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Ramnujar Jayanti

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Hi folks,

Ramanuja was born about 1000 years ago, the precise date is unknown, but the traditional sources put it very precisely on,

"சகவர்ஷம் தொள்ளாயிரத்து முப்பத்தொன்பது சென்ற வர்த்தமான பிங்கள ஸம்வத்ஸரத்தில் ஸ்ரீமத்தான சைத்ரமாஸத்தில் சுக்லபக்ஷத்தில் பஞசமி குருவாஸர ஸஹிதமான திருவாதிரை நக்ஷத்ரத்திலே..."

He was born in Sri Perumbuthur, about midway between Chennai and Kanchipuram. His father was Asuri Kesava Somayaji and mother was Kanthimathi. They belonged to the Vadama sect of Smarthas, most probably Vaishnavas. His maternal uncle, Periya Thirumalai Nambi, was definitely one because he was a disciple of Swami Alavandhar, the preeminent Sri Vaishnava acharya. Whether Ramanuja was raised as a Vaishnava or not is uncertain as his own cousin was a Shiva for a long time before joining Sri Vaishnavam under Ramanuja.

After completing all the basic Shashthras, Ramanuja joined the gurukulam of Yadavaprakasha at a place called Thirupputkuzhi. This is a small village about 5 KM west of Kanchipuram, a little off from the Chennai - Bangalore highway. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams.

Here, he started studying Vedantam.
Hi folks,

There is no clear record of what actually took place at Thirupputkuzhi where Ramanuja was studying Vedantam under Yadavaprakasha (YP). The Sri Vaishnava hagiography claims tense relationship between the master and the student. Several incidents are described at this stage of Ramanuja's life.

Monkey's bottom
One day as Ramanuja was applying oil upon his guru, YP was explaining to another student the meaning of the verse:

"தஸ்ய யதா கப்யாஸம் புண்டரீகம் ஏவமக்ஷிணீ"

YP seems to have said that the lord's eyes were red like the bottom of a monkey. Hearing this gross misinterpretation, it seems hot tears rolled down Ramanuja's eyes and fell on YP's thigh.

YP asked R why he was crying. R replied that கப்யாஸம் is கம் பிபதீதி கபி: and that means bright rays of the sun. So the real purport is the lord's eyes were like the bright sun. YP is supposed to have gotten very angry at this point.

Attempted assassination
After the above incident, the text goes on to describe an attempt by YP and his other loyal disciples to kill Ramanuja. They plan a trip to Kasi and there they were going to bump him off in Gangai. But, R's cousin, who was also in the gurukulam, tips him off of the plan and Ramanuja drops off from the entourage. YP is happy that they did not have to do the deed and R is surely dead as he cannot survive on his own in the wilderness.

A hunter couple help the young boy back to Kanchi. Of course the text claims the hunter couple was none other than, yes, Sriman Narayana and Sri. On return from Kasi YP is surprised to find R safely back in Kanchi, but acts as though he was very happy to see him alive.

A Brahmma Rakshasha (BR) is supposed to have captured the body of the local princess and was behaving badly. The king recruited YP to exorcise the girl but YP was unsuccessful. The BR mocks YP and says he will leave only if Ramanuja comes and places his feet upon his (the girl's) head. R obliges and BR leaves.

Perhaps this is a case of a teenager behaving badly and Ramanuja made her see sense.

Sarvam Kalividam bhramha
The final nail in the teacher pupil relationship was driven when Ramanuja disagreed with YP's advaitic interpretation of the so called mahavakhyas. YP threw R out of his gurukulam. Then Ramanuja returned to Kanchi and upon the advice of his mother and Thirukkachchi nambi started performing service at the temple. His task was to fetch water for Thirumanjanam. This was a turning point in the life of Ramanuja and he never looked back again.

Many years later, YP himself is supposed to have abandoned his gurukulam and became a pupil of Ramanuja in Sri Rangam.

finally a true bhakthi for ramanuja acharyaal by nara.good nara sir,keep it up.
திருக்கச்சி நம்பி

The earliest Sri vaishnava hagiography is called ஆறாயிரப்படி குருபரபராப்ரபாவம் written by பின்பழிகிய பெருமாள் ஜீயர். He was a sishya of நம்பிள்ளை, who was a shishyas of நஞ்ஜீயர் who was a shishyas of பராசர பட்டர் who was a shishyas of எம்பார் who was a shishyas and cousin of இராமனுசர். From this lineage we can infer that this bio was written within about 3 generations of Ramanuja, no more than 100 years after Ramanuja's time.

This text does not dwell too much on the time between Ramanuja left Yadabaprakasha’s (YP) gurukulam and eventually joined the fold of Sri Vaishnavam. Yet, the text does give a glimpse of Ramanuja's free spirit that finds resonance even to this day among the progressives.

After leaving YP, R spent his days fetching water for the temple. By this time he was married. He was being guided by an NB devotee called Thiru Kachchi Nambi (TKN). In due course of time R became very close to TKN. R held TKN in such a great esteem he wanted to formally take him as his acharya. But TKN knew that with an NB as his acharya Ramanuja will never be taken seriously by the Brahmnical orthodoxy. So he refused, but R was not be denied so easily. Ultimately TKN had to enlist Perarulan (Varadarajan) to make R look elsewhere for acharya, more about that in a bit.

R revered TKN so much that he wanted to host him for a formal lunch and then eat his left over (shesham). Here one may recall Thondaradippodi Azhvar's போனகம் செய்த சேடம் தருவரேல் புனிதம் அன்றே. TKN agreed.

But, on the appointed day while R was still at the temple fulfilling his water fetching duties, he went to R's house, had his lunch and left. When R returned he found out that TKN had already left and found out that his wife had removed the leaf TKN had eaten on with a stick, thrown out all the left overs, cleaned the hall with cow dung and had taken a bath. Here is how the text describes this:

"....அவர் அமுது செய்தருளின தளிகையைக் கோலாலே தள்ளி
அவ்விடத்தைக் கோமயத்தாலே ஸ்தல சுத்தி பண்ணித் தெளித்துத்
தாமும் நீராடி நிற்கிற அளவிலே ..... "

This was first instance when R became upset with his wife. It would take two more such instances before he leaves her and takes up sanyasam.

The text as well as SV tradition holds that TKN performed திரு அலவட்ட கைங்கர்யம் (fan) for Lord Varadaraja and during this time the two freely conversed. The text claims R had some questions in his mind and in one of TKN's chit-chat the Lord gave the answers and instructed TKN to convey them to R. Here are those answers.

பர தத்வம் நாமே (I am supreme truth)
பேதமே தர்சனம் (Duality is the truth)
உபாயமும் ப்ரபத்தியே (saranagathi is the means for moksham)
அந்திம ஸ்ம்ருதி வேண்டா (deathbed contemplation of the Lord is not necessary)
சரீராவஸாநத்திலே மோக்ஷம் (at the end of this birth is moksham)
பெரியநம்பி திருவடிகளிலே ஆச்ரியிப்பது (take Periya Nambi as acharya)

Thus, TKN, with the authority of Lord Varadaraja convinced R to abandon his desire to have TKN as his acharya and take a Brahmin, Periya Nambi, as his acharya.

Two great men, who had the right instincts, couldn't bring themselves to break the barriers of varna system.

Ramanuja's initiation into SV

All Brahmnical traditions have Acharya lineage that go all the way to their respective supreme being. Sri Vasihnava tradition is no exception. But it is unique in one way, their last Acharya in Bhuloka, before the lineage passes on to celestial realm, is a Shudra, namely, Swami Nammazhvar.

The SV lineage starts with Sriman Narayana, followed by Lakshmi, and Viswaksenar. After Viswaksenar, the lineage passes down to Bhulokam to Swami Nammazhvar. Then, there is a long chronological gap. The next in line is Swami Nathamuni (SN). So, Swami Nammazhvar is only a manaseka acharya.

SN was the first person to gather and organize the poetry of all Azhvars into what we now call 4000 Dhivya Prabhandam. By chance he heard ten stanzas of Nammazhvar’s Thiruvaymozi and was so moved he spent the rest of his life traveling, collecting, and organizing not just Nammazhvar's poems, but all SV poetry. Let me give the first stanza of these 10 and you will see why SN was so moved.
ஆரா அமுதே அடியேன் உடலம் நின்பால் அன்பாயே
நீராய் அலைந்து கரைய உருக்குகின்ற நெடுமாலே
சீரார் செந்நெல் கவரி வீசும், செழுநீர் திருக்குடந்தை
ஏரார் கோலம் தகழக் கிடந்தாய் கண்டேன் எம்மானே
Pause for a minute and take it in, this melts the heart of even one such as me, just imagine what SN would have felt hearing 10 such exquisite stanzas.

Thanks to SN, DP became part of SV canon. All SV consider DP to be the distilled essence of all the Vedas. Within the entire SV community, Azhvar verses carry the same validity as the Vedas. For these reasons DP is called Dravida Veda and Dramido Upanishad. Swami Sri Desikan, the patron saint for Vadakalais even called himself “thamiz maRaiyon”. There is a widely held misconception that Vadakalais place greater emphasis on Vedas and Thenkalais place greater emphasis on DP. This is an extremely superficial understanding of the two SV kalais.

After Swami Nathamuni ,the lineage passed on to Swami Uyyakkondar and on to Swami Manakkal Nambi, down to SN’s own grandson Alavandhar. During this period, SV was relatively small and somewhat revolutionary. There is textual evidence to show signs of egalitarian tendencies. The group of disciples included all castes, even Dalits. Emphasis was placed on devotional Bhakthi. Here was the seed for the Bhakti movement that in due course took all of India by storm.

Swami Periya Nambi (SPN) was a member of Alavandhar’s eclectic group of pupils. AL had heard of Ramanuja and his troubles with Yadavaprakasha. So, he deputed SPN to woo Ramanuja into SV fold with the help of another of AL’s pupils, Swami Thiruk kacchi Nambi (TKN). In the meantime, TKN himself had prepared Ramanuja to take SPN as his acharya.

The text describes the meeting between SPN and R in dramatic terms. Upon AL’s instruction, SPN left Sri Rangam and traveled north to Kanchi to meet R. Upon TKN’s direction, R left Kanchi towards Sri Rangam to meet SPN.

The two met in Mathurandhakam. Seeing SPN, R fell at his feet and pleased for Hitopadesham immediately. SPN promised R that he will do so in Kanchi in the big temple. Citing the fleeting nature of life, R agreed to wait till next day only if SPN can guarantee he will live till the next day.

Taken aback by R's eagerness, SPN took R to the Maduranthakam Ramar temple and performed Panca Samskaram under the Makizha tree. The temple archaka here claims the implements SPN used for the Tapa Samskaram (branding the shoulders with Shanku and Chakram) is what they have in R’s sannithi in this temple. To mark the grahastha status of R at that time, white vasthram is used for R in this temple – R in all other temples wears kavi.

Thus, everything came together, SPN moved to Kanchi and Ramanuja’s interrupted study of Vedanta resumed in earnest under SPN.
Ramanuja's Sanyasam


I made a slight chronological error in my previous post. By the time Sri Periya Nambi (SPN) left Sri Rangam and started out to Kanchi, and met R enroute, Swami Alavandhar (AL) had already passed on. The events at the time of AL’s death seem to have paved the way for R’s eventual elevation to the leadership of the SV order.

Even though AL kept track of R’s activities, R himself was oblivious of AL. When R left Yadavaprakasha’s gurukulam, Sri Periya Nambi (SPN) made an attempt to bring R to AL so that AL can have R as his shishya. Unfortunately, when SPN and R arrived in Sri Rangam, AL had already died.

At that time, the text says, as R prostrated he noticed three fingers of AL’s body were folded. Upon inquiry R realized that only at the time of death AL folded the three fingers. R took this to mean AL had some unfulfilled wishes. Upon further investigation R found out that AL had three passions, namely,

  1. sense of indebtedness to Vyasa and Parasara,
  2. deep devotional love for Nammazhvar, and,
  3. desire to write a commentary to Bhrmma Sutra in line with Visishtadvaitam.
The original text is quite fascinating. Here it is:

வ்யாஸ பராசரரிடத்திலே உபகார ஸ்ம்ருதியும்,
நம்மாழ்வார் பக்கல் ப்ரேமாதிசியமும்,
வ்யாஸ ஸூத்டரத்திற்கு விசிஷ்டாத்வைத பரமாக வ்யாக்யான வாஞ்சையும்

Immediately, R vowed that he will fulfill AL’s three wishes, and the text says, miraculously the three fingers straightened.

(R fulfilled the first wish by naming the twin sons of his primary shishya Koorathazhvan as Parashara and Vyasa. The second was fulfilled through a commentary for Thirvaymozhi called Bhagavat Vishayam written by R’s sishys Thirukkurugaipiran Pillan. He fulfilled the third wish by writing a commentary on Bhrmma Sutra which came to be known as Sri Bhashya.)

After all the funreal rituals were over, R went back to Kanchi. Pupils of AL urged SPN to take up the leadership position. But SPN refused. He pointed to the folded fingers episode and said his duty is to bring R into the order and make him the leader.

Back in Kanchi, SPN took up residence in a portion of R’s home. Under the tutelage of SPN, R learnt Azhvar Sri Sukthees (DP) and esoteric SV doctrine. This continued for about six months. During this time two events happened that pushed him out of the life of a householder and into one of Sanyasam. The first is one where his wife refused to feed a hungry young man R had sent home. Even though there was plenty of food, R’s wife lied to him that there was none.

The next instance was one where R’s wife insulted SPN’s wife with harsh words. Hearing this, SPN and his wife packed their bags and left Kanchi without even telling R.

This was the last straw. According to SV tradition there are three kinds of offenses. They are (i) Bhagavat Apacharam (offense against god), (ii) Bhaagavatha Apacharam (offense against Bhaktha) and (iii) Asahyaapachara (unspeakable offense, one against Acharya). These offenses are supposed to be in exponentially increasing order of seriousness. The first kind is practically no problem, Sriman Narayana will ignore or tolerate it, or immediately forgive you at the slightest of regret. The second kind is very serious and even Bhagavan cannot remedy it, only the offended Bhagavatha can offer absolution. The seriousness of the third kind of offense is supposed to be off the charts, and should not even be spoken of. R’s wife committed the third kind of offense when she insulted Acharya’s wife.

Counting the time when she threw away the leftover food of Thirukkachchi Nambi, this was third offense. So, R sent his wife back to her relatives by birth and made monetary provisions for her livelihood. Then he went to Lord Perarulalan of the Kanchi temple and asked to be initiated into Sanyasam. The text says the lord approved R’s request and gave him thridandam and Kashayam through the Archaka.

Thus R became a Sanyasi.
Move to Sri Rangam

Three sishyas
With Sri Periya Nambi gone back to Sri Rangam, R, now a sanyasi, was on his own and was attracting sishyas of his own from everywhere. Among them were three noteworthy sishyas.

The first one was Kandadai Muthaliyandan. He was R’s sister’s son. He became a close confidante of R and never separated from him.

The second was a rich land lord called Srivatsangamisrar, from Kooram, a village near Kanchi. He is also known as Koorathazvan. He and his wife Andal were pillars of strength for R. They figure in two of the three promises R made to unfold the three folded fingers of Alavandhar’s dead body. R named the twin sons of Koorathavan and Andal after Vyasa and Parashara, the first promise, and Koorathazvan and Andal helped R with the writing of Sri Bhashyam, the third promise. One could even say without their able assistance R may not have completed Sri Bhashya.

However, it is the story of the third prominent sishya to join R that is fascinating. It was none other than Yadavaprakasha (YP), who once was R’s guru and viewed R with so much jealousy he even plotted to kill R. By this time YP’s mother had become an ardent disciple of R and she persuaded YP to give up his ekadandam and take up SV under R. But YP was hesitant because as a Ekadandi sanyasi he had given up sikahi and yanjyopaveetam. The only way to atone for this sin was circumambulation of the entire world, which was not possible for him due to advanced age. But YP’s mother and Thirukakachi nambi persuaded that for them, R is the world, and therefore, circumambulation of R would fulfill the requirements of the needed atonement. This is what he did, upon which a second sowla and upanayana ceremonies were performed for YP and he was given Thridandam and the name of Goivnda Jeeyar. From this point onwards, Govinda Jeeyar became part of R’s retinue.

Move to Sri Rangam
In the meantime, SPN and other SVs at Sri Rangam wanted R to move to Sri Rangan and take up the mantle of Alavandar. They sent a note from Sri Ranganatha (temple), through an emissary, to Kanchi Varadaraja (temple). But it seems Lord Varadaraja (the temple authorities) refused to part with R. So, the SVs of Sri Rangam devised a plot to seduce the Kanchi temple authorities into a stupor with Azhvar pasurams and make them give up R. The person selected to get this job done was Thiruvaranga Perumal Araiyar (TPA), who was an expert at rendering Azhvar poems with music and dance.

On an important utsavam day, with the entire town gathered in a grand hall called “kachchikku vaayththan”, in front of Lord Perarulalan (Varadaraja) TPA put on a grand show. Everyone gathered were mesmerized. The text here describes that Lord varadaraja himself instructed that TPA be given special presents including a magnificent necklace that was adorned by the Vigraha. But TPA said he was not interested in any of that, but will state what he really wishes as the Lord was well known to grant the wishes of bhakthas. The stage was set and the trap was laid. Lord Varadaraja (the temple authorities) walked right into it. It seems Perumal said,

"நாமும் நம்பெண்டுகளும் ஒழிய நீர் வேண்டினத்தை தருகிறோம்"

Immediately, TPA asked for Ramanuja. He knew he had been had, and yet tried to wiggle out by saying:

"அப்போதே அறியப் பெற்றிலோமே! இவரை ஒழிய நீர் வேண்டினதெல்லாந் தருகிறோம், கேளீர்"

Then TPN applied the coup de grace,

ராமோ த்விர்நாபி பாஷதே என்கிற தேவரீர் இரண்டு வார்த்தை அருளிச் செய்யலாமோ

It seems with a smile Perarulalan conceded and TPA grasped Ramanuja's hand and took him away.

The text describes in great detail how Ramanuja entered Sri Rangam and the grand welcome he was given.

Emperumanar title

R spent the next few years in Sri Rangam, managing the temple activities, and studying under several of Swami Alavandhar’s acharyas. Even though Swami Periya Nambi was the initiating Acharya for R, several of Swami Alavandar’s sishyas took up the task of R’s education in Ubhaya Vedanta Shahsthras. Of all of them the most important one was Thirukkoshtiyur Nambi (KN). The encounter between R and KN includes the most widely known but grossly misunderstood episode of Ramanuja climbing the temple Gopuram and shouting out Thirumandiram for everyone to hear.

There are three manthras that are of great significance for SVs. They are (i) Thiruvashtaksharam, (ii) Dwayam, and (iii) BG Sarama Shlokam. Shishyas are initiated into these three manthras during the time of Panca Samskaram, aka, Samasrayanam. So, we can infer that Bhagavat Ramanuja was already initiated into these three by Swami Periya Nambi at Maduranthakam when he performed this rite for R. However, the underlying meaning of these manthras, not readily apparent, had to be carefully studied and this is what R approached KN for.

But KN was in no mood to take R as a sishya unless R showed intense interest. So KN made him travel to Thirukkoshtiyur from Sri Rangam 18 times, only to be sent back everytime. Finally, R is said to have gone on an Upavasam. Ultimately, KN relented and sent word asking R to come alone with just his Thridandam and Pavithram. But R, it seems, went with Mudaliandan and Koorathazvan claiming they are his Thirdandam and Pavithram.

KN then extracted a promise that R will keep the lessons a secret and proceeded to teach the deeper meanings of Thiru Ashtaksharam to the three.

The next day, R went to the Srinrisimhar sannithi in the temple and proceeded to teach the lessons he learned the previous day from KN, to everyone gathered there. This angered KN and demanded R to explain himself. At this time, R is supposed to have replied as follows.

"அடியேன் ஒருவனே அன்றோ நரகம் புகுவது? தேவரீர் திருவடிகளை முன்னிட்டுக்கொண்டு சொல்லுகையாலே, இவ் ஆத்ம கோடிகளெல்லாம் தேவ்ரீர் திருவடி சம்பந்தத்தாலே உஜ்ஜீவிப்பர்கள் என்று சொன்னேன்"

Impressed by R’s compassion for fellow beings, KN embraced R and gave him the title “Emperumanaar” and declared that SV tradition be known as Ramanuja Darshanam from that day onwards.


This text does not have anything about R climbing to the top of the temple gopuram and shouting out the mantram. Surely that was a later interpolation. Alas, the most moving tale of Ramanuja’s story is just that, a tale. But, at the same time, I don't want to minimize the significance of what the text says R did. Going against a direct command of your acharya is no small matter, and I am sure R was completely steeped in belief in naragam, rebirth, etc. So, the prospect of going to naragam was, I am sure, a real one in R's mind.
With the guidance of Swami Alavandhar’s sishyas, Bhagavat Ramanuja completed his study of Vedanta. People started to take notice of R’s wisdom and compassion. More and more people joined the SV fold. Ordinary people and scholars alike came from far and wide to learn under him. Some also came to challenge him for a debate. One such person was Yanjyamoorthy (YM). He was supposed to have travelled widely and trounced opponents through his knowledge and logic. Having heard of Ramanuja, he came to Sri Rangam, with his entourage, and challenged R to a debate. In case he is bested by R, YM offered to carry R’s padarakshai on his head and embrace SV. R accepted the challenge.

The debate went on for 16 days with no clear winner. On the 17th day, YP cornered R and seemed to be on the verge of triumph. At this point, the text goes into a story about Sriman Narayana appearing in the dream and arranging things so that YM would give up on his own without R doing anything, a very uninspiring end to an otherwise great saga of clash of the titans. Thankfully, the text also gives some hints as to what might have actually happened. It seems R used a text critical of Advaitam by Alavandar to overcome YM’s arguments. The points refuted seem to include the concepts such as Mayavadam, Nirguna and Avidya.

On the the 18th day, it seems YM accepted defeat, and broke his Ekadandam into two and threw it away. He underwent all the required rites and became an SV sanyasi. He was named Arulalap Perumal Emperumanaar and became an ardent follower of Ramanuja.

Ramanuja and Ramanuja Darsanam were experiencing a golden period. R wrote several treatises such as Vedantadeepam, Vedantasaram, Vedartasangraham, Geetha Bashyam, and of course his magnum opus, Sri Bhashyam. He then travelled the length and breadth of India. His travels took him to the southernmost points of India such as Thiruvanadapuram and the Northern most points such as Saligramam, which is in Nepal, not a suburb of Chennai! Everywhere he went he established gatherings of followers. When he met opposition he tried to win them over through his power of intellect and devotion. He was successful in most cases. But he failed in two dramatic instances, Thiruvanadapuram (and by extension other Divya Desams in Kerala) and Puri, both remains outside SV tradition till today.

In Thiruvengadam there was a clash between SVs and Saivas about the true identity of the lord of Thiruvengadam. The Saivas claimed Siva to be the presiding deity by citing an Azhvar Pasuram #63 from the 3rd Thiruvandati by Peyazhvar.
தாழ் சடையும், நீள் முடியும், ஒண் மழுவும், சக்கரமும்
சூழ் அரவும், பொன் நாணும் தின்றுமால் சூழும்
திரண்ட அருவி பாயும் திருமலை மேல் எந்தைக்கு
இரன்டு உருவும் ஒன்றாய் இசைந்து.
The claim is, even Azhvar says both Vishnu and Siva shapes are fitting for Thirvengadavan. Ramanuja offered to place the implements of both gods, such as Changu & Chakram of Vishnu, and Thrisulam and udukkai of Siva, in the inner chamber overnight and make a decision based the implements the lord favors. All the implements were placed on the floor, and the chamber was emptied of all people and locked. Both sides kept vigil to make sure there was no foul play. The next day, it seems, the lord was wearing changu and chakram.

(BTW, this controversy is still continuing. While Azhvar pasurams taken as a whole clearly indicate no role for Shiva in Thiruvengadam, there is enough evidence from engravings in the temple premises one suspects whether even the SVs have a claim to Thirvendgadam, it may actually be a Jain temple. More research is needed to be conclusive, but who is going to accept scientific findings anyway.)

Finally, Ramanuja returned to Sri Rangam. Little did he know the traumatic events that are to unfold.
Off to Melkottai

Under the stewardship of Bagavat Ramanuja, and the open and inclusive nature of the practice, SV caught the imagination of all sections of the population. More and more people joined the SV fold. Anytime a new idea takes root, it is viewed with trepidation by the establishment. SV was no exception.

The Chola king of the time, presumed to be either Kulothunga I or II, was supposed to be a particularly nasty individual. His minister was an uber-conservative Shivite called Nalooran. They were made for each other.

Egged on by Nalooran, the Chola king passed an ordinance calling on all Vidwans to sign a declaration that சிவாத் பரதரம் நாஸ்தி (greater than Shiva is none). Most Vidwans obliged either willingly or out of fear of punishment. But Nalooran was not satisfied. He urged the king that only if Ramanuja signs this declaration it will have any meaning. So, the Chola king ordered that Ramanuja be brought to his court.

Koorathazhvan got wind of the king’s orders. He instantly realized there was imminent danger to Ramanuja and to the tradition. He and the other sishyas decided that R must leave Sri Rangam immediately. Since the royal attendants were already looking for Ramanuja, time was of the essence. Koorathazvan and Ramanuja, who are about the same age, exchanged clothes. Koorathazvan wore kaashayam and took a thridandam and went with the soldiers to the Chola court. Ramanuja’s aging acharya Swami Periya Nambi also went with him. Ramanuja went west towards the present day Karnataka.

Initially nobody suspected the switch at the court of the Chola king. Thinking that the one in Kashayam is R, the king demanded his signature on the statement. Koorathazvan, disguised as Ramanuja, refused and quoted profusely from Shruti, Smrithi, Ithihasa Pranas for his refusal. The Chola was in no mood to argue, he declared, sign or face the consequences. So, K took the palm leaf and wrote,

சிவாத் பரதரம் நாஸ்தி, த்ரோணம் அஸ்தி தத் பரம்

(There is nothing greater than Siva, except Dronam which greater than it -- Sivam and Dronam are measurements like liter, and gallon)

Swami periya Nambi also refused to sign the statement.

Incensed, the king ordered their eyes be gouged out. The text says Koorathazvan shot back that he does not want to keep the eyes that beheld the king and scratched his eyes with his own finger nails. Swami Periya Nambi suffered the same fate at the hands of the royal attendants. Later, due to the trauma and loss of blood, Swami Periya Nambi died. Koorathazvan, now blinded, moved out of Chola Kingdom and lived most of the rest of his life at Azhagar Kovil near Madurai.

peace ...
Selvapillai and bibi nachchiyar

As the terrible events were unfolding in the court of Kulothunga Cholan, wearing white and accompanied by Mudaliandan and a few other sishyas, Bhagavat Ramanuja headed west towards Melkottai of present day Karnataka. It would be 12 years before Ramanuja would return to Sri Rangam.

All along the way, R and his entourage were helped by many SV converts. First it was a group of Adi Dravida hunters. They had embraced SV from a sishya of R, Thirumalai Nallan. For the hunters, it was great and privilege and joy to see R in person. They escorted R and his party for about a week. But food became a difficulty. So, the hunters took them to the residence of a Brahmana.

By a serendipitous coincidence, the wife of the householder was already an SV convert through a chance encounter with R during a visit to Sri Rangam. It seems she was able to pick out R from the rest of the group by just looking at the feet even though he was wearing white. She made her husband embrace SV as well from R.

From there, R and the group slowly moved further west and came across a village of Brahmins. They were initially hostile towards SV and R. But, after a few days of observing and hearing R's teachings, the entire village converted to SV under R.

Finally, R and his sishyas reached Thondanoor, a town close to Thiru Narayana Puram aka Melkottai. The country was ruled by a Jain king called Vidaladeva Rayan. It seems his young daughter was afflicted by some kind of mental illness and was running around naked. Further, the king had lost a finger at the hands of marauding Muslim army from Delhi. This made him an angaheenan. For these reasons he was shunned by the his kula gurus.

Having heard of R freeing Kanchi King’s daughter from the clutches of a “Brahmma Rakshaha”, Vidala approached R for help. R was successful in healing the girl. Vidaladeva became an ardent disciple of R and changed his name to Vishnuvardana Rayan. The text claims R debated 12,000 Jains from his kingdom, standing behind a screen and taking on his original form of Adhiseshan, and converted them all to SV. Thus, SV became state religion there.

Finally, R and goshti moved to Melkottai. There he found out that the Utsava moorthy (Selvapillai) of the temple was taken away to Delhi by the army of the Muslim Sultan. R went to Delhi and asked the Sultan for the return of the moorthy. Sultan said we have many such vighrahas, if you can find it you can have it.

But the Vigraha could not be found in the warehouse. It seems Selvapillai came in R’s dream and told him he was with one of Sultan's daughters. The next day R revealed this to the Sultan. Upon inquiry the vigraha was found in his daughter’s possession. The Sultan made her give the Vighraha to R, who made a hasty return to Thiru Narayana Puram.

Unable to be parted from the icon, daughter persuaded her father to go after R and het the icon back. But, the soldiers could not catch up with R, he had already safely reached Thiru Narayana Puram. At this point retrieving the moorthy would mean doing battle with Vishnuvardan. So the soldiers returned back to Delhi.

But unable to be away from her beloved idol, the daughter stayed back and lived the rest of her life in Melkottai as a devotee of Selvapillai. To commemorate this, there is a small sannidhi for this young girl. She came to be known as Bibi Nachchiyar. A carving of her figurine can be seen at the feet of Selvapillai vighraha even today. If you happen to go to Thiru Narayana Puram, ask to see Bibi nachchiyar.

At this stage, the text has couple of intriguing sentences about debating some Bouddhas and grinding them to pulp in a grinder. Hope this is not to be taken literally. You be the judge, here is the original text.
"பௌத்த ஸமயங்களை வென்று "என்றும் என்பிள்ளைக்குத் தீமைகள் செய்வார்கள் அங்கனம் ஆவார்களே" என்னும் படி அவர்களை கற்காணம் தன்னில் அரைப்பித்து, நிச்சேஷமாக நிரஸித்து, நிஷ்கண்டமாக ஆக்கி அருளி ...."
(கற்காணம் = செக்கு, grinder)
After twelve years, news of the Chola’s king’s horrible death arrived. He was afflicted by some degenerative decease and was supposed to have wasted away and because of this he is called krimi kanda chozan by SVs. The new king invited R to come back to Sri Rangam. But the SVs of Thirunarayanapuram would not agree to let R leave.

To satisfy them, the text says, R made a utsava moorthy of himself and endowed it with all his powers. The sishyas were very happy to have his vighraha and let him return to Sri Rangam. This vigraha came to be known as தமர் உகந்த திருமேநி (delight of devotees).

This is one of the three most revered moorthees of R, the other two being தான் உகந்த திருமேநி (of delight to self) at his birth place Sriperumbuthoor, and தான் ஆன திருமேந்னி (same as self) at Sri Rangam. The third one at Sri Rangam உடையவர் சந்நிதி is supposed to be his own actual mummified and preserved body.
The end

With the return of Ramanuja to Sri Rangam, the Matam was back to its full strength.

The first task awaiting R’s attention was the state of Govindarajan sannithi at Chidambaram. During the reign of the previous Chola king, the one who brutally suppressed SVs and sent Ramanuja into exile, was the one who had removed the Govindaraja moolavar and deposited it in the ocean. The utsava moorthy was in Keez Thiruppathi. R traveled there and built a temple for Govindarajan with a grand new moolavar, and reunited this new moolavar with the utsavar. He also made sure the worship tradition followed when the idol was in Chidambaram was followed here also. To this day, this temple is called Thiruchchitirakootam, the original name for the Govindaraja perumal sannithi at Chidambaram.

In due course of time Koorathazvan passed away. Bhagavat Ramanuja’s life was also coming to a close. He named 74 spiritual leaders of the religion called ஸிம்ஹாஸனாதிபதி and vested in them the authority to propagate SV. From these 74, Ramanuja selected four and vested in them the authority to protect and teach Sri Bhashyam. They are Kidambi Achchan, Thirukkurugaipiran Pillan (TKPP), Mudaliandan, and Nadadur Azhvan. They are called ஸ்ரீபாஷ்ய ஸிம்ஹாஸனாதிபதி. From these four, R bestowed in TKPP the authority for protecting and teaching Bhagavad Vishayam, the earliest commentary for Nammazhvar’s Thiruvaymozhi. Thus TKPP came to be known as உபய ஸிம்ஹாஸனாதிபதி. Finally, R nominated Koorathavan’s son Parasara Battar, who had taken R’s cousin Embar as his acharaya, to be the next head of the Mattam.

As the time was coming to a close, Bhagavat Ramanuja lied down with his head on his cousin Embar’s lap and feet upon the lap of his Vaduga Nambi. The gathered sishyas asked him for final instructions on how they should lead their lives after his passing. Ramanuja gave six alternatives according to the capability and desire of each individual. They are as follows.

  1. Learn and then teach Sri Bhashyam, if this is not possible,
  2. learn and then teach Dhivya Prabandam of azhvars, if this is not possible,
  3. do service to SVs and Sv temples by providing food and clothes, if this is not possible,
  4. build a small house in Thirunarayana Puram and live out your life there, if not,
  5. live out your life meditating upon the meaning of Dvaya mantram (த்வயம்), if this is also not within your means,
  6. live under the care of a parama baghavatan in a way that he thinks of you as his own.
Then Ramanuja passed away.

He is known by many names,

  • Emperumanar – Given by Thirukkioshtiyur name as a mark of compassion
  • Udaiyavar – This marks the occasion when Lord Ranganatha gave away the keys all lokas including Sri vaikunta to Ramanuja, thus udayavar
  • Bhashyakarar – Denotes the fact he wrote Sri Bhashyam
  • இளையாழ்வார், இளையபெருமாள் – tamil translation Ramanuja
  • Lakshmana muni – another form of his name Ramanuja
  • Ethiraja – king among sanyasees

I have left out lots of interesting little episodes from the life of Ramanuja. I will try to present those one by one later on. Let me now end this series with a salutation to Bhagavat Ramanuja -- a free standing verse in his honor that all SVs recite everyday many times.
யோ நித்யம் அச்யுத பதாம்புஜ யுக்ம ருக்ம
வ்யாமோஹதஸ் ததிதராணி த்ருணாய மேநே |
அஸ்மத் குரோர் பகவதோஸ்ய தயைக ஸிந்தோ:
ராமாநுஜஸ்ய சரணௌ சரணம் ப்ரபத்யே ||
"I take refuge at the feet of my beloved guru, Ramanuja, an ocean of compassion, whose mind is always fixed on the golden lotus feet of Achyutha and rejected all things worldly as mere grass clippings."
The very fact the much reviled DK and DMK think highly of Ramanuja is a testament to the revolutionary spirit of Ramanuja, which is why he is my hero, even though some of what he wrote in Sri Bhashyam is not acceptable to me.

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