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Desika Darsanam - 28. Sri Yathiraja Sapthathi
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamThe ultimate in Acharya Bhakthi has found an appropriate outlet in Sri Yathiraja Sapthathi, a landmark hymn, which caps off the matchless devotional works totalling 28 by Swami Desika. It is Sri Bhagavath Ramanuja who is referred here as Yathiraja (the King of Saints). Some of his other names are Sri Bhashyakara, Udaiyavar, Emperumaanaar, Yathipathi and Lakshmanamuni.

No amount of adulation can be too high for the great deeds of Sri Ramanuja, which included among others, founding and upholding our Sri Sampradaya in the form of Sri Visishtaadvaita philosophy, against all odds. It is he who showed us that the means and end for all souls is Sriman Narayana and established the route to salvation. One can never be able to fully pay back for this benevolence but can only make an attempt by singing the praise of the Acharya, as Swami Desika has succinctly put in the 'Sishya Kruthya Adhikaram' of Srimath Rahasya Thraya Saaram. "பொங்கு புகழ் சாற்றி வளர்ப்பதும் சற்றல்லவோ முன்னம் பெற்றதற்கே" - அதிகார ஸங்க்ரஹம் (38).

Yathiraja Sapthathi comprises 74 verses (Sapthathi means seventy), perhaps signifying the number of the Simhaasanaadhipathis Sri Ramanuja appointed to enable our Sampradaya thrive. In terms of number of verses, this hymn occupies the third spot after Daya Sathakam and Achyutha Sathakam, a pointer as to how much Sri Desika was captivated by the greatness of Yathiraja. The author has, as in Daya Sathakam, handled several metric scales in this great work. This is another hymn named by our Acharya himself as evidenced by the 73rd sloka.

On a Chiththirai-Thiruvaadhirai day, the Thiru Avathara day of Sri Ramanuja, Swami Desika was immersed in his experience of the great saint's virtues and (his idol's) beauty. The Sri Vaishnavites present there were a moved lot and prayed to our Swami to compose a hymn on Yathiraja so that all can savour the devotional fervour for ever. To their delight, Sri Desika readily obliged and came up with this master piece, also a perfect recipe for posterity. The incident has been recorded in the 71st sloka.

The hymn starts off with the first 10 slokas dedicated to the salutation of our Acharya Parampara, to which Sriman Narayana is the principal preceptor (Prathama Acharyan). The line-up in the descending order goes like this: The Lord, His Consort, Vishvaksena, Satakopa, Naathamunigal, UyyakKondaar, Manakkaal Nambi, Aala Vandhaar, Periya Nambi and Sri Ramanuja...

The 11th verse beautifully describes the form and virtues of Sri Ramanuja. "I pay homage to one who is wearing the sacred thread; who has vertical (Thiruman) marks on him; who is the fruit of the good deeds of all the three worlds; who carries a triple-staff (Thridhanda) in his hand; who is the leader of the surrendering congregation; who has a tuft of hair as his crown that is the King of Ascetics."

உபவீதிநம் ஊர்த்வபுண்ட்ரவந்தம்
த்ரிஜகத் புண்யபலம் த்ரிதண்டஹஸ்தம்|
சரணாகத ஸார்த்தவாஹமீடே
சிகயா சேகரிணம் பதிம்யதீநாம்||

The first 11 slokas are a must-recite for everyone as prescribed in scriptures as our daily routine. If, for some reason, it is not possible, one needs to chant at least the above (11th) sloka.

Thereupon, it is all the glory of Sri Bhashyakara, expressively, exhaustively and exquisitely brought forth as only Swami Desika can. Some of the most significant ones are given below with the sloka number in parentheses.

The author brings into play dual connotations aplenty in this virtuoso composition of his. Especially enchanting among them are: the ones involving Lord Krishna and Sri Ramanuja (13th sloka); Sri Ramanuja and a mountain (16); the great works of Sri Ramanuja and the Kalpa tree (31).

In a categorical exposition of his contrasting attitude towards those who tread Sri Ramanuja's path and the others, Swami Desika declares thus in the 41st sloka: "I bear the lotus foot of the noble followers of Sri Ramanuja on my bowed head forever. By the same token, let it also be known that my left foot will be placed on the head of those with a raging madness in espousing the cause of other schools of philosophy."

A classic metaphor marks the 72nd sloka, in which Sri Desika suggests that (it is enough) the roar of 'Kavi-Thaarkika Simham' that is Yathiraja Sapthathi be passed on to the ears of the rivals who entertain the thought of meeting us in a debate."

Finally, as phala sruti, the author prays in sloka 73, "May the hymn bestow on the reader devotional intellect which encompasses both the worlds of the Lord Leela Vibhuthi and Nithya Vibhuthi." And the concluding verse declares that those who learn the hymn will see the righteous path as clearly as an Indian gooseberry in the palm (உள்ளங்கை நெல்லிக்கனி) and shall shine in the world so lustrously as to render the jealous rivals as ineffective as stars in the daytime.

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