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Sri Vedantha Desikar Temple at Tirupati

By

Tamarapu Narasimhan
(one of the present Dharmakarthas of Sri Vedantha Desikar Temple at Tirupati)

"Sriman Venkata Natharyah Kavitarkika Kesari | Vedantacharya Varyo Mey Sannidhattam Sadaa Hridhi || Sri Ramanuja Daya Patram Gnana Vairaghya Bushanam | Srimad Venkata Natharyam Vande Vedanta Desikam ||"

" I salute the great Venkata Natha also called Vedanta Acharya and Lion among poets and logicians and who was well adorned by both Knowledge and discretion and who well deserved the grace of Srimad Ramanuja”

Vedanta Desika (Swami Desikan, Swami Vedanta Desikan, Thoopul Nigamaantha Desikan) (1269–1370) was a Sri Vaishnavite Guru. He was a poet, philosopher, and a master teacher. He was a great devotee and was the disciple of Swami Sri Kidambi Appullar alias Sri Aathreya Ramanujachariar who comes in the lineage starting from Sri Ramanuja with Sri Thirukurugai Piran Pillan alias Sri Kurugesar, Sri Kidambi Aachan, Sri Aathreya Ramanujar, Sri Aathreya Rangarajachariar and many in the order. One can easily trace Desika's life by looking at the stotras he has composed. In examining the list of his Sanskrit and Tamil poems, we find a large number dedicated to the deities in and around Tiruvahindrapuram, a temple near the coastal town of Cuddalore

Swami Desika, one of the most important Acharyas of the Sri Vaishnava tradition was born to the devout couple Sri Ananthasuri and Smt. Thotharamba.

Instructed by the Lord of the Seven Hills the couple went on a pilgrimage to Thirumalai. The Lord appeared in the couple's dream as a Sri Vaishnava youth and handed over a golden bell which Totaramba swallowed.

The following morning, they were astonished to find that both of them had dreamt the same sequence of events. When the Archaka opened the doors of the Sanctum Sanctorum, he found the bell missing. During an investigation ordered into the loss of the bell, the Lord appeared by Avesa (spiritual trance) on Tirumalai Nambi and told that He had himself presented the bell to the Ananthasuri couple and thereafter, the small hand-bell need not be used for the Tiruvaradhana in the temple. Hence, Swami Desika is considered as the incarnation of the Divine Bell.

Devotees of Swami Desikan offer prayers to the Bell in the temple with great reverence.

It is also widely revered that the Swami is the incarnation of Baghavan Ramanuja, in order to once again reform Vaishnavism and to give the world of its elaborated Treatises. He was named "Venkatanatha" and belonged to the Viswamitra gothra (lineage).

Swami Desikan, popularly known as Ghantavatharam, (the incarnation of the divine bell) was born in Thoopul, a hamlet near Tiruttangaa (Himavanam) adjacent to the temple of Deepa Prakaasar in Kanchipuram, the birthplace of Poigai Alwar. The birth of Vedanta Desika was in the Kali yuga year 4370, which corresponds to 1268 AD in the Tamil Year Vaibhava, month Purattaasi, on the Dasami day of Sukla Paksha, a Wednesday, in the constellation of Sravanam (the same as that of Lord of Tirumalai). He was educated and trained by his scholarly maternal uncle, Kidambi Appullalar who was a direct disciple of Nadadoor Ammal (Grand Nephew of Sri Ramanuja). Appullalar also initiated Venkatanatha into brahmacharyam at the age of seven and then to the SriVaishnavaite School of philosophy through Panchasamskara and made him master in the Vedas, Divya Prabhandams, Sastras and Puranas. By the age of twenty he was a great scholar and rose to the status of an "Acharya" by 27. He got married at the age of 21 to Tirumangai (also known as "Kanakavalli"). It is believed that Swami Desikan was conferred the title of Sarva Tantra Swatantra (one with the capacity for independent thinking and originality in any field), by Sri Ranganayaki thaayar Herself, and Swami was adorned with the title Vedantacharya by the Lord of Sri Rangam Sri Ranganathar Himself. After becoming the "Acharya” in Sri Ramanuja tradition, Swami Desikan left for Thiruvahindhipuram (near Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu), as per the orders of his Guru Swami Kidambi Appullar and spent some years meditating on Garuda at Oushathadri, on the hillock close by. Desika meditated here and is said to have had a profound vision of Lord Hayagriva. Thereafter, he literally burst forth in poetry. Works such as the Hayagriva Stotram, Raghu Vira Gadyam, Gopala Vimsati (all in Sanskrit), Achyuta Satakam (in Prakrit), Mummanikkovai and Navamani Maalai (in Tamil) are among his hymns in praise of the deities enshrined here. These works are remarkable for their poetic and linguistic range, as well as for their deeply emotional turns. In his Tamil love poems to Lord Devanatha, for example, the influence of the Alvars is transparent, as is his mastery of the Sangam Tamil conventions. The rhythmic beauty of the Raghu Vira Gadyam's prose and his touching descriptions of the Krishna-lilas in the Gopala Vimsati are among the high points of the entire gamut of India's religious literature. From then on Lakshmi Hayagriva became his personal deity.

Sri Vedanta Desikar prays to the Lord in his Hayagriva Stotram, the first lyrical work of the great Acharya. Afetr Swami Desikan's period, the Vigraham of Lord Hayagriva was passed on to Sri Brahma tantra Swami and is now with Mysore Parakala Mutt Swami. Even today, the Thiruvaaraadhanam is being performed on this Divya MangaLa vigraham of Lord Sri Lakshmi Hayagreeva. Once while Swami Desikan was proceeding to Thiruvaheendra puram from Kanchi, he decided to halt that night at some remote village at the house of a grain merchant. Lots of grains were stored and piled in sacks in the court yard. Since Swami Desikan did not have anything to offer to the Hayagreeva vigraham he was carrying, he just offered plain water and went to sleep. At midnight, the merchant noticed a very beautiful white Horse which started eating those grains from a sack.

The merchant, thinking that it belongs to Swami Desikan, immediately woke him up with a request to tie the horse. Swami Desikan had tears rolling down his cheeks, and prostrated to the Lord (who had come as the White Horse) and explained to the merchant and asked him to bring a pot of milk. The excited merchant and others brought milk which the Lord drank happily and disappeared. Next morning as Swami Desikan, started off his journey to Thiruvaheendrapuram the merchant came running to inform that the whole sack, from which the white horse ate is full of Gold coins. Swami Desikan smiled and was overwhelmed with joy for His mercy and the leela of Lord Hayagriva. That village is later called as "pon vilaintha kalampudhoor", later called Pon vilaintha Kalattur, located near Kancheepuram. Swami composed numerous works of Literature in the languages, of Sanskrit, Tamil, Prakrit and Manipravala.These works of Swami Desikan live throughout the ages speaking about his mastery of language and excellence in the Traditional Knowledge known as Gyana. With the Divine Mercy upon him, he made pilgrimage to Kanchipuram, Tirupati, Brindavan, Ayodya and Badrinath preaching Ramanuja's philosophy through discourses and literary works. After many years of travel to pilgrim centers Swami Desikan returned to Srirangam and settled down there. Tradition records that he composed Sri Rahasya Traya Saaram, an exhaustive work on the essence of Sri Vaishnava philosophy, lifestyle, and the meaning of the esoteric mantras, in these last few years of his life. Swami Desikan after living for 101 years left this material world in the year 1370. Before leaving this world, he arranged for the continuance of the "Guru Parampara" by initiating his primary disciple, Brahmatantraswatantra Swami, and his son, Kumara Varada Desikan into the Acharya tradition, the many disciples of whom still continue the Ramanuja tradition through various ashrams and mutts. In or about 1327 CE, there was an invasion to Sirangam by Malik Kafir the general of Alauddin, the Sultan of Delhi. Srivaishnavas could not defend the city against the powerful Muslims. The Acharyas gathered and discussed and arrived at an unanimous decision to divide into three groups and act secretly.

One group under the leadership of Sri Pillailokacharya, most advanced in age was to take the deity of Lord Ranganatha (Numperumal) and His divine consorts (ubhaya naachimaars) in a covered palanquin and proceed south ward after crossing the river Cauveri. Another party under Sri Sudarsana suri and others were to stay at Srirangam, erect a stone wall in front of the sanctum sanctorum to save the city from devastation at the hands of the enemy, even at the cost of their lives. The third group was to cross the river kollidam and goin the northen direction to prevent the quick march of the infidels so that the first party with deities can get away comfortably. Sri Vedanta Desika, who was the youngest, among the Acharyas was persuaded by Sri Sudarsana suri to go with the third group and somehow save himself so that he at least might be leftto propound the Srivaishnava doctrine and the teaching of Sri Ramanuja. Sri Sudarsanasuri entrusted his two sons, who were very young with Swami Desikan as well the very valuable and only manuscript “ Srutha prakaasika” (Srutha prakasika, an elaborate commentary on Sri Bhashyam of Sri Ramanuja on the Brahmma suthras). His earnest desire was that it must be saved for the benefit of future generations. Swami Desika agreed and proceeded northward with a number of Srivaishnavas. The Muslim army which was in Samayapuram, a village few miles away from Srirangam, attacked them and killed many of them. Swami Desika concealed the two sons and himself amidst huge heap of corpses and passed the night. Before dawn, he took the boys and moved away unnoticed in North-western direction. After a journey of several days, they reached Sathyakalam, a remote and lonely village in the Karnataka region, where he stayed for several years. Tradition says that Swami Desika composed Abheethi sthavam (lyric for the repulsion of fear) a sthothra on Lord Ranganathar himself praying with devotion that the army of the muslims and Yavanas should be driven out from Srirangam and the Lord should return to His place of residence for the relief of devotes in distress. He often repeated this and

prayed to invoke the mercy of the Lord. Swami Desika thought this is the place for him to stay and live for sometime. Sathyakala lies about ten kilometers south of Kollegal on the trunk Road from Bangalore. Today in Sathyakalam village there is a small temple of the Local deity Sri Varadaraja in which there is a small shrine for Swami Desika. His writings include devotional works on deities and Acharyas, treatises

on Vishistadwaitha, commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, secret doctrines of Vaishnavism, original Tamil poems, epic poems and allegorical dramas inSanskrit, dialectical works such as directed against rival religious schools, treatises on daily life and several other miscellaneous treatises. His gloss on the meanings of the Vedas, reconciling the teachings of the Azhwars and the Prasthanatrayi created history because it exposed the Divya Prabhandams of the Azwars to a much wider audience and elevated it to a status equivalent to that of the Vedas in the eyes of the Tamil Vaishnava people. As a critic, he was as searchingly critical as he was sympathetically tolerant. He ennobled his poetry through philosophy and embellished his philosophy through his poetry. He preached only what he practised and practised what he preached. He was a saint par excellence though he remained a Grihasta throughout. It is difficult to find such a harmonious blend - of Precept and Practice, of exalted thinking and Simple living. He synthesized in himself an inimitable moral fervor and an inspired spiritual insight It is also in Srirangam that Desika composed the Paduka Sahasram, 1008 verses on the sandals of the Lord. Paduka Sahasram or "1008 Verses on the Sandals of the Lord" is considered to be Desikan's Magnum Opus. The whole work is a monument for supreme devotion and superb poetry, all in one night’s intuition, - an overnight miracle of one thousand verses! It was done by him just as a fulfillment of a competition committed to as a challenge by his disciples. All this was composed by Sri Desika (as he puts it, by the Grace of the paduka of the Divine) in just one quarter of the night, actually the third quarter. The earlier two quarters were devoted by him, as soon as he accepted the commitment, to yoga and yoga-nidra (sleep induced by yoga and resulting in intuition). Paduka Sahasram has 32 "Padhadhi"s. Reading each padhadhi everyday, thereby completing in 32 days. Many believed to have achieved their wishes by completing this exercise. Doing parayana of paduka sahasram helps to attain moksha. Wonderful language, chitra-padams

were used in these slokas. Mainly sung on the padukas of Lord Rama, Lord Renganatha and Lord Krishna, praying for attaining Moksha. Paduka Sahasra parayanam yields miraculour benefits and self realization. Ramanuja’s death in 1137 A.D. was followed by a sectarian split among the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. By the end of the 14th century this turned into a permanent division into two sects: Vadakalai ("Northern art" or "Northern learning") and Tenkalai ("Southern art" or "Southern learning"). The followers of the former consider Sri Vedanta Desika as their Acharya (teacher).

Thre are a number of temples dedicated to Swami Desikan as well small sannadhis for Sri Desikan in many big temples, giving the opportunity for His devotees to offer prayers. There is a temple dedicated to Sri Vedantha Desikar at Tirupati in the outer prakaram of Sri Govindaraja Swamy Temple. This temple was constructed in their own land by the ancestors of the present Dharmakarthas more than 400 years ago, and the idols were consecrated by one Madabushi Thatacharlu. He was performing Nithya, Doopa, Deepa, Naivedhyam in the said temple. The same was continued for more than four centuries by the successors till date. In those days there were no institutions like Devasthanams or any other body. This temple has no properties and no income and whatever was spent was from the personal funds of the families of the Dharmakarthas. The Kainkarya Patties, TTD Manual and Dittam mention about this temple as an independent denominational temple. Except the temple at Tirupati the Tirunakshatram of Sri Vedantha Desikar is being celebrated during the Tamil month of Peratassi. In Tirupati the Avataara Mahotsavam of Sri Vedanta Desikar is celebrated on the concluding day (Chakrasnanam) of Sri Vari Brahmostavam at Tirumala, ie in the month of Aippasi Sravanam (Tula- masa Sravanam).

This year (2012) the festival of Sri Vedantha Desikar at Tirupati Started on 14-10-2012 and completed on 23-10-2012 with the concluding day of Sathumurai which happens to be the last day of 2nd Brahmavostavam ( ie Chakrasnam day ) of Sri Venkateswara swamy varu. The uniqueness of the Utsavam in this temple is the presence of Sthala Perumal Sri Govindarajar being brought in, in the morning of the Satrumurai day and remaining at Swami Desikan temple for the whole day where abhishekam and aradhanai including the normal rituals are being conducted in Sri Vedantha Desikar temple.

Sri Govindaraja swamy varu with Sridevi and Bhoodevi entering into the temple of Sri Vedantha Desikar on 23-10-2012 at 7 A.M

The Thirumanjanam of Sri Govindarajaswamy varu with Sridevi and Bhoodevi along with Sri Vedantha Desikar is performed with the Theertham (water) brought from Sri

Narasimha Theertham ( Thervam Kulam ) with the Temple honours of bringing abhisheka theertham on the temple elephant with nadaswaram and other paraphernalia is also being provided by the TTD the tradition being followed for centuries.

The procession of then abhisheka theertham brought from Sri Narasimha Theertham with paraphernalia provided by TTD on 23-10-2012

The Abishekam to Sri Govindarajaswamy with Sridevi and Bhoodevi and Sri Vedantha Desikar on 23-10-2012 at Sri Vedantha Desikar Temple Also Appapadi prasadam from Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumalai is offered to Swami Desikan as Mahaprasadam. The prasadam is being brought with paraphernalia on the temple elephant and taken round the important streets with temple honours.

The Appapadi being brought with paraphernalia to the Temple of Sri Vedantha Desikar of the concluding day of Sathumurai on 23-10-2012

The prabanda Goshti on 23-10-2012 at Sri Vedantha Desikar Temple

The procession of Sri Govindarajaswami with Sridevi and Bhoodevi together with Sri Vedantha Desikar is being taken around the Mada streets of Sri Govindarajaswamy Temple , Tirupati.

Tiruppavadai is being conducted at Sri Vedantha Desikar temple

After the conclusion of the ritual Sri Govindaraja swami with Sri Devi and Sri Bhudevi is being taken back to the main temple of Sri Govindarajaswamy varu at the early hours on the next day..

The Dharmakarthas are being given temple honours at Sri Govindaraja swami temple on the concluding session of the function on 23-10-2012

In 1951 after independence, the then Madras state brought the legislation Act 25 of 1951 (Endowment Act) with a separate chapter pertaining to TTD and the schedule of temples included the temple of Sri Vedantha Desikar as a minor temple of Sri Govindaraja Swamy Temple. After the formation of State of Andhra Pradesh A.P.Act 19 of 1966 (Endowment Act) was enacted under which the hereditary system of the Archakas, Jeeyangars, Gamekars and other office holders of Dharmakarthas were abolished. It is needless to mention that the Dharmakarthas regularly conduct the Nithya Pooja, then cook the prasadam in the temple kitchen itself and offer to the deity in the morning and evening, continuing the age old traditional custom and usage which was initiated by Madabhusi Tatachari, till now.