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Desika Darsanam - 25. Sri Shodasaayudha Sthothram
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamA powerful hymn dedicated to Sri Sudharsana, or to be more precise, his weapons, Sri Shodasaayudha Sthothram comprises 19 slokas. After the opening invocation, Swami Desika takes up the sixteen weapons of Sudharsana one by one in a sloka each and a general summing up and phala sruti conclude the sthothra.

Sudharsana is referred to as Ayudhesa and Hethiraja in this sthothra, meaning that he is the Lord of Weapons. Interestingly, the Chakra itself takes the pride of place amongst the sixteen as seen in the second sloka and is the first weapon on Sudharsana’s right hand. Sri Desika says, “Lord Vishnu Himself assumes the form of a Chakra (Sudharsana) and He holds the great Chakra which keeps the whole world and the wheel of time under control. May the Discus provide protection to you all forever!”

Shodasa means sixteen and Ayudha, as we all know is device for use in attack. In a sense, the sthothra is not dissimilar to Sri Daya Sathakam. In both hymns, the attribute(s) of the Lord is/are hailed. While Compassion of Lord Srinivasa is the subject matter of the Sathakam, Swami Desika sings the glory of the sixteen weapons that adorn as many hands of Sudharsana. These weapons, the author says in the 18th sloka, Sudharsana uses to safeguard the whole world.

The sixteen weapons which the Azhwan carries — eight each on the right and the left — are as follows. On his right are: 1. Chakra, the Discus; 2. Parasu, the Axe; 3. Kuntha, the Spear; 4. Dhanda, the Baton; 5. Ankusa, the Goad; 6. Agni, the fire; 7. Nandhaka, the Sword; 8. Shakthi, the Dart. On his left are: 9. Sankha, the Conch; 10. Saarnga, the Bow; 11. Paasa, the Noose; 12. Seera, the Plough; 13. Vajra, the Thunderbolt; 14. Gadha, the Mace; 15. Musala, the Pestle and 16. Soola, the Trident.

Swami Desika invokes the grace of each of these weapons from Sloka Nos. 2 to 17, as given below.

The background of the birth of this sthothra is the same as that of Sri Sudharsana Ashtakam, involving the incident at ThirupPut Kuzhi. The use of the second person in the hymn as the beneficieries of Sri Sudharsana is an interesting pointer. This possibly implies that Swami Desika addressed the inhabitants of ThirupPut Kuzhi and this adds credence to the anecdote regarding epidemic eradication there.

We have seen in the Ashtakam that Swami Desika invoked the grace of Sudharsana and his weapons while composing Paramatha Bhangam. In the final verse (54) of the Tamil Prabandham also the author lists out the names of the weapons, in the same order (underlined).

"திகிரி மழு உயர்குந்தம் தண்டு அங்குசம் பொறி-
சிதறு சதமுக அங்கி வாள் வேல் அமர்ந்ததும்
தெழி பணில சிலை கண்ணி சீரங்க செவ்விடி
தெழிய கதை முசலம் திசூலம் திகழ்ந்ததும்......
திரி சுதரிசனர் செய்ய ஈரெண் புயங்களே!!"

Finally, the author rounds off the sthothra saying, “it is for the well being of noble people that this hymn on the sixteen weapons of Sudharsana, the chief of all weapons, has been composed by Srimath Venkatanatha.”

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Next in series: 26. Sri Garuda Dhandakam, on February 17, 2008.

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