Ennapadam Bhagavati

Bhagavathi at Ennapadam Temple at Kerala

Tuesday, October 25, 2011



The Festival of Diwali or Deepavali—the National Festival Of Lights— falls tomorrow (26th October 2011). This festival has held India’s heart captive from times immemorial.  Rabindranath Tagore, referring to the hoary and sacred tradition of holy ceremonies and festivals, rightly said: ‘India of geography, India of history and tradition, India of our forefathers, fairs and festivals and above all the India of our dreams, minds and hearts cannot change.’
Goddess Lakshmi

Diwali is celebrated on the darkest night (Ammavasya) following Dashera, midway in time between New Moon and Full Moon. Diwali is the Festival of Lights, celebrated all over India as an occasion to worship GODDESS LAKSHMI. This is the time when people in all parts of India celebrate the beginning of something new; a time to ushert in prosperity and happiness in their lives. Diwali is an occasion when people light diyas (small oil lamps) all over their home to welcome Goddess Lakshmi in their homes. The festival is marked by distribution of gifts, sharing of wealth and celebration by sharing sweets with friends and relations and lighting firecrackers.

Bharat Mata carries in her bosom diverse cultures drawn from infinite spiritual sources and traditions. And therefore it is no wonder that our sacred Motherland is imbued with the spirit and aura of festivities radiating across India all through the year. Most of the Indian festivals find their origin in Hindu Itihas. Diwali is one such widely loved festival. One of the popular stories relating to Diwali is the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile. His arrival was awaited by a vast concourse of subjects who gathered round the throne waiting in anxious expectation for the return of their beloved King Rama to Ayodhya.

The word ‘Diwali’ is the corruption of the Sanskrit word ‘Deepavali’—Deepa  meaning light and Avali, meaning a row. It means a row of lights and indeed illumination forms its main attraction. Every home—lowly or mighty—the hut of the poor or the mansion of the rich—gets alit with the orange glow of twinkling diyas (small earthen lamps) to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. Multi-coloured Rangoli designs, floral decorations and fireworks lend picturesqueness and grandeur to this festival which heralds the advent of joy, mirth and happiness in the ensuing year.
There are many other Puranic stories that enrich and enhance the significance of Diwali. The quintessence of Diwali celebrations lies in these timeless and immortal stories of Eternal India about which Sister Nivedita (1867-1911), one of the foremost disciples of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) wrote with such ecstasy and elequence.
One such story relates to the killing of Narakasura by Satyabhama. Narakasura ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Puranas have it that Narakasura, son of Bhudevi, acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma after a severe penance. Under his rule, the villagers suffered a lot of hardship as the demon tortured the people and kidnapped the women to be imprisoned in his palace with his invincible might. Unable to bear the tyranny of Narakasura, the celestial beings pleaded with Lord Krishna to save them from his torture. But Narakasura had a boon that he would face death only at the hands of his mother Bhudevi. So, Lord Krishna asked his wife Sathyabhama, the reincarnation of Bhudevi, to be his charioteer in the battle with Narakasura. When Lord Krishna fell unconscious after being hit by an arrow of Narakasura, the enraged Sathyabhama took up a bow and aimed an arrow at Narakasura, killing him instantly. Later Lord Krishna reminded Sathyabhama about the boon that Narakasura had obtained — that he could only be killed by his mother Bhudevi.
Thus the message of Naraka Chaturdashi is that the good of the society should always prevail over one’s own personal bonds. It is interesting to note that Bhudevi, mother of the slain demon Narakasura, declared that his death should not be a day of mourning but an occasion for public celebrations and rejoicing. People rejoice by lighting fireworks which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day by Satyabhama.
Another story rooted in myth, tradition and legend connected with Diwali festival every year relates to what is known as Dhanteras or Dhantrayodashi. Yesterday (Tuesday, 25th  October 2011) was the day of Dhanteras The legend of Samudramanthan——the churning of the ocean by the Devas and Asuras—leading to the emergence of Ambrosia and Goddess Lakshmi forms the basis of Dhanteras.

Yet another interesting story regarding this day relates to the sixteen year old son of King Hima. As per his horoscope he was doomed to die by a snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. On that particular fourth day of his marriage, his young wife did not allow him to sleep. She laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband’s bedroom and lighted innumerable lamps all over the place. And she went on telling stories and singing songs. When Lord Yama, the god of death arrived there in the guise of a serpent his eyes got blinded by that dazzle of those brilliant lights and he could not enter the prince’s chamber. So he climbed on top of the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat there whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away. Thus the young wife saved her husband from the clutches of death. Since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of ‘YAMADEEPDAAN’. On Yamadeepdan Day lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Lord Yama, the God of Death.
There are different regional/zonal traditions relating to the Diwali festivities in India. In West Bengal, it is celebrated as ‘KALI PUJA’.

After nineteen days of the completion of the Durga Puja, the whole State of West Bengal gets geared up to celebrate another popular festival, the KALI PUJA. Kali is worshipped as the Mother Goddess who protects the people from evil. The Puja actually takes place at midnight on the day of the new moon. During the Kali Puja all houses are lit up with candles decorated around the house. During this Puja, children and adults revel in bursting firecrackers.

The Sikhs celebrate Diwali to signify the return of the Sixth Guru Hargobind to Amritsar in 1620 along with 52 Hindu kings imprisoned along with him by Emperor Jahangir.

The Jain communities of India hold Diwali as a New Year’s Day. Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, attained his Nirvana on this day. In Maharashtra also, on Diwali day for all Hindus traditional early baths with oil and ‘Uptan’ (paste) of gram flour and fragrant powders are a `must’. All through the ritual of baths, deafening sounds of crackers and fireworks create a joyous festive atmosphere which enables all the children to enjoy their holy bathing on Diwali day. Afterwards steamed vermicelli with milk and sugar or puffed rice with curd is served.

Param Poojya Dr Jayanth Balaji Athavale, Founder of Sanatan Sanstha, one of the foremost Hindu Saints in India today who is waging a non-violent struggle for a Hindu Renaissance has strongly spoken against the mindless, indiscriminate, extensive and widespread use of wax candles by the Hindus to celebrate the Diwali festival. Most candles are made from paraffin wax which is a residue of petroleum refining process. Thus it is the bottom most 5 per cent or so of the oil barrel that the gasoline industry rejects. This unflattering material is then mixed with industry-strength bleach which gives it the familiar white color. When this mixture is burned as a candle it emits harmful toxins, soot and many of the noxious gasses. He has recommended the widespread use of age old and traditional earthen terracotta oil lamps.

Traditional earthen oil lamp, Paraffin wax candle

On Diwali Day we celebrate the victory of good over evil, defeat of the Asuras by the Devas. Diwali festival is not just a show of lights. In order to understand the soul and spirit of India, we should realize that it is not a group of Hindus celebrating a holiday which unites them. It is a gathering of humans celebrating the Birth of Light, the Birth of Righteousness — that is the essential and time-defying, underlying religious and cultural unity of India amidst its diversity. We celebrate the festival of Eternal Illumination, asking for LIGHT to dawn on our minds, in our hearts, letting its warm glow mix with our blood in our nerves and veins. After all, don’t the Upanishads say:

‘Agni is Light and the Light is Agni.
Indra is Light and the Light is Indra.
Surya is Light and the Light is Surya.’

On the eve of Diwali, tomorrow (26th  October, 2011) —the great Festival of Lights—I cannot help recalling the following beautiful verses of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950):

Thy golden Light came down into my brain
And the grey rooms of mind sun-touched became
A bright reply to Wisdom’s occult plane,
A calm illumination and a flame.
Thy golden Light came down into my throat,
And all my speech is now a tune divine,
A paean-song of Thee my single note;
My words are drunk with the Immortal’s wine.
Thy golden Light came down into my heart
Smiting my life with Thy eternity;
Now has it grown a temple where Thou art
And all its passions point towards only Thee.
Thy golden Light came down into my feet,
My earth is now Thy playfield and Thy seat.

Friday, October 21, 2011



Dhanvantari – God of Ayurveda

‘Om Namo Bhagavate
Maha Sudharshana
Vasudevaya Dhanvantaraye;
Amrutha Kalasa Hasthaaya
Sarva Bhaya Vinasaya
Sarva Roka Nivaranaya

Thri Lokya Pathaye
Thri Lokya Nithaye
Sri Maha Vishnu Swarupa
Sri Dhanvantri Swarupa
Sri Sri Sri
Aoushata Chakra Narayana Swaha”

Meaning: We pray to the God, who is known as Sudarshana Vasudev Dhanvantari. He holds the Kalasha full of nectar of immortality. Lord Dhanvantri removes all fears and removes all diseases. He is the well wisher and the preserver of the three worlds. Dhanvantari is like Lord Vishnu, empowered to heal the Jiva souls. We bow to the Lord of Ayurveda.

Dhanvantri Jayanti is dedicated Lord Dhanvantari, the Hindu God of Medicine or Ayurveda. Dhanvantri Jayanti 2011 is on October 24 2011. Dhanvantri is the deity invoked and worshipped by Ayurveda Practitioners. Dhanvanthari Jayanthi is observed during different times by different Hindu communities in different parts of India. Generally speaking, in most States of India it is observed on the day before Diwali.

Dhanvantri is believed to have appeared during the Churning of Ocean or Samdura Mantham by Devas (demi gods) and Asuras (demons). Amidst the numerous auspicious items that appeared during the Churning of Ocean or Samdura Manthan by Devas and Asuras, Dhanvanthari also appeared as elixir or Amruta. Dhanvantri is shown as holding the pot of Amrit in one hand and a leech in another hand. He is believed to have appeared to eradicate diseases threatening living beings. LORD DHANVANTHARI IS ALSO BELIEVED TO BE AN INCARNATION OF LORD VISHNU.

Today (24 October 2011) is the day of Dhanvantari Jayanthi or what is popularly known in different parts of India as Dhan-Trayodashi. Dhanvantari (Dhanwanthari) is the God of Ayurvedic medicine. According to the Hindu tradition, he is an aspect of the avatar of Lord Vishnu. Dhanvantari appears in the Vedas and Puranas as the physician of the Gods (Devas). For centuries, it has been an established practice in Hinduism for people to offer their fervent prayers to Lord Dhanvantari seeking his divine benediction for sound health, free from all aliments and diseases, not only for themselves but also for all, near and dear to them.
Dhanvantari was an early Indian medical practitioner and one of the world’s first surgeons. Based on Vedic traditions, he is regarded as the source and fountainhead of Ayurveda. He perfected a system of herbs and roots - based Ayurvedic cures and natural remedies. He has been credited, among others, with the discovery of the antiseptic properties of turmeric and the preservative properties of salt which he incorporated in his overall regimen of cures. Tradition has it that he was a very skilled surgeon according to the standards of his time and that he was a pioneer of modern medical practices like plastic surgery. According to traditions, he taught surgery methods and procedures to Susrutha, the Father of Ayurvedic Surgery.
As a result of the brilliant achievements of Dhanvantari in the field of Ayurvedic medicine, he was chosen as one of the Nine Gems in the Court of King Vikramaditya. The Nine gems during the reign of Vikramaditya were Dhanvantari, Kshapanaka, Amarasimha, Shanku, Vetal Bhatt, Ghata Karpara, Varahamihira, Vararuchi and Kalidasa the poet. Vikramaditya (102 BCE to 15 CE) was a legendary king of Ujjain, India, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity. During his reign, India ruled most of Asia from the Eastern Arabia to China and North Korea and from Mongolia to Indonesia. He also imparted Vedic rituals to the Middle East and to North Asia. It was during his time that the knowledge of ancient India in disciplines like philosophy, science, astronomy and mathematics made its way to the Arabs which was later transferred to Europe during the period of the Crusades in the fourteenth century, leading to the growth of modern science, mathematics and philosophy in the Age of the European Renaissance in the sixteenth century.
Dhanvantari is depicted as Vishnu with four hands, holding medical herbs in one hand and a pot containing rejuvenating nectar called amrita in another. This depiction can be seen in the picture of Dhanvantari presented at the top of this story.
The Puranas state that Dhanavantari emerged from the ‘Ocean of Milk’ and appeared with the pot of nectar during the story of the Samudra or Sagar manthan whilst the ocean was being churned by the Devas and Asuras, using the Mandara mountain and the serpent Vasuki. The pot of Amrita was snatched by the Asuras. Mohini, another aspect of Lord Vishnu appears and takes the nectar back from the Asuras.
Today is the birthday of Lord Dhanvantari, the God of health, healing and cure. This day is celebrated with great gusto and enthusiasm by the practitioners of Ayurveda in all parts of India every year.
Taxakeshwar temple in Madya Pradesh

There are only a handful of ancient and historic temples dedicated to Lord Dhanvantari in the whole of India. The most important temple in Northern India is at Taxakeshawar or Takhaji .This is a place of religious and historical importance in Mandsaur district in Madhya Pradesh. It is situated at a distance of 22 km from Bhanpura town on Hinglajgarh road. This is the site of serpent King Taxak, where he is worshiped as Taxakeshawar. In front of the statue of Taxaka is the statue of Dhanvantari. There is also a statue for Dhanvantri, the Indian Aesculapius, at this temple. Asclepius is the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion. Taxakeshawar is known for its natural and scenic beauty. James Tod, the famous author of the Annals of Rajasthan, visited this place in 1821 and was amazed to see its scenic beauty

Statue of Dhanvantari at Taxakeshawar Temple

Statue of Taxakeshwar


Daily worship is offered to Lord Dhanvantari at this spot. In the front of this temple there is an engraved stone believed to date around the 12th Century. The writing on the stone contains the details that Garuda Vahana Bhattar, who was a great Ayurvedic Physician who established the statue of Lord Dhanvantari inside this temple. As a ‘Prasad’ or ‘Teerth’, a decoction of the herbs is given to the visitors at this Dhanvantari temple.
The Dhanvantari traditions in Kerala are indeed glorious and fascinating. In Kerala, the family of ‘Ashta Vaidya’ is famous and traditionally provide Ayurvedic and Siddha treatment to the sick. The forefathers of these Asta vaidyas are still today serving in the same manner as they have been doing for centuries. This family worships Lord Dhanvantari. Some of the members of this family have built temples for Lord Dhanvantari inside their houses while others have built larger temples in his honour. Near Kotakkalat Pulamantol village is a family of Ashta Vaidya. This family has a temple of Lord Dhanvantari. There is another family called Vaidya Madam which is near Vadakkancheri. The Ashta Vaidya families are in the following places:

* Aalyittur
* Cannanore (kannur)
* Kuttancheri
* Vayaskara
* Vellod
* Chirattaman
* Pulamanthole
* Olassa

Lord Dhanvantari Temple at Nelluvaya near Guruvayur

Besides the larger temples in Kerala listed above, there are smaller temples for Lord Dhanvantari at Nelluvaya (near Guruvayur), Kannur and Calicut.

To conclude in the words of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh: ‘Ancient Indian civilization is not some thing done with, relegated to the past. It continues to live and that is what makes it so utterly fascinating. To study it in depth may not be a must, but to become aware of some of her phenomenal contributions in different fields, to understand what made those achievements possible, to apply some of the secret recipes for brighter futures ... all that certainly is. To get under the skin, to soak in the essence, to become one with the spirit of India — there is still much to be learnt .... in what field India has not attempted, achieved, created and in all on a large scale and yet with much attention to completeness of detail? ... India of the ages has not spoken her last creative word; she lives and has still something to do for herself and the human peoples.’

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Shri Appayya
October 13th 2011 was the most auspicious and hallowed day of SHRI Appayya Dikshtar Jayanti who, according to thousands of his devotees even today, was an incarnation of Lord Shiva in South India in the 16th Century.

Right from the dawn of history, Bharatvarsha has produced great saints and sages, great beings who made the supreme discovery that the God they sought for many years was no different from their own selves.  Each generation in our national history has been blessed by these enlightened sources who spread and radiated only Divine Goodness throughout India from Himalayas to Kannyakumari and from Rann of Kutch to the Bay of Bengal, remarkable men of God who had the Godly power to grant a Divine boon - the boon of perfect wisdom. 

We can see a triple stream flowing across centuries to make a holy confluence or 'Triveni' of Hindu religious life and thought from time immemorial. 

The first stream is represented by great Grahastas -- householders    -- from the SAPTHA RISHIS downwards. 

Fulfilling his various duties to the family and the community, the householder forms the backbone of our ancient civilisation.  He supports the ‘Brahmmachari’ and ‘Sanyasi’ alike. 

In the Sundara Kanda of the Ramayana we see SITA DEVI referring to the connubial perfection of the Sage Vashishta and his Dharma Pathni Arunthathi. Likewise, in the Upanishads we find Sage Yagnavalkya preaching and practising 'thyaga' -- living in the world without being worldly, being in it but not of it.  He and his illustrious disciple King Janaka, demonstrated that there was no permanence or lasting happiness in mere worldly possessions and achievements. 

The second stream is represented by philosophers and saints gradually retiring from the householder’s ashram and finally becoming sanyasams.  To this category belonged many Maharishis, Kings and Emperors, so beautifully described by great poet Kalidasa in his Raghuvamsa


Shri Appayya Dikshitar, belongs to the first category described above.  In his case also we find renunciation of worldly possessions.  He used the gold and other items of property given to him by his parents for religious and educational objects.  He gathered around him more than 500 Vedic scholars and disciples. He maintained them in great comfort and distributed his wealth to the needy and the poor even while taking care to provide for his children and the family.   Through his selfless life and example and also through 104 great works authored by him, he has given us the following message: When the mysterious unity between the soul and the divine becomes clear, you will realise that you are none other than God.  You will see all your actions as His actions; all your features as His features; all your breath as His breath.' 

According to Shri Appayya Dikshitar the priceless gift of luminous intelligence can be brought to bear upon each of the chief centres of consciousness in the human constitution.  All those individuals who cherish this privilege enough to conduct a series of experiments in daily living, will assuredly gain a greater awareness of the dignity of being human. 
The orbit of the sacred is revolutionary; it is radically subversive to the status quo of one’s previous somnambulistic existence.  This is the vision of a perfect being and this is the vision Shri Appayya Dikshitar gave to Bharat through his life and example. 

Let us now turn to the details of the life and achievements of Shri Appayya Dikshitar in greater detail.  Most of the facts presented below are drawn from the outstanding biography of Shri Appayya Dikshita by Dr Ramesan, formerly secretary to government of Andhra Pradesh.  This book was published by Srimad Appayya  Dikshitendra Grantavali Prakashana Samithi , Hyderabad, in 1972.

Shri Appayya Dikshitar was born in 1520 in Adayapalam, a village in North Arcot District, near Chetpet.  Shri Appayya Dikshitar’s ancestors had their original home on the banks of the Narmada River.  They had performed the elaborate jyotistoma and other sacrifices.  They migrated to North Arcot District towards the end of the 15th century on account of disturbed and unsettled political conditions in the North.   

The forefathers of Shri Appayya Dikshitar were great ShivabakhtasThey were great scholars well-versed in all the sastras and smritis. They were adherents of Sama Veda and belonged to the Bhardwaja GothraHis father Brahmahsri Rengaraja Dikshitar was a well-known Vedic scholar in South India. Shri Appayya was named Venkata Subramaniam.

Shri Appayya’s father himself taught him the alphabets and later appointed Mullandram Gururamakavi a well-known poet of those days for teaching him Kavya, Nataka and Alankara.  Being a versatile genius, Shri Appayya Dikshitar was able to grasp very quickly whatever was talked to him and in a short time became a complete master in whatever subject was taken up for study. 

Shri Appayya Dikshitar married Mangalanayaki, the daughter of the renowned Ratnackatha Dikshitar of Kanchipuram.  After his marriage, he went back to live in his native village Adayapalam.  There is a traditional account about how a number of Pundits well-versed in all branches of learning and who were travelling to from Sethu to Kasi came to Adayapalam, on hearing of the greatness of  Shri Appayya Dikshitar’s scholarship and asked him in what particular sastras he had specialised.  Shri Appayya Dikshitar gave a classic reply in the following Sanskrit verse:

The above verse means that he had read neither the Vedas, nor the Shastras but that his only qualification was that he was full of devotion to Lord Shiva. 

The pundits who came from Kasi were easily able to understand that Shri Appayya Dikshitar was not an ordinary teacher but an extraordinary genius and after offering their obeisance to him, they went on their way.  While living at Adayapalam, he was performing the traditional Panchayagnas for the Devas, the Pithrs, the Manushvas, the Bhuthas, and the BrahminsHe was also following the Pakayagna Samasthas like the Sraddha, Sravanya, Agrahayani etc. and also the seven Havis Yagna SamsthaHe was very anxious to perform Jyotisthoma sacrifice.  The Ritviks who were living in Adayapalam were also Srotriya Brahmins who were equal to Vashishta in their knowledge and AcharaThey were fully qualified to perform all the yagnas according to the injunctions laid down in the Brahmanas

Shri Appayya Dikshitar selected 17 Ritviks and prayed to the Yagneshwara of the Somayaga and finished the Jyotisthoma Yagna.  Authentic tradition has it that many Ritviks from all parts of the country had attended this yagna in order to get the grace of the YagneshwaraShri Appayya Dikshitar also pleased Lord Shiva who was the Yagnarupi by Agnyadheya Agnihotra Dasapurnamasya, Chaturmasya, Agrayana, Nirudha Pasu Bandha, SauthramaniThese were known as Havis Samasthas

(Shri Appayya Dikshitar offering
his benediction to
Shri Nilakanta Dikshitar)

Shri Rengarajadhvari was the court poet of Chinna Bomma Nayaka, the King of Vellore. When he died the King invited Shri Appayya Dikshitar to fill up this important post.  He was only in his teens at that time.  He accepted the Royal invitation and shifted himself along with his brother to Vellore.  He brought great name and fame to the Royal Court at Vellore through the keenness of his intellect and the eloquence of his words.  Consequently all the kings of Kalahasti, Tanjore, Karvetinagar and Venkatagiri moved heaven and earth to avail themselves of the services of Shri Appayya Dikshitar as court poet. He however remained deeply attached and faithful to Chinna Bomma Nayaka of Vellore. 
Dr N Ramesan has stated that the entire life of Shri Appayya Dikshitar as a teacher of Savism was woven round and mixed up irretrievably with acrimonious spiritual and religious disputations with a Vaishnavite teacher of his time called Sri Tatacharya.  He was patronised by King Ramaraya of the Vijayanagar Empire who ruled from 1542 to 1565 AD.  He used his official position of power and authority to tease all the Saivites of his time and to put down the Saivite religion.  It was as a spirited reaction against this violent attack on the Saivite religion that Shri Appayya Dikshitar started writing his famous works upholding the greatness of Lord Shiva and propagating Saivite religion by placing it on surer foundations.   The kind of spiritual war that Adhi Shankara waged on behalf of Hinduism against the onslaught of other faiths in the 8th century AD, Shri Appayya Dikshitar waged the same kind of battle on behalf of Saivism in the 16th century. 

Shri Appayya Dikshitar wrote many works on Saivism of which the Sivarka mani Dipika is his magnum opus, comparable in bulk and importance only with his other great work the ParimalaBoth are commentaries interpreting the Brahmasutra of Vyasar.  His Nigrahastaka is a thrilling piece of passionate poetry, charged with immense courage and faith in the face of the extremely critical religious rivalry that he had to face from the sworn enemies of Saivism in his time. 

Shri Appayya Dikshitar was an unrivalled exponent of Shankaras Advaitha Vedanta.
The walls of the temple of Kalakanteswara at Adayapalam contain inscriptions mentioning the name of Shri Appayya Dikshitar.  Here is a Sanskrit verse in that inscription:

The above verse ascribed to Shri Appayya Dikshitar indicates that in the last days of his life, he glorified the timeless sacredness of Chidambaram, characterizing his sons as scholarly and well-behaved, and declaring that he was over 70 years of age, and that he had no further desire and mission, except to take refuge at the feet of Lord Maheshwara.  He passed away in Chidambaram only to live for ever in the minds, hearts and souls of his devotees. 



 Vedanta Desikar (1268-1369 AD)
Vedanta Desika Jayanti this year fell on 6th October 2011 (Thursday). Vedanta Desika is considered to be the second greatest Sri Vaishnava writer in the history of vaishnavism. He was a great poet, devotee, philosopher and master-teacher. After the death of Ramanuja in 1137 A.D., Vedanta Desika became one of the greatest Acharyas of Vadakalai Vaishnavism.

As a long standing resident of Chennai I am overcome with pride and joy to note that Sri Vedantha Desikar Devasthanam, Mylapore, Chennai is celebrating Pavithra Uthsavam of Sri Vedanta Desikar from 11th October 2011 to 17th October 2011. The week-long purification ceremony will conclude with a grand Poornaahuthi on 17th October (Monday). The uniqueness of the Uthsavam in this Temple is that devotees can do Pradakshinam covering the Lord, the Yaga Sala, all the Ghoshtis and all the Sannidhis in one go. Thus in one round they will be able to receive the blessings of Lord Srinivasa, Goddess Alarmelmanga Thayar, Sri Pey Azhwar and Swami Vedantha Desikar.

Sri Vedanta Desikar Srinivasa Perumal Temple Mylapore, CHENNAI-4

Sri Vedanta Desikar Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Mylapore lies next to the Kesavaperumal Temple, sharing a wall with it. This Vadagalai Temple is nearly 300 years old.

 Vedanta Desikar was born in 1268 at Thoopul, near Kanchipuram, (according to legend, on the order of Lord Srinivasa and Padmavathi Thayaar, the God and Goddess of the Tirupati temple), as the son of Ananta Suri and Totaramba. He was named `Venkatanatha' and belonged to the Vishwamithra gothra (lineage). He was educated and trained by a scholarly maternal uncle of his, Kidambi Appullalar (who was a direct disciple of Ramanuja). Appullarlar also initiated Venkatanatha's Upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony) at the age of seven and made him master the Vedas, Divyaprabandam, Puranas and Sastras. By the age of twenty he was a great scholar without par in the history of Vaishnavism. He got married at the age of 21 to Tirumangai (also known as `Kanakavalli'). The Lord blessed the couple with a son in 1317 A.D., named `Varadarya'.

Vedanta Desikar rose to the status of an `Acharya' by the age of 27. He was specially proficient in Kavya, Logic and Philosophy, as evidenced by the title of KAVITARKIKA SIMHA (Kesari), which was conferred upon him by his admirers and followers. His irrefutable logic expressed in a thunderous voice ringing like a clarion bell from the hill top, earned for him the title of GHANTAVATARA. Later in life he gained a general mastery of Tamil grammar and Poetics (Dramida). According to tradition, he seems to have been proficient in secular arts and crafts as well like masonary, icon-making etc. He was thus a great polymath _ Sarva Thantra Swanthatra.

Vedanta Desikar was a prolific writer. He became the foremost exponent and a unique preceptor of the ancient and yet new philosophy _ Sri Ramanuja _ Desika Darsana. I am presenting below a summarised list of the immortal works of Vedanta Desika:

I came across an Article in Tattva Darsana Quarterly Journal (January-March 2008 issue) by M C Devi Prasad of Madurai in which he has given a graphic description of how Vedanta Desikar's `Abheetisthvam' helped the devotees of Lord Ranganatha at Sri Rangam to withstand and survive the onslaught of the Muslim marauders in the days of Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316), the then Emperor of Delhi.

Sri Vedanta Desikar, was witness to the inhuman and barbarous atrocities of the Muslim plunderers who invaded South India under the leadership of Malik Kafur, a favourite Hindu eunuch slave of Alauddin Khilji, who embraced Islam and looted the famous Madurai and Srirangam Temples between 1308 and 1310.

Malik Kafur, a Hindu, became a General in the Army of Alauddin Khilji, Ruler of the Delhi sultanate from 1296 to 1316. He was originally captured by Alauddin's army after his army conquered the city of Khambhat. The story goes that Alauddin Khilji, fell in love with the voluptuous beauty of Malik Kafur, who was a eunuch and took him to his court in Delhi. In Delhi after forcible conversion to Islam, Malik Kafur was made the head of invading armies to the south. Kafur rose quickly in the army. It was Malik Kafur who invaded South India and went upto to Rameshwaram, destroying several Hindu temples on his way at Srirangam, Madurai, Manamadurai, Paramakudi and other places. The main objective of these Islamic marauders was to intimidate, terrorize and forcibly convert to Islam the peace-loving Hindus of South India. Those were terrible times and South India had entered a Dark Age. During those days of encircling gloom created by growing Islamic terror, Vedanta Desika gave the message of Abhaya (fearlessness) to the Hindus of South India through his inspired verses numbering 29 in his famous Abheetisthvam. I am presenting below one of the most inspiring verses from this great devotional poem: 

In the above sloka, the second line contains clear reference to Islamic Terrorism. Sri Vedanta Desikar uses the terms, Turushka yavanaadibhih, meaning Muslims. He says, Jagati jrumbhamaanam bhaya i.e., the increasing (jrumbhamaanam) terror (bhayam) in the world (jagati). Terror is extreme fear and the reference is relevant to the India of today. We can see what is happening to the Hindu pilgrims going to Amarnath in Kashmir today. The anti-Hindu Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress Party and Mufti Mohammed Sayeed of PDP Party in Jammu and Kashmir today can be compared with Malik Kafur of Allaudin Khilji's time!

In the above sloka , Sri Vedanta Desikar prays to Bhagavan Ranganatha to give to all his devotees the five weapons or dimensions of fearlessness represented by Chakra, Shanga, Gadha, Sword and Bow and Arrow (of Bhagavan Ranganatha) to fight against the forces of atheism and Islam which were engulfing our country in the 14th century.

According to many scholars, Swami Vedanta Desikan's period in Srirangam was a defining moment in the evolution of `Vaishnava' philosophy for many reasons. The Islamic forces led by Malik Kafur invaded Srirangam in 1311-12 and stole away the Idol of the presiding deity of Bhagavan Ranganatha to Delhi. The people of Srirangam after a prolonged struggle against the Muslims returned back to Srirangam with the Idol of Bhagavan Ranganatha. There was more shock in store, when some years later the second Islamic invasion took place with a stronger military force led by Mallik Kafur. At that perilous moment Swami Vedanta Desikan decided to send the `Utsava Murthi' of Srirangam with a group led by `Pillai Lokacharayar' to an unknown destination. Likewise he also protected the Goddess of the Temple. Swami Vedanta Desikan saved the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Srirangam Temple by covering it with a brick wall. When Sri Vedanta Desikar saw that the entire population of Srirangam was perturbed by the Islamic attack and engulfed in fear, he composed his famous the `Abheethistavam', which was recited in a chorus in a defiant and fearless manner by all the people of Srirangam during that moment of grave crisis. Almost 13000 Sri Vaishnavites were killed in the prolonged battle against the Islamic invaders in Srirangam. Sri Sudharshna Bhattar also sacrificed his life in the struggle, not before requesting Sri Vedanta Desikar to bring up his children, who were very young then.

What are the divine qualities and qualifications of a great Guru? They were defined in an exact mathematical and beautiful manner in 22 versus by Vedanta Desika in his NYASA VIMSHATHI. M.C. Devi Prasad, a great Sanskrit scholar and devotee of Sri Vedanta Desikar has invited my attention to the following most exquisite verse from this great work:

According to above sloka, a Guru is a great achiever, rooted in ancient and traditional lore. He is endowed with these qualities of head and heart — steadfast intellect, blemishless/faultless character, free from arrogance and ostentation and other degenerating qualities, a man of compassion, a man rooted in truth, a man who has controlled and mastered his senses, a man steeped in Brahman and Satvika qualities, an enhancer, ennobler, emancipator, and liberator of mankind and the world.

M.C. Devi Prasad also told me that `Chanting of slokas of Shankara Bhagavadpada and Vedanta Desika will work wonders in combating Islamic terrorism all over India today. In particular the chanting of the particular sloka of Sri Vedanta Desikar in his Abheetistavam (quoted above) with faith and devotion every day early in the morning in all Vaishanavite and Saivite Temples all over India will go a long way in protecting the peace-loving Hindus of India against the never-ending acts of Islamic terrorism'.

May Sri Vedanta Desika confer his blessings on us all. Let me conclude with one of his Stotras: