Sri Vankeepuram Rajagopalan hailed from a traditional middle class family that had its ancestry at Kanchipuram. It migrated to Madras (Chennai) in early thirties of last century. He had his schooling in Madras and entered into Govt. service at an early age in 1952.
Any Endeavour that begins with Andal's Tiruppavai is assured of success, such is the grace of Goda Devi. More than half a century ago, Sri Vankeepuram Rajagopalan engaged himself in a divine pilgrimage of moving with the first thousand verses of the Nalayira Divya Prabandham. Not an easy task this, for this was a journey in translating the sacred verses, fraught with uncertainty at every step. But then, like the journey of the cowherdesses in Tiruppavai. (pohaiye prayojanarnaaha ninraargal), for Sri Rajagopalan the act of remaining close with the verses in Tamil was the aim; publication and bouquets were welcome, but this journey was important. Bravely the translator has been travelling at intervals. With Tirucchanda Viruttam, he completes the "Mudalaayiram". Yet, the last phase has been the most demanding. Written in a quickening rhythm, the Tirucchanda Viruttam can defy the translator no end. In one hundred and twenty stanzas we get a picture of the Lord's all-pervading presence. It opens with a numerological description of the cosmic categories that issue from the Supreme and spread out as creation:
Thou art being tanmatras five including smell natural to earth, while thou reign the subtle essences four of water pure; coalesce the three in flaming fire, and inherent touch of resonance in air, as also the startling sound of soundless space; but seemingly manifest differently time and again in varied Forms of sentient and non-sentient beings, but impervious to their deficits; 0! Lord, who can know thee as thou art!
Seemingly cerebral, the verse explicates how the multifoliate creation never goes in for mechanical repetition. Even the smallest flower has an individuality of its own! How does one hope to understand this superb Creator? We can, exults the Alvar later on, provided we have the instrument of devotional love, bhakti, in our hands. Indeed He can be comprehended through his own creation, through words (the Vedas) created by Him. Here is the eleventh verse that sees the Lord as the Cause and the Effect:
Thou art in words of lyrics in soulful melody that flows coherently, and in their esoteric perception speaks of 'Space-Time-Energy' in volumes of exegesis and as Self* of all (cid-acid-visista-Isvara) a wonderful supreme being-arise immutably and ideate due to natural disposition of thy virtue; and as thou art unutterably the Supreme effulgent Light (Jyoti); and with emergence of celestials, as also Brahma who originate from thy navel to create the worlds aided by sruti and smriti of Vedas; as such who could be capable of enunciating even briefly all of thine innumerable auspicious qualities!
So far away and beyond our comprehension and yet, how gracious He is in deigning to come down to us to destroy the evil that seeks to overcome us all the time! Fortunately for us the Vedas and other scriptures have recorded these descents of the Divine. At the same time, this creates a problem! There are innumerable forms of the mighty Purusha that confuse us. The balance is struck between the transcendental formlessness and the cosmic brilliance of the supra-normal image of Narayana resting on Adisesha. Rama, Narasimha, Krishna, Hamsa? Who are you?
But we cannot trade one form for the other as all are beloved to the devotee. Watch the Alvar fondly recalling an incident in Rama's childhood, not recorded even by Valmiki:
The humming bees drone around the tresses of damsel with large knotted coil, decked with string of flowers whose hunch back was eradicated completely by the Lord as if throwing out a sling-shot missile; and at whose place where the bird stork slowly perambulate since swallowed crabs; whereas the fish `Vaalai' fearfully jump to leap, while the fish kendai' hide behind the blue lilies `nelumbo' as shield, sans fear, move about in cool water of inundated, surging Cauvery, surround the hallowed SriRangam.
As he flits from one mood to another, Tirumazhisai Alvar seems to mirror our situation. Like Pey Alvar, Tirumazhisai also refers to the yogic methodology in the Srivaishnava Darsana.
Unless one impedes in the vilely ways, of sense, sealed it with wax imprinting signet-ring on it, while widely open the gates for auspicious matters with purity in jnana yoga, the path of knowledge, and the subliminal self which ignites aflame the righteous knowledge, besides upsurge in the waves of devotional love; as the bones crave, heart melts, and with ripened matured mind, he realises the mystical touch-- pratyaksha anubhuti - of ultimate Reality, who stays as, the Lord, wielding Sudarsana' the Discus; who else could behold this phenomenon!
Tirumazhisai Alvar's verses that reveal the contours of surrender to the Lord, again, are peerless. No wonder Sri Rajagopalan has been unable to come out of the colourful net of bhakti yoga spread by the Alvar.
Unlike his earlier publications, here the 'notes' are few. Instead, Sri Rajagopalan has sought to use the expository method in translation. Necessarily the brief four-line stanzas of Tirumazhisai Alvar get stretched to even thirteen lines at times. Again, this expansion leads the translator to use often quaint usages. The translator has to bear the cross of ambiguity now and then, even as he seeks to build bridges between two poetic forms, two languages and two cultures. But shraddha on the part of the translator and the reader can do wonders; here we also have the original Tamil and its English transliteration. Together, they make Sri Rajagopalan's Tirucchanda Viruttam a pleasing entrant to the shelf of Nalayira Divya Prabandham in English translation.
I wish the volume a wide readership to get the younger generations know about their priceless heritage of Sri Vaishnava Darsana.
The amazing celebrity Sri Tirumazhisai Piran (Azhvar) who was also known as Bhaktisara, gifted us two invaluable poems viz., Nanmukan Tiruvandadhi and Tirucchanda Viruttam.
This volume an English rendering of Tirucchanda Viruttam, the marvelously mellifluous and mysteriously mystic verses beauteous is humbly offered at the feet of the Lord. And with this volume, the first thousand verses (Mudalayiram) an unpretentious yajna - of Nalayira Divya Prabandham ofAzhvars; gets completed.
Tirucchanda Viruttam is a rhythmic poetry set in sing-song euphonious cadences. The esoteric sense imbedded therein and cosmological events, including puranic myths and legends referred to could be better understood only with the help commentaries and exegesis by learned scholars.
Truly, the poem brings out with all nuances the emotions and thrills enunciated in ancient philosophical thoughts of Bharat (India) and knowledge regarding ancient cause being Primordial Lord, His divisions revealed in Wyuha' pertained to activities and various emanations for the sustention of the world. It pronounces the significance of Cosmogony, Ontology, Psychology etc., besides stressing the relevance ofAvatara (descents), undivided but concentrated devotion unto the Lord, leading to Trapat - the total surrender to the Lord, enjoying everlasting experience of eternal bliss and so on.
The scintillating expression of the Azhvar reveals mystic thoughts embracing divine knowledge sprinkled in verses beauteous is indeed, par excellence. It is also a fact that lyric cannot be a lyric without conspicuous economy of words, without sparkle or rhythm and music, the unfolding religious symbolism and codes depicting nature in all its brilliance packed with philosophical truths revealing uniqueness of cosmic consciousness mystic revelations, ever shining sublimity, as such, is seen in this poem. Our sage Bhaktisara, the Tirumazhisai Piran as a `praparma' seeks relentless protection from the Lord in verses 49 and entreating His concern for devotees by lifting His hand of compassion and say, 'Fear Not'
And I hope and believe that my humble effort of rendering Tirucchanda Viruttam may be accepted with all its merits and demerits as it is known well that `if one drops a vessel in the large expanse of water, the vessel can take only up to its measure'; and it is there, where I stay put! My sincere thanks and indebtedness are due to Dr. Smt. Prema Nadakumar a prolific writer and scholar on Indian culture and Aurobindonian literature and also to Dr. M.K. Srinivasan a distinguished scholar on Vedic thoughts, President of Sri Vedanta Desika Research Centre and former Editor of Nrisimha Priya for their encouraging excellent Foreword -
It is also my bounden duty to acknowledge with grateful thanks to Hari Vilas Foundation's Managing Trustee (Dr. M.K. Srinivasan) and Shri S. Shreyas of Navbharath Press, Seshadripuram, Bangalore, for their timely financial assistance.
My deep and sincere appreciation to Sri G Rajan and his staff at RNR Printers for their kind co-operation in bringing out this handy volume of immense value in an admirable manner.
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