Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chapter 4 ShrI Alavandar - Part I

AshAdE SOththaRashAdasambhUtam tatravai purE
SimhAnanAmsham VikhyAtam ShrI YAmuna munim BhajE

On the banks of the river KAvEri, in the agrahAram of VIranArAyanapuram, Shri Alavandar was born ~1000 years ago in the TAtuhru year in the month of Adi under the UthrAdam star. He was none other than the grandson of the illustrious VishitAdvaita proponent ShrIman NAdamunigal. As you may recall from Chapter 1, munigal went on a pilgrimage with his father Isvara Bhattar and son Isvara munigal. They bathed in the holy waters as and when they saw them and eventually reached BrindAvanam. They loved the beauty of that KshEtram and lived there for a while. Then under the auspices of the Lord, they all came back to their home town. Munigal was blessed with the grace of Lord Krishna while in BrindAvanam and wished that his grandson be bestowed with the name of the Lord. Accordingly, the child was named Yamunai Thuraivan and came to also be known as YamunAchAryAr.


Yamunai thuraivar learned the shAstrAs from a great man named MahAbhAshya Battar. At that time, in the King's court, there was a learned man by the name of AkkiyAzhvAn. Just like the King levies taxes upon his subjects, AkkiyAzhvAn took it upon himself to grab 1/10th of the income of all the learned men in the kingdom. Once he sent written word through the palace guards to MahAbhAshya Battar asking for a share of his money. Bttar was very disappointed to receive such a letter. Yamunai Thuraivar was unable to see his Guru in distress and he tore up the letter on the very presence of the palace guards. Then he came up with the following shlOkam: "Na vayam kavayastu kEvalam na vayam kEvalatantrapAragAha. Api tu prativAdivAraNa prakatAtOpavipAtanakshamA". It meant: "we will not pay any money. We are not just base poets. We are not just learned men who know tantra-sAshtrAs. We are lions capable of taming the wildest of elephants.

Summoned to the court

The royal couple came to know of this incident. They thought about what to do. The queen said "Oh King, if he was able to retort so bravely, then he must be a very learned man indeed. We have to respectfully ask him to come here so we can pay homage to his Greatness." Without consulting AkkiyAzhvan, the king sent a palanquin and asked that the scholar who wrote the shlOkam to accept his invitation to come to the royal court. The minister went to Yamunai thuraivan and requested so. Yamunai Thuraivan marveled at the King's humility and offered to do so. He went to the court with his disciple asking them to utter the following shlOka that he came up with:

"AshoulAdadri kanyAcharaNa kisalayan yAsadhanyOpakatAt
ArakshAnI tasItA mukhakamala samullA sahEthOshva SEthOho
A cha prAchya prathIchyakshiti dharasugalAdarka chandrAvatamsAt
mImAmsAshAstra yugmavimalamanA mrugyatAm mAdhshOsanyaha"

(Because Girijan graced his presence, the thankful lands from the Himalayas to RAmasEtu Paryandam that caused SIta's (abducted by RAvanA) face to bloom; between the East and West directions which are the travel path of the sun; in-between these place lies this bhUmi is there one who equals me?)

Gracing the royal couple

On seeing him, the King stood up to welcome him. He took him to a court filled with geniuses from all over the land. There he asked Yamunai Thuraivan to debate with AkkiyAzhvAn. The Queen was very impressed with Yamunai Thuraivan's eluding charm and she had a feeling that he would emerge the winner. "RUpamEvAsyou TanmahimAnam vyAchashrE". (This young man's charm explains his capabilities to a great deal) The king thought that his AkkiyAzhvan would win. So they had a small wager. The King agreed to give up half his kingdom if YAmunEyar won. The Queen agreed to become the king's mistress if he didn't.

Winning the debate

AkkiyAzhvAn asked YAnunEyar what shAstrAs he was well versed in. YAmunEyar said that he could pick anything he wanted at that point. But AkkiyAzhvAn retorted that since he was very young and that it would only be fun to debate with someone on the rank of him in knowledge and experience, he would first pick a topic that was social and not too intensive. He asked him to come up with 3 statements that one would normally consider to be true and that he could prove that they could be false. He asked YAmunEyar to go first since he was the younger of the two.

YAmunEyar did not blink twice. He came up with the following questions:

1. TvanmAtA na vandhyA (Your mother is not barren)
2. RAjAsyam SArvabhoumaha (This king is a SArvabhouman)
3. RAja patnIyam pativratA (The queen is monogamously loyal to the King)

Now how could AkkiyAzhvAn refute these 3 statements? His mother cannot be barren since she has obviously given birth to him. To say that the King was not a SArvabhouman or that the queen was not monogamous would be a blasphemy! He gave up and asked YAmuNeyar an explanation by which one could refute the above statements.

1. There is an explanation for the word barren - A crow only lays one egg and begets a single chick in its lifetime. A banana tree just yields one bunch of bananas in its life time. Such things are termed as "VandhyA". Given that your mother had only one child, she could also be called by the same term and hence this explanation is valid.

2. There is an explanation for the term SArvabhouman - it does not just mean a great ruler. It means one who rules a land that is surrounded by oceans on all 4 sides. Since our King only rules the ChOlA kingdom, he cannot be called by that term.

3. In the wedding rites, there is one where the groom utters a specific mantram to the wife. It is 2 lines starting with the word SOmaprathamaha. It means that the girl first was the object of a DEvA named SOman. Next was the Gandharvan. Next she was consumed by Agni (figuratively, not literally). As the man, I am the fourth person who gets to have her. So, SOman and other DEvAs blessed this girl with wealth and fertility and by marrying her we will get all the goodness in life. According to this mantram, the Queen is not monogamous.

Thus he came up with an explanation to refute all of his original statements without hurting anyone's feelings. On hearing it, the Queen said "Emmai AlavandhIrO?" so he came to be known by that name also. As promised, the King gave him half of his kingdom. AlavanDAr rule wisely for many years. In due course of time, he was blessed with 4 sons: Sottai Nambi, Daivaththukkarasu Nambi, Pillaiyarasu Nambi and Tiruvaranga PerumAL.

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