Sri Thiruppanalwar is one of the humblest alwars. Born in a low caste Panar family in Woraiyur (near Sri Rangam), Thiruppanalwar sat on the banks of the Kaveri river, and sang the praises of Lord Ranganatha with his veena. Since he was of low birth, Thiruppanalwar never crossed the Kaveria and stepped onto the hallowed ground of Sri Rangam, feeling that he was unworthy of such an honor.
His devotion for Lord Ranganatha was matchless, and the Lord sought to arrange a situation where his devotee could have His darshan. One day, the Lord’s priest went to the Kaveri to fetch water for the daily poojas. When the priest saw Thiruppanalwar seated in meditation on the river bank, he asked him to move out of the way (touching Thiruppanalwar would have ruined the ritual purity of the water meant for bathing the deity of Lord Ranganatha). Thiruppanalwar moved, realizing that his low birth was an inconvenience to the Lord’s priest. The Lord appeared in the priest’s dream and chastized him for his offense against Thiruppanalwar, and commanded the priest to bring Thiruppanalwar to Sri Rangam for His darshan.
Sri Ranganatha & Sri Ranganayaki
The priest humbly approached Thiruppanalwar and stated the Lord’s request. Thiruppanalwar still felt unqualified to set foot in Sri Rangam. The priest decided that the only way he could be absolved of his offense, and satisfy the Lord was if he carried Thiruppanalwar on his shoulders. Doing so, the priest and Thiruppanalwar arrived at the sanctum sanctorum of the Sri Rangam temple. Face to face with the Lord of his life, Thiruppanalwar sang 10 verses now called “Amalanathapiraan.” This name comes from “Amalan Athi Piraan” translating to “Spotless One, Primordial Lord.” With the completion of these ten verse, Thiruppanalwar vanished, and is said to have attained the Lord’s lotus feet in Sri Vaikuntam.
To this day, his ten verses (now part of the 4000 divya prabhandhas of the alwars) are sung for the Lord’s pleasure in all south Indian Vaishnava temples. Thiruppanalwar is shown in his deity form, with folded hands, carrying a veena as this is how he worshipped Lord Ranganatha…