“Alas ! the Lord’s red-lipped mouth has whisked away my mind, thereby depriving me of the one and only means, hitherto employed by me for imbibing the exquisite charm of the Lord’s person, bit by bit, consistent, of course, with my all-too-meagre ability” was the Alvar’s deep dejection due to the abrupt halt of the upward march of his mind to the intended destination, namely, the Lord’s majestic crown, the Lord’s lovely pair of eyes accosted him, as follows:
“Well, you found the lips displaying, just one color, namely, red, so charming as to lose your mind, in the bargain. How indeed will you fare if you look at this pair, displaying a riot of colors, red, black and white ?”
Yes, the voluntary projection of the Lord’s white eyeballs with red streaks stretching along, the black pupil with a seductive luster and the bluish iris, encircling it, thoroughly unsettled the Alvar, sweeping him off his feet. Actually, this kind of self-projection by Lord Ranganatha’s limbs, one by one, seems to have been the pattern, right from Song One (see also the notes under that song). The same pattern holds good for this song as well as the next. This aspect of self-projection by the limbs is now emphasized lest the reader should feel puzzled how the Alvar sans his mind, could look above the Lord’s coral lips and envision the gleaming pair of eyes, throwing up a bewitching spectrum of colors and then proceed to behold the overall charm of the sapphire complexion of the Lord’s body (see Song Nine). The position is, however, entirely different regarding the Tenth (concluding) Song, the Alvar having got inside the Sanctum by then. Against this background, let us now delve into this song and enjoy its poetic embellishments, as well.
Pariyanaki vanta avunan utal kinta amararkku
Ariya Atipiran Arangattamalan mukattu
Kariyavakip putai parantu milirntu cevvariyati ninda ap
Periyavaya kankal ennaippetaimai ceytanave ! ||8||
Those eyes, long and broad, red streaks running along
Eyeballs white and pupils dark, on the face glistening
Of our Benefactor, first and foremost, unto celestials rare,
The Lord immaculate at Arangam, who the bowels tore
Of the burly demon, come to bully Prahlad, his young son,
Have by their charm exquisite overwhelmed me, on their own ||
Pariyanaki vantu avunan utal kinda(van): This refers to Lord Narasimha slaying the demoniac Hiranya, the fat bully. He was a veritable mountain of flesh, a stupendous mass of fleshy (corporal) ignorance (tamas), gathered from all the worlds, as Sri Vedanta Desika puts it. Yes, the demon had been fattened awfully by boons of all sorts, secured from the celestials, a grand feast indeed for Lord Narasimha’s robust, claw-like nails, of unimaginable strength. Pointing to a column of pillar, in front, the irate father threateningly questioned his son, Prahlada, whether that Hari, on the latter’s lips, all the time, was right there or not. The little one, a staunch, unflinching devotee of Lord Hari (Visnu Bhagavan), affirmed without the slightest tinge of diffidence or hesitation;
“Sire ! Hari is everywhere, inside the animate beings like You and I as well as the inanimate things like this pillar”.
As if to prove the youngster wrong, the demon slapped the pillar, with frenzied fury. And lo ! there and then Lord Hari, in the exotic form of ‘Man-Lion’, stepped out of the ripped- open pillar, a fully-grown adult (more than a match for that fat ram, Hiranya), ready for instant combat, His face blazing with fury (righteous indignation), His tongue drooping down the lip, His looks, fierce and piercing, clenched fist, ready to land devastating punches on its target and ominous peals of laughter, terrific and terrifying. The strange Visitor took the formidable opponent (by now, mentally roasted like a pig) by that very hand, which slapped the pillar, led him on to the threshold of the palace and tore open his bowels with His formidable nails like the dry fibre of the plantain truck and finished him off. Yes, He eliminated him physically as souls vest in Him and the one inside the physical frame of the opponent would get lost to Him altogether, if allowed to remain in that foul frame any longer.
But all these pale into insignificance before the achievement of the immaculate Lord at Arangam. Lord Narasimha responded to the prayer of just one devotee and put in His apperance between the two vertical halves of a pillar. But Lord Ranganatha came down here from His transcendental abode, on His own, took His abode between two rivers, making Himself visible to our naked (fleshy) eyes in the Sanctum between two pillars (Manttun-amoda sthamba) and retrieving numberless devotees through His indescribable beauty, an irresistible charm of unlimited dimensions, unasked, unsolicited (not prayed for, as Prahlada did). Therefore it is, Pan Perumal has referred to Him, in this song, as Arangattamalan, the immaculate Lord, possessed of purity of the highest order. (See also notes under Song One where the different facets of the Lord’s purity, par excellence, have been analysed). It may be recalled that, in the context of Vibhishana’s admission into Lord Rama’s camp, He solemnly affirmed that He would not give up the supplicant, at the doorstep on any account, whatever be the arguments, for or against admission. Even so, the immaculate Lord at Arangam would not give us up, not withstanding the host of infirmities, bedevilling us. It is also noteworthy that even while reposing on His serpent-bed at Arangam, He is facing the southerly direction, casting His sweet glances on Vibhisana.
Kariyavaki pudai parantu milirntu cevvariyoti: The beautiful setting of the Lord’s eyes is projected in this line. Yes, He is ‘Purdarikaksa’ – the one with eyes, resembling lotus, ever fresh and in full bloom. The colour of the eyeballs is white. The red streaks, running along the surface signify (i) the ‘Mahapurusa laksana’, the vestiges of the Great One, the Soverign Master of the Universe, (ii) He is the spouse of Goddess Laksmi whose red complexion gets imprinted in His grazing eyes (see IX-4 of Tiruvaymoli) and (iii) His inordinate love for the devout turning His eyes red (blood-shot) with delight (see VIII-8 of Tiruvaymoli which opens with a description of the Lord’s exquisite charm, getting enhanced manifold on His mingling with Nammalvar). The pupils are black and lustrous, glistening, all the more, against the backdrop of the white eyeballs, interspersed with red streaks. So charming and graceful the eyes are that they seem to vie with the Lord’s exuberance to redeem His devotees, the eyes themselves wanting to shed all that benevolence. As a matter of fact, one’s benevolence as well as its opposite number, namely, wrathful displeasure gets reflected in one’s eyes.
Ninda: As Sri Parasara Bhattar, noted for his unique presentation, would put it, the Lord’s eyes embarked on a grand project, namely, enlarging themselves so as to occupy His entire body and thereby exhibit His innate Grace in super-abundance. But then, they got halted by the intrusion of the ear-lobes on either side and the two extremities of the nose-bridge – a grand piece of poetic imagery indeed ! Yes, the Lord’s eyes are not merely long but also big (periyavaya), too broad to admit of even the most ardent devotee enjoying their grandeur, in full, or they are big, with a vengeance, so as to attract even “the hard-hearted ‘me’ (Alvar)” and unsettle him, in this manner. Further, it is a twin operation, the dart from both the eyes aiming at the same target (Alvar) and destabilizing him completely. See also Sloka nine of Saint Kulasekhara’s Mukundamala (Kantimannetramine – whose dazzling eyes are like the flashy fishes).
‘Apperiyavaya kankal‘, in this song, seems to follow the pattern of ‘Appancacanniyam’ in the opening song of Periyalvar’s ‘Tiruppallantu’. The eyes as well as the Conch, right in front, should have been referred to as ‘Ipperiyavaya’ and ‘Ippancacannyam’, respectively. But they were referred to, as things, far off, because the Alvar, in each case, turned the face in the opposite direction lest he should cast an evil eye on the glorious setting of ‘white, red and lack’ in the former case and ‘white, red and blue’ (white Conch, red palm and the bluish back of the palm, gripping the Conch), in the latter.