Swami Desikan’s “Ashtabhujashtakam”:Sloka-1

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01 November 2021, Plava varusha, Aippasi-15, Monday;

INTRODUCTION :

Whenever Swami Desikan traveled to Sri Varadaraja’s temple for his mangalasasanam from his home in Thuppul, he had to pass via the Ashtabhujan and Yathokthakari temples. The Lord of Ashtabhujam made sure that He received sthotram from His bhakta (ashtabhujashtakam).

Seva Swami suggests that Swami Desikan followed the path of Tirumangai Mannan, who wondered about the Lord here and His urgency to meet him with eight hands instead of the normal four hands. In each of the eight hands, he holds a different weapon or flower (discus, conch, lotus, sword, kedayam, bow, arrow, and gada). He is ready to battle and chase away the virodhis that stand in the way of His bhaktas wishing to perform prapatti to Him. Swami Desikan suggests that the Lord was anxious and hence doubled His set of hands to grant protection to the Saranagata quickly. Here the name of the holy tank is Gajendra Pushkarani and He is “pratyaksham” to Gajendran and is thus Gajendra Varadan. Hence, Swami Desikan salutes Ashtabhuja Perumaal as “gajendra raksha! tvaritam bhavantham” and as “satAm Aptam”.

Our Lord, who rushed from Sri Vaikuntha in a great hurry to the side of the lotus pond where His bhakta Gajendra was screaming aloud “AdimUlamE! rakshasva Maam”. Parakala Nayaki (Tirumangai Alvar) feels that the Aadhi-Kesava Perumaal of Ashta Bhujam rushed to her side with double set of four hands in great haste for protection just as he rushed once before to the GajEndran’s side. In his beautiful paasurams, Kaliyan as Parakala Nayaki states that she did not fully comprehend the identity of the One who rushed to her side, and that the Lord then replied that He is the One who blesses the prapannas with His eight arms (ashta bhujAn karOti) and came for union with Parakala Nayaki who pined for Him. Kaliyan describes this wonderful conversation to his mother and friends thru ten beautiful paasurams. Swami Desikan follows the path shown by Parakala Nayaki. Kaliyan wonders “ivar aar kol?” (Who could this One be?) And the Lord replied “atta bhuya karatthEn yenRaar” (I am the Lord of the divya desam of Ashta Bhujam).

Kaliyan wonders aloud eight times:

1. ari uru aam ivar aar kol? (Narasimha rUpi)

2. anthaNar pOnRu ivar aar kol? (Vaamana rUpi)

3. ambhutham pOnRu ivar aar kol? (with the hue of a dark cloud)

4. anchudar pOnRu ivar aar kol? (ancient jyothi)

5. alaikkadal pOnRu ivar aar kol? (with the bluish hue of the ocean)

6. azhagiyathaam ivar aar kol? (the One with beauteous form)

7. meham — pOnRivar aar kol? (Once again the bluish hue of a cloud)

8. en aavi oppaar ivar aar kol? (One who is the soul of my soul)

The Lord answers, “It is me, the Lord of Ashta Bhujam, that has rushed to your side” and delights Parakala Nayaki with that response. The Lord says, “I am the AttabhuyakaratthEn”. Swami Desikan used the name chosen by the Lord Himself in His dialog with Parakala Nayaki to give the name of “Srimad Ashtabhuja Stuti” to this eulogy.

There are ten slokas in this stotra. One for each of the eight arms; the rest are phala sruti.

In the very first sloka, Swami Desikan performs Saranagati with the prayer: “ashtabhujam prapadhye”. Swami concludes in one of the two phala sruthi slokas that this stotra on the Lord of Ashtabhujam is: prapanna jana pAtheyam, prapitsUnAm rasAyanam, sreyase jagatAm yEtath SrImad ashTa bhujAshTakam. The “SrImad” aspect of Kamala-sahayan is brought out here and is described as the tasty food during the jiva’s journey via the archiraadi maargam (path of light) and the powerful medicine for those who desire to perform prapatti. This stuti is considered as the most auspicious (SrImad) for the world of prapannas.

SHLOKAS AND COMMENTARY: “ashTa bhuja” means “eight hands”. This stotra is about Bhagavan in His form with eight divya-bhuja-s in the divya kshetram called Attabuya karam. This divya kshetram and its sthala purana have been covered briefly earlier. The title for the stotra is that given by Swami Desikan himself, and is included in the phala-Sruti sloka following the eight slokas in praise of this Perumaal. In this stotram, Swami Desikan reminds us of Bhagavan’s aiSvarya, sauSeelya, moksha-pradatva guNmas etc., and urges us to resort to Him and to no one else as the sure way to attain moksha. This is another stotram in which he conveys the basics of complete self-surrender (prapatti) and its efficacy in very crisp terms in the short span of eight slokas (excluding the two phala-Sruti slokas).

SLOKA-1:

Swami Desikan compares our lives to one being attacked and torn apart by our senses and dragged towards them on all sides as if by vicious crocodiles, and invokes Bhagavan’s mercy and protection just as in the case of Gajendra when attacked by the crocodile. The key words of the slOkm are: “sathAm Aaptham Ashtabhujam bhavantham prapadhyE”. Oh Lord of Ashta bhujam ! The alpa sukhams of the world are grabbing me and dragging me down towards them just like the crocodile that pulled Gajendran with its sharp teeth into the depth of the pond. When that GajEndran cried out with agony and uttered “AadhimUlamE”, You ran helter-skelter from Your comfortable sTanam in Sri Vaikuntam to the pool side, destroyed the offending crocodile and freed Your devotee from suffering. adiyEn’s state is like that of the suffering and helpless GajEndran. I am being pulled down to my destruction by the vishaya sukhams (grAhairiva aham vishayai vikrushtai:). Wont You rush to adiyEn’s rescue? There is no upper limit to your Jn~Anam, Vaibhavam and compassion (apAra vij~nAna dayAanubhAvam). You must forgive adiyEn’s trespasses and protect adiyEn and secure Your title as SaraNAgatha Rakshakan. You are a dear friend of the sAdhus (SathAm Aaptham). It appears that You are displaying eight arms to assure them of Your sure protection. adiyEn surrenders therefore at Your sacred feet.

Courtesy: Oppiliappan Koil Sri. V.Sadagopachariar

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