In the preceding song, the Alvar’s mind moved on to Lord Ranganatha’s robe, flowing from the waist down to the ankles. And now, looking up, the waist as well as the navel, just above it become visible. Rather, it is a case of the navel, with an elegance of its own, drawing him up to it to tell him its tale of unique glory. The Lord was referred to, in the opening song, as the first and the foremost, the Progenitor, who ushered in the Universe. This could, however, be challenged by votaries of minor deities, each group contending their god is first and foremost. The Lord’s navel from which the lotus stalk emerged, projecting Brahma, the lotus-born, however, repudiates their contention, in no time.
If the Alvar’s mind leapt from the Lord’s feet to His silken garment and thence to His navel, it was not as if the individual charm of the earlier ones had been enjoyed by him, in full (to the point of satiety), an impossible task, on the face of it. It only betrays the vacillating mind of the Alvar, jumping from the one to the other, just like a twig, getting tossed up from one wave to the other in the surging ocean of Lord Ranganatha’s exquisite beauty. Evidently, Pan Perumal was in the same predicament as Nammalvar in his attempt to enumerate the Lord’s auspicious traits – (Tiruvaymoli III-4). If it is now the Lord’s ‘Divya mangala vigrah’ which defies description, in the case of Nammalvar, it was His ‘Divyatma svarupa’. As the Commentator of Tiruvaymoli has put it, Nammalvar was in the same state of vacillation as the one who attempts to pick delicious fruits, dropping down the trees, in quick succession, under the impact of a violent gale. While picking up one, the picker gets attracted to another, yet another and so on, bewildered, not knowing what to pick first, and what next. So also, Nammalvar, who attempted to hit out the Lord’s auspicious traits, just did not know what to mention first and what next, in the order of priority.
Mantipay vatavenkatamamalai vanavarkal
Canti ceyya ninran Arangattaravinanaiyan
Anti pol nirattadaiyum atanmel ayanaip pataittatorelil
Untimelatanro adiyenullattinnuyire ||3||
Isn’t it the sweet core of my mind that alights
On the crimson robes and the navel above, seat
Of Ayan’s¹ origin, of the Lord who stood atop Mount
Vatavenkatam² where monkeys gambol and celestials meet
And obeisance make, who does on serpent-couch at Arangam rest. ||
¹ Four-faced Brahma. ² The sacred Mount in the northern frontier of the Tamil territory.
Mantipay Vatavenkata mamalai: In the ten songs, comprised in this hymnal, this is the second and the last reference to Mount Venkatam, the earlier one being in the opening song itself. Reference to the holy Mount in this song and to the monkeys, in particular, on their merry arboreal jaunts (jumping from one branch of the tree to another), has a special significance. In the Mount there are jack trees, loaded with fruits from top to bottom (root). The fickle minded monkeys would, while feeding on one fruit, look at another in a neighbouring branch, jump on to it and repeat the process. How apt is it to Pan Perumal’s present predicament ! Further, if the Lord in Mount Venkatam is on intimate terms with the monkeys, as mentioned by the Alvars, it reminds us of Lord Rama’s intimacy with Sugriva, Hanuman and the monkey hordes in general. Well, Sita, the captive in Lanka, was curious to elicit from Hanuman how indeed Rama, the prince royal, the disciple of Sage Vasista, could cultivate friendship with mere monkeys. She queried, ‘Vanaranam naranam ca katam asit samagamah?’. Pat came the clarification from Hanuman that very fact that he, a mere minion of Sugriva, had been sent on such an important mission as meeting Her in enemy territory, and conveying Lord Rama’s message was an eloquent proof of the intimate bonds of friendship between Rama and Sugriva.
Antipol nirattadai: ‘Antipol niram’ refers to the crimson colour of the western sky at sunset, as if that colour is inseparable from the sky. Even so, the crimson colour of Lord Ranganatha’s robes is inseparable from the robes. And then, what to say about the matching of this colour with the Lord’s sapphire complexion !
Ayanaippadaittator elil: The Lord’s beauty got enhanced even further after His creation of the four-faced Brahma for the propagation of the multifarious genera and species in the worlds, ushered by Him. It is a matter of common knowledge that the mother looks more charming than before, just after delivery.
Unti (elil unti): The Lord’s navel is deep-set (nimagna nabhih) and swirling too, giving rise to small whirlpools, the eddies. Srivatsankar (Kurattalvan) has put it admirably in his ‘Varadaraja Sthavam’, as follows : The perennial stream of the Lord’s beauty emanated from the crown, the fountain source, flowed along the broad expanse of His winsome chest with great gusto and as it entered the narrow gorge, the thin waist, the whirling waters gave rise to the whirlpool (navel). Those, who venture to behold the Lord’s exquisite charm, are bound to get stuck, sucked into that whirlpool, the navel. Here is a telling anecdote, illustrating this. Pillai Alagiyamanavala Araiyar, the temple bard, once sought the permission of Lord Ranganatha to go on a pilgrimage to Tiruvenkatam to worship the Lord, enshrined there. The Lord asked the Araiyar to recite just once, in His presence, this hymnal (Amalanatipiran) and then go. The Araiyar did accordingly but got stuck up in the whirlpool, the navel of the Lord. Then he meekly acknowledged, in the Divine presence, that there was no question of his going to any other pilgrim center anymore. This at once demonstrated beyond doubt that, by worshipping Lord Ranganatha one can enjoy the aggregate of all the bliss one derives from all the other pilgrim centers, put together.
Adiyen ullattinnuyire: Adiyen – The vassal, enthralled by Lord Ranganatha’s exquisite charm.
Innuyir – Here ‘uyir’ denotes the mind; it is ‘innuyir’, the sweet mind, sweetened by the Lord’s beauty galore. Ironically, the navel is the very source of origination of the universe, the birthplace of Brahma and yet, it is that life generating center which has submerged within itself my sweet mind, making it lose its separate entity !
And now, before we pass on to the study and appreciation of the contents of the next song, it deserves to
be noted that the first letter of each of the first three songs (AUM), put together, constitutes the Pranava Mantra (AUM). The First Song of Tiruvaymoli is similarly structured. ‘U’ is the first letter of the opening line, ‘M’, that of the second line and ‘A’, that of the third line. Thus, all three letters of the ‘ Pranava’ are there, though jumbled. Our Acharyas opine that, in doing so, the Alvar highlights Lord Visnu’s supremacy over all the rest. Letter ‘A’ denotes that He is the sole Protector of one and all, while letter ‘M’ denotes the objects protected (the Individual Souls). The middle letter ‘U’ denotes that, by virtue of the protection extended by the Lord and the final state attained by the wards, as a result of such projection, the latter are entirely at the disposal of the Lord, totally subservient to Him- ‘ananyarha sesatva’.
The Fourth Song, beginning with the letter ‘ca’, always used in Sanskrit as the conjunction and’, denotes that the Lord is also the final goal of attainment (prapyam). Again, the letters ‘pa’, ‘tu’ and ‘kai’ with which Songs Five, Six and Seven begin, respectively, add up to ‘patukai’, signifying that His feet alone can deliver the goods, that is lead the individual souls on to His lotus feet in heaven. How admirably and meaningfully structured are these inspired songs, the divine outpourings of the Alvar Saints !