Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
“Vendittrellaam tarum vallal Manivannan” is how Sri Nammazhwar describes the Lord. Whatever we ask, the Lord is ready to give us the same and much more, however exalted be the boon we seek. He endows us with whatever we need during our mundane sojourn and once we perform Prapatti, He takes us to his own eternal abode, never to return to the quagmire of Samsara. And this, only Emperuman can do, say the Shastras-“Moksham icchet, Janaardanaat”.
Though it is true that Emperuman is waiting in the wings to take us away to Paradise once we seek the same earnestly and adopt an appropriate strategy therefor, still, during our worldly life, we approach Him for so many baubles and trinkets, which appear important to us from time to time. It may be riches, social status, pass in an exam, good health or relief from disease-we ask for all these and more from the Lord, who obliges readily, but with a tinge of sadness that we seek from Him not the permanent but the puerile.
Of these, one of the major praartthanas that people make is freedom from crippling diseases that afflict them periodically. When they are unable to obtain relief from mundane physicians, they run to the Divine Doctor. While Emperumans at most of the divyadesams (like Vaidya Veeraraghavan of Tiruvallore) are General Physicians, to whom you can take any illness for cure, there are among them specialists in specific disciplines too, who are experts at ridding us of specific diseases. For instance, for curing mental disorders, worshipping Sri Nrisimha of Cholasimhapuram and Srinivasa of Gunaseelam is held out to be extremely effective.
Likewise, to whom can a person rush, in case of problems with his eyesight? Especially when the sight is totally lost, which specific Emperuman can we pin our hopes on, for regaining the same? People who are not conversant with the Sampradaya would advocate worshipping the Sun god, forgetting the fact that he himself derives his origin and power from the Lord’s eyes (‘Chaksho: Sooryo ajaayata’). However, those steeped in the Sampradaya would definitely prescribe a visit to Hastigiri, the exalted abode of Sri Varadaraja of Kanchi. It is He who is the most wonderful of ophthalmologists, capable of curing the most severe of eye-disorders, including blindness from birth. And many are those who have benefited from His ministrations, as is evident from the long list of satisfied patients. For those who need proof, let me recount the various instances catalogued by Sri Srivatsankachar Swamy, in his comprehensive and compelling commentary on Sri Varadaraja Stavam.
Students of Tamizh literature would definitely be conversant with the name of Andhaka Kavi Veeraraghava Mudaliar. As his sobriquet indicates, he was totally blind. Legend has it that it was only after he worshipped Sri Varadaraja at Hastigiri that he regained his eyesight in full and expressed his undying gratitude in the form of a literary tribute. This is a fairly recent instance of Sri Varadan displaying His expertise as a restorer of sight.
And within the last two hundred and fifty years, we have another case of blindness being cured miraculously by Devapperumal. There would be precious few in the Sampradaya who have not heard of Arasaanippaalai Sri Venkataadhvari Kavi-he is the renowned author of fourteen beautiful works, principal among which are the Visva Gunaadarsa Champoo, Lakshmi Sahasram and Raghava Yadaveeyam. Visva Gunaadarsam is a unique and imaginative work, recording the observations of two Gandharvas as they fly over the earth seeing places and people. Of the two, the Gandharva named Visvaavasu sees merit and goodness in almost all of the Lord’s creations, while the other, Krisaanu, finds only shortcomings in all that falls in his sight. However good be the subject, Krisaanu has only cynical and caustic comments to offer. Because of such adverse comments about even sacred things and holy men, it is said that the author Sri Venkataadhavari lost his eyesight.
Repenting having incorporated such disparaging remarks even as a matter of fiction, Sri Venkataadhvari paid obeisance to Perundevi Tayaar and Perarulaala Perumal at Kanchi, composing a thousand verses known as Vishnu Sahasram (including 200 on Devapperumal alone) and another thousand verses on Sri Perundevi, known as Lakshmi Sahasram. These works display deep devotion, excellent poetic imagery and unparalleled ingenuity with wordplay. Pleased with the devotion, DevaPerumal made the poet see again, living up to His reputation as a restorer of lost sight.
The rich and hoary lore and legends that abound on the subject of Sri Varadaraja’s expertise in eye-care include one on how He bestowed eyesight on a famous proponent of Dharma Shastras, known as Likhita. Sankha and Likhita were twin brothers, who lived at Tirumukkoodal and made the propagation of Dharma Shastras their life’s mission. The younger brother, Likhita, was blind from birth, though this did not affect his acquisition of scholarship, aided by his elder brother. However, Sankha did feel extremely bad about the handicap and advised the younger one to pray with devotion to Devaadiraja, supplementing the brother’s supplications with his own. Placing implicit faith in the elder brother’s prescription, Likhita prayed with all the sincerity he could muster, his mind’s eye fixed on the fabulous form of the Lord, as described in the Scripture. And lo and behold! Likhita could suddenly see all the wonderful sights he had missed since childhood. Moved beyond measure by the Lord’s mercy in restoring his eyesight, Likhita went immediately to Kanchi and feasted his eyes for long on the glorious form of Perarulalan, his newfound sight clouded by a film of tears.
By far, however, the most well-known instance of a person regaining his lost sight at Kanchi, is that of Sri Koorattazhwan. As we know, Kulottunga Chozha was a die-hard Saivite, totally intolerant of other faiths, who made it his pastime to harass and terrorise scholars of other beliefs, forcing them to accept the supremacy of Shiva. And when the call came to Sri Ramanuja to attend the royal court, Azhwan, who feared harm to his master from the barbaric ruler, spirited away Sri Ramanuja to Karnataka and went himself to Kulottunga’s court, posing as Ramanuja and clothed in his ochre robes. When the king predictably asked the Acharya to sign on the dotted line, accepting Rudra’s supremacy, Azhwan refused point-blank and, instead, put forth well-reasoned arguments based on the Shruti, Smritis, Itihaasas and Puranas, in favour of Sriman Narayana being the Parabrahmam. The enraged ruler, forever blind to the truth, ordered Azhwan’s eyes to be gouged out: but before the sentence could be carried out, Azhwan himself tore his eyes out and flung them before the king, as he did not want to live on with eyes that had sighted the cruel bigot.
After the king’s demise, when Sri Ramanuja returned from Tirunarayanapuram and Azhwan from Tirumalirumsolai and the two met at Srirangam, Ramanuja was extremely sad at Azhwan’s loss of sight. He led the protesting Azhwan to the sannidhi of Sri Varadaraja at Kanchi and commanded him to compose a stotram on the Deity, seeking return of sight. Thus was born the beautiful Varadaraja Stavam, incorporating the essence of our Sampradayam and portraying the glories of Perarulalan in 101 scintillating slokas. The moment the 23rd sloka was uttered, Azhwan got his vision back and feasted his eyes for long on the magnificent form of his Acharya first and thereafter on that of Devapperumal. Azhwan accepted the return of eyesight with the proviso that it should serve him only when he looked at Sri Bhashyakara and Varadaraja and he would otherwise continue to be blind. It was also Azhwan’s magnanimous wish that Naalooraan, Azhwan’s erstwhile disciple, who betrayed his Acharya to the king, should also attain the same exalted state as Azhwan himself did due to the Lord’s blessing.
Here is the beautiful sloka, on uttering which Azhwan is reputed to have been blessed with the faculty of sight-
‘Neelamegha nibham anjana punja syaama kuntalam anantasayam tvaam
Abja paani padam ambuja netram netrasaat kuru Kareesa! sadaa me’
‘O Lord of Karigiri! Please bless me with vision, so that I may feast my eyes constantly on your glorious form, which resembles a dark rain-bearing cloud, with jet-black curls on your majestic head, eyes, hands and feet similar to just-bloomed, beautiful red lotuses, reclining on the soft snaky bed provided by Adisehsa!’ prays Azhwan.
The significance of this episode would not have been lost on readers. Azhwan and Sri Bhashyakara met at Srirangam. If Ramanuja wanted to get Azhwan his sight back, it would have been logical for him to have taken his disciple before Sri Ranganatha (who was available locally) and prayed to Peria Perumal for the same. Instead, we find the Acharya taking Azhwan all the way to Kanchi and Varadaraja. It is amply evident from this that it is the Lord of Kanchi who is to be applied to, for matters relating to sight. Perhaps Sri Ramanuja came to this conclusion after hearing Sri Alavandar’s tribute, in which he attributes to Devapperumal a penchant for effecting miraculous cures, enabling those born blind to see, the congenitally deaf to hear, the lame to run and the infertile womb to yield infants-“Yasya prasaada kalayaa .andha: prapasyati, sutam labhate cha vandhyaa, tam Devadevam Varadam sharanam gatosmi”
One more instance of Sri Varadan curing congenital blindness is the case of Sri Harita vaarana Bhritya, reported to be the grandfather of Sri Tirukkacchi Nambi. This we come to know from Sri Koorattazhwan’s account in his Sundarabaahu Stavam. Though the stotra as such is addressed to Kallazhagar of Tirumaalirumsolai, Azhwan recounts this episode of Sri Varadan blessing a person, born blind, with the light of sight. Here is the relevant slokam-
‘Haritavaarana Bhritya samaahvayam Karigirou Varada: tvam apoorvikaam
Drisam alambhaya eva hi Sundara! Sputamadaascha para: shatam eedrusam’
Crowning all these instances is the one recounted in Sri Mahabharatam, by the Lord Himself. Describing the glory of the Kesava naama to Arjuna, Sri Krishna narrates the story of a Maharshi, who lost his eyes while still in the mother’s womb, due to a curse from Brihaspati. Due to the dark world he lived in without sight, he came to be known as “Deergha Tamas”. After birth, the child developed deep devotion to Devaadi Raja of Kanchi and through constant utterance of the Kesava naama, eventually gained his eyesight, leading to his being renamed “Gothama”. “Hence I am known as Varada and Kesava”(“Evam hi Varadam naama Kesava iti mama Arjuna!”) says the Lord in the Sriman Narayaneeyam of the Shanti Parva of Sri Mahabharatam.
These are only six of the several instances where Varadan has been responsible for various persons gaining/regaining their eyesight.
Is it any wonder then, that Swami Desikan adoringly calls Him “Kan kodukkum Perumal” (“Kacchi tanil kan kodukkum Perumal vandaar”–Tirucchinna Maalai”)? In saying so, however, Swami Desikan would appear to have expanded the idea to include not only physical vision (“oona kan”), but also the vision of wisdom (“Gyaana kan”).
Srimate Sri LakshmiNrisimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:
Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore