madhurakavi AzhwAr

srimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

madhurakavithirunakshathram: chithirai, chithirai

avathAra sthalam: thirukkOLUr

AchAryan: nammAzhwAr

Works: kaNNinuN chiruthAmbu

Place where he attained paramapadham: AzhwAr thirunagari

nampiLLai, in the vyAkyAna avathArikai brings out the glories of madhurakavi AzhwAr beautifully. Let us see some glimpses of it.

rishis are focussed on sAmAnya sAsthram which establishes ishvaryam, kaivalyam and bhagavath kainkaryam as purushArtham (goal to be attained by a soul). Azhwars are  focussed on the uththama purushArtham (ultimate goal) that is loving service to srIman nArAyaNan. madhurakavi AzhwAr is focussed on the epitome (top most stage) of bhagavath kainkaryam that is bhAgavatha kainkaryam – ofcourse bhagavAn appreciates service to his devotees more than service to him.

We can see this in srI rAmAyaNam as well. Since srI rAmAyaNam is vEdha upabruhmmaNam (that which explains the intricate meanings of vEdham) it promptly establishes the main aspects of vEdham.

  • perumAL (srI rAman) is an embodiment of dharmam – so he established sAmAnya (ordinary/simple) dharmams of “pithru vachana paripAlanam” (following the orders of father/elders), etc.
  • iLaya perumAL (lakshmaNan) established the visEsha (special) dharmam of sEshathvam that a sEshan (servant) should always follow and serve the sEshi (master). He said “aham sarvam karishyAmi” (I will do everything for you) to srI rAman and also put that in to practice.
  • srI bharathAzhwAn (bharathan) established pArathanthriyam which is the real svarUpam of jIvAthmAs. pArathanthriyam means full following the desires of the master without any expectations on our own. Because perumAL wanted bharathAzhwAn to stay in ayOdhyA and take care of the rAjyam, he obliges and accepts that as his supreme command and stays outside ayOdhyA for 14 years with the same attire and anushtAnam of srI rAman.
  • srI chathrugnAzhwAn (chathrugnan) established the epitome of our svarUpam which is bhAgavatha sEshathvam. He simply followed bharathAzhwAn and served him without any interest in anything else.

nampiLLai quotes srI bhAshyakArar (rAmAnujar) saying because of chathrugnan’s total surrender to srI bharathAzhwAn, he was more dear to srI rAman than the other 2 brothers – iLaya perumAL and bharathAzhwAn. madhurakavi AzhwAr was like srI chathrugnAzhwAn who was fully established in bhAgavatha nishtai. madurakavi AzhwAr also was fully surrendered to nammAzhwAr and was fully serving him. For him, nammAzhwAr is both the goal and the process to attain that goal. That is what is established by madhurakavi AzhwAr in his dhivya prabhandham.

piLLai lOkAchAryar in his magnum opus srIvachana bhUshaNam, in the last prakaraNam which fully reveals the glories of AchArya abhimAna nishtai (depending fully on AchAryan’s abhimAnam) establishes this principle by citing madhurakavi AzhwAr’s life and attachment towards nammAzhwAr as the example. In the 8th prakaraNam, bhagavan nirhEthuka krupai is explained. At the same time, bhagavAn is also bound to give results to jIvAthmA per their karmA. So, one may have a doubt that emperumAn may or may not accept us. In the 9th (and last) prakaraNam, piLLai lOkAchAryar establishes the greatness of charama upAyam (the final way) which is depending on AchAryan and how that will easily deliver the jIvAthmA. Let us see that now.

In sUthram 407, it is shown that one may have a doubt in the mind that emperumAn being svathanthran, may accept us or reject us depending on him following sAsthram (which gives results based on one’s own karmA) or his kAruNyam (mercy). mAmunigaL shows in the vyAkyAnam that the sUthram is completed by adding “When we depend on AchAryan who is a parathanthran (fully dependent on emperumAn), there is no doubt, since he will ensure that we will get delivered, because AchAryan is embodiment of kAruNyam and will look for the upliftment of the jIvAthmA only”.

In sUthram 408, it is explained that, this cannot be proved by the pAsurams of the 10 AzhwArs (excluding madhurakavi AzhwAr and ANdAL) who are fully surrendered to emperumAn. These AzhwArs were divinely blessed by emperumAn with blemishless knowledge. When they get immersed in bhagavath anubhavam they glorify the bhAgavathAs. But when the are in separation from emperumAn, they get upset with bhAgavathAs out of their desperate situation (many pAsurams are cited by mAmunigaL in the vyAkyAnam). mAmunigaL summarizes in the end that we cannot determine the true glories of AchArya vaibhavam through the pAsurams of 10 AzhwArs but we have to do that using madhurakavi AzhwAr’s pAsurams.

In sUthram 409, it is explained that madhurakavi AzhwAr is far greater than other AzhwArs since he is only focussed on AchArya (nammAzhwAr) vaibhavam unlike other AzhwArs who glorifies bhAgavathas some times and ignores them at other times. It is through the words of madhurakavi AzhwAr we can establish the glories of AchArya vaibhavam.

mAmunigaL explains the glories of madhurakavi AzhwAr and his upadhEsa raththina mAlai in 25th and 26th pAsurams.

In the 25th pAsuram, he says that madhurakavi AzhwAr’s thiruvavathAram (appearance) day – chithirai/chithirai, is most suitable for prapanna’s svarUpam, even more than the appearance days of other AzhwArs.

In the 26th pAsuram, he explains the glories of AzhwAr and his prabhandham wonderfully.

vAyththa thirumaNthiraththin maththimamAm padham pOl
chIrththa madhurakavi chey kalaiyai
Arththa pugazh AriyargaL thAnGgaL aruLicheyal NaduvE
chErviththAr thARpariyam thErNthu

வாய்த்த திருமந்திரத்தின் மத்திமமாம் பதம் போல்
சீர்த்த மதுரகவி செய் கலையை
ஆர்த்த புகழ் ஆரியர்கள் தாங்கள் அருளிசெயல் நடுவே
சேர்வித்தார் தாற்பரியம் தேர்ந்து

piLLai lOkam jIyar gives beautiful explanation for this pAsuram. nama: padham in thirumanthram is taken as an example here for kaNNinuN chiruthAmbu. thirumanthram is gloried as the one which will relieve the reciter from bondage in this samsAram. In this thirumanthram, nama: padham is the most important word – it clearly establishes that we have no involvement in protecting ourselves and we have to fully depend on our master (emperumAn) to protect us. This same principle is explained by madhurakavi AzhwAr (who himself is great because of his AchArya nishtai) in his prabhandham that we should fully depend on our AchAryan to protect us. It is because of this fact that it brings out the essence of sAsthram, our pUrvAchAryas included this prabhandham in to the collection of 4000 dhivya prabhandham. Just like madhurakavi AzhwAr is born in chithrai thirunakshathram which comes in the middle of the 27 nakshathrams, his prabhandham is also considered the center piece of the dhivya prabhandha rathan hAram (necklace).

Thus, we can see how beautifully emperumAnAr, nampiLLai, piLLai lOkAchAryar, mAmunigaL and piLLai lOkam jIyar are explaining the same principle from different angles.

With this understanding, let us now go through his charithram.

madhurakavi AzhwAr appeared in chaithra mAsam, chithrA nakshathram in thirukkOLUr. Just like sun’s rays appear before the sun itself, he appeared just before nammAzhwAr’s divine appearance. Looking at his greatness, in dhivya sUri charitham, garuda vAhana pandithar glorifies him as an amsam of “kumudha gaNEshar” or “garudAzhwAr” (though AzhwArs were handpicked from samsAram by emperumAn and divinely blessed by him).

He was born in a family of pUrva shikai brAhmaNas who are part of sAma vEdham. At the appropriate ages, he undergoes jAtha karma, nAma karaNa, anna prAsana, chauLa, upanayanam, etc., and learns vEdham, vEdhAntham, purANa, ithihAsam, etc. He was completely detached from everything else other than emperumAn and goes on a thIrtha yAthrai to ayOdhyA, mathurA, etc. – dhivyadhEsams/kshEthrams in the northern part of bhAratha dhEsam.

nammazhwar-madhurakavi-nathamunimadhurakavi AzhwAr, nammAzhwAr, nAthamunigaL – kAnchipuram

nammAzhwAr who appeared after madhurakavi AzhwAr, was staying without any interest for even mother’s milk and without uttering any sound (in complete silence). His parents kAri and udaya nangai, on the 12th day after his appearance, with great anxiety for the child’s behaviour, brought him infront of polindhu ninRa pirAn emperumAn who is having his beautiful temple in the south side river thamirabharaNi, who is decorated beautifully with shankam (divine conch) and chakram (divine disc), who is having lotus like beautiful eyes, who is holding the abhaya hastham (a posture of the hand which declares he will protect us) and who is with his dhivya mahishIs srIdhEvi, bhUdhEvi and nILA dhEvi. In front of emperumAn, they give him the name “mARan” (one who is different from others) and leaves him under the divine tamarind tree and considers him as a divine personality and worships him there. paramapadhanAthan then instructs vishwaksEnar to go and perform panchasamskAram to nammAzhwAr and teach him dhrAvida vEdham (from this we can understand dhrAvida vEdham is also eternal as declared by nAyanAr in AchArya hrudhayam) and all rahasya manthrams/meanings and vishwaksEnar obliged as such.

nammAzhwAr then stayed for 16 years under the thiruppuLiyAzhwAr (divine tamarind tree). His parents understanding his greatness but unable to share the same since not many understood AzhwAr’s greatness, keeps praying to thirukkurungudi nambi emperumAn. madhurakavi AzhwAr also hears about this matter and once when he went to the river banks in the night and noticed there was a bright light shining in the south side. He first thinks that may be there is some village burning or a forest fire.

But, subsequently he notices the same light for 2 or 3 nights consecutively. He decides to investigate what it is and so sleeps in the morning and starts following that light in the night. He checks many dhivya dhEsams on his way and reaches srIrangam. He still sees the light from further south and finally reaches thirukkurugUr (AzhwAr thirunagari). He no longer sees the light and concludes that it must be originating from here. He then enters the temple and under the thiruppuLiyAzhwAr, he sees nammAzhwAr who looks filled with complete/pure knowledge, who has beautiful eyes, who is just 16 years young and beautiful like the moon on a full moon day, who is seated on padhmAsanam, who has the upadhEsa mudhrai instructing about emperumAn and who is the AchAryan for all prapannas. Observing that he is fully immersed in bhagavath anubhavam, he takes a rock and throws in front of him. AzhwAr beautifully wakes up and looks at madhurakavi AzhwAr. Wanting to check if he can speak, madurakavi AzhwAr asks him “cheththaththin vayiRRil chiRiyathu piRaNthAl eththaiththinRu enGgE kidakkum” (செத்தத்தின் வயிற்றில் சிறியது பிறந்தால் எத்தைத்தின்று எங்கே கிடக்கும்) meaning if a chEthanan (jIvAthmA – sentient) enters an achEthanam (insentient), what will he enjoy and where will he stay. AzhwAr replies “aththaiththinRu anGgE kidakkum” (அத்தைத்தின்று அங்கே கிடக்கும்) meaning “He will keep enjoying the materialistic joy and sorrows and will stay permanently there”. Hearing this madhurakavi AzhwAr realises that “He is a sarvagyar (omniscient – one who knows everything) and I should serve this great personality and be uplifted” and falls flat at the lotus feet of nammAzhwAr. He then stays with AzhwAr permanently, serves him always and sings his glories.

Subsequently, srIvaikunta nAthan (from paramapadham) who is the cause of all causes, who is the proprietor or everything, who is the controller of everyone, who is the in-dwelling supersoul of every one and every thing, who one who has a beautiful blackish/bluish thirumEni (body) wants to meet AzhwAr. periya thiruvadi (garudAzhwAn) at once arrives in front of emperumAn and emperumAn along with srI mahAlakshmi climbs on them and they reach thirukkurugUr at once and gives his divine dharshan to nammAzhwAr and blesses him divine blemishless knowledge. nammAzhwAr, being blessed by emperumAn, immerses in bhagavath anubhavam and as that anubhavam overflows beyond limits, they flow out as divine pAsurams in the form of thiruvirutham, thiruvAsiriyam, periya thiruvanthAdhi and thiruvAimozhi (which are the essence of 4 vEdhams) revealing emperumAn’s divine svarUpam, divine forms, divine qualities. nammAzhwAr then teaches the same to madhurakavi AzhwAr and others who were surrendered to him. All the dhivya dhEsa emperumAns arrive to thiruppuLiyAzhwAr to bless nammAzhwAr and sustain themselves by the mangaLAsAsanam of nammAzhwAr. nammAzhwAr then blesses everyone to become like him, to develop the same attachment towards emperumAn like him and nithya sUris (from paramapadham) and svEthadvIpa vAsis (residents of kshIrAbdhi) arrive to glorify nammAzhwAr and nammAzhwAr after seeing them performs mangaLAsAsanam to them. nammAzhwAr being overwhelmed by the glories of nithya sUris and svEthadvIpa vAsis and them coming to see him, declares himself to be the greatest in the universe (sAthvika ahankAram arising out of emperumAn’s divine blessings), lives with unlimited glories, always sustaining himself by thinking about kaNNan emperumAn. He fully reveals artha panchakam (paramAthma svarUpam, jIvAthma svarUpam, upAya svarUpam, upEya svarUpam and virOdhi svarUpam) and the meanings of dhvaya mahA manthram through thiruvAimozhi which is divine nectar for the devotees of emperumAn. He finally leaves this samsAram at the age of 32 and reaches paramapadham by the divine desire of emperumAn.

Subsequently, madhurakavi AzhwAr who is the main disciple of nammAzhwAr (who is the prapanna jana kUtasthar – leader of the prapanna kulam), compiles kaNNinuN chiruthAmbu in glorification of his AchAryan and presents the same to mumukshus who are panchamOpAya nishtars (situated in 5th upAyam – AchArya nishtai, the other 4 upAyams being karma, jnAna, bhakthi and prapathi). He establishes the archA vigraham in AzhwAr thirunagari and arranges for nithya (daily), paksha (fortnightly), mAsa (monthly), ayana (half-yearly) and samvathsara (yearly) uthsavams in a grand manner and performs the same. He glorifies nammAzhwAr as “vEdham thamizh cheytha perumAL vaNthAr, thiruvAymozhip perumAL vaNthAr, thiruNagarip perumAL vaNthAr, thiruvazhuthivaLaNAdar vaNthAr, thirukkurugUrNagar Nambi vaNthAr, kArimARar vaNthAr, chatagOpar vaNthAr, parAnGguchar vaNthAr” (வேதம் தமிழ் செய்த பெருமாள் வந்தார், திருவாய்மொழிப் பெருமாள் வந்தார், திருநகரிப் பெருமாள் வந்தார், திருவழுதிவளநாடர் வந்தார், திருக்குருகூர்நகர் நம்பி வந்தார், காரிமாறர் வந்தார், சடகோபர் வந்தார், பராங்குசர் வந்தார்) meaning One who gave the essence of vEdham arrived, the great author of thiruvAimozhi arrived, the leader of thirunagari arrived, the one from thiruvazhuthivaLa (AzhwAr thirunagari and its surroundings) region has arrived, the one from thirukkurugUrnagar who is filled with wonderful qualities has arrived, son of kAri arrived, sadagOpar arrived, one who controlled everyone arrived, etc. At that time, the thamizh experts from (south) madhurai thamizh sangam arrive there and they object to these glories and say that unless nammAzhwAr’s greatness is proved and sanga palagai (the plank which measures the greatness of literature) accepts his literature, they will not accept that nammAzhwAr gave the essence of vEdham. madhurakavi AzhwAr says that nammAzhwAr will not travel anywhere and writes “kanNnNan kazhalinNai” (கண்ணன் கழலிணை) which is the beginning of thiruvAimozhi 10.5.1 pAsuram on a small palm-leaf and hands it over to those poets from thamizh sangam. He tells them that if the sanga palagai accepts these 2 words of AzhwAr then his greatness will be proved. The poets agree to madhurakavi AzhwAr’s words and go to madhurai and explain the incidents to the leader of thamizh sangam. The leader agrees and they keep the palm-leaf with AzhwAr’s pAsuram along with 300 other great poets of those days. The magical plank retains AzhwAr’s words alone and pushes everyone else immediately proving AzhwAr’s greatness. The leader of the sangam at once compiles a poem glorifying AzhwAr as follows:

IyAduvathO garudaRkethirE
iravikkethir minminiyAduvathO
NAyOduvathO uRumippulimun
NarikEcharimun NadaiyAduvathO
pEyaduvathO ezhilUrvachimun
perumAnadi chEr vaguLAbharanNan OrAyiramAmaRaiyin thamizhil oru chol porumO ulagil kaviyE

ஈயாடுவதோ கருடற்கெதிரே
இரவிக்கெதிர் மின்மினியாடுவதோ
நாயோடுவதோ உறுமிப்புலிமுன்
நரிகேசரிமுன் நடையாடுவதோ
பேயடுவதோ எழிலூர்வசிமுன்
பெருமானடி சேர் வகுளாபரணன் ஓராயிரமாமறையின் தமிழில் ஒரு சொல் பொருமோ உலகில் கவியே

nammAzhwAr‘s (who is surrendered to srIman nArAyaNan and have given the essence of vEdham in his 1000+ pAsurams) one word cannot be compared any number of these poems of these worldly poets just like there is no comparison between

  • flying skill of garudan and a house fly
  • brightness of sun and a fire fly
  • roaring of a tiger and barking of a dog
  • the majestic walk of a lion and the ordinary walk of a fox
  • the beautiful dance of Urvasi (a dhEva lOka dancer) and the dancing of a ghost

Seeing this, all the poets at once begged for their forgiveness from nammAzhwAr and glorified him. Thus madhurakavi AzhwAr spent his time glorifying his AchAryan as per “gurum prakAchayEth dhImAN” (குரும் ப்ரகாசயேத் தீமாந்) meaning ones AchAryan should be glorified in public and uplifted all beings. After some time he left this samsAram and reached his AchAryan thiruvadi to perform nithya kainkaryam to nammAzhwAr.

His thanian

avidhitha vishayAntharas chatArEr upanishadhAm upagAna mAthra bOga:
api cha guNa vachAth thadhEka sEshi madhurakavir hrudhayE mamAvirasthu

அவிதித விஷயாந்தரஸ் சடாரேர் உபநிஷதாம் உபகான மாத்ர போக:
அபி ச குண வசாத் ததேக சேஷி மதுரகவிர் ஹ்ருதயே மமாவிரஸ்து

His archAvathAra anubhavam is already discussed in here –

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

archived in, also visit,

Sources: vyAkyAnams, 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhAvam, periya thirumudi adaivu

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