Goda, also known as Andal, means giver of cows, illumination and revelations. True to her name Andal blossomed forth to personify all these cherished values in her myriad mystic revelation.
Andal being one of the great Alvars, and a gem of mystic among them, homage has been paid to her during all these centuries.
She lived several centuries before Acharya Ramanuja and her works have been zealously commented upon by a galaxy of scholars.
Andal was a bridal mystic. She was a born devotee of God like Saint Tyagaraja. In her Tiruppavai, one can sense and feel the emotive cravings of a most sensitive soul, the agony and ecstasy through which it passes, only to usher in, in the end, a mystic revelation of Prapatti, total surrender to God, with a lyrical abandon.
Born in a Samvedic Brahmin family (1925) in Venkatayyana Chatra Agrahara, Chamarajanagar Taluk of erstwhile Mysore District, Dr. V. S. Sampathkumaracharya had a brilliant academic career: B.A. (Hons) of the Mysore University (1947), M. A. of Benares Hindu University (1961), B. Ed., (1962), Ph.D., of the Mysore University for his Doctoral Treatise 'Life in the Hoysala Age 1000-1040 A.D.' (1974).
Dr. Acharya served with distinction in various educational institutions as Teacher and Professor of Education before his retirement as Principal in 1981. A doyen among Carnatic Musicologists, music came to him as a craving of the soul as it were. His first initiation into music came from his aunt and mother in his childhood. Later he came under the influence of Sangita Bhushana M.A. Narasimhachar. Gifted by nature with profound insights Dr. Acharya made it to the higher echelons of musicology with grace and ease. An erudite scholar with creative insights Dr. Acharya has authored many valuable works on Musicology, Musicians, History of Music and to cap it all his seminal encyclopaedic work 'Karnataka Sangitada Paribhashika Shabdakosha' (1983). Titles and honours have come to him all the way.
Tiruppavai is a pearl in the ocean of Bhakti and Srivaishnava literature. It is also referred to as a Garland of Thirty Verses, dedicated to Lord Sri Ranganatha by Saint Godadevi. Since centuries, it has been the heart-throbbing element in every devotee of Vishnu. To whichever spoken language the devotee may belong, this lyric stays on his lips forever.
Though the Tiruppavai is in pure Tamil, it has been considered as yet another Bhagavad Gita. Many devotee scholars have translated it into their respective languages. One such work is by Dr. V. S. Sampathkumaracharya, a true and staunch follower of Srivaishanvism. In writing this work, though he is guided by his guru, the Veteran Ubhaya Vedanta Scholar (late) Prof. V. T. Thirunarayana Iyengar (incidentally he was my teacher in the Maharaja's college, Mysore, in the late forties of the last century) Dr. Acharya has shown his brilliance in writing this unique work, a creditable one. He has given the correct treatment to the original work and made the present volume an excellent treatise, by giving the original pasuram, its transliteration, its summary in Kannada and also the Kannada and English version in simple poetry. The Valuable commentary of the pasurams, is easily understandable by the earnest layman- devotee. In this way Dr. Acharya has brought the work nearer to the hearts of the masses. This valuable work, at once, appeals to both the Scholar and the lay devotee. He has done an excellent job keeping in view the profound philosophical perspectives of this eminent work.
Moreover, Dr. Acharya has brought out very clearly, the real philosophical insight of Saint Andal, which depicts the required Prapatti (Saranaagati - Complete Surrender to the Lord) and the way in which the Chetana (Soul) has to attain eternity by following the path as explained in the Tiruppavai, in a simple and spontaneous manner of dedication. This can be "followed by everyone even in this modern and scientific age.
This work in English is indeed a valuable contribution meriting a worthy place in the galaxy of the works of eminent scholars like Prof. S. S. Raghavachar, Dr. S. M. S. Chari and others who have enriched and embellished Visistadvaita Vedanta by their scholarly works.
Let the readers taste this nectar and forget themselves in the world of Bhakti brought out by the 'musings on St. Andal's thirty multifaceted garlands of mystic verses.'
Tiruppavai is a poetical work consisting of thirty verses in Tamil language. It is composed by a spinster Andal who lived in Srivilliputtur in Tamilnadu. If reflects the ambition, the equipment, the attempt, the assistance and patronage and finally the result and determination not to miss the result under any circumstances. From this point of view, the work may be regarded as belonging to the category of high class poetry. Another poem of Andal is Nachiyar Tirumoli, having 143 stanzas. Both the poems are unique in their literary, philosophical, religious and artistic content. The imagery pictured here is unparallel. It is difficult to find poetry surpassing or even equalling the poetry of Andal in the whole gamut of Tamil literature. Such is the greatness of these two poems of Andal.
There is however, another point connected with this work Tiruppavai, The aim is of the loftiest order. The attempt to realise it, is the birth-right of the seeker. The equipment is not acquisition, but is a gift for us from the supreme entity and finally, the attempt is to follow the footsteps of the chosen leader, who has been considered by the Supreme, to show the way to people, who are after refinement in life. This aspect is contained in the Vedas, which are the earliest and the most reliable book which directs man to adopt a course of life, which would put in his possession the best form of bliss, ever enduring and unalloyed.
It is said that this composition enjoys the status of Mangala Sutra, the most sacred ornament around the neck of a lady, who is ever prosperous and happy. It is also said that this composition serves as the seed from which the tree of wisdom develops.
To appreciate the significance of this composition, it is necessary to be familiar with the background to life, which means discovering what is most significant in the teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishads in particular. The sacred syllable Om, known as Pranava, describes the structure of the cosmos constitutionally and functionally. There are two elements, which claim to be recognised. The major element is termed in the Upnishads as Sat, Atman, Brahman and Narayana. The second element is termed as Chit, Atman, Jiva and Chetana. The link between the two entities is also described by using various terms Chetana is regarded as the Sakti, Amsa, tanu, Sarira and so on, indicating that the element to remain as its subordinate, without any independence to itself. It is clear from this, that there are two entities naturally distinct, but they are not unrelated and apart. This is the basis to regard the system expressed by Pranava as Visistadvaita, a single entity with connected dependents.
The idea contained in the Pranava is made more clear in the Upnishadic statement "Sarvam Khalu idam Brahma tajjalaam iti santah Upaaseeta". It is a direction to the enquiring student that he should keep calm by constant reflection that the world originates from Brahman, which sustains it and into which it enters in the end. It has emphasised the nature of relationship of a particular variety by using the expression 'Sarvam Brahma'. This equation does not necessarily mean identity, as it would not agree with the idea of dependence brought about by the employment of creation, sustainance and involution and yet the distinction between the two entities is regarded as existence of two separate entities brought together for some purpose. This, in other words, is inseparability and total subordination to the Supreme. To use the expression of the Tiruppavai, the dependent element is always linked to the Supreme element "Vuttomeyaavom"- at the same time-" Vunakkeaal Saivom"- we serve only you, which marks dependence. The two words bring out the significance of the term 'aprithak Siddhi'- negation of separation both in thought and function. The position is that Narayana is the major element, the Chetana and the achetana are minor elements. The relation is' aprithak Siddhi' and the aim is to realise this aspect of life. The means would be the mantra, which enlightens the source of help, is Narayana and the leading functionary Sri, the consort of Narayana is Tiru in Tamil language.
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