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Worship of Thayar

Many major religions like Christianity, Islam or Buddhism describe God with generic epithets such as the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and address Him in broad terms such as the Father in Heaven, Allah or merely Buddha State, with no more specific descriptions. Vedic text use similar descriptors as well, describing Him as ‘Unmanifest, Unthinkable and Unchangeable[1]’. In the Puranic age that followed the Vedic times (around 4000 years ago) great sages created various lores to indicate the characteristics (Gunas) of the Divine entity so that society could evolve by growing devotion to this Universal Being. In their description of the Divine Being they used a traditional family model. In a typical family the father takes up the role of head of the family, interacting with the world to broadly defining the position of the family within the society and winning means for subsistence. The role of care of falls on the mother, attending to needs and nourishment of all family members. Expanding the notion to the universal scale, the Purusha the Universal Lord plays the male role of overall provider of different aspects of universal function. The Divine Mother, or THAYAR (in Tamil) in every one of those aspects is conceived as the resplendent Energy (Shakti) behind all the features of the universal phenomena in sustaining and nourishing all its myriad functions.

Sages of the Puranic age created a pantheon of Gods in whom were vested the creation, sustenance/preservation and the ultimate re-absorption of the visible phenomenon of the universe. Gradually the concept of Purusha, the Universal Lord was resolved into three roles: Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the sustainer/preserver and Shiva, into whom all the phenomena were absorbed at the end of their life cycle. They are supported by their consorts Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi playing the role of Thayars. Saraswathi the Goddess of knowledge assumed the role of ably assisting Brahma the creator, as knowledge is the core characteristic of any creative effort. As preservation of a thing already created requires material for sustenance, the provider to support Vishnu was found in Lakshmi conceived as the Goddess of wealth. This concept is dramatised in the portrayal of Divine Mother Lakshmi being seated in the heart of Lord Vishnu. This means that She is central and pivotal to preservation of every individual phenomenon, playing a key role in the preservation of all universal functions. Parvathi the Goddess of energy as the consort of Shiva is able to assist Shiva in power-intensive role of re-absorption or ‘constructive destruction’. As distinct from the affectionate title of Thayar (Mother) given to the Goddesses, the male counterpart are always addressed by the titles of Perumal (Exalted Person) or Ishwara (Supreme Lord), showing a somewhat distant but a distinctly reverential relationship. This has therefore entrenched the practice of appealing to the Thayars whenever anyone is seeking success in any endeavour: e.g. Saraswathi for success in exams or Lakshmi for business success etc.    

The role of Thayars in all the cosmic phenomena is seen to result in all the splendour of dynamic activities throughout the universe. The Perumals/Ishwaras attributed to various functions remain as transcendental entities, behind and beyond all manifestations. They provide the essential basis or potency for all phenomena to occur. It is the power of imagery of Goddesses which is seen to be visibly expressed all over the universe. The Lords may be Universal, but none of the actions would manifest with all the cosmic regularity without the Grace of the respective consorts, the Thayars. The Thayars express themselves as the laws of the physical universe in the material world. Their influence spans right from the wondrous subatomic world of 11 dimensional strings in all matter in the universe, to the massive forces in billions of stars tugging each other, forming and reforming, in millions of galaxies, and the voracious appetites of black holes swallowing them. At the same time what little we could see as happening in the mere speck of the ‘lonely planet’ of ours is equally impressive. In particular, the life in all beings is yet another wondrous work of the Divine Energy attributed to Thayars. Through the sheer magic of genetics they raise the millions of varieties of beings on earth – from the invisible microbes to the giant trees in the forest hundreds feet high, including, in between, complex beings like humans. Yet the very basis of all life, consciousness, is yet to be understood meaningfully by modern science, boasting centuries of advancement. Of the all-pervasive God in the universe Lord Krishna declares in Bhagavat Gita: ‘Ishwara Sarva Bhutanam Hrddese Arjuna Thishtati, Brahmayan Sarva Bhootani Yantra Aroodani Mayaya.’ – ‘The Lord is at the core of all beings; He dynamises all creatures, as though machines, through His power of delusion.’ The power of delusion propels the world of beings. The delusion is the separative ego in each being. The power attributed to it comes from the work attributed to Thayars, as we saw earlier, in the thriving evolution of all life forms.

The most important aspect of life as it expresses itself in all beings is the care endowed by the Thayars as throbbing Divine Energy. Meticulously they cater for every aspect of every being from conception onwards. Each aspect of life is being put together with meticulous care, every aspect of growth is taken care of, defended against every intruder to ensure a healthy life. This great mercy and kindness of the Lord attributed to the Divine Mother (Thayar) is glorified by Acharya Desikan in his monumental work ‘Daya Shatakam’, a string of 100 verses outpouring his ecstasy at the Grace of the ‘Daya Devi’ (Goddess of Mercy). He concludes:‘Deena lambana Divya Dampathi Daya Kallola Kolahalaha’ – ‘With the kindness shown by the Divine Couple to the hapless beings, it is indeed filled with rapturous joy all-round’. In Sri Stuthi, a work dedicated to the Thayar Lakshmi the Acharya declares: ‘Vatsalyadi Gunojwalam Bhagavatim Vande Jagan mataram’ – ‘I bow to the Goddess, the mother of the world, bedecked many brilliant jewels like compassion etc...’ Thus the kindness and care of the Thayars has been a source of inspiration for scholars.

Continue reading this article here

This article is contributed by Sri G.Srikanthan          


Thaayaar’s vaibhavams extolled in Chatussloki

The Sri Tattvam is the most central tenet of the Sri Vaishnava philosophy. In essence, it means that MahAlakshmi ThAyAr is completely equivalent to and simultaneously a part of the Lord, Sriman Narayana. Therefore, like PerumAl Himself, She is the Supreme Mistress of both Nithya VibhUthi and Leela VibhUthi (ubhaya VibhUthi NAyikai), and together, the DivyaDampathis are both the path (upAyam) and goal (upEyam) for the seeker of Moksham  (Mumukshu).

In the lineage of our poorvacharyas, Sri YAmunAcharya (also known as Swami AlavandAr) gave us one of the earliest and most poignant poetic compositions focused on ThAyAr. He composed four of the most nectarine verses imaginable on ThAyAr, and named it Chatussloki. It became such an inspiration and guidepost for all later acharyas that Chatussloki is saluted in the Sri Vaishnava sampradayam as Maarga PradarshikA” - the guiding light. Along with the same acharya’s first composition, Stotra Ratnam, the Chatussloki stotram occupies the pride of place of being one of the very first Sri Vaishnava stotras composed in the Sanskrit language after the shastras themselves. And as stotrams do not impose any conditionality on who can utter them like the Vedas do, we must look on the Chatussloki as a most invaluable gift bequeathed to us by Sri YAmunAcharyA.  

Let us start with the taniyan of Alavandar

Namo Namo Yaamunaaya Yaamunaaya Namo Namaha

Namo Namo Yaamunaaya Yaamunaaya Namo Namaha

Slokam 1

kAntastE purushOttama: phaNipati: SayyAsanam vAhanam

vEdAtmA vihagESvarO yavanikA mAyA jaganmOhinI |

brahmESAdi-suravraja: sadayita: tvad dAsadAsIgaNa:

SrIrityEva ca nAma tE bhagavati brUma: katham tvAm vayam ||

In this first slokam, Swami YAmunAcharya addresses Piratti as Bhagavati, thereby immediately establishing that She matches Him in every one of his Kalyana Gunams and Roopams (anuroopam). Next, he declares to Her that Her loving consort (kAnthan) is Purushottaman, the one beyond and unique from all other types of Purushas, and thereby underscores Her unique status.

He then proceeds to envision Her as the Supreme Mistress (Sarva Seshinee) of both Sri Vaikuntam (nithya vibhuthi) and the manifest Universe (leela vibhuthi), exactly in the same way that Perumal is the Supreme Master (Sarva Seshi). To support the first idea, he identifies the King of Serpents (phanipathi) Adisesha as Her bed, and the King of Birds (vihageswara) Garuda, who is extolled as the essence of the Vedas (Vedatma), as Her throne (aasanam) and vehicle (vaahanam). He then expresses the second idea by suggesting that the all-powerful Moola Prakriti (Maaya), which mesmerises the whole Universe (JaganMOhini) and makes the Jivatmas forget their Atma svarUpam, is Her servant and acts as Her curtain (yavanikA).

He adds that all other celestials, beginning with Brahma, Siva, (BrahmEsAdi) and Indra and the devas (suravraja), and all their female counterparts pride themselves on identifying as Her servants. He culminates his praise by dwelling on the epithet “Sri”, saying that this single nAmam entirely conveys Her unparalleled supremacy (Parathvam), and is the very essence of the eulogies of Her in all of Shruti, Smriti, and the Puranas. Then the author immediately goes into despair about his own “dullard” qualities and wonders how he could even get to the task of eulogising Her! (katham tvAm vayam?)  

Slokam 2

yasyAstE mahimAnam Atmana iva tvadvallabhOapi prabhu:

nAlam mAtumiyattayA niravadhim nityAnukUlam svata: |

tAm tvAm dAsa iti prapanna iti ca stOshyAmyaham nirbhaya:

lOkaikeSvari lOkanAtha dayitE dAntE dayAm tE vidan ||

In the second slokam, Swami AlavandAr addresses ThAyAr as the “only” Empress of the Universe (Loka Eka Isvari = LOkaikEsvari) and consort of the Loka NAthan, and says, “Your vaibhavam is infinite (Nir avadhim), natural (svata), and conducive (anukoolam) in the matters of Your Lord (mahimAnam prabhu:). Your kalyana gunams are such that even Your Lord (api tvad vallabha:) is unable (na alam = nAlam) to measure (mAtum) them. (in the same manner as He is unable to measure His own limitless Kalyana Gunams).

He then says: “O Mother! As I am both your servant (dAsan) and one who has taken refuge at Your feet (prapannan), i.e. I hold a special dual relationship with You, I feel bold and qualified (nirbhaya:) to sing Your limitless praise. Thus the author, after considering himself unqualified to eulogize ThAyAr in the first slokam, turns around and by logic shows how he is indeed qualified for the task.

In fact, this sentiment is said to be the masterstroke of Chatussloki in that, it not only shows ThAyAr’s relationship with the Lord but also Her special relationship with us.

Continue reading this article here

This article has been compiled by Sri Srinivas Sridharan, from the generous writings on the Internet by Vaishnava scholars, and in particular, Swami Oppiliappan Koil Sri Varadachari Satakopan.

[1] ‘Avyaktoyam, Achintyoyam, Avikaryoyameva cha…’ -Bramhagyanavali.

Velukkudi - 2015

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