’, māmān mahaḷe which indicates a relationship between Śrī Āṇḍāḷ and Tirumalisai Āḻvār.

Śrī Āṇḍāḷ is an Avatāra of Lakṣmī as Śrī Vedānta Deśikan claims in his Godā Stuti, Kamalāmi vanyām Godām and Lakṣmī is said to be born in Bhṛgu clan according to the Purāṇas and the Amarakośa, and that is why she is called Bhārgavī.

Tirumalisai Āḻvār was also born in the Bhṛgu clan and hence one can easily posit a relationship between the two.

With the lamps blazing all around — denotes that the Lord residing in the heart of this Āḻvār was made visible to others like a thing kept inside an emerald-case. It also denotes his profound spiritual insight.

This Āḻvār studied Sānkhya, Buddhist, Śaivite and other systems of   20 Philosophy and was well-versed in all of them.

Auntie Dear! Won't you awaken her? — Tirumalisai Āḻvār had sat down on the veranda of a Brahmin’s house to take rest.

Some other Brahmins nearby seeing him as a Śūdra stopped chanting the Vedas. Realising this, the Āḻvār rose and took his seat a little distance away.

When the Brahmins wished to resume chanting they had all forgotten where they had left off. The Āḻvār helped them to remember the verse by nipping a variety of black paddy with his nail (kṛṣṇanāṃ vṛhīnāṃ nakha-nirbhinnam). They fell at his feet begged his pardon. Dumb or deaf, — When he was insulted for receiving the Agra-pūjā at the Yāga performed by the Brahmins of Perumbuliyur, he turned a deaf ear to their insults.

O Lord of Māyā! O Mādhava! O Lord of Vaikuṇṭha — These three expressions the favourites of this Āḻvār. Hence, it may be taken that a girl possessing the characteristics of Tirumalisai Āḻvār is being awakened in this verse. The Jīyar School agrees.

Stanza 10

With fasting and prayer you would gain heaven
 But will you open neither the door nor your mouth?
If we praise Lord Nārāyaṇa adorned with the tulsi on His head
 He will surely bless us with His drum.
Has Kumbhakarṇa, killed in days of yore by Lord Rama
 transferred to you his sleep everlasting; vanquished, but
in his sleep alive? O Lazy One! Our precious jewel!
 Shake off your stupor and open the door.

Commentary

This verse is addressed to a Gopī who is deeply immersed in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness (Kṛṣṇānubhava):

The 'sleep' of this Gopī is really deep meditation on Kṛṣṇa and the help of such a person is required to complete the vow. Such a devotee is required to help the others to open the door and gain access to Kṛṣṇa.

The address in the vocative case found in the first line denotes that she was able to enjoy Kṛṣṇānubhava in this birth, because of the merit that she had accumulated in her previous birth. So she need not do any penance in this birth to attain divine bliss.

But will you open neither the door nor your mouth? — Is there any rule that people who do not open their doors should not even condescend to reply? — The Ārāyirappaṭi says

“We have lost the benefit of our eyes and ears. By your not deigning to reply, we have lost the benefit of hearing your sweet voice; by your not rising up from bed to open the latch, we have lost the benefit of seeing your graceful gait.”

Lord Nārāyaṇa adorned with the tulsi — The Gopīs refer to crown of Tulasī only when they arrived before the house of this particular Gopī, and so the sentiment (bhāvam) is that though Kṛṣṇa was not inside, at that time, perhaps He might have visited during the previous night due to the lingering smell of Tulasī.

The Tulasī is a symbol of Protection of the Universe (Loka-samrakṣana).

Has Kumbhakarṇa, ……. — in these lines we find humour (hāsya rasa).

Kumbhakarṇa is the brother of Rāvaṇa who desired to attain the throne of Indra, the king of heaven (Indrāsana) but by a slip of the tongue (nidrāsana) was granted everlasting sleep — arising only once in 6 months to eat.

And so Āṇḍāḷ says — “Kumbhakarṇa is renowned for his perennial sleep, but O girl! You have vanquished him in the sleep-contest! Perhaps he might have endowed you with his great sleep also, in recognition of your merit!

At least Kumbhakarṇa would wake up every six months, but it seems that you do not even have such a discipline!”

Even single moment of separation from the object of love, or delay in being united with the beloved will torment one like a month of separation.

Furthermore Kumbhakarṇa's sleep was implicated in the separation of only one girl — Sītā from her beloved Rāma, because if he had been awake he would have counselled Rāvaṇa against the abduction. Whereas your sleep prolongs the separation of five hundred thousand Gopīs from Śrī Kṛṣṇa!

This phrase also hints that Kumbhakarṇa fell prey to the arrows of Rāma due to his own folly, like one who commits suicide by leaping into a tank dug for drinking purposes.

Rāma recognising Kumbhakarṇa to be a potential devotee, wanted to win him over by sending Vibhīṣaṇa to persuade him to join them.

Esoteric Purport

“O Swāmī! For those who intend to attain the goal through karma-yoga and worship, though you are not gracious enough to give us audience and to redeem us from our ahaṁkāra, can’t you even impart one word of guidance so that we may be blessed!

If we prostrate at the feet of Nārāyaṇa he will surely satisfy our desires and grant us the goal of our existence (puruṣārtha).

O Swāmī! the radiance of your Self has dispelled the darkness of 'Tamo guṇa,' the cause of Nescience (ajñāna), and you are deeply absorbed in your self-realisation (ātmā anubhāva).

Yet we consider you still to be caught in Māyā, because you should try to enlighten us as well, by instructing us in the doctrines (tattvas). You are the most advanced and perfected devotee among us. Please join us and bless us so that our vow may be successful.”

The Gopī awakened in this verse possesses the characteristics of Peyāḷvar:

This Āḻvār first experienced the beatitude of the Lord, in the light kindled by Poigai Āḻvār and Bhutattāḷvar and called out in ecstasy. Hence, being the first to be so fortunate in obtaining the Grace of the Lord he is entitled to be called jewel of our group (arungalame).

Not opening the door can be taken as an indication of Peyāḷvar because he had no opportunity to open the door at meeting in Tirukkōḷūr, as he was the last to enter and none came after him.

Peyāḷvar’s favourite theme in his poems was the scent of Kṛṣṇa's Tulasī garland.

The Jīyar School infer that the Āḻvār hinted at is Kulaśekhara from the expressions 'anandal uḍaiyāy' and 'tēṛṛamāy vandu':

Kulaśekhara ordered his troops to muster to go to the aid of Rāma in the construction of the bridge to Lanka and the great war, without realising that Rāma lived many centuries before him.

Further 'ammanāy' denotes hegemony and the name 'Kulaśekhara' is synonymous with "the crest-jewel of the family of devotees".

According to Guru Paramparai it is held that Periya Nambi is wakened in this verse, Śrī Parāṅkuśa-dāsa. Periya Nambi (Mahāpūrṇa) one of the five ācāryas of Śrī Rāmānuja is also known as Parāṅkuśa-dāsa.

Stanza 11

O golden creeper of that clan of cowherds,
 expert milkmen of many young milch cows.
Faultless, skilled warriors who rout their foes in open battle.
 O Charming peacock-like damsel! With hips like a snake's hood.
Will you not come out and join us, when we
 your kinswomen and friends have entered your courtyard,
And are chanting the praises of the Lord the colour of the rain-cloud.
 Wherefore now this sleep? Rich maiden, immobile.

Commentary

In this verse is awakened a Gopī who occupied the highest rank in all aspects. She is described as a creeper which indicates that she is a great devotee who is entirely dependent upon the Lord.

O golden creeper of that clan of cowherds,…. who rout their foes in open battle — (lines 1 to 3):— From these lines it is clear that the graziers are regularly engaged in their prescribed daily duties (karmānuṣṭhāna).

One may ask that even after being so fortunate in having Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in their midst, is it necessary for them to continue their daily duties (nitya karmas)?

Even after having the darśan of the Lord Himself one should never abandon one's nitya karmas. The nitya karma of the Gopīs is milking and tending the cows.

Esoterically the cows represent the Vedas and the allied Scriptures.

The cowherds are the preceptors who milk the essence of the Scriptures in the form of milk and succour the devotees through this. Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself is the greatest of the preceptors.

rout their foes in open battle — The verb use 'to go out' indicates that they would not wait till their enemies fell upon them, but they themselves would boldly go to their camps to fight with them. This shows the heroism of the graziers.

The metaphorical ‘enemies’ are the various desires for sense gratification and the Vedas have to be protected against these.

Faultless, skilled warriors — This phrase denotes a faultless and righteous battle — one fought observing all the rules of war.

Rāma in the Kamba Rāmāyaṇa prior to the great battle announces:—

“Let all the cows, the peace-loving Brahmins, the women, the sick, and those that have no children to perform the obsequial rites depart the city; for I am about to commence the attack”.

O Charming peacock-like damsel! With hips like a snake's hood — This description by members of her own sex reveals that she was indeed the most beautiful among the village women.

The Ārāyirappaṭi says:— “even females crave to become males because of her beauty”.

Here one is reminded of Kamban's words that — “the minds of both males and females run in the same direction,” (Due to Lord Rāma's physical beauty).

The expression puṛṛaravu denotes that she is absolutely chaste, for so long as the cobra is underground in its abode its hood will not be smeared with dust or dirt.

This comparison of her hips to the hood of a serpent indicates the great yogic powers that she possesses (kuṇḍalini śakti).

Addressing her as a ‘peacock’ connotes three ideas:—

(a) as a peacock adds to the beauty of a garden, you must join us and beautify our company.

(b) The thick hair on your head, resembling the peacocks tail makes us, as well as Śrī Kṛṣṇa mad with love and appreciation.

(c) The allusion to the peacock stresses her spiritual knowledge which can destroy the material limitations represented by the snake to which the peacock has natural enmity.

O golden creeper! O peacock! O rich maiden immobile! — These three epithets denote respectively that the girl belongs to a highly respectable family, that she is a paragon of beauty and that she is an embodiment of good character.

Esoteric Purport

“O qualified one! (adhikāri) who thinks that Īśvara is the only means (upāya) and goal (upeya)! Please awake!

O ācārya! who imparts knowledge to suitable disciples according to their competency and who removes ego, selfishness and other such faults by preaching the Dharma.

O You who are deeply immersed in devotion (bhakti) towards the Supreme Self (paramātma) residing in the midst of the vast sky (ākāśa)!

You must come out and join our company:

The pure devotees (bhāgavatars) who serve only Lord Kṛṣṇa are standing in front of your house, calling you to join them while chanting the glories of Kṛṣṇa.

O great one! who possesses the wealth of meditation! Why are you silent? Please deign to join us so that our intended vow will be successful.”

The girl awakened here is of the nature of Bhutāḷvar. The phrase 'kuṛṛam onṛillādā kōvalar' applies to all the three first Āḻvārs in that they were not born like mortals.

O golden creeper — This fits in well with him, as he styles himself as a creeper in the verse, Irandam Tiruvantāḍi, 27.

rout their foes in open battle — This Āḻvār wanted to conquer the hearts of the enemies of the Lord wherever they may be, by instruction and guidance as stated in the verse Irandam Tiruvantāḍi, 14.

The Jīyar School holds the view that the Gopī mentioned resembles Periyāḻvār:

Periyāḻvār is considered to be an 'amśam' of Garuḍa who is the insignia in the banner of Lord Viṣṇu. So 'Porkodi' denotes 'Garuḍa-dhvaja' and Garuḍa possesses a gold-colour.

Besides, Periyāḻvār hoisted the Garuḍa banner in the Pāṇḍyan court after establishing the superiority (parattvam) of Nārāyaṇa. The first three lines support this conjecture.

This Āḻvār mastered the quintessence of the Vedas and then under the direction of the Lord, went of his own accord bravely to the Pāṇḍyan court, where his antagonists had assembled and after a faultless argumentative debate won a tremendous victory for Vaiṣṇavism.

Further the expression 'faultless' suits him quite well; for when the lord appeared before him, Periyāḻvār instead of asking for some personal reward began to pray for the Lord's welfare by exclaiming:

“Blessings, blessings on you, O mighty One, who dids't overcome the Mallas! Infinitely blest be the beauty of Your holy feet for many many years, for thousands of years, for millions of years, for evermore"!

- So this benediction (maṅgalāśāsanam) denotes that he is faultless.

Then the word wealthy for Periyāḻvār refers to the glory of singing benedictions to Bhagavan Himself; furthermore he also enjoys the wealth of possessing Śrī Āṇḍāḷ as his daughter and thereby having the Lord Himself as his son-in-law.

Further the expression 'Pendatti' fits in well for this Āḻvār, for like the Gopīs of Vraja he was deeply engrossed in Kṛṣṇa-prema.

According to Guru Paramparai, Yāmunācāryā is awakened in this stanza.