Who is the master? – Nammalvar – Tiruvaimozhi

குவலந்தாங்கு சாதிகள் நாலிலும்
கீழிழிந்து, எத்தனை
நலந்தா னிலாதசண் டாளசண்
டாளர்க ளாகிலும்,
வலந்தாங்கு சக்கரத் தண்ணல்
மணிவண்ணற் காளென்றுள்
கலந்தார், அடியார் தம்மடி
யாரெம் மடிகளே.

The four caste

uphold all clans ;

go down,far down

to lowliest outcastes

of outcastes :

if they are intimate henchmen

of our lord

with wheel in his right hand ,

his dark body as blue sapphire,

then even slaves of their slaves

are our masters.


Translated by A.K.Ramanujan ( Hymns of Drowning )

This poem was written by a Sudra poet(He was born in a peasant (Vellala) family) . His birth name is Maran and was also known as Catakopan. He was best known as Nammalvar or ‘our own Alvar’. He is considered to be the greatest of the 12 Alvars(Alvars were the Tamil saint poets who sang the praise of Thirumal or Vishnu). He is period is assigned between 880-930 AD.

He composed four works out which Tiruvaimozhi(“Word of the Holy mouth”) is considered to be the most important. Thiruvaimozhi has been hailed as the “ocean of Tamil Veda in which the upanishads of thousand branches flow together.”

He is said to have given the essence of Rig veda,Yajur veda,Atharva Veda and Sama Veda in his Tiruviruttam,Tiruvaciriyam,Tiruvanthathi ant Tiruvaimolzhi respectively.

His Tiruvaimozhi was intended to replace Veda. In Tiruviruttam he adapted the moods of classical Tamil love poetry (Akam) to religion. In Tiruvaciriyam he is said have described the appearance and qualities of Thirumal.

Nammalvar had great fame that after his death , images of him were installed in South Indian Vishnu Temples and revered as the feet of god. One can see his statue today in the temple at his birth place in Thirunelveli district – Alvarthirunagar.

Another very interesting bit of news , many of us when we go to Vishnu/Perumal Temple the priest keep a crown on our head. we usually know that crown represents the feet of the Lord. But what most of us don’t know is that , the crown actually represents the Feet of the Lord and Nammalvar. Hence till date the crown is called Catakopam after the name of Nammalvar.



Hymns of Drowning by A.K.Ramanujan

Tamil Literature by Kamil Zvelebil

கவிதையும் கோவிலும் by S.Ramakrishanan


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