VAMANAVATARA (From Narayaneeyam)
Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (1559-1632) was the celebrated author of Narayaneeyam, a devotional composition in Sanskrit verse which is a masterly summary of the main episodes in Srimad Bhagavatam. He was a scholar in the Sanskrit Language and its grammar on which he wrote his masterpiece Prakriya-sarvaswam which sets forth an axiomatic system elaborating on the classical system of Panini the grammarian.
Narayana Bhattathiri was born in a Namboodiri family of Kerala. He was a disciple of Achyuta Pisharati from whom he studied Sanskrit grammar. As a student he also studied the Rig Veda and Tarka Sastra (the science of logical reasoning and argument).
Bhattathiri was struck with paralysis when he was still young. The disease was painful and Ezhuthachan the author of Adhyatma Ramayana advised Bhattathiri “meen thottu koottuka” which in Malayalam meant ‘take fish as food’ or ‘start counting from fish’. It was obvious that the erudite Ezhuthachan would not have advised Bhattathiri, a Nambooiri brahmin, to eat fish since Namboodiri brahmins are staunch vegetarians. Bhattathiri figured out that the meaning of ‘start counting from fish’ was that he (Bhattathiri) should start recounting the incarnations of the Lord starting from the matsyavatara(incarnation as fish to redeem the Vedas from the asura named Hayagreeva) and go on upto the incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Bhattathiri took the advise and wrote his Magnum Opus based on Srimad Bhagavatam which chronicles the many incarnations of Mahavishnu and expounds the highest philosophy of the Hindus embodied in the Upanishads. He dedicated his work to Lord Krishna, fondly called by devotees as Guruvayoorappan, at the temple at Guruvayoor in Kerala. The work consists of 100 dasakas each containing 10 verses. However, a few dasakas contain more than ten verses so that the total number of slokas is not 1000 but 1034.
Legend has it that Bhattathiri composed one dasaka a day in the presence of the Lord and recited it before Him for His approval and the Lord did nod his head in agreement. The composition is directly addressed to the Lord telling him His own exploits and leelas. The refrain in the last sloka of every dasaka is a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayoor to remove his (Bhattathiri’s) ailments and sufferings. The Lord did cure Bhattathiri of his affliction by the time he completed Narayaneeyam and also revealed to him His captivating form which Bhattathiri has captured ecstatically in the 100th dasakam
Given below is a reproduction of Dasakas 30 and 31 from Narayaneeyam which summarises the episode of vamanavatara narrated in detail in chapters 15-23 of the 8th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. A simple transalation in English is given for the benefit of those who cannot follow the original.
शक्रेण संयति हतोऽपि बलिर्महात्मा
शुक्रेणजीविततनुः क्रतुवर्द्धितोऽष्मा ।
विक्रान्तिमान् भयनिलीनसुरां त्रिलोकीं
चक्रे वशे तव चक्रमुखादभीतः ॥१॥
The generous Mahabali, though killed in battle by Indra and brought back to life by sukracharya, acquired great power by the performance of many sacrifices (yagas) and conquered by his valour the three worlds, unafraid of even your chakra and with the inhabitants of heaven hiding for fear of him.
तं काश्यपं निजपतिं शरणं प्रपन्ना ।
त्वत्पूजनं तदुदितं हि पयोव्रताख्यम्
सा द्वादशाहमचरत् त्वयि भक्तिपूर्णा ॥२॥
Unable to bear the distress of her sons, Aditi took refuge in her husband Kashyapa. According to his advice she worshipped you with great devotion for twelve days by observing the vow of what is known as ‘payovrata’
तस्यावधौ त्वयि निलीनमतेरमुष्याः
नम्रां च तामिह भवत्तनयो भवेयं
गोप्यं मदीक्षणमिति प्रलपन्नयासीः॥३॥
At the end of the observance, while Aditi was immersed in thoughts of you, You revealed yourself to her with your dark blue complexion and with four hands. To Aditi who bowed down to you, you said “ I shall be born as your son. Keep this vision of mine a secret” and vanished.
त्वं काश्यपे तपसि सन्निदधत् तदानीं
प्राप्तोऽसि गर्भमदितेः प्रणुतो विधात्रा ।
प्रासूत च प्रकटवैष्णवदिव्यरूपं
सा द्वादशीश्रवणपुण्यदिने भवन्तम् ॥४॥
You entered Kashyapa, who was engaged in austerities, in your subtle form and through him you entered the womb of Aditi. Brahma sang your praises. Aditi gave birth to you on the auspicious day of dwadasi (12th day of the waxing moon) and when the star shravana was ascendant
पुण्याश्रमं तमभिवर्षति पुष्पवर्षै
र्हर्षाकुले सुरकुले कृततूर्यघोषे ।
बद्ध्वाञ्जलिं जयजयेति नुतः पितृभ्यां
त्वं तत्क्षणे पटुतमं वटुरूपमाधाः ॥५॥
While the celestials, beside themselves with joy, were raining flowers on the hermitage and blowing their trumpets and you were being greeted, with folded hands, by your parents with ‘’Victory to Thee’, you instantly took the form of an adept brahmachari boy.
तावत् प्रजापतिमुखैरुपनीय मौञ्जी-
स्त्वं प्रास्थिथा बलिगृहं प्रकृताश्वमेधम् ॥६॥
O Lord of all ! At the same time, led by Kashyapa your upanayanam ( sacred thread ceremony) was performed and you were equipped with maunji (waist belt made of a type of grass), danda (a bough from the palasa tree used as a stick), ajina ( skin of a kind of deer) and akshamala ( a string of beads). With your body radiating bright light, you performed the worship of Agni (Fire) and set out to the abode of Mahabali where Ashwamedha (Horse Sacrifice) was being performed.
गात्रेण भाविमहिमोचितगौरवं प्राग्-
व्यावृण्वतेव धरणीं चलयन्नयासीः।
दण्डं च दानवजनेष्विव सन्निधातुम् ॥७॥
With your body revealing, as it were, your future greatness and
dignity (as trivikrama spanning the three worlds), you walked while the earth quaked under your feet. You held the umbrella as if to ward off the heat from the enemies and carried the danda (stick) to punish, as it were, the asura hordes.
तां नर्मदोत्तरतटे हयमेधशाला-
मासेदुषि त्वयि रुचा तव रुद्धनेत्रैः।
भास्वान् किमेष दहनो नु सनत्कुमारो
योगी नु कोऽयमिति शुक्रमुखैः शशङ्के ॥८॥
While you were approaching the hall where the Ashwamedha sacrifice was being performed, Sukra and others, struck by and blinded by the intensity of light radiating from your body, wondered whether it was the Sun or Agni or Sanatkumara or a yogi or someone else who was coming.
स्त्वां रम्यरूपमसुरः पुलकावृतांगः ।
भक्त्या समेत्य सुकृती परिणिज्य पादौ
तत्तोयमन्वधृत मूर्द्धनि तीर्थतीर्थम् ॥९॥
Led inside by the bhrigus who had been struck by the radiance of your body, the Asura king, with his hairs standing on end (because of the intensity of feeling), received you, of captivating form, with reverence and devotion, washed your feet and sprinkled the water from your feet ( which purifies even tirthas like Ganga) on his head.
विश्वासतो नु तदिदं दितिजोऽपि लेभे ।
यत्ते पदांबु गिरिशस्य शिरोभिलाल्यं
स त्वं विभो! गुरुपुरालय पालयेथाः ॥१०॥
O Lord ! Mahabali, though an asura, had the good fortune to sprinkle on his head the water from your feet which Lord Shiva carries reverentially on his head. This may be because he was born in the dynasty of Prahlada or because of the performance of many sacrifices or because of his faith in brahmins. O Lord of Guruvayur ! save me (from my afflications).
प्रीत्या दैत्यस्तव तनुमहः प्रेक्षणात् सर्वथापि
त्वामाराध्यन्नजित! रचयन्नञ्जलिं सञ्जगाद
’मत्तः किं ते समभिलषितं विप्रसूनो वद त्वं !
वित्तं भक्तं भवनमवनीं वापि सर्वं प्रदास्ये’ ॥१॥
O Unconquerable Lord ! the Asura, seeing the radiance of your body, was immensely pleased and, intent on propitiating you in all manner of ways said with folded hands “ O son of a brahmana ! tell me what it is that you expect from me. Whether it be wealth, food, house or the Earth itself, whatever it is, I shall give you everything”.
तामक्षीणां बलिगिरमुपाकर्ण्य कारुण्यपूर्णो-
प्यस्योद्रेकं शमयितुमना दैत्यवंशं प्रशंसन् ।
भूमिं पादत्रयपरिमितां प्रार्थयामासिथ त्वं
सर्वं देहीति तु निगदिते कस्य हास्यं न वा स्यात् ॥२॥
Hearing those forceful words of Mahabali You, though full of compassion, thought of curbing his conceit and praising his dynasty asked for a gift of land limited to three feet. Who will not laugh if one asks ‘give me everything’.
विश्वेशं मां त्रिपदमिह किं याचसे बालिशस्त्वं
सर्वां भूमिं वृणु किममुनेत्यालपत्त्वां स दृप्यन् ।
यस्माद्दर्पात् त्रिपदपरिपूर्त्यक्षमः क्षेपवादान्
बन्धं चासावगमदतदर्होऽपि गाढोपशान्त्यै ॥३॥
Mahabali, in his arrogance, told you “ You are a fool to ask for three feet of land from me who is the Lord of all these worlds. Ask for the whole of this Earth. What is the use of three feet of land?” This arrogance landed Mahabali in a situation wherein he was unable to fulfil his promise and had to hear harsh words and also suffer bondage. Though he did not deserve such punishment it was imposed to remove his conceit completely and make him meek and humble.
पादत्रय्या यदि न मुदितो विष्टपैर्नापि तुष्येत्
इत्युक्तेऽस्मिन् वरद! भवते दातुकामेऽथ तोयम् ।
दैत्याचार्यस्तव खलु परीक्षार्थिनः प्रेरणात्तं
’मा मा देयं हरिरयमिति व्यक्तमेवाबभाषे ॥४॥
O Giver of boons! You told Mahabali “ If one is not content with three feet one will not be content with all the worlds”. Thus told, Mahabali wanted to pour water for ceremonially making the gift but the Acharya for the Asuras Shukra, inspired by You for the purpose of testing the strength of Mahabali’s resolve, openly told
Mahabali “ Don’t give, Don’t give, this is Hari himself”.
’याचत्येवं यदि स भगवान् पूर्णकामोऽस्मि सोऽहम्
दास्यामेव’ स्थिरमिति वदन् काव्यशप्तोऽपि दैत्यः ।
विन्ध्यावल्या निजदयितया दत्तपाद्याय तुभ्यं
चित्रं चित्रं सकलमपि स प्रार्पयत्तोयपूर्वम् ॥५॥
Mahabali firmly told Shukracharya “ If the Lord Himself is begging from me then I am fulfilled. I will certainly make the gift”. Saying thus Mahabali, though cursed by Shukra, gifted to You, whose feet had been washed by Mahabali’s wife Vindhyavali, everything along with ceremonial water sanctified by mantras.
निस्सन्देहं दितिकुलपतौ त्वय्यशेषार्पणं त-
द्व्यातन्वाने मुमुचुरृषयः सामराः पुष्पवर्षम्।
दिव्यं रूपं तव च तदिदं पश्यतां विश्वभाजा-
मुच्चैरुच्चैरवृधदवधीकृत्य विश्वाण्डभाण्डम् ॥६॥
When the Asura King was surrendering to You everything he possessed without an iota of hesitation in his heart, the celestials and the rishis rained flowers and your radiant body, with all the worlds watching, started to grow in size until it touched the limits of the cosmos.
त्वत्पादाग्रं निजपदगतं पुण्डरीकोद्भवोऽसौ
कुण्डीतोयैरसिचदपुनाद्यज्जलं विश्वलोकान् ।
भेरीं निघ्नन् भुवनमचरज्जांबवान् भक्तिशाली ॥७॥
When the tip of your foot touched the abode of Brahma he washed it with the water in his Kamadalu and that water from your feet purifies all the worlds (as Ganga). The celestials danced with overflowing joy in this festival and Jambavan, your devotee, went round the world gleefully beating his big drum.
देवोपेतैर्भवदनुचरैस्संगता भंगमापन् ।
’कालात्मायं वसति पुरतो यद्वशात् प्राग्जिताः स्मः
किं वो युद्धै’रिति बलिगिरा तेऽथ पातालमापुः ॥८॥
By this time the asuras, without the nod of Bali, started a fight but met with defeat at the hands of the celestials who were joined by your followers. They were told by Mahabali “ This one standing before us is verily Kala (Death, Time) Himself the benevolence of whom gave us victory earlier. What is the use of your fighting?” Thus told, the asuras retreated into the nether world.
पाशैर्बद्धं पतगपतिना दैत्यमुच्चैरवादी-
-’स्तार्त्तीयीकं दिश मम पदं किं न विश्वेशरोऽसि’ ।
’पादं मूर्ध्नि प्रणय भगव’ न्नित्यकंपं वदन्तं
प्रह्लादस्तं स्वयमुपगतो मानयन्नस्तवीत्त्वाम् ॥९॥
You loudly said to Mahabali who had been bound with ropes by Garuda “ Give me the third foot of land. Are you not the Lord of
all the worlds ? “ Unmoved by the taunt Mahabali told you “Please put your foot on my head”. At that instant Prahlada appeared there and appreciated Bali’s gesture and praised you by hymns
दर्पोच्छित्त्यै विहितमखिलं दैत्य! सिद्धोऽसि पुण्यै
र्लोकस्तेस्तु त्रिदिवविजयी वासवत्वं च पश्चात् ।
मत्सायुज्यं भज च पुन’रित्यन्वगृह्णा बलिं तं
विप्रैः सन्तानितमखवरः पाहि वातालयेश ॥१०॥
You blessed Bali saying “ O Chief of Asuras! All this was done to wipe out your conceit and arrogance. You have acquired all mystical powers because of the merit of your good deeds. May you attain the worlds which are higher and greater than the world of the devas. Later may you become Indra and finally merge in Me “. You then got the yagna of Mahabali completed by brahmins as prescribed in the Vedic texts. O Lord of Guruvayur !
Save me (from my ailments).