Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
We saw how the Lord tried His best to emancipate lost souls, through the medium of the Azhwars. However, even this valiant effort left untouched a large section of humanity, which had become hard nuts to crack, due to the increasing influence of the Kali Purusha. This undesirable influence also led to the proliferation of several pseudo religions and philosophies, which, while professing to show people the path to liberation, made them sink even deeper into the mundane morass.
The saintly Azhwars had laid down a well-trodden track to Sri Vaikuntam, which, however, in course of time, became overgrown with thorny bushes of conflicting religious and philosophical thought, not only obscuring the original path, but also misleading people into meandering lanes, which led nowhere.
There was thus the imperative need to clear away the weeds and thorns and to restore the traditional path to its pristine glory of being the sole viaduct to Vaikuntam. This was no easy job; for the obstructing overgrowth had taken deep and strong root, and so many by lanes had sprung up as to almost obliterate the original trail. The Advaitins, Jains, Buddhists, KApAlikAs, ShAktAs, MImAmsakAs, NaiyAikAs (Logicians) etc. had established control over large sections of the populace even during the Azhwars’ times (as is shown by the Tiruvoimozhi Paasuram- “ilingatthu itta purANattheerum, SamaNarum, SAkkiarum Valindu vAdu seiveergaLum matrum – இலிங்கத்து இட்ட புராணத்தீரும், சமணரும், சாக்கியரும், வலிந்து வாது செய்வீர்களும் மற்றும்” and “Veruppodu SamaNar, Mundar, vidhiyil SakkiyargaL – வெறுப்போடு சமணர், முண்டர், வீதியில் சாக்கியர்கள்” from TirumAlai). Some of these schools of thought were outright bad, while others professed to be good but led people astray, much like the proverbial mirage. It is as important to create a beautiful garden, as it is to maintain and protect it against pestilential attacks by weeds, worms, poachers etc.
Hence Emperuman had to take another series of Avataras as Acharyas, to redeem the Sampradaya, to protect it against the onslaught of obscurantist schools and propagate the same for the upliftment of the masses. And, unlike the original dasAvatArAs, most of which happened in the north, for His avatArA as Acharyas, the Lord chose the south of India, sanctified by residence of great Maharshis like Sri AgastyA (“Agastya sEvitamAna dEsatthilE ? avataritthu aruLinAn”- Swami Desikan).
The AchAryAvatArA of the Lord has been foretold in Sri BhAgavata PurANA, in the following sloka:-
“Kalou khalu bhavishyanti NarAyaNa parAyaNA: Kvachit kvachit mahA bhAgA: dramidEshu cha bhoorisa: TamraparNI nadI yatra KritamAlA PayasvinI KavErI cha MahAbhAgA PratIchI cha MahAnadI”
This sloka predicts the avatArA of the Lord as Acharyas, on the banks of holy rivers like the Kaveri, the TAmraparni, the PAlAr, the PeriyAr, the Vaigai, etc.
– Sri Rama was born on the banks of the Sarayu,
– Sri Krishna’s birth and childhood were around the Yamuna When we come to think of it, almost all of the Lord’s Avataras are associated with water, in some form or the other.
– The Matsya Avatara, needless to say, had to be in water, as the Lord chose to assume the form of a fish.
– In Sri Koorma Avatara, He took the form of a Great Turtle, (which is an amphibian), and stationed Himself at the bottom of the ocean,
supporting the Mantara Parvatam on His back, to enable the Devas and Asuras to churn the sea for Amritam.
– In Sri VarAha Avatara again, He rescued Bhoomi from the depths of the ocean, where she had been secreted away by HiraNyAksha.
– As Sri Rama, He built a bridge to LankA across the Ocean, an unimaginable feat.
– In Sri KrishnAvatara, all of Sri Krishna’s youth was spent in the sands of the Yamuna (“Yamuna sAkshika youvanam yuvAnam” – Sri Gopala Vimsati). On the very night of His birth, He crosses the Yamuna in the safe hands of Sri Vasudeva amidst a raging storm with an obliging Yamuna parting for His passage. The city He built for His permanent residence, Dwaraka, is situated by the sea.
In His Vyooha AvatAra too, as Sri VAsudEva, He lies on the Milky Ocean, on Sri Adisesha.
– And, before all creation, He lies on a banyan leaf in the primordial waters as a baby, housing all the worlds in His small tummy (“Ala mA maratthin ilai mEl oru bAlakanAi- gyAlam Ezhum uNdAn”- Sri TiruppAnAzhwar).
And, in ArcchAvatAra too, most of His temples are situated on river banks-Srirangam, Tirukkudandai, Kapistalam, Anbil, –the list is too long to bear enumeration.
Such is the Lord’s inseparable association with water in some form or the other, that Sri Bhagavata Purana says that He is born as Acharyas, yet again on the banks of holy rivers like the Kaveri, Tamraparni, Vaigai, Palar and Periyar.
True to the aforesaid Sloka, we find that most of the Acharyas’ avatara stthalAs (birthplaces) are situated on riverbanks or nearby places.
– The first Acharya in the Guruparampara, Sri Nammazhwar, was born on the banks of the Tamraparni.
– Sri NathamunigaL was born in Kattu MannAr kOil (Veera Narayanapuram),
– Sri UyyakkoNdAr at TiruveLLarai, Sri MaNakkAl Nambi at MaNakkAl, Sri AlavandAr again at Kattu MannAr Koil, all on the banks of or in proximity to the Kaveri.
– Sri Ramanuja was born at Sriperumbudur, which is not far from the PalAr.
Adhering to the “Water” theme, Sri Embar describes the Guruparampara thus
“LakshmI NAthAkya sindhou Sataripu jaladha: prApya kAruNya neeram
NAthAdrou abhyashinchat tadanu Raghuvara ambhOja chakshu:jharAbhyAm
GatvA tAm YamunAkyAm saritam ata YatIndrAkhya Padma karEndram
Sampoorya prANi sasyE pravahati BahudhA DesikEndra pramoughai:”
The Lord (LakshmInAtha) is a veritable ocean of mercy. Sri Nammazhwar, as a cloud, absorbed the essence of this ocean and showered it on the peak of a towering mountain, which is Sri Nathamuni. This rain water flows down the Nathamuni mountain in two great streams (Sri UyyakkondAr and Sri ManakkAl Nambi), to become a broad river (Sri Alavandar). This immense river splits into five canals, viz., Sri Peria Nambi, Sri Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi, Sri TirumAlaiAndAn, Sri Tiruvaranga PerumAl arayar and Sri Tirukkacchi Nambi, all of which drain into the vast lake that is Sri Ramanuja. This grand lake has 74 sluices (The SimhAsana Adhipatis or Mutt heads established by Sri Ramanuja), through which the water flows to sustain crops. In this simile, samsArIs like us are referred to as the crops, deriving their sustenance from the Acharyas (Swami Desikan too refers to such crops in Sri DayA Satakam -“SaranAgata sasya mAlineeyam”).
Coming back to the point, all Acharyas, right from Sri Nammazhwar, and followed by Sri Nathamuni, Sri UyyakkondAr, Sri ManakkAl Nambi, Sri Alavandar, Sri Peria Nambi (and four other Acharyas of Sri Ramanuja), Sri Bhashyakara and the descendants of the 74 Mutt heads appointed by him, right down to the venerated Acharyas manning the peetAs today-all these Acharya PurushAs are verily the Lord Himself, come to lift us up from the benumbing ocean of Samsara to a world of everlasting bliss of service to the Lord.
to be continued…
Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore