AzhwAr thirunagari vaibhavam – nammAzhwAr’s procession

SrI: SrimathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama: SrI vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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In AzhwAr thirunagari and nammAzhwAr’s life history, the procession of nammAzhwAr is considered as an important event. We shall learn about it here, to an extent.

In the previous part we learnt about how nammAzhwAr had indicated to madhurakavi AzhwAr about the incarnation of rAmAnujar and how he gave the vigraham of bhavishyadhAchAryar to madhurakavi AzhwAr. After nammAzhwAr’s time and before the incarnation of rAmAnujar, pUrvAchAryars such as nAthamunigaL et al incarnated on this earth and nurtured our SrIvaishNava sampradhAyam (traditions). SrIman nAthamunigaL heard about nammAzhwAr’s pAsurams and came to AzhwAr thirunagari in search of AzhwAr and his pAsurams. He had the fortune of having dharSan (vision) of nammAzhwAr through his spiritual vision. Through the mercy of nammAzhwAr, SrIman nAthamunigaL had the fortune of obtaining nammAzhwAr’s four prabandhams as well as the prabandhams of other AzhwArs’, along with their meanings. In the lineage of AchAryars, he attained a place next only to nammAzhwAr. kurugaikkAvalappan, one of nAthamunigaL’s sishyas (disciples), incarnated  in this AzhwAr thirunagari.

After SrIman nAthamunigaL, the lineage of AchAryars grew well through uyyakkoNdAr, maNakkAl nambi, ALavandhAr and periya nambi. After that, SrI rAmAnujar, who is the reincarnation of AdhiSEshan (the divine mattress for emperumAn), incarnated on this earth and showed that mOksham is attainable for all those who are desirous of attaining it. emperumAnAr (rAmAnujar) considered himself as mARan adi paNindhu uyndhavan (one who  got uplifted by bowing down to the  divine feet of nammAzhwAr). Looking at the boundless devotion of rAmANujar towards him, nammAzhwAr granted rAmANujar the fortune of being his thiruvadi nilai (the sandals or pedestal of a vigraham – this is the bell shaped instrument carried by the archakar (priest) in his hands and kept on the heads of devotees inside a sannidhi). While nammAzhwAr’s thiruvadi nilai in all other places is called as madhurakavigaL, in AzhwAr thirunagari, nammAzhwAr decreed that it would go by the name of SrI rAmANujam. 

After emperumAnAr’s time, our sampradhAyam grew through the lineage of embAr, bhattar, nanjIyar, nampiLLai, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai and piLLai lOkAchAryar, as OrANvazhi (one disciple carrying the torch forward from one teacher). During the last days of piLLai lOkAchAryar, a grave danger befell the southern region of bhAratham (India) through the invasion of foreign forces. SrIrangam, the principal seat of our sampradhAyam was severely attacked by the invaders. During that time, piLLailOkAchAriyar raised a protective wall in front of periya perumAL (SrI ranganAthar, mUlavar vigraham) and took namperumAL (the uthsavar vigraham) towards the southern side [of  SrIrangam] in search of a safe haven. piLLai lOkAchAryar reached jyOthishkudi  (present day kodikkuLam), a place behind yAnai malai in madhurai [with  namperumAL]. Due to his advancing age, he fell ill. He decreed that thirumalai AzhwAr, his sishyar, would carry forward the role of head of sampradhAyam, and attained paramapadham.

After this, namperumAL reached kOzhikkOdu, in kEraLA. At the same time, nammAzhwAr too reached kOzhikkOdu, having to move away from AzhwAr thirunagari [due to attack from foreign invaders]. AzhwAr had to stay away from AzhwAr thirunagari, for several years, in this way. After AzhwAr reached kOzhikkOdu, namperumAL desirously gave him place and accepted him in his divine seat. pOththimArs and nambUdhris (priests in kEraLa region) carried out kainkaryam to AzhwAr and namperumAL, with great desire. After leaving kOzhikkOdu, AzhwAr and namperumAL reached the abode, thirukkaNAmbi. After staying there for some time, namperumAL left that place. Those involved in carrying out kainkaryam to nammAzhwAr there, took him further towards the western region in search of a safe place. Reaching a steep cliff they decided that they could keep AzhwAr safely in that place. They mercifully kept nammAzhwAr in a casket and lowered him down the slope of the cliff.

When they were returning after safely keeping AzhwAr’s vigraham there, robbers stole the divine, priceless ornaments from the kainkaryaparars (those carrying out kainkaryam) who had been serving nammAzhwAr until then. Among the kainkaryaparars was a person named thOzhappar. He reached madhurai and sought the help of thirumalai AzhwAr who was the senior minister in the king’s court. This is the same thirumalai AzhwAr who was piLLai LokAchAriyar’s principal disciple and was decreed by piLLai lOkAchAriyar as the next head of the sampradhAyam. He sent a message to the king of kEraLA, seeking help. He also sent his private servants to get back AzhwAr’s vigraham. The king of kEraLA, on receiving thirumalai AzhwAr’s message, sent his army to get back AzhwAr. All the people, under the leadership of thOzhappar, set out on the task.  A garuda  pakshi (an eagle) signalled to them AzhwAr’s location. thOzhappar sat  on a plank held by iron chains and went down the steep slope himself. He located the casket in which AzhwAr’s vigraham was kept. He sent up the casket with AzhwAr. The plank was lowered for thOzhappar to come back. However, on his way up, he lost balance and fell down the steep slope. He attained paramapadham. thOzhappar’s son who  saw this, cried out uncontrollably. AzhwAr consoled the son saying that he will be the father. He decreed that all the temple honours will be given to thOzhappar’s son and his descendants. Subsequently, AzhwAr reached thirukkaNAmbi again. The robbers (who had stolen the divine ornaments of  AzhwAr) heard all the incidents, realised their mistake and proffered the ornaments, which they had stolen, to  AzhwAr. thirumalai AzhwAr came to  thirukkaNAmbi and lovingly worshipped AzhwAr.

When thirumalai AzhwAr returned to madhurai, kUrakulOththama dhAsar, one of piLLai lOkAchAryar’s disciples, met him, reminding him of his connection with piLLai lOkAchAryar. He instructed thirumalai AzhwAr with the salient features of sampradhAyam, told him to give up his ministerial position and remain as the servitor only to AzhwAr. thirumalai AzhwAr learnt the  deeper meanings of our sampradhAyam from kUrakulOththama dhAsar, viLAnjOlaip piLLai, nAlUrAchchAn piLLai et al and became the head  of our sampradhAyam, in line with the divine mind of piLLai lOkAchAryar. He then mercifully led AzhwAr back to AzhwAr thirunagari. When he reached the divine abode of AzhwAr thirunagari, he saw that the place had become covered fully with wild bush. He cleared the place of the entire bush and reconstructed the AdhinAthar AzhwAr divine temple. He found the divine vigraham of bhavishyadhAchAryar, buried under the thiruppuLi AzhwAr (tamarind tree). He constructed chathurvEdhimangalam on the western side, built a temple there and made arrangements for regular kainkaryams at both AdhinAthar AzhwAr temple and emperumAnAr temple, in a proper way. Due to his deep devotion towards nammAzhwAr and thiruvAimozhi, he was known by the distinguished names of SatakOpa dhAsar and thiruvAimozhip piLLai. His descendants are carrying out kainkaryams at this and other surrounding temples in this region, till date.

Our pUrvAchAryars would say that we could call this narrative as “nammAzhwAr’s procession”.

maNavALa mAmunigaL, who  incarnated in this divine abode and who later became the AchArya  of  SrI ranganAtha himself, took thiruvAimozhip piLLai  as his AchArya and carried out kainkaryam initially at AzhwAr thirunagari. We shall learn about his history and greatness, in the next article.

adiyEn krishNan rAmAnuja dhAsan

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