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Editor's Note - 41 (October 1, 2011)

Sarva-Thanthra Swathanthra — A Versatile Genius And More

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

It is celebration time again at the Temple and elsewhere where there are Swami Desika’s devotees. We are in the middle of the 10-day annual festival that culminates in the grand Saatrumurai on his Thirunakshathram day (Purattaasi-Sravanam) which falls on October 6 this year. The focus and fervour are no less intensive as the Uthsavam coincides with Navarathri as it very often does.

The devotee’s day is made with the majestic processions of the Acharya matching the grandeur of the enchanting Pathi Ulaathal in which he relishes the company of the Divya Dhampathis. The daily Thirumanjanam, chanting of the Vedas and recitation of Divya Prabandham, and the daily Saatrumurais make it a great treat for all. Add to this the Thadheeyaaraadhana, the sumptuousness is replete.

This provides a perfect backdrop to reminisce on our illustrious Acharya. This Note takes a peek at the awards he received in his life time, especially, ‘Sarva-Thanthra Swathanthra’ which was conferred on him by none less than Periya Piraatti. The others are ‘Vedanthacharya’ from Lord Ranganatha Himself and ‘Kavi-Thaarkika Simham’ from his peers.

Kumara Varadacharya — disciple-son of Sri Desika — records this in the opening verse of Desika Mangalam thus:

ஸர்வ-தந்த்ர ஸ்வதந்த்ராய ஸிம்ஹாய கவி வாதிநாம்!
வேதாந்தாசார்ய வர்யாய வேங்கடேசாய மங்களம்!!

Normally, we see that accolades and awards make the recipient proud. But in Swami Desika’s case, one must say that it is the awards which would have felt blessed. They simply sat snugly on his shoulders.

‘Vedanthacharya’ means ‘Master of philosophy’ and ‘Kavi-Thaarkika Simham’ translates into ‘Lion amongst poets and logicians’. The former was handed to him by the Lord who was overwhelmed by his great works for the cause of Sri Sampradaya and the latter was an acknowledgement by co-scholars of his matchless proficiency in poesy and debates.

But the title ‘Sarva-Thanthra Swathanthra’ is as much interesting as it is unique. A number of incidents in Swami Desika’s life testify to the fact that the accolade was destine4d to adorn him. He was such a great master of all arts that Ranga Naachiyar could not resist acclaiming him with an all-encompassing accolade like that.

Some well-known incidents in the Acharya’s life that fully justify Periya Piraatti’s sweeping gesture, are strung together here.

Composing extra-ordinary philosophical works establishing Visishtaadvaita was among the very purposes of his birth. Therefore, his astounding feats such as mastering of all studies before he was 20, composing the masterpiece Paadhuka Sahasram overnight, effortlessly winning numerous debates with scholars of alien faiths, etc. do not find elaboration above.

But what is truly amazing is that someone who was entrenched in tradition and orthodoxy as our Acharya was, could possess such an expertise in different fields and conquer all-comers. The only explanation for this is the fact that Swami Desika was a divine incarnation of Venkatesa, the Lord of Seven Hills. Thus, he is much more than a versatile genius.

Let us salute and celebrate the colossus even as we marvel at his greatness!

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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