The exquisite charm of the Lord’s Supernal Form, His boundless wealth etc., in ‘Paramapada’ (Heaven, the Lord’s transcendental abode), just sprout, (with just two leaves like beginnings of the infant’s teething) during His Avatars as Rama and Krsna and flourish as a fully-grown fruit bearing tree with numerous branches (corresponding to all the other pilgrim centers) in Srirangam, affording immense satisfaction to the beholders there, of His easily worshippable Form. Yes, easily worshippable, the more so, in the case of devotees of the caliber of the Alvar Saints unto whom the Lord relaxes the self-imposed constraints of silence, passivity etc., incidental to His iconic manifestation and displays His innate charm, in super-abundance. It is noteworthy that the Lord did not even wait till Pan Perumal entered the Sanctum to behold and drink in the beatific vision in front. He displayed to him, even en route, the wealth of His resplendence, step by step, from His lovely pair of feet upwards, lest the devotee be swept off his feet, rather dazed by the dazzling splendour of His Form, when exhibited in full, all at once. The Lord’s feet constitute not merely the rallying point in this mental exercise but also the focal point, the final goal of attainment of the devotee, his sole Refuge. That is why Saint Nammalvar also referred to the Lord’s “distress – dispelling – dazzling feet”, right in the opening song of Tiruvaymoli. This is like the new-born baby intuitively sucking the mother’s breast, the source of its sustenance, with no physical aid whatsoever to locate it. The new-born baby is totally devoid of vision which it gains only gradually from the second month onwards.
Amalanadipiran adiyarkkennai atpatutta
Vimalan vinnavarkon viraiyar polil venkatavan
Nimalan ninmalan nitivanavan nilmatin. Arangattamman
Tirukkamala padam vanten kanninullana okkinrate!
Wonderful this, the lotus feet dainty, of our immaculate sire
At Arangam, amid ramparts high, first and foremost
Sire, great and pure,
The Benefactor who did me enlist in the service of the devout,
Overlord of the celestials in high heaven, just and upright,
Who did atop Venkatam amid fragrant orchards alight,
Did, on their own, into my distant eyes project.
Amalan: The immaculate. Immaculate that He is, Lord Ranganatha cleanses the massive dirt of ignorance of the worshippers and imparts purity to them. Indeed He is the purest of the pure and the most auspicious among the auspicious – Pavitranam pavitram yo mangalanam ca mangalam. The manner in which Lord Ranganatha drew the Alvar unto Him is indicated here. In this song, the Alvar also refers to the Lord as Vimalan, the same as ‘Amalan’ etymologically but with this difference (as brought out by the Commentator), namely this refers pointedly to the Lord’s magnanimity in putting the Alvar on to the feet of His devotees for rendering them spotless service, ever and anon, a rare trait (gesture), not noticeable in anyone else. In this particular context, this refers to the manner in which Panan, who was keeping himself studiously aloof from the likes of Lokasaranga Mahamuni, was induced by the Lord to be submissive as not to disobey and flee from the Mahamuni, as in the past. Yet another appellation, bestowed on the Lord by the Alvar, in this song itself, is Nimalan, also meaning the same as Amalan etymologically, but used in a different sense, as highlighted by the Commentator. The special connotation of Nimalan is: it denotes the Lord’s extra-ordinary gesture in redeeming the Alvar, even unasked and unsolicited, enhancing His greatness still further.
[The reader is now invited to go through Sri Parasara Bhattar’s commentary on Names 157 and 252 (sucih): of Sri Visnu Sahasranama. 157-Sucih: Pure(unsullied). Visnu Bhagavan is pure since He does not expect anything in return for all that He does to the subjects (in dire contrast to minor deities, who when sought after invariably seek something in return from the recipients); 252-Sucih: He, who is pure, the purity being natural to Him(innate), not induced or cultivated, as such. It is noteworthy that Lord Narayana, the Supreme Brahman is not only big(brhat) Himself but also makes His votaries big.]
What more ? In this very song the Alvar also refers to the Lord as ‘Ninmalan’, the same as ‘Amalan’ etymologically, but in an even superior light, namely, the Lord looks upon the redemption of the Alvar as but His own job, for His benefit, that is, as a matter of supreme personal satisfaction – the benefactor redeeming Himself the beneficiary, once again redounding to His unique greatness and glory.
The way the Alvar has put it, in this song, the Lord’s limbs literally vied with one another to attract the Alvar, even when he was very much outside the Sanctum, the feet being the pace setter. They are said to have (figuratively) sallied forth from the Sanctum and got into his eyes (a forward, feast, as it were, ahead of the diner entering the dinning hall !)
Venkatam: Mounted on Lokasaranga Mamuni’s shoulders, Panan is on his way to the shrine of Lord Ranganatha. Why then, this reference to the Deity, atop the holy Mount Tiruvenkatam? It is only to remind us that the Lord descended from heaven and alighted at Venkatam, enroute to Arangam. Venkatam, the mountain-top came in handy for the Lord as a springboard from where He could jump down to Arangam and rest there. It is comparable with His stepping down to ‘Madhurampuri’ (spelt as Mathura, these days) from the Milk-ocean, the Lord’s seat of creative activities whence His avatars take place and then moving further on to Gokul (Tiru Ayppadi). [Saint Nammalvar also refers to the Lord’s stepping on to Mount Venkatam as an intermediary stop-over, and thence jumping into the Alvar’s mind ‘Malaimel tan ninru en manattul iruntanai’ Tiruvaymoli X-4-4]. With their deep insight and uncanny perception, the Alvars as well as some of our ancient preceptors could envision (1) the celestials moving down from the high heaven to Mount Tiruvenkatam to see for themselves and appreciate the Lord’s amazing simplicity (not so well discernable in heaven, that glorious setting with all its pomp and pageantry), His loving condescension to stay in the midst of monkeys and hunters, (2) their (celestials) going back to heaven where His Supremacy (Paratva) is very much in evidence, a feature which shone, all the more, in the eyes of the celestials, in sharpcontrast with His amazing simplicity (Soulabhya), witnessed by them below, (3) their coming again to Venkatam, only to find that the Lord had by then moved to Arangam and (4) their further move to Tiruvarangam where they beheld the Lord reclining on the Serpent Couch, vowing as it were, not to raise up and go back to the celestium till the uplift to heaven of the last being down below].
Nilmatil Arangattamman: Reference to the lofty boundary walls by Pan Perumal seems to be an anachronism. Actually, the walls were built by Tirumankai Alvar (tenth in the chronological order), who must have taken cue from his immediate predecessor and rendered his vision realistic.
Arangattu Amman: The Lord at Arangam is presented as our kinsman. Yes, He is intimately bound to everyone through every conceivable relationship – father, mother, husband, son and so on. He is also our master, friend,donor, judge, so on and so forth. It behoves us, one and all, to take due note of this omnibus relationship binding us to Him intimately so that we do not run astray. See also 28th Song of Andal’s Tiruppavai.
Tirukkamala padam vantu en kanninullana okkinrate: The Lord’s lovely (Tiru) pair of feet, silken-soft and delicately massaged by Tiru, the Divine Mother, Herself, the very picture of softness and elegance, sallied forth from the Sanctum, straight inside Pan Perumal’s eyes, when he was still on his way to the temple. Earlier on, Panan was running away, in self denouncing humility, but now the Lord’s feet run after him, in keeping with the Lord’s inclination and get implanted in his eyes!
In sum, The opening song brings out (1) the Sovereignty of the Lord over the heaven (Nitya Vibhuti – the Eternal Land) as well as the worlds below (Lila Vibhuti – the sporting arena) – ‘Ubhaya Vibhuti aisvarya’, (2) He is,at once, the goal of attainment (upeya), the means of attaining that goal (upaya) and also the beneficiary [Bhokta – who revels in the redemption of the individual soul (cetana labha)] and (3) in Him alone is the unique blending of unrivalled Supremacy, exhibiting Him as higher than the highest (Paratparan) and His astounding simplicity, presenting Him as lower than the lowest (soulabya parakastai); but for the latter aspect, His ‘Paratva’ (Supreme Sovereignty) would just scare away His devotees and distance them from Him, irretrievably.