Guru Parampara Series – Alavandhar
In the Tamil year Dhathu, in the month of Aadi under the constellation Uthiradam the avatharam of Alavandar happened on the holy banks of Kaveri, in the agraharam of Veeranarayanapuram (Kaatumannarkoil). He was the grandson of Nathamunigal who retrieved The Four Thousand Divya Prabhandhams for us. His father was Ishvara muni and as per the desire of Nathamunigal he named his child Yamunai Thuraivan.
Yamunai Thuraivan was sent to study under Mahabashya Bhattar and proved to be an ekasanthagrahi (Eka-once, santhai-verbal recitation, grahi-grasper). Those who grasp and memorise on one repetition were obviously of the highest intellect. During that time there was a scholar in the court of the Chola King known as Aakiazhwan. He would invite scholars to a debate and win over them and extract 1/10th of their income. Mahabashya Bhattar’s turn came and he was summoned to court. Yamunai Thuraivar offered to go to court on His guru’s behalf but he would go only if he was duly honoured with palanquin etc. The king did accordingly. On seeing a young boy about twelve coming confidently on the palanquin the queen told the king that she felt that this boy would win. Amused the king promised half of his kingdom if the boy happened to emerge winner.
Aakiazhwan condescended to let his young challenger Yamuna Thuraivan to have the first choice in the combat. Accordingly Yamanu Thuraivan said that Akiazhwan had to negate three of His statements. The following had to be negated:
- 1. Your mother is not barren.
- 2. This king is an emperor.
- 3. The queen is a chaste woman.
Akiazhwan was stumped and could not negate these statements and asked Yamuna Thuraivan to do so. He could not call his mother “barren”, the king as not “an emperor” and the queen “unchaste”. So Yamunai Thuraivan had to make the justification. This is how he did it:
Aakiazhwan’s mother was “barren” as Aakiazhwan was her only issue. According to the sastras the mother who bears a single child is called barren just as crow is called barren as also a banana plant which bears just one bunch of bananas is termed infertile.
This king is not an emperor as he ruled only the Chola kingdom. An “emperor” refers to a person who rules the whole world.
The queen is not “chaste” as she is a woman. According to the sastras a girl is protected by Soman, Gandharvan and Agni till she is married to her husband. So her husband is the fourth in the line of protectors. So a girl can be called unchaste from this angle.
The three arguments made the whole court reverberate with applause. The queen stepped down in joy and exclaimed “Yennai Alavandhiro?” Did you come rule me?
As promised as the wager Alavandhar was given half the kingdom to rule. Yamuna Thuraivar enjoyed His royal status in the company of His Devigal (wife) Ranganachiyar and his four sons. All these incidents were being observed by Manakkal Nambhi.
Manakkal Nambhi the disciple of Uyyakondar was entrusted to fulfil three commandments of Nathamunigal the grandfather of Alavandar. He had to impart important education regarding SriVaishnava Sampradhaya to Alavandar. Worried that Alavandar was lost in the pleasures of royalty and His newly acquired status he went about his job in a systematic way. “We are what we eat” goes the adage. In order to awake spirituality the basic need is satvik food. So Manakkal Nambhi regularly supplied thoothuvalai keerai (a kind of spinach). Then he stopped coming. Noticing the absence of the greens Alavandar asked for it and was told about the supplier of thoothuvalai keerai had stopped bringing them. Alavandar ordered that He wanted an audience with the Brahmin when he came again. Thus it was that Manakkal Nambhi met Alavandhar. Alavandar rose from his throne and prostrated Manakkal Nambhi. He wanted to reward him for supplying thoothuvalai keerai. Manakkal Nambhi said he needed no rewards but had in his possession the wealth bequeathed by Alavandar’s ancestors. All he wanted was to be allowed inside the palace whenever he wanted to come. Alavandar readily agreed. Manakkal Nambhi came regularly and talked about Srimadh Bhaghavadh Geetha to Alavandar. As He kept listening Alavandar’s inclination towards the worldly vanished and His spiritual craving increased. Manakkal Nambhi realized that the time to reveal the Pitruarjitham (ancestral wealth) had come. He took Alavandar to SriRangam and revealed SriRanganidhi to Him and said ”this is Your Treasure Trove” which was to be entrusted to me by thy grandsire.
On seeing SriRanganatha reclining on Sesha, tears flowed incessantly from His eyes and remorse filled His heart for the life He had wasted and He decided to dedicate His life in the service of Srivaishnavism. Alavandar took up sanyasam and donned the ochre robes. His sanyasa tirunamam was Yamuna Muni.
Manakkal Nambhi handed the divyamangala vigraham of Bhavishyadh acharyan and directed Him to Kurugaikavalappan who knew Yogarahasyam. So Alavandhar set forth to seek Kurugaikavalappan. When He reached the hut where Kurugaikavalappan was meditating He stood quietly in a corner waiting for him to open his eyes. “Is there someone from Sottai kulam here?” asked Kurugaikavalappan. Adiyen said Alavandar, how did swami know? Krishna who was standing infront of me started glancing elsewhere so Kavalappan deduced the presence of someone from the Sottai kulam. Alavandar begged to learn Yogarahasyam and was asked to come on a particular date after divyadesa yatra. Alavandar visited several divyadesams and got so lost in archanubhavam, He missed the date with Kurugaikavalappan and the secret of Yogam was lost to mankind. Once while visiting Kanchipuram He saw Ramanujacharya accompanying Yadava Prakasha a reknowned Advaitha pandit. He was impressed by Ramanuja and prayed to Varadaraja Perumal to bring Ramanuja to His fold. He did not however meet Ramanuja as He thought that the right time had not come. Yamuna muni’s creations were the following:
- Stotra Ratnam
- Siddhi Trayam
- Agama Pramanyam
- Mahapurusha Nirnayam
- Geethartha Sangraham
- Maaya vadha kandanam
Alavandar returned to SriRangam and spent His time in kainkaryam to SriRanganachiar and SriRanganatha and in continuous spread of Srivaishnava sampradhayam. Age had taken over and Alavandar realized His Vaikunta yatra was imminent. Wanting to hand over His kingdom that is the Srivaishnava samrajyam to Ramanuja He sent Periya Nambhi His shisya to Kanchipuram to fetch Ramanuja. Periya Nambhi left immediately for Kanchi and spotted SriRamanuja fetching water at the Salakinaru and recited the beautiful verses of Alavandar’s “Stotra Ratnam”. Ramanuja stood rooted to the spot .prostrated before Periya Nambhi and wanted to know who the creator of these verses was? Periya Nambhi told Ramanuja and they both hurriedly left for SriRangam. On reaching the banks of Cauvery they learnt that Alavandar had shed His mortal coils. Ramanuja wept inconsolably and when he saw the Charama Tirumeni of Alavandar he noticed that three of Alavandar’s fingers were folded. Realizing that they were the three Commandments he had to fulfil, Ramanuja promised to:
- 1. Write a Bhashya (commentary) for The Brahma Sutras in accordance with Vishistadvaitha
- 2. The names of Parasara and Vyasa would be glorified, and
- 3. A vykhyanam (explanation) for Tiruvaymozhi of Nammazhwar would be written.
As each pratighya (promise) was made the finger opened up and Sri Alavandhar conveyed His message to Ramanujacharya. Having completed His mission on earth He proceeded to SriVaikuntam to do eternal service to the Divya Dampathis.
Let us chant and teach our children atleast Chatushlokhi which used to be chanted everyday in the evening after the lamps were lit and during thadeearadhanai. Let us say Namo Namo Yamunaya! Yamunaya Namo Namah: and remember our Redeemer every day in gratitude.
Writeup by Smt Vyjayanthi Rajan