Tiruvaymoli (Thiruvaimozhi): English translation

by S. Satyamurthi Ayyangar | 388,514 words

This is the English translation of the Tiruvaymoli (or, Thiruvaimozhi): An ancient Tamil text consisting of 1102 verses which were sung by the poet-saint Nammalvar as an expression of his devotion to Vishnu. Hence, it is an important devotional book in Vaishnavism. Nammalvar is one of the twelve traditional saints of Tamil Nadu (Southern India), kn...

Tamil text and transliteration:

செஞ்சொல் கவிகாள்! உயிர்காத்துஆட் செய்ம்மின் திருமாலிருஞ்சோலை
வஞ்சக் கள்வன் மாமாயன் மாயக் கவியாய் வந்து என்-
நெஞ்சும் உயிரும் உள்கலந்து நின்றார் அறியா வண்ணம் என்-
நெஞ்சும் உயிரும் அவைஉண்டு தானே ஆகி நிறைந்தானே. (2)

ceñcol kavikāḷ! uyirkāttuāṭ ceymmiṉ tirumāliruñcōlai
vañcak kaḷvaṉ māmāyaṉ māyak kaviyāy vantu eṉ-
neñcum uyirum uḷkalantu niṉṟār aṟiyā vaṇṇam eṉ-
neñcum uyirum avaiuṇṭu tāṉē āki niṟaintāṉē. (2)

English translation of verse 10.7.1:

Beware, Ye poets, singing songs, sweet and chaste,
Better be all attention, as you sing, else you can’t subsist;
The Lord in mount Tirumāliruñcōlai is the mysterious One,
Who does deceit and stealth practise; unto me He held on,
Ostensibly to sing these songs but into my heart and soul
Secretly He did dissolve and consumed them all;
Thus displacing me, He did attain His stature full.


(i) Poets, sweet and chaste: Poets composing songs in elegant diction, abounding in choice words, pregnant with meaning, are said to be sweet and if they also happen to be selfless singers of the Lord’s glory, they are chaste indeed. This combined appellation would, however, cover only a few poets of the eminence of the first three Āḻvārs (Poikai, Pēy and Pūtattāḻvār). the super poets, thrilling with spiritual joy and throbbing with God-love. To this exalted band of poets, the Āḻvār utters the warning, as in this song. Their very existence will be imperilled if they ever trod upon the plank of the Lord’s ‘Saulabhya’, simplicity galore, which will choke them down, in admiration, even to the point of losing themselves altogether. Evidently, the artist has to make sure of his existence, first and foremost, so that his art can flourish. When the art takes the form of service unto the Lord (Vācika Kaiṅkarya), it is but appropriate that the Āḻvār warns the artists in question against the danger lurking in the field. If they are to ensure steady and unremitting service unto the Lord, they should not go anywhere near the Lord’s enthralling traits of simplicity, easy accessibility and tender solicitude, which had rendered the Āḻvār insensate thrice, the period of suspended animation lasting as long as six months on each such occasion. The Āḻvār is thus planting the danger signal, in the vulnerable spot, for the guidance of the fellow-poets of his ilk.

Śrī Rāmānuja would have it, in this context, that the person to be saved is not the fellow-artist but the Lord Himself. When the Lord, in His unbounded love for the Jñāni’s physical frame, pounces upon him, if the
Jñāni went on repelling His advances, surely, he may have to lose the Lord altogether. Actually, the Āḻvār reverently called the Lord’s attention to His trait of subserving the devotees (āśṛtapāratantarya) and, in the exercise thereof, He was made to desist from His ravishing love for the devotee’s body, frail and foul. Thus inhibited from the pursuit of His natural inclination, the Lord stood aloof from the Āḻvār who, however, got completely lost in rapturous meditation on the Lord’s remarkable docility in heeding his humble request. The Āḻvār, therefore, warns the fellowartists not to fare likewise and lose the Lord in the manner he did, but conform to His wishes and place no obstruction in His path and thus preserve Him.

(ii) When the Lord initially entered the Āḻvār’s heart, the latter was made to feel that He did so only to establish His supremacy over him. But then, He played His stealthy pranks by reversing the natural order of things and displaying the riotous love of the ardent lover. The pity of it is that the Āḻvār fell into His trap, notwithstanding the prior knowledge he had of the Lord, in this respect. Well, therein lies the Lord’s mystery to which all of us cannot but succumb. All that the Lord applied for, at the outset, was a little space in the heartregion of the Āḻvār, so as to produce from there songs of rare excellence and the Āḻvār readily responded to the Lord’s request, as he was himself wanting to sing such songs. But what happened! He who wanted just that space for the tip of His little finger to enter, got His head penetrated as well. Is this not stealth, pure and simple? What else is it but deceit, on His part?

[Oh, what a pity! there is such a miserable dearth of interest for these priceless gems of thought, imbedded in the Āḻvār’s glorious hymns, as unfolded by our great Ācāryas. There are hardly a few who would come forward to delve deep into this vast treasure of Divine Love and it is only to be hoped that, with the publication of the present glossary, their numbers would swell much beyond all expectations].

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