Did I travel a long distance like Sage Natha Muni, in search of two men, a lady and a Vaanaram (monkey), thinking that they were Sri Rama, Sri LakshmaNa, Sri Sita and Sri Hanuman?
(neDundUram pOnEnO nAthamunigaLaip pOlE?)
Sage Sriman Naathamuni laid a strong foundation for our Sri VaishNava philosophy.
Our VaishNava Sampradaayam holds Sriman Naathamuni as our Prathama Acharyan (First Preceptor - Guru).
Sriman Naathamunikal was adept in traditional music and a great Mahatma. He performed devout Aradhana to Bhagavan through the yogic path, which is generally considered extremely advanced for people in Kali Yuga.
He was always immersed in Bhagavad Dhyaanam through Yoga, forgetting himself and surroundings.
He was born on the day of Anuradha star (Asterism) in the Tamizh month of Aani (June - July) at VeeranaaraayaNapuram, also known as Kaattumannaarkovil.
His original name was Ranganathan.
He, along with his son and father Sri Easwara Bhattaazhwar, undertook pilgrimage to various holy places.
At a village called Govardhanapuram on the banks of River Yamuna, he was performing Kainkaryam (devotional service) to PerumaaL, Sri Yamunaithuraivan.
One day Kaattumannaarkovil PerumaaL appeared in his dream and advised him to come back to his birthplace, VeeranaaraayaNapuram.
Thence, Sri Naathamunikal took leave of Yamunaithuraivan and along with his family travelled to VeeranaaraayaNapuram.
There, he was happily performing Kainkaryam to PerumaaL.
One day, some VaishNava Adiyaars (Devotees) from Melkottai visited Kaatumannaarkovil and musically rendered ten of Sri Nammaazhwar's Thiruvaaimozhi Paasurams (devotional hymns) in the sanctum of PerumaaL in the temple.
The Paasurams in pristine Thamizh were mellifluous to listen to.
Sri Naathamunikal was enraptured by the Paasurams.
The Adiyaars rendered only ten out of thousand Paasurams.
When Sri Naathamunikal asked them whether they knew the remaining 990 Paasurams, they replied that they knew only those ten.
Sri Naathamunikal wanted to somehow know and listen to all the 1000 Paasurams.
In the Paasurams sung by the Adiyaars, two places were mentioned, namely, Thirukkudanthai and Thikkurugur.
Sri Naathamunikal started his search for the Paasurams.
He walked for many months through various places, reached Thirukkudanthai and enquired about it to the devotees there.
The devotees there also knew those ten (eleven) Paasurams only.
Sri Naathamunikal continued his search on foot and reached Thikkurugur.
There he had darshan of PerumaaL and Thaayaar and enquired about the Paasurams.
There also he was disappointed.
But he came to know that a descendant (devotee) in the lineage (VamsaavaLi) of Madurakavi Aazhwar, the disciple of Nammaazhwar, was living in that village.
Immediately, Sri Naathamunikal went to that devotee, by name Sri Paraankusadaasar.
Sri Paraankusadaasar told him that the Paasurams were called Thiruvaaimozhi.
He added that Thiruvaaimozhi and other Prabandhams were lost long before and could not be recovered by anybody yet.
He also said that he knew, because of his lineage, only the eleven Paasurams of Sri Madurakavi Aazhwar, the staunch disciple of Nammazhwar. Madurakavi Azhwar’s sole work, which he composed on Sri Nammaazhwar, was known as KaNNinuN Siruththaambu.
Sri Naathamunikal became saddened and did not know what to do further.
But Sri Paraankusadaasar shared with Sri Naathamunikal another titbit of information, which gave some hope to Sri Naathamunikal.
Sri Paraankusadaasar had heard that in Thirukkurugur, if one recites KaNNinuN Siruththaambu 12,000 times at the exact place in front of the hollow of the Tamarind Tree where Sri Nammaazhwar had lived and where Sri Madurakavi Aazhwar composed KaNNinuN Siruththaambu, Sri Nammaazhwar would appear. One could then request all the Prabandhams from Sri Nammaazhwar.
Sri Naathamunikal never doubted the suggestion and had no second thoughts.
He was very hopeful and wanted to reclaim the Divya Prabandham somehow.
He went to the Tamarind Tree, sat there at the exact place and with his yogic determination, recited KaNNinuN Siruththaambu 12,000 times with complete devotion.
Once he completed the recital, Sri Nammaazhwar appeared before him!
Sri Nammaazhwar asked what he wanted ?
Sri Naathamunikal requested that he be blessed with Thiruvaaimozhi and other Prabhandams.
At this, Sri Nammaazhwar was extremely happy and gave him not only Thiruvaaimozhi and his other works, but also all the Paasurams of all other Aazhwars and the meaning of all the Paasurams.
Sri Naathamunikal was very happy that because of absolute faith, he could recover the Paasurams, which were thought to be lost beyond recovery.
He took upon himself the important task of compiling the Paasurams into order, setting them to musical PaNN (older Thamizh equivalents of Ragas).
Sri Naathamunikal was thus instrumental in VaishNava Adiyaars getting this great Treasure, Naalaayira Divya Prabandham.
Walking through long distances and recovering the Naalaayira Divya Prabandham, Sri Naathamunikal was the sole reason for the future VaishNava generations being blessed with the Treasure of Naalaayira Divya Prabhandam.
ThirukolurpeN concluded with sadness as under :
"Did I walk a long distance like Sri Naathamunikal ?"
"And was there any benefit of my walk to anyone? No."
"I am not fit to be in this place (Thirukolur)."
Then Sri Ramanuja told her :
"We now saw one Prabhaavam of Sri Naathamunikal's walk. There was also another Prabhaavam."
"He meditated on PerumaaL through Dhyaanam and he treated all human beings as embodiment of Deivam."
"Once, when he was in Dhyaanam, a King, along with his queen, came to meet him."
"Since he was in Dhyaanam, he could not receive them."
"After coming out of Dhyaanam, he came to know of the visit of the two."
"He felt very sad that he did not receive PerumaaL and Thaayaar."
"This incident showed that he saw the Lord in everybody."
"On another occasion, when he was at the temple, two men, a lady and a Vaanaram (monkey) came to his house. They belonged to the hunter clan and came to see Sri Naathamunikal."
"They waited for sometime and then left, since Sri Naathamunikal did not come back to the house."
"Sri Naathamunikal returned and came to know of the visitors, namely, two men, a lady and a Vaanaram. He immediately assumed that only Sri Rama, Sri LakshmaNa, Sri Sita and Sri Hanuman had come and he felt very sad that he failed to give them proper welcome and could not even see them."
"Immediately he went in search of them everywhere; but could not locate them. He became very sad. Due to extreme grief and exhaustion he fainted and fell down. Thereupon he breathed his last and attained the Lotus Feet of PerumaaL.'
"Thus Sri Naathamunikal had the great fortune of attaining Paramapadam, while constantly thinking of PerumaaL."
Thus Sri Ramanuja elaborated the glory and honour of Sri Naathamunikal.
Then Sri Ramanujar asked ThirukolurpeN :
"Whose story are you going to tell next, my child?"
ThirukolurpeN replied :
"Like MAruthy ANdAn did I bring the news (from Srirangam to Sri Ramanuja) that he (the tyrant Chozha King) is no more."
"avan pOnAn enrEnO mAruthi AnDAnaip pOlE?"
In the next episode we will see another wonderful matter!