Dhanurmasa vrata (known also as Margasira Snana vrata) is a sacred ritual observe by Sri Vaishnavites from the hoary past. It is incumbent on the participants to recite the Tiruppavai consisting of thirty Pasurams or hymns, every day and understand and implement in Practice the spititual truths garnered therein. Sri Andal, whose intense devotion found spontaneous expression in this garland of hymns, has enshrined in them a way of spiritual discipline which leads the aspirants to their highest end.
During the course of our observance of the rite in 1968-69 Sri A. Venkateswara Sarma, the owner of our residence, expressed a wish that the significance of each Pasuram might be explained in the evening to a few friends interested in it. It was thus that the discourses started with a few participants showing keen interest in the contents of this Tamil Divya Prabandha. As larger numbers of citizens evinced interest, the venue had to be shifted to more spacious centres in Kakinada in the succeeding years; and the demand for these discourses went on increasing year after year. Friends who were enthusiastic about dissemination of the spiritual truths expounded in this Divya Prabhandha were particular that the discourses should be recorded on tapes and thus preserved for publication at a congenial time.
The Sri Devi Satsangha, a women's organization formed under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Miss C.V Ramani, the then Superintendent of the Government Head Quarters Hospital, undertook the task of publication of the lectures. Dr. J. Sithamma got the tapes transcribed in full; and the material covered about 2000 pages. I was asked to review and recast it for the purpose of publication. Applying the shears in a merciless way, I managed to prune it into reasonable shape and size; and held my hand when further elimination would disturb the structure and content thereof. With the blessings of elders and the indefatigable efforts of Sri Devi Satsangha, the Tiruppavai saw the light of day in 1975 in a sumptuous volume of about 550 pages. By their generous gift of coloured prints, exuding spiritual glow and charm, the T.T. Devasthanams Board contributed to the attractiveness of the publication and laid us under a deep debt of gratitude.
Suggestions were made by the sponsors of the publication and other friends that it would be desirable to get the Discourses translated into English, so that a wider reading public who are not familiar with Telugu but who esteem Tiruppavai as a sacred Prabhandha, like those in the South, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, might be reached. Accordingly, the work of translation was entrusted to a friend, who after initial hesitation, had undertaken it as a piece of self – discipline and self-edification and as a labour of love. Setting aside for the nonce his incompetence and lack of knowledge of Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy as he had put it and trusting entirely to the light that the Lord would vouchsafe in His work, he managed to pull through the arduous toil in a space of about six months. He confessed to me that he was often tempted to cut off what appeared to be repetitions, so that the exposition might gain in crispness. But he had overcome such temptation for fear that, by so doing: he might be missing some subtle nuances or shades of meaning or some significant import or emphasis. Again it was not as he put it his business as translator to meddle with the original, much less to mangle it. It was for him to keep faithful to it in letter and in spirit as far as he could. And in an extempore discourse, meant to impress thousands of a mixed audience of varying degrees of comprehensive power, repetition, particularly of abstract spiritual truths, becomes an inescapable necessity. It is true that while reading the discourse in cold print, as against hearing it in a living voice, reiteration may become a drag; and an intelligent reader with ready grasp and retentive memory feels irritated with it. But, as is well known, spiritual truths bear repetition again and again, as with each iteration new meanings flash forth to a meditative mind. Taking all these into account the translator chose the lesser evil of repetition in the hope that the indulgent reader would not quarrel in the hope that the indulgent reader would no quarrel with him solely on that account. I may state here that, on my side, I am thoroughly satisfied that the English translation has brought out clearly the ideas and their spirit as emobodied in the original discourses. So I venture to place it before the reading public whenever it pleases it pleases God to vouchsafe its publication.
One last word before I close. Both the translator Sri C. Sitaramamurti, M.A., and I, have no personal interests in this publication. we shall feel happy and well rewarded if in God's good time, these discourses reach a wider circle of spiritual aspirants.
Sri Godadevi was not born of Human parents. She was found in the Tulasi garden by Visnuchitta, also known as Bhattanatha and Peri-alwar. "Vada Perum Koyiludayan" or Vatapatrasayi presides in the northern mansion of Sri Villiputtur. Though a Brahmin, Vishnuchitta was not trained in the disciplines of Vedic lore: yet he was engrossed fully in consecrated services to the Deity, such as offering flower garlands at the time of worship. While he was engaged in loosening the earth in the Tulasi garden, he found a female child among the plants, in the same way as Janaka found Sita while ploughing the earth for his sacrificial rite (Yajna). As he had no children, he brought up this little child with great fondness and love, naming her "Kodai" (flower-garland). In the ame way as Tulasi has its natural fragrance, Kodai has spread from her very birth the sweet scent of Knowledge, devotion and renunciation, and displayed enthusiastic interest in things divine. As she grew up into adolescence, she fervently aspired for the hand of Krishna in marriage. Having heard from elders that, in the past, gopikas performed Katyayani Vrata to realise a similar ambition, she undertook to go through the same discipline, which consisted in the daily ritual of taking an early morning bath throughout the month of Margasirsa. She transmitted this spiritual discipline to succeeding generations in the form of a sacred book of songs called Tiruppavai.
Between the worldings who identify the body with the true self and the seers (Rsis) who attain to self-realisation by the practice of a course of spiritual discipline (yoga), there is as much difference as there is between an atom and a mountain. The same difference separates the seers from the great saints (maha bhaktas) who without any effort on their part and by thesheer grace of God, get completely engrossed in God-consciousness. Among the great devotees, Visnuchitta or Peri-alwar occupies the pre eminent place. The Supreme being showered His grace on this uneducated devotee and made him establish in the Court of Vallabhadeva, hte Pandyan king, that srimannarayana was himself the Supreme and the Absolute. Then the treasure, demarcated as prize and intended for the establisher of truth in the religious controversy, fell, of its own accord, at his feet. The King and the assembly felt delighant-ride in a procession. Srimannarayana Himself, accompanied by his consorts, Lakshmi and Bhudevi, came down to the earth, riding on Garuda, to withness this grand reception. When Peri alwar saw this vision, he was overpowered by his love for the Lord; and apprehending evil – eye (drsti dosa) and to avert it, he recited the Pallandu-mangalam, a hymn invoking safety for the Lord, Pallandu mangalam precedes the recitation of any of the scriptures in Tamil as invariably as Pranaya (OM) precedes the recitation of Vedas.
Hence it is that Visnuchitta is deemed to be the 'Peri alwar, the foremost all the great saints (Bhaktas or alwars).
Andal is even superior to Peri alwar. The alwars were those who were immersed in sleep (anadi mayaya suptah) and were bereft of all knowledge of self under the Lord Himself, of His own accord, condecscended to rouse them from their torpor and to reveal Himself to them. Then only could they see God. The greatness of Andal on the other hand, lies in that she has herself to Him. Hance it is that she is given the pride of place among the alwars as an exemplar, after whom their lives. In the same way as Lakshmana loved Sri Rama from his childhood and immersed herself in contemplating His qualities.
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