As a reference time frame, Swami Desikan’s period on this earth is 1268 to 1369AD. He lived the proverbial 100 plus Veda Praayam. He witnessed many historical events and contributed enormously to the sustenance and growth of Sri Bhagavad RamanujaSiddhantham. One of the most important events in his life crowned with accomplishments as a “VEDANTHAACHARYA” a name given to him by Sri Ranganatha and as “Sarvatantra Swatantrar”, a title bestowed on him by Sri Ranganayaki is connected with Muslim Invasion of Srirangam and the creation of Abheethi Stavam.
Muslim Invasions: The first of the invasions took place in the year 1311, when Swami was 43years old. It was headed by Malik Kafur, who was a general in Allaudin Khilji’s court. He wasa converted Hindu from Gujarat and had fierce ambitions to please his master. He was feared widely. He hit hard, plundered and went back with his loot. The fear created by him lasted. Another invasion by Ulugh Khan followed during 1323 AD, when our Acharya was 55 Years old. He was by that time, one of the most revered Vaishnava Acharyas. He had composed many granthams at the command of Sri Ramanuja, who appeared in his dream. He was deeply absorbed in the Kaimkaryam of the Divya Dampathis and Ubhaya Vedantha Kalakshepam to advance the glorious tenets of Ramanuja.
A disturbing incident happened that had influence on his choice of Satyagalam as a place where he stayed during the invasion by Ulugh Khan. The background is as follows:
A learned scholar by the name of Kanthaadai Lakshmanaacchaar committed Apachara to the Swami and fell ill. It made Swami very unhappy. Few days later, Kanthaadai sincerely regretted his trespass and sought Swami’s pardon. He became cured and he ingested Swami’s Sri Paada Theertham and was blessed with a child. The father named the child Theertha Pillai in view of the blessings caused by the Sree Paada Theertham of Swami Desikan. Our Acharya was disturbed by these events and decided to go away from Srirangam for a while and traveled to Satyagalam with his family and disciples and continued his Pravachanam and worship of the Divya Dampathis from a distance. After few months, he could not stay away from the Srirangam Divya dampathis and he returned to Srirangam. This was his introduction to Satyagalam, which will again host him during the time of the second Muslim Invasion.
The second invasion news spread as Ulug Khan torched his way south towards Srirangam. The residents of Srirangam including Swami Desikan and Sudarsana Bhattar worried about the calamities that could ensue. Sudarsana Bhattar was the author of Srutha Prakasika, the commentary on Sri Bhashyam following strictly the Sri Bhashyam of Ramanuja as preserved by his disciples. Sudarsana Bhattar had two young sons. He was also the chief priest at Srirangam temple. Both the Bhattar and the key people involved with the temple wanted to move the Archa Murthys of Srirangam away and sit out the invasion at a safe distance. They raised a stone wall to hide the Moolavar and transported Sri Ranganatha and Sri Ranganayaki in special boxes and left at the middle of night. With difficult travel, they reached Thirumalai and conducted the daily Aradhanam for the Divine couple there without attracting too much attention. Swami Desikan could not stay behind, once The Divya Dampathis had left Srirangam. He joined Sudarsana Bhattar in Thiruppatthi hills. There Sudarsana Bhattar pleaded with Swami Desikan to protect Srutha Prakasikai and his two sons and stay somewhere deep beyond reach of the Muslim invaders, who might track down those, who removed Sri Ranganatha from Srirangam. Out of his great affection for Sri Bhashyam, Swami agreed and left for the peace and quiet of Satyamangalam, where he was welcomed earlier by the residents with great affection. He gave pravachanams on Srutha Prakasika raised the two sons of the Bhattar as his own. He left from Satyamangalam for Thirunarayanapuram to offer his worship to Sri Ramanuja and Selva Pillai. There he composed Yatiraja Sapthathi; there he also suffered from the separation from Sri Ranganatha and composed Abheethi Stavam in the stavam style of Kuresa, the author of five stavams. He recited many times his stavam on Ranganatha and peace returned to Srirangam as a result of the victory of Chenji king Koppanaaryan. The Chenji king went to Thirupathi and brought Sri Ranganatha back to Srirangam after a brief sojourn at Chenji.
Swami Desikan heard about the good news and returned to Srirangam and regained his mental peace through reunion with the Dhivya Dampathis. He started the Margazhi Adhyayana Utsavam, which had been halted during the turbulent period of invasion and defeated the arguments of those, who objected to the celebration of the works of Azhwaars, who were born in different Varnaas. Through his victory in the debates, Swamy established the holiness of the works of Azhwaars as divine works that have a status similar to the Arya Vedams. Sri Ranganatha like Sri Varadaraja before was pleased with Swami’s defense and instructed that the invocatory verse “Ramanuja Dayaapathram—” be recited first by Prabhandha Ghoshtis at the beginning of their recitations of Divya Prabhandham. This Invocatory verse was composed by Brahma Tantra Swatantra Swamy (BTST), a key disciple of Swami and was the founder of the Parakala Matam, where Hayagreevan is the Araadhana Murthy. BTST had composed it during the occasion of his Acharya’s pravachanam on Aaraayirappati, which later was released as Nigama Parimalam by the Acharya. There Swami Desikan covered the Vedic similarity of Azhwaar’s work and showed the roots of the Azhwaar’s aruLiccheyalkaL as originating from Veda Samhitas and Upanishads. That invocatory work was the one chosen by Sri Ranganatha to honor the service of Swami Desikan. Ramanuja Dayaapathram was composed in Satyamangalam (present day Sathyagalam), a place linked with Acharya’s stay during the invasion of Srirangam.