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The Alwars (also spelled Azhwars) are a group of 12 ancient Vaishnava saints who lived in Tamil Nadu and are famous for their poetry in praise of Vishnu. The Alwars are crucially important figures in the development of Vaishnavism; it is the principles and beliefs embodied in the Alwars' poems that ultimately gave rise to the Sri Vaishnava sect (of which I'm a member). Now one of the Alwars was known as Thondaradippodi Alwar, who is considered an incarnation of Vishnu's Vanamala garland as I discuss here. He gets the name Thondaradippodi, which means "the dust of devotees' feet", because he was so humble that he wore the dust of Vaishnavas' feet on his forehead.

In any case, in this poem from Thondaradippodi Alwar's collection of poems Thirumalai, he says this in praise of the Ranganatha statue in Sri Rangam (which I discuss here and here):

moitta val vinaiyuL ninru moonru ezhuttu uDaiya pErAl
kattira bandum anrE parAngadi kaNDu koNDAn |
ittanai aDiyarAnArkku irangum nam aranganAya
pittanai peTTrum andO piraviyuL piNangumArE ||

Standing in deep sin, singing the three syllabled name ‘Govinda’, the fabled Khattirabandu attained the highest state. Despite the easy reach of a mad Lord called Ranga who melts for his devotees, how people suffer rebirth.

But my question is about the figure Kshatrabandhu alluded in the verse. Kshatrabandhu is also mentioned in Thirukkolur Penpillai Rahasyam, which as I discuss in this question is a list of 81 statements told to the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Ramanujacharya by little girl from the town of Thirukkolur. The ninth statement is "mUnRezhuththuch sonnEnO kshathrabandhuvaip pOlE", meaning "Am I like Kshatrabandu who said three letters?" Here's how this web page explains the meaning of this statement:

Kshathrabandhu was the son of King Vishvaratha. His real name is not known. Kshathrabandhu means the lowest person amongst Kshatriyas. Because of his lowly character, he was called Kshathrabandhu. Unable to tolerate his behaviour the people of the kingdom chased him into the forest. Even in the forest he continued in his ways of torturing others. One time, a rishi came into the forest where Kshathrabandhu was staying. Due to the extreme heat, he became very thirsty. Seeing a pond he went there to drink the water, slipped and fell into the pond. When Kshathrabandhu saw this, somehow he felt pity on the rishi and pulled him out of the pond. Then he gave him something to eat and massaged his body.

The rishi woke up and asked Kshathrabandhu his story and why he was living in such a forest. Kshathrabandhu told him his entire history without hiding anything. Wishing to correct him, the rishi gave him some very good advise. Kshathrabandhu replied "O Rishi! My bad nature was born with me and will not leave me. There is no point trying to make me a better person". The rishi then taught him the Lord's divine name Govinda which is made of three aksharas. He then told Kshathrabandhu to keep repeating this nAma even if he continues in his bad ways.

From that day onward, Kshathrabandhu started repeating the Lord's name all the time. Because of that, after his death, he was reborn as a Brahmin and became an ardent devotee of the Lord. After that, he attained the Lord's feet. His story has been sung by Thondaradippodi Azhvar in his Thirumaalai. Thirukkolur Ammal is asking "Did I spend my time saying the Lord's name made up of three aksharas, like Kshathrabandhu?

My question is, what scriptures describe the story of the prince Kshatrabandhu chanting the name Govinda? And what happened after he chanted it?

Is the website quoted above correct about him being reborn as a Brahmana? Thondaradippodi Alwar says he attained "the highest state", but does that mean Moksha or just the highest station in society, namely a Brahmana?

By the way, this isn't the only story where a person accrues great benefits from chanting a name of Vishnu; there's the story of the sinner Ajamila who attained Moksha because he accidentally said Narayana when he died. And there's the story discussed in my question here, of the sage Dirghatamas being cured of blindness after chanting the name Keshava. So make sure you say my name!

EDIT: I just found another reference to Kshatrabandhu in this excerpt from the Rahasyatraya Sara, a work by the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Vedanta Desikan:

It is said in the Smritis: "Kshatrabandhu, who was the worst of sinners, and Pundarika, the virtuous - both of them obtained moksha or release from bondage by virtue of their having acharyas." It is thus declared that in the case of every one, the only means of securing moksha is to have an acharya.

But I'm not sure what Smritis he's referring to.

  • Since she says, "Kattira Bandhu Anru Paraangathi kandu Kondaan" it seems as if the highest state is Moksha. Because I don't think birth as a Brahmana is "Paraangathi" (usually that word refers to Paramapadam no?) – Surya Jun 17 '16 at 4:18
  • @Surya I'm not sure what Parangathi refers to, I don't know advanced Tamil vocabulary like that. In any case, I suppose both could be true - reciting the name Govinda may have first led to Kshatrabandhu being reborn as a Brahmin and then led to him attaining Moksha. Thondaradippodi Alwar may have just left that intermediate detail out. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 17 '16 at 4:59
  • @Surya Oh wait, I didn't see the next line of that that web page's description; it explicitly says "he attained the Lord's feet" after being reborn as a Brahmin. So my proposed explanation is right. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 17 '16 at 5:04
  • Vishnu dharmam. The answer I gave about Namanum pasuram also has an incident from the same puranam. – Sarvabhouma Mar 22 '17 at 7:08
  • Yeah, I know what the Vishnudharma Purana is, but it doesn't seem to be available in English. It's available in Sanskrit though. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 22 '17 at 7:11
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The story of prince Kshatrabandhu appears in the Vishnu Dharma. Vedantha Desikan not only mentions this in his Rahasya Traya Sara, but he also mentions this in his Tatparya Chandrika to Gita Bhashyam by Bhagavad Ramanuja. From what I understand from the Sanskrit text here, following the chanting of the name of God, he attained another human life, wherein, because of his constant remembrance of God's name, he repented greatly (tivra nirvedah) and then took refuge of the Lord (bhagavantham sharaNam upagamya) and then got liberated (hyamuchyatha). This answers all of your questions.

The important thing to note here is that he satisfied the condition "bhajathe maam ananya bhak", since that is the context in which this appears (a detail you missed in the question above). He did not chant the names of Govinda to rid himself of sins in his earlier birth. The chanting he performed was an end by itself. He did it because he liked doing it. It didn't hurt him. Because of this, it appears that Krishna's words of "kshipram bhavati dharmatma" came true. The chanting purified his heart to such a degree that it wiped out the sinful credits that could bestow not only a human next life but also a repentant heart predisposed to God consciousness, which made him take shelter of God and attain moksha.

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