śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year 8, Issue 5
Posted: 7 June 2015

Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Inspired by and under the guidance of
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Tiruppāṇī Ālvār
by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda

(Portrait of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda)

Situated on the south bank of the sacred river Kāverī is the city of Nichulapurī (the present day region known as Uraiyur). In the days of yore, it was a very prosperous city. It was protected by great walls on all sides and was filled with palace-like houses.

Saint Tiruppāṇī Ālvār was born in this city in l00 B.C. in the month of Kārtika, with Rohīṇī asterism. He was an incarnation of the Śrīvatsa mark on the chest of Śrī Viṣṇu but appeared in the society of pariahs, or cāṇḍālas. In recognizing saints, one must always take divine wisdom and spiritual illumination into consideration in place of social status. Our saint, though low in social order, was greater than the brāhmaṇas, who hold the highest status in society.

Saint Tiruppāṇī Ālvār was discovered in a field on the outskirts of the town, by a man of lower class. It was as though the child had descended there directly from heaven. The man had no son, so he picked up the baby boy, whom he saw as a boon from God, and took him to his wife. Both husband and wife were extremely glad to have the divine child, and their long cherished desire was fulfilled. With great care and affection, they brought up the child, never allowing the abomination of their class to defile the baby’s physical or mental atmosphere. He was fed with nothing but cow’s milk.

Being a heaven-born child, all his instincts and tendencies were heavenly. The child grew into a boy and the boy into a man. From the very beginning, the boy showed no taste for the glamour of the world. He had no taste for worldly occupation. His only vocation was to play on a lyre and sing for the glorification of Godhead. As he grew older, he became aware of his status within society.

He respected the settled laws of the land. He knew that reform consisted not in defying and infringing the conventions and usages enjoined by śāstras, but in respecting them and exemplifying their spiritual sense by exemplary moral conduct. He thought that his birth in a low status was about temporary body, but by the grace of the Supreme Lord, his soul might be enlightened. Thus the saint deeply fastened his thought on Lord Śrī Raṅganātha, and taking up his sweet lyre played thrilling notes of praise from its strings.

Tiruppāṇī’s attachment for Lord Śrī Raṅganātha grew more and more intense and at times, he lost himself in indescribably joy for hours on end. He would close his eyes and become utterly senseless and oblivious to the external world. One day, while he was in such a state of trance, Muni, a priest of Lord Śrī Raṅganātha, came to the river Kāveri to draw water for the ablution of Śrī Raṅganātha. He found Tiruppāṇī in a lifeless state by the roadside. Since the priest saw that he was a cāṇḍāla, he called to him and asked him to stay at a distance.

Our saint did not hear the priest, as he had lost his senses for the time being. This infuriated the priest and he took a pebble and threw it at the saint. The pebble cut his face and drops of blood trickled from the wound. He came to his senses, opened his eyes slowly, and seeing the brahmaṇa at a distance, realized the situation in a moment. Considering himself to be a hindrance to the priest’s service to his Lord, Tiruppāṇī moved away in a mood of grief and repentance while praying to Śrī Raṅganātha for mercy. He then remained at a respectful distance from the priest.

The priest went to the stream, performed his daily duties and took the holy water in pitchers with due ceremony. When he reached the temple gate he found it closed from inside. He called inside for the other priest, but nobody responded. His heart sank and he began to muse in anguish, praying with folded hands for the mercy of the Lord.

After a long while, he heard a voice from within the temple: “How dare you hurt Me by flinging a stone at Tiruppāṇī while he was deeply immersed in chanting My holy name. You could only see him as a low born cāṇḍāla, but he is My faithful devotee. Henceforward, your service has been suspended.”

Muni was in deep sorrow. He did not know how to atone for what he had done in order to pacify the Lord. With great humility he begged for the mercy of the Lord. He was broken with remorse. The Lord, finding him penitent, spoke from within the temple again. “Do not think Tiruppāṇī to be low-born. He is my confidential servant. If you lift him on your shoulders and circumambulate the temple, the temple gate will open, otherwise it will not. Obey my command.”

The priest was relieved and ran with delight to the bank of Kāveri River. He approached Tiruppāṇī, fell at his feet, and begged for forgiveness for injuring him, both physically and mentally. He admitted to Tiruppāṇī that he had unwittingly inflicted injuries on a sacred person. He then humbly submitted to him that the Lord wished him to carry Tiruppāṇī on his shoulders while circumambulating the temple. Hearing these words, Tiruppāṇī recoiled, but the persistent requests of the priest made him finally submit to the will of God.

Muni took Tiruppāṇī on his shoulders and carried him to the temple amidst acclamations and applauses. He circumambulated the temple with Tiruppāṇī upon his shoulders to the pleasure of the Lord. The gate then flung open and all present first fell prostrate at the feet of Lord Śrī Raṅganātha and then began to sing in praise of the Lord. From that time onward, Tiruppāṇī Ālvār was named Munivāhan (carried by the priest, Muni) or Yogivara (the greatest yogī).


Adapted from The Gaudiya, Volume 45, Number 6
by the Rays of The Harmonist team

Rays of The Harmonist On-line, Year 8, Issue 5, "Tiruppāṇī Ālvār" by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.