Monday, March 7, 2016

Kulasekara Azhvaar

The 'King of Madurai' who quit his kingdom to offer selfless service to the Lord of Srirangam
Provides a specific methodology for prayer in his Perumal Thirumozhi

Born in Thiru Vanjikalam in Kerala on Maasi Punarvasu, Kulasekara Azhvaar married a Pandya princess and ruled the Chera kingdom from Vanji and later won over Madurai. In his verses he refers to himself as the King of Madurai and a Chieftain of Koodal. He also refers to himself as the head of Kozhi and hence may have expanded his kingdom to his favourite city of Srirangam (Uraiyur) as well.

Later he passed on his kingdom to his son and chose a path of service to the Lord.  He moved to Srirangam and began his work (referred to as Perumal Thirumozhi in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham) with praise of Lord Ranganatha who seemed to be his favourite. In all he contributed to 105 verses in the Divya Prabhandham.

In his 3 decads of praise of the Lord of Srirangam, he has showcased the way to invoke the blessings of the Lord.

He says one should immerse oneself in prayers while seeking the Lord and also provides a methodology for a prayer with interesting specifics such as ‘bow down with humility’, ‘simply melt in devotion’ in front of the Lord, ‘pray sincerely with folded hands’, stand in front of the Lord and try to experience him with tears in your eyes, mingle with like-minded devotees at the temple and repent for every wrong deed of yours.

He has dedicated a couple of entire decads showcasing the merits of devotees of Srirangam much in the way Periyazhvaar praised the devotees of Thirukoshtiyur. He says that it is important to pay reverence to the devotees of the Lord and that is integral to worship to the Lord. Probably the most interesting insight in the first three decads of his unflinching praise on Ranganatha is a lesson that is quite relevant for the devotees even now.

The fact that he relinquished his kingdom and dedicated his entire time in devotion to the Lord did not go well with many who considered him as having taken an action in haste and went to the extent of branding him as Mad. However he hits back at them pointing out to them that it is they who are mad for they do not realise as to how blessed he is having been taken away from the world of materialistic desires to one of true life time devotion.’

Contrary to the normal thought process of not wanting another life, he says that he is okay to be born again even as a fish or a bird or an ant or any other creature if it provides him an opportunity to be close to the Lord ( of Tirumala).

His verses of praise on the Lord of Vittuvakodu are addressed to provide motivation to a devotee in trouble and showcasing the importance of total Surrender to the Lord. 
In the 2nd half of Perumal Thirumozhi, he brings out the emotions of a parent – first taking one to the childhood of Krishna and to Devaki’s feelings. And then in two successive decads, he brings out the outbursts of Dasaratha and Kausalya and their love for their son.

While Devaki gave birth to Krishna, she had to let him go soon after his birth and rarely had the fortune of seeing him grow. However Kausalya was lot more fortunate and her son Rama grew into a young handsome boy right in her presence and she sings lullabies to Rama.

The verses relating to Dasaratha and his laments are sorrowful and apologetic as he presents his state of having to send his son out of the kingdom based on an old promise handed to his wife right on the eve of his coronation.

Kulasekara Azhvaar presents the entire story of the Ramayana in the final decad praising the Lord of Chidambaram ( Thillai Nagar).

He spent his final days in Brahmmadesam ( Mannar Koil) where he has a temple named after him and a separate Sannidhi with Dwajasthambam, the only one of its kind (

.A series on Perumal Thirumozhi follows....

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