Guru Parampara Series – Bhaghavadh Ramanujacharya (Part – 3)
Perarulalan The King of Sacrifice (Thyagarajan)
Entering Sanyasashramam(3 Reasons)
Tirumaligai(The house) where Ramanuja lived in Kanchipuram
In the Hindu epics and puranas and even in history books we come across mention of the four asramas (stages) in the life of Hindus – bramhacharya, grishta vaanaprasta and sanyasa. Sanyasasrama was the final asrama wherein the householder sacrificed his family wore saffron clothes and spent the rest of his life in meditation and ahimsa. This asrama was entered into with the permission of the mother or the wife and was usually done after completing one’s duties. Ramanuja wanted to enter sanyasa to serve the Cause of Srivaishnava sampradhaya. Three incidents speedened the process:
Ramanuja and Kanchipoorna (Tirukachi nambi) were good friends. Infact Ramanuja considered Kanchipoorna his guru even though he was a vaisya (trader community). One day he invited Kanchipoorna (Tirukachi nambi) to his house and offered him asanam (a seat) and discussed intricate matters pertaining (refer to the six truths) to sampradhaya. He then went to see him off. On returning home he found his wife cleaning the place where Kanchipoorna sat with cowdung. He was pained to see that his wife was blindly following rituals not understanding the greatness of Kanchipoorna (Tirukacchi nambi). Vaishnavas have to be honoured and respected at all times he explained to his devigal(wife) and sought forgiveness from ‘Perarulalan’ (Varadan) for her behaviour. This incident pained Ramanuja a lot.
One other time a poor srivaishnava who used to give Ramanuja his weekly oil massage had come to his house to give massage . He said that he was very hungry and requested for something to eat. Ramanuja asked his deviga(wife) to give food to the man but she said there was nothing available. When Ramanuja went and checked in the kitchen he found some food in a pot and he fed the hungry man. He was pained and saddened by his wife’s behaviour and was lost in thoughts. He could not understand how someone could be so pitiless. He was angry at his wife and scolded her for not even following ‘samanya-dharmam’ (the basic duty) of a grihasta. Sastras ordain that a grihini (housewife) should never turn away a hungry person and had to make arrangements to appease his hunger. Here Ramanuja’s wife did not even serve the available food to the hungry brahmana and added to it lied .
The third incident which spurred Ramanuja’s taking of sanyasa was the apacharam (sin) committed by his wife to his guru patni. We know that Ramanuja’s acharya Mahapoorna (Periya nambi) and his devigal(wife) were residing in a portion of Ramanuja’s house imparting kalakshepams in Kanchipuram. One day Ramanuja had to go on a mission to Sriperumpudur. During his absence his devigal(wife) had a fight with Mahapoorna’s (Periya nambi) devigal(wife) while drawing water from the well. Mahapoorna(Periya nambi) who heard this chided his wife for quarrelling. He decided that it was not appropriate for them to live there any longer. So they packed up and left for Srirangam. When Ramanuja returned from Sriperumpudur he was shocked to know that his guru and his devigal(wife) were not there. He asked his devigal(wife) about their whereabouts. She told him about the fight between her and Mahapoorna’s wife at the well while drawing water. Ramanuja was flabbergasted. His eyes swelled up with tears and ashamed of his devigal’s behaviour, he shouted at her and asked her to go to her parents house. Giving her all he owned Ramanuja asked his wife to leave him forever because first apacharam was ‘bhaghavatha apacharam’ committed to Kanchipoorna (Tirukacchi nambi), second was her refusal to address the hunger of a srivaishnava(Srivaishnava apacharam) and the third was the apacharam committed to Mahapoorna(Periya nambi) and his devigal – acharyapacharam. Ramanuja felt that rather than live with a wife who did not understand him he could serve the sampradaya better by accepting sanyasam.
The well where the quarrel took place
Ramanuja becomes Yathiraja
Ramanuja as a grihastha (householder)
The holy Anathasaras where Ramanuja took up sanyasam
Yathiraja with Kuresa(Kurathazhwan)
Having sent his wife away Ramanuja went up the Hasthigiri to worship Perarulalan and presented his request for taking up sanyasam. He then proceeded to ‘Anatha- Saras’. Anantha Saras is the pushkarni(temple-tank) of Varadaraja Perumal temple. Ramanuja took bath in the pushkarni and chanted the ‘preksha-mantram’ which had been imparted to him by his guru (mantra upadesam) previously. Mantras have to be obtained from a guru and chanted in the prescribed manner. Preksha mantram is sanyasa mantram. Ramanuja wore ‘Kaashayam’(orange cotton ), Upaveetham(sacred thread), had a shikai(tuft) and held aloft the ‘Tridandam’. The Tridandam comprises of three bamboo sticks tied together with a white flag at the top. It is the constant companion of a vaishnava sanyasi and the three sticks represent Control of Speech, Control of body and Control of mind which a sanyasi has to adhere to at all times. He then went to Varadan sannidhi and was hailed as ‘Yathiraja’ by the aradhakar swami. It is believed that archamurthis converse through archakas. So Varadaraja Hiself gave Ramanuja the name Yathiraja (The king among sanyasis).Sanyasis get a new name when they enter the asrama.
Yathiraja started living the spartan life of a yathi adhering strictly to the prescribed rules. He observed all the acharams and anushtanams pertaining to sanyasasrama. He remembered Alavandar and the three promises he had made in his presence. He realized that he had miles to go and promises to keep. He could not achieve this alone. He remembered his cousin Govindan who had saved his life. But Govinda was in Kalahasthi worshipping Siva. Who could bring him back to the Srivaishnava Faith? He realized that their maternal uncle Srisailapoorna (Periya Tirumalai nambi) alone could accomplish this task. He sent a srivaishnava with the following message to Srisailapoorna(Periya Tirumalai nambi):
“Govindan who studied ‘poorvapaksham’ with adiyen has become a ‘maayavadin’. He is worshipping devathantharams. Correct him and bring him on the correct path”.
Meanwhile Nadadur Aazhwan, Koorathazhan and Mudaliaandan fell at Yathiraja’s feet and asked to be his followers. Yathiraja did ‘panchasamskaras’ to them and they were Yathiraja’s first shisyas who enjoyed doing continuous acharya kainkaryam.(service to their teacher ).
The teacher becomes the student
Yadavaprakasa, Ramanuja’s first guru was a troubled person. He saw his student become a Tridandi sanyasi. He kept thinking about Ramanuja’s logical interpretations of upanishad vakyams like ‘kaapyasam pundarikaksham’ he recalled the words of the brahmarakhasa and he remembered how Ramanuja was saved from certain death in The Vindhyas by Perundevi Thayar and Perarulalan.
Yadavaprakasa’s mother used to worship Perarulalan everyday. She used to often converse with Kanchipoorna (Tirukacchi Nambi) and Yathiraja. She saw Ramanuja’s poise and tranquility. She saw Ramanuja’s growing popularity. She wished that her son should join Yathiraja’s fold. One day after praying to Varadan on Atthigiri she talked to her son about Ramanuja and asked him to become his shisya. She asked him to become a Tridandi sanyasi like Yathiraja. Yadavaprakasa recollected how the three fingers of Alavandar opened up after Ramanuja made three promises to keep. He remembered ‘The Six Truths’ revealed by Varadan to Kanchipoorna (Tirukacchi nambi) and conveyed to Ramanuja.Yadavaprakasa was a repentant man. He sought Ramanuja and fell at his feet. He expressed his desire to become a tridandi sanyasi. But said Yathiraja ‘how is it possible at this age to do bhu-pradakshinam?’ Bhu- pradakshinam means travelling around the earth. It had to be done as prayaschitham(atonement) for becoming a tridandi sanyasi. Yadavaprakasa had a dream that night where Perarulalan asked him to do pradakshinam of Yathiraja, that is go clockwise around Yathiraja instead of ‘Bhu-pradakshinam’.Not sure about what he saw and heard in his dream Yadavaprakasa went to Kanchipoorna(Tirukacchi nambi). Tirukacchi nambi as we know conversed with Varadan so he took up Yadavaprakasa’s query to Him. Varadan revealed that doing pradakshinam of Yathiraja would be equal to doing ‘Bhu-pradakshinam’ as indicated in Yadavaprakasa’s dream.
The next morning Yadavaprakasa approached Yathiraja went around him in a clockwise direction and fell like a log at his feet. This is called dandavath pranamam. Yadavaprakasa begged Yathiraja to make him a tridandi sanyasi. Yathiraja agreed and performed all the rituals prescribed in the sastras. Yathiraja performed all the samskaras like choulam, upanayanam and did samashrayanam for Yadavaprakasa. He gave Yadavaprakasa the kaashayam (orange cotton cloth) and the tridandam (three pronged staff) and the alms bowl of a sanyasi. Yadavaprakasa was hailed ‘Govinda Jeer’.This was the name given to Yadavaprakasa when he took sanyasam. Yathiraja asked Govinda jeer to write a book about the dharma of sanyasis. Dharma means the rules to be followed. Accordingly Govinda jeer wrote ‘Yathidharma samucchayam’ and offered it at the feet of Yathiraja. Yathiraja read it and approved of it. There were eleven chapters in the book detailing the ‘dos and the don’t’s’ of a sanyasi Yadavaprakasa thus found peace as ‘Govinda jeer’ and ascended to paramapadam shortly after completing his book.
Yathiraja was giving upadesam of both meemasa and sastras to Koorathazhwan, Mudaliaandan and other shishyas in Kanchipuram. The srivaishnavas of Srirangam were elated to learn this and wished Yathiraja to come to Srirangam. But would it be possible to get him from Varada? Would Varadan part with His Love? A plot had to be hatched and somehow Yathiraja would have to be brought to Srirangam.
Araiyar swamis of Srirangam
Mahapoorna (Periya nambi) called the srivaishnavas of Srirangam to discuss plans for bringing Yathiraja to Srirangam. Ramanuja who had come to Srirangam immediately after Alavandar had attained moksham was very sad for not being able to see him when he was alive. So angry was he with Ranganatha that he left Srirangam without even visiting His temple. Would he agree to leave Kanchipuram? Kanchi Varadaraja is reknowned as ‘The Bestower of Boons’. They decided to exploit this trait of DevaPerumal. They requested Tiruvaranga Perumal Araiyar to go to Kanchi and seek Ramanuja from Varadan. Nathamuni the grandfather of Alavandar retrieved the ’naalayira divyaprabhandam’ set them to music and choreographed it and taught it to his nephews. This was the beginning of the ‘araiyar tradition’ which continues till date in temples like Srirangam, Srivilliputthur, Azhwar Tirunagari and Melkote. The araiyar swami wears a special velvet conical cap embossed with shanku, chakram and tiruman. He wears panchakaccham veshti and Perumal’s flower garland, keeps beat with a pair of cymbals. First the pasuram is sung, followed by relevant steps and abhinaya (facial expressions) then the meaning of the verse is explained. Tiruvaranga Perumal araiyar was an adept araiyar of Srirangam and he was sent to Kanchi to perform before Varadan. When the devout sings Perumal keeps the beat goes the adage. Varadan was enjoying the cool breeze provided by Kanchipoorna(Tirukacchi nambi) at Kacchivaythan mandapam in His temple when Tiruvaranga Perumal Araiyar prostrated before Him and performed ‘Araiyar- Sevai’. Ever ready to bestow boons our Varadan (like Dasaratha) said ‘Ask for any boon’ and araiyar said Ramanuja is whom we seek. Send him to Srirangam. Varadan stood silent but He could not go back on His words. So sadly He bade goodbye to His favorite child Ramanuja. Ramanuja immediately left Kanchi with his aradhya divyamangalamurthi of Varadan and puja articles for Srirangam. Kanchipoorna(Tirukacchi nambi) saw him off with tearful eyes. Kanchi raised Ramanuja and handed him to Srirangam.
To be continued..
Photos: Sri Sundararajan & Writeup: Smt Vyjayanthi Rajan