It happens to be the day of the Avatara Dina of Tirupati Srinivasa Perumal as well as Premika Srinivasa Perumal in Permika Bhavanam – Purattasi Shravanam. A grand celebration happens ther every day with numerous prasadams and offerings to the Lord. A special “Shravana Deepam” is lit. Our Guru Maharaj’s kirtan says ‘deepa jyotinile venkatesan thunbam thirthiduvaan venkatesan’ – The Lord, who is the destroyer of all sufferings, is present in the flame of a lamp. Likewise, ‘athi marathinile venkatesan sathiyamai nirkindraan venkatesan’ – He is certainly present in the ‘Athi’ (Fig) tree (even in the log of a fig tree), in the lotus flower, and so on. Thus Lord who is present in the ‘Shravana Deepam’ is worshipped with Pujas on this day.
The above kirtan ends as ‘paadum bhaktargalin naduve bhaagavatanaai nirkindraan venkatesan’ – the Lord stands as a Bhagavata amidst those devotees who chant His Divine Name!
Vedanta Desikan (Venkatanatha, also known as ‘kavithaarkika kesari’) ‘s Janma Nakshatram also falls on this day. The Divine Mother gives yet another epithet to him ‘Sarvatantra swathantra’ – as he condenses the essence of all the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras into a grantha – ‘rahasya traya saaram’. He has also given us a huge number of other works – gadhyams, padhyams, sthavams,a shtakams and so on, on the Lord.
We chant to make the Lord happy. ‘ulagam unda peruvaaya’ – the Lord has the entire Universe in his stomach. Does that mean that the Lord has literally eaten up the Universe like a sweetmeat? It refers to the entire processes of creation, sustenance and dissolution carried out by him. During dissolution, the earth is consumed by water, which is consumed by fire, air and space which then gets merged into the Lord – ‘ulagam unda peruvaaya’ – and during creation, it is the other way round. But why does Azhwar use the word ‘peruvaaya’ (the one with a huge mouth)? – Periyavaachan Pillai gives an explanation – Whenever we see the form of Lord Nrisimha – his mouth is never closed – it is always agape – why is it agape? Not to eat up Hiranyakashipu’s intestines – but with joy, smiling to shower His love on Prahlada! ‘This soul, after going through the tumult of the worldly pleasures, has finally come unto Me’, He fills, and in order to consume us into His heart, he keeps his mouth open! Swami continues, ‘Oh! Lord, you have mistaken that I have come forsaking all pleasures of life. Nay! I don’t have true love for you. Alas, I have a long list of prayers to be fulfilled by you and so I am here and yet, you keep smiling, because you are happy that I am in the right direction at the least!’ – It is for this happiness that we do Bhakti.
Unfortunately, He does not experience this happiness in Vaikunta and hence decides to descend. ‘srivaikanuta viraktAya swami pushkarini thate’ – and the best place he thought was Tirupati.
Out of all the Divya Kshetras, Sri Rangam, Varadaraja of Kanchi and Tirupati Balaji are prominent, each of them having their own greatness. And Tirupati Balaji enjoys this popularity not because He is wealthy but because of His ‘saulabhya’ (approachability). He takes scanty sleep at nights – works overtime to shower grace on His devotees.
Purandaradasa sings about the Vaikuntam Perumal’s form and says, such is the form of Tirupati Balaji (in his ‘Venkatachala Nilayam…’ kirtan) and describes His ‘saulabhya’. Annamacharya sings innumerable kirtans on Him. Sri Rajagopala Desikan (fondly called ‘Vasudeva Thatha’) went to Tirupati in response to Perumal’s call, and likewise happens with our Guru Maharaj as well, and He wanted a temple to be constructed by Sri Swamiji’s divine hands and now we have Kalyana Srinivasa Perumal in Maharanyam!
Thondaradipodi Azhwar in Tirumalai says ‘let me enjoy the beauty of Ranganatha’ in his Pachai Maa Malai Pasuram. Another Azhwar born in Tiruvanjikalam, a great Rama Bhakta who was a king, author of ‘Perumal Tirumozhi’ – Kulasekhara Azhwar, sings the greatness of Tirupati.
Like Ambarisha of the Purana Kala, this emperor, Kulasekara Azhwar was an embodiment of humility and Bhakti – and would long to go to SriRangam. He would go to ‘Tirukkanapuram’ Lord Krishna’s sanctum, when the screen would be drawn, and not wishing to disturb the Lord, which, to him was Rama, about to sleep, he would sing a lullaby unto him. Thyagaraja sings a kirtan on Tirupati Balaji when a curtain is drawn in between him and the Lord – ‘thera theeyagarada…’ – Would you not draw off the curtain of hatred, dislike, prejudice and malice from my heart that separates you and me, Oh! Lord!
When Kulasekhara Azhwar goes to Tirupati, he wishes to be born as various different things – he sings the 10 pasurams on the Lord:
Ooneru selvaththu udarpiravi yaanvenden
aanerrezh vendraan adimaiththiramallal
kooneru sangamidaththaan than vengadaththu
koneri vaazhum kurugaai pirappene
He looks at his own well-built body with broad shoulders and daunting stature – but of what use is this if it is not put into the service of the Lord; I would rather be born as a stork that lives in the ‘Swami’ Pushkarani in Tirumala.
A stork would be very selective – wait wait in penance with one leg for the right fish to peck it. Thus he would for the Lord’s grace and partake of it. But then Azhwar thinks that the stork when young would wait in the pond, but when it grows wings, may tend to fly away from the holy land and thus says…
Aanaatha chelvatthu arampayargal tharchoozha
vaanaalum selvamum mannagaram yaan venden
thenaarpoonjolai th thiruvengada chunaiyil
meenaai pirakkum vidiyudaiyen aaveene
Let me be a fish instead. May the Bhagavata – stork consume me! I shall be craving for your grace forever just like the fish craves for water. But then, its is known that the fish gets spoilt because of its tongue (it gives up its life when one sticks out an angler with a worm, because of its weakness for taste). Azhwar thinks, ‘what if I forget Bhagavan for some worldly pleasure, just like the fish did?’. Also, I would lose the opportunity of ‘Tirumala Vaasam’ in summer when the water would dry up. Then Azhwar says…
Pinnitta sadaiyaanum piramanum indiranum
thunnittu pugalariya vaikuntha neelvaasal
Minvatta chudaraazhi vengadakkon thaanumizhum
ponvattil pidithudane pugapperuven aavene
I shall be born as the one holding the golden vessels in front of the Lord that are used in Puja. It is assumed that the Lord spits water from His mouth onto this vessel. And I shall be in front of the Lord all the time, enjoying His glorious beauty; I would be the first recipient of His glance in the morning – an opportunity that even Brahma and the Devas long for! That way, I shall receive your ‘ucchishtam’ always! Then Azhwar thinks and says…
onpavala velai ulavuthan paarkadalul
kanthuyilum maayon kazhalinaigal kaanbatharkku
panpagarum vandinangal panpaadum vengadaththu
chenbagamaai nirkkum thiruvudayen aavene
I shall become a beautiful ‘champaka’ flower in Tirupati – so that the Lord smells me all the time. The bees (Divine Bhagavatas that sing Govinda Nama always) will be my satsang! But then Azhwar thinks that he would remain with the Lord for a few minutes or hours, and then be discarded – to wilt away; or worse, some may decorate themselves wit h me instead of offering it to the Lord. So he says…
kamba madha yaanai kazhuthagathin melirindhu
inbamarum selvamum ivvarasum aadhariyen
Emperuman eesan ezhil venkata malai mel
thambagamaai nirkum thavamudayen aavene
May I be born as a dry thorny plant in a corner of Tiurpati – that way, no one cares for me whether I am fresh or dried up and there shall be no takers for me! But then, I may commit the ‘apachaara’ of pricking a Bhagavata who chants Govinda Nama! Or I may be burnt for fire or discarded because I am a pain to people! So Azhwar says,
Minnanaya nunnidaiyaar uruppasiyum menakaiyum
annavartham paadalodum aadalavi aadhariyen
thennavanena vandinangal panpaadum vengadathul
annanaya porkuvadaam arundhavathan aavene
I shall become the Tirupati mountain itself – that way – I shall bear all the Bhagavatas who would walk on me, and above all, I shall bear the Lord Himself! But Azhwar thinks that there may be those that wouldn’t step foot on me and have the Darshan of the Lord from down below and go away! And he would miss their kainkarya! So,
vaanaalum maamadhipol venkudaikeezh mannavartham
konaagi veetrirundhu kondaadum selvariyen
thenaar poonjolai thiruvengadamalai mel
kaanaaraai paayum karuthudaiyen aavene
I shall be a waterfall that rises from the top and flows downwards. I shall quench the thirst of the Bhagavatas – ‘ikshopasparsha kirtanah’ says Bhagavatam – I shall quench the thirst of the Bhagavatas by merely vision, touch and drinking. And moreover, I shall also be poured on the Lord! But severe summer may dry me up. So Azhwar says
pirayeru sadayaanum biramanum indiranum
muraiyaai peruvelvi kuraimudippaan maraiyaanaan
veriyaarthan solaith thiruvengadamalai mel
neriyaai kidakkum nilaiyudaiyen aavene
I shall be the mountain path that devotees take to ascend the mountain. Devotees shall step on me and I shall lead everyone to the Lord! But Azhwar thinks that this may not be appropriate either because great Mahatmas like Bhagavat Ramanuja would avoid even stepping on me by tying their feet! So Azhwar finally says:
Sediyaai valvinaigal theerkkum thirumaale
nediyaane vengadavaa ninkovilin vassal
adiyaarum vaanavarum arambayarum kidanthiyangum
padiyaai kidanthun pavalavaai kaanbene
I shall be the footstep at your door – A footstep full of life – that can enjoy the beauty of the Lord with his coral like lips, enjoy His compassion!
Even today, the entrance step to the Garba Graha is called ‘Kulasekhara Padi’ verily for this reason! Then Azhwar thinks that it is silly to have prayed for becoming all these things! All I need is ‘Tirupati Vaasa’ – who am I to decide what I should be born as. May He decide it for me!
Umbar ulagaandu orukudaikeezh uruppusithan
amporkalaiyalgul petralum aadhariyen
sembavala vaayaan thiruvengadamenum
Emperumaan ponmalayil yethenum aavene’
May I be born as anything as long as I be born in Tirupati!
Our Guru Maharaj sings about animate and inanimate objects that are fortunate to be in Tirupati:
‘Punyam aho punyam seshagiri vaasam
Bringa mruga pashu pakshi masya gaja ashwa turanga sthambaadiin namaamyaham
ganikaa paapi chandaala bhikshu maamsa madhu vikreetaadiin namaamyaham
tirtha rajo vaayu visha jantu krimishunakha pramukhaan namaamyaham
gantaa maththala veena beri dundhubhi murali pramukhaan namaamyaham’
Fortunate are those that are in Tirumala
Bees, deer, cows, birds, fishes, elephant, horses and even pillars, I do salute!
a prostitute, sinner, a beggar, one who sells meat and alcohol – in Tirupati, I do salute!
water, soil, air, the poisonous insects, bacteria – in Tirupati, I do salute!
the bell, mridangam, veena, drums, trumpets and flute in Tirupati – that offer service to the Lord, I do salute!
Such is the greatness of Tirupati.
The satsang ended with prayers and Mahamantra Kirtan.