ThiruvAli nAdu was part of ChOzhA kingdom. There, Ali nAdAr (belonged to the fourth caste), an Army General (ThaLapathi) of ChozhA king earned the king's goodwill and respect with his devoted work. He and his wife, vallitthiru were blessed with a beautiful male child, whom they named neelan (due to his dark (neela mEga) colour. He was born in the year nala, on a karigai mAsam, kritigai nakshathram, full moon day and was an incarnation of the Lord's SArngam (Divine bow). Neelan grew up a shrewd smart boy, learning Tamizh and Sanskrit and mastered them; became well versed in sword fight(vAL payiRchi), vil viddhai with, Horse riding, elephant riding, etc. He grew up a young, intelligent, smart, healthy, strong, handsome lad (and yet simple and modest with a religous mind like his parents) and not surprisingly, people liked him very much. When Neelan's father got old, the chOzhA king, having heard about Neelan, appointed Neelan as the Army General(ThaLapathi). He was agile, dynamic, young and was good at battle fields; and hence captured the neighbouring states; The king was immensely pleased and presented him a small portion of his kingdom, a place called Thirumangai, as a tribute and made him a KING! (He was thereafter called "Thirumangai mannan".) That was his first success. And that became the cause for his slipping from all bhakti, devotion, religion etc., etc., and the success of reaching the SimhAsanam at such a young age, (with no chance of becoming a king, otherwise) went to his head. He took to all vices; He was deeply caught in seeking sensual pleasures. The parent were helpless and could do nothing but pray to the Lord to correct their son.
The Lord Sriman nArAyaNA did listen to them. He had organised such a situation that made a dEvamAdhu by name sumangalai(who was performing the kainkaryam of fanning(sAmaram)the Lord) to appear as the most beautiful daughter of a local doctor in Tirumangai, in the name "kumudhavalli" (based on a "sApam" given by kapila muni for her laughing at an ugly face and coarse voice of his disciple). Being an incarnate of dEvamAdhu, she was exquisitely pretty and could attract even a recluse. Our "new" king, Thirumangai mannan heard of her alluringly feminine beauty and wished to see her immediately. When he saw her, he was so much cativated by her darting glance at him, he fell head over heels for her and proposed to marry her. Kumudhavalli, through her father, stipulated two prerequisites for him to qualify for marrying her. They were
Her husband should be a (or become a) Sri vaishNavA, wear ThirumaNkAppu on his forehead, and be a true bhaktA of Sriman NarayaNan. (Sriman Narayanan Himself spoke through her) and
Her husband should feed daily 1000 (ONE THOUSAND!) vaishNava bhakthALs.
Our mannan, being intoxicated by her looks, agreed after listening to her conditions immediately. They got married.So there he was. With a bright ThirumaNkAppu, thuLasi mAlai, he paid obeisance to Sriman NarayaNa. He started the annadhAnam for 1000 Sri vaishNava bhaktALs. Slowly day by day, our mannan was transfering into a true, sincere devotee of the Lord and was getting tremendous satisfaction from feeding Sri vaishNavALs daily. The enjoyment of Bhakti and BhagavatOttamAL sEvai were really experienced by Thirumangai mannan. While this was going on, the entire "gajAnA" (treasury) was spent on the annadhAnam kainkaryam. So he could not even send the "tax" which he was supposed to send to the chOzhA king every year. So, chOzhA sent a message to pay the tax; but since our mannan could not pay and sent back a reply saying that he will not be able to pay. ChOzhA king got wild and sent soldiers to bring him. Our hero sent them back effortlessly with his fighting skills. ChOzhA king himself came with a heavy army and attacked Thirumangai mannan. Even though Thirumangai mannan's army is small, he fought with tremendous skills and he won the battle. His horse went near the chOzhA king and he got down from the horse. He said: "Oh pErarasE(Big king!), I did not send the tax- I don't deny. But did I spend the money on trivial matters? It was spent for Sri VaishNavALs. How can I stop when your soldiers came to imprison me?". Our chOzhA king was hurt due to his defeat and did not listen to all this. He said,"I made you a king. I gave you all these luxuries. Now you are not even grateful. and you fought with me, too" Our mannan got hurt very badly by that "grateful" statement. He was very much grateful to chOzhA king for all that he had done. So Thirumangai mannan threw away his sword and bowed down before the king and said " Chozha mannA! what a word you spoke about me! Am I ungrateful? You forgot all kingdoms which I captured for you. Now I am standing in front of you. Go ahead and do waht you wish to do with me".
The chOzhA king melted and was moved. He hugged thirumangaimannan and said "Don't worry. I know you. But we should pay respects to pErarasar-chitRarsar relation and hence, you are to send your tax within 3 days. Till then, you will be imprisoned in the perumAL temple." There was no way he could get any money and hence, he begged the Lord to help him. The Lord appeared in his dream and suggested him to go to the banks of river vEdhavathi near kanchi where he could find a big treasure of Gold coins and jewels. He narrated the dream to the chOzhA king and thirumangaimannan and few ministers went to kanchi, vEdhavathi river banks and did find a BIG TREASURE. Having heard this news, chOzhA king got up from the throne and whole heartedly bowed down to Thirumangai mannan for his bhakti and thee Lord's mercy on him. He said" I have done a great mistake of taxing a great bhakthA for a small tax issue and caused a hindrance to BhagavathALs' anna dhAna kankaryam. Please take all this treasure and let me send you back with full Royal honours. You need not insult me by paying the tax any more!". The mannan came back with more wealth and with great honours. The citizns of Thirumangai were greatly thrilled by their king and kumudhavalli was proud of her husband.
They revived their kainkaryam for 1000 Sri VaishNanvALs more aggressively and attained their happiness and satisfaction as usual. Again, they found themselves left with no wealth for the kainkaryam. With a view to keeping the promise to his beloved wife, he had to resort to highway robbery from rich people. With the booty, he continued the kainkaryam. One day The Lord Sriya: patih Sriman NarayaNan and Vishnu pathni Sri MahAlakshmi appeared on the highway as a"just married" couple with lots and lots of jewels adorned them. Our mannan turned robber heard of a new rich young couple's coming on the Highway and immediately rushed with his adiyALs. He was very happy to see Them with so many jewels and thanked God(!) for that. They also had a bag containing more ornaments. Our anti-hero demanded Them to surrender all they had. They did precisely waht was instructed to Them; all with Their katAksham on our hero. They put all their ornaments on a piece of cloth. When Thirumangai mannan tried to lift the bundle of ornaments he just could not even move it a bit! He was shocked and perplexed as to why it was so difficult to move it! He went near the Lord Sri mahAvishNu and with a fierce look into His eyes, asked Him " What is the manthram you have for lifting this bundle?. Tell me, else, I will kill you both." He threatened Them with a sword. The Lord and the PirAtti smiled with a gentle mandhahAsam. He asked Thirumangai mannan to come near him and whispered in his right ear "OM NAMO NARAYANAYA". Having heard those EIGHT SYALLABLES (AshtAksharam) right from none other than SRIYA: PATHI himself, his mind, heart became pure!. All his dirt had disappeared! He was simply electrified by the AshtAksharam. He got goose pimples all over his body; He got undescribable blissful happiness! He prostrated fullt at Their Lotus feet with eyes full of tears at Their mercy to bless him despite his shortcomings and negative qualities. They blessed him with Their karunai kataaksham. Then They disappeared. He realised His ThiruviLaiyAdal and the purpose of his birth and poured out tamizh pAsurams on the Lordas if it comes from just opened dam ("madai thirandha veLLam pOl"). He looked at the sky and kept on crying ceaselessly for Their dayA on his lowly self. His hands and the legs were shivering with tremendous amount of Bhakti and love for the Lord.
He came back galloping on his horse to narrate the entire exciting incident to the beloved kumudhavalli. Kumudhavalli, before he started even, asked him as to why his face looked so bright, serene, divine and beaming that day. He said "kumudhA, I have reached the purpose of my manushya janmam kumudhA. I have seen NARAYANA, kumudhA. (nAn kaNdu koNdEn NARAYANAnai ). He was too excited to even complete his statements in a coherent manner. (After all, he has been initited by SarvEswaran Himself!). Kumudhavalli said, "Then, I have also reached the purpose of my deputation (by Lord through kapila muni)" and she narrated her story. Our AzhwAr became all the more blissful and happier to know that The Lord Sriya: pathih sent Kumudhavalli only to set him right from his wrong path and "ThadutthAkoLLified" him. He could not control his tears and sobbed heavily at the Lord's mercy on him. Then he sang GREAT PASURAMS (on NARAYANAN's name) and visited almost about 80 temples (out of 108 Divya dEsams). He built the fort and kOttai (ramparts) of Srirangam without affecting or spoiling ThoNdaradippodiAzhwAr's nandhavanam. ("pAdi pAdi paraparappAi thirinthAr")
His compositions were :
Thiru nedunthANdakam (TNT)
Thiru vezhuk kurrirukkai.
His pAsurams are marvellous; excellent and have unsurpassed beauty in them. parAsara Bhattar made use of his TNT to win over his counter part, a advaitin scholar in his arguments and later the advaitin became his disciple 'nam jeeyar'. Sri RanganAtha himself heard and was greatly pleased with that argument reenacted from Bhattar quoting from TNT (Please read excellent posts of Sri V. SadagOpan on TNT and TKT during Feb 96 from Bhakti Archives - a real feast to each one of you).
Thirumangai AzhwAr (a KING, a person who enjoyed the bhOgams so much) walked all the way and visited almost all temples. He is simply GREAT, my dearest brothers and sisters. He is just SUPERB AzhwAr. His wordings are his outpourings straight from his heart.
We will conclude this post with my favourite pAsuram of this AzhwAr: Here is one of his periya thirumozhi pasurams:
vAdinEn vAdi varundhinEn manatthaal/
perun thuyaridum idumbaiyil piRanNdhu/
koodinEn koodi iLaiyavar thammOdu/
avar tharum kalaviyE karudhi/
OdinEn Odi uyvadhOr poruLaal/
uNarvenum perumpadhan therindhu/
naadinEn nAdi nadi nAn kaNdukoNdEn/
nArAyaNA vennum nAmam.
Being born into this body, a reservior of profound sorrow, I am repenting, melting and crying, I am filled with pathos and self-pity;I have let myself run after beautiful women, seeking the sensual pleasures from their union; Through the grace of our Lord I have now realised that there is a greater goal and That will deliver me into eternal happiness; I have been searching for this state and have now found it in THE SWEET NAME NARAYANA.
This pASsuram will bring tears to the eyes of any Vaishnava for AzhwAr's Bhakti and love and his heart longing for the lotus feet of our Lord Narayana.