Thursday, February 1, 2007

Swami at Srirangam

It was the month of maargazhi (December- January) dear to Andal and dearer
to Krishna from the days of Acharya Nathamuni [9th century CE] who brought
about the renaissance of the Divya Prabandham of Alwars, a festival
adhyayanOthsavam by name is conducted in a grand manner for 21 days ? ten
days before and then days after Vaikunta EkAdasi day. Uthsava murthi of Lord
Ranganatha is taken out from the Sanctum Sanctorum in procession to a
specially decorated hall and placed on a high pedestal. The deities of
Alwars and Acharayas are also arranged in front of the Lord in a semi
circle. The hymns of Alwars are sung before the Lord in particular tune by
chosen devotees who go by the name of Araaiyars and who dance and explain
certain fixed songs. The first two thousand verses are sung on the first ten
days beginning with the prathama of Sukhlapaksha and the third thousand in
ten days beginning with Vaikunta EkAdasi day. The fourth thousand
collectively called IyaRpaa are sung on 21st day with the Lord in asnactum
sanctorum by the member of different family which goes by the name
Anudhanar. Hundreds of scholars and devotees assemble there to listen and
enjoy these songs in front of the Lord and among Alwars and Acharyas.

One year during the life time of Sri Vedanta Desika, a team of scholars
belonging to Advaita school, which swears b the Sanskrit Upanishad and
Bhagavd Gita, but does not accept the validity of Dhivya prabandham, came to
Srirangam when the perapartions for the conduct of the adhyayanOthsavam were
in progress. They met the Srivaishnava acharyas and argued: A festival in
glorification of Tamil hymns in a temple has no saasthric sanction, even
though the Vaishnavas may accept them as Dramida Upanishad. You may conduct
the festival if you succeed in establishing your views before us in

The Srivaishnava acharyas were rather advanced in age and hesitated to
accept the challenge due to their ageing. They discussed among themselves
and concluded that they could send for Sri Vedata Desika from kanchi whose
reputation as a follower and propounder of the teachings of Acharya Sri
Ramanuja had spread far and wide.

So they sent an urgent message to Sri Vedanta Desika as the command of Lord
Ranganatha?s commander in chief Vishvaksena to come at once to Srirangam, a
command which is received with bent and bowed down heads by the devotee of
his devotees as a head ornament [and straight away carried out and executed]

Sri Desika received the divine command with great respect and joy and became
ready for the journey. He went to the temple, took leave of the Divine
copule Lord Varada and His consort and left Kanchi for Srirangam.

On the way, Sri Desika went to Sri Perumupudhur, the birth place of ACharya
Ramanuja to worship him in the archa form and seek his blessings before the
journey to Srirangam. His yathirAja Sapthathi is a moving lyric of seventy
four verses on Ramanuja, YathirAja, (the king of Sanyaasis) in which he
declares that Yathiraja was verily an incarnation of Bhagawaan and the
philosophy he reinforced was authoritative since it was strictly based on
Upanishads and he spent his whole life working for the good of everyone.

The arrival of Sri Desika in Srirangam was a great relief to Srivaishnava
acharyas. They made all arrangements for the conduct of the debate in the
spacious hall of the temple. The two opposing parties assembled there in the
ixed day. Sri Desika requested the disputant to state their objects first
so that he might categorically answer point wise each one of them to their
satisfaction. The debate went on for about a week. Sri Vedanta Desika
established with the support of the saasthra that the alwars were the
servitors of the Lord and were born to redeem the souls in bondage by their
hymns. Itw as per command of the Lord and there are references in
Bhagawathas about their briths. He also proved that the ideas of their hymns
were quite in consonance with the teaching of Vedas and quoted hymns in
which the Alwars declare that they are saying in Tamil what the Vedas and
Saasthras said in Sanskrit. The opponents were satisfied and permitted the
conduct of adhyayana utsavam to the joy of all Srivaishnavas there.

During his stay in Srirangam, Sri Vedanta Desika composed BhagavdhyAna
sOpAnam, Dasavathara sthOthra, nyAsa thilakam, nyAsa vimsathy, and wrote
several works in Sanskrit on the philosophy of VishsihtAdvaita as well as
ChillaRai rahaysams in maNipravALam. He visted azhagar kOil and Madurai,
Alwar Thirunagari and Srivilliputthur, Vanamamalai and Trivandrum. He came
back to Srirangam and continued the work of writing granthas and instruction
to disciples. Lord Ranagantha was so much pleased with the knowledge
teachings and works of Sri Desika that he conferred upon the title of
Vedantacharya. Sri Desika himself mentions this with justifiable pride in
more than one of his works. There is also a title Sarvathanthra swathanthrar
conferred upon him by Sri Ranagayaki thaayar- the divine consort of

Sri Vedanta Desika lived in peace in Srirangam for several years.

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