Thiruppavai is the most popular of the Vaishnava literature in Thamizh[Tamil). In the fifties and the sixties of the last century, its popularity had attained a peak and when the Tamil syllabus in the School curriculum was revised, the Tamil literature related to religion gradually took a back stage giving way to the contemporary poetry and prose. While one should not challenge the wisdom of the curriculum makers in revising the curriculum to contemporary needs, one cannot deny the fact that students lost the opportunity to get exposed to some of the evergreen literature like Kamba Ramayanam(Ramavatharam),The varam and Divyaprabandhams. The style of poetry used by the Alwars and Nayanmars employed more of the contemporary and in some cases colloquial words, while not losing the purity of the Grammar. Even the pure Tamil movement failed to notice the purity ofthe language employed by these great poets oftheir time, merely because the movement chose to be more secular. In spite of the efforts taken by the politicians to popularize Tamil, the number of English medium schools at primary and secondary levels and colleges has registered a phenomenal growth and Tamilian students in the cities and from small and large Towns had lost the ability to read and write in Tamil. Consequently young people, by and large, have no exposure to these valuable writings. Added to this, a number of Indians have gone to countries like UK, USA and Canada in search of greener pastures and their children also have no access to these valuable treasures.
Though, I got attracted to them initially from the point of view of language, their philosophical content also started attracting me ever since I came to Puducheri as Principal of Pondicherry Engineering College after a long stint of University service at Vadodara (Baroda, Gujarat). I had attempted to deliver a few discourses while I was at Puducherry. As expected, the youngsters attending such discourses were hardly any Subramanya Bharathi wrote.
'There is a need to translate Scriptures of leading experts from abroad', but that was the need of his time. Today, while India is trying to become one of the economic powers of the world, the situation has changed completly.
Therefore, I felt that there is an urgent need to translate atleast a fewofthem into English and I chose this masterpiece, Thiruppavai, for its simplicity of language and content. While doing so, I do not claim any in -depth knowledge of the Vaishnava philosophy or the Vedas of which Thiruppavai is supposed to be seed like.
The original Pasuram in Tamil is followed by a transliteration in English followed by a synopsis which in turn is followed by the Interpretation of the Pasuram. This Interpretation is not in the form of a Vyakyanarn (detailed interpretation or criticism of the Pasuram) but at the same time it is not designed as a literal translation of words or lines in the Pasurams. Meaningful details, as may be required by an uninitiated reader, have been incorporated wherever possible. These interpretations are mainly based on Thiruppavai Vyakyariam by Sudharsanam SrinivasaIyyangar, which in, turn, is based on the Vyakyanam by Peria Vachchan Pillai. Help also has been taken from "Thiruppavai' by Dr. A. Ethirajan by Sri Kanchi Prathivadi Bhayangaram Annangarachariyar.
I am very much at a loss to find suitable words to express my gratitude to Thiru N. Gopalaswami lAS, Chief Election Commissioner of India for going through the first draft of the manuscript line by line, in spite of his very busy schedule, and for suggesting appropriate modifications. I really feel guilty that I have taken an undue advantage of my very brief acquaintance with him almost a couple of decades back. Dr.P. Marudanayagam, formerly Professor and Head, Department of English, Pondicherry Central University, very kindly agreed to go through the manuscriptand correct the grammar and the content.I would like to register my sincere gratitude to him.
As suggested by Dr Marudanayagam, the international system of transliteration of Tamil has been used in trans- literation of the verses in Thiruppavai, but in the text and for Sanskrit words, normally used spelling has been followed.
I would have achieved my objective, if the book is able to kindle interest in Thiruppavai, and through it, in the Nalayira Divyaprabhandham, in atleast a few young minds, Tamilian or non-Tamilian.
Once, Saint Narada asked Lord Krishna, 'He Achutal Vasudeva! Vishnu! Is there anything which is greater and more wonderful than you? Is there any better Dharmatma than you? There is no better Dhanyatma than you. He Vishnu! '
Lord Krishna replied, 'I am not an independent Wonder! I am not a Dharmathrna without Dhakshina. [Dhakahina is an offering which others give to Priests and Gurus when they meet them or when the disciples leave after completion of learning the scriptures under the Guru!)
Other people who were with Krishna requested him to explain the meaning of 'with Dhakshna'. Krishna told them, 'Ask Naradha as he can explain things better than me'. They asked Naradha the same question and Naradha told them how he came to know about that.
Once, Naradha was taking bath in the holy river Ganges. A very large tortoise came in front of him. Naradha was surprised to see such a large tortoise with a very big shell and it was dosing and opening its eyelids on and off.
Naradha told 'you are always in the Ganges water. We only come and take bath once in a while. You are a great wonder! You are Dhanyatma because you are always in the Ganges!' The Tortoise replied "what is so great about me? The Ganges in which I live is greater than me. What shall I do without her?"
Then Naradha addressed the Ganges and said, 'You are the greatest! You are the Dhanyatma!' Ganges replied 'What is great about me! Samudra Raja (the ocean) receives so many rivers like me. Where will we all end up if there are no oceans? Therefore, the ocean is the greatest!'
Then Naradha went to the ocean and told. "You are the greatest wonder! You are Dhanyatma!"
The ocean replied, 'I am not the greatest wonder or Dhanyatma. The Bhumi (Mother Earth) bears all the oceans. She is the greatest! Bhumata appears with a bow in her hand. (According to the Vedas she bears a bow in her hands). We never heard about Bhudevi fighting with a bow any time and she is considered the symbol of patience. Then why is that the Vedas attribute a bow (Dhanush) in her hands?
This only means that the Vedas refer to Sri Andal and she is the incarnation of Bhudevi Piratti and she observed the 'Pavai Nonbu' in the Dhanur month.The Bhu-Suktam, praises Bhudevi as the one who is found in thirty places. Which are the thirty places? They are the Thirty Pasurams in Tiruppavai which she sang in praise of the Lord when she was born as Andal, daughter of Perialvar (Vishnu chitta) in Srivilliputhur.
Lord Vishnu took many Avatars (Incarnations) and Varaha Avatar is one. A demon (asura) called Hiranyasura once took away the Bhumi and hid her below the Ocean. Lord Vishnu took the form of a very big Pig (Varaha), plunged into the Ocean, destroyed the demon and brought her up. He was grunting very loudly and was turning around His large eyes. He found her weeping and He asked her why She was weeping instead of being happy.
She replied, "You came to my immediate rescue when I was in trouble because I am your wife. Will you a do the same thing when people call you when they are in distress?" He replied, "I will run for the rescue of those people who;
1) Pray to me offering flowers at my feet,
2) Chant my names aloud and
3) Surrender themselves unto my feet
I Shell never let down my above such devotees and shall myself lead them to salvation.” When Bhudevi descended on Earth as Andal and gifted Triuppavai to the World she remembered the above three commandments and apportioned ten Pasurams to each.
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