Thondar-adi-podi alwar, who is also called Bhakta-angri-renu, is tenth among the blessed alwars in the chronological order. Bhakta-angri-renu was born at Mandangudi in Chola Kingdom (near Chennai) on the 14th day of the waning moon in the Margashirsha month of Durmathi year, which is supposed to be the 288th year of Kali-yuga (2814 B.C.), when Jyeshtha asterism was prevailing.
Bhakta-angri-renu is believed to be a manifestation of the Lord’s garland, Vanamala, which symbolizes the elements in their rudimentary forms. As Bhakta-angri-renu was born in a traditional Brahmin family, his parents named him Vipra Narayana, tonsured his head when he turned eight and sent him to study Vedas after performing the necessary rituals. Very soon, Vipra Narayana mastered the four Vedas and six ancillary subjects that were supposed to be studied by Brahmins. As Vipra Narayana was naturally inclined towards devotional service he went on a pilgrimage after completing his studies.
Vipra Narayana reached Sri Rangam visiting all the important sacred places including Sri-Perumbandhur, Kanchipuram and Sholingur on the way. Even as Vipra Narayana entered the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Ranganatha’s temple he was captivated by the beauty of the Lord’s enchanting eyes. Unlike the normal human beings, who see the deity form of the Lord as stone idol, Vipra Narayana saw the live presence of the Lord in His deity form.
He was so captivated by the form of the Lord that he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to offer floral service to the Lord and started working in the Lord’s flower garden while staying in Sri Rangam. Like Vishnu-Chitta, he used to work in the garden, nurture the flower bearing plants and Tulasi, get up very early in the morning, tie a cloth around his nose and mouth and pluck the buds and Tulasi leaves before the sun rays touch them to prepare garlands for the Lord every morning. As the years rolled on, people started to appreciate and acknowledge Vipra Narayana’s sincere service to the Lord.
Deva-devi, a courtesan who is believed to be a celestial nymph in her previous birth, was returning to her native place, Thiru-karambanur, after visiting the Chola King’s court at Nichulapuri (i.e., the present Uraiyur) along with her associates and maids. As she was exhausted, Deva-devi and her associates decided to rest for a while under a tree, which was in the periphery of Lord Ranganatha’s flower garden.
Deva-devi and her associates were captivated by the beauty of the flower garden and started to appreciate the patterns and neatness of the garden. Even as they were describing the beauty of the garden, Deva-devi saw Vipra Narayana, who was working on the garden unaware of their presence.
With his beard, white robes and a Vaishnava Tilaka on his forehead Vipra Narayana seemed different from others. Though Deva-devi, who was regarded as a woman of matchless beauty, was standing at a close distance, Vipra Narayana was ignorant of them and indifferent.
Deva-devi, who was used to the attention showered on her by men wherever she went, could not digest Vipra Narayana’s indifference. She tried to draw his attention towards her by raising her voice while speaking to her maids and Vipra Narayana was not attracted towards her as he had focused his mind on the Lord. Deva-devi looked at one of her associates and said, “Look at him, is he deaf and dumb or mad? He is not even noticing us though we are doing enough to attract his attention.”
Her associate replied, “He is a great devotee of Lord Ranganatha and has subdued his senses by focusing his mind on the Lord. Unlike the other men he does not aspire for or revel in sensual pleasure; therefore he is not attracted to you and is indifferent to us.”
Deva-devi, who was very proud of her beauty, was unable to digest her friend’s words. She said, “If that is so I will change his resolve and make him run around me. If I succeed in my attempt you will have to work like my slave for six months and if I fail to do so I will work as your slave for six months.”
Deva-devi’s associate accepted her challenge. Immediately Deva-devi sent all her associates along with her maids and handed over all her jewels to her maids and remained alone near the garden with determination to win Vipra Narayana’s heart.
Let us see how Deva-devi entices Vipra Narayana in the next post.