Garland of hymns

Garland of hymns

The Mukundamala is a delectable collection of forty verses in Sanskrit in praise of Lord Krishna, composed by Kulashekara Alwar, one of the twelve revered saints of the Srivaishnava school of philosophy. 

Kulashekara Varman, as the saint was known prior to taking up the holy orders was a ruler of the Chera dynasty, whose empire encompassed present day Kerala. He was a great devotee of Lord Krishna, who saw the Lord in all other devotees too and believed that service of these true devotees was service to the Lord himself. 

His intense devotion and innate dispassion for worldly attachments, despite being a monarch made him compose hymns glorifying the supremacy of the Lord and the various manifestations of divinity which drive home the message of devotion as a means of deliverance from the cycle of death and rebirth.

The poem commences with the author requesting the Lord for permission to repeat the divine names, as the bestower of boons to the true seeker , as one who is ever merciful, as one who is adept in breaking the bonds of cyclical life of the devotee and as one who is the master of the universe and who dwells everywhere. 

In the third stanza comes the fervent appeal “I beseech you to grant me a desire of mine; that in each of my future  births, I should, by your mercy, always remember your lotus feet”. In the next few passages, Kulashekhara Alwar elaborates on this further.

He says that he does not ask for this boon in order to escape from punishments that may await him in hell for the sins he has committed or for enjoying the heavenly pleasures. It is only to serve the Lord always. He explicitly says that he has no attachment to worldly pleasures and wealth. 

In a line that is a pointer to man’s hypocrisies, he says that mere outward religiosity without inner conviction, belief and faith is just a pretence and of no use.  A moving line reads as “ --- at the time of my death, may I remember your lotus feet”. Echoes of the Bhagavad Gita are seen, wherein the Lord says “ thinking of which one leaves the body at the time of death, to that alone it attains”.

Taking this point further, the author says in stanza  seven “at the time of death, my voice will be choked with body fluids, preventing me from uttering your name. 

Therefore, please ensnare my mind in your feet now itself”, employing beautiful poetical allegories. Sublime poetry, deep philosophical insights, practical truths and child like innocence and simplicity, exquisite language studded with literary gems go to make up this bewitchingly fragrant garland of verses. 

In the concluding passages, Kulashekara Alwar unequivocally states that for those who enshrine the Lord in their hearts, fearlessness, perfection and liberation are guaranteed.