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Desika Darsanam - 9. Sri Vegasethu Sthothram
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamSri Vegasethu Sthothram is a hymn of 10 slokas composed by Swami Desika on Yathokthakaari, the Lord of Thiru Vehka in Kancheepuram. An intriguing episode forms the basis for the historical backdrop to this shrine, while the bigger picture is related to the manifestation of Lord Varadaraja of the Hasthigiri.

When Brahma began his Aswamedha Yaga in the Hasthigiri, invoking the Lord’s vision, all was not well between him and his prime consort Saraswathi. So he chose to proceed with the yaga with his other consorts, lead by Savithri. This further infuriated Saraswathi who sought to get her revenge on Brahma by disrupting the holy deed. She assumed the form of a violent river and flowed at a ferocious speed – hence called Vegavathi – towards the altar of the yaga.

The surrounding area got inundated and ravaged even as Vegavathi, in all her fury, approached the sacred place. This made Brahma nonplussed. He took refuge in Lord Vishnu, who manifested in a reclining posture and positioned Himself as a virtual dam (sethu) across the river and stopped Vegavathi in her tracks. This enabled Brahma duly complete his sacrifice and paved the way for Lord Varadaraja’s emergence. That is how the Lord in Thiru Vehka got His name Vegasethu. Since He acceded to the request of Brahma and saved his yaga, the Lord here came to be known as “Yathokthakaari”, meaning “He Who complied with the directives of His devotee”.

The Divine protocol prescribes that one should follow the Rule of the Supreme God as laid down in the holy scriptures such as the Sruti (Vedas), Smruti (Sasthras), etc. However there are times, as the one narrated above, when the Lord seeks to show that He relishes switching ends and abiding by the directives of His devotees. These instances bring to the fore the Lord's quality called “saulabhya” (easy accessibility).

Another such fascinating episode, involving Thirumazhisai Azhwar, reaffirms the Lord’s above nature and name. Pallavaraya, the then King of Kanchi, was enraged at the refusal of Kanikannan (கணிகண்ணன்), a disciple of the Azhwar, to sing his praise. He banished the erring poet from his kingdom. The Azhwar, who was staying in Thiru Vehka and rendering kainkaryams to the Lord, also decided to leave the town along with his disciple.

What’s more, he did not want even the Lord to stay there. So he ordered the Lord to roll up His bed (Aadhiseshan) and leave the town, which the Lord complied with at once. The town was doomed and untoward happenings ensued.

The king repented for his folly, came rushing the next day to the Azhwar who was then staying with the Lord at Orikkai (ஓரிக்கை - ஓர் இரவு இருக்கை) on the outskirts of the town. He profusely apologised to the Azhwar and pleaded with him to come back to his place. Then Thirumazhisai Azhwar asked the Lord to spread His bed as before, which again, the Lord complied with. He thus justified His name “Yathokthakaari” (Yatha Uktha Kaari), which in Tamil means “சொன்ன வண்ணம் செய்த பெருமாள்”.

The relevant paasuram (not part of the Divya Prabandham) composed by Thirumazhisai Azhwar, addressing the reclining Lord, is as follows:

கணிகண்ணன் போகின்றான் காமருபூங் கச்சி
மணிவண்ணா நீ கிடக்க வேண்டா - துணிவுடைய
செந்நாப் புலவனும் போகின்றேன் நீயுமுன்தன்
பைந்நாகப் பாய் சுருட்டிக்கொள்

The Azhwar promptly rephrased the verse when cancelling his earlier directive:

கணிகண்ணன் போக்கொழிந்தான் காமருபூங் கச்சி
மணிவண்ணா நீ கிடக்க வேண்டும் - துணிவுடைய
செந்நாப் புலவனும் போக்கொழிந்தேன் நீயுமுன்தன்
பைந்நாகப் பாய் விரித்துக்கொள்

In a highlight of this hymn, Swami Desika has incorporated both the above episodes in Sloka No. 5 (Chathuraanana). He says that the Lord who earlier saved Brahma’s yaga and complied with the commands of His devotees (Bhakthimathaam), even now bestows all propitiousness on His devotees. In a subtle reference to the Azhwar episode, the author employs the word “Bhakthimathaam” to denote devotees, since Thirumazhisai Azhwar is known as “Bhakthisaara” in Sanskrit.

In the first sloka, Sri Desika describes the Lord of Thiru Vehka and the Hasthigiri as one and the same effulgent form, which incarnated on its own and is the means and end of all human endeavours.

Calling the Lord, “Kanchee-Bhagyam” (the good fortune of Kanchi) in the ninth verse, our Acharya concludes the hymn with the phala sruti that Lord Yathokthakaari would comply with all the demands of those who recite this sthothra with devotion, as He has done in the past.

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Next in series: 10. Sri Ashtabhuja Ashtakam, on July 8, 2007.

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