The 15th of December 2012 marks the 111th Thirunakshatram of Shri Srivan Sathakopa Sri Veeraraghava Satakopa Yatheendra Mahadesikan. The 43rd AzghiyaSingar, a name that is synonyms with a divine feeling. An acharya whose match never descended and stands tall as an empitome of brilliance and Austerity.
In the unbroken line of Acharyas of Sri Ahobila Mutt in which Lord Lakshmee Narasimha Himself took the role of an Acharya and the successive Acharyas who were endowed with Hayagreeva’s grace, Mantra Siddhis and supernatural powers, a shining star was the 43rd Jeeyar, Srivan Satakopa Sri Veeraraghava Satakopa Yatheendra Mahadesikan.
His birth itself was a divine happening. Devanarvilagam Lakshmeenarasimhachariar by which name the 43rd Jeeyar was known in his poorvasharamam.
The childless parents whose knowledge and religious duties were unparalleled, sought the blessings of the Athippattu Azhagiyasingar (34th Jeeyar) who asked them to partake Goodaan (rice boiled with jaggery and milk) the prasad offered to Lakshmeenarasimha that day. Great was their rejoicing when a son was born to them in due course and was appropriately named Lakshmeenarasimhan. His father Thiruvenkatachariar took care to perform the enjoined samskaras the respective age and sent his son to Kumbakonam where Lakshmeenarasimhan mastered Sanskrit including Kavyas and nataka. A scholar by name Nellore Rangachariar taught him the Vedas in the traditional style. Being a precocious lad, he not only mastered Vedas and Sastras with perfect ease; but also passed courses in Tarka Sastra and obtained Siromani title in a creditable manner.
He had his PanchaSamskara – the five purificatory ceremonies under the 40th Jeeyar and Saranagathi (Bharasamarpanam) under the 40th Jeeyar. He also learnt Sreebhashya at the feet of the 40th Jeeyar and Sruthaprakasika, Geethabhashya and Bhagawath Vishayam under the 41st Jeeyar. Thus Lakshmeenarasimhan had fully qualified himself at an early age for his future role as 43rd Jeeyar. This attainment moulded him to remain dispassionate in worldly affairs and he very much fitted the description of King Dileepa by Kalidasa.
Though born in a very affluent family, he was not attracted by material pleasures, delved deep into the various branches of learning, took to righteous deeds and had the wisdom of the old even while being young. I recall with nostalgia, his devotion of Malola during those days of the 41st and 42nd Jeeyars at Dasavatharan Sannidhi in Srirangam when I was doing Kalakshepam (philosophical study) under the 41 st Jeeyar. His performance of the aradhana of Lord Lakshmeenarasimha was worth witnessing what with his rigid austerity, meticulous handling of pooja items, great devotion, humility, inspiring utterances and utmost love for God.
Back at Devanarvilagam Village where he led his family life, people who visited Uppilliappan Sannidhi made it a point to visit him also at that adjacent village. What they admired in him was his achara in the midst of his outword activities, looking upon joy and sorrow with equal indifference and equanimity of mind of one who knows Brahman.
The era of 42nd Jeeyar was a golden period and his three outstanding achievements (among others) were (1) Estabhshment of a Sanskrit college at Madhuranthakam (2) The starting of the periodical ‘Nrisimha Priya’ and (3) Holding of the annual Veda-Vedantha Vidwat Sadas-a scholarly gathering indulging in dialectics of Vedantha, especially Sreebhashya wherein the concept of individual self, God and Universe, the idea of Saadhana and Mukthi and the doctrine of substance and attribute – are all brought within the purview of discussion based on the works of Vedantha Desika and Ramanuja. Scholars put forth their arguments which were countered by some others, thereby animating a lively discussion. The important rule was to allow the scholar to complete his arguments on a particular adhikarana and not to interrupt him in the middle. The 42nd Jeeyar would patiently wait for that scholar to conclude when he would explain the esoteric and clarify some tricky points which that school might not have elaborated. For the new comers, this would be a great help to understand the depth of Sribhashya. At the successful conclusion of this ten-day session, all the participating scholars would be duly honoured, apart from meeting their travel expenses by the Mutt. This is practised even to this day. Lakshmeenarasimhan enriched these sessions by his art of reasoning and quite naturally, recognising his merit, the 42nd Jeeyar appointed him as the Principal of the Madhuranthakam College and later made him the Asthana Vidwan of the Mutt. By now Lakshmeenarasimhan had so endeared himself to the Mutt that he became the natural choice to be the successor. Considering his own failing health, the 42nd Jeeyar appointed Lakshmeenarasimhan as the 43rd Jeeyar giving him the asrama title “Srivan Satakopa Sri Veeraraghava Satakopa Yatheendra Maha Desikan” in 1951. Both the 42nd and 43rd Azhagiya Singars were together for two years, when in 1953 the 42nd Jeeyar shed his mortal coil to adorn Sreevaikunta.
The 42nd Jeeyar had toured upto Hyderabad and he had desired his successor to proceed further north to propagate the message of Ramanuja and Desika. With this in mind, the 43rd Azhagiya Singar commenced his administration of the Mutt and set an example as the epitome of an ideal Acharya whose mode of living is akin to a realised soul, adhering to righteous path, disciplined conduct and helping the fellow beings disciples to ennoble their souls so as to cross the ocean of the mundane. With his attention on the Lord’s Lotus Feet, His sacred names on his lips, the Jeeyar identified himself as a Dasya – servant of the Supreme Lord.
He nourished well the institutions started by the 42nd Azhagiyasingar and established eight oriental schools in various places as feeders. While engaged in this task of upliftment of the fellowman, he never swerved from the established orthodox rules and did not attempt to relax them. He firmly believed that the time honoured values are best for realisation of the soul.
Obtaining the tacit approval of his beloved Malola, the 43rd Jeeyar undertook his first journey towards south, visiting several shrines on the way. A large number of disciples took the opportunity of his visit to have Pancha Samskara and Bharasamarpanam. His divine disposition attracted a large number of people wherever he went. Travelling by Palanquin followed by a large retinue of carts men and material for sustenance, people vied with one another to give him grand reception and the temple authorities in each place received him with Poorna Kumba and bestowed honours on him. A gentleman who used to make advance arrangements for the Jeeyar’s travel says how, when the Azhagiyasingar visited Padmanabha Swami Temple at Trivandrum, the then king received him with royal honours and hosted the Lord and the Jeeyar at the palace. From there, the Jeeyar proceeded to Thiruppullani; reminiscing on the noble deeds of Sri Rama in that Kshetra. His first Chatur-masya was at Thuvariman (near Madurai). From here he came to Madras to receive a rousing reception from an enthusiastic crowd of devotees and disciples.
Making up his mind to fulfil the desire of his predecessor, the Jeeyar commenced his northward journey in right earnest. The daily aradhana of Lord Lakshmeenarasimha required strict adherence to rigorous discipline and performance at the appropriate time throughout the day, which included sacred bath, purificatory rituals etc. The Jeeyar and the aradhakars religiously followed these principles, even while on journey or in new surroundings. Camping at Ahobliam, he had a well dug next to the Divine Mother’s Sannidhi, that does not go dry even to this day. While attending to the daily routines, he still spared time to teach Sreebhashya and other subjects to the interested persons.
His Andhra journey was personally supervised by the then Chief Minister of Hyderabad which speaks of the reverence in which the Jeeyar was held. The Chief Minister even expressed his desire to become his disciple. The Jeeyar took delight in chanting the auspicious names of the Lord along with the devotees of Andhra, when he came to know ,that the local people were religious by nature and were very devoted to Lord Lakshmeenarasimha. Both the Royalty and the Laity came to worship him.
It is said that when he had to cross Thungabhadra river, a part of his retinue consisting of bullock-carts got stuck in the slush of the river and by divine grace, an elephant came to the rescue, dragging the carts one by one out of that slush and safely landing them on the other bank. The Jeeyar’s visit to Hyderabad was a tremendous success with the then Hyderabad state honouring him, He had to face hurdles on his way to Bombay when the bearers refused to carry his palanquin. Undaunted he covered the distance by walk, while the palanquin with the idols was carried by some of his disciples. At Pushkaram the idol of a disciple of the Mutt installed in the sanctum sanctorum was the cause for the Jeeyar’s refusal to receive honours there. His Delhi visit was hosted by the then speaker Sri Ananthasayanam Ayyangar who dug a well at the place of his stay for the personal use of the Jeeyar. On his way to Badarinath, he visited all the pilgrimage centres and the U.P. Government deputed a senior officer to look after his needs and comforts during his visit to that Himalayan shrine.
Having had a blissful darsan of the Lord of Badarinath, with the feeling that just like the sun shine on the peaks though the snow-clad Himalayas is encircled by clouds, in the presence of Nara-Narayana, all the travails of travel melted away into insignificance. On his return journey, the Azhagiyasingar agreed to the request of the devotees to have his fifth Chaturmasya at Risheekesh. His disciples also chose Naimisaranyam on the banks of the holy river for celebration of his birthday that was to fall in the Karthik month (Nov-Dec.) in 1957. Accordingly, he reached that holy Kshetra sung by Rishis and Alwars, two days prior to the celebration. But the long travel had already begun to tell upon his health. Unmindful of this setback, Azhagiyasingar continued his routine, especially the daily dawn dip in the cold (being winter) waters of the river, followed by long ablutions and rituals of the ascetic order. His greatest virtue was his vairagya and never would he deviate from the chosen path. This affected his health further causing increased concern for the disciples. A true sanyasin, he had little concern for his body and as if, his chosen time had come, he easily cast off his mortal frame and reached the abode of the Supreme Lord to do eternal service at the feet of Sree Vaikuntanatha. The disciples not only around him, but those in the country and abroad suddenly felt orphaned. His Brindavan was built there by the 44th Jeeyar who succeeded him, having earlier accompanied him as the Mutt’s Asthana Vidwan.
In a short span of five year’s reign, the 43rd Jeeyar had fulfilled with glitter and grandeur what no other Acharya could achieve. His a sublime life of purity, wisdom and divinity and one of assiduously preaching and practising of religious observations and restrictions against odds.
The Mutt and its shishyas as well as the whole Vaishnava world would brim up and stand as no one person ever stood like a colossus for the Dharma as our Jeeyar. He joined a group of elite headed by our Sri Bhashyakarar itself and is one who is etched in the memory of every Vaishnava for his ever following love and contribution.
If Athivan Sathakopan Swami and Perumal where to talk on the achievements of the Ahobila Mutt our periya acharya would proudly say it produced a gem by the name of Sri Veeraraghava Sathakopan…
(Source SriNrisimhapriya & Sri Ahobila Mutt)