ŚrīVaiṣṇavam for Newcomers – Our Tradition

Śrīḥ  Śrīmathē Śatakōpāya namaḥ  Śrīmathē Rāmānujāya namaḥ  Śrīmath Varavaramunayē namaḥ

ŚrīVaiṣṇavam for Newcomers

This article is part of the newcomer series, a set of brief articles which give an outline of our sampradaya for people with no previous exposure to our tradition.

The ŚrīVaiṣṇava Sampradaya (spiritual tradition) exists since time immemorial. The “recent” history of our tradition begins with the Āḻvārs (a Tamil term, which means somebody deeply immersed in God-Love). Āḻvārs started to appear roughly 5000 years ago.

The Āḻvārs composed divine literature which contains the knowledge of the Veda, but in a more condensed and accessible form. However, this divine literature was nearly lost in the first centuries C.E.. Nāthamuni, the first of our early Āchāryas (teachers) heard a single verse from the Āḻvārs’ literature, pretty much all that was left at his time, and was so enchanted by it that he took a lot of hardship to regain the rest of this literature.

Nāthamuni and the Āchāryas after him were teaching the divine literature of the Āḻvārs and highlights from the huge canon of Vedic literature side by side. The line of our early Āchāryas was crowned by the appearance of Rāmānuja in the 11thcentury CE, who holds a pivotal role in our tradition.

Rāmānuja and his successors spread the tradition over the whole Indian subcontinent. However, a few centuries after Rāmānuja, in the early 14thcentury CE, Muslim invaders reached even the strongholds of our tradition in South India and occupied Śrīrangam, the main temple of our tradition. Numerous ŚrīVaiṣṇavas lost their life and the huge treasure of scriptures and commentary works were partly destroyed and partly scattered in attempts to rescue these invaluable works.

In the 15thcentury, Muslims were driven out of Śrīrangam and our tradition had to recover from the destruction. The Āchārya Manavāḷa Māmunigaḷ holds a central role in this process, as he collected and personally copied texts from the tradition wherever he found them. Manavāḷa Māmunigaḷ’s behavior and practices are well documented and serve as ideal example for the conduct of a Śrī Vaiṣṇava to this very day. Manavāḷa Māmunigaḷ had eight disciples who successfully completed the return of our tradition to its old glories.

Today, nearly every major town in India holds at least one Śrī Vaiṣṇava temple, their total number accounts to more than hundred. There are numerous Āchāryas initiating into the tradition all over India. Two temples, the Śrīrangam temple and the Thirumala Veṅkaṭēśvara temple are major pilgrimage sites which sometimes attract more than a million visitors in a single month.

There are also ŚrīVaiṣṇava temples and many religious activities going on in the US and Australia. In Europe, the UK has a number of very active ŚrīVaiṣṇavas and hosted the first Śrī Yāgam ever conducted in Europe in 2017. A Śrī Yāgam is a sophisticated Vedic ritual dedicated to divine mother Lakṣmi (name giveing to our tradition, as Śrī is the short name for Lakṣmi). In Germany, a group of Śrī Vaiṣṇavas is active in the Munich area and conducts events on a regular basis.

Further Reading:

Adiyen Mādhava Rāmānuja Dasan

archived in http://pillai.koyil.org

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ŚrīVaiṣṇava education/kids portal – http://pillai.koyil.org

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