Posted in Thiruppavai

The Gist of Thiruppavai – Part I

When providing the gist of a dhivya prabandham, it is customary to talk about the vakthru (originator) and vishayam (essence) of the work at the very beginning. This exercise, in addition to providing credence to the work, also sets the stage to understand its context. In this entry, we shall briefly see the peerlessness of Andal and the fundamental essence conveyed through her dhivya prabandham, Thiruppavai.

In His Krishnavatara, the Lord offered the ‘means of salvation’ to the people of the world under the pretext of His instructions to Arjuna. Hence, the preceptors of our Srivaishnava tradition have held this incarnation of the Lord in high regard when compared His other incarnations. However, our preceptors, like us, have not been fortunate to have witnessed any of the Lord’s incarnations first-hand. In this context, their admiration for Andal, an incarnation of Bhumi Piratti herself, has been unprecedented. They hail her magnanimity in having left behind the divine experience of Paramapadam to incarnate in this world and to spiritually uplift the souls through her prabandhams of Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi. Also, contrary to the esoteric meanings enshrined in the Bhagavad Gita which has spawned multiple commentaries from different philosophical schools, there is hardly any room for multiple interpretations in the dhivya prabandhams of Andal owing to them being composed in simple Tamil language.

The Lord, the consort of Sri, is the Universal Monarch. His grace alone protects us. Attaining His feet and performing service to His satisfaction is the highest goal worthy of attainment for an individual soul. He is the means to salvation and He is the one to be attained. Andal makes this clear right away by referring to “நாராயணனே நமக்கே பறை தருவான் (1)” in the opening verse of Thiruppavai. In the verse “ஆய்குலத்து உந்தன்னை பிறவி பெறுந்தனைப் புண்ணியம் யாமுடைவோம்! குறைவொன்றும் இல்லாத கோவிந்தா!” (28), she establishes that Lord Krishna is none other than the manifestation of the Supreme Brahmam and through the verse “எற்றைக்கும் ஏழேழ் பிறவிக்கும்…மற்றை நங்காமங்கள் மாற்று” (29), she drives home the point that serving the Supreme Brahmam, in a manner that brings a smile to His face (signifying His satisfaction), is the highest goal worthy of attainment. Also, she makes it clear that anything that prevents a soul from sustaining this service is not to be desired. Thus, Andal does not request salvation but an opportunity to serve Him for eternity.

In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord instructs the individual souls to be devoted to Him and to perform surrender unto His feet. However, Andal, through Thiruppavai, illustrates to us that being devoted to the Lord and surrendering unto His Lotus Feet alone is not sufficient. One should also be devoted to His devotees who consider Him to be their means to salvation as well as their end. That is, devotion to the Lord will have to culminate in the devotion to His devotees. Thus, Andal instructs (as well as demonstrates) that devotion to His devotees and being worthy objects of their blessings is the ultimate goal to be attained.

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