ToNDaraDippoDi AzhwAr

He was born as “VipranArAyaNa” in a small village called MaNDanguDi, bordered by the rivers KoLLiDam in the north and KAvEri in the south (just as in Srirangam), in the family of sOzhia Vaishnava. MaNDanguDi is 10 kilometers from KumbakONam and the Ranganatha temple there is commonly known as AzhwArkoyil. He came to be known as “ToNDaraDippoDiyAzhwAr” (toNDar+aDi+poDi+AzhwAr) meaning he is “the dust at the feet of the devotees of the Lord” since he used to take the dirt under the feet of the devotees, put it on his head, and sing the praise of the Lord. He also dedicated his life to serve the devotees of the Lord. He learnt the vEdAs, Upanishads, Thamizh, and Sanskrit in his youth. He became well-versed in writing and singing Thamizh poetry. He vowed celibacy as a young man and went to visit several temples. After visiting Srirangam at the start of his trip, he fell in love with the deity and the shrine so much that he stayed there forever, building a hut for himself and cultivating a flower garden around it. Every day he used to gather flowers and tuLasi, string them into garlands, and submit them for Lord Ranganatha to wear. He is considered the equivalent (amsam) of vanamAlai (Vaijayanthi) on the chest of Lord Vishnu. He was a contemporary of another AzhwAr called ThirumangaiyAzhwAr who built walls around the temple at Srirangam. Accounts vary in detail as to what happened in the life of the AzhwAr but the core story can be described thus: He was very much engrossed in supplying the Lord with flower garlands every day. His flower garden radiant with colors and a huge variety of flowers was a beautiful and serene place. One day two sisters (belonging to the dEvadAsi clan) were returning to Srirangam after giving a dance performance at nearby uRaiyUr at the court of the sOzha king. While passing through the AzhwAr’s flower garden the younger sister, DEvadEvi, was attracted by the beauty of the garden and they both ventured into the garden. The AzhwAr was meditating in his hut on the Lord and did not pay attention to the visitors. DEvadEvi, being conscious of her charming beauty, was offended by AzhwAr’s inattention and took a challenge with her older

The AzhwAr was contrite (NDP 896 and 904) and sang about the troubles that accrue if one were to succumb to the desires of the flesh (peNDirAl sugankaL uyppAn periyadOr iDumbai pUNDu---. took a golden vessel from the temple sanctum and delivered it to the mother of DEvadEvi after announcing he is the disciple of the AzhwAr and that the AzhwAr asked him to give it to her. The Lord. He was heart-broken and spent his time thinking about DEvadEvi and abandoning the service to the Lord. they serve as a guidance for the devotees. AzhwAr’s ThiruppaLLiyezhucci is more extensive than what VAlmIki wrote in a couplet when the sage Viswamitra wakes up Rama in the jungle hut as: . He appeared in the king’s dream and told him that he was toying with the AzhwAr in order to bring him back into His fold and that the AzhwAr was innocent. In all he sang 55 pAsurams---all of them on Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam--45 of them singing the praise of the Lord and the city—which are titled as tirumAlai (sacred garland) and 10 more titled “thriupppaLLiyezhucci” (waking up the Lord). expressing remorse for his straying away from his vow to serve the Lord.-NDP 876). wanting to test his devotee. He never let her enter his hut. The king released the AzhwAr after apologizing for the error.NDP887). In the mean time the “theft” of the vessel from the temple was discovered and the king was informed. That started a chain of events and the AzhwAr was trapped in the net of the dancer. In addition. Accordingly she returned wearing a saffron dress. then took the guise of a young man. From then on he rededicated himself to the service of the Lord and His devotees. He sang several pAsurams repenting for his wayward behavior.. The king imprisoned the AzhwAr. The 45 pAsurams in tirumAlai were sung after the AzhwAr’s redemption from his tribulation encountered after meeting DEvadEvi. the mother of the dancer evicted him after realizing he was a pauper. The AzhwAr came to his senses and was grateful for the Lord’s mercy for getting him back on his original track after all the traumatic experience in his dalliance with DEvadEvi. DEvadEvi got drenched and tried to seek shelter inside the hut to which the AzhwAr agreed taking pity on the damsel. She thus succeeded in her challenge. However. It was time for the Lord to bring matters to an end.sister that she would enslave the AzhwAr to her beauty.mAdharAr kayaRkaNennum valaiyuL paTTazhundhuvEnai---. The AzhwAr then visited the house of DEvadEvi and started living in her house totally enchanted by her beauty. An investigation revealed that it was with DEvadEvi’s mother who said it was the AzhwAr who sent it to her through his disciple. After that the mother invited the AzhwAr into her home again. disguised herself as a sanyAsin (apostate) and requested the AzhwAr to permit her to assist him in the service of the Lord to which the AzhwAr readily agreed. They are all very penitent. Enough trouble for the AzhwAr. One day it rained heavily outside. He specifically mentioned his entrapment by DEvadEvi and the rescue by the Lord ( ….

the leader of the celestials. accutA. . that is sung to wake up the Lord at Thiruppathi. I shall not desire. I had only you as my refuge which I did not pursue unflinchingly. Oh. in lieu of enjoying the sight of you here in Srirangam.* ichchuvai thavira yAnpOy* inthira lOkam ALum.कौसल्या सप्रजा राम पूर्ाा सन्ध्या प्रर्र्ार्े (KausalyA suprajA rAma pUrvA sandhyA pravartatE) ु उत्तर्श्ठ रराा्ाऱ कर्ा्यं ्व र्मात्निरकम (uttiSTha naraSArdUla kartavyam daivamAhnikam) ू This ThiruppaLLiyezhucci (10 pAsurams) also formed the model for the famous SuprabhAtham sang by aNNangarAcAriyAr. and the darling of the cowherds (of GOkulam). Lord of blue-hued sky I am crying and repenting for my wayward behavior. the position of the ruler of indralOkham. Oh. ! NDP 873 pachchai mAmalaipOl mEni pavaLavAy kamalach chenkaN achchuthA! amarar ERE!* Ayar tham kozhunthE! ennum. When he was languishing in the prison he appeals to the Lord in the following verse. . even if offered. has a temple for Sri Ranganatha but it is not recognized as a divya dEsam because it was not sung by any AzhwAr.* achchuvai peRinum vENDEn* arankamA nakar uLAnE! Meaning: The frame looks like a huge green mountain. MaNDangudi. not even ToNDaraDippoDi AzhwAr—mainly because he migrated away from his village to Srirangam. Let us look at some of his other pAsurams here. In a description of Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam he sings thus: ! ! ! . ர ர ( ) ! ர ! ! NDP 900 OorilEn kANiyillai uRavu maRRu oruvar illai pAril nin pAtha moolam paRRilEn parama moorthee kAroLi vaNNanE (en) kaNNanE! kadharuginREn AruLar kaLaikaN ammA! arngamA nagaruLAnE! Meaning: “I have no place or property. I do not have any relatives either. The eyes resemble a lotus. The lips have the hue of the coral. . Is there anyone other than you who can provide me succor. Oh Lord of Srirangam?” The place where the AzhwAr was born.

The temple in that village is referred to as AzhwAr kOyil in recognition of its famous citizen devotee. A picture of the temple is given .rr. Sri Ranganatha temple in MaNDanguDi in PApanAsam Taluk in ThanjAvUr district Sethuraman Subramanian mahakvi@nc. The temple is situated at the outskirts of the village near the sugarcane fields.

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