Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
It is usual for all devotees to have their “ishtta devata” or favourite deity, to whom they are extremely attached. This would be apart from their Kula Deivam, the Deity worshipped by the family for generations. Even though the Lord is indeed equal in beauty and attributes irrespective of the form He assumes, bhaktas would swear that their own Deity is the most handsome, the most merciful and so on. This is not due to lack of faith in the other forms of Emperuman, but on account of a fierce attachment to their favourites—something like the nahi nindaa nyayam: even though one’s own Deity is held to be the foremost, no disrespect is intended to the Lord’s other forms. This is what prompts Sri Andal to swear by Sri Rama as Manatthukku Iniyaan and Sri Nammazhwar to declare that if at all one sings paeans of praise, they should be addressed to Chakravartthi Tirumagan—karppaar Iraama Piraanai allaall mattrum karparo. Sri Bhattar’s spirited defence of the Varahavataram and depiction of Gnanappiran as the most wonderful of incarnations, making light of other avataras, all fall in this category.
Having thus established a precedent for what we are about to say, let us see why Sri Malolan, reigning resplendent at Sri Ahobila Matham, is indeed the Deity of Choice for millions, who swear by Him as their saviour in good times and bad, standing tall in the comity of Avataras and towering head and shoulders above all other Deities.
1. Worship by other avataras of the Lord: We call Sri Ranganatha Periya Perumal, because He was adulated by the Prince of Ayodhya. The Venkatachala Mahatmyam tells us that not only did Sri Rama worship Sri Malolan at Ahobilam while on His way to Lanka for rescuing Mythili, but even Sri Srinivasa paid Him obeisance prior to His marriage with Sri Padmavati. Having thus been the object of adoration of not one but two of Avataras—one from Vibhava and the other from Arccha–, is not Sri Malolan entitled to the sobriquet, Periya, Periya Perumal?
2. Primacy in granting Boons: Acharyas aver that Sri Malolan is matchless in blessing His adherents with whatever they seek. In a lighter vein, they point out–while worship of Ranganatha by Sri Rama only resulted in the latter losing His princely status the very next day and getting banished to the jungles for fourteen long years, resulting in separation of the Divine Duo, worship of Sri Malolan by Srinivasa turned the latter from a penniless hill billy and bachelor roaming the hills of Tirumala, into the acclaimed husband of Sri Padmavati and the richest Deity on earth.
3. Only Perumal in the constant embrace of Mahalakshmi: The presence or absence of Piratti makes or mars one’s life. Whether it is an application to the Lord for mere mundane baubles or for coveted liberation, the Lord is likely to listen only when Piraatti is by His side. Acharyas point out that it was the benign presence and intervention of Piraatti which saved Kaakaasura from certain perdition, while Her absence from the scene culminated in Ravana remaining adamant till the end and meeting his nemesis in the form of Sri Rama. In this context, we can proclaim proudly that our Malolan is the only Utsava Moorthy of a divya desam, who is forever in the embrace of Sri, making Him incapable of meting out commensurate punishment for our misdemeanours and of denying all our reasonable entreaties. As His very name (Maa Lola:) indicates, He is so enamoured of His Lady Love that He is forever is Her arms and She in His—Lakshmyaa samaalingita vaama bhaagam.
4. While other Emperumans may favour the Dola or Oonjal off and on, Sri Malolan if forever seated on the swing. A mere sight of the Lord seated on a swing—Dola—is adequate to liberate us from the shackles of Samsaram, say Shastras– Dolaayamaanam Govindam drishtvaa……punar janma na vidyate). With Sri Malolan’s natural habitat being the Dola or swing, should any devotee fear rebirth, after surrendering to this Prince of Deities?
5.Perumal with Paduka: A close look at Sri Malolan’s enchanting form would tell us that His foot is adorned by a golden sandal, indicating that His penchant for peregrination or Sancharam. Apart from Sri Ranganatha, our Malola is perhaps the only moorti to sport sandals on His divine feet.
6. Only Divya Desa Perumal to be in constant Sancharam: Emperumans at all Divya desams do like their days out, emerging from the confines of the particular shrine at specific intervals to bless those who are unable to visit temples. Such outings of the Lord are limited to occasions like Pancha Parvas, Brahmotsavam , etc. However, with Sri Malolan, His penchant for amassing prapannas makes Him engaged in constant travel, with absolutely no constraint of time or place. While Utsava Moorties of other divya desams confine their outings to maada veethis, Sri Malolan has travelled all over Bharata Desam, blessing all those over vast distances who are fortunate to have His darshan and taking liberation to the doorsteps of devotees. It is only Sri Malolan who has travelled Aasethu Himachalam—from the southern-most tip of India at Tiruppullaani to the lap of the great Himalayas in the north, with the stentorian call of His Tirucchinnam echoing triumphantly from the towering peaks surrounding Badarikashramam.
7. Only Perumal constantly seated on Garuda: A mere sight of the Lord riding His faithful servitor Garuda rids us of all disease, say Shastras. This being so, is there any doubt about the curative powers of Sri Malolan, who is forever to be seen on the shoulders of Garuthman? While Garudotsavam is an occasional phenomenon in the case of Emperumans of other divyadesams, with Sri Malolan, it is a constant feature.
8. Only Utsavar to be away for considerable periods from His moola beram: We normally find that Utsava moorties confine themselves to brief outings during utsavams, always returning for the night to the sanctum sanctorum. This is said to be as per the Agamas, since the Utsavar derives His power and potency from the Moolavar, drawing them in the morning and surrendering them at night. However, in the case of Sri Malolan, He is for the most part away from His moola beram at Ahobilam and is reunited during the visits of Srimad Azhagiasingars to the divya desam, perhaps once or twice annually. That Malolan remains omnipotent and unaffected by prolonged separation from moola moorthi, has been conclusively established by Srimad Injimettu Azhagiasingar, with references from the Agamas and temple practices.
9. Only Divya Desa moorti to be worshipped by an Ascetic: Ever since He landed in the outstretched palms of Sri Adivan Satakopa Jeer, Sri Malolan has been adulated by an unbroken line of Ascetics who have occupied the spiritual throne of Sri Ahobila Matam. This makes Him the only Emperuman belonging to a divya desam, worshipped day and night by distinguished Sanyasis.
10. Only divya desa moorti to be part of a nine-fold manifestation: At nowhere but Ahobilam has the Lord manifested Himself in nine glorious forms. And Sri Malolan forms the centre piece of the glorious nine-faceted pendant, shining resplendently with the added effulgence of Piraatti in His arms—bhooshayantim sva kaantyaa.
The matchless beauty of Malolan has made His intimate servitors, Srimad Azhagiasingars, delirious with devotion and apprehensive of any harm befalling this wonderful child, much like Sri Vishnuchitta fearing the evil eye befalling the Lord. Kainkaryaparas at Sri Matham tell us that the 40th Srimad Azhagiasingar used to instruct them to constantly hide the great beauty of Malolan with excessive ornaments, so that no evil eye befalls Him. After conclusion of Abhigamanam one day, a lady was feasting her eyes on Malolan for quite a long time, drinking in His splendour from various angles. Srimad Villivalam Azhagiasingar, who was extremely protective towards the Deity, told the lady to move on, lest his precious and divine child be affected by the prolonged stares and attentions. Srimad Attippattu Azhagiasingar, we are told, used to converse with this Deity, which makes Him still more unique, in transcending the confines of the idol-state (Arcchaa samaadhi) to converse with a devotee. Several more facets are there which establish Him as the greatest treasure come to bless us all: for instance, He is the only divya desa Emperuman to hearken to the recital of all the four Vedas (and multiple rescensions thereof), apart from Tirumalayappan.
Though the uniqueness of Sri Malolan cannot be confined to a few pages and is perhaps the subject matter of several voluminous tomes, let me stop here for fear of testing the readers’ patience.