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Desika Darsanam - 6. Sri Varadaraja Panchasath
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamSri Varadaraja Panchasath is a hymn of 51 slokas that Swami Desika composed on the Lord of Hasthi Giri (in Kancheepuram), inarguably perhaps, his most favourite deity.

Having been born at Thooppul, a part of Sri Kanchi, our Acharya naturally had great admiration for Varadaraja, which is overwhelmingly evident in this sthothra. Elsewhere, while submitting himself at His feet, Sri Desika asserts that Kanchi is the foremost among the seven Mokshapuris (places of deliverance) the others being Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kasi, Avanthika (Ujjain) and Dwaraka.

முத்தி தரும் நகரேழில் முக்கியமாம் கச்சி தன்னில்
அத்திகிரி அருளாளர்க்கு அடைக்கலம் நான் புகுந்தேனே
- அடைக்கலப் பத்து (1)

Going a step further he declares that the likes of Kasi the Holy Cities are no match for Kanchi, the abode of the dark-hued Varada. "காசி முதலாகிய நன்னகரி எல்லாம் கார்மேனி அருளாளர் கச்சிக்கு ஒவ்வா (அம்ருதாஸ்வாதினி - 27)."

The Lord Varadaraja temple is situated on a hillock which, according to the legend, was the altar on which Brahma performed Aswamedha Yaga (horse-sacrifice), desiring to have a direct vision of the Lord.

At the end of the ritual, there appeared a luminous gleam like a radiant Sun from the altar even as Lord Varadaraja presented Himself in all His splendour in a Punya Koti Vimanam which resembled a golden hillock. Thus Brahma got his wish fulfilled and the place came to be known as Sathya Vratha Kshethra. Ever since, Brahma himself is said to be performing the annual Uthsavam to the Lord during the Tamil month of Vaikasi and hence it is called Brahmothsavam. The whole episode has been documented ever so beautifully and vividly by our Acharya, in his Tamil Prabandham 'Athigiri Maahaathmyam'.

It is interesting to note that Swami Desika, in Sloka No. 48 of Varadaraja Panchasath, narrates his experience of the nowhere-in-the-world kind of Brahmothsavam, like this. "Oh! My Lord! You ought to be seen, worshipped and enjoyed in the Vaisakha festival, everyday and with unwinking eyes; when You ride on the Horse, Garuda, Chariot, Palanquin, etc.; with Your indescribable charm and ever-increasing splendour."

The next verse is a defining one. Our Acharya, so much under the spell of Devadhiraja's ultimate charm which 'eludes mental grasp and verbal presentation', swears that not even the bliss of Sri Vaikunta interests him - "வைகுண்ட வாஸே அபி ந மே அபிலாஷ:"

Varada: means 'boon granter'. "வரம் ததாதி இதி வரத:" is the relevant Sanskrit root. Therefore, it is appropriate that the author refers to the Lord as 'Kalpa Sakhee' in the opening sloka and 'Kalpa Vruksha' in the concluding verse. A Kalpa Tree is considered as a desire-yielder which will fulfill all of one's wishes.

"Why didn't Azhwars devote more number of paasurams to such a prominent deity or why didn't they make a more direct reference to Varadaraja than what they actually managed? Swami Desika presents a path-breaking solution to this largely incomprehensible issue. The counter put forth by our Acharya is "Even the Doyens among sages of unfailing intellect found themselves unequal to the task when they attempted to comprehend Your greatness. They were simply stunned by Your splendour and lay there dazed." He adds that "when such is the case, my temerity in composing a hymn on You deserves to be forgiven." Sloka No. 2.

The depth of the author's humility soars in the next verse, as he submits that the sheer weight of his sins ties his tongue down. "But, the Lord's parental affection lifts the restraint and makes me vociferous (compose the hymn)."

Ekantha Sevai is a privileged vision of the Lord, enjoyed by those who render proximate service to Him, and a speciality of Varada. Swami Desika says that the blessed ones worship the Divine body during the Sevai in which the garlands, armour and ornaments are all removed, and he likens the Thirumeni to an emerald mountain. The anointment of Kasturi (musk) only accentuates the tinge of darkness and adds to the charm, he supplements. Sloka No. 46.

In a work of many such animated descriptions, the author asserts in the phala sruti that, to whoever learns this hymn will the fruits of the 'Kalpa Tree' read as The Lord residing at the peak of Hasthi Giri be so easily accessible; and that he can pluck them with his hands, at will. Truly a phala sruti, more than in one sense.

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Next in series: 7. Sri Vairagya Panchakam, on May 27, 2007.

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