SrImathE Nigamantha Mahadesikaya namah:
SrImAn venkatanAthAryaH kavitArkika kesarI |
vedAntAcArya-varyo me sannidhattAm sadA hRdi ||
His learned contemporaries called him, “Kavi taarkika simham”- lion among poets and dialecticians or logicians. The Supreme Being Bhagawaan Ranganatha of Srirangam, conferred on him the title of “Vedanthacharya” [the preceptor of the Vedantha] and his divine consort Sri Ranganayaki that of Sarvathanthraswathanthrar [supreme master of all sciences]. Sri Vedanta Desika refers to this in Adhikarana saaraavaLi- as follows: That Supreme Lord Sri Ranganatha who created the forms and gave the names to all things in the universe, conferred on me this appellation. Vedanthacharya and here is an attempt of mine to make that title significant and meaningful by writing this poem Adhikarana Saravali [ the garland of the essentials of the Adhikarana, which is a Digest of the teaching of Brahmma sutras].
viSvasmin nAmarUpAni anuvihithavatA thEna davEn dhatthAm |
vEdAnthAchArya samjnAm avahitha bahuvith sArThamanvarThayOmi ||
Being impelled by devotion to Lord Hayagriva and with a desire to express his gratitude for His grace, Sri Vedanta Desika composed hymn of Hayagriva consisting of 33 verses in which he sings about the form, greatness and qualities of the Lord and also indirectly refers to the mantra.
vyAkhyAmudrAm’ mAnasE vaagaDheeSa: [Hayagriva sthOthram- 32]
The Lord of speech, Hayagriva possessed of a never fading splendour holds in his four lotus like hands the symbol of instruction [vyAkhyAmudrA], book, conch shell and chakrA, and is seated on a lovely lotus, shining like a newly cut white crystal, may the Lord of flawless greatness drench me by His cool and nectar like saying and take His seat in my heart
In third sloka, Sri Vedanta Desika describes thus: The sweet neighing sound of Horse faced God is a collection of the Saama Veda songs; is a replica of Rig Veda hymns and is the abode of Yajur Veda. It is destroyer of all obstacles and is the singing waves of the sea of knowledge.
[samaahaarasaamnaam’ hayavadhana hEshA hala halah:]
The next hymn composed by Sri Vedanta Desika is Garuda panchasath on Garuda, who is a vehicle of Bhagawaan Narayana and is also the king of all birds. Garuda is a Nithyasuri.
This sthothra is in fifty verses comprising five sections describing respectively
- His five forms
- The episode of his fetching the nectar
- The story of the conquest of the serpents
- His decoration and
- His exploits of wonder.
From the last sloka, we learnt that Sri Vedanta Desika composed this hymn carrying out the command of Garuda. The sloka says: Venkatesa, the lion among poets and logicians composed this hymn of fifty one verses on Garuda the son of Vinata, the she eagle bearing on head i.e. respectfully carrying out his command and with the desire of propitiating him. Those who practise them repeatedly will be free from the inflictions of the poisonous serpents, diseases and divine beings and will also realize the foremost of their desires, why talk of other fruits.
It looks as though the indebtedness Sri Vedanta Desika towards Garuda is so much that he makes it a point to refer to garuda in both the sthothras composed by him, Garuda panchasath and Garuda dhaNdakam. In the first [in first sloka] he says that it is a mantra on which the first word is PraNava and the last word is SvAha with two letters, and middle two syallabled word is Pakshi or its letters interchanged (as ksh its syllables interchanged).
In the fourth and the last section of Garud dhaNdaka, he refers to the mantra as follows: manuh anugatha pakshi vakthrasphurat taaraka chithra bhanu priya sEkharah- that mantra of thine (Oh Garuda) which begins with the excellent praNava followed by the word pakshi with letters interchanged- and which has at its end the word svAha is the name of the loving consort of the God of fire.
Sri Vedanta Desika was drawn towards Thiruvaheendrapuram by its sanctity with its Garudanadhi and Aushadhri ? the realization of Garuda and Hayagriva there had endeared it to him. So he decided to stay there for some time worshipping Lord Devanatha, the presiding deity of the shrine. Every time he visited the temple, the Lord was pleased to manifest His auspiciousness and beautiful form with the result that the devotion and love of Desika to the Lord grew more and more intense, could not resisit the temptation to sing the glory of that Lord and so burst forth with songs, sweet and melodious in three languages, Sanskrit, Prakrit and Tamil. Of the many deities that he has sung about, Devanatha is the only one deity who has been praised in three languages.
There are nine hymns on Lord Devanatha, of which Deivanayaka panchasath is the first. It consists of fifty three verses in Sanskrit describing greatness of the Lord as creator the charming limbs of the Lord from head to foot beginning with the sparkling diadem on the head and ending with the shining nails to the toes.
The next hymn is Achyutha sathakam- in 101 verses in the soft and sweet prakrith which a dialect of Sanskrit. It is in this language that the women characters in the Sanskrit Drama speak. Probably the devotion of Sri Vedanta Desika had developed into the love of a maiden and he becomes the bride who speaks to her lover. In this also there is a beautiful description in more than twenty verses of every limb of the Lord from head to foot. There is a connection that lady in love enjoys the beauty of her lover beginning from his head whereas a male devotee begins the praise from the saving feet of the Lord. It may be said that Vedanta Desika who is now maiden, follows this convention. She well read in scriptures which can be inferred from the way in which her words are reminiscent of Vedic passages and the fundamental doctrines of Vishstadvaita philosophy about Tattva[Reals], Hitha[means] and
Purusharttha [goal] are depicted though not directly since the whole hymn is for the praise of the Lord.
When we come to the poems in Sweet Tamil by Vedanta Desika on Lord Deivanayaka, we find that Sri Vedanta Desika has been completely transformed into Venkatanayaki, a lady in intense love for the Lord. Her thoughts, words and actions are all surcharged with erotic love. She experiences great joy when she is with her lover (here Lord Devanatha) and untold pangs of separation when she is away from Him. There are occasions when the suffering is so great that she falls down unconscious and her sorrowful mother, foster mother or maiden friend describe in grief stricken words the condition of the beloved Venkatanayaki. [it may be noted that other Alwars, Desika is the only Acharya who went into nAyikA bhAvam and sang verses]
There is clear internal evidence to show that seven poems in Tamil have been composed which in mellifluous language the joy in unison with and pain in separation from her lover Lord Devanatha of Venkatanayaki, the lady in love. Of these seven, the first and the last are long poems and the rest should be short. The first ten verses only of the first poem which should have had 30 verses and the last poem in full are all that are available now for us.
Unfortunately, the remaining 20 verses of the first and all middle five short poems are lost. The meters and the language follow the rules of prosody and poetics of the classical tamil of the Sangam age. All these seven poems fall under the class of one or other of 96 kinds of compositions of Tamil literature.
The first poem is MummanikkOvai. According to the Tamil poetics, this kind of poem should consist of 30 verses divided in 10 groups, each one of have three verses in three different gem like meters (mum maNi) which will of same kind in all 10 groups. The verses will be in AntAdi form. The last word (anta) in the preceding verse must be the first word (aadi) in the succeeding verse. All these rules are closely followed in this mummaNikkOvai. As stated only the first ten verses are available and the rest are lost. This poem begins with a description of the six main qualities of Sri and then of the greatness of Devanatha, and ends with the fruit of self- surrender (Saranagati) at his lotus feet. Here we have verses in which the female friend or the foster mother of Venkatanayaki describes the pangs of separation of the heroine.
The last and seventh poem is Nava maNi maalai of ten verses couched in nine gem like meters. In this Sri Vedanta Desika describes the divine nature of the feet of Devanatha Bhagawaan and His incarnation, his auspicious qualities, and supreme powers. There is reference to one of the most popular festivals known as festivals of sea bath- massikadalaadi magizhndhu varuvaarE’- in which the Lord Devanatha is taken to the sea here on the Magha asterism in maasi month for bathing in the sea for enjoyment to His devotees.
The concluding verse is of special significance since it gives us the names of all the works of Vedanta Desika on Lord Devanatha in the serial order.
anthamil seerayindhai nagaramarndha nAThan
aDiyiNaimEl adiyuraiyaal aimbathEtthi
chinthaikavar praakrutham nooRu kOOrich
senthamizh mummaNikkOvai seRiyac chErtthup
pandhusuzhal ammAnai OOsal yEsal
paravu navamaNimaalai sonnEn
mundhaimaRai mozhiya vazhi mozhi nee yenRu
mukunthan aruL thandha payan peRREn naanE.
Lord Devanatha, possessed of countless auspicious qualities has chosen Thiruvaheendrapuram (ayindhai) as his pleasing abode and remains there. As an offering at His lotus feet I composed the Hymn Devanayaka Panchaasath consisting of fifty verses in the ancient classical language (i.e. Sanskrit). I sang a hundred songs in the heart captivating prakrit language (under the name of achyutha sathakam). I placed at the feet of Devanatha, in a fitting manner the poem of mummaNikkOvai in the sweet Tamil language. Also sang the poetical compostions Pandhal, Oosal, Kazhal, ammAnai, Yesal, and the NavamaNimaalai praised by all. Thus, have realized the front of mercy bestowed on me by Lord Mukunda who in a tone of command, said- Go on, compose works in the wake of the language of ancient holy Vedas.
It may noted that the five poems pandhu, oosal, kazhal, yEsal, ammAnai are lost now> A mention about them may not be out of place here. All of them come under the class of love poems in Tamil literature and they describe the various ways in which a princess in love tries to entertain herself in Separation from her dear lover. The poem named pandhu declares the lady in love as playing with flower balls with her female friends in the garden of the harem. The compositions Kazhal describes the play of heroine in the hall of the palace with small marble like smooth nuts of a shrule of that name. A poem that portrays the play of the heroine and her friends with small bell shaped wooden toys goes by the name of ammAnai in which they sing the praises of the Lord. In Oosal poem, usually we see the heroine seated in an oscillating swing suspended from the green branches of a flowing in the garden probably with recollections of the happy time spent with her lover. There are some oosal compositions in Tamil literature in which the lady love sings about the beauty and the glory of the lover who is seated in a swing that moves to and fro. yEsal is that composition which depicts a lady in love in anger taunting the lover with insincerity since he has not kept his word to come at the fixed committed time because of his dalliance with some other lady even though he may try to pacify her with words and acts of apology. In those works, Sri Venkatanatha has elevated causal love to divine love and devotion, into Bhagawath kaama as shown very beautifully and esoterically by Alwars. It is unfortunate that they are lost.
Sri Vedanta Desika stayed in Aindhai for nearly a decade worshipping Lord Hayagriva on the hills and Lord Devanatha on the river bank. Then he left that city to go to kanchi. On the way, he visited Gopapura [ThirukkOvaloor] a shrine- sanctified by the visit of three alwars (Poigai, Bhutham, and Pey AzhwArs). In the course of their pilgrimage it so happened that the three alwars came to Gopapura on the same day and they all took shelter on that rainy night in a small corridor [narrow passage] in a small house in front of the temple. The local deity, Gopapura adhisa, drawn by the presence of the three highly pious souls and easger to have the touch of their bodies appeared in their midst in such a narrow place in an invisible form. The saints felt that they are being sqeezed suddenly and felt the presence of another stranger among them but could not see one. So Poigai and BhUthathAzhwAr lit lamps and Pey AzhwAr say the divine Lord with Sankhu ChakrA with the Divine Consort in his chest. Three Alwars sang 100 verses each imbued with greatest devotion sweet and melodious, one lamp removed the external darkness of the world, the other dispelled the internal darkness of the mind and third lamp presented the visoon of the Lord with his consort, the Divya Dampati. All the three hundred glorify the lovely form and qualities of the Lord. This marks the beginning of 4000 Divya prabandham of 12 Alwars. These three Alwars are thus called first Alwars (Mudhal Alwars). The Lord thus was proud to associate himself with them and to assume the name of Dehaaleesa (the Lord in the narrow passage). Swamy desika has sung the hymn called dhehsaaleesa sthuthi- in praise of this Lord wherein he portrays the Lord as the sugarcane and the three Alwars for crushing instrument and the resultant juice is the three centums (three nooRRanthAdhi) out of which the sweet sugar candy, namely Dhehaleesa took shape.
Sri Vedanta Desika reached Kanchi where he was received with great love and enthusiasm by the residents. First he went to the temple of Varadaraja, who was his tutelary deity. As he stood before the Lord visions of his early life flashed before his mind’s eye, boyhood under the care of his uncle, the blessing of Vaathsya Varadarya (AmmAL) and study of all saasthras under AppuLLAr. Slokas flowed from his heart and lips which give in a nutshell about all that one should know about Paramathma , His transcendental glory and mercy, forms and incarnations, his festivals and his devotees, That is Varadaraja panchaasath- fifty verses on Varadan.
Towards the end of the sthOthra, Sri desika apostrophising Lord Varadaraja says: Oh Lord of the elephant Hills! If you lest keep me in the vicinity, in the company of thy exclusive devotees is vouchsafed to me and if there is an unalloyed stainess devotion in me to you is ensured due to your grace, I for ever swear that this world [with all its foibles] is verily salvation. Such is the Bliss that flows from the archa avatara.
Swamy Desikan ThiruvadigaLE SaraNam
kavi-tArkika-simhAya kalyANa-guNa-SAline |
Srimate venkateSAya vedAntagurave namaH ||
Writeup by : Sri Madhavakannan