SrImathE Nigamantha Mahadesikaya namah:
SrImAn venkatanAthAryaH kavitArkika kesarI |
vedAntAcArya-varyo me sannidhattAm sadA hRdi ||
Returning from Tirumala, Tottarambha was thus blessed to become pregnant. With the growth of the divine child in her womb day by day, her whole body shone with extraordinary lustre. It was the month Purattasi in the year Vibhava according to Tamil almanac (September- October 1268 CE) Sravana nakshathra (ThiruvONam star) a day that is dedicated to Lord Srinivasa at Thirumala, in which a special function is conducted at the conclusion of the annual Brahmotsavam when thousands of devotees, old and young, rich and poor, congregate bathe in scared waters of Swami pushkariNi tank, when the deity has ablution and experience immense joy. On the very sacred day Tottarambha gave birth to a baby at the most auspicious moment. After the conduct of the preliminary ceremonies the infant was given the name of Sri Venkatanatha, the name of Lord Venkatesa since the child was born by His grace and that too on the day dedicated to him.
Sri Venkatanatha himself gives us information about his parentage, birth etc., in the Prastavana (Prologue) of his play Sankalpa Sooryodhaya. It is considered by wise men that the bell of Hari was born as Vedantha Desika. This is done on the strength of abundant and appropriate reasons.
uthprEkshyathE budha janaihrupapatti bhUmnA ghaNTa harai samajanishta
yadAthmanEthi. [sankalpa sooryodhaya- Act 1.14]
The contemporaries and successor of Vedanta Desika were so much impressed with his superior knowledge and service to humanity, by means of his works in Sanskrit and Tamil as well as his discourses that they considered him as an incarnation of Lord Venkateswara Himself or of Sri Ramanuja. Sri Desika’s son Sri Kumaravaradacharya, in his Desika mangaLa sthOthra mentions the same: May all auspiciousness be with Sri Vedantha Desika about whom different views are held that he is an incarnation of Lord Venkatesa or he was the his Divine Bell incarnate or a part of Acharya Ramanuja himself.
vEnkatESAvathArOyam thadgaNTASOthavaath bhavEth |
yatheendrAmSOThavEthyEvam vitharkyAyAsthu mangaLam ||
Again, Kumara varadacharya mentions in Tamil Desika Prabandham PiLLai anthAdhi, an eulogy on Sri desika- In times of yore, Bhagawaan created the world and revealed the Vedas and the Saasthras pregnant with noble ideas. Then he showed and installed himself with great love as Lord Srinivasa at Tirumala. Later on in Kaliyuga, he took birth as Venkatanatha, the acharya endowed with world wide repute and dispelled the evils prevalent on earth.
anRu ivvulaginaiaakki arum poruL nool viritthu ninRu than neeL pugazh vENkatamaamalai mEvippinnum venRi pugazh THIRUVENKATANATHAN enRum Guruvaay ninRu nigazhndhu maN mEl ninRa nOygaL thavirtthananE.
Dindima Kavi (in 14th century) who was a junior contemporary of Vedanta Desika pays tribute to Swamy’s greatness as follows:
There was confusion all around as a result of turbid nature of Kaliyuga; the Vedas were in great distress; (because of misinterpretation); wise saying of the seers were completely ignored; there was an unholy intermixture of all castes; and quite in consonance with this sorry state, all sacred epics and puranas lost their validity; the maayaavaada was in all glee; and the school of nihilism (soonya vada) was having undisputed acceptance by all. It was at this critical juncture that Sri Vedanta Desika came into this world as an incarnation of the great ringing divine bell of VishNu for the establishment of Dharma and its protection. He shines all victorious.
vEdhE sanjAthaKhEthE munijana vachanE prApta nitvAmsamAnE
sankeerNE sarvavarNE sathithadhanuguNE nishpramANE purANE
mAyAvAdhE samOdhE kali kalusha vachAth SoonyavAdhE vivAdhE
dharmathrANAya yObhUth sa jayathi BHAGAWAAN VISHNU GANTAVATHORA:
PrathivAdi Bhayankaram Annan (1300- 1400 CE) who was a junior contemporary of Swamy desika and a disciple of Sri Kumaravaracharya, gives in a nutshell all about the parentage, birth and education of Swamy desika in his saptapatiratna malika as follows:
Swamy Desika belonged to Viswamithra gothra, and was the grandson of Pundarikaksha- a master of several sacrifices and the son of Anathasuri like the moon that comes out of the ocean, rose from the womb of the gem among mothers, Tottarambha by name. He was admired and blessed by Sri Varadaguru (Nadadur Ammal). He learn all saasthras from his acharya- Sri Vaadhihamsaambhuvaaha (Sri Appullar). He was the father of Kumara varadarya Nainacharya. He was equal to Bhagawaan Purushotthama in being endowed with all auspicious qualities and was adorned by the title of Sarvathanthra swathanthar [master of all sciences].
Putro ananthArya soorE.. purusa- sama guNa: varadagurumatha sarvathanthra
swathanthra: [Saptapati ratna malika]
Venkatanatha:- the precocious Boy Samskaras like Jatakarana, Namakarana, anna praasana and Chaula are laid down by saasthras to a child from the time of birth onwards at different periods of its life. Anantasuri conducted duly all of them to his son, Venkatanatha and the child gerw up in an atmosphere of devotion to Bhagawaan and his bhakthas and of spiritual knowledge.
Even as a young boy Sri Venkatanatha was very intelligent and quick in grasping and remembering things. His maternal uncle Sri appuLLAr took a great interest in his upbringing. He would take him to the temple of Lord Varadaraja. Venkatanatha would worship the Lord with folded hands and as much as devotion as his uncle did. He would listen from him the stories of Rama, Krishna avatarams, and about their qualities, exploits all of which left a deep impression in child?s mind at such a tender age of five. After writing many books of learning and high philosophy, Sri Venkatanatha himself writes in Rahaysathrayasara: his magnum opus, thus:- All that I have said so far- is the result of the training given to me by my uncle and Acharya, Appullar with love and perseverance even as the words of a pet parrot are ? that has been taught by its loving and caring master.
It was a memorable day in the life of Sri Venkatanatha when he was just a boy of five. Appullar took him as usual to the temple of Varada where his acharya Nadaur Ammal was expounding Sri Bhashya to his disciples. The bright and promising five year old boy Venkatanatha attracted everyone’s attention, including that of Sri Nadadur Ammal. Ammal enquired about him and his upbringing. Hence there was a break in the instruction. All of them were as much absorbed in hearing about the boy that they forgot the trend of the lesson. The young boy, with the permission of the teacher, lisped out the words to the surprise of all. Nadadur ammAL was so much pleased and overawed by the intelligence of the boy that he immediately blessed him with long life, right knowledge and world wide reputation.
prathishtApitha vEdAntha: prathikshiptha bahirmatha:
bhUyAsthrai vidhya mAnyasthvam bhUrikalyANa bAjanam
You will establish Vedantha on a firm basis and refute that doctrine of its opponents. May you be held in great esteem by scholars well versed in three Vedas. May you be the recipient of all that is auspicious in great measure.
This sloka occupies a unique place in the life of Venkatanatha. It is like a fertile seed sown in his mind from which grew beautiful garden of his scholastic life. Even today we can see a picture connected with this incident painted in colour on the ceiling in front of Kacci Vaitthaan mandapam in Varadaraja temple. In it, Acharya Nadadur ammAL blesses the boy Venkatanatha who stands besides his uncle with respect.
Again this sloka is seen in Act II of the drama Sankalpa suryodhaya of Swamy Desikan where an acharya who is a sanyaasi, blesses a young disciple with this same sloka when he is about to go out into the world to establish the authoritativeness of Vishstadvaita philosophy by refuting the arguments of other schools of thought. It is revealed that the Acharya is none other than Sri Ramanuja and the disciple Vedantha Desika. Swamy desikan had a desire to have Acharya Ramanuja as his own acharya and he fulfilled the desire with this play. As Ramanuja appeared in 11th century and Swamy Desika in 13th century, such a thing was not possible. Swamy satisfied himself with this at least on a stage in a drama. So he introduced two characters in his drama, one Ramanuja and the other Desikan thus getting the blessing directly from Yathiraja, although idneirectly. Turning to his disciple AppuLLAr, Nadadur ammAL said: Teach your nephew all saasthras and make him a full fledged scholar. I would like to teach myself. But I am too old for that. He will certainly prove to be a great Acharya and spread the teaching of our own acharya Sri Ramanuja. Appullar took leave of his master and went home with venkatanatha.
Swamy Desikan ThiruvadigaLE SaraNam
kavi-tArkika-simhAya kalyANa-guNa-SAline |
Srimate venkateSAya vedAntagurave namaH ||
Writeup by : Sri Madhavakannan