5 thoughts on “Panchajanyam Issue 151 Dec 2011”

  1. On page 41 while discussing the identity of nappinnai, there is a remark which says in Thamizh, “it is obvious that when ANDAL addresses ‘mAman magaLE’ it refers to nappinnai”.

    I am not an expert in vaishnavite relition or literature but from my understanding of tiruppAvai this is what I gather:
    In pAsurams 1to 5 ANDAL describes the rules of austerity (nOnbu) and preparation for the worship.
    In pAsurams 6 through 15, ANDAL and her friends go around the village waking up fellow gOpis.
    In pAsuram #16 they arrive at nandagopan’s house.
    In pAsurams 17, nandagopan, yasodha, and Balaraman are awakened.
    pAsuram 18: Nappinnai is requested to wake up and open the door.
    19: Krishna is requested to wake up and nappinnai is asked to let Krishna go
    20. Both nappinnai and Krishna are implored to wake up
    21:Krishna was asked again to wake up.
    22-23:Request for audience with Krishna
    24. Praising Krishna
    25-27. Request to Krishna to grant them favors.
    28. The connection between gOpis and Krishna as cowherding communityis emphasized.
    29. Purpose for the visit is explained.
    30. phalastuti is mentioned.

    So nappinnai is mentioned only in pAsurams 18-20. The expression “mAman magaLE” appears in pAsuram #9 only where a slumbering gopi is prodded to wake up. nappinnai is not an ordinary gopi. She is awakened with respect due to the consort of Krishna. In #9 the gopi perhaps a mAman magal for a visiting gopi is excoriated as whether she is mute, deaf and a slothful girl. So “mAman magaLE” in pAsuram #9 does not address nappinnai.

    nappinnai is addressed only as Krishna’s spouse in tiruppAvai.

    The relationship of nappinnai as Krishna’s mAman magaL is described only by later authors and not by ANDAL.

    Discussion is welcome.

  2. Even in SilappadikAram nappinnai is mentioned as “pinjai” belonging to the cowtending community on the banks of the river Vaigai. No relationship to Krishna is mentioned (as mAman magaL). Without mentioning whether she is the spouse of Krishna, there is an indirect mention (in SilappadikAram) as to how Krishna was enamored of her. SilappadikAram was written 6 centuries before tiruppAvai. In these two works there is no mention of “mAman magaL” relationship between nappinnai and Krishna while both indicate a possible spousal relationshp. Another point worth remembering is that Krishna wa a pre-teen while living in Gokulam. How could he have had a spouse at that age is something nobody explains properly. Resorting to an explanation that Krishna being an avatAr and that chronological age does not matter for indulging in activities beyond one’s human age does not wash.

    Later authors started letting their imagination take wings and wrote about “ERu tazhuvudhal” etc.

  3. I wrote 3 articles on Nappinnai in Chennaionline ezine in 2006. Let me reproduce them here.

    Nappinnai – The mystery character
    Part 1— nappinnai in tiruppAvai hymns

    It is the month of mArgazhi and the early morning air is shrouded with fog which condenses as dew on the leaves and flowers in the garden. It is also very cold and those in bed are reluctant to get up but tuck themselves inside their sheets and enjoy a few more winks of sleep. Others venture out to visit the temple after taking a cold shower or a bath in the cold waters of the local river or temple tank. The tiruppAvai tiruppaLLiyezhucci, and tiruvembAvai songs broadcast from various temples pervade the chill air. Ah, tiruppAvai – the divine songs composed by Sri ANDAL! Let us examine the context where nappinnai is mentioned in the hymns.

    The very first reference comes up in hymn #18 in tiruppAvai. Sri ANDAL and her associates woke up nandagOpAlan, and balarAman. However, they have trouble waking up Krishna. They suddenly realise that the crucial thing to do is to wake up nappinnai first and then coax her to wake up Krishna.

    Hymn 18 goes as follows:

    undu madakaLiRRan ODAda tOLvaliyan
    nandagO pAlan marumagaLE nappinnAy
    gandam kamazhum kuzhalI! kaDaitiravAy;
    vandengum kOzhi azhaittana kAN; mAdavip
    pandalmEl palkAl kuyilinangaL kUvinakAN
    pandAr virali! unmaittunan pErpADac
    cendA maraikkaiyAl sIrAr vaLaiyolippa
    vandu tiravAy magizhndElOr empAvAy.

    This pAsuram wakes up nappinnai (wife/consort of) Krishna. Sri ANDAL personally wakes up nappinnai. She refers to her as *marumagaL* of nandagOpAlan (the foster father of Krishna). Sri ANDAL asks nappinnai to open the door telling her that the day has dawned and all the birds are at work already. She also refers to Krishna as nappinnai’s *maittunan*. MarumagaL can mean either daughter-in-law or niece. Maittunan in this context refers, by inference, to husband. We will discuss the implications of these asterisked words later. She tells nappinnai that she and other maidens have come ready to sing the praise of Krishna and wants an audience with Krishna.

    Hymn #18 has a special significance to VaishNavaites and is sung twice in sequence in order to honor Ramanujar. In Vaishnavaite religious lore it is told that when Ramanujar went singing this hymn to the door of his guru, Periya nambi, the guru’s daughter (attuzhAi – Thamizh name for tuLasi) opened the door with bangles jingling in her forearms (*vaLai olippa* as in the hymn) to offer alms. Upon seeing the daughter Ramanujar prostrated before the girl thinking it was actually nappinnai who opened the door. Nappinnai is held in great esteem by several AzhwArs.

    In hymn #19 we see a persistent follow-up of the appeal made to nappinnai in hymn #18. There was no response from the couple to the request made to nappinnai to open the door. Hence a joint appeal is made to both Krishna and nappinnai. The verse goes as:

    kuttu viLakkeriyak koTTukkAl kaTTilmEl
    mettenRa panjca sayanattin mElERik
    kottalar pUnguzhal nappinnai kongaimEl
    vaittuk kiDanda malarmArbA! vAytiRavAy
    maittaDang kaNNinAy! nI un maNALanai
    ettanai pOdum tuyilezha oTTAikAN
    ettanaiyElum pirivARRa killAyAl
    tattuvamanRu takavElO rempAvAy

    Krishna is lying on an ivory-legged bed containing a soft mattress on the bosom of nappinnai while the tall oil lamp is still lit brightly. Sri ANDAL is first appealing to Krishna to get up and speak to her. Not getting a response from him, she reverts to nappinnai again and tells her that it is not fair that she keeps the Lord to herself away from his devotees. The gOpis and Sri ANDAL are hitting a stonewall. Persistent appeals are ignored. But they don’t lose heart. They are showering more praise on Krishna and nappinnai in order to let her husband wake up, get up, and give an audience to those assembled outside.

    The hymn # 20 goes as:

    muppattu mUvar amararkku munsenRu
    kappam tavirkkum kaliyE! tuyilezhAy
    seppa muDaiyAy! tiRaluDaiyAy! seRRArkku
    veppam koDukkum vimaA! tuyilezhAy
    ceppanna memmulaic cevvAyc ciRumarungul
    nappinnai nangAy! tiruvE! tuyilezhAy
    ukkamum taTToLiyum tandun maNALanai
    ippodE emmainI rATTElO rempAvAy.

    Now Sri ANDAL and her cohorts are mounting the pressure on nappinnai and Krishna through positive tactics. They sing the praise of Krishna as the one who saved all the celestials from their misery and who is a terror for the enemies. When it comes to nappinnai Sri ANDAL lavishes praise on nappinnai’s beauty such as her lovely breasts resembling golden pots, ruby red lips, and thin waistline. In addition, nappinnai is also called *tiru* which is reserved normally for Lakshmi. Again Krishna is referred to as nappinnai’s husband (maNALan). The gOpis want a mirror (actually a polished plate), and hand fan to perform the rituals and Krishna to accompany them so that they can take their holy dip in the river together.

    Finally, we are told, nappinnai relents and opens the door and tells the gOpis that she is actually one amongst them. She was waiting for an opportunity to advocate the cause of the gOpis to Krishna. She demonstrates camaraderie with the gOpis and eulogises the Lord.

    Out of the 30 verses in tiruppAvai, nappinnai is mentioned in only 3 of them. In all the three she is addressed as the consort of Krishna and the implication is that to reach the Lord one has to proceed through nappinnai since she is considered the gatekeeper. There is no indication here that positively identifies nappinnai as Lakshmi or Radha or anybody else by a specific name. The words *marumagaL* and *maNALan* are just a few indicators of her status in the Krishna household. Let us examine some more literary examples to explore the identity of nappinnai in the next article.

    Sethuraman Subramanian
    Published on Jan 4th, 2006

  4. Nappinnai – The mystery character

    Part 2— nappinnai in divya prabhandam and silappadikAram

    It appears that Sri ANDAL was aware of the presence of nappinnai in Krishna’s household in gOkulam from the Thamizh epic poetry silappadikAram which was written around 2nd century CE. Sri ANDAL also wrote nAcciyAr tirumozhi, a collection of 143 verses which form part of nAlAyira divya prabhandam (4000 pAsurams or verses) which is a collective corpus of the hymns of the AzhwArs who lived in the 5th through 8th centuries CE.

    References to nappinnai are widely scattered in many pAsurams of divya prabhandam. Let us look at a few of these. For example, when PeriAzhwAr refers to Krishna’s childhood, he writes,

    pinnai maNALanaip pEril kiDandAnai
    munnai yamarar mudaltani vittinai
    ennaiyum engaL kuDimuzhudum ATkoNDa
    mannanai vandu kuzhal vArAy…….
    (PeriAzhwAr tirumozhi, pAsuram #162)

    This appeal to a crow to come and help comb the hair of child Krishna indicates that Krishna is the husband of *pinnai* (also known as nappinnai). The reference to *pinnai* is slightly out of context here in view of the timeframe in Krishna’s life but it is bringing the future into play by referring to what would happen later.

    NammAzhwAr, in periya tiruvandAdi; pAsuram # 2632, refers to the valour exhibited by Krishna in seeking the hand of nappinnai.

    emakkiyAm viNNATTuk kuccamadAm vITTai
    amaittirundOm ahdanRE yAmARu—amaippolinda
    mentOLi kAraNamA venkOTTE REzhuDanE
    konRAnaiyE manattuk koNDu

    This quatrain alludes to the episode when the king of Kosala kingdom decreed that his daughter, Satya, would be married to one who subdues the seven ferocious bulls of the king. Krishna went to Kosala, transformed (multiplied) himself into 7 Krishnas, killed the bulls, and married Satya. In the south Indian version of the story Satya is called nappinnai. Here *mentOLi* means “slender-armed” (or slender-shouldered) and refers to nappinnai.

    ThirumangaiyAzhwAr (pAsuram # 1072) also mentions the exalted status of nappinnai in her association with Krishna when singing about the deity at TiruvallikkENi.

    i^nduNaip padumat talarmagaL tanakkum
    inban^naR puvitanak kiRaivan
    ta^nduNai yAyar pAvai nappinnai
    tanakkiRai maRRaiyOrk kellAm
    vantuNai …….

    TirumangaiyAzhwAr says that Krishna is very dear to Lakshmi (one who is seated on the lotus flower – padumattu alar magaL), and is also god (iRai) to bhUdEvi (naRpuvi – good earth). For the cow-girl nappinnai too he is god but for everyone else (in gOkulam) he is the protector (van tuNai). TirumangaiyAzhwAr mentions here specifically that nappinnai is a cowgirl (Ayar pAvai) in gOkulam (AyarpADi).

    Let us see what the epic poetry silappadikAram says about nappinnai. When Kovalan and Kannagi reach Madurai, Kannagi takes shelter with Madhari the herdswoman on the advice of Kaunti aDigaL. Kannagi cooks a meal and feeds Kovalan prior to his departure to the city to sell the silambu (anklet) that Kannagi gave him. Upon watching that scene, Madhari is elated.

    palvaLait tOLiyum paNDu namkulattut
    tozhunai ARRinuL tUmaNi vaNNanai
    vizhumam tIrtta viLakkuk kol!ena
    aiyaiyum tavvaiym vimmidam eydik….
    (Maduraik KANDam, kolaikkaLak kAdai, 48-52)

    Madhari and aiyai (Madhari’s daughter) exult in equating Kovalan with Krishna and Kannagi with nappinnai who offered solace to Krishna on the banks of the river Yamuna (tozhunai in Thamizh).

    After noticing some ill-omen (indicative of some impending tragedy), Madhari attempts a remedial measure to forestall any harm. She assembles her community girls and arranges to perform a dance (kuravaik kUttu) assigning each one amongst them the names of the strings of a lute. Then the girls identified themselves as mAyavan (Krishna), Ayavan (Balaraman), and AymagaL nappinnai, among others. Madhari says (Maduraik kANDam, Aycciyar kuravai), “…AyarpADiyil erumanRattu mAyavanum tammun ADiya vAlacaridai nADakangaLil vEl neDunkaN pinjnjaiyoDu ADiya kuravai ADutum yAm” {Let us dance the same number that Krishna did in AyarpADi (gOkulam) in his childhood days with pinjnjai (nappinnai), who possessed bright piercing eyes resembling a spear}

    The girls who participated in the dance placed a tuLasi garland around the neck of the girl who acted as Krishna and danced according to the prescribed rules. Madhari remarks at that point thus (Maduraik kANDam, Aycciyar kuravai):

    vaiyam aLandAntan mArbil tirunOkkAp
    peyvaLaik kaiyALnam pinnaitAn AmenRE
    ai enRAL Ayar magaL.

    Madhari is so proud of Krishna’s attention to nappinnai, who belongs to the cowgirl (iDaicci) community. She says that the very reason that Krishna who fathomed the universe did not look at Lakshmi dwelling in his chest is because of the beauty of “our pinnai”. The emphasis here is “nam pinnai” to denote the pride of the community of herdswomen. Here in the same context both Lakshmi (tiru) and nappinnai are mentioned. Madhari takes pride that nappinnai gets more attention than Lakshmi from Krishna.

    Enough references for nappinnai in ancient literature have been pointed out. Let us analyse all this together to reveal the identity of nappinnai in the next article.

    Sethuraman Subramanian
    Published on Jan 5th, 2006

  5. Nappinnai – The mystery character

    Part 3— Who is nappinnai?

    Nappinnai is a compound word which can be split as nal + pinnai. *nal* means good and *pinnai* means “one who came after”. The word *pinnai* mentioned in association with Krishna dates back to the times of silappadikAram. In addition to Sri ANDAL, other AzhwArs have used the name *nappinnai* very liberally. The expression “perumbudUr mAmunikkup *pinnAnAl* vAzhiyE” appears in ANDAL vazhittirunAmam. Here *pinnAnAL* refers to Sri ANDAL, meaning that Sri ANDAL accepted Swamy emperumAnAr as her elder brother. From this reference we can also infer the meaning of “younger sister” for *pinnai*. Thus the word *pinnai* is generic in origin. Clearly, then, we need to investigate whether *nappinnai* refers to a specific individual or to someone in a symbolic manner.

    SridEvi or bhUdEvi?

    Having accepted the meaning “one who came after” for *pinnai* the question remains “came after who or what?” One school interprets that *pinnai* refers to Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, since she came out of the churning of the milky ocean after mUdEvi or munnai (the first one or one who came before). In the 20th hymn in tiruppAvai nappinnai is referred to as “tiruvE” which is a term normally reserved for Lakshmi. Those who favour Lakshmi (SridEvi) for *pinnai* also concede that it could also refer to bhUdEvi who is referred to as “second tAyAr”. Either way, this school thinks that nappinnai is *iLaiya pirATTi* incarnated as a gOpikA in gOkulam.

    Is it Radha? Another school discounts the above hypothesis saying that *nappinnai* does not refer to Lakshmi or bhUdEvi since these two were the original consorts of Vishnu. It contends that nappinnai refers to a human wife of Krishna who became a consort (deified in essence) much later than the first two. Krishna accepted nappinnai as a consort, and hence it is so – this school contends. In the Bhagavatham episode, Radha is mentioned as the most beloved of Krishna and hence a good candidate to qualify for *nappinnai*. This school argues that nappinnai is a Thamizh folk name for Radha. There were also other gOpikAs who vied for the love of Krishna but Radha was the chosen one. Jayadeva’s gIta gOvindam describes the association of Radha with Krishna all through the songs. Still others claim that nappinnai does not denote any gOpika such as Radha specifically but could denote any anonymous gOpi who was accepted by Krishna.

    However, there is some strong evidence to discount the inference that Radha is nappinnai. All of the AzhwArs’ works are devoid of specific references to the name Radha. If they thought Radha was an alien name not easily adapted to the list of proper grammatical and phonetic Thamizh names, they could have converted it to *irAdhai* just like they did to Rama, Lakshmana, and hiraNya to irAman, ilakkumaNan, and iraNiyan, respectively. Instead they chose the name *pinnai*. Even Bhagavatham, a Sanskrit work by a south Indian, does not mention the name Radha. In addition, nappinnai is portrayed as Krishna’s wife while Radha was considered a mistress of Krishna. Some other works indicate that Radha is married to somebody else prior to her tryst with Krishna. Hence we have to rule out Radha from contention to claim the name *nappinnai*

    Then who is nappinnai – is it nILA dEvi?

    Let us look at some of the terms (and their meanings) used by Sri ANDAL. In hymn #18 nappinnai is addressed as “nandagOpAlan marumagaLE”. nandagOpAlan is Krishna’s foster father. marumagaL has two meanings: (1) a daughter-in-law, and (2) niece. Sri ANDAL could have implied either of these meanings. She also mentions, “un maittunan pErpADa” meaning “let us sing the praise of your maittunan”. maittunan can mean either brother-in-law or son of maternal uncle or paternal aunt. We know in hymns 19 and 20 she refers to Krishna as nappinnai’s *maNALan*. MaNALan normally means “husband”. But it can also be construed as a potential candidate for husband indicating the future relationship. Thus by *maittunan* the meaning brother-in-law is ruled out in this context.

    Having established a personal relationship between nappinnai and Krishna, let us then examine the community from which nappinnai comes out. The entire tiruppAvai is set in the AyarpADi environment. TirumangaiyAzhwAr calls nappinnai as *Ayar pAvai* (pAsuram # 1072 in divya prabhandam). That certainly indicates that nappinnai comes from the “iDaiyar kulam” – the community that tends cows — meaning that she is a gOpikA. In SilappadikAram, (Maduraik kANDam, Aycciyar kuravai) Madhari refers to nappinnai’s clan as “paNDu nam kulattu” which indicates that Madhari thinks that nappinnai is from the community of herdswomen, the same community to which she herself belongs. To reinforce this fact she continues to say that Krishna does not even look at Lakshmi embedded in his chest because he is enthralled by the beauty of “nam pinnai” (our pinnai).

    Thus the collective evidence indicates that nappinnai is a maiden belonging to the herdswomen community. If we take the meaning of “niece” for *marumagaL*, and “aunt’s son” for *maittunan* we can pinpoint that nappinnai is Yasodha’s brother’s second daughter, known as nILA. Yasodha’s brother, Kumbha, has two daughters, sridhamma and nILA. Yasodha is nILA’s aunt and thus the term *maittunan* for Krishna would fit in for aunt’s son. nILA is Yasodha’s niece and by extension she is also niece for nandagOpAlan, who is Yasodha’s husband. If we take the meaning “daughter-in-law” for *marumagaL* that would also fit in if she is married to Krishna. The relationship – *nandagOpAlan marumagaL* – would follow automatically. Satya, the daughter of the king of Kosala, who was married to Krishna after he killed the seven bulls, is also known by the name nILA (cf. nammAzhwAr’s pAsuram #2632 in divya prabhandam in part 2 of this series).

    Parasara Bhattar in his taniyan (stray verse) about Sri ANDAL mentions nILA. The taniyan is given below:

    nILA tunga stana giri taTI suptam udbodhya krishNam
    pArAthyam svam Sruti-Sata-siddham adhyApayantI
    svOccishTAyAm sraji nigalitam yA balAt krutya bhunktE
    gOdA tasyai nama idam idam bhUya EvAstu bhUyah

    Parasara Bhattar submits his obeisance over and over to gOdA (also known as Sri ANDAL) as she sings the beautiful songs to wake up Krishna sleeping on the “mountain-like bosom of nILA” and to remind him of his duties. Sri ANDAL binds Krishna with her love by wearing the flower garlands first herself before offering them to the Lord. Sri ANDAL uses the term “nappinnai kongaimEl vaittuk kiDanda malarmArbA” (one with flower garland on his chest reclining on the bosom of nappinnai) in hymn #19 in tiruppAvai. We thus have concordance that nappinnai is nILA dEvi from varied sources. This conclusion, however, is not incontrovertible.

    It is well known that Krishna was just an adolescent when he was living in gOkulam. Then how is it he is depicted as married? The explanation lies in the fact that Krishna being an avatar was worshipped and loved by the gOpikAs and the specific gOpi nappinnai‘s relationship with Krishna is given a legitimate standing by characterising her as his wife rather than a mistress – the relationship that Radha held with Krishna.

    Sethuraman Subramanian
    Published on Jan 6th, 2006


    The conclusion reached above that nappinnai is Krishna’s uncle Kumbha’s daughter is drawn from indirect reasoning. There are so many variations of the episode involving Krishna and the gOpis that it is difficult to pinpoint for sure as to the identity of nappinnai. It is only a consensus that nappinnai is Krishna’s “mAman magaL”. However, the point I made in the beginning that ANDAL does not refer to nappinnai (mAman magaLE) in pAsuram #9 is still valid. ANDAL refers to Krishna only as manALan and maittunam of nappinnai (pAsurams 18-20 in tiruppAvai). While the word maittunan can mean “son of maternal uncle or paternal aunt”, It can be surmised from ANDAL’s usage of the word that she means “husband” by that word. In nAcciyAr tirumozhi she sings “maittunan nambi madhusUdhan vandennaik kaittalam paRRak kanAk kaNDEn tOzhi nAn”.

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