In the Siriya Thirumadal and Periya Thirumadal, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar prefers Kama to Moksha
Takes the role of Parakala Nayaki directing her love for the Lord of Thiru Naraiyur (Nachiyar Koil) threatening to commit the Madal if the Lord does not accept her true love
Thiru Mangai Azhvaar has been known for threatening the Lord and getting his way with the Lord by adopting the ‘threat’ route. At Thiru Indhalur, when Lord Parimala Rangan shut the door on Thiru Mangai, he threatened to leave the temple without singing praise of the Lord, only for the Lord to retract and convince Thiru Mangai to sing praise of him. At Thiru Ninravur, finding Bhaktavatsala Perumal and Goddess not giving him the due attention, he moved on giving Thiru Ninravur a miss only to come back later on Lord’s request.
However, in the Siriya Thiru Madal and Periya Thiru Madal songs which form part of Iyarpa composition of the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham, Thiru Mangai’s threat reached the pinnacle. Directing his extreme love for the Lord of Thiru Naraiyur (Nachiyar Koil), Thirumangai Azhvaar composed Madal comprising of Siriya Thiru Madal and Periya Thiru Madal in which he expressed his intent to commit the Madal- embarrass and publicly humiliate the Lord- by visualising himself as Parakala Nayaki and adopting this route to displaying his love and trying to force the Lord to accept the love.
In ancient Tamil tradition, when love was one sided, the lover tried to convey the love through his friends. However, if love did not still gain acceptance, he, in a final desperate move, resorted to Madal Erudhal - a practice of embarrassing and humiliating the girl in public. As part of this Madal Eruthal process, the lover would make a horse out of palm leaves, then draw the picture of her beloved on a cloth and would hang it as a flag on the horse, wear a garland (Erukkam Poo- usually worn by the unmarried) and go around the streets shouting slogans and crying in public, of betrayal of love in a bid to humiliate his lover, announcing as to how he has been suffering as a result of her not accepting true love.
But for a lover girl to do this was not a traditional practice as this was considered unbecoming of a woman and immodest behaviour on her part. It was not a custom for women to go around and humiliate men in public. However, the question arises as to what should a lover woman do when the divine kama is not accepted. The final resort seems to be Madal Eruthal. Thiru Mangai in the Madal says that since the Lord had not accepted the Love despite repeated requests of Parakala Nayaki, the last option was to try and gain acceptance through the performance of Madal.
Even though Madal Eruthal by a woman was not accepted in Tamil Culture, Thiru Mangai says that given the love intoxicated state of mind of Parakala Nayaki, this route had to be adopted based on Sanskrit literature and following the many examples that existed in the Northern culture.
Kama route to attaining God
Thiru Mangai in his Madal showcases that Kama in a true form of love to the Lord was also a possible route to attain him instead of taking the moksha route. In the Madal, he drives home the point that out of the three principles of life- Dharma, Artha and Kama, the last one was the preferred route
(ஆராயில் தானே அறம் , பொருள் , இன்பம் என்று , ஆர் ஆர் இவற்றினிடை அதனை எய்துவார் ….)
Thiru Mangai Azhvaar disregards the fourth principle – that of Moksha- on the basis that those who sacrifice everything in life and live in extreme heat and cold surviving just on fruits and leaves may reach Vaikunta but since they never come back, one does not know what happened to them and if they really have achieved what they set out to accomplish and condemns it as only a hearsay.
In the Madal, Thirumangai suggests that the love she, as Parakala Nayaki, will get here from the Lord’s acceptance of her love is unequalled. Thirumangai goes on to say that Kama as a true form of love to the beloved should be pursued.
Siriya Thirumadal and Periya Thirumadal
In the Siriya Thirumadal, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar as Parakala Nayaki refers to this intoxicated state of love with the entire composition being that of a Nayaki expressing her love in short lines through someone else. The identity of the lover of Parakala Nayaki is actually brought out through a soothsayer, who provides the description of the Nayaki’s lover by bringing out the great qualities of the Lord who is present in different temples.
கார் ஆர் குழல் கொண்டாய் கட்டுவிச்சி கட்டேறி
சீர் ஆர் சுளகில் சில நெல் பிடித்து
ஏரியா வேறா விதிர்விதிரா
மெய் சிலிரா கை மோவா
பேர் ஆயிரம் உடையான் என்றால்
பெயர்த்தேயும் கார் ஆர் திருமேனி காட்டினாள்
Contrasted with this, in the Periya Thiru Madal, the narration is from the dejected lover herself and the terrible experience she has gone through in not being able to get her lover (Lord) to accept her love. Here, she explains how the handsome Lords of various Vishnu temples in their different postures have been the reason for her to fall in love as Parakala Nayaki. In the Periya Thiru Madal, the virtue of Kama gains precedence at the expense of seeking moksha and other principles of life.
மின்னி மழை தவழும் வேங்கடத்து எம் வித்தகனை
மன்னனை மாலின்ருஞ்ச்சோலை மணாளனை கொள் நவிலும் ஆழிப்
‘Having held out my hands for him in worship and having spoken my heart out, will he at least now reach out to me and accept me as his’ asks Parakala Nayaki.
Parakala Nayaki defends the decision for a woman to adopt this route with a couple of reasons- the unbearable state of her own mind that is intoxicated with an unfulfilled love combined with several precedents that already existed in the Northern Tradition including that of Sita who forced Rama to take her along to the forest conveying her deep love for the Lord and Ulupi falling in love with Arjuna (in the Mahabharatha).
Periya Thiru Madal ends with the threat that she will perform the forbidden Madal even if the world rebukes her if the Lord does not respond to her craving for his love and if he does not accept her love for him (ஊரார் இகழிலும் ஊறாது ஒழியேன் நான், வாரார் பூம் பெண்ணை மடல்).
The entire Madal- both Siriya Thirumadal and Periya Thirumadal- is directed at the Lord of Thiru Naraiyur as can be seen from the fact that he opens and ends the Madal with reference to Thiru Naraiyur. It was also here at Thiru Naraiyur that Thiru Mangai was initiated with the Pancha Samskara by Lord Nambi.
Thiru Mangai rejects Lord Ranganatha’s request
When Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam for whom Thiru Mangai built the famous huge walls requested him for Madal verses of praise, Thiru Mangai retorted ‘Mathil Inghe, Madal Anghe’ (Mathil- the big walls- here for you at Srirangam and Madal – the songs expressing love for the Lord – there for the Nambi at Thiru Naraiyur), thus signifying that the Madal was for the Thiru Naraiyur Lord.
A very interesting feature of the Madal is that while it is the practice of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar at the end of every 10verses to refer to himself as the composer of the verses, here in the two madals there is no such reference to himself, the reason being that he visualised himself as Parakala Nayaki and transformed himself into that role as the Lover girl of the Lord of Thiru Naraiyur.