AN INCARNATION OF LORD SHIVA IN THE 16TH CENTURY
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.
In the third stream we have sages who renounced the world even as Bramahcharis. IN THIS CATEGORY COME SUKA BRAHMAM, ADI SHANKARA, SADHASIVA BRAHMENDRA, SRI RAMANA MAHARISHI AND KANCHI KAMAKOTI PEETAM. JAGAD GURUS SHANKARACHARYARS OF SRI SRINGHERI SARADA PEETAM ALSO BELONG TO THIS CATEGORY.
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 Shivabakhtas. They were great scholars well-versed in all the sastras and smritis. They were adherents of Sama Veda and belonged to the Bhardwaja Gothra. His 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 Brahmins. He was also following the Pakayagna Samasthas like the Sraddha, Sravanya, Agrahayani etc. and also the seven Havis Yagna Samstha. He 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 Achara. They 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 Yagneshwara. Shri Appayya Dikshitar also pleased Lord Shiva who was the Yagnarupi by Agnyadheya Agnihotra Dasapurnamasya, Chaturmasya, Agrayana, Nirudha Pasu Bandha, Sauthramani. These 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 Parimala. Both 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.