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Desika Darsanam - 24. Sri Sudharsana Ashtakam
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamThe Chakra or the Discus, reverentially referred as Sudharsana Azhwan, is the principal weapon amongst the five in the armoury of Lord Vishnu. The other four are the conch, sword, mace and bow. Adorning the right hand of the Lord, the Chakra is an embodiment of triumph and wisdom. Always in the alert-mode at the disposal of Lord Vishnu, Sudharsana is ever ready to fulfil the commands of his master, underlining the importance of service to the Lord.

In this lilting and majestic hymn set to the Dhruthi-Chandhas scale, Swami Desika hails the all-conquering Sudharsana and his conquests in eight slokas with the customary phala sruti to go with that. This is the first of the two sthothras on Sudharsana, with Sri Shodasaayudha Sthothram being the other one which in fact glorifies his 16 weapons which he carries in as many hands.

Sudharsana Ashtakam, with words flowing in a cadence of metrical movement and the use of salutary vocatives accentuating the rhythm, resembles Sri Mahaveera Vaibhavam, except that the latter is a prose work. The lilt invests in the Ashtakam as much beauty as majesty and presents an enjoyable chanting and hearing experience. Beckoning of victory for Sudharsana at the end of each sloka "Jaya Jaya Sri Sudharsana! Jaya Jaya Sri Sudharsana!!" makes for special allure.

In his unique style, Swami Desika captures the radiance, smoothness, speed and conquests of the Chakra in this sthothra which brings out numerous virtues of Sudharsana. Some of these are:

The anecdote attributed to the birth of this sthothra illustrates the compassion and concern our Acharya had for humanity. Once the inhabitants of ThirupPut Kuzhi, a Divyadesam near Kancheepuram, were bearing the brunt of a dreadful epidemic called 'Vaisuri'. The disease was spreading rampantly and heading towards unmanageable proportions when Swami Desika authored this hymn and relieved people of their misery.

According to another version, the sthothra was composed when our Acharya was residing in Thiruvaheendra Puram and this he did as invocation for victory before launching into philosophical debate with scholars of other schools. That he emerged victorious goes without saying. A parallel to this view can be drawn in Sri Desika's Tamil Prabandham 'Paramatha Bhangam' which is an outright condemnation of other religions (philosophies). In that, the first and final verses are dedicated to Sudharsana. He concludes the Prabandham saying that Sudharsana is none but manifestation of the radiance of Lord Ranganatha.

திகழ் அரவணை அரங்கர் தேசென்ன மன்னிய
திரி சுதரிசனர் செய்ய ஈரெண் புயங்களே!!

Whichever be the case, the phala sruti is all encompassing. "Those who read the hymn composed by Venkata Nayaka, are sure to have all their desire fulfilled however impossible they may appear, with the grace of Sudharsana." To say that they include good health and victory, might be stating the obvious, for the discerning.

Obvious it is too from our day-to-day experience that not only does he grant success but does it in quick time, quite in tune with his characteristics. Hardly surprising it is that Sudharsana is among the most sought-after deities these days and this Ashtakam counts as one of the most popular hymns.

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Next in series: 25. Sri Shodasaayudha Sthothram, on February 3, 2008.

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