Kulasekhara’s Garland for Mukunda

Introduction by Senior Medhavi Dr Partha Desikan

Sri Garudadwajan on Kulasekhara’s Garland for Mukunda

Partha Desikan

In January 2009, in my blog in these pages on Parashurama Kshetra (Part 4), I was able to talk about King Kulasekhara of the Second Chera Empire of Cheran Perumals somewhat along these lines.

“Just after the eclipse of the Kalabhras, the Second Chera Empire of Cheran Perumals made its appearance in the annals of Kerala history. Mahodayapuram (modern Kodungallur) was its capital. It was founded by Kulasekhara Azhvar (800-820 AD), one of the 12 poet-saints of South-Indian Srivaishnavism. The Azhvars were exponents of the Bhakti (devotional) cult in South India. They gave a great impetus to Vishnu Bhakti in South India up to the 10th century, especially between the 7th and the

10th centuries. Kulasekharan was ruling in Kudamalainadu of the Kerala country covering the length of the Kolli-Malai (hills) regions in central and north Kerala, from his capital at Mahodayapuram. He claimed for himself the titles “Kozhik-kon”, “Koodal- nayagan”, “Kongar Kon” confirming his authority over Kozhiyur (the Uraiyur of the Chozha country), and Koodal (the Madurai of the Pandya country), and also over the Kongu country. It was probably during this period the Uthakai became the second capital of the Kulasekhara dynasty with a member of the Kulasekhara family appointed to rule over this region.”

Kulasekaravarman was an ardent devotee of Sri Rama (regarded as an incarnation of Vishnu), and hence the Vaishnavites of this period referred to him as Kulasekhara Perumal and Kulasekhara Azhvar in reverence. He made pilgrimages to Thiruvarangam (Sri Rangam) in Chozhanadu, and Thiruvenkatam in Thondainadu among other kshetras, and has composed a set of hymns – in Tamil in praise of Vishnu named ”Perumal Thirumozhi”, and one in Sanskrit named as “Mukunda Mala”. Kulasekhara was indeed both a scholar and a great patron of the arts. He composed apart from the Perumal Tirumozhi and Mukundamala, three other works, Tapatisamvarna, Subhadradhamala and Vichchinnabhiseka – all in Sanskrit, which testify to his scholarship. He abdicated the Chera throne to lead a holy life and was venerated as one of the twelve great Tamil Vaishnava Saints, with the title Kulasekhara Azhvar.”

The Rama intensive preoccupation of Perumal Tirumozhi in Tamil and the Krishna devoted nature of the Sanskrit poem Mukundamala by the Chera king have led some researchers to consider two different Kulasekharas, both from the same royal lineage but in different centuries, but this line of thinking need not bother us in regard to this article, devoted exclusively to Mukundamala, a garland of Sanskrit poems in praise of Krishna, clearly seen as an avatara of Vishnu/Narayana. Srivaishnavites (both of the vishishtadvaitic and the dvaitic schools) in South India have traditionally been taught to recite these bhaava-filled verses from their childhood and have felt magically closer to the object of the stotras in consequence. My friend of nearly five decades, Sri Garudadwajan, hailing from a devout Mysorean Iyengar family is no exception. This soft-spoken, mild mannered scientist typifies the ideal of Vaishnavite vinaya. His information expertise has been available over the past few decades to the country’s national laboratories dealing with petroleum and aerospace technology apart from pure information science.

Like Kulasekhara, whose identity as a king and a warrior melted away in Vishnubhakti revealing an entirely different, but complete personality, this very busy information scientist who had been in charge of information coordination for scientific and technological research before, during and after the advent of advanced computing in IT, has been finding time away from his main work every now and then to compose slokas in Sanskrit on Sriman Narayana, losing himself in Vishnubhakti. He had of course enjoyed Kulasekhara’s

Mukundamala in its pristine original Sanskrit verse form, but could not resist the urge to present its gist in English, first for his own enjoyment and then to benefit devotees not knowing the Devabhasha. He is not the only person to have attempted translating this marvelous work. But then the rasanubhava of every translator is uniquely his own. With my friend’s permission, I will now proceed to share his anubhava with Krishna bhakta readers among the tmj members. I shall give the slokas individually in the original Sanskrit along with Sri Garudadwajan’s free English translation. I invite you to partake of Sri Mukundamrita with my friend.

Medha Editor’s Note: Due to the very desirable intermingling of Sanskrit & Tamil scripts with the “default” Roman script, we’ve had to render this article as a series of “picture snapshots”. Readers who are interested in the pdf version may contact us via comments at the bottom of article, & Partha just may send them the pdf if they share their email address with him.

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