A Romantic Tête-à-tête

That imparts knowledge of the sastras

By Niranjana Karthigairajan

‘Nalayira Divya Prabhandam’ is the collection of 4000 Tamil verses composed by the 12 Azhwars, the Tamil poet-saints of South India who are immersed in devotion to Lord Vishnu. By reading their hymns, we can come across­­ a few verses where Azhwars express their love, intensively pining for the Lord’s company through oodal. Oodal is an anger that emanates out of immense love. For Azhwars, oodal springs out of intensifying bhakthi (Pranayam) and sense of feeling that He is mine (Abimanam).

In Thiruvaimozhi, Nammazhvar (considered the greatest among the twelve Azhwars) couldn’t bear the separation from Lord Narayana, and casts himself in the role of Lord’s lady love – Parankusa Nayaki. She sends love messages (Thoothu) to Lord Narayana and waits for His arrival. While the Lord got delayed for a few minutes, the anguished Parankusa Nayaki decided to play with her friends instructing them not to turn to the Lord when He arrives. When He appeared, He saw them playing with the ball turning their faces away from Him. Fortunately, the ball bounced and rolled towards Him. Grabbing this golden opportunity, the Lord picked the ball and refused to return it to Parankusa Nayaki. 

Furious, Parankusa Nayaki, commands the Lord to return the ball and walks away (‘En panthum kazhalum thandu pogum nambi’). Azhwar’s opinion is that the Lord would return the ball as she remarked “En” (‘It’s mine, referring to the act of making an offering to the Lord without giving up the ego: He doesn’t accept it.)

The Lord, aware of Azhwar’s intention, held the ball tightly to His chest. When Azhwar springs in anger, the Lord admires Azhwar’s gestures, shoulders, and rotary motion of eye balls as she speaks, and the beauty of her eyelashes. Azhwar notices that the Lord admires her beauty and turns her face away. Now the Lord is much happier since He has got a chance to admire Azhwar’s long lustrous hair.

The Lord says that He is late since He had gone to graze His cows. Azhwar doesn’t believe Him and thinks that He has been with other girls and so has come late. The Lord pleads with Azhwar that He doesn’t have any other place to go.

Azhwar : Go and tell your lie to five lakh gopikas, they will believe.

Azhwar (further questions): Oh, you grazed cows in front of those girls? Why can’t you do that in front of me?

Azhwar wonders now what the Lord is going to respond.

Lord: Ok then! If you don’t speak, I shall speak to your doll and parrot.

Azhwar: They all belong to me. You can’t speak to them without my permission.

Lord: I’m the Supreme and I don’t need your permission.

Ok, I shall leave. But tell me, where should I go? How to go? And what to speak there?

(Saying this Lord tries to take few steps close to Azhwar.)

Azhwar (shouts): Don’t come closer!!

The Lord tries to recollect and speak those romantic conversations they had while they were alone. But still Azhwar isn’t convinced.

The Lord wonders what to do now and He devises a plan to snatch Azhwar’s doll. Like a ‘tug of war’, He pulled the doll from one end (without much force) while Azhwar with her other friends pulled it from other end. The Lord didn’t snatch the doll from Azhwar’s hand in one shot, so that He could get a glimpse of those girls.

Azhwar: Sastras hail you as saviour. Is this the act of a saviour?

Now when furious Azhwar tries to leave the place, the Lord stands blocking the pathway. If at all Azhwar has to leave, she has to rub shoulders with the Lord or to stand there facing Him (in both e scenarios, it is advantage for the Lord).

Azhwar: You are the creator and protector of this universe. Is it fair to snatch the doll from us?

Azhwar now takes a vow not to look at the Lord and decides to play by building a sandcastle and cooking along with her friends. The Lord gets annoyed, as apart from not looking at Him, they are also focusing on something else. And so, He kicked the sandcastle and their food.

Azhwar (in anger): You should have stood and admired our sandcastle. I hope you can’t bear with anything that is good. If you had stood and admired our sandcastle, we might have had a sidelong gaze of you and in turn your lotus-eyes might have captivated us.

(Here, sand castle implicitly denotes the samhaaram of Leela Vibhuti.)

Azhwar: Do you think what we have created is to be abandoned like your creation?

Lord: Why? What’s wrong with my creation?

Azhwar: Unlike your creation that blends five elements of nature (namely air, water, fire, land and sky) in accordance to the law of Karma, my creation is made up of sands from holy rivers, built with our delicate hands with lots of effort. You have destroyed our superior food as well.

Lord: What’s so special about your food?

Azhwar: Your food can only be consumed by you. Whereas our food can be consumed by all devotees.

(Upanishad says ‘Atha Charachara Grahanaa’- during samharam the Lord consumes everything as food. It shows His Supremacy.)

The Lord is extremely elated now as He has broken Azhwar’s vow that she will not look at Him. The Lord feels that winning over Ravana, Mahabali or 21 generations of Kshatriya (in Parasurama avatar) are not at all a victory, whereas winning over the heart of Parankusa Nayaki is the victory. In fact, before winning over Azhwar, the Lord even wonders what’s the use of wearing His crown!!

There is a sastra vakyam, which says “Kshiyante chasya-karmani tasmin drishte paravare”, which means, ‘On seeing the Supreme, one’s deeds and doubts vanish’. Similarly, for Azhwar her doubts get cleared and she starts to repent for not looking at Him.

Here, the Lord’s destruction of sandcastle and food with His feet implicitly means He has destroyed Azhwar’s vow that she will not look at Him. Similarly, the Lord destroys our egos that are hindrance in attaining Him through His holy feet.

For the Lord, the creation of universe is effortless comparing to the efforts He makes to break the worldly ties of every jeevatma.

In this season of love, let our hearts brim with bhakthi and love to attain His feet. Happy Valentine’s Day!

* Published in print edition on 12 February 2021

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