Guru Parampara Series – Ramanujar (The Ocean of Mercy) (Part – 5)



 Guru Parampara series Bhaghavadh Ramanuja (Part-5) 

Temple reforms

With Kidambi Aachan to take care of him Ramanuja concentrated on Srirangam temple reforms and set about fulfilling the promises he had made to Aalavandar. Ramanuja assigned the right role to the right people. Ten teams were formed to take care of different aspects of temple management. There was one group responsible for fetching Kaveri water. Five families from five gothrams were assigned as archakas. There was one group for reciting vedas, puranas and itihasas. Besides there were groups to take care of accounts, of the granary, supplying flowers, supplying clay pots daily. Devadasis or temple dancers had an important role in offering music and dance to Perumal.  Besides there were gardeners, dhobhis, tailors, boatmen, and security staff.


Kainkaryaparars of Srirangam


Arulala Perumal Emperumaanar

Ramanuja’s followers were growing everyday and thousands had accepted the Vishistadvaitha path. A scholar of great repute heard about Ramanuja’s growing popularity. He was an Advaitha Sanyasi by name Yagnamurti who was a mahavidvan. He had won over several vidvans at Kashi (Benares) and had a major shisya following. He came down to Srirangam and challenged Ramanuja to a debate. The condition was that the loser along with his followers would accept the Faith of the winner. The loser would accept  the name of the winner. The debate went on for seventeen days. Sometimes Ramanuja seemed to be winning and other times Yagnamurthi. On the seventeenth day Yagnamurthi seemed to be confident and presented his arguments convincingly. It seemed as if he would emerge the winner. Ramanuja was in a dejected state of mind.  At his Muth (monastery) he performed his evening aradhana to his aradhya murthi ‘Perarulalan’ and prayed with folded palms to Varadan expressing remorse for his inability to present his views convincingly. That night when he went to sleep Varadan came in his dream and  asked Ramanuja to refer to his guru’s Alavandar’s ‘Akhanda Mayavadha Kandanam’ which would help him present his views in clear terms.


Perundevi Thayar and Varadan with Ubhyanachimars

Next morning Ramanuja looked up Alavandar’s Srisukthi and registered the pertinent points and became confident of victory.  Yagnamurthi who had seen Ramanuja crestfallen the previous day was surprised at the new energy and confidence of his opponent.  He understood that Ramanuja was backed by Perumal. Yagnamurthi fell at Ramanuja’s feet and accepted defeat. Ramanuja however presented his arguments based on Alavandar’s Srisukthi and Yagnamurthi accepted his reasonings. He went through upanayanam, panchasamskaram and was given the Tridandam and kaashyam (ochre robes) and the name “Arulalaperumal  Emberumaanar” or Devaraja muni.  Perarulalan(Varadan) was the One who  showered His grace on him and as per the conditions of the debate he took Ramanuja’s name of Emberumaanar. Arulala Perumal Emberumaanar studied all Azhwar divyasukthis and their rahasyarthams(inner purport) at the feet of Ramanujacharya.  He was given a muth (monastery)where he tutored many shishyas. Once a group of pilgrims came asking for ‘Emberumaanar’s Muth’. The srirangavasis asked ‘which Emberumaanar Muth? “When Devaraja muni or Devaraat (Arulala Perumal Emberumaanar) heard about this he felt sad and decided to live along with Ramanujacharya.


Panguni Uthiram Serthi Srirangam



The Creation of Sri Bashyam and other Granthams

Ramanuja had thousands of followers but the chief among them were Kuresa (Kurrathazwan), Dasarathi(Mudaliaandan), Devaraat(ArulalaPerumal Emberumaanar) and Embar (Govinda). Daily kalakshepams would take place and serious discussions would follow. While studying Tiruvaymozhi there was a discussion of different philosophies like ‘Sankhya, Buddhism, Advaitham’ and their deficiencies. At this point Ramanuja remembered the promise he had made to Alavandar and set about the mission of writing a bashyam for ‘Brahma Sootram’.  Kuresa was to write down what Ramanuja dictated but if he felt the interpretation was not correct he could stop. While defining the jeevathma (soul) Ramanuja described it as having cognition alone as an attribute. Kuresa stopped writing for the most important characteristic of the soul is its Seshathvam (allegience) to Paramatma (God). Ramanuja was angry with Kuresa (Kurrathazhwan) and asked him to complete the bashyam himself. Kuresa was neither ruffled or angry. Ramanuja thought about this all night and realized that Kuresa (Kuratthazhwan) was right and sought apologies from him the following day. Besides ‘Sri Bashyam’ Ramanuja authored Vedantha Saaram, Vedantha Deepam, Vedantha Sangraham, Geetha Bashyam, Nityam and Gadhya Trayam (three gadhyams).

 One Panguni Utthiram day when Ramanuja saw Periya Perumal and Periya Piratti in serthi (together) Saranagathi gadhyam, Sriranga gadhyam and Vaikuntagadhyam were born. Thus Emberumaanar authored nine granthams.


Tirukudanthai Komalavalli-Aravamudhan



 Emberumaanar’s Diggvijayam(Travels)

At the prodding of his shishyas Kuresa(Kurrathazhwan) Nadathur azhwan and Pillaan, Yathiraja prepared to leave on a Vijaya yatra to divyadesams. The purpose was twofold – one to do mangalasasnams to the deities and to win over other philosophies by establishing the truth of Vishistadvaitha.  After taking permission from Periya Perumal(Ranganatha) the yatra (journey) started. His first stop was ‘Tirukudunthai’ (Kumbakonam) for was it not Aravamudhazhwar who gave us the nalayiram (The Divine Four Thousand)? After visiting divyadesams around he proceeded to Pandya divyadesams including Tirumalirumcholai and Tirupullani. Next destination was Azhwar Tirunagari and Tirukurungudi.


Tirukurungudi Nambi

 Srivaishnava nambi

Emberumaanar along with thousands of shishyas took a dip in the sacred Tamraparni and did their anushtanams (nityakarmas) on its bank. The Perumal of this divyadesam ‘Tirukurugudi nambi’ came in the guise of a srivaishnava and told Ramanuja that Sriman Narayana who took the avatharm of SriRama and Sri Krishna could not bring chethanas (human beings) on the right track. “You have the secret mantram which has brought and is bringing chetnas (humans) to the right path. Please give me upadesham (impart) of these.” Udaiyavar performed samashrayanam for the srivaishnava, applied the dwadasapundrams (12 tirumans) and did upadesham of Ashtaksharam (the eight syllabled mantram) and gave him the dasyanamam of  ‘Srivaishnava nambi’.

 When Udaiyavar went to the temple of Tirukurungudi nambi along with his shishyas he noticed that Perumal was sporting the tiruman he had applied to the srivaishnava. Ramanuja sought forgiveness by chanting  ‘saranagathi gadhyam’. Next they visited the ‘Malai-nadu divyadesams’ (Kerala divyadesams) and then proceeded northwards.




Triveni Sangam



Ramanuja becomes Bashyakarar

Ramanuja and his shishyas visited Mathura, Gokulam, Brindavanam, Ayodhya, Naimisharanyam, Badrinath and to Saraswathi Vidhyapeetam. Goddess Saraswathi welcomed him and said that his bashyam on the ‘Brahmasutras’ would be called ‘Sribashyam’ and Ramanuja would henceforth be called Sribashyakarar. She handed over the divyamangala vigraham of SriLakshmi Hayagriva to Ramanuja. Many people became the shishyas of Ramanuja but there were some local pandits who were jealous of Bashyakarar and conducted a yagyam invoking bad spirits . The bad spirits did not harm Bashyakarar but the performing pandits  became mad. At the request of the local king Bashyakarar  forgave them and they became his followers. After visiting Kasi, Allahabad, Puri, Srikurmam, Simhachalam and Ahobilam Sri Bashyakarar visited Tiruvenkatam (Tirumala).

 Srinivasa accepts Shanku/chakram


Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi) Ramanuja’s maternal uncle heard about the coming of his nephew and descended the Tirumalai Hills and came to receive him at the foothills. Ramanuja did not want to place his feet on the Holy Hill and was crawling up.  Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi) advised him not to crawl as this would create a precedent and devotees would not visit Tirumala. Obeying his uncle/acharyan Ramanuja climbed up. He asked ‘uncle did you have to come down all the way for conveying this message’ Adiyen would have obeyed if you had sent some small messenger. Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi) said ‘adiyen looked around but could not find anyone smaller than me.’ Such was the naichyam (humility) of Srisilapoorna (Tirumalai nambi).  Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi) was entrusted with the imparting of Srimadh Ramayana rahashyarthams to Ramanuja by his acharya Alavandar. After doing ‘theertha-kainkaryam’ (fetching water from ‘Aakasha Gangai’) Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi) used to come to the foothills to impart Srimadh Ramayana kalakshepam.This took a year to complete.



Swami Pushkarni

At this point we have to digress to talk about how Ramanuja established that the divyamangalamurthi at Tirumalai was Sriman Narayana.  The Lord of the seven hills gave His Shankhu and Chakram to His devotee Tondaiman Chakravarthi who ruled over ‘Tondai mandalam’ with Kanchipuram as his capital. Once when he was getting ready for ‘Tirumalai-Yatra’ Perumal warned him in his dream about an imminent enemy attack and sent His Divine weapons Shanku/Chakram to save Kanchipuram. Bereft of Shanku/Chakram the Lord’s identity became an issue. Because of the presence of matted locks and entwining serpents shaivaites claimed that the deity was Shiva. Vaishnavas claimed it was Vishnu. Ramanuja decided to place the insignia of Vishnu that is Shanku/Chakram and the emblem of Shiva Tirushoolam (the trident) inside the garbhagriham (sanctum) and pray to the deity to accept what belonged to Him. Next morning the divyamangalamurthi was seen with the Shankhu/Chakram showing that He was Perumal (Srinivasa) and Ramanuja danced in joy.


Sri Sailapoorna(Tirumalai Nambi)


Temple of Srisailapoorna(Tirumalai Nambi


Painting showing Srinivasa Perumal  as a boy drinking   water   from Srisailapoorna’s kudam(water-pot)    and calling him as ‘thatha'(father)

Ramanuja studied Srimadh Ramayana from 18 aspects as expounded by Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi) who imbibed these from Alavandar. Ramanuja did Srimadh Ramayana kalakshepam for one whole year. When he was returning to Srirangam visiting divyadesams like Kanchipuram on the route, he requested his uncle to send Govindan with him. So Govindan accompanied Ramanuja but reluctantly for he did not want to part from his guru Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi). Noticing this Ramanuja sent Govinda back to Tirumala. Srisailapoorna (Tirumalai nambi) was very angry with Govinda and refused  to even feed him or allow him to enter inside his house. Govinda understood that he had erred and went back to Ramanuja.


Tirukurugaipiran Pilaan- Kanchipuram

 Birth of Bhaghavadh Vishayam(6000 padi)

One day Emberumaanar was reciting a pasuram from the ‘naalayira divya prabhandham’ and pacing to and fro in his muth (monastery) doing appropriate mudras. Pilaan who was observing this from a keyhole  asked ‘Is this the anubhavam (experience) of Tirumalirumcholai pasurams’? Emberumaanar was struck by this correct observation and said ‘is this our Pilaan?’ Emberumaanar opened the door and called Pilaan indoors. He summoned Mahapoorna (Periya nambi) and his shishyas. He told the gathering that Pilaan had been of unquestionable character and wisdom and had reverence for bhaghavathas (devotees of Perumal) and above all an uncanny understanding of prabhandhams. His recognition of the pasuram by observing the abhinayam revealed the grace of poorvacharyas. So Emberumaanar made Pilaan his ‘gnanaputran’ and gave him the name Tirukurugaipiran Pilaan. Tirukurugaipiraan means the lord of Tirukurugur that is Nammazhwar. Pilaan was asked to write a bashyam (commentary) for Nammazhwar’s ‘Tiruvaymozhi’. Tirukurugaipiraan wrote 6000 padi and offered it at the feet of Emberumaanar. Emberumaanar approved of it and the mangala slokams of SriBashyam were incorporated for 6000 padi which was named ‘Bhaghavadh Vishayam’ and was to be studied as a kalakshepa grantham like SriBashyam. Periya nambi and all others approved of this. When this news reached Tirumala, Srisailapoorna(Tirumalai nambi)  felt happy that Alavandar’s wish had been fulfilled.  Thus Ramanuja fulfilled two of the promises he had made to Alavandar.

Writeup : Vyjayanthi Rajan





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