Sri Vedantha Desika, one of the premier Acharyas of our Sampradhaya, was born in the year 1268 A.D. at Thooppul, a part of Kancheepuram (about 75 kms from Chennai, India). He is considered as an incarnation of the Divine Bell (of the Lord of Thirumala), a fact well corroborated by his extra-ordinary, multi-faceted genius which manifested in the form of an astounding array of literary treasure.
Even scholars aver that it is impossible not to get awe-struck by the remarkable appeal his works make for, his mastery over the nuances of the language (whether Sanskrit or Tamil) and the sheer volume and range of his works. It is not often that quality and quantity go together but in our Acharya’s case it would seem that they had but to compromise to forge an awesome combination.
Swami Desika is a veritable lion amongst poets and logicians (KaviTharkika Simham), a colossus in philosophy of Sri Vaishnavism and a prolific author. He has composed sthothras, philosophical play, morals, rahasya granthas, epics, astronomical treatise, etc., numbering over 120.
His sthothras are unique in form and substance. They are the outpourings of a pious and devoted heart in all its earnestness. Devotion is the nucleus of these works and humility, the hallmark. His commitment to the philosophy born out of an unassailable conviction is written all over them.
We should consider it as a matter of great privilege that we live in an era in which we have ample opportunity to familiarise, learn and study the master’s great works. But, unfortunately, not too many of us have the time, awareness or the inclination for this as we are caught in the vicious cycle of mechanical worldly life.
In a humble endeavour and with a view to helping people break free from the mundaneness, we propose to initiate them into what we call Desika Darsanam – a peek into the collection of the Acharya’s 28 sthothras. Those of us who are already conversant with them in varying degrees, can refresh and have our experience enriched.
The objective of the effort is to make people understand the greatness of Sri Desika through his sthothras. As such, we are not going, for now, into the commentary or translation of them. Instead, we shall deal with the significance, background, salient features, interesting anecdotes, and benediction (phala sruti) of each sthothra.
The column to appear on alternate Sundays, will commence on March 4, 2007, with Sri Hayagriya Sthothram. Let us not stop with just reading this column, but follow it up with learning the slokas and knowing their meanings, which will stand us in good stead.
Each of these hymns is unique in its own way and capable of granting auspiciousness if recited. Did Pillai Lokacharyar not say in his Thaniyan that prosperity beckoned those who learned even a single work of Swami Desika? - சீரொன்று தூப்புல் திருவேங்கடமுடையான் . . . வானேறப்போமளவும் வாழ்வு. And, by the Acharya's grace, we would have learnt at least 28 when we are done with this series.
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Editor, www.svdd.com, being honoured
Next in series: 1. Sri Hayagriva Sthothram, March 4, 2007