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Desika Darsanam - 5. Sri Daya Sathakam
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika Darsanam‘Prapadhye’ for a perfect start. That is Sri Daya Sathakam for us. The word here means ‘(I) surrender’. It cannot get more personal and more emphatic than this. Personal because of the use of the first person and emphatic because of announcement of the action. A classic case of preaching and practice treading the same path. Can one ask for a better example of ‘leading by example’!

In this sthothra, Swami Desika lays emphasis on Saranagathi (whole-hearted surrender) to the Lord and the other theme that stands out is the Lord’s mercy.

The hallmark of this hymn is its astounding poetic excellence - be it structure, content, variety, versatility, style, language, eloquence, proportion, consistency or authenticity. It is divided into ten decads (a decad comprises 10 slokas). Each decad is set to a different meter and similarly each decad brings out a particular meaning associated with the divine attributes of Sri Venkatesa that blossom as His Daya.

Daya translates to compassion or mercy and Sathakam is a century of verses. In this hymn of 108 slokas, Swami Desika personifies Thiruvenkatamudaiyan’s compassion as a goddess (Daya Devi). That the author has structured the hymn as if he is talking to Daya Devi adds to the beauty of the work, which is a splendid study in the redemption of man by the Lord’s mercy.

Though the Lord’s virtues are innumerable, Sri Desika considers His Compassion for His devotees as the foremost. The reason is simple. More than any other virtue, His compassion is instrumental in the redemption of the devotee (jeevaathma). That our Acharya chose this virtue to compose a sathakam is further testimony to its importance.

After surrendering himself to Lord Srinivasa of Thirumala in the opening verse, Swami Desika pays tribute to the Acharya Parampara. Then he salutes the Azhwars, sages such as Parasara followed by Vishvaksena and Sri, Bhoomi and Neela Pirattis before setting out to describe in detail the greatness of His profound mercy.

In Sloka No. 30, the author calls himself the ‘emperor of sins’ and addresses Daya Devi as the ‘monarch of all virtues’. “Knowing this well, you must redeem me by placing me at the feet of Lord Srinivasa”, he pleads with Her. Humility of the highest order from a gem of an Acharya!

A dual connotation is brought out in Sloka No. 60 wherein a set of attributes has been aesthetically employed so as to fit both Daya Devi as well as one's Acharya.

The ninth decad is dedicated to the ten Avatharas. Here, Swami Desika sees Daya Devi through the incarnations and exclaims at the great deeds of the Avatharas as they were done by Her.

The hundredth sloka (Natha: Param) can be termed as the highlight of this hymn. The great Acharya seeks Daya Devi's Divine intervention so that Lord Srinivasa would bless him with the experience that the residents of Parama Padham (Mukthas) enjoy there, at Thirumala itself.

Revealing genuine modesty in another instance, our Acharya says that he is a child and unqualified to compose a hymn like this. But the Lord’s playfulness has resulted in his elevation to the stature of ‘Vedanthacharya’. It is really He who composed this hymn through him and that he is only an instrument like the Veena. (Can it take the credit for the melodious music that pours from it? Is it not the player that actually creates the melody?) - Sloka 104.

Umpteen such aesthetics (rasaanubhava) are there for the asking in this hymn, making it a sumptuous feast. A share of fill from this will do a world of good to our mind.

As for the phala sruti, those who recite this sthothra will have the absolute blessings of Lord Srinivasa and with that all the good fortunes.

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Next in series: 6. Sri Varadaraja Panchasath, on May 13, 2007.

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