And now is the grand finale, grand in every way, as indicated below: The aloofness observed by his kinsmen, in terms of their low birth, deterred Pan Perumal from treading and defiling the holy precincts of Srirangam, holiest of the holy see. Even so, he stood daily on the southern bank of river Kaveri, harp in hand, facing the direction of the holy Shrine at Srirangam. He got lost in rapturous laudation of Lord Ranganatha, with a mind, wholly riveted in Him – sight for gods ! The lord, as the unfailing Cognisor, took note of the Alvar’s unique stance, in dire contrast to the ways of the worldlings around, hankering after worldly pleasures, putting Him far away. Therefore, He felt greatly attracted to him. The Lord enabled him to come down to Srirangam and that too, right inside the Sanctum, mounted on the shoulders of a high caste Brahmin, an extraordinary gesture !
What more? He was also granted, en route, the vision of His charming person, feet upwards, on a par with direct perception – ‘Darsana samana saksatkara’. The Lord, who ought to be beheld and worshipped by everyone, donning a body (drstavyah sarva dehibhih), was also agog to bestow this bliss upon a devotee of such a high order. c.f. Yamunacarya’s Stotra Ratna-56 ‘Ksanepi te yadviraho atidussahah’ -“Seperation from you, O, Lord ! even for a split second, of those who devoutly aspire to have, at least once, a glimpse of Your Supernal Form (Divya Mangala Vigrah), is unbearable to you”. From the Alvar’s songs, as above, Lord Ranganatha also noted, with immense pleasure, that he saw in Him the aggregate of His other hypostatic forms, ‘Para’, ‘Vyuha’ and ‘Vibhava’ as well as his Iconic manifestations elsewhere, a fact, which the Alvar has given expression to, in this concluding song, as well – “en Aranganaik kanta kankal marronrinaikkanave”. Little wonder then, He has now drawn Pan Perumal, right inside His very person, not merely His proximity ! Here then is the meeting ground of mutual longing, the spiritual consummation of the individual Soul (Jivatma) and the Super-Soul (Paramatma).
That the saint is no more a part of this mundane world is explicit from this song, as he has asserted that his eyes shall not behold anyone else, anymore, having seen Him who alone matters. That he has no name or roots anywhere in the mundane soil and has, in short, lost all sense of belonging here, is also patent from the fact that he has not mentioned, in this concluding song, his name and nativity (native place). One can however notice the other Alvars, with the exception of the first four and this Alvar, invariably incorporating their name, native place, rulership (if any), special attainments, the benefits accruing to chanters etc., (which however has to be appreciated in proper light). Even so, it can, in a way, be construed that the fruits of chanting this hymnal have been indicated in the concluding song. The highest fruit is a close rapport with the Lord in heaven drinking in the perennial beauty of the Lord, that fountain source of eternal bliss, flowing incessantly, a marvelous communication, baffling description – ‘Sada pasyanta surayah’ – Visnu Suktam. The same bliss can as well be enjoyed in the holy Shrine of Lord Ranganatha, as demonstrated by Pan Perumal in this hymnal, short and (perennially) sweet.
Kontal vannanaik kovalanay vennai
Untavayan ennullam kavarntanai
Antarkon Aniyarangan ennamutinaik
Kanta kankal marronrinaikkanave. ||10||
None else shall the eyes look at, having Him beheld,
The Cloud-hued, who, is sheperd born, mouthfuls of butter gulped,
Sovereign Lord of Universe with ornate Arangam as His abode,
My nectar-nonsatiate, who my sweetened mind has grabbed.
kontal vannan: What ! He, whom the Vedic texts proclaim as one beyond the range of naked vision (fleshy eyes), is now right in front of the Alvar ! (na mamsa caksurapi viksate -Rigveda, nacaksusa pasyate kasca nainam -Yajur Veda). It is this felicity galore bestowed, suo moto, by Lord Ranganatha on Pan Perumal that enabled him to describe His complexion of exquisite charm, at first hand. The Lord’s complexion is suggestive of the rain-laden cloud, the very sight of which will render the beholder, cool and refreshed, shorn of all his/her erstwhile drab, dreariness. The transparence of this kind of cloud reveals the Lord’s innate traits. [‘complexion’ also means character, nature (svabhavana)] c.f. ‘Mukil vannan adiyai adintu arulcudi uyntavan’- Tiruvaymoli VII-2-11 – the one (referring to himself) who got redeemed through the attainment of the feet of the cloud hued Lord. It deserves to be noted, in this context, that the rain-cloud unleashes rains all over, without discrimination of the mobile and the stationary, caste, colour or creed, nourishing them all.
Kovalanay vennai unda vayan: By taking birth among the shepherds the dimwits (as Sri Andal puts it in Song Twenty Eight of Tiruppavai), the Lord has gone a step ahead of the rain-clouds. The clouds just rain and drift away. But the cloud-hued Lord comes down and mingles freely with all and sundries, high and low, in hall and hamlet. Himself, behaving as one among the shepherds, He, nevertheless, revealed to the simple folks His splendour galore besides eating mouthfuls of their butter with great relish as that produced by His devotees (asrta karasparsam). It has been pointed out by Alvar Saints like Andal that, even in His iconic manifestation as Lord Ranganatha, His mouth smacks of the smell of the butter of by-gone days (Kununku narram). Yes, the simple folks of Nada Vraja, Nanda, the chieftain and all the rest devoutly wished and prayed that the Supreme Lord be born in their midst to partake of their wealth of milk, butter and curds in that pastoral settlement. The Lord with His wonted magnanimity and transparence of conduct, readily responded and ate all that milk-produce with great relish, even gulping them down greedily like one famished !
Ennullam Kavarntan: Well, even as He grabbed butter in those by-gone days, as Krsna, (as Lord Ranganatha) has now grabbed unawares, Pan Perumal’s mind – a deft theft, leaving notrace of it behind, that is, the Alvar’s body was very much there (at this stage only and not afterwards) sans the content (soul), stolen away by the Lord, unknown to him, in the first instance. Was not that ace thief, Krsna, in the habit of leaving the bare pot behind but not a bit at all that butter, kept in it ? The Alvar revolves in his mind, ‘well even Arjuna, possessed of ‘Daivi sampath’ (divine wealth), confessed to Lord Krsna, in the course of the latter’s Gitopadesa, that it was impossible to fix his vacillating mind on the Atman for an appreciable time. He also made it clear that it was a task, just as impossible as impounding air in a pot or turning the direction of a whirlwind with a tiny, hand-worked fan, made of palmleaf – (Gita VI-34). How much worse is my mind and yet, how amazing, it has become the object of the Lord’s attraction and been seized by Him ! I cannot call it mine anymore. In fact, the Lord has been pleased to eradicate, root and branch, the ‘I-ness’ and ‘Mine-ness’, which were plaguing me hitherto.
Andarkon: The sovereign Master of the whole Universe and the Sole Ordainer of one and all, from the four-faced Brahma downwards.
Ani Arangam: “And yet, fully bedecked, He has taken His abode in Arangam, with its ornamental setting, making Himself Visible to one and all here, including this mean fellow !”
En Amutinai: Even the celestials got ‘Amrt’ churned from the Milk-ocean with stupendous effort whereas I have got it without any effort on my part. What more ? The ambrosia, I am tasting now, is far superior and sustaining than the one, churned from the oceanic waters and dished out to the celestials. This recipient also vastly differs from the self-centered celestials. Pity ! their attention was wholly on oceanic waters, without so much as casting a single glance at the exquisite charm of the Lord, who gave them a helping hand in that epoch – making churning (apart from the various other forms in which He played His part, in that episode), His garlands dancing along, as He churned. That grand spectacle was sorely missed by the extremely selfish celestials but envisioned and enjoyed, long after, by the Alvar saints. Yes, Pan Perumal and his confreres, the Alvar saints, looked upon the Lord as the sole object of their love, wanting none but Him. The celestials, on the other hand, drank that stuff, the so-called ‘Amrt’, got from the ocean, only to lengthen their life-spans and roll in luxuries, back home.
The Alvar saints would however want to drink in, all the time, that non-satiate Nectar, the immediate presence of the Lord, not brooking separation from Him, even for a trice. And so was He, Who shall never lag behind His devotees in rewarding them, duly responding to their deep, inner urges.
Kanta kankal marronrinai kanave: Here is marked departure from Panar’s earlier stance. It could be noticed from the earlier songs of his, that he referred to ‘enkanninul’ (in my eyes), ‘en nencam’ (my mind), en cintanai’ (my thought) and so on. But now, instead of saying ‘en kankal’ (my eyes), he refers to his eyes in the third person as ‘kanta kankal’ – the eyes, which feasted on the (immediate) nectarean presence of ‘Ani Arangan’. This is a distinct pointer to the dawn, in him, of ‘Tattva Jnana’ and the resultant detachement from the self and the material things around, in their totality. Even the little bit of ‘I-ness’ and ‘Mine-ness’ that was lingering in him, has now left him for good, the immediate result of his realization of his essential nature (svasvarupa) and one’s inter-relationship with God (supreme Lord). Well, this could be looked at from yet another angle. Even if he used ‘My’ and ‘Mine’, in the present context, the Alvar cannot be faulted, as the current obsession is on an entirely different footing from what obtained earlier. Formerly, the enjoyment was of the mundane variety, rooted in the senses, their interaction with relative sense-objects. The objects of enjoyment, in the present milieu, is however, the special gift of the Lord, with a divine aura, elevating the Alvar to a different plane altogether, if, as a result, he feels elated and gives expression to it, it is but a case of legitimate pride, delectable, all the way and, by no means, despicable.
c.f. Nammalvar’s utterances in Tiruvaymoli VI-4, ‘enakku evvulakam nikare?’, ‘enakkar ini nayakare!’, chuckling with pride over his new-found status as the Lord’s hot favourite. Reverting to this particular song, the Alvar’s detachment from the ‘self’ having risen to its full stature, he has lost his body-consciousness. There is, therefore, no question of his beholding anyone (anything) else, anywhere, anymore. The ‘self’ in him remains completely dissolved in the nectarean charm of the bejeweled Lord in His immediate presence. Yes, the Alvar is not interested in anything else, not even the Lord’s hypostatic forms (Para, Vyuha, Vibhava) nor the other pilgrim centers. Need it then be specifically mentioned that he is not all interested in those who hanker after worldly riches and those who strive hard for the sole enjoyment of the ‘self’ (Jivatma), liberated from material bondage (the kevalas), not looking beyond and thus foregoing the far more exhilarating ‘Paramatmanubhava’ (God-enjoyment).
This is precisely what Hanuman said to Lord Rama when he was invited by the latter to accompany Him to heaven. Hanuman said that he would not like to go anywhere else, nanyatra, including heaven where he would not be able to behold his exclusive Master (Rama) in the same form, as before, nor have the pleasure of listening to the recital of Ramayana as often as he could, over here. Further, he would not like to discard the body which enjoyed the great, good fortune of getting locked in Lord Rama’a sweet embrace. He would not even mention the name of the place (heaven) to which he was invited; his statement ‘Bhavo nanyatra gacchati’ (I shall not go anywhere else) sums up his feelings in this regard. At the same time, he asserted that his mind was well poised in steadfast devotion to Rama, the Price-valiant. Incidentally, it deserves to be noted that Rama fought Ravana mounted on Hanuman. Even as Hanuman enjoyed his role as Lord Rama’s chariot, it has been pointed out by our Acharyas that Lokasaranga thoroughly enjoyed his role as Pan Perumal’s mount, duly realizing the latter’s pre-eminent stature.
In the present case, on what pretext can Pan Perumal get away from, or lift his eyes off Lord Ranganatha ? Should it be because He lacks generosity or His personality is not that attractive (absorbing) or He is stuffed with superiority complex, devoid of grace and loving condescension or He does not have a commanding stature or He is not-by-any-means delectable ? No, he lacks none of these. On the other hand, He has each in super-abundant measure.
c.f. Tiruvaymoli I-7-4 where Nammalvar exclaims: “O, what pretext can I find from Him to part, The first Lord of Celestials, ever alert, A beautiful bundle of brilliance, heaping on me continually Torrents of knowledge and wisdom, who brought me Round and rooted out the ignorance in me lodged firmly ?”
[Extracted from Gwalior Sathyamurthi Iyengar’s Thiruvaimozhi – An English glossary]
Well, take the case of the babe whose only source of happiness, for the present, is the mother’s breast-milk (her breast corresponding to the Lord’s feet, our Sole Refuge). If anyone tried to snatch the baby away from the mother’s breast, the delectable feeder, the little one, lacking any other form of expression, will at once squeak, signaling its dislike for anything else. The Commentator likens the Alvar’s present predicament to that of such a babe.
Sri Vedanta Desika’s commentary, ‘Munivahana bhogam’, has been included by him among his ‘Rahasya granthas’ (esoteric texts meant only for the initiated, rather the inner circle of adherents to his teachings, as distinguished from the exoteric ones, intelligible even to outsiders, not admitted to the esoteric teachings.) This particular commentary has been numbered as the twenty eighth in esoteric series. It is couched in terse highly sanskritised dialect, intelligible only to a limited coterie with the requisite background. An attempt has, therefore been made, in the present treatise, to cull out from the said learned commentary a good bit of juicy notes, here and there, and present them in an easily assimilable form. Sri Vedanta Desika has also added, at the end, two Tamil stanzas, composed by him. Easy to follow, the learned Commentator has presented ‘Pan Perumal’ in these songs, in true light, the correct perspective. Put briefly, he has acknowledged, in these verses as follows: Panan is the one who discovered in Arangam the ocean of Grace, proclaimed by the Vedic texts; his hymnal is the germ whose offshoot is the elaborate preaching of the Brahmins, well versed in Vedas. Let me proclaim to the world that the ten songs, graciously bequeathed to us by Pan Perumal, epitomize the teachings of the hoary Vedas. We shall not claim to be august and all-knowing but always shall be on the look-out for those who can guide us to the right path and studiously avoid the wrong one”.
English Translation of Amalanaadhipiraan by Gwalior Sathyamurthi Iyengar Ends
Blessed be the holy feet of Pan Perumal (Munivahanar)
Blessed be the holy feet of Periyavaccan Pillai (Vyakyana Cakravarti)
Blessed be the holy feet of Alagiya Manavalap Perumal Nayanar (the illustrious author of ‘Acarya Hrdayam’)
Blessed be the holy feet of Sri Vedanta Desika (Kavitarkika Simham)