Tirumangai Alvar's Self-Abasement

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A Brief Note on the Periya Tirumozhi

December 10, 1997

Self-abasement by Tirumangai Alvar can be found sprinkled all over his 1000 and odd verses. But it is in the first and the sixth Tirumozhi of the first decad where we find this sentiment most intensely expressed. In these verses the first two lines detail the nature of his transgressions and the rest describes how he was able to transcend his sins by somehow taking refuge at the lotus feet of Sriman Narayana.

The first Tirumozhi comes immediately after the Alvar had upadesam from the Divine Couple. Having understood the true nature of individual souls the Alvar feels intensely penitent for all the sins he had committed. He is full of remorse for having wasted his time in the pursuit of worthless worldly pleasures. He sings, “oomanaar kaNda kanavilum pazhudhaay ozhindhana kazhindha annaaLkaL”. Here the Alvar compares his past days to the fantasies of a dumb. Like the dreams of a dumb is of no value to anyone, my past days have been worthless. The Alvar ends each of these verses passionately declaring the efficacy of tiru ashtaaksharam for absolving his sins.

In the sixth Tirumozhi of the first decad the Alvar repeats the same theme as in the first. Why should he revisit this topic in the sixth Tirumozhi? Sri Uttamur Swami answers this question in his commentary. The subject of the sixth Tirumozhi is Naimisaaranyam. Among all the kshetras the rishis of yore considered Naimisaaranyam to be the foremost for destroying one’s sins. This is the reason the Alvar recounts all the sins he had already sang about in the first Tirumozhi. Among the most intense of these intense 10 verses is:

    idumbaiyaal adarppuNdu iduminO thuRRu enRu irandhavarku illaiyEyenRu,
    neduncolaal maRuttha neesanEn andhO! ninaikkilEn vinaippayan thannai,
    kaduncolaar kadiyaar kaalanaar thamaraal paduvadhOr kodumiRaiku anchi,
    nadungi naan vandhu un thiruvadi yadaindhEn naimisaaraNiyatthuLendhaay!

            --  Periya Tirumozhi 1.6.5

       (thuRRu = a mouthful, kodumiRai = horrible torture,
        naman thamar = the messengers (dUtas) of Yama, the God of death)
“I turned away the ones who begged for just a mouthful to pacify their hunger brought on by poverty. Not caring for the sin that will befall me, I firmly and repeatedly refused their pleas. What a low- life I am. Now, being dreadful of Yama’s servants waiting to put me through brutal torture, I surrender unto your divine feet, O! Lord of Naimisaaranyam.”

What happens to those Yama dUtaas after we surrender to the Lord. Tondaradippodi Alvar says we can dance on top of their heads.

    kaavaliR pulanai vaiththuk kalithanaik kadakkap paayndhu,
    naavalitt uzhitharukinROm  naman thamar thalaikaL meethE,
    moovulagu uNdu umizhndha  mudhalva! nin naamam kaRRa,
    aavalip pudaimai kaNdaay arankamaanakar uLaanE!

             -- Tondaradippodi Alvar's Tirumaalai v. 1
“We let the mind and body wander into everything without guard. However, to cross the ocean of sins we learnt the names of the Lord who swallowed the three worlds and then spit them out. (By repeating His names, we are no longer afraid of the Yama dUtas) we can perform our victory dance on top of the heads of Yama’s servants.”

— aḍiyēn