One can see a divine design in the way aazhwars' avataras had been
effected and the way they have sung the prabandhams.
The songs of the first 3 Mudal aazhwars are all in traditional forms
of poetry namely in VeNbaa.
The aazhwars have started their verses in the traditional way of
lighting Thiru villakku as is done before starting any worship or
Vilakku means `edu vilanga-ch-chaigiradO adu vilakku'. By
lighting the lamp, the aazhwars have removed the darkness or tamas.
The first verse of the Mudal Thiruvandaadhi, " vaiyam thagaliya..'
is about lighting the vilakku at the physical level with the world as
the lamp, the oceans as the ghee and the Sun as the light.
science considers the entire world as a single cell, in that whatever
happens in one part of the land affects the other parts too.
wind movements, monsoons, hurricanes are all only but a few examples
of global phenomenon.
Poigaiyaar had considered the earth as one unit
even in those times itself and lit the lamp for the entire human
The second Thiruvandhaadhi begins with lighting the ViLakku at the
mental level. (anbE thagaLiyaa).
With this, the entire body of Bhagavan comes to be seen in the Third
Thiruvandhaadhi in Thiru-k-kandEn, pon mEni kanden..
Thereafter the other aazhwars have taken up the task of revealing
Bhagavan in various ways for the benefit of mankind.
And the poetry forms they have employed also shows
how wonderfully they have been able to convey their message in ways
that can not be easily ignored or forgotten.
Almost all of them are in Prabhandam form with suitable
types of sound enjoyment (rhythm) that can be easily memorized and
Not to miss is the bhava and the emotion conveyed by them
by their choice of specific poetry forms.
Before proceeding, lets us know some basic grammar to understand the
Each letter is known as `yezhutthu' in tamil.
2 letters together are known as `asai'.
The asai, coming singly or in two or in three together is known
as `sIr'. It is nothing but the `word'.
It is this term sIr that one often finds in the poetry type of the
In Prabandham we find iru sIr (2 words), aru-sIr (6 words), ezhu-sIr
(7 words) or eN sIr (8 words) in each line.
Now about the poetry type. The poetry type is mostly a blend
of `Viruttham' and `kali'.
Viruttha-p-paa is known for its vOsai nayam (rhythm). So also, kali
and aasiriya-p-paa. We often find the blend of Viruttham with kali
and aasiriyam in AruLi-ch-cheyal giving different sound effects.
The basis of this is in placing `mellina mei' suitably in between 2
vallinam (ka, cha, ta, tha, pa, ra). This combination can be made in
countless ways and a beautiful stress can be attained on the
otherwise soft mellinam. The Viruttha-p-paa gives plenty of these
combinations. Kali viruttham is even more effective in bringing out
the sound variation effectively.
To understand this, let us take up 2 verses from SenniyOngu pasurams.
(Periaazhwar Thirumozhi). This is kali viruttham.
The 3rd verse `emmanaa en kula deivamE' is full of such placing of mellina
mei in between 2 vallinams or others.
The bhava effect and sound
effect in this is different from the very next verse "kadal kadaindu
amudam kondu" which is dominated by vallinams with much less of
While the former exudes pathos, the latter excels
in `seppudal' (utterance).
The poetry forms
Now let’s see the poetry types of starting from Thiruppallaandu
( in the order as found in Mayilai Madahava dasan edition).
(1) Thiruppallaandu. –
aru sIr aasiriya
You will find 6 words (sIr) of 4 lines (may be split up in different
The aasiriyam ensures the `agavalOsai' which is like calling someone
or in the note of a peacock.
(2) Periaazhwar Thirumozhi.
A variety of
forms have been
employed. The popular one being Pillai-th-thamizh, about different
stages in the life of a child (pillai).
>In kali viruttham, one can find 4 words of 4 lines
Ø In kali-th-thaazhisai (seeda-k-kadal), there is addition of
extra lines due to use of thaazhisai. The effect is that of a `neer-
ch-chuzhi' (swirl) in thaazhisai as per grammar sutras
Ø Likewise in other forms of kali viruttham, you can find
differences in the number of words per line.
Ø In aru sIr aasiriya viruttham, 6 words per lines are used and
in eN sIr aasiriya viryttham, 8 words per line are used. The grammar
type such as aasiriyam depends on the other angas of Yaappu as per
(3) Thiruppavai –
Iyal tharavu iNai
Tharavu is the first part of kali-p-paa. There are many varieties by
which the taravu is applied in a poem. By the name of it, I guess
that it is about the first two taravu (taravu iNAi) blending
naturally (iyal – iyalbaaga).
We find that the first 2 taravus (words) of each line go together.
That is, the words are blended in such a way that one of them
conveys something of the other, either as adjective or adverb. They
are best interpreted as one.
This is understood from the way that the verses are paused at the
next or previous line while reciting.
In the 3rd verse, Vongi ulagu, we make a pause at seertha mulai
pattri vaanga and not at the end of 4th sIr, seertha mulai pattri.
Because only then the next verse `kudam –niraikkum' completes the
grammar `iyal taravu iNai.'
It should not be vaanga –k-kudam which is not a double taravu as per
the grammar of Thituppavai. It should be `kudam-niraikkum'.
Some other places where we recite the taravu (from previous line)
`nammaal pOttra' (not narayanan nammaal and then pOttra-p-parai
`pandoru naaL koottram' (not puniyanaal pandorunaaL)
`matthinaal vOsai-p-paduttha' (we should not stop at matthinaal along
with the previous line)
(4) Naachchiyaar Thirumozhi –
The now familiar types of poetry forms are found in this
composition. The basic form is Kali Viruttham with beautiful rhythmic
effect. The kOchchgam is also a kind of Kali-p-paa which has some
blends in sIr. There is another prabhandam type blended here, which I
will quote while taking up Madal. The Thoodhu vidudal (sending clouds
as messenger) is also a famous type of prabandham
There are not just 2 but 3 types of sound- based poetry forms blended
into one, the chandam, kali and viruttham. There is a beautiful blend
of all the three as per meanings of the verses. The chandam is based
on yedugai, the 2nd letter in the first word of every line. The
language itself is rhythmic in this combination.
My favourites, `voonin mEya' and `atthannagi' which I consider as the
essence of all Vedanta are more chandam based than the other two
types. There is that forceful declaration by using more of vallinam
in the former and a `kuzhaivu' by using more of mellina mei in the
latter one (above quoted)
(6) Thirumaalai –
aru sIr aasiruya viruttham.
6 words in each line with aasiriya—p-paa grammar and viruttham.
(7) Thiru-p-paLLiyezhuchchi –
eN sIr aasiriya
8 words in each line with aasiriyam and viruttham.
(8) Amalanadhi piraan –
Usually, thurai is the sub-set of the main one (like the banks of the
river forming the subset of the river. Thurai means bank –like in
Here the main poetry form is aasiriya-p-paa. The traditional form of
it will have 4 words in all lines except the penultimate line which
will have one less. (That is, 3 words). The minimum number of lines
will be 5. Maximum any number.
In this prabandham, the grammar is that of aasiriya-p-paa.
All lines have 5 words (since it is thurai)
The penultimate line has lesser words than the other lines.
The last one `kondal vannan' is kali viruttham having 4 words in 4
(9) KaNNi nuN sirutthaambu –
(10) Peria Thirumozhi –
Various types of
kali, aasiriyam, viruttham
with 6 or 7 or 8 words are used.
One can understand the types by the sIr used and its number.
>In `vaanavar thangaL' , thurai of aasiriyam is used which
can be determined by the
number of words in each line and the way they are repeated.
Ø In `VaNduNu naru malar' vanji viruttham is used.
As per Yaaparumkalam sutram, there are 4 lines of sindhu-p-paa
(another variety of prabandham) joined with viruttham of 4 words each line.
( 11) Thiru-k-kurum thaandagam.
Thaandagam is a type of prabandham and this one is a shorter version
(kurugiya) of it having 6 words of 4 lines. The specialty of this
type is that the lines look similar. The rhyme is distinct which can
be experienced while reciting. The paadu-pOruL (the Hero, in other
words) is always some God. In contrast the other prabandhams may have
any valiant person, a king or God as the theme of the composition.
(12) Thiru nedum
Same as Thiru-k-kurum thaandagam. Only that the words are more per
line. It is 8. Usually, Thaadagam comes only in 6 or 8 sIr per line.
(13) Mudal Thiru andhaadi.
Nerisai Venbaa with andhaadi adi.
This veNbaa type has 4 lines of 4 words in the first 3 lines and 3
lines in the last line. The first words of the first two lines have
similarity in rhyme (yedugai) followed by the 4th sIr of the 2nd
line having the same yedugai which blends with the 3rd line. There
will be a ‘–’ in the 2nd line showing the split. The last 2 lines go
together in yedugai. There are grammar rules to determine how the
last sIr of the poem must end.
This type is also an andhaadhi, a prabandham type. The first 3
Thiruvandhaadis are a blend of traditional veNbaa and prabandham
Andaadhi is that in which the andam of the previous verse, becomes
the aadhi of the next verse. That is, the last word of the previous
verse becomes the first word of the next verse.
Same as the previous one.
(15) Moondraam Thiruvandaadhi
Same as previous one.
(16) Naan mugan Thiruvandaadhi
Same as previous one.
(17) Thiru viruttham
type is kattalai kali-th-thurai
The viruttham ensures rhyme. But this is one of the difficult ones to
compose going by the grammar used. There are rules in using the other
angas of poetry such as thaLai and the kind of sIr (nEr 16 and nirai 17 ).
The last word also must be of specific sIr type. This comes
under a category, Iyal paa, meaning strictly adhering to traditional
(18) Thiru aasiriyam
This is also an iyal paa, composed in a traditional type, aasiriyappa
with 4 words in all lines except the penultimate line where it will
(19) Peria Thiruvandaadhi.
and andaadhi together. Same as Mudalaazhwars' pasurams.
koottrirukkai.(Thiru yezhu koottru irukkai)
This is in aasiriyappa form with a beautiful build-up of verses. The
words indicate a ThEr thattu (temple car) in successive layers.
That is, it begins with words meaning 1,2,1
upto 7 (yezhu koottru)
The last layer will be 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,6,5,4,3,2,1.
(21) Siriya Thiru madal.
I am too excited to write about madal. I think Bhagavan too would
have been excited to listen to Thirumangai aazhwar sing this. A
daring poetry fittingly given by a daring person with whom bhagavan
too enjoyed His leela. It is perhaps to enjoy the madal that bhagavan
chose none other than our Kaliyan who was so vociferous in expressing
his feelings and emotions.
originally known as MadalEral or Madaloordal in Tamil.
Madal is the palm leaf and the dried twigs of the palm leaf (panai
The scenario always involves a nayaka and a nayaki (thalaivan and
thalaivi). The two are in love and there are obstructions to
consummate their love into marriage. In another scenario, the nayaka
is in love, but the nayaki is not serious about his love.
In any of these circumstances,
the nayaka takes the extreme step of madaloordal.
In this, he
paints the picture of his lady-love on a palm leaf, makes
a horse out of the dried palm leaves, takes the picture and looks at
it as though nothing else matters and sits on this madal horse and
moves around in that (oordal) like a mad person.
He would not care what people think about him, nor would he bother about the
looks he has developed due to lack of care of his body. Such a person
would even roam like this with no clothes on.
The sharp edges of the palm leaf would hurt him. If by such hurt, his vital fluid is
released, people would think that his love is indeed supreme and see to it that he marries his lady-love.
If the obstacle to his love is from the nayaki herself, she would relent.
But instead, if blood seeps out due to the scratches by palm leaf, people would not
consider his as true love.
instances when the nayaka would blackmail the nayaki that
he would mount the madal if she refuses him. If he mounts the madal,
every one in the town would come to know of the affair and the tiff
between them and it won’t be a pleasant one for the nayaki. So, she
A similar threat
is sounded by Andal in the first pasuram of
Naachchyaar Thirumozhi when she takes refuge in Ananga devan. This is
an indirect warning to PerumaaL that he must come immediately to
aazhwar excels in flinging such `ultimatums' to PerumaL
in his two madals. The entire composition is fast-paced showing his
‘aattraamai’ and anger that Bhagavan has not yet taken him with Him. If
recited with bhava after knowing the meaning, I am sure the madals
are a great experience.
This is termed as siriya Thirumadal going by its size. The entire
composition is in single kali veNbaa with no full stop in between!
(22) Peria Thirumadal.
This is same as the previous one, only that it is lengthier than it.
Usually a madal is mounted by the man. Women don't mount it. But
aazhwar makes a deviation from the established norms and takes up
nayaki bhava in madaloordal. "mannum vada neriyE vEndinOm" meaning
that though this is not in vogue in Tamil culture, he has taken up
the way of Northies.
All types discussed above have been handled by aazhwar with most of
them also of andaadhi type.
Even madaloordal has been done by Nammaazhwar.
In 2-1-4, (kadalum, malaiyum, visumbum.) he expresses the nature of
the one mounting the madal in always moving around without sleep
catching the `vudalam nOi'
The vanji-th-thurai of `veedumin' (1-2) and `vodum puLLEri' (1-8) are
another special form of poem. In this there are 2 words of 4 lines
which speak about a specific notion. They are usually written in
kuraLAdi, two lines like kuraL.
Ramanuja Noottrandaadhi is in the difficult kattaLai kali-th-thurai,
like Thiru viruttham.
How the 4000 are calculated.
per Tamil grammar, Siriya Thirumadal and Peria thirumadal
are considered as single Kali veNbha each and as such
the total pasuams are 3774 + 2 = 3776.
This is what is followed in most of the publications.
But there 3 ways by which the 4000 is arrived at.
By one method, each ‘kaNNi’ of the 2 Thiru madal are taken as each pasuram,
thereby arriving at 77-1/2 + 148-1/2 = 226.
Then the total will be 3774 + 226 = 4000
To substantiate this, the Vaazhi –thiru-naama cheyyuL is quoted which says,
“Elangezhu kootrirukkai iru madal eendhaan vaazhiyE;
im-moondril iru-nootru-irupatthEzhu eendhaan vaazhiyE”
By another method, the pasurams in Siriya Thirumadal are calculated as 40
and in Peria Thirumadal as 78 and by adding Iramanusa Nootrandhaadhi,
it is calculated 3774 + 40+ 78+ 108 = 4000
This is based on Sri Vedantha Desikar’s verses,
“siriya madal paatu muppatthu ettu irandum (38+2)
sir peria madalaranil yezhupatthettum (78)”
“mutthi tharum yadiraasar ponnadikkE, mozhinda amutha nal paadal noorum ettum”
By yet another method, it is said that
since it is customary to consider the 947 of the mudalaayiram as a 1000,
and 1137 as 2000 (irandaayiram),
it is also acceptable to say 3776 as 4000.