This is a review of the book Thirukkolur Ammaal Varththaigal by Madhurakavi daasan TCA Venkatesan based on the narration by Swami Ramanujar. its about various milestones in the History regarding Lord Vishnu according to the Hindu Beliefs.
In life, self satisfaction leads to happiness. But when it comes to the point of devotion, it depends upon the Lord’s satisfaction in our service and devotion to him, that gives us His blessings and happiness. Self pride and contentment should be avoided in the act of devotion. Considering Hinduism, there is no strict rules and constraints been framed for its followers. It has given greater freedom so that people expose love on their religious beliefs rather than just following the boring rules.
The story is about Thirukkolur Ammaal who places 81 questions while answering Sri Ramanujar’s question of her leaving Thirukkolur, a holy place where everyone actually wants to have a life even by struggling for food and clothing. Thirukkolur Ammaal meets Sri Ramanujar on her way while leaving that place. She is extremely devoted to the Lord Vishnu yet she places various historical incidents as a comparison of her devotion to the Lord. Hinduism believes that Lord Vishnu has taken about 9 forms (avatars) and the 10th one is yet to come at the end of this world. The questions of Thirukkolur Ammaal revolves around the incidents that happened during these 9 forms of the Lord and also about the Aazhvaars. Aazhvaars are those devotees, who are usually poets and sages that spend their life in servicing Lord Vishnu and there are 12 devotees who has been given the status of Aazhvaar. Here we shall look at few questions placed by Thirukkolur Ammaal.
Note : The book is basically in Tamil (the regional language of Tamil Nadu), and hence a translation of the questions in English is being included at the end of each explanation.
In her 36th question she asks “iru maalai eendheno thondaradippodiyaar poley?” which has a beautiful story behind it.
Thondaradippodi Aazhvaar is the one, who lived in Srirangam, a place at Tiruchirappalli. In order for serving the Lord with flowers, he maintained a garden in his personal care. From that garden, everyday, he used to make beautiful garlands and present them to Sri Ranganatha, ( The form of Shri Vishnu at that temple ). The word “iru” in this question of Thirukkolur Ammaal has two meanings – one is “great” and the other is “two”. In the first sense, it may be regarded that the Aazhvaar provided wonderful flower garlands and also provided great word garlands to the Lord. They were great because Aazhvaar considered himself as the dust under the feet of the Lord and gave the garlands only as pure service to the Lord. In the second sense, it may be regarded that the Aazhvaar provided two wonderful garlands to the Lord. One was a ‘poo maalai’ – that is, a flower garland and the other was a ‘paa maalai’ – that is, a word garland. It is also believed that the number two refers to the two word garlands that Aazhvaar wrote – Thirumaalai and Thiruppalli Ezhuchchi. Thirukkolur Ammaal is asking “Did I provide the Lord with such great garlands, as Thondaradippodi Aazhvaar did?”. From this question, we could see how she explains the Aazhvaar’s greatest devotion to the Lord in his best works and compares herself as not so great as the Aazhvaar.
In her 38th question she questions, “avan mayni aaneno thiruppaanar poley?”.
Thiruppanaazhvaar who was born in a field in Uraiyur, near Srirangam was picked up by a person from the clan of Pana’s (singers) and brought up. Standing in the banks of Kaveri river with a veena in his hand he used to sing the praises of Lord Ranganatha. The Lord decided to get him to Srirangam and acted a play through His brahmin devotee Lokasaranga Muni. One time, when he saw Thiruppanaazhvaar singing, he tried to attract his attention to ask him to move away while he fetched the water, but as Aazhvaar was immersed in singing he did not take notice. So, Lokasarangar threw a stone at him to get his attention. The stone hit his head and caused him to bleed. Aazhvaar then realized what was happening and stepped away. Lokasarangar then returned to Srirangam, where the Lord asked him to apologize to the great devotee ThiruppanaAazhvaar and bring him into Srirangam. Lokasarangar returned to Aazhvaar and offered to carry him on his shoulders. When Lokasarangar brought Aazhvaar in front of Lord Ranganatha inside the Srirangam temple, Aazhvaar sings the magnificent Amalanadhi Piran pasuram enjoying the view of divine body of the Lord from feet to the head. ( This method of visualizing the Lord from toe to head is called as Paadhaadhikesa dharisanam ) At the end of the ten pasurams, Aazhvaar disappeared from this world and attained to lotus feet of Lord Ranganatha. Thirukkolur Ammaal is asking “Did I become the target of His divine grace and attain His divine feet like Thiruppanaazhvaar did?”
In her 43rd question she questions “Poosa kodutheno kooniyai poley?”
Krishna entered Mathura along with Balarama on the invitation of Kamsa through Akrura. He first met a washerman, asked for some new clothes. But the washerman, who worked for Kamsa, refused. So, they defeated him, took some clothes, put them on and left. Next, they met a florist and accepted fragrant garlands from him. Then, as they were walking, they saw young and pretty lady who had a hunchback ( that’s why Thirukkolur Ammaal calls her ‘kooni’ which means hunchback). In her hand, she was carrying many types of fragrant sandal. Krishna looked at her and said “O beautiful girl! Who are you taking this sandalpaste for?” She replied “O beautiful one! I am taking this sandalpaste for Kamsa”. Krishna and Balarama asked her for same sandal. She gave them some and they rejected it as artificially scented. She gave them a different variety and they rejected it as being meant for kings. Pleased that they were able to discern good fragrance from bad, she gave them sandal paste that matched their divine bodies. They wore it with pleasure.
Thirukkolur Ammaal is asking “Did I give fragrant paste to the Lord like the hunchback did without thinking about consequences?”
In her 51st question she asks “ingum undu enreno prahlaadhanai poley?”
Hiranyakashpu, an asura, was very cruel just as his brother Hiranyaksha who was killed by Lord Vishnu. So Hiranyakashpu developed great hatred toward Him. He performed great penance toward Brahma, obtained several boons from him and started ruling this world and put forth the command that no one should worship Sriman Narayana (Lord Vishnu) and instead everyone should worship him. Prahlada was the son of Hiranyakashipu. Despite being born to this evil asura, Prahlada was a great devotee of Sriman Narayana and prayed only to Narayana. This infuriated Hiranya and he began many attempts at torturing and even killing him. Prahlada’s mind was always set on Narayana and as such Hiranya was unable to do anything to him. In spite of everything that Hiranya did to him, Prahlada showed no anger toward him. Instead he advised Hiranya “Vishnu is the antaryami to everything in this universe. Being that the case, where is the idea of considering some as friends and some as enemies. Just as He is inside me, so too He is inside you. He is present everywhere.” At that time, Hiranya showed a pillar and asked Prahlada if He was in it. Prahlada answered that He was everywhere including that pillar. When Hiranya wrecked that pillar, Vishnu appeared as Narasimha (one of the avatars) and killed Hiranya by ripping him with his finger nails.
Thirukkolur Ammaal is asking “Did I say with great conviction that He is everywhere including here (in this pillar), like Prahlada did?”
In every incident that happened with the avatars of Lord Vishnu there was wonders that people couldn’t believe so easily. Extreme devotion and sincere prayers has made such events occur and thus Thirukkolur Ammaal reveals all these novel events through her questions. She considers herself inferior in devotion by comparing with all these Aazhvars and sages. Hence, she doesn’t pose self satisfaction in her devotion to the Lord and seeks for His grace. Considering the moral of this book,
TRUE DEVOTION TO GOD SHOULD BE IMMEASURABLE.
If we show real love towards god without any expectation, he will surely shower his valuable blessings that we deserve for our faith on Him.