The Alvars

by Puru Das Adhikari

Devotees of Krsna have not always been received nicely at the Lord's temples. There are several examples that come to mind; Srila Haridas Thakura, Srila Sanatana and Srila Rupa Goswami and the saint Vidura. Vidura was not ejected from a temple, but the palace of the Kaurava princes. And of late, His Divine Grace Srila B.V. Narayan Maharaj. Has also received less than a stellar reception at many ISKCON centers he has visisted on his earlier world tours and in Sri Vrndavan Dhama.

On the topic of not being allowed to enter a temple Lord Visnu or Lord Jagannatha I am offering for the assembled devotees three pieces of nectar. The first example of mistreatment at the hands of temple priest is that of Tiruppani Alvar. His story is told in an issue of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Tahkura's magazine, The Harmonist from 1935. The other two reprints are from the Caitanya Caritamrta and Srimad Bhagavatam respectively.


Vol XXII No. 1 of [Regtd. No C 1601

The Harmonist
(Sree Sajjantoshani)
Gaura Ekadashi Bhadra 449 G.A.

September 9, l935


Annihilation of age-long sufferings,May these our high aims flourish The Service of Radhda Krsna To gladden the hearts of true devotees

Annual Subscription Editor ­in-chief

Inland Rs. 4-8. Foreign 7 s.od. Paramahansa Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami

Sree Gaudiya Math, P.O. Baghbazar, Calcutta



The Alvars

Tiruppani Alvar or Munibahan


On the south bank of the sacred river Kaveri is situated Nichulapuri (modern Uraiyur). In the days of yore it was a very great prosperous city. It was ramparted on all sides and was filled with palace-like houses.

St. Tiruppani Alavar was born in this city in 100 B.C. in the month of Kartic with Rohini asterism. He was an incarnation of Srivatsa mark on the breast of Sri Vishnu but appeared in the society of pariahs or chandals. In respect to the saints, divine wisdom and spiritual illumination are taken cognisance in place of social status. Our sain, thoughlowin social order, was greater than those whoare highest in society, i.e. the brahmanas. At the outskirts of the town he was discovered in a field by a man of lower class as if the child was heaven-dropped. The man had no son. He took up the god sent boon and took it to his wife. Both husband and wife were extremely glad to have the divine child and their long-cherished desire was fulfilled. With great care never allowing the abomination of their class to defile the baby's atmosphere both physical and mental. It was fed nothing but cow's milk.

Being a heaven-born child, all its instincts and tendencies were heaven-ward. The child grew into a boy and the boy into a man. From the beginning the boy showed no taste for the glamour of the world. He had no taste for worldly occupation. His only avocation was to play on a lyre and sing for the glorification of Godhead. With the growth of age he realised his status in the society. He respected the settled laws of the land. He knew that reform consisted not in deyfing and infringing the conventions and usages enjoined by shastras, but in respecting them and exemplifying their spiritual sense by exemplary moral conduct. He thought that his birth in a low status was about temporary body, but by the grace of the Supreme Lord his souls might be enlightened. Thus the saint deeply fastened his thought on Sri Ranga Nath and taking up his sweet lyre playing thrilling notes of His praise from its strings.

Tiruppani's attachment for Sri Ranga Nath grew more and more intense and at times lost himself in ineffable joy for hours together. He would close his eyes and become utterly senseless and oblivious to the external world. One day while he was in such a state of trance, Muni, a priest of Sri Ranga Natha, came to the river Kaveri to draw water for the ablution of Sri Ranga Nath. He found Tiruppani in a lifeless state by the road-side. He called him and asked him to stay at a distance, being a chandal. Our saint did not hear the priest as he had lost his senses for the time being. This infuriated the priest and he took a pebble and thew it to the saint. It hurt him on the face, drops of blood trickled down. He came to his senses, opened his eyes slowly and seeing the brrahmin at a distance, realised the situation in a moment. He made way in grief and repentance considering that he was hindrance to the service of his Lord and prayed for mercy. Tiruppani remained at a respectful distance. The priest went to the stream., performed his daily duties and took the holy water in pitchers with due ceremony and reached the temple gate. On arrival he found the gate closed from inside. He called for the other priests, but nobody responded. His heart sank and he began to muse in anguish praying with folded hands for mercy of the Lord. A long while after he heard a voice from within the temple, "How you dare to hurt me by flinging stone to my faithful Tiruppani considering him to be of low origin while he was deeply immersed in chanting the holy name. From this time your service is suspended." Muni was in deep sorrow. He knew not how to atone and pacify the Lord. With great humility he begged the mercy of the Lord. He was broken with remorse. Finding him penitent, a similar voice came from within saying, "Do not think Tiruppani low. He is my confidential servant. If you lift him on your shoulder and circumambulate the temple, the temple gate will open, otherwise not. Let it be obeyed." The priest found himself relieved and ran with delight to the Kaveri. He approached Tiruppani and falling at his feet, asked for his forgiveness for injuries both physical and mental which he had unwittingly , indeed, inflicted on his sacred person, and submitted to him humbly the wish of the Lord. Hearing these he drew back, but the importance of the priest made him submit to the will of God.

Muni took him on his shoulders and conveyed him to the temple amidst acclamation and applauses, and carried him round the temple for the pleasure of the Lord. The gate was now flung open and all present fell prostrate at the feet of Sri Ranga Nath and sang the praise of the Lord. From that time onward Tiruppani Alvar was named Munibahan or Yogibara.

Reprinted from the Caitanya Caritamrta of Srila Krsnadas Kaviraj Goswami, translation and commentary by His Divine Grce A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhpada, my beloved diksa guru, The Founder-Acarya of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Cc. Madhya lila Ch. 1 TEXT 63


haridasa thakura ara rupa-sanatana

jagannatha-mandire na ya'na tina jana


haridasa thakura--Srila Haridasa Thakura; ara--and; rupa-sanatana--Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami; jagannatha-mandire--in the temple of Lord Jagannatha; na--not; ya'na--go; tina jana--three persons.


To avoid turmoil, three great personalities--Haridasa Thakura, Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami--did not enter the temple of Jagannatha.


It is still the practice at the Jagannatha temple not to allow those to enter who do not strictly follow the Vedic culture known as Hinduism. Srila Haridasa Thakura, Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami had had previous intimate connections with Muslims. Haridasa Thakura had been born in a Muslim family, and Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, having given up their social status in Hindu society, had been appointed ministers in the Muslim government. They had even changed their names to Sakara Mallika and Dabira Khasa. Thus they had supposedly been expelled from brahmana society. Consequently, out of humility they did not enter the temple of Jagannatha, although the personality of Godhead, Jagannatha, in His form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, personally came to see them every day. Similarly, the members of this Krsna consciousness society are sometimes refused entrance into some of the temples in India. We should not feel sorry about this as long as we engage in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. Krsna Himself associates with devotees who are chanting His holy name, and there is no need to be unhappy over not being able to enter a certain temple. Such dogmatic prohibitions were not approved by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Those who were thought unfit to enter the Jagannatha temple were daily visited by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and this indicates that Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not approve of the prohibitions. To avoid unnecessary turmoil, however, these great personalities would not enter the Jagannatha temple.

Reprinted from the Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 3. Ch 1, 14, 15 & 16


While speaking thus, Vidura, whose personal character was esteemed by respectable persons, was insulted by Duryodhana, who was sweollen with anger and whose lips were trembling. Duryodhana was in company with Karna, his younger brothers and his maternal uncle, Sakuni.


It is said that giving good counsel to a foolish person causes the fool to become angry, just as feeding milk to a snake only increases its venemous poison. Saint Vidura was so honorble that his character was looked up to by all respectable persons. But Duryodhana was so foolish that he darded to insult Vidura. This was due to his bad association with Sakuni, his maternal uncle, as well as woith his friend Karna, who always encouraged Durydhana in his nefarious acts. (SB 3.l.14)


Who asked him to come here, this son of a kept mistress? He is so crooked that he spies in the interest of the enemy against those on whose support he has grown up. Toss him out of the palace immediately and leave him with only his breath.


When getting married, the ksatriya kings would take on several other youthful girls along with the married princesses. These girl attendants of the king were known as dasis, or attendant mistresses. By intimate association with the kind, the dasis would get sons. Such sons were called dasi-putras They has no claim to a royal position, but they would get maintenance and other facilities just like princes. Vidura was the son of such dasi, and he was thus not counted amongst the ksatriyas. King Dhrtarastra was very affectionate toward his younger dasi-putra bother, Vidura, and Vidura was a great friend and philosophical advisor to Dhrtarastra. Duryodhana knew very well that Vidura was a great soul and well wisher, but unfortunately he used strong words to hurt his innocent uncle. Duryodhana not only attacked Vidura's birth, but he also called him an infidel because he seemed to support the cause of Yudhisthira, whom Duryodhana considered his enemy. He desired that Vidura, be immediately put out of the palace and deprived of all his possession. If possible, he would have like him caned until he was left with nothing but his breath. He charged that Vidura was a spy of the Pandavas because he advised King Dhrtarastra in their favor. Such is the situation of palace life and the intricacies of diplomacy that even. a faultless person Like Vidura could be charged with something abominable and punished. Vidura was struck with wonder at such unexpected behavior from his nephew Duryodhana and before anything actually happened, he decided to leave the palace for good. (SB 3.1.15)


Thus being pierced by arrows through his ears and afflicted to the core of his heart, Vidura placed his bow on the door and quit his brother's palace. He was not sorry, for he considered the acts of the external energy to be supreme.


A pure devotee of the Lord is never perturbed by an awkward position created by the external energy of the Lord. In Bhagvad-gita it is stated:

Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah
Ahankara-vimudhatma kartham iti manyate
(Bg. 3.27)

A conditioned soul is absorbed in material existence under the influence of different modes of external energy. Absorbed in the false ego, he thinks that he is doing everything by himself. The external energy of the Lord, the material nature , is fully under the control of the Supreme Lord, and the conditioned soul is fully under the grip of the external energy. Therefore, the conditioned soul is fully under the control of the law of the Lord. But, due to illusion only, he thinks himself independent in his activities. Duryodhana was acting under such influence of the external nature, by which he would be vanquished at the ultimate end. He could not accept the sound advice of Vidura, but on the contrary he insulted that great soul, who was the well wisher of his whole family. Vidura could understand this becausehe was a pure devotee of the Lord. In spite of being very strongly insulted by Duryodhana's words, Vidura could see that Duryodhana, under the influence of maya, the external energy, was making progress on the path toward his own ruination. He therefore considered the acts of the external energy to be supreme, yet he also saw how the internal energy of the Lord helped him in that particular situation.

A devotee is always in a renounced temperament because the worldly attractions can never satisfy him. Vidura was never attracted by the royal palace of his brother. He was always ready to leave the place and devote himself completely to the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Now he got the opportunity by the grace of Duryodhana, and instead of being sorry at the strong words of insult, he thanked him from within because it gave him the chance to live alone in a holy place and fully engage in the devotional service of the Lord. The word gata-vyathah (without being sorry) is significant here because Vidura was relieved from the tribulations which trouble every man entangled in material activities. He therefore though that there was not need to defend his brother with his bow because his brother was meant for ruination. Thus he left the palace before Duryodhana could act. Maya, the supreme energy of the Lord, acted here both internally and externally. (SB 3.1.16)

If I may end this article with a short anecdote told to me by Sridhar Swami, my god brother who served in Bombay ISKCON. Once I was complaning to him about temple management. He told me this story from the Ramayana. Lord Rama called for all the citizens of Ayodhya to come forward with any complaint they might have. No one came forward except one dog. He complained about a brahmana who kicked him while he was sleeping peacefully on the side of the road, and disturbed his rest. Lord Rama replied to the dog that this was an egregious offense. He said to the dog, " No one who is sleeping should ever be needlessly disturbed. What do you deem a fit punishment for this brahmana?" The dog replied to the Lord to make the brahmana the biggest panda (manager) of the biggest temple in His kingdom. "That doesn't sound like a punishment," replied the Supreme Lord. The dog replied, "Oh my Lord it is, for in my last life I was such a panda and now for the offense of offending so many Vaisnavas I have taken my birth as a dog."

So human life is not necessarily guranteed and we should heed the warning of Vidura to Yudhisthira, "There are weapons more dangerous than arrows." We must be extremely careful how we treat each other, especially if we are managing a temple. In is presentation of the Upadesamrta of Srila Rupa Goswami, The Nectar of Instruction, our beloved spiritual master, Srila Prabhuapda has written"


krsneti yasya giri tam manasadriyeta
diksasti cet pranatibhis ca bhajantam isam
susrusaya bhajana-vijnam ananyam anya-
nindadi-sunya-hrdam ipsita-sanga-labdhya


krsna--the holy name of Lord Krsna; iti--thus; yasya--of whom; giri--in the words or speech; tam--him; manasa--by the mind; adriyeta--one must honour; diksa--initiation; asti--there is; cet--if; pranatibhih--by obeisances; ca--also; bhajantam--engaged in devotional service; isam--unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead; susrusaya--by practical service; bhajana-vijnam--one who is advanced in devotional service; ananyam--without deviation; anya-ninda-adi--of blasphemy of others, etc;; sunya--completely devoid; hrdam--whose heart; ipsita--desirable; sanga--association; labdhya--by gaining.


One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krsna, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [diksa] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that Pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.


In order to intelligently apply the sixfold loving reciprocations mentioned in the previous verse, one must select proper persons with careful discrimination. Srila Rupa Gosvami therefore advises that we should meet with the Vaisnavas in an appropriate way, according to their particular status. In this verse he tells us how to deal with three types of devotees--the kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari. The kanistha-adhikari is a neophyte who has received the hari-nama initiation from the spiritual master and is trying to chant the holy name of Krsna. One should respect such a person within his mind as a kanistha-vaisnava. A madhyama-adhikari has received spiritual initiation from the spiritual master and has been fully engaged by him in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The madhyama-adhikari should be considered to be situated midway in devotional service. The uttama-adhikari, or highest devotee, is one who is very advanced in devotional service. An uttama-adhikari is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Krsna consciousness. According to Srila Rupa Gosvami, the association and service of such a maha-bhagavata, or perfect Vaisnava, are most desirable.

One should not remain a kanistha-adhikari, one who is situated on the lowest platform of devotional service and is interested only in worshiping the Deity in the temple. Such a devotee is described in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.47):

arcayam eva haraye
pujam yah sraddhayehate
na tad-bhaktesu canyesu
sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah

"A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple, but who does not know how to behave toward devotees or people in general is called a prakrta-bhakta, or kanistha-adhikari." One therefore has to raise himself from the position of kanistha-adhikari to the platform of madhyama-adhikari. The madhyama-adhikari is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46) in this way:

isvare tad-adhinesu
balisesu dvisatsu ca
yah karoti sa madhyamah

"The madhyama-adhikari is a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord's devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious by nature." This is the way to cultivate devotional service properly; therefore in this verse Srila Rupa Gosvami has advised us how to treat various devotees. We can see from practical experience that there are different types of Vaisnavas. The prakrta-sahajiyas generally chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, yet they are attached to women, money and intoxication. Although such persons may chant the holy name of the Lord, they are not yet properly purified. Such people should be respected within one's mind, but their association should be avoided. Those who are innocent but simply carried away by bad association should be shown favor if they are eager to receive proper instructions from pure devotees, but those neophyte devotees who are actually initiated by the bona fide spiritual master and are seriously engaged in carrying out the orders of the spiritual master should be offered respectful obeisances.

In this Krsna consciousness movement a chance is given to everyone without discrimination of caste, creed or color. Everyone is invited to join this movement, sit with us, take prasada and hear about Krsna. When we see that someone is actually interested in Krsna consciousness and wants to be initiated, we accept him as a disciple for the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. When a neophyte devotee is actually initiated and engaged in devotional service by the orders of the spiritual master, he should be accepted immediately as a bona fide Vaisnava, and obeisances should be offered unto him. Out of many such Vaisnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Krsna consciousness movement. Such a Vaisnava should be accepted as an uttama-adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought. . . .

(NOI Text 5 Purport)

We should take heart at the example of great souls like Vidura Therefore I am presenting these wonderful excerpts , these diamonds, from the treasure chest of the written words left by the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krsna Concsciusness, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, on behalf of all of my god brothers and any other guests who have been mistreated at any ISKCON center now or in the past, or in the unfortunate future.

Your servant,
Puru das adhikari, das anudas

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