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Desika Darsanam - 18. Sri Sthuthi
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamIn Sri Sthuthi, a regal hymn that is 'rich in content' in more than one sense, Swami Desika brings out the glory and grandeur of Sri, the Principal Consort of Lord Vishnu.

Comprising 25 slokas, not only does this hymn excel in literary aspect but also it has its roots in a very interesting anecdote in which the grace of Periya Piraatti turns a bachelor from 'rags to riches' in a trice. No wonder that this is amongst the most popular devotional works of our Sampradaya.

There was a poor bachelor Brahmana who was in need of money for his marriage. He approached Swami Desika and explained to him his plight and sought his help. But what could our Acharya do, as he himself was in dire straits, financially. But he wanted to help the groom-would-be, but how?

Sri Desika's own condition of penury did not come in the way of his fulfilling the young man's desire. For, he had the great and indestructible wealth of unmatched poetic skills and unflinching devotion. He set on composing Sri Sthuthi, addressing Periya Piraatti. Animated verses started pouring in like the rain and so were golden coins all over the place, like a magic. The bachelor could neither believe his eyes nor thank the Acharya enough as he was overwhelmed by ecstasy and astonishment. Swami Desika asked him to take them all and sent him off, wishing him well.

This incident exemplifies the highest degree of austerity to which our Acharya has been an epitome of. If he had wished he could have helped himself to material richness anytime during his life. That he spurned utilising a natural gift of his for his own benefit speaks volumes of his greatness.

A philosophy-defining hymn, Sri Sthuthi emphasises the doctrine of 'Union' of the Supreme Being (Lord Sriman Narayana and His Consort Sri Mahalakshmi). The state of their inseparability - physically and functionally - in terms of 'Lordship', 'all pervasiveness' is clearly highlighted by the author even as he establishes some of Her other prominent roles such as taking commendations on behalf of Prapannaas to the Lord, being the mean-all and end-all (of course together with the Lord) of all beings, etc.

Other important features of Piraatti as brought out in this hymn are: Reciting Her namaas also leading to deliverance, Her ideological unison with the Lord, Her grace propelling devotees to prosperity one way or the other, the indispensable nature of Her mercy, and so on.

This is the first of the series of hymns that our great Acharya has dedicated to the three Consorts. The others to follow are Bhu Sthuthi and Goda Sthuthi. Interestingly and importantly, the first verse of all the three sthothras culminates in the word 'Prapadhye'.

In the opening sloka of Sri Sthuthi, invoking the grace of the Goddess, the author submits, "Totally helpless, (I) surrender to You, Goddess Sri, whose unbounded glory is famous; who, a personification of auspices Herself, vests the quality in other things; who adorns the bosom of Lord Vishnu - the conqueror of demon Madhu - by her naturally glowing halo, one who is saviour and boon-granter to Her devotees who seek prosperity, material or otherwise."

The author has ever so aptly chosen the 13th sloka, the central piece of the hymn, for a magnificent description of the coronation ceremony of Mahalakshmi originally delineated in Vishnu Puranam. The import of the event and the narrative beauty combine to provide a stunning visual effect even while merely reading.

Swami Desika addresses the Goddess thus: "You emerged from the Milky Ocean along with the nectar when it was churned and ascended the throne, the lotus seat, in front of the Lord. Sensing that it was a great crowning moment, massive clouds like Pushkala and Avarthaka showered floral rains on You and the whole world, making it appear to have disappeared (look and vanished - delectable paradox, indeed!). The sacred bath was complemented by the celestial guardian-elephants like Iravatha and Pundareeka (the Ashta Dik-Gajaas) who poured sacred water from golden vessels. She was thus sworn in as the Empress."

Interpretative ingenuity of Sri Desika, on top of his philosophical conviction comes to the fore in Sloka No. 23. He wonders: "O Goddess! You are my mother and Lord Vasudeva is my father. So I have become the sole recipient of the filial affection of You both. Further, I have been submitted to You as a servant by my Acharyas. You present a smiling face to me, as if to ask 'what else you want from Me?'"

As phala sruti, the author declares in the final sloka that those who read this hymn composed by Venkatesa on the lotus-dweller (Mahalakshmi) with devotion, will rid of the evils of Kali and become emperors, blessed with the ultimate in auspices and prosperity.

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Next in series: 19. Sri Bhu Sthuthi, on November 11, 2007.

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