SrImathE Nigamantha Mahadesikaya namah:
SrImAn venkatanAthAryaH kavitArkika kesarI |
vedAntAcArya-varyo me sannidhattAm sadA hRdi ||
It was the month of maargazhi (December- January) dear to Andal and dearer to Krishna from the days of Acharya Nathamuni [9th century CE] who brought about the renaissance of the Divya Prabandham of Alwars, a festival adhyayanOthsavam by name is conducted in a grand manner for 21 days , ten days before and then days after Vaikunta EkAdasi day. Uthsava murthi of Lord Ranganatha is taken out from the Sanctum Sanctorum in procession to a specially decorated hall and placed on a high pedestal. The deities of Alwars and Acharayas are also arranged in front of the Lord in a semi circle. The hymns of Alwars are sung before the Lord in particular tune by chosen devotees who go by the name of Araaiyars and who dance and explain certain fixed songs. The first two thousand verses are sung on the first ten days beginning with the prathama of Sukhlapaksha and the third thousand in ten days beginning with Vaikunta EkAdasi day. The fourth thousand collectively called IyaRpaa are sung on 21st day with the Lord in sanctum sanctorum by the member of different family which goes by the name Amdhanar. Hundreds of scholars and devotees assemble there to listen and enjoy these songs in front of the Lord and among Alwars and Acharyas.
One year during the life time of Sri Vedanta Desika, a team of scholars belonging to Advaita school, which swears the Sanskrit Upanishad and Bhagavd Gita, but does not accept the validity of Dhivya prabandham, came to Srirangam when the perapartions for the conduct of the adhyayanOthsavam were in progress. They met the Srivaishnava acharyas and argued: A festival in glorification of Tamil hymns in a temple has no saasthric sanction, even though the Vaishnavas may accept them as Dramida Upanishad. You may conduct the festival if you succeed in establishing your views before us in disputation.
The Srivaishnava acharyas were rather advanced in age and hesitated to accept the challenge due to their ageing. They discussed among themselves and concluded that they could send for Sri Vedata Desika from kanchi whose reputation as a follower and propounder of the teachings of Acharya Sri Ramanuja had spread far and wide.
So they sent an urgent message to Sri Vedanta Desika as the command of Lord Ranganatha’s commander in chief Vishvaksena to come at once to Srirangam, a command which is received with bent and bowed down heads by the devotee of his devotees as a head ornament [and straight away carried out and executed]
Sri Desika received the divine command with great respect and joy and became ready for the journey. He went to the temple, took leave of the Divine couple Lord Varada and His consort and left Kanchi for Srirangam.
On the way, Sri Desika went to Sri Perumupudhur, the birth place of ACharya Ramanuja to worship him in the archa form and seek his blessings before the journey to Srirangam. His yathirAja Sapthathi is a moving lyric of seventy four verses on Ramanuja, YathirAja, (the king of Sanyaasis) in which he declares that Yathiraja was verily an incarnation of Bhagawaan and the philosophy he reinforced was authoritative since it was strictly based on Upanishads and he spent his whole life working for the good of everyone.
The arrival of Sri Desika in Srirangam was a great relief to Srivaishnava acharyas. They made all arrangements for the conduct of the debate in the spacious hall of the temple. The two opposing parties assembled there in the fixed day. Sri Desika requested the disputant to state their objects first so that he might categorically answer point wise each one of them to their satisfaction. The debate went on for about a week. Sri Vedanta Desika established with the support of the saasthra that the alwars were the servitors of the Lord and were born to redeem the souls in bondage by their hymns. Itw as per command of the Lord and there are references in Bhagawathas about their briths. He also proved that the ideas of their hymns were quite in consonance with the teaching of Vedas and quoted hymns in which the Alwars declare that they are saying in Tamil what the Vedas and Saasthras said in Sanskrit. The opponents were satisfied and permitted the conduct of adhyayana utsavam to the joy of all Srivaishnavas there.
During his stay in Srirangam, Sri Vedanta Desika composed BhagavdhyAna sOpAnam, Dasavathara sthOthra, nyAsa thilakam, nyAsa vimsathy, and wrote several works in Sanskrit on the philosophy of VishsihtAdvaita as well as ChillaRai rahaysams in maNipravALam. He visted azhagar kOil and Madurai, Alwar Thirunagari and Srivilliputthur, Vanamamalai and Trivandrum. He came back to Srirangam and continued the work of writing granthas and instruction to disciples. Lord Ranagantha was so much pleased with the knowledge teachings and works of Sri Desika that he conferred upon the title of “Vedantacharya”. Sri Desika himself mentions this with justifiable pride in more than one of his works. There is also a title “Sarvathanthra Swathanthrar” conferred upon him by Sri Ranagayaki thaayar- the divine consort of Srirangam.
Sri Vedanta Desika lived in peace in Srirangam for several years.
Swamy Desikan ThiruvadigaLE SaraNam
kavi-tArkika-simhAya kalyANa-guNa-SAline |
Srimate venkateSAya vedAntagurave namaH ||
Writeup by : Sri Madhavakannan