"I am a servitor to Amar-Niti whose garland
Is wrought of soft-petal led jasmine"
- The Tiru-th-Tonda-th-Tokai
1. It is in the Cauvery delta of the Cholas of great renown;
It is dight with flowery gardens which reach the clouds,
And are buzzed over by joyous bees; through its streets
Pass chariots; it is a famous and great city on earth;
It is Pazhayarai. (502)
2. He hailed from the merchant-clan of that city;
With gold, pearls and goodly gems, and varieties
Of silk-products pouring in from all the realms,
He was richly endowed and throve a merchant great;
Amar-Niti was he called. (503)
3. He would think on nought but the feet of Siva,
He would feast the devotees of Siva whose hue
Is that of the incarnadine sky crepuscular;
Divining the wish of devotees he would
Give them gratis Kantai, keel and kovanam.
Thus did he the fruit of his foison, gain. (504)
4. In Tirunalloor of the First One, the triple-eyed Digambara,
He attended the divinely glorious festival of the Lord,
And founded a beauteous matam for feeding devotees;
Then (after a time) he, the pure one, arrived at
Tirunalloor with his kith and kin. (505)
5. Adoring in linked love the Lord and eyeing in devotion
The divine and beauteous festival of the Blue-throated
And hailing His grace which enabled him to feast
In the beauteous matam His devotees in increasing joy
With a melting heart, he spent his days thither. (506)
6. One day the blue-throated Lord of Tirunalloor vast,
Who is the great One that bears on His matted hair
The crescent -- verily a tender shoot --, desiring to
Demonstrate the glory of His Kovanam, and thereby
Bless His devotee with enduring grace, assumed
The form of a Brahmin-Brahmachari. (507)
7. Hi beauteous tuft concealed His red matted hair;
Triple stripes of the Holy Ash -- the insignia of Saivism,
Blazed from His forehead; the holy thread to which
Was tied a piece of deer-skin, his body bore;
He wore on a finger a pavitra of emeraldine darbha. (508)
8. On His waist was a string of munji from which
Was suspended His Kovanam wrought of the Vedas
Which for ever seek Him, their palladium.
He walked on earth with His flowery feet
Which are ever enshrined in the bosoms
Of His devotees who have quelled the murk or deception. (509)
9. Beholders melted in love that welled up in them;
His advent was to reveal the pure way which is
Poised in the devotee’s love; on His staff were fastened
A pair of kovanams, a pouch of the Holy Ash and darbha.
Thus He came to the matam of Amar-Nitiyar. (510)
10. When he beheld Him, his face bloomed brighter
Than even his mind; he rushed to Him and bowed.
“I had not been blessed with your visit so far;
How great should have been my tapas of yore
To receive you in this matam.” Thus spake Amar-Nitiyar. (511)
11. Addressing the bowing devotee, He who had concealed
His eye in the forehead, said: “I have heard of
Your feeding the devotees who thrive in increasing love,
And also of your gifts to them such as kantais,
Keells, garments and kovanams white.
Therefore did I come to call on you.” (512)
12. When he heard the Lord speak thus, he beseeched Him thus:
“In this beauteous matam, for feeding Brahmins
Well-versed in the Vedas four, holy Brahmins pure
Do the cooking; may you be pleased to dine here.” (513)
13. The Brahmin-lad consenting to what the devotee
Entreated of Him bowing, said: “I’ll bathe
In the divine river Cauvery and return;
In case it rains, kept this (dried) kavanam with you
And return it to me.” This sad, He untied
From His staff a white and bright kovanam. (514)
14. “I need not expatiate to you on the lofty excellence
Of this kovanam; receive it and keep it safe
With you till I return here; be not negligent;
Preserve it yonder and give it back to me.”
Thus He spake and handed it over to him. (515)
15. The flawless devotee received the kovanam
And said: “Be pleased to return soon after the bath.”
The Brahmin who had concealed His matted hair
And the flood of Ganga too, left the place to bathe
In the billowy water pure of the Cauvery, nearby. (516)
16. The peerless servitor who received the kovanam
Bearing in mind the Brahmin’s instructions,
Did not keep it with his gift-articles
-- Kantais, keels, garments and kovanam --,
He thought of a safe place and thither kept it safe. (517)
17. The Brahmin who left the matam caused
The disappearance of the entrusted kovanam.
We know not if He bathed in a ford of the Cauvery
Where nelumboes burgeon in abundance,
Or bathed Himself with the water of the Ganga
That is borne by His matted hair, pure and fragrant.
He did return wet and dripping in the rain. (518)
18. When He, the wearer of the lustrous crescent of a chaplet,
Returned, the devotee rich in mellowed love
Had already caused the preparation of a feast
Sumptuous with sextuple taste; he came before Him
And stood bowing. (519)
19. The Lord desiring to bathe in the pure flood
Of the devotees love, addressed him thus:
“Our kovanam is wet from the bath in the cool flood;
The one on the staff is also wet; I must have
A change of dress; give to me the kovanam
I gave thee.” Thus spake the Kovanam-Filcher. (520)
20. On account of his ignorance of the deception
Played by the Great One, the devotee hastened inside;
When he looked for it in the guarded place
The flawless one could not find it there.
“What did the kovanam do?” he thought;
Utterly bewildered, he searched for it. (521)
21. “The dazzling kovanam white has grown wings
And has, sure, escaped from me.” He thought thus.
He searched for it amidst all his merchandise
But in vain; what could he do? He stood dazed.
Lo, he was caught in the great gin of the gracious One. (522)
22. With his wife and circling kin, he grieved,
That it had happened even thus; he could think of
Nothing else; he grieved sore; he could not stand
There either; for His use he took with him
Another kovanam and came out. (523)
23. He came before Him, the Father, and said: “O great one!
I canst not find the kovanam you gave me
In the place where I kept it safe; none there is
Who could have concealed it in a different place.
I do not know how it disappeared; a marvel
Like unto this I have never witnessed. (524)
24. I have in love secured for you use
A different but an exceedingly good kovanam;
It is not a kovanam torn from a bigger cloth;
It was woven as such. O great one in whose
Forehead dazzle stripes of the Holy Ash,
Be pleased to wear it removing your wet one.
Be pleased to forgive me.” Thus he spake, and bowed. (525)
25. The Brahmin grew wroth and said:
“Nobly-spoken, oh Amar-Niti! Not much time
Had passed; the kovanam that I gave you this day
You have appropriated; is it becoming of you
To tell me to accept a substitute?” (526)
26. Was it to filch my kovanam without any qualms
Of conscience that you made the world believe
In your gifts of kovanam all these days?
Beauteous is your way of business and swift too!”
Thus raged the Infinite One from whose eyes
Sparks of fire sputtered. (527)
27. When the Brahmin who had concealed the fawn
On His hand and held a staff in its place
Raged thus. With his senses undone and face wilting
He said: “Be pleased to forgive the great sin of this
Little one; I have no knowledge of the happening.”
Then he fell at His feet and grieved sore. (528)
28. “Bid me do that which you deem fit;
Demand not the kovanam, but be pleased
To accept in millions delectable silken garments
And gems -- all of the first order.” Thus he,
He was gripped by fear which shook him to the roots
And which his body could not contain.
He fell on earth and prostrated before Him
Times without number. (529)
29. Addressing the devotee who thus paid obeisance,
He who is the Supreme Ens, as if mollified, said:
“Of what avail are your gems, gold, goodly garments
And the like to me? It’ll suffice if you give
A kovanam equivalent to Mine.” (530)
30. Hearing this, the mind of him who is a lion
Among merchants, burgeoned in joy; he said:
“In lieu of your bright and white kovanam
When I offered to you silken garments, you would not
Them accept; so how am I to requite you
With a kovanam matching the greatness of yours?” (531)
31. Then the Lord spake thus: “Apart from the kovanam
We now wear, the one we gave you and which
You allege as lost can be matched by this only.”
He untied the kovanam from his staff and said:
“Give me a kovanam equivalent to its weight.” (532)
32. “Very well,” said the devotee and brought forth a scale;
On one of its pans, the Lord who bent the mountain
Into a bow, placed His Kovanam; the devotee
That stood there put his woven kovanam into the other;
Lo, it didn’t equal the weight of His. (533)
33. Kovanams, long and innumerable, which he had kept stored
To be gifted with love for Nayanmar, he put,
One by one, into the pan hoping to match the weight of His;
But his pan rose up; the servitor of the Dancing Feet
Stood wonder-struck. (534)
34. “This is a gramarye not to be witnessed in this world!
Innumerable kovanams do not equal this one in weight.”
Thus wondering, he put into his pan soft garments, ciclatons
And silken clothings; even then the pan stood aloft;
Then he added thereunto bales of soft varieties. (535)
35. Than the pan into which the devotee of boundless love
Poured his love, the pan of the First One,
In unison with the adage which says:
‘Grace remains low in the presence of devotional love’,
Stood lower; even when clothings of silk and cotton
Were added endlessly the devotee’s pan stood
Higher than the pan of the sole Kovanam. (536)
36. Beholding this, fear-stricken, the devotee spake
To the Brahmin thus: “Even when filled with
Boundless clothing, pure and good, and also varieties
Of innumerable threads, the pan stands thus;
Suffer me to freight it with my other wealth.”
Thus did he, Him beseech. (537)
37. To this the Brahmin, the Lord that shares in His frame
His Consort, consenting said: “What else have We to say?
Put all your multifoliate wealth; the pans must
Somehow stand even; it is that only We demand.” (538)
38. He came with silver and gold, good and aplenty
And also heaps of ninefold gems; with metals of many kinds
And alloys to he came, and these he unloaded into his pan
Which still stood high; beholders marveled at it. (539)
39. Its threads are the import of the Vedas four
Brimming with the puissance of askesis;
It is dear to Siva, the kovanam. So the encomium
-- That all the wealth of Amar-Nitiyar in this world
And all the wealth of all the worlds cannot
Match it --, mirrors not its true glory. (540)
40. Having witnessed the happening, the peerless one
Standing before Him spake thus: I have loaded
The pan with all my blemishes wealth; nothing now remains;
O Lord, may I be graced with leave to ascend
The pan with my wife and little child, if considered fit. (541)
41. When thus, in fear, the devotee of flawless servitude
Spake before Him, the Lord of gracious eyes sized up
The situation even thus; the scale was but an excuse
To free them from their bondage; He gave them
Leave to ascend the pan and gain ascension. (542)
42. He rejoiced in his mind; he adored His flower-feet
With his crown; he held his child and his wife
Whose locks were plaited with fragrant flowers;
He circumambulated the scale unique
To ascend the pan; thus resolved he spake: (543)
43. “May the pans of the scale stand even, if it be true
That we haven’t swerved from the truthful servitude
-- Ever-poised in love and devotion --,
To the Holy Ash of the Lord!”
He adored the Lord of Tirunalloor, dight with
Rain-filled tanks and gardens galore.
He chaunted the Panchakshara and the pan ascended. (544)
44. In spiraling love, when they ascended the pan,
As the kovanam worn on the waist of the God of gods
And the servitude of them -- the Lord’s devotees
Whose love for Him knows no diminution, were equal,
The pans weighed equal, and level stood the beam. (545)
45. Men on earth hailed the devotee of clarified intellect;
Struck with wonderment which swept everywhere
They adored him; the celestials rained in joy
Karpaka flowers which mantled the bright sky. (546)
46. As the celestials rained flowers, the Brahmin
That blazed with the triple stripes of the Holy Ash
Vanished somehow into the heavens.
Resuming His usual form which has beginning none,
The Deity of Tirunalloor – first among cities --,
Manifested Himself as Ammai-Appar. (547)
47. Unto the devotee who stood in the pan
Hymning and hailing Him, his son and wife,
He granted grace, abiding and ever-sweet;
He blessed them with ethereal beatitude eternal,
To adore Him for ever; this done
The great One His presence withdrew. (548)
48. By the grace of Grace, the great scale itself
Turned into a car and flew up.
The flawless devotee and his family
Were translated to Siva-Loka to be with the Primal God
Who blessed them with bliss unending. (549)
In praise of St. Sundarar
49. The munificent Lord who is unknown to
Brahma throned on lotus, and Vishnu,
Claimed him for the redemption of the world
At Vennainallor hailed by many, by means
Of an ancient document; I invoke His feet
And wear them on my crown;
My servitude to his feet is my suzerainty. (550)
3 Kantai : Four or five pieces of cloth sewn together to
serve as sheet or blanket.
Keell : The girdle of an ascetic or a mendicant, being
generally a long Slip of cloth.
Kovanam : The loin-cloth.
4 1 The Lord is the First Cause, uncaused by any other cause.
He is also a Digambara. His three eyes are symbolic of
His form of light. His digambara-form is that of naked
majesty and is symbolic of the truth that HE ALONE IS.
“Digambara: The naked ascetic”.
- Little Oxford Dictionary.
6 Brahmmachari : An unmarried student of the Vedas.
7 Pavitra : A ring.
Emeraldine : Adjective of emerald; green.
8 Munji : One of seven types of darbha grass.
Murk of deception: Anava mala.
35 2 Poured his love : Poured his goods in love.
Sincere thanks to Sri. T N Ramachandran of thanjavur, for permitting his English rendering of the holy text periyapurANam be published here.