Tuesday, July 1, 2008

BG 9.17


Thirumangai Alwar appeared as the last of Alwars. But he holds an unique position. In the history of all other Alwars we do not find much of news about their marriage and efforts taken. But Thirumangai Alwar, loved a woman, proposed to her, acted according to her conditions to get her hand and finally got her married. He loved a girl and took all efforts to succeed in that love. Many damsels of Swarga lok, the Kingdom of Indra, used to come down to earth and play in select places and return to their place. One day some women of Indra lok arrived at Thiruvellakkulam. But one of them was so much attracted by the beauty, decided to stay back and live on earth. She was brought up by a local doctor. She was christened Thirumamagal [திருமாமகள்]. She grew up to an attractive girl, at the same time by daily worshiping the Lord, her spiritual mind also developed. Once she was plucking kumuda [ a sort of water lily] flowers. Because of her interest in those flowers, she got the name Kumudavalli. Thirumangai Alwar who was at that time in this place, happened to see Kumudavalli and he fell in love with her. He requested her and her father, the doctor, for marriage with him. While the doctor was unable to say no to the offer, Kumudavalli was not that easily yielding. She stipulated certain conditions for marriage, which the Alwar was ready to accept. She said that the Alwar should first come as a true Srivaishnava. That is he should undergo pancha samskaram [ five rituals]. For that one needs an Acharya and even today these rituals are very important among Vaishnava community. In Swami Ramanuja sampradhayam [tradition], person who has undergone pancha samskaram is certain to reach Vaikuntam. It is also considered as a marriage between us and the Lord. These rituals are:
  1. Thapa: [ताप:]- Using hot metal [usually silver] emblems of chakra [discus] and shankam [conch], impressions are made on the right and left shoulders, respectively.
  2. Pundra: [पुणड्र:] - decorting the body on forehead, arms, etc., with symbols of the feet of the Lord [popularly known as thiruman -srichoornam -திரு மண், ஸ்ரீ சூர்ணம் ]. These are to be drawn daily on 12 places on the body.
  3. Nama [नाम ] - A new name will be christened. Usually, a dasya nama [name indicating the servant or disciple of Lord or an Acharya - like Venkatesa dasa or Ramanuja dasa]. By this he joins the single community of servants of the Lord.
  4. Mantra [मंत्र:]- Important mantras Ashtaksharam [ also known as Thirumanthram], dwayam and charama sloka [from Gita] would be taught by the Acharya.
  5. Yaga [याग] - Performing daily pooja [திரு ஆராதனை ] will be taught.
This ritual qualifies aperson to chant mantras. When Alwar was asked to get himself qualified thus, the Alwar went to Thirunaraiyur [திரு நறையூர் or நாச்சியார் கோயில்], in search of an Acharya. The Lord of that place Sri Nambi, performed the pancha samskaram for Alwar, who returned to Kumudavalli. Her next condition was that the Alwar should daily feed 1000 Srivaishnavas, for one year. The Alwar fulfilled this condition also and arrived at this place to get married to Kumudavalli. So this place is the birthplace [பிறந்தகம்] of Kumudavalli. That is why Alwar arrives here during the Eleven Garuda seva. He comes as the son-in-law [மாப்பிள்ளை] to his in-laws' place. Therefore, the devotees of this place welcome the Alwar with the respects shown to a son-in-law. By bringing Kumudavalli to this place and through her making the Alwar a great devotee, we can note the intimate connection between this Alwar and the Lord of Thiruvellakkulam. Moral of this story is that brides should demand devotional character from the would be bridegrooms and not merely profession or wealthy status. The Alwar appears always with Kumudavalli Nachiyar. In the sloka 13, the Lord mentioned sadhya bhakti and by slokas 14 and 15, He told the sadhana bhakti. Sloka 14 mentioed the initial stage of Bhakti and sloka 15 described the advanced stage of Bhakti. Starting from sloka 16, the Lord Sri Krishna gives an explanation. In sloka 15, He told that the devotee sees Him as One in many separate entities. Arjuna was confused as how single can appear as plural or vice versa? The Lord said that as the Cause, He is One; and as effects or results, He appears as many. As an example, mud is one; but can be formed into many objects with varying utilities, like pot, cup, plate, toy, wall or roof. Similarly same gold is made into various ornaments for various parts of the body. Cause cotton is made into various effects such as dhoti, shirt, screen or bed spread. So cause is singular and effects are many. Similarly, the Lord also is Cause before creation and so is One. After creation, this Cause appears as many, many in this Universe. In the coming four slokas -16,17, 18 and 19- the Lord tells in what forms He is appearing:

aham kratur aham yajnah
svadhaham aham ausadham
mantro ’ham aham evajyam
aham agnir aham hutam

"But it is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant. I am the butter and the fire and the offering."

He says He appears as all the various parts of a yagna. Though the list mentioned contains many, we should not forget that He, as One, appears in all. Aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, kratu = all the various yagnas performed to obtain swarga, etc., aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, yajna = activities like pancha maha yagna, one is expected to do daily [ brahma yagna, deva yagna, pithru yagna, manushya yagna and bhootha yagna], aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, svadha = offerings made to pithrus [deceased ancestors] for their welfare, aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, ausadam = havis or the sacred offerings made in sacred fire in yagna, aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, mantra = all the chanted mantras in an yagna, aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, eva = alone, ajyam = ghee offered in the sacred fire in yagna, aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, agni = the sacred fire itself, aham = I, Sri Krishna, am, hutam = the entire homa or yagna or yaga. In the yagna, He is the total yagna, the fire, ghee offered, the person performing, the mantras chanted, offered havis, and what not? He appears as all these separate entities and all these entities are in His control and are dependent on Him. What we see as separate are many and are the effects of the Single Cause, the Lord Sri Krishna. Bhakta sees all these as He alone. This He praises as Gyana yagna. We will now pray to the Lord and Sri Padmavati Thayar and take leave of Thiruvellakkulam.

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