Madal Oorvan / மடல் ஊர்வன்

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An Explanation

கடலன்ன காமம் உழன்றும் மடலேறாப்
பெண்ணிற் பெருந்தக்க தில்

and

எத்தனி மருங்கினும் மகடு ஊ மடன் மேற்
பொற்புடை நெறியின்மை யான…
— Thiru Valluvar in Thirukkural on madal oorthal

i.e., the practice of madal mEl selluthal (riding the palmyra stem) is not common for women, as per Tamil poetic aesthetics.

Madal Eruthal was a practice of Tamils of the sangam time. During the sangam period, the thalaivan or male lover wants to publicize his betrayal by his female lover. He makes a horse made of panai Olai (palm leaves), and draws or paints his lover’s picture in a cloth and hangs it as a flag for the horse and wears erukkam poo maalai (garland made of a type of ununsual flower used mostly for Piḷḷaiyâr (Ganapati, a bachelor god) for himself and rides in alankOlam, crying out to the public about the merciless female who betrayed him.

When Thirumangai assumed the role of a female lover (naayaki bhaavam), he threatens the Lord that if He won’t present Himself to him, he will do madal Eruthal. He openly (outwardly) confesses his love for the Lord in two madals, the Periya and Siriya Thirumadal. In Tamil, காதலை காட்ட மடல் விடுத்தார் மங்கை. Though he makes reference to many temples, the madal oorthal is meant for Thirunaraiyur only as per our pūrvâcâryas.

ஊறா தொழியேன் உலகறிய ஒன்னுதலீர்
சீரார் முலைத் தடங்களை சேரளவும் பாரெல்லாம்
அன்று ஓங்கி நின்று அளந்தான் நின்ற திரு நரையூர்
மன்னோங்க ஊர்வன் மடல்
— Kamban

Thirumangai built temple walls (மதில்) for Srirangam. Thus pleased by such service, Arangan, the Lord of Srirangam, presented Alvar with the honors of tirtham, parivattam, and sri sadagopam, and asked him, “aazhveer, won’t you present the thirumadal prabandham for me also [in Tamil, “திருமடல் ப்ரபந்தங்கலை நமக்கு அருளிச் செய்யல் ஆகாதோ?”]

Thirumangai replied, “மதில் இங்கே, மடல் அங்கே” — walls I have built for here, madals I have sung for there, i.e., Thirunaraiyur.

Pillai Thirunaraiyur Araiyar, in his thaniyan (laudatory verse) for Periya Thirumadal says:

பொன்னுலகில் வானவரும் பூமகளும் போற்றிச் செய்யும்
நன்னுதலீர் நம்பி நறையூரர் - மண்ணூலகில்
என்னிலமை கண்டும் இரங்காரே யாமாகில்
மன்னு “மடலூர்வன” வந்து.

There is a controversy over whether Thirumangai adopted this as a male or in his bhaavam as naayaki. The expert commentaries of the acharyas point that he delivered this in his naayaki bhaavam. The question this is whether Thirumangai can adopt such a posture, as a female and adhering to Tamil culture. But the content is such that “if you are not to offer me your darshanam, though I very strongly adhere to Tamil culture, please be aware that madal oordhal is also adopted by females as per vada nool, i.e. Sanskrit literature, and that I will do it if you do not offer your darshanam.”

மன்னும் வழி முறையே நிற்கும் நாம் - மானோக்கின்
அன்ன நடையார் லரேச ஆடவர் மேல்
மன்னும் மடலூரார் என்பதோர் வாசகமும்
தென்னுரையில் கேட்டரிவதுண்டு

and “அதனையாம் தெளியோம்”, i.e., “மன்னும் வடனெறியே வேண்டினோம்”.

It is clear here that he quoted this in his naayaki bhaavam. He is very bold in citing his transgression of the protocols of Tamil culture. It is believed that an aaychchi or gopikâ who loved Sri Krishnaa, attempted to do madal Eruthal as she realises that she cannot attain HIM now. Similarly, Vegavati and Ulaabikai also were in love with the Lord and that is what thirumangai is referring as his similarities of the love for the Lord as a naayaki and “threatens” a humiliation for the Lord if he has to do madal Eruthal.

Aaraavamudhan (the Lord at Saranga Pani Koyil, Kumbakonam) loved this Alvar and the Tamil language so much that He granted such a darshanam and the Alvar dropped his idea of madal eeruthal. Since Thirunaraiyur is the kshEthram where Thirumangai got his pancha samaskaram done by the Lord Himself, it is considerd that doing pancha samaskaaram was the darshanam and thirumanthra upadEsam was considered as the discussion of the Lord for Alvar. Hence this kshetram is the only one considered as the madal winner among the 108 divya desams (i.e., as per Alvar and Arangan’s conversation).

திருமங்கை திருவடிகளே சரணம்
நம்பிக்கை நாச்சியார் சமேத திரு நறையூர் நம்பி திருவடிகளே சரணம்

Sampath Rengarajan

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