To hear this song sung,
It’s often called “the poppadum song.”
BHAGAVAN LIVED MOSTLY in Virupaksha Cave on the eastern slopes of Arunachala from 1899 till sometime around the middle of 1916, when he moved higher up to Skandasramam. A few months before this move, in about January 1916, his mother, Aṙagammaḷ, came to live with him, and it was during the brief period when she lived with him in Virupaksha Cave that he composed this song, அப்பளப் பாட்டு (Appaḷa-p-Pāṭṭu), ‘The Appaḷam Song’. One of the most detailed accounts of how he came to compose this song is what has been recorded by Suri Nagamma in Letter 102 of Letters from Ramanasramam (2006 edition, pages 208-11), but in brief the story is as follows:
Being a sādhu, during his early years in Tiruvannamalai Bhagavan lived the life of a mendicant, begging his food or accepting whatever food was offered to him, and those who lived with him did likewise, so before his mother came to live with him they did not cook any food. Only after they moved up to Skandasramam did she and other devotees slowly introduce the habit of cooking. Her first attempt to start cooking for Bhagavan and his devotees was soon after she came to Virupakshi, and it began with her telling some lady devotees that when he was young he liked appaḷam (a crisp round wafer, usually made of black gram flour and other ingredients, which can either be deep fried or toasted over a naked flame or in hot embers, and which in other languages is known by a variety of names such as parpaṭa, pappaḍam, pāpaḍ, papadum, papadom or poppadom) and that he used to help her make them, so if she had the ingredients she would like to make some for him. Coming to know about this suggestion of hers, several devotees contributed the necessary ingredients, so she ended up gathering enough to make more than two hundred appaḷams.
Observing what she was up to, Bhagavan was not pleased, but he kept quiet until she started to make them, and since she could not make so many without help, she asked him to assist her. This was the opportunity he had been waiting for, so he began to scold her, asking her who wanted to eat appaḷam and why she had begun to ask people for such ingredients instead of being satisfied with whatever simple food was given to her, and saying that if she wanted to eat appaḷams she should make them and eat them by herself. Seeing that he was unwilling to help her, she continued working on her own, but after some time she again asked for his help, but wanting to teach her that she should be satisfied with whatever came unasked and should not desire this or that, he was adamant in his refusal. When she had asked him several times, he finally said, ‘You make your appaḷams to satisfy your desire, and I will make my own kind of appaḷam’, and then, knowing that she liked to sing songs that used ordinary household activities as metaphors for conveying vēdāntic teachings, he composed this song, in which he compared each of the ingredients, implements and actions required to make an appaḷam to the qualities and practices required for us to know ourself as we actually are and thereby to eradicate ego.
Verse 4: in the ghee that is ourself (brahman) heated by the fire that is ourself (jñāna) in the infinite pan that is ourself (mauna), we should constantly fry the appaḷam composed of ourself, and then eat it by experiencing ourself as ‘myself alone is myself’
அப்பள மிட்டுப் பாரு — அத்தைச்
சாப்பிட்டுன் னாசையைத் தீரு.
appaḷa miṭṭup pāru - attaic
cāppiṭṭuṉ ṉāśaiyait tīru.
பதச்சேதம்: அப்பளம் இட்டு பாரு; அத்தை சாப்பிட்டு, உன் ஆசையை தீரு.
Padacchēdam (word-separation): appaḷam iṭṭu pāru; attai sāppiṭṭu, uṉ āśaiyai tīru.
English translation: Making appaḷam, see; eating it, put an end to your desire.
Explanatory paraphrase: Making appaḷam [in the manner prescribed in this song], see [yourself as you actually are, namely as ‘I am I’]; eating it [by experiencing yourself as ‘oneself alone is oneself’], put an end to your desire [for anything other than yourself].
இப்புவி தன்னி லேங்கித் திரியாமற்
சற்போ தசுக சற்குரு வானவர்
செப்பாது சொன்ன தத்துவ மாகிற
வொப்புயர் வில்லா வோர்மொழி யின்படி — (அப்)
ibbhuvi taṉṉi lēṅgit tiriyāmaṯ
saṯbhō dasukha saṯguru vāṉavar
seppādu soṉṉa tattuva māhiṟa
voppuyar villā vōrmoṙi yiṉpaḍi — (ap)
பதச்சேதம்: இப் புவி தன்னில் ஏங்கி திரியாமல், சத் போத சுக சற்குரு ஆனவர் செப்பாது சொன்ன தத்துவம் ஆகிற, ஒப்பு உயர்வு இல்லா ஓர் மொழியின்படி, (அப்பளம் இட்டு பாரு; …)
Padacchēdam (word-separation): i-b-bhuvi taṉṉil ēṅgi tiriyāmal, sat-bhōda-sukha saṯguru āṉavar seppādu soṉṉa tattuvam āhiṟa, oppu uyarvu illā ōr moṙiyiṉpaḍi, (appaḷam iṭṭu pāru; …)
English translation: Without wandering about yearning in this world, in accordance with the unique language without equal or greater, which is the truth that he who is sadguru, existence-awareness-happiness, spoke without speaking, (making appaḷam, see; …)
Explanatory paraphrase: Without wandering about yearning [with desire for pleasures] in this world, in accordance with the unique language [namely silence], [which is] without [anything that is] equal [to] or greater [than it], [and] which is the tattva [reality, truth or true principle] that he who is sadguru [namely Dakshinamurti], [who is] sat-bhōda-sukha [sat-cit-ānanda or existence-awareness-happiness], spoke without speaking, (making appaḷam, see; eating it, put an end to your desire.)
தானல்லா வைங்கோச க்ஷேத்ர மிதில்வளர்
தானென்னு மானமாந் தான்ய வுளுந்தை
நானாரென் ஞான விசாரத் திரிகையி
னானல்ல வென்றே யுடைத்துப் பொடித்து — (அப்)
tāṉallā vaiṅkōśa kṣētra midilvaḷar
tāṉeṉṉu māṉamān tāṉya vuḷundai
nāṉāreṉ ñāṉa vicārat tirigaiyi
ṉāṉalla veṉḏṟē yuḍaittup poḍittu — (ap)
பதச்சேதம்: தான் அல்லா ஐம் கோச க்ஷேத்ரம் இதில் வளர் ‘தான்’ என்னும் மானம் ஆம் தான்ய உளுந்தை நான் ஆர் என் ஞான விசார திரிகையில் ‘நான் அல்ல’ என்றே உடைத்து பொடித்து, (அப்பளம் இட்டு பாரு; ...)
Padacchēdam (word-separation): tāṉ allā aim kōśa kṣētram idil vaḷar ‘tāṉ’ eṉṉum māṉam ām tāṉya uḷundai nāṉ ār eṉ ñāṉa-vicāra tirigaiyil ‘nāṉ alla’ eṉḏṟē uḍaittu poḍittu, (appaḷam iṭṭu pāru; …)
English translation: In the hand-mill of awareness-investigation, who am I, breaking and pulverising the black gram grains, which are the identification ‘myself’ that grows in this, the field of five sheaths, which is not oneself, as ‘not I’, (making appaḷam, see; …)
Explanatory paraphrase: In the hand-mill of jñāna-vicāra [awareness-investigation], [which is the practice of being keenly self-attentive in order to see] who am I, breaking and pulverising the black gram grains, which are the māna [attachment, identification, pride or conceit] ‘myself’ [the dēhābhimāna, the proud identification and attachment ‘this field of five sheaths is myself’] that grows [and flourishes] in this, the field of five sheaths [namely body, life, mind, intellect and will], which is not oneself, [thereby separating that entire field of five sheaths from oneself] as ‘not I’, (making appaḷam, see; eating it, put an end to your desire.)
சத்சங்க மாகும் பிரண்டை ரசத்தொடு
சமதம மாகின்ற ஜீரக மிளகுட
னுபரதி யாகுமவ் வுப்போ டுள்ளநல்
வாசனை யாம்பெருங் காயமுஞ் சேர்த்து — (அப்)
satsaṅga māhum piraṇḍai rasattoḍu
śamadama māhiṉḏṟa jīraka miḷahuḍa
ṉuparati yāhumav vuppō ḍuḷḷanal
vāsaṉai yāmperuṅ gāyamuñ cērttu — (ap)
பதச்சேதம்: சத்சங்கம் ஆகும் பிரண்டை ரசத்தொடு, சம தமம் ஆகின்ற ஜீரகம் மிளகு உடன், உபரதி ஆகும் அவ் உப்போடு, உள்ள நல் வாசனை ஆம் பெருங்காயமும் சேர்த்து, (அப்பளம் இட்டு பாரு; ...)
Padacchēdam (word-separation): sat-saṅgam āhum piraṇḍai rasattoḍu, śama damam āhiṉḏṟa jīrakam miḷahu uḍaṉ, uparati āhum a-vv-uppōḍu, uḷḷa nal vāsaṉai ām peruṅgāyamum sērttu, (appaḷam iṭṭu pāru; …)
English translation: With juice of square-stemmed vine, which is sat-saṅga, with cumin and black pepper, which are śama and dama, and with that salt, which is uparati, mixing asafoetida, which is the good vāsanā in the heart, (making appaḷam, see; …)
Explanatory paraphrase: With juice of square-stemmed vine, which is sat-saṅga [association with what is real (sat), either directly by being self-attentive, or indirectly by dwelling on teachings that repeatedly encourage one to be self-attentive or by lovingly thinking about or being in the company of a jñāni who gives such teachings], with cumin and black pepper, which are [respectively] śama [tranquillity or calmness of mind] and dama [taming, curbing, restraining or subduing the mind by withdrawing it from both external and internal objects], and with that salt, which is uparati [cessation of mental activity by giving up interest in anything other than being self-attentive], mixing [adding or combining] asafoetida, which is the good vāsanā [namely sat-vāsanā, the inclination to know and to be what one actually is] in the heart, [that is, combining and mixing all these supportive ingredients with the main ingredient, namely black gram, the dēhābhimāna or false identification ‘I am this body composed of five sheaths’, which has been broken and pulverised in the hand-mill of jñāna-vicāra] (making appaḷam, see; eating it, put an end to your desire.)
கன்னெஞ்சி னானா னென்று கலங்காம
லுண்முக வுலக்கையா லோயா திடித்து
சாந்தமாங் குழவியாற் சமமான பலகையிற்
சந்ததஞ் சலிப்பற சந்தோஷ மாகவே — (அப்)
kaṉṉeñji ṉāṉā ṉeṉḏṟu kalaṅgāma
luṇmukha vulakkaiyā lōyā diḍittu
śāntamāṅ guṙaviyāṯ samamāṉa palahaiyiṯ
santatañ salippaṟa santōṣa māhavē — (ap)
பதச்சேதம்: கல் நெஞ்சில் ‘நான் நான்’ என்று கலங்காமல் உள் முக உலக்கையால் ஓயாது இடித்து, சாந்தம் ஆம் குழவியால் சமம் ஆன பலகையில் சந்ததம் சலிப்பு அற சந்தோஷமாகவே (அப்பளம் இட்டு பாரு; ...)
Padacchēdam (word-separation): kal neñjil ‘nāṉ nāṉ’ eṉḏṟu kalaṅgāmal uḷ-mukha ulakkaiyāl ōyādu iḍittu, śāntam ām kuṙaviyāl samam āṉa palahaiyil santatam salippu aṟa santōṣamāhavē (appaḷam iṭṭu pāru; …)
அன்வயம்: நெஞ்சு கல்லில் கலங்காமல் உள் முக உலக்கையால் ‘நான் நான்’ என்று ஓயாது இடித்து, சமம் ஆன பலகையில் சாந்தம் ஆம் குழவியால் சந்ததம் சலிப்பு அற சந்தோஷமாகவே (அப்பளம் இட்டு பாரு; ...)
Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): neñju kallil kalaṅgāmal uḷ-mukha ulakkaiyāl ‘nāṉ nāṉ’ eṉḏṟu ōyādu iḍittu, samam āṉa palahaiyil śāntam ām kuṙaviyāl santatam salippu aṟa santōṣamāhavē (appaḷam iṭṭu pāru; …)
English translation: By the pestle of facing inwards without being agitated, incessantly pounding as ‘I am I’ in the heart-stone, by the rolling-pin, which is peace, on the board, which is equanimity, without weariness always joyfully (making appaḷam, see; …)
Explanatory paraphrase: By [means of] the pestle of uḷ-mukha [the practice of facing inwards] without being agitated [or confused] [by allowing one’s attention to be distracted away from oneself under the sway of one’s viṣaya-vāsanās], incessantly pounding [the dēhābhimāna tempered with the other ingredients] [by recognising oneself as] as ‘I am I’ [the fresh degree of clarity (sphuraṇa) of self-awareness that shines in one’s heart as ‘I am I’ (that is, as awareness of oneself as oneself alone) to the extent that one keenly, calmly and steadily faces inwards to see who am I] in the heart-stone [the pure heart or mind that is imbued with steadfast titikșā (endurance, forbearance and patience), which is unshakably firm like a stone mortar], [and then flattening the resulting appaḷam dough (namely the thoroughly pounded dēhābhimāna) into round wafers] with the rolling-pin, which is śānta [peace, tranquillity, composure, contentment, resignation or subsidence], on the board, which is sama [sameness, constancy, evenness, equanimity, imperturbability or samādhi], without salippu [weariness, weakness, inattentiveness, negligence or pramāda] always joyfully (making appaḷam, see; eating it, put an end to your desire.)
மோனமுத் ரையாகு முடிவில்லாப் பாத்ரத்தில்
ஞானாக்னி யாற்காயு நற்பிரம்ம நெய்யதி
னானது வாகவே நாளும் பொரித்துத்
தானே தானாக புஜிக்கத் தன்மய — (அப்)
mōṉamud raiyāhu muḍivillāp pātrattil
ñāṉāgṉi yāṯkāyu naṯbiramma neyyadi
ṉāṉadu vāhavē nāḷum porittut
tāṉē tāṉāha bhujikkat taṉmaya — (ap)
பதச்சேதம்: மோன முத்ரை ஆகும் முடிவில்லா பாத்ரத்தில் ஞான அக்னியால் காயும் நல் பிரம்ம நெய் அதில் ‘நான் அது’ ஆகவே நாளும் பொரித்து, ‘தானே தான்’ ஆக புஜிக்க, தன்மய (அப்பளம் இட்டு பாரு...)
Padacchēdam (word-separation): mōṉa mudrai āhum muḍivillā pātrattil ñāṉa agṉiyāl kāyum nal biramma ney adil ‘nāṉ adu’ āhavē nāḷum porittu, ‘tāṉē tāṉ’ āha bhujikka, taṉmaya (appaḷam iṭṭu pāru; …)
English translation: To experience as ‘oneself alone is oneself’, in that, the excellent ghee of brahman, which is heated by the fire of jñāna in the infinite pan, which is mauna-mudrā, constantly frying as ‘I am that’, (making appaḷam) composed of that, (see; …)
Explanatory paraphrase: [In order] to experience [ātma-svarūpa, the real nature of oneself] as ‘oneself alone is oneself’ [‘myself alone is myself’ or ‘I alone am I’], in that, the excellent ghee [or pure clarified butter] of brahman, which is heated by jñānāgni [the fire of jñāna or pure awareness] in the infinite pan, which is mauna-mudrā [the sign that is silence, namely the infinite space of silence, which is the sign that inwardly reveals the real nature of oneself as ‘I am just I’], constantly frying [the dry wafers of appaḷam dough prepared in the manner described in the previous three verses in accordance with the unique language of silence described in the anupallavi] as ‘I am that [namely brahman, the pure awareness that always shines as I]’, (making) tanmaya (appaḷam [appaḷam composed of tat, ‘that’, namely brahman], see; eating it, put an end to your desire.)
Michael James is the world’s foremost scholar and English translator of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s writings. He worked closely for years with Sri Sadhu Om.
Translation and introduction © Michael James; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC BY-SA 4.0).
You may use the text on this page under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC BY-SA 4.0).
This page was first published on September 12, 2023 and last revised on September 24, 2023.