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Acharya Vamsa Vruksham - 13 (February 15, 2010)


Lineage Tree of Preceptors
Anbil Ramaswamy, U.S.A.





16. Sri Vedantha Desika (Purattaasi-Thiruvonam) – Part - IV

Events in the life of Swami Desika:

  • At Srirangam: On Swami Desika reaching Srirangam, a prestigious debate was arranged. Our Acharya fell at the feet of Sudharsana Bhattar and sought his blessings. Bhattar blessed him saying that it was Perumal’s command that he should re-establish our Siddhantha like our Ramanuja did earlier. The debate went on for seven days in which Swami demolished every single argument of the opponents. The Maayaa Vaadhis accepted defeat, became Srivaishnavas and his Sishyas. The essence of the debate is what we now have as “Satha Dushani”. It was at this time that Periya Perumaal conferred the title “Vedanta Desikan” and Periya Piraatti the title “Sarva Tantra Svatantra”. Sudharsana Bhattar and Periyavaachaan Pillai commended on this and declared that he was the one who deserved the honorific most eminently.

  • His exodus to Thirunarayana Puram: In about 1327, during the Mughal invasion of Srirangam by Malik Kafur, the General of Allauddin, Sultan of Delhi, there was a great commotion. The Srivaishnavas who were noble by nature were no match to the Muslim plunderers. Fear gripped the minds of everyone as to what might happen to the temple and the Lord’s Archa Murthis. The Acharyas deliberated under the guidance of the Centenarian Master, Sudharsana Bhattar. It was decided that one group under Pillai Lokacharya (who was equally advanced in age) was to take the Uthsava Murthi and His consorts covered up in a palanquin to Thirupathi. The party under Sudharsana Suri was to stay put at Srirangam, after erecting a stone wall in front of the Sannidhi of Moolavar to cover him from the sight of the marauders. Swami took Sudarsana Bhattar’s two sons and the manuscripts of Srutha Prakaasika (the elaborate commentary on Sri Bhashyam chronicled by Sudharsana Bhattar during the Kalakshepams of Nadadur Ammal) to safety at Thirunarayana Puram via Sathya Mangalam. But, before he could do that, the Muslim army attacked them and massacred many of them. Swami hid himself with his wards in the midst of corpses and spent the night. In the morning, they moved towards Sathyaakaalam village in Karnataka en route to Thirunarayana Puram.

  • At Sathyaakaalam: It was at this time, Swami composed the famous Abhithi Sthavam seeking the Lord to restore the worship of the Lord at Srirangam. He lived there for nearly 12 years (reciting incessantly the Sthavam) until news of restoration of the Lord in Srirangam reached his ears. The Aswatha tree under which Swami rested in Satyaakaalam can be seen in the village even today. The stone slab on which Swami sat is kept preserved in the temple of Lord Varadaraja in the village. There is also the image of Swami which is unique. Unlike in other places, the Swami is seen in a standing posture as if he was on his toes ever ready to move to Srirangam awaiting the good news of reinstallation of the Lord there.

  • Nigama Parimalam: At Tirunarayanapuram, his son Kumara Varadachariar delivered discourses on Pillaan’s commentary of Thiruvoimozhi called 6,000 Padi with the help of Swami’s own extensive commentary called “Nigama Parimalam”.

  • Back at Srirangam: When some of the orthodox people objected to the recital of Divya Prabandham in the temple on the grounds that they included the works of Non-Brahmin Azhwars written in Dravida Baasha (Tamil) and Thiruvoimozhi in particular dealt with Kaama that was taboo for them. Swami argued with them and convinced them that the Azhwars are manifestations of the Lord Himself and the holy collects were equal to the Vedas since they contained all that was in the Vedas, that since they were in praise of the Lord, the language did not matter and that the Kaama spoken of was nothing but absolute devotion to the Lord. He re-instituted the practice of ‘Adhyayana Uthsava’ – the ceremonial honouring of the Azhwars.

  • Paadhuka Sahasram: Azhagiya Manavaala Naayanaar, brother of Pillai Lokachaarya and our Swami went to worship Lord Ranganatha. Naayanaar was captivated by the feet of the Lord and wanted to compose a Sthothra praising the same. Our Swami felt that the Divya Mani Paadhukaas of the Lord were equally captivating and offered to compose a Sthothram on the Sandals of the Lord before daybreak the next day. But, he had slept almost till the small hours of the morning of the appointed day. When there was hardly a couple of hours to go before sunrise, the agitated disciples woke him up to remind him of his promise. Instantly, he commenced pouring out with bewildering rapidity an epic ‘Paadhuka Sahasram’ and completed it well before daybreak. The 1,000 verses of this epic is an example of literary excellence and lofty thoughts – a wonderful masterpiece of how a single subject like the Lord’s Sandals could be expressed in so many different ways and yet hold up the imagination and interest of the audience!

  • At Srivillipuththur: When in Srivillipuththur, he composed “Godha Sthuthi”. Andal was so pleased that she ordained that the Sthothra should be recited during her Uthsavam days along with Divya Prabhandhams. To this day, this recitation is being followed in Srivillipuththur. After visiting ThirupPullaani, ThirukKurugur, Thiruvanantha Puram and other shrines in Malai Naadu and Chozha Nadu, he returned to Thiru Ayindhai.

  • ‘Well’ built: Once, a mason wishing to test his skills, as Desika was called Sarva Tantra Swatantra (master of all arts), challenged him to construct a well with broken and irregularly-shaped bricks that were supplied to Desika. Swami built a well almost in no time which stands to this day as a testimony of his dexterity as professional mason.

  • Master sculptor: Once a sculptor offered to provide a base and asked him to make an image of himself. Swami made an image of himself but when the sculptor tried to fix it on the base, he could not do so. He tried to chisel out a portion of the body of the image. Blood flowed from the corresponding part of the body of Desika. The sculptor admitted that the fault was in the base made by him. Desika fixed it up in the base exactly as it should be, like a professional sculptor. Later, this image was installed by Desika's son Kumara Varadacharya at Thiruvahindra Puram. Anyone visiting the Divyadesam and offering prayers to the idol, can never take their eyes off this marvellous Vigraha.

  • Para Matha Bhangam: Afraid that they cannot win a debate with Swami, some Jains joined hands with the leaders of other faiths and confronted Swami during a festival at Thiru Ayindhai. Single-handed, Swami proved them all wrong by razing to ground everyone of their arguments. The convincing repartees of Swami during this debate is enshrined in his famous “Para Matha Bhangam”.

  • Sankalpa Suryodhayam: Once, a Vidwan by name Krishna Misra challenged Swami whether he could write a drama to match his own drama, ‘Prabhodha Suryodhayam’. Swami wrote within just one night ‘Sankalpa Suryodhayam’ – a marvellous allegorical drama in 10 Acts in which qualities like Viveka and evil tendencies like jealousy, greed etc., were personified as the dramatis personae. In appreciation of this, Krishna Misra and others honoured Swami with the title of “Kavi Thaarkika Simham”.

  • Yadhava Abhyudhayam: A poet by name Dindima, a junior contemporary of Swami challenged him to write an epic poem to match his work entitled “Rama Abhyudhayam”. Swami wrote ‘Yadhava Abhyudhayam’ – a poem of exquisite beauty which was praised by one and all and especially Appayya Dikshitar of Advaitha philosophy anf yet an ardent admirer of Swami Desika.

  • Hayagriva’s blessings: Once, when the Swami was staying in a Kshethram, he could not get anything to offer to the Lord. He just offered some water to the Lord and went to bed with an empty stomach and a heavy heart. Suddenly, he was awakened by a farmer who reported that a white horse was grazing the crops in his field. Swami understood that it was the Leela of Hayagriva and comforted the farmer. He asked the farmer to bring some milk and offered it to his Upaasana deity. Thereupon, the horse disappeared. Next morning, when the farmer went to the field, it was fully laden with fresh and green crop.

  • Hamsa Sandhesam: Swami Desika wrote a poem entitled ‘Hamsa Sandhesam’ which far excelled the famous poem of Kalidasa viz., ‘Megha Sandhesam’.

  • Srimath Rahasya-thraya Saaram: A prolific writer, he wrote well over 100 works. His magnum opus is ‘Rahasya-thraya Saaram’ in Manipravala style (a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil) explaining in inimitable manner Thathva, Hitha And Purushaartha as well as the significance of the three great Manthras of Ashtakshara, Dvaya and Charama Sloka. This Rahasya Thraya Saaram is reckoned as one of the four works that any Srivaishnava should study – the other three being Sri Bhashya, Gita Bhashya and the Bhagavath Vishayam (Commentary for Thiruvoimozhi).

  • Final days: Having lived a full and rich life for 101 years and satisfied with his work on earth, Swami Desika cast his tabernacle of flesh, praying to Udaiyavar and Appullaar by placing their Paadhukas on his head which he kept on the lap of his son Varadacharya and his feet on the lap of Brahma Thanthra Swathanthrarar, while his Sishyas chanted Thiruvoimozhi and Upanishads. He attained Paramapadham in Sowmya year in the month Kaarthigai in the asterism of Kaarthikai in the Kali Yuga year 4,471 which corresponds to 1,369 AD.


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Next in series: On March 15, 2010.



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The author is President, Swami Desika Darsana Satsangam (SDDS) and Editor,
Sri Ranga Sri (SRS) Electronic Journal, U.S.A.



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www.svdd.com - © Sri Vedantha Desikar Devasthanam, Mylapore, Chennai.