The benefits of Paavai nonbu are expressed
in the 3rd & 4th verses of Thiruppavai.
(1) 3 spells of rainfall every month ('theengindri naadellaam, thingaL mummaari peidhu')
(2) A robust Water cycle that will take care of rainfall over a larger area for a longer duration – say, during the Rainy season.
The prayer for these two is enough for taking care of
all round prosperity of food, milk and wealth production.
Thinking of AndaaL as one whose mind was fixed on
praying for the Highest favor of attaining the Lord Himself,
these issues may look trivial or look out of place.
Has she given priority to rainfall and worldly riches than to a spiritual favor?
Why should AndaaL link her nOnbu with rainfall?
If we explore like this, we are in for many surprises and secrets
ingrained in the nOnbu and
more importantly the way the Lord Works –
as He has told Arjuna in the battlefield –
mE thrishU lOkEshu karthavyam kimchina na asthi,
avaapthavyam, anavaaptham cha na – karmaNi yEva varthE
'For me Arjuna, there is nothing in all these three worlds which ought to be done.
Nor is there anything un-acquired that ought to be acquired,
Yet I go on working' ( Gita 3-22)
'If I do not do work, these men would be lost.
And I will be causing chaos in life and thereby ruining all people'. (Gita 3- 24)
Therefore He continues to work non-stop
in the three worlds for which He is the protector.
The first step towards protection of the world is by His Chakra.
The visible form on Chakra is the Sun.
The sun continuously works so that the world lives on.
Surya Siddhantha records the movement of the sun
as the movement of Vishnu's feet around the earth.
The sun is fixed at a distance,
but the Lord keeps on moving around the earth
because the earth is Vishnu padam.
The first step is at Uttarayana.
The 2nd step is at vernal equinox – the Vishuvat.
After crossing the equinox,
the Lord's foot sweeps through Dakshinayana.
At Autumnal equinox, He places His 3rd step
which is personified as the step on Maha bali
(explained in the post on Kaarthigai deepam)
The foot further sweeps throughout the Dakshinyana,
only to come back to Uttarayana again.
Thus the feet of Vishnu are continuously moving around the earth.
Such a form of Vishnu which measures the worlds in steps
is that of Thrivikrama!
Praising that Thrivikrama (vOngi ulagaLantha uTThaman per paadi)
on how He works always,
AndaaL recalls the foremost benefit of such a work
which He does as personification of Chakra – the Sun.
That benefit is rainfall which is further augmented by the Shanku.
The Shanku is personified as the Moon.
The Shanku is got from the waters.
The moon is signifactor for waters.
It has been noted by sages
that moon's movement determines the rainfall.
The Chakra and Shanku, personified as the Sun and the Moon
are always going round the earth giving it sunshine and rainfall –
the two interconnected factors responsible for rainfall
thereby ensuring wealth and prosperity.
As if to remind us that
He is indeed with us always in the sun and the moon,
the Lord had taken birth Solar dynasty and in Lunar asterisms.
You want a role model for man?
The Lord showed it as Ravi-kula thilakan.
You want prosperity and riches,
He took birth in Rohini and Thiruvonam.
The lunar asterisms are special
as they cool the earth in the literal sense – by rainfall.
The monthly movement of the moon around us
ensures at least 3 spells of rain in a month.
Astrologically speaking, the major locations of the 3 spells are
(1) when the moon crosses the jala nadi – its own house of Cancer in the watery sign- from Aslesha and Maga
(2) when the moon crosses the point opposite to the jala naadi – in ThiruvOnam and Avittam
(3) when the moon moves in the last watery sign of Pisecs – in Poorva bhadrapada, Uttara bhadra pada and Revathy.
These are definite signs where moon's nature of coolness and wateriness are exemplified.
Apart from these, when the moon moves over Swathi, Rohini, and the 2 Aashaada (pooradam & Utthradam) stars, the heavens will open up to bless the world with rainfall.
One of these locations aided by Moon's presence in them
used to favor rainfall for at least 3 times in a month,
Like the Lord, his weapon, the shanku as the Moon keeps working non-stop.
His other weapon, the Chakra as the Sun
keeps heating up the waters poured at Moon's instance.
He, as dark clouds eat up the heated water and
shoot them down as though showering arrows from His bow, the Saarangam.
Such a busy person, a continuously working person, the Lord is,
that AndaaL has aptly recognized him as
Vamana (rakshanam through ayanas and seasons)
and Padmanabha (Shrusti – through waters)
in the 3rd and 4th pasurams respectively.
Here one may ask -
He is one who is giving without asking.
He is more caring for this world than you and me.
He will anyway do this work without expecting anything from us.
Then why should we do this paavai nOnbu and other austerities?
For this too, the Lord has given as answer in His Gita.
This world is sustained by Yajna.
There is mutual give and take between men and gods.
Give the devas their due and get from them the returns. (chapter 3, Gita).
So we can not remain quiet and say that the Lord will do.
We have to give something – we have to act.
Everything is cyclical.
Even Lord's walk around the world keeps shifting from
uttarayana to dakshinayana and dakshinayana to uttarayana.
If as told in 4th pasuram, Kannan as Aazhi (chakram or sun)
drinks waters of the oceans,
He pours them down eventually.
The water that comes down must go back to the oceans
so that He can again drink that water to continue the cycle.
On the way towards the ocean, water flows as rivers –
and the world draws its benefits from the rivers.
That is here the rivers become an integral part of prosperity.
The rivers are the reservoir for riches
as they not only ensure a good harvest but also good milk production –
happiness for animals, plant kingdom and human beings.
From ocean to clouds to rainfall, we, as human beings,
have no control over the events.
But once the rain pours down,
from that place to where the water gets back into the sea,
the river or any water body stands the risk of mis-handling and pollution.
This is here comes the role for us, the humans.
The water is Lord Himself
- as it is the life giver
- as it gives life to all entities of the world, it even nourishes the in-animate.
- as it benefits all people without any discrimination
- as it keeps moving all the time – like how the Lord is working all the time.
It must be recalled (from
that the paavai nOnbu was meant for a cool and damp world along with a shining sun.
The prayer was to the river – any river, for,
everywhere from Ganges to Yamuna to Narmada to Kaveri to Vaigai,
the men and women have offered their prayers to the river
in the month after the rainy season when the river is still gushing briskly –
reminding one of how the Lord also moves briskly from ayana to ayana
in addition to giving us rains promptly in time
and also month after month,
at three times a month.
From His Yoganidra, Narayana has told Brahma to worship the Ganges
in the early hours in the month of Maargazhi. (told in Skanda puranam ).
The Yoganidra indicates His continuing non-stop karma that He does as Yoga.
Not only the Ganges, all the other rivers of this land are carrying His bounty –
therefore they are all recognized as sacred as the Ganga.
As if to add to the sacredness, wherever the river moves,
the Lord spreads His serpent bed to help people to do their karma!
The Lord is doing His part well.
What about the people?
Are they doing their part well?
Our role is to nourish the devas so that they in turn nourish us.
The ways of nourishing the devas have been told by the sages
such as Kashyapa, Parashara, Vasishta and Garga
who have spelt what we must do
so that waters absorbed from the oceans are poured
at the right moment in right quantity.
Their wisdom has been recorded by Varahamihira in Brihad Samhita.
Varaha mihira says that this wisdom has been acquired by the Maharishis
by observing Nature and the way she works, for generations after generations and codified for the benefit of Humanity.
This knowledge was already forgotten in Varaha mihira's times.
But after him, it is totally neglected.
Let us see what this wisdom is about and how we fit in the scheme of things.
To understand this we must know some basics of how rainfall occurs.
I am not going to say what science has told.
This is something else – based on lunar cycle.
According to this wisdom,
rainfall at a place is connected to certain symptoms of the three worlds
and must have occurred 6 and a half Lunar cycles before.
The 3 worlds are
Prithvi – consisting of flora, fauna, men etc
Anthariksha – consisting of the atmosphere, vayu, clouds etc
and Dyaur loka – comprising the sun and the planets.
The symptoms of rainfall as found in these 3 lokas can be categorized as
terrestrial, atmospheric and heavenly symptoms.
When symptoms at all these 3 levels are noticed,
it is said that the conception or pregnancy of rainfall happens on that day.
It will be delivered as rainfall after 195 days.
If all the 3 levels of symptoms occur, there will be very good rainfall.
If one or two of them are present, the rainfall will be less to that extent.
But to have a good rainy season,
the symptoms must happen at all the 3 worlds
and for many days.
When the symptoms are there for 4 months,
then the rainy season will be too bountiful stretching for full 4 months.
The information of interest to us is that
should the rainy season start in time in the lunar month of Aashada,
the pregnancy symptoms or Garbottam must occur in Maargazhi!
It is in this context the Maargazhi nOnbu attains significance
for bestowing good rainfall as the foremost benefit!
Conception of rainfall.
The conception of rains or fetus formation or garbOttam starts
after the rainy season is over.
The time of conception begins on the day of Full moon in the month of Maargazhi.
The conception that happens in the Krishna paksha of Maargazhi
(lunar month of Maargashira)
will fall as rainfall - in the Shukla paksha of Aashaada.
The conception that happens in the Shukla paksha of Pushya,
will fall as rains in the Krishna paksha of Aashaada.
This continues in alternating paksha after 6 and a half lunar months
Similarly if the conception happens at the day time,
the rainfall will happen at night time after 195 days and
if the conception happens at the night time,
the rainfall will happen at the day time after 195 days.
The conception must be aided at all the three levels (lokas).
At the heavenly level, there must be benefic combination of planets.
The first day of conception itself is a beneficial combination
of the Full moon of Maargazhi.
As told in the Paripaadal verse 11,
when the sun is in Pooradam and the moon is in Arudra
on the day of Full moon in Margazhi,
the vedks begin their austerities by growing Agni.
There are combinations of planets that must be present during these conception months.
One such combination is the simultaneous rise and setting of planets.
That was recorded by AndaaL as "veLLi yezhundhu, vyaazham urangittru"
The planets must be in friendly signs and in benefic combinations.
The moon and the stars must shine brightly in the month of Maargazhi.
The atmospheric signs include a silverish or whitish pre-dawn or
the pre-dawn of the color of Tamala flower.
The 'keezh vaanam veLLendru' as described by AndaaL is a favorable sign of conception in that crucial month.
The pre-dawn must not be reddish.
But such reddish pre-dawn is a pregnancy symptom in the month of Thai (pushya)
The wind must be cool, breezy and delightful in Maargazhi mornings,
whereas it must be strong in Maasi and rough and violent in Panguni.
The clouds must be razor thin and smooth in Maargazhi.
But as the day progresses, the clouds must take the shape of aquatic animals
and look bulky.
Like this, the atmospheric symptoms are noted.
Now, about the crucial terrestrial symptoms.
This includes the human beings also.
The pleasant cries of birds as described by AndaaL
are sure symptoms of conception at that time.
The sound of cattle and children are also terrestrial symptoms.
In this connection, the happy screams of playing girls
is also recorded as a good symptom of fetus formation in Maargazhi
according to sages.
It is because
the pre-dawn of Maargazhi must be heated up –
not by agni / fire
but by sounds, rustlings, movements etc.
Who will be ready to go out in cold mornings?
that too the girls who can be seen making shrill sounds and happy screams.
Allow them to play in water,
Allow them to play their favorite game of playing with dolls,
Allow them to beat their small drums loudly,
Allow them a freedom in all these.
They will certainly wake up and go to the river even before the dawn breaks.
That is what happens in Paavai nOnbu.
From the accounts in sangam texts
we know that the girls-play was an important component of the nOnbu.
They were not mature enough to understand the religious aspect of it.
They were only habituated to performing that nOnbu every year
until they grew old enough to transform it into prayers for a good husband
and a happy married life.
But the way they moved by beating the parai,
playing in the wet sand by doing 'paavai - vilaiyaattu',
taking bath in the ice-cold water of the river with screams and shouts,
as the chill water touched them
(that is why AndaaL told "kuLLa kuLira kudaidhu neeraadadhE"
because they had take elaborate bath in the river)
were all activities aimed at warming the pre-dawn atmosphere of Maargazhi.
The nOnbu had the Vediks setting up the homa fire on the banks of the river.
Actually Maargazhi was not the time for yajnas.
But how to make the air warm?
The mandatory agni sacrifices were hence
done on the banks of the river.
It is said in Paripaadal that the river receives the warmth from the Havis
and also warmth released by the wet cloths of the girls
who circumambulated the homa kunda after the bath.
The process of GarbOttam is set in motion in this way,
at the pre dawn times in the cold month of Maargazhi
with men, women, and youngsters coming out and warming up the atmosphere
The Maargazhi bhajans and
early morning decoration of the house-fronts with Kolams
are contributing to the warming up of a time that is crucial for
ushering in the rainy season after 195 days.
If the 3 levels of symptoms are normal beginning
the Full moon of maargazhi (krishnapaksha of Margashira),
then it would be reflected in the shula paksha of Ashaada.
The nature of the up coming rainy season and the accompanying prosperity
must be observed after the shukla paksha ashtami in the lunar month of Aashaada.
It is about the Lord's Shanku, the moon doing its pre-ordained duty.
When the moon enters Swathi in shukla paksha Ashaada, it must rain.
It will rain if the conception symptoms had happened on the Krishna paksha navami of Maargashira (in Thiruppavai it was on the day of 'Thoomani' paasuram)
The day of swathi as told above will be divided into 3 parts in the day time
and 3 parts in the night time.
(a daytime is from sunrise to sunset and reverse for night-time)
This day is a benchmark day.
Each part as told above is known as 'prahara'.
If it rains in the 1st prahara in the night –
then there will be abundant growth of all grains in the summer season.
If it rains in the 2nd prahara in the night –
growth of gingers, green grams and black grams in the summer.
If it rains in the 3rd prahara in the night –
abundant growth of paddy in the summer.
For the 3 praharas in the day time,
the same holds good in the reverse order
but they will happen in autumn season.
So the moon in swathi in Aaahada will be watched for rains.
This period corresponds to the Krishna paksha of Maargazhi
when the Nonbu began in AndaaL's times!
The particular pasuram on the 9th day is a bit harsh on her friends in waking them up.
AndaaL does not even bother about indicting the mothers too in this pasuram.
Why should she step up the pressure with such harshness?
It is because this day corresponds to the day of Swathi in Shukla paksha Aashada
which determines the nature of next season.
The crucial day of krishna paksha navami of Maargazhi is nearing.
If they do their duty in the last prahara of the night (which is pre-dawn )
there will certainly be rains in the 1st prahara of night on Shukla paksha navami
in Aashada which will ensure growth of all crops.
Come on, quick, wake up.
We have to go to the river, make paavai, play paavai vilayattu
and bath in river.
This seems to be the urge of AndaaL which is reflected
in the first half of Thiruppavai coinciding with the Krishna paksha of Maargazhi.
In the second half, it is totally spiritual.
There is no need rush to the river (though they have to have the ritual till Thai and after)
because the basic requirement has been taken care of.
Because if the conception has happened properly in Krishna paksha of Maargazhi,
then the rainy season will open with a bang after Shukla paksha navami in Aashada.
Varaha mihira gives utmost importance to this month, as told by sages.
On the full moon of Aashada, certain quantities of all grains will be weighed
after a prayer to Goddesses Saraswathy,
who is praised for her 'satya vaakku'.
Then again the grains will be weighed.
The grains that have gained weight in the second weighing
will be declared as those giving a surplus in the season.
The Satya vaakuu of Saraswathy shows that.
This knowledge of rains is common knowledge in those days.
The people in those days had immense
spiritual and mind power to connect with God.
They knew and followed the dictum by Maharishis
and discharged their duties as required.
In such a scenario, the atmosphere also was helpful.
The planets were helpful.
If we look at the planetary map given in the 11 th verse of Paripaadal
we will see that the rainy season ushered in just before Krishna paksha Aashada .
This coincides with Bhogi festival that occurred 195 days prior to that!
By the time of Bhogi, Shukla paksha Pushya will be nearing its end.
Foggy morning is an important symptom then.
The smoke and fire of Bhogi accompanied with the drum-beat (of parai)
had been a strong symptom to result in the start of the rainy season
at that time the verse was composed.
It means that the people have done their part well,
as how their Lord does His part well.
The nOnbu on the banks of the river works on the scientific concept
that works on Amazon or Congo river forests.
The kind of water evaporation happening in damp forests
attract more rains in those places.
In the same way, the evaporation happening in the river banks
aided by terrestrial factors (in the form of nOnbu)
attract more rains and waters in the rivers.
The 3 spells in a month is aided in this way.
Added to it is the mind and spiritual thoughts of the people
for the good flow of the river.
The people nurture the river, the river in turn nurtures them
-the case of mutual help between men and devas as told by the Lord.
The rivers work non-stop like how the Lord works.
The rivers carry the bounty of the Lord who shot the rains from His Saarangam.
The rivers are His abode.
The two prayers of the Nonbu as told in Paripaadal reminds Him only.
The dampness that is prayed during the nOnbu
reminds us of the one in VeLLam and
the prayer for the Sun shining well but not spreading its heat
reminds us of the one in Venkatam.
The river at once reminds the environs of Srirangam and Thiruvenkatam.
All feet are to these two places.
particularly to Srirangam – so that the conception takes place for Universal good.
All the life lines of Tamils were nourished in Maargazhi.
Go to Kaveri or Vaigai, the Lord is waiting nearby to bless us.
When this Nature-bound austerity is done,
Kaveri and Vaigai swell throughout their stretch.
They not only complete the water cycle – of going back to the sea
but also fulfill the ThiruvuLLam of Lord in enriching the lands.
Today we may think, that we have lost this tradition of paavai nOnbu.
No, I don't think we have lost / we are lost
There are no flowing rivers.
It is not possible to send our kids alone outside.
But the Lord is not someone to leave us in the lurch.
With changing times, he re-invents and rejuvenates something for us.
The avatar of AndaaL is a mile stone in re-writing tradition.
The Bhoo-matha has given us the Thiruppavai.
The pre-dawn heating is done these days
by the loud goshti gaanam of Thiruppavai.
The visit to the river is replaced by visit to the temple.
The more the asthiks stick to reciting Thiruppavai
as a big gathering, at every temple
or go round the streets by performing bhajans,
the better are the chances of a good rainy season
AndaaL's prediction will come true –
she said there will be rains if they take up 'Nam-paavai neeraattu'.
In our times, there will be (are) rains, if we take up
As a conclusion, let me re-produce the wonderful description
of Lord in continuous action.
This is the 3rd verse in Paripaadal on Thirumaal,
Written by Kaduvan ILa veyinanaar,
on how He works with one hand,
2 hands, 3 hands, 4 hands, 5 hands,
6 hands, 7 hands, 8 hands, 9 hands, 10 hands,
100 hands, 1000 hands, 10,000 hands,
100,000 hands and
up to the non-countable number of 'Aambal' hands!
"கூந்தல் என்னும் பெயரொடு கூந்தல்
எரி சினம் கொன்றோய்! நின் புகழ் உருவின, கை;
நகை அச்சாக நல் அமிர்து கலந்த
நடுவுநிலை திறம்பிய நயம் இல் ஒரூ கை,
இரூ கை மாஅல் ! 35
முக் கை முனிவ! நாற் கை அண்ணல்!
ஐங் கைம் மைந்த! அறு கை நெடு வேள்!
எழு கையாள! எண் கை ஏந்தல்!
ஒன்பதிற்றுத் தடக் கை மன் பேராள!
பதிற்றுக் கை மதவலி! நூற்றுக் கை ஆற்றல்! 40
ஆயிரம் விரித்த கைம் மாய மள்ள!
பதினாயிரம் கை முதுமொழி முதல்வ!
நூறாயிரம் கை ஆறு அறி கடவுள்!
அனைத்தும் அல்ல பல அடுக்கல் ஆம்பல்
இனைத்து என எண் வரம்பு அறியா யாக்கையை! 45