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Beginner’s guide – piLLai lOkAchAryar and nAyanAr

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parAsara, vyAsa enter ANdAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy. The children see pAtti reciting thiruppAvai and wait till she finishes. pAtti finishes her recital and welcomes the children.

pAtti: Come in children!

vyAsa: pAtti, last time you said you will tell about vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai’s sons. Please tell us about them.

pAtti. Yes vyAsa. Today we will talk about the two illustrious sons of vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai. As I said the last time, with the grace of his AchAryan nampiLLai and namperumAL, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai was blessed with two sons namely piLLai lOkAchAryar and azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr. The two boys grow up together like rAma and lakshmaNa to become great stalwarts and proceed to do great kainkaryams for our sampradhAyam.

After nampiLLai reaches paramapadham, vadakkuth thiruvIdhi piLLai becomes the next AchAryan of our sampradhAyam and proceeds to teach his sons all the meanings that he had learned from his AchAryan nampiLLai. After some time vadakkuth thiruvIdhi piLLai gives up his charama thirumEni thinking about his Acharyan nampiLLai and attains paramapadham, following which his son piLLai lOkAchAryar becomes the next AchAryan of our sampradhAyam.

aththuzhAy : pAtti, I heard that piLLai lOkAcharyan was none other than dhEvap perumAL Himself.

piLLai lOkAchAryar doing kAlakshEpam in kAttazhagiya singar kOyil – SrIrangam

pAtti: You heard it right aththuzhAy. piLLai lOkAcharyar was none other than dhEvap perumAL Himself. piLLai lOkAcharyar during his final days at jyOthishkudi, instructs nAlUr piLLai to teach vyAkyAnams to thirumalai AzhwAr (thiruvAimozhi piLLai), the next AchAryan of our sampradhAyam. When thirumalai AzhwAr visits dhEva perumAL for mangaLAsAsanam in kAnchipuram, dhEva perumAL speaks directly to nAlUr piLLai who was standing nearby and says “as I mentioned in jyOthishkudi you should teach thirumalai AzhwAr all the meanings of aruLichcheyal”.

vEdhavalli: pAtti, why did piLLai lOkAcharyar spend his final days in a place called jyOthishkudi? Wasn’t he born in SrIrangam?

pAtti: piLLai lOkAcharyar was a great AchAryan who wrote beautiful granthams on AzhwArs’ pAsurams in easy thamizh language for the benefit of one and all. Not all are well versed in Samskritham or thamizh. For those who are not too well versed with the languages but still have the desire to learn and benefit from our pUrvAchAryas’ works, piLLai lOkAchAryar , with great mercy, documented what he heard from his AchAryas in simple/crisp language. The magnum opus was SrIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya SAsthram which details our sampradhAya meanings. Thus he was the main AchAryan who did pramANa rakshaNam (protecting/nourishing the knowledge base of our sampradhAyam).

piLLai lOkAchAryar – SrIrangam

piLLai lOkAchAryar not only protected the knowledge base of our sampradhAyam but also the root of our sampradhAyam – namperumAL of SrIrangam. When everything was going good in SrIrangam, suddenly the news of muslim invasion spread like wild fire. Everyone got very worried since these muslim kings are well known to target temples for the abundant wealth of the temples. Immediately piLLai lOkAchAryar (being the senior most SrIvaishNava AchArya) took control of the situation. He instructed the SrIvaishNavas to raise a wall in front of periya perumAL and left with namperumAL and ubhaya nAchchiyArs towards south of India. He was much older at that time but did not care about his own health and traveled along with namperumAL in the journey. When they were going through the forests, some thieves came and robbed all the jewels of namperumAL. piLLai lOkAchAryar changes the mind of the thieves who later surrender to him and return the jewels back.

After this, they reach a spot named jyOthishkudi (near madhurai). piLLai lOkAchAryar due to his old age becomes ill and decides to leave to paramapadham. He thinks about thirumalai AzhwAr (thiruvAimozhip piLLai) , who is one of his Sishyas, to be groomed to be the next leader of the sampradhAyam. This is when he instructs nAlUr piLLai to teach vyAkyAnams to thirumalai AzhwAr. He instructs kUra kulOththama dhAsar and VilanchOlaip piLLai that SrISaileSa (thiruvAimozhip piLLai) was working for the king at madhurai and that they should bring him back into the SrIvaishNava fold so that he could become the next AchArya and lead the dharSanam. Finally he gives up his charama thirumEni and reaches paramapadham in jyOthishkudi. Thus piLLai lOkAchAryar sacrificed his life for the safety of namperumAL. If it hadn’t been for him and thousands of other SrIvaishnavas who sacrificed their lives for namperumAL, we wouldn’t be seeing and worshipping namperumAL today in SrIrangam.

jyOthishkudi – place where piLLai lOkAchAryar attained paramapadham

parAsara : No wonder he was the incarnation of dhEvap perumAL Himself, epitome of utmost sacrifice!

pAtti: yes parAsara, that is why dhEvap perumAL is called our sampradhAyap perumAL. piLLai lOkAchAryar not only did pramANa rakshaNam (protection of the knowledge base of our sampradhAyam in the form of granthams), he was also instrumental in pramEya rakshaNam (protection of namperumAL). He showed us the true quality of a SrIvaishNava by thinking about the safety of namperumAL. Just like periyAzhwAr, who was worried about the thirumEni of emperumAn and sung pallAndu to him, piLLai lOkAchAryar saw the archA mUrthi of namperumAL as a child and overcome by paternal love and care, safeguarded namperumAL and went to the extent of sacrificing his life but never let the muslim invaders take namperumAL. Hence, the next time you go to perumAL temple, remember that the sampradhAyam that we have today is built by the selfless sacrifices done by thousands of SrIvaishNavas before us. They protected the sampradhAyam and namperumAL so that we, the future generation, can enjoy the fruits of their labour. There is nothing that we can do to repay them except for being thankful to such SrIvaishnavas by remembering their sacrifices, respect our sampradhAyam and not take it for granted and carry forward the values and knowledge, given to us by them, to our next generation.

aththuzhAy : pAtti, tell us more about piLLai lOkAcharyar’s younger brother, azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr.


azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr

pAtti: nAyanAr wrote wonderful granthams on the essential principles of our sampradhAyam, the master piece being AchArya hrudhayam. He was considered equal to great AchAryas like periyavAchchAn piLLai, in knowledge on our sampradhAyam and dhivya prabhandhams. nAyanAr was extolled as a great AchArya. He is popularly glorified as “jagath guruvarAnuja – the younger brother of lOkAchAryar”. His works are nothing but gems of wisdom without which the intricate meanings and details of our sampradhAyam would have been out of reach for common people. mAmunigaL glorifies nAyanAr and his contributions and says that after periyavAchchAn piLLai, its nAyanAr who has contributed immensely with his works. nAyanAr decided to leave his thirumEni at an early age and ascended to paramapadham leaving behind piLLai lOkAcharyar. When nAyanAr reaches paramapadham, piLLai lOkAcharyar falls in an ocean of sorrow and cries out keeping nAyanAr’s thirumudi (head) on his lap. He looks at nAyanAr more as an extraordinary SrIvaishNava whom the world has lost in a short period of time.

vyAsa : pAtti, piLLai lOkAcharyar and nAyanAr’s lives are very interesting and emotional to listen to.

pAtti : Yes vyAsa. When we start talking about our AchAryas and their lives, we never know the time passing. It’s getting dark outside. You children must leave to your homes now. The next time we meet, I will tell you about the Sishyas of piLLai lOkAcharyar.

The children leave to their respective homes thinking about vadakkuth thiruvIdhi piLLai, piLLai lOkAchAryan, azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr and their glorious lives.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – nampiLLai’s Sishyas

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AndAL pAtti is inside the kitchen cooking when parAsara and vyAsa enter pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy. pAtti hears the children talking and comes inside the living room to welcome the children.

pAtti: Come in children. Wash your hands and feet. Take this prasAdam from temple. Last time, we learnt about our AchAryan nampiLLai. As I told you last time, today we will know about some of the prominent Sishyas of nampiLLai such as vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai, periyavAchchAn piLLai, pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar, eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar to name a few.

VyAsa: pAtti, nampiLLai seemed to have had many Sishyas. Can you tell us about them?

Patti : Yes, let us know about them one by one. Let us start with nampiLLai’s illustrious Sishya vyAkyAna chakravarthi, periyavAchchAn piLLai. Born as krishNan, the son of yAmunar in sEngaNUr (thiruchchanganallUr), he becomes to be known as periyavAchchAn piLLai. He is one of the prime Sishyas of nampiLLai and learnt all SAsthra arthams (meanings) from nampiLLai himself. He adopts nAyanArAchchAn piLLai as his son. It is also said that thirukkaNNamangai emperumAn wanted to learn the meanings of thirumangai AzhwAr‘s pAsurams from thirumangai AzhwAr himself – so thirumangai AzhwAr appeared as nampiLLai and emperumAn appeared as periyavAchchAn piLLai to learn all the meanings of the aruLichcheyal.

periyavAchchAn piLLai – sEngaNUr

VyAsa: pAtti, why is periyavAchchAn piLLai called as vyAkyAna chakravarthi?

pAtti: periyavAchchAn piLLai is the only AchArya who has written vyAkyAnams for all of aruLichcheyal. His mastery over rAmAyanam and aruLicheyal is unparalleled. He had written a grantham called pAsurapadi rAmyAyanam where he uses words from AzhwArs‘ pAsurams alone to explain the whole of SrI rAmAyaNam in a crisp manner. Had it not been for his work, no one can speak about or understand the inner meanings of aruLicheyal. His work extensively covers vyAkyAnams for all our pUrvAchArya’s granthams.

nampiLLai’s another Sishya was vadakku thiruvIdhip piLLai, one of the prominent Sishyas of nampiLLai. Born as SrI krishna pAdhar in SrIrangam, he was completely immersed in AchArya nishtai. With the grace of his AchAryan nampiLLai, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai gave birth to a son and named him piLLai lOkAchArya since the son was born with the blessings of his AchAryan nampiLLai (Also called as lOkAchAryar). I hope you all remember the story behind nampiLLai being named as lOkAchAryar.

vyAsa : Yes, pAtti. It was kandhAdai thOzhappar who named nampiLLai as lOkAchAryar. We also remember the story.

vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai – kAnchIpuram

pAtti: When vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai names his son as piLLai lOkAchArya, nampiLLai conveys his intention of naming the child azhagiya maNavALan. Soon, namperumAL, blesses vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai with another son and the second son was named azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr since he was born out of the grace of azhagiya maNavALan (namperumAL) thereby fulfilling nampiLLai’s wish. The two boys grow up together like rAma and lakshmana to become great stalwarts and proceed to do great kainkaryams for our sampradhAyam. They both were blessed to have the katAksham and guidance of great AchAryas of our sampradhAyam like nampiLLai, periyavAchchAn piLLai, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai, etc at the same time.

Once, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai invites nampiLLai to his thirumAligai (Homes of SrIvaishNavas must be called thirumALigai) for thadhiyArAdhanam and nampiLLai accepts that and visits his thirumALigai. nampiLLai himself starts the thiruvArAdhanam and in the kOyilAzhwAr (perumAL sannidhi) he sees the bunch of palm leaves with the neat and clear explanations to all his teachings and lectures on nammAzhwAr’s pAsurams. Being interested, he starts reading a few of them and asks vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai what was that. vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai explains that every night, he recorded nampiLLai’s lectures after listening to them. nampiLLai asks vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai why he did this without his permission and asks if he did it as a competition to periyavAchchAn piLLai’s vyAkyAnam (detailed explanation of the meanings of AzhwAr’s pasurams). vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai feels guilty and immediately falls at the lotus feet of nampiLLai and explains that he wrote it only to refer to it in future. Convinced with his explanations, nampiLLai glorifies the vyAkyAnam and praises vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai for his work. Such was the immense knowledge and AchArya abhimAnam that vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai possessed.

parAsara : What happened to the vyAkyAnam? Did vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai finish it?

pAtti: yes, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai finished the vyAkyAnam and this vyAkyAnam for thiruvAimozhi is famously called eedu 36000 padi. nampiLLai orders vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai to give the vyAkyAnam to eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL to be taught to his descendants.


nampiLLai kAlakshEpa gOshti – eeyNNi mAdhavap perumAL seated 2nd from right

Vedhavalli : pAtti, what did eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL do with the vyAkyAnam that nampiLLai gave to him?

Patti: eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL teaches this to his son eeyuNNi padhmanAbhap perumAL. eeyuNNi padhmanAbhap perumAL teaches this to his dear Sishya nAlur piLLai. This way it kept going from one AchArya to his Sishya in a proper manner. nAlUrAchchAn piLLai is the son and dear Sishya of nAlUr piLLai. nAlUrAchchAn piLLai learns eedu 36000 padi under the lotus feet of his father. nAlUrAchchAn piLLai had many Sishyas and one of them was thiruvAimozhip piLLai. When nAlUr piLLai and nAlUrAchchAn piLLai go to kAnchipuram to do mangalASAsanam to dhEvap perumAL, emperumAn Himself orders nAlUrAchchAn piLLai to teach eedu vyAkyAnam to thiruvAimozhip piLLai. thiruvAimozhip piLLai along with others, learns eedu vyAkyAnam under nAlUrAchchAn piLLai and teaches the same to maNavALa mAmunigaL who becomes to be famously known as eettup perukkar (one who nourishes eedu vyAkyAnam). Thus nampiLLai knew that the vyAkyAnam would reach manavALa mAmunigaL eventually and hence gave it to eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL.

AththuzhAy : pAtti, in eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL and eeyuNNi padhmanAbhap perumAL, what does the word “eeyuNNi” mean?

Patti: “eethal” means charity in thamizh. “uNNuthal” means eating. eeyuNNi means one who is very charitable that he will only eat after feeding other SrIvaishNavas.


Another prominent Sishya of nampiLLai was pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar. He was a sanyAsi who served nampiLLai (who was a gruhastha) very similar to nanjIyar (a sanyAsi) who served bhattar. He was a dear Sishya of nampiLLai and is also known as pinbhazhagarAm perumAL jIyar. He lived his life as a true SrI vaishNava with the utmost respect, regard and affection towards his AchAryan. His AchArya abhimAnam (respect) is well known.


pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar at the lotus feet of nampiLLai, SrIrangam

parAsara : pAtti, today you did not tell us any conversations that nampiLLai and his Sishyas had. Please tell us some interesting conversations between them.

pAtti: All our pUrvachAryas converse only related to bhagavath vishayam and bhAgavatha kainkaryam. Once when pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar was ill, he asks other srIvaishNavas to pray to emperumAn for his speedy recovery. Generally in our sampradhAyam, a SrI vaishNava should not pray to emperumAn for anything – even for recovering from illness. Seeing this, Sishyas of nampiLLai enquire to nampiLLai about it. nampiLLai first says, “go and ask engaLAzhwAn who is an expert in all sAsthram”. engaLAzhwAn replies “may be he is attached to SrIrangam and he wants to stay here for some more time”. nampiLLai then asks his Sishyas to ask ammangi ammAL who says “who would want to leave nampiLLai’s kAlakshEpa gOshti, he may be praying so, so that he can listen to nampiLLai’s kAlakshEpam”. nampiLLai finally asks jIyar himself. jIyar replies, “Although you know the real reason, you want it to be revealed through me. Let me say why I want to continue living here. Everyday, after you take bath, I get to have the divine darshan of your form and serve you by fanning, etc. How can I give up that service and go to parampadham just yet?”. Thus, pinbhazhagarAm perumAL jIyar reveals the true nature of a Sishya – to be fully attached to the divine form of one’s own AchAryan. Hearing this everyone were amazed by jIyar’s devotion towards nampiLLai. pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar was so attached to nampiLLai that he would even discard the thought of going to paramapadham. His AchArya nishtai was so deep.

Finally, let us see about one more Sishya of nampiLLai – naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar. Initially, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar did not have a favourable attitude towards nampiLLai. Due to his rich family heritage (coming in the family of kUraththAzhwAn and parAsara bhattar) he developed pride and did not respect nampiLLai. There is a very interesting story of how he surrendered to the lotus feet of nampiLLai.


nampiLLai kAlakshEpa gOshti – naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar seated 3rd from left

vyAsa : What an irony it is that a descendant of kUraththAzhwAn had qualities of pride and arrogance. Tell us the story pAtti!

pAtti: Yes, but the unwanted pride did not last for long! After all, he was the grandson of none other than kUraththAzhwAn himself! Once, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar was going to the king’s court. He meets pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar on the way and invites him along to attend the king’s court. The king welcomes them, honours them and offers them a nice seat. The king being well learned, wanting to test the intelligence of bhattar, asks him a question from SrI rAmAyaNa. He says, “SrI rAman himself claims that he is just a human being and is the dear son of dhaSarathan. But during the last moments of jatAyu, SrI rAman blesses him to reach SrIvaikuntam. If he was a normal human being, how could he bless someone to reach vaikuNtam?”. bhattar was speechless and could not respond with any meaningful explanation. Incidentally, the king gets distracted by some other task. At that time, bhattar turns to jIyar and asks him “How would nampiLLai explain this?”. jIyar replies “nampiLLai would explain that a fully truthful person can control all worlds”. bhattar, explains that to the king, when the king focusses back on them. The king, at once agrees to the answer and honours bhattar with great wealth. bhattar, with great gratitude towards nampiLLai , asks jIyar to associate him with nampiLLai, at once goes to nampiLLai’s residence and surrenders all the wealth at the lotus feet of nampiLLai. bhattar says to nampiLLai, “I received all these wealth with just one small explanation from your teachings. All along, I have lost the valuable association/guidance of you. From now on, I will ensure that I will serve you well and learn the sampradhAyam principles from you”. nampiLLai embraces bhattar and teaches him all the essence of our sampradhAyam. So children, what do you learn from this story?

vEdhavalli: I learnt that with his ancestors’ blessings, bhattar reached the right destination.

aththuzhAy : I learnt about the greatness and knowledge of nampiLLai.

pAtti: Both of you are right. But there is one more lesson we learn from this story. Just like how emperumAn accepts us when we approach Him through our AchAryas, reaching the AchArya is possible only through the divine association with a SrIvaishnava. This is what we call SrIvaishnava sambhandam or adiyArgaL sambandam. Here, who was the divine SrIvaishnava who associated bhattar to nampiLLai?

parAsara: pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar!

pAtti: Yes! This shows the importance of bhAgavatha sambandham. jIyar, being the dear disciple of nampiLLai, blessed bhattar with AchArya gyAnam (realisation) and sambandham. Let us meditate on the lotus feet of nampiLLai and his Sishyas. The next time we meet, I will tell you about vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai’s two illustrious sons and their unparalleled kainkaryam for our sampradhAyam.

The children leave to their respective homes thinking about the greatness of various AchAryas and their divine services.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – nampiLLai

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parAsara , vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy.

pAtti : Welcome children. Today we will talk about the next AchAryan nampiLLAi who was the Sishya of nanjIyar. As I already told you last time, born as varadharAjan in nambUr, nampiLLai was a scholar in both thamizh and samskritham language and literature. We also know how nanjIyar wanted to make copies of his 9000 padi vyAkyAnam and varadharAjar’s name was proposed due to his proficiency in both the languages. It was nanjIyar who named varadharAjar as nampiLLai after seeing and understanding his true glories. nampiLLai is also known as thirukkalikanRi dhAsar, kalivairi dhAsar, lOkAchAryar, sUkthi mahArNavar, jagathAchAryar and ulagAsiriyar.


vyAsa : pAtti, we also remember how nampiLLai rewrote the entire 9000 vyAkyAnam from his memory after he lost his AchArya’s original copy in the floods of river kAvEri.

pAtti : Yes, in spite of such greatness and knowledge, nampiLLAi was very humble and treated everyone with great respect and affection.

vEdhavalli : pAtti, can you tell us some incidents highlighting nampiLLai’s glories?

pAtti : After learning AzhwAr’s pAsurams along with their meanings from nanjIyar, nampiLLai was regularly lecturing at the eastern side of perumAL sannidhi in SrIrangam temple. nampiLLai could attract a huge crowd due to his great command over thamizh and samskritham language and literature. He was also an expert in giving satisfactory reasoning using vAlmIkI rAmAyaNam whenever a doubt/question arises in the minds of people. Once, when nampiLLai was giving his upanyAsam, periya perumAL (mUlavar in SrIrangam) stood up from his reclining position and tried to watch nampiLLai’s upanyAsam. thiruviLakku pichchan (a SrIvaishnava who took care of the lamps and lighting in the sannidhi) looked at periya perumAL in standing posture and asked him to get back to his lying posture saying that he cannot move in archAvathAram. emperumAn even broke his archA samAdhi (The promise not to move or talk in archAvathAram) to watch and listen to nampiLLai. Such was the attraction of nampiLLai’s upanyAsams. Because of his in-depth knowledge in various literature in both thamizh and samskritham he was able to mesmerize his audience during his lectures. He was able to attract people to his lectures just like namperumAL was able to attract people with His charming nadai (walk) during his purappAdu (procession) and His beautiful thirumEni which attracts the devotees from all corners of the world. Has anyone seen namperumAL’s purappAdu in SrIrangam?

nampiLLai’s upanyAsam in perumAL sannidhi, SrIrangam

aththuzhAy : yes pAtti, I have. I went to SrIrangam on one of the brahmOtsavams when perumAL had veedhi purappAdu ( procession in streets) and the way He walked was mesmerising.

parAsara : Yes pAtti, we too have watched namperumAL’s purappAdu many times.

pAtti : Who wouldn’t have? Isn’t it a treat to our eyes? Just like how namperumAL attracted all his devotees with his purappAdu, even nampiLLai attracted a huge crowd to his upanyAsams. In spite of all this, his humility was unparalleled. Once in front of namperumAL, kandhAdai thOzhappar (who comes in the lineage of mudhaliyANdAn) utters few harsh words towards nampiLLai. He was not able to appreciate the glories of nampiLLai and that came out as harsh words. nampiLLai without saying a word, accepts the insults, leaves the temple to go to his thirumALigai (home). When thOzhappar went to his thirumALigai, his wife who had already heard the news from others, gave him strong advice on his behaviour and explained the glories of nampiLLai. She insists that he should go and apologize at the lotus feet of nampiLLai. Finally he realizes his mistake and decides to go to nampiLLai’s thirumALigai late in the night. When he opened the door to go, he noticed that there was a person waiting there and that was none other than nampiLLai himself. nampiLLai seeing thOzhappar, immediately falls down and offering his praNAmam and says that he had committed some mistake which caused thOzhappar to be upset with him. thOzhappar was shocked to see nampiLLai’s greatness – even though it was thOzhappar who committed the mistake, nampiLLai was gracious enough to take up the fault on himself and apologise. thOzhappar immediately offered his praNAmams to nampiLLai and said from then on nampiLLai will be called “lOkAchAryar” (teacher for the entire world) because of his great humility. He said only some one with great humility even after being such a great personality can be called lOkAchAryar and nampiLLai fully fits that position. thOzhappar also gives up his hatred towards nampiLLai and starts serving nampiLLai with his wife and also learns all the meanings of SAsthram from him.

parAsara : How wonderful! Isn’t it very similar to the incident where parAsara bhattar gifted an expensive shawl to the person who talked ill of him?

pAtti: Good observation parAsara! Our pUrvAchAryas all had similar qualities – that of a true SrIvaishNava. Time and again, our AchAryas taught us how to live and stressed on how to treat everybody by leading a pure life of a SrIvaishNava. They showed us the path by being perfect examples. They also showed us that it is not just theoretical but can be followed even practically. All it needs is one’s AchAryan’s blessings and little effort from our end to try to live a life like our pUrvAchAryas. Little baby steps will eventually lead us to our destination.

When bhattar showed us how to be a true SrIvaishNava, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar who came in the lineage of parAsara bhattar, developed some jealousy towards nampiLLai. Once naduvil thiruvIdhi piLLai bhattar was going to the king’s court with pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar along with him. The king invited both of them, gave them sambhAvanai and offered them nice seats. The king asked bhattar a question from SrI rAmAyaNam. He asked when SrI rAma always presented himself as a human in rAmAvathAram and never once did he call himself paramAthmA, how could he say to jatAyu that he is given mOksham? bhattar asks jIyar how nampiLLai would have explained this and jIyar immediately says that nampiLLAi would explain it as “a truthful person like rAman can conquer all the worlds with the power of his honesty” quoting the principle from SAsthram. bhattar uses the same explanation to answer the king’s question. The king being very pleased with the explanation, praised bhattar for his knowledge and presented him huge wealth. bhattar immediately realizing the power of just one explanation of nampiLLai, goes to nampiLLai and offers all the wealth to him. He also surrenders to nampiLLai and becomes a disciple of him and thereafter serves nampiLLai forever. Thus naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar was redeemed and becomes one of the many Sishyas of nampiLLai.

vEdhavalli : pAtti, last time you said that bhattar and najIyar had great conversations between each other. Did nanjIyar and nampiLLai also have such interesting conversations?

pAtti : Yes vEdhavalli. nanjIyar and nampiLLai also had wonderful conversations. Once, nampiLLai asks to nanjIyar, “what is the purpose of avathArams (incarnations) taken by emperumAn?”. nanjIyar replies that “emperumAn took the avathArams with the main purpose to ensure that one who committed bhAgavatha apachAram is punished appropriately”. For eg. emperumAn took krishNAvathAram to ensure that dhuryOdhanan who committed many apachArams on his bhakthas gets killed eventually. He came as narasimhan to ensure that hiraNyakaSipu, who troubled His devotee prahlAdha, is killed. So, the main motive of all avathArams is bhAgavatha samrakshaNam.

vyAsa : pAtti, what is bhAgavatha apachAram?

pAtti : nanjIyar says that considering ourselves to be equal to other SrIvaishNavas is bhAgavatha apachAram. nanjIyar explains that we should always treat other SrIvaishNavas to be above us irrespective of their birth, knowledge, etc. He also says that like AzhwArs and other pUrvAchAryas we should also try to constantly glorify other bhAgavathas.

nampiLLai also made it very clear that going and praying to other demi-gods and goddesses known as dhEvathAnthara bhajanam is completely meaningless.

aththuzhAy : pAtti, how did nampiLLai explain it?

pAtti: Once, someone came to nampiLLai and asked, “you are worshipping dhEvathAntharams (like indhran, varuNan, agni, sUryan, etc) in your nithya karmas, then why do you not worship them in their temples?”. nampiLLai gives an instant and brilliant reply. nampiLLAi asked, “Why do you worship the fire in yagyam and stay away from the same fire in a burial ground? The same way, since SAsthram says nithya karmas must be performed as bhagavadhArAdhanam (worship of bhagavAn), keeping that emperumAn is antharyAmi for all the dhEvathAs, we do it. The same SAsthram says we should not worship anyone but emperumAn, so we don’t go to other temples.

vEdhavalli: pAtti, my mother says this is a very sensitive topic and not many accept this thought.

pAtti: Some truth, when said, are like bitter pills to those who deny to realise and accept it. However, like bitter pills do good to your body, this truth does good to your soul and body. The authenticity of vaidhika truth can never be denied or proved otherwise just because people do not want to accept it. With one’s own AchArya’s blessing and emperumAn’s causeless mercy, everybody will realise this truth eventually. As AzhwAr says in one of his pAsurams, “If everybody realise the eternal truth of SrIman nArAyaNan’s supremacy and reach mOksha, then there will be no world for the lord to play His divine pastimes, hence this delay”. AzhwAr also says “realise this trick and immediately run towards thirukkurugUr and surrender to the lotus feet of AdhippirAn perumAL”.

vyAsa: pAtti, did nampiLLai get married?

pAtti: yes, nampiLLai had two wives. He once asked one of his wives how she thinks of him. She replies that she considers nampiLLai to be an avathAram of emperumAn and treats him as her AchAryan. nampiLLai was very pleased and asks her to be engaged in thadhiyArAdhana kainkaryam (preparation of food) fully for the SrIvaishNavas who visit nampiLLai regularly. nampiLLai showed the importance of AchArya abhimAnam (respect) with this incident.

parAsara: pAtti, nampiLLAi’s life is so interesting to listen to. He must have had such great Sishyas!

pAtti: Yes parAsara! nampiLLai had great sishyas from many who themselves belonged to AchArya purusha families and his times in SrIrangam is glorified by everyone as nalladikkAlam (glorious times). nampiLLai also laid the foundation for 2 glorious pillars of our sampradhAyam – piLLai lOkAchAryar and azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr who were the sons of vadakku thiruvIdhip piLLai. Some of his other prominent Sishyas were vadakku thiruvIdhip piLLai, periyavAchchAn piLLai, pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar, kandhAdai thOzhappar, eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar etc.


nampiLLai with pinbhazhagarAm perumAL jIyar, srIrangam

Next time when we meet, I will tell you about these Sishyas of nampiLLai , who with his boundless mercy, went on to provide great granthams and do marvellous kainkaryams to our sampradhAyam.

The children leave to their respective homes thinking about nampiLLai’s glorious life and his teachings.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – nanjIyar

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parAsara, vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy.

pAtti : Welcome children. Today we will talk about the next AchAryan nanjIyar who was the Sishya of parAsara bhattar. As I told you the last time we met, nanjIyar who was born as SrI mAdhavar was brought into the sampradhAyam by parAsara bhattar under the divine instruction of rAmAnujar. We also saw how bhattar used thirunedunthANdakam and various other meanings from SAsthram to win over mAdhavAchAryar in a debate. mAdhavar was an adhvaitha scholar whom bhattar later named as nanjIyar. He was also known as nigamAntha yOgi and vEdhAnthi.

vyAsa : pAtti, if AchAryas like rAmAnujar and bhattar could reform followers of other philosophies like yAdhava prakASa (who became gOvindha jIyar), gOvindhap perumAL (who became embAr), yagya mUrthi (who became aruLALap perumAL emperumAnAr) and mAdhavar (who became nanjIyar), why did they not try to reform the Saiva kings because of whom they had troubles? Why did they move away from the Saiva kings?

pAtti : vyAsa, our pUrvAchAryas knew who could be reformed and who could not be. In the case of the aforementioned AchArya’s , once they knew that the opponent was right, they accepted defeat with dignity and not only did they accept defeat, they also surrendered to the lotus feet of periya thirumalai nambi , rAmAnujar and bhattar and were blessed to enter the SrI vaishnava sampradhAyam. However, the Saiva king was neither ready for a fair argument nor was he dignified enough to accept defeat and realise the eternal truth of SrImaN narAyaNan‘s supremacy. As the old saying goes, “It is only possible to wake someone who is asleep, it is impossible to wake someone who is pretending to be asleep”. Our pUrvAchAryas knew who was really asleep and who was just pretentious. Hence their decisions varied accordingly. Also, in spite of the defects of such persons, our pUrvAchAryas also tried genuinely to help them, but only gave up after too much resistance from the other side.

parAsara : pAtti, how did mAdhavar get the name nanjIyar?

pAtti : After bhattar wins over mAdhavar in the debate, he instructs him to learn aruLichcheyal, teaches him our sampradhAya principles and leaves for SrIrangam. After bhattar leaves, mAdhavar did not receive any support from his two wives for his decision of becoming bhattar’s Sishya. Frustrated with his wives, who were not supportive of his kainkaryams and unable to bear the separation from his AchAryan, mAdhavar decides to become a sanyAsi (mendicant) and travel to SrIrangam to be with his AchAryan. He divides his huge wealth into 3 parts, gives 2 parts to each of his 2 wives, takes one part with him for submitting to bhattar, accepts sanyAsASramam and begins his journey to SrIrangam. On seeing mAdhavar in SrIrangam, bhattar is moved by his dedication and AchArya abhimAnam and calls him “nam jIyar” ( Our beloved jIyar). Since then, he is called nanjIyar. nanjIyar was very devoted to his AchArya. His AchArya bhakthi was boundless. He says, “if a SrIvaishnava looks at another SrIvaishnava’s sufferings and if he feels sorry for that, then such person is a SrIvaishnava”. He had great respect for SrIvaishnavas and AchAryas of his time.

nanjIyar – thirunArAyaNapuram

aththuzhAy : pAtti, tell us some stories on nanjIyar’s AchArya bhakthi.

pAtti : Once, during a procession of bhattar on his palanquin, nanjIyar tries to carry him with his thridhaNdam on one shoulder and the palanquin on the other. bhattar said “jIyA! this does not fit your sanyAsASramam. you should not carry me”. For that nanjIyar says “if my thridhaNdam becomes a hurdle for my service to you, I will break it and give up the sanyAsASramam”.

Another time, some of nanjIyar’s disciples complained to him that the tranquillity of his garden is disturbed due to bhattar’s arrival, nanjIyar immediately clarifies to them that the purpose of the garden is to serve bhattar and his family and warns his disciples to remember that forever.

It is customary for AchAryas to keep their heads on their Sishyas’ laps while lying down. Once, when bhattar wanted to take rest, he lied down and kept his head on nanjIyar’s lap and rested for a long time. nanjIyar stayed put for the whole time without moving. Such was his devotion and affection for his AchArya. bhattar and nanjIyar always had very interesting conversations.

vEdhavalli : Like the conversations that we have ?

pAtti (Smiling) : yes, like our conversations but much more interesting!

Once, nanjIyar asked bhattar why all azhwArs seem to be attracted towards kaNNan than rAman. bhattar who is always supportive of rAman says, people always remember more recent activities. It is because krishNAvathAram is the most recent avathAram of emperumAn, AzhwArs are attached more towards Him.

Another time, nanjIyar asks bhattar why mahAbali goes to pAthALam and sukrAchAryar loses his eye? bhattar replies that since sukrAchAryar stopped mahAbali from performing his duty of keeping his promise to vAmanan, he lost his eye and since mahAbali did not listen to his AchArya’s words he was punished to be in pAthALam. Hence, here, bhattar stresses on how important it is to respect one’s own AchArya. There were many such interesting conversations between them. These conversations helped nanjIyar in his written works too.

One day nanjIyar wanted to make nice copies of his written works and enquires among his Sishyas for someone who is capable of doing this. nambUr varadharAjar’s name was proposed. nanjIyar first gives full kAlakshEpam of 9000 padi to varadharAjar and then gives the only original copy to him. varadharAjar decides to go across cauvery to his native place so that he can focus on the writing and finish it quickly. While crossing the river, suddenly floods appear and varadharAjar starts swimming across. While doing so, the original grantham slips away from his hands and he is devastated. After reaching his native place, he meditates on his AchAryan and the meanings given by him and starts re-writing 9000 padi vyAkyAnam. Since he was an expert in thamizh language and literature, he adds nice meanings wherever applicable and finally returns back to nanjIyar and submits the same to him. nanjIyar seeing the vyAkyAnam, understanding that there are some changes from the original, enquires what happened. varadharAjar explains the whole incident and nanjIyar gets very pleased hearing the same. Truly understanding varadharAjar’s glories and pleased by his work, nanjIyar affectionately calls him nampiLLai and makes him the next dharSana pravarthakar. nanjIyar also constantly glorifies nampiLLai when nampiLLai gives a better explanation than him. This shows nanjIyar’s magnanimity.

vyAsa : pAtti, tell us more about nampiLLai.

pAtti : I will tell you more about nampiLLai and his glories tomorrow. It is getting late. You all must go home now.

The children leave to their homes thinking about bhattar,  nanjIyar and nampiLLai.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – bhattar

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parAsara , vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy.

pAtti : Welcome children. Today we will talk about the next AchAryan, parAsara bhattar, who was the Sishya of embAr and had great devotion towards embAr and emperumAnAr. As I told you children already, emperumAnAr , as a way to express the gratitude towards parAsara and vyAsa maharishis, named the two sons born to kUraththAzhwAn as parAsara bhattar and vEdha vyAsa bhattar. It was one of the three promises to ALavandhAr that he fulfilled. parAsara bhattar and vEdha vyAsa bhattar were born to kUraththAzhwAn and his wife AndAL from the prasAdham that they received from periya perumAL of SrIrangam.


kUraththAzhwAn with his sons parAsara bhattar and vEdha vyAsa bhattar on both sides

parAsara : pAtti, are we, me and vyAsa, named after these AchAryas?

pAtti : yes parAsara. Children are often named after AchAryas or perumAL so that at least for the sake of calling out the children, we get an opportunity to call out the divine names of our AchAryas and perumAL. This is the exact reason why children must be named after perumAL, thAyAr or AchAryas so that we get to call out the auspicious names and get a chance to think about our AchAryas and perumAL and their divine qualities. Otherwise, in this busy world, who has the time to separately allocate time to just recite the divine names of perumAL and think about Him? But nowadays, things have changed. People go behind fashionable names which makes no sense and also does not remind us of perumAL, thAyAr or AchAryas.

After coming to SrIrangam, AzhwAn did unja vruththi (alms) for everyday food and one day due to heavy rains, AzhwAn could not go out to do unja vruththi. Azhwan and his wife AndAL had to sleep empty stomach. During night, AndAL hears the final naivEdhyam bell ringing from the temple. ANdAL says to emperumAn, “Here, you have AzhwAn, your pure devotee, without any prasAdham but you are enjoying nice bhOgam there”. Understanding this, periya perumAL sends his prasAdham to AzhwAn and AndAL with all his paraphernalia ( due respects from temple ) through uththama nambi. Seeing the prasAdham coming in, AzhwAn is awe-struck. Immediately, he turns to AndAL and asks, “Did you complain to emperumAn?” and AndAL admits her request. AzhwAn becomes upset for insisting emperumAn to provide for their prasAdham. He accepts 2 handfuls of prasAdham alone, consumes some and gives the remnants to AndAL. Those 2 handfuls of prasAdham eventually blesses them with two beautiful children.

vyAsa : pAtti, how did embAr become bhattar’s AchAryan?

pAtti : After the birth of the two children, emperumAnAr sends embAr to bring the children to him to have a look at the children. embAr looks at the two children and immediately identifies that the two boys are born for the sampradhAyam. He sees great thEjas (divine glow) on the faces of the two children and immediately recites the dhvaya mahA mantram as a rakshai (protection) so that no ill effects can harm the two children. emperumAnAr sees the two children and immediately realises that the two children have been initiated into the sampradhAyam through dhvayam. On enquiring, embAr says that he recited the dhvayam as a rakshai to the two children. Since embAr recited and initiated the dhvayam to the two children, he was appointed as the AchAryan for the two boys. The two children grew up learning from embAr and also their father AzhwAn. Since the two children were born due to the blessings of periya perumAL, the two children were deeply in love with periya perumAL and periya pirAtti (SrI ranga nAchchiyAr). emperumAnAr also says to AzhwAn that he must give parAsara bhattar as an adopted son for periya perumAL and AzhwAn does so. It is said that bhattar was literally raised by SrI ranga nAchchiyAr herself in her sannidhi when he was very young. Such was the bond and love between periya perumAL, pirAtti and bhattar. Once, bhattar recites some pAsurams in perumAL sannidhi and comes out. rAmAnujar sees bhattar and instructs ananthAzhwAn and other disciples, that bhattar should be treated just like himself. rAmAnujar saw himself in bhattar. rAmAnujar knew that bhattar will be the next dharSana pravarthakar (Leader of the sampradhAyam). bhattar was very brilliant right from his young days. There are many stories showing his intelligence.

aththuzhAy : Tell us some stories about his intelligence pAtti.

pAtti : Once, when bhattar was playing in the street, a vidhwAn named sarvagya bhattan comes in a palanquin. bhattar, shocked to see some one being carried in a palanquin in SrIrangam, a place where great scholars like rAmAnujar were living, goes straight to him and challenges him for a debate. sarvagya bhattan considers bhattar as a child and says bhattar can ask any question and that will be answered by him. bhattar picks a handful of sand and asks how much sand he has in his hand. sarvagya bhattan becomes speechless and says he does not know. bhattar says that he could have just answered “it’s a handful”. Amazed by bhattar’s brilliance, sarvagya bhattan at once comes down from the palanquin and carries bhattar to his parents and glorifies him.

vEdhavalli : That was a smart answer.

patti : bhattar was very shrewd and had great grasping power as a child. When he was very young during his gurukulam time, bhattar was playing in the streets. At that time, AzhwAn comes by and asks why bhattar was playing instead of attending the class. bhattar says “every day they are teaching the same santhai again and again” – usually the same santhai is repeated for 15 days or so. But bhattar could grasp right in the first day itself. AzhwAn tests him with a pAsuram and bhattar easily recites it.

vyAsa : Like father, like son!

pAtti (Smiling) : Exactly! bhattar was just like his father AzhwAn who had great knowledge and memory power. There were few other qualities of AzhwAn that had come down to bhattar too such as humility and magnanimity. Once a dog some how enters the temple in SrIrangam. Generally during such cases, the archakas of the temple do samprOkshaNam as an act of cleansing the temple. The archakas decide to do a lagu (small) samprOkshaNam. Hearing this, bhattar runs to periya perumAL and tells him that every day he walks into the temple but no samprOskhanam is done then why are they doing a samprOkshaNam when a dog enters the temple. Such was his humility, even after a being such a great scholar, he considers himself lower than a dog. He even says that he would prefer to be born as a dog in SrIrangam than being born as a dhEvan in dhEvalOkam.

vEdhavalli : pAtti, if ranga nAchchiyAr raised bhattar as a child then did bhattar also talk to perumAL and pirAtti like thirukkachchi nambi did with dhEvap perumAL?

pAtti : yes vEdhavalli, you are right. bhattar too speaks with perumAL and pirAtti of SrIrangam. Do you all know that once in a year, the day before vaikuNta ekAdhaSi, on the 10th day of pagal paththu utsavam, namperumAL adorns the nAchchiyAr thirukkOlam? He wears all the jewels of ranga nAchchiyAr and sits beautifully like nAchchiyAr on that day. namperumAL calls bhattar on one such day and asks him if He looks like thAyAr. bhattar, who is always partial towards thAyAr, looks at namperumAL with great affection and love, and says all the alankArams are perfectly fine but the karuNai in her eyes are not to be seen in the eyes of emperumAn. Such was the love that bhattar had for his mother, ranga nAchchiyAr.

Although bhattar had hundreds of followers, who listened to his kAlakshepams regularly and were influenced by his teachings, there were also few people who disliked bhattar. This is very common to great people. This happened even to rAmAnujar. Once, few people who disliked bhattar, started to scold him out of jealousy and hatred. What would you do if somebody yells at you, vyAsa?

vyAsa : I would shout back at him. Why should I be quiet?

pAtti : That’s exactly what most of us , even adults, would do. But do you know what bhattar did? He presented his ornaments and expensive shawl to the person who shouted at him. bhattar thanks him by saying “Every SrIvaishNava should do two things – sing the glories of emperumAn and also lament about his own faults. I got so deeply immersed in singing the glories of emperumAn that I forgot my duty of lamenting about my faults. Now you have done me a great favour by fulfilling my duty, so I should only reward you”. Such was his magnanimity.

parAsara : pAtti, I remember you saying that rAmAnujar instructed bhattar to bring nanjIyar into the sampradhAyam. How did bhattar do it?

parAsara bhattar (with nanjIyar at his thiruvadi) – SrIrangam

pAtti: I’m very happy that you remember it parAsara. Yes, as per rAmAnujar’s divine instructions, bhattar goes to thirunArAyaNapuram to bring nanjIyar in to our sampradhAyam. We have already heard about this place before? Does anyone remember when?

vEdhavalli: I remember. thirunArAyaNapuram  temple was one of the many temples that were reformed by rAmAnujar. rAmAnujar re-enforced the temple administration in mElkotE.

pAtti : Very good vEdhavalli. rAmAnujar brought back selvappiLLai uthsava mUrthy of thirunArAyaNapuram temple from the muslim invaders and restored the temple administration. bhattar goes to the thadhIyArAdhana kUtam (hall where food is served to bhAgavathas) of mAdhavAchAryar (nanjIyar’s original name). He waits there without eating and mAdhavAchAryar taking a note of him, comes to him and asks him why he does not eat and what he wants. bhattar says that he wants to debate with him. mAdhavAchAryar, having heard about bhattar quickly realises this and (since no one will have the guts to challenge him) agrees for a debate. bhattar first uses thirunedundhANdakam and subsequently presents all the relevant meanings from SAsthram to establish the greatness and supremacy of emperumAn. mAdhavAchAryar accepts the defeat and falls at the lotus feet of bhattar and accepts him as AchAryan. bhattar gives him specific instructions to learn aruLichcheyal, etc and teaches him our sampradhAya arthams. bhattar takes leave from him and goes to SrIrangam. As soon as bhattar reaches SrIrangam, he is welcomed in a grand manner. periya perumAL who was eagerly waiting for bhattar’s return, listens with great interest, the entire incident from bhattar. Pleased at bhattar’s victory, periya perumAL asks bhattar to recite thirunedundhANdakam to him once again.

bhattar had great love towards the thirumEni (divine form) of namperumAL and ranga nAchchiyAr. Once bhattar recites some pAsurams and its meanings in front of periya perumAL who gets very pleased and says “you are given mOksham now”. bhattar becomes so happy but tells namperumAL that if He doesn’t appear as namperumAL in paramapadham, bhattar would make a hole and jump out of paramapadham and come back to SrIrangam. Once when ananthAzhwAn asked bhattar if paramapadhanAthan has 2 hands or 4 hands, bhattar replies if He has 2 hands, He will look like periya perumAL and if He has 4 hands, He will look like namperumAL. bhattar could not think of looking at anybody else other than namperumAL. He relates all dhivya thirumEni of perumAL to namperumAL. As namperumAL gives him mOksham, bhattar, with the blessings of his mother ANdAL, leaves this world and joins the other AchAryas in paramapadham, to do nithya kainkaryam to emperumAn. He passes the torch of our srIvaishnava SampradhAyam to nanjIyar who becomes the next AchAryan.

aththuzhAy : pAtti, bhattar’s life is so interesting to listen to. The devotion that he seems to have had for namperumAL and their bond is so heart touching. So blessed was ANdAL to have such illustrious husband and sons.

pAtti : You are very right aththuzhAy. ANdAL was very blessed indeed. Tomorrow , I will tell you more about nanjIyar, the next AchAryan. Now take these fruits and go home.

The children leave to their homes thinking about bhattar and his divine life.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi.

Beginner’s guide – embAr

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parAsara , vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy.

pAtti : Welcome children. Wash your hands and feet. Let me bring some prasAdam. Do you know what day is tomorrow? Tomorrow is AlavandhAr’s thirunakshatram , Adi, uthrAdam. Who over here, remembers AlavandhAr?

aththuzhAy : I remember! He was the AchArya who prayed to dhEvap perumAL to bring rAmAnujar into the sampradhAyam.

vyAsa : Yes. Also, after he reached paramapadham, on his thirumEni,  three fingers were closed which denoted his last three unfulfilled wishes and rAmAnujar promised to fulfill them. As rAmAnujar promised, the three fingers unfolded.

parAsara : pAtti, we also remember how you said that the relation between rAmAnujar and AlavandhAr was that of mind and soul and beyond bodily senses.

pAtti : Exactly! It is his thirunakshatram tomorrow. Here take these prasAdam. Do not forget to go to temple tomorrow and pay your respects to the great AchArya who brought rAmAnujar to the sampradhAyam. Moving on, today, let us know about our next AchArya embAr. embAr was born in madhuramangalam as the son of kamala nayana bhattar and SridhEvi ammAL. His birth name was gOvindhap perumAL. He was also known as gOvindha bhattar, gOvindha dhAsar and rAmAnuja padha chAyaiyAr. He was a cousin of emperumAnAr and once saved rAmAnujar from being killed.

vEdhavalli : killed? pAtti, I thought rAmAnujar’s life was in danger only once and kUraththAzhwAn and periya nambi saved his life. How many times was his life in danger?

pAtti : Plenty of times! I will tell them as and when the time comes. His life was in danger for the first time when his own guru yAdhava prakASar wanted to kill him. rAmAnujar and yAdhava prakASar always had difference of opinions when it came to meanings prescribed in vEdhas. yAdhava prakASar used to give meanings to certain phrases in the vEdhas in a wrong and manipulated way. rAmAnujar, on hearing it, would feel very bad and convey the true meaning as per our viSishtAdhvaitha sampradhAyam. yAdhava prakASar who was an advaiti, would never be happy with the explanations given by rAmAnujar. He knew that the explanations as told by rAmAnujar were more meaningful and hence started feeling competitive. He felt rAmAnujar would soon out throw him out  from his position of AchArya although rAmAnujar had no such intentions. This led to jealousy and hatred towards rAmAnujar, in yAdhava prakASar’s mind. He planned to kill rAmAnujar while the entire gathering of yAdhava prakAsar and his Sishyas went to vAraNAsi yAthrA. gOvindha perumAL who comes to know about this plot informs rAmAnujar about the same and warns him to not continue the yAthrA with the group. He asks rAmAnujar to go south towards kAnchIpuram so that his life is saved. rAmAnujar does the same and thus escapes the treacherous plot of his guru. Thus, gOvindhap perumAL saves rAmAnujar’s life.

vyAsa : pAtti, was gOvindhap perumAL a Sishya of yAdhava prakASar too?


pAtti : Yes vyAsa. Both rAmAnujar and gOvindhap perumAL were learning from yAdhava prakAsar. Although rAmAnujar had to go south to save himself, gOvindhap perumAL continues the yAthrA and becomes a Siva bhaktha and stays in a place called kALahasthi as uLLangai koNda nAyanAr. Knowing this , rAmAnujar sends his maternal uncle periya thirumalai nambi to reform gOvindhap perumAL and bring him back to the sampradhAyam. periya thirumalai nambi goes to kALahasthi and uses the pAsurams of nammAzhwAr and SlOkas from sthOthra ratnam of ALavandhAr to reform gOvindhap perumAL. gOvindhap perumAL realises his mistake and returns back to our sampradhAyam. So children, ALavandhAr, even after reaching paramapadham, was instrumental in bringing not only rAmAnujar but also his brother gOvindhap perumAL into our sampradhAyam. As periya thirumalai nambi brought him into the sampradhAyam, he was his AchAryan and performs his pancha samskAram. periya thirumalai nambi returns to thiruppathi with gOvindhap perumAL and gOvindhap perumAL continues to do kainkaryam to his AchAryan. Here , there is a very important thing that you all must notice. You must notice that rAmAnujar and periya thirumalai nambi went and reformed gOvindhap perumAL but gOvindhap perumAL never approached them to be reformed. Such AchAryas who reach towards their Sishyas to change them for their betterment and are very concerned for the goodness of their Sishyas are called krupA mAthra prasannAchAryas. They themselves approach their disciples out of pure , causeless mercy for them just like emperumAn. Both rAmAnujar and periya thirumalai nambi were krupA mAthra prasannAchAryas for gOvindhap perumAL.

parAsara : pAtti, tell us more about gOvindhap perumAL. What kainkaryams did he do?

pAtti: There are many incidents that show the AchArya abhimAnam that gOvindhap perumAL had for his AchAryan periya thirumalai nambi. Once, when gOvindhap perumAL was making the bed for periya thirumalai nambi, he lies on the bed before his AchAryan lies on it. nambi enquires from gOvindhap perumAL about it. gOvindhap perumAL replies that although he knows that he might go to narakam for this act, he doesn’t mind as long as his AchAryan’s bed is safe and comfortable to lie on. This shows the AchArya abhimAnam that he had where he doesn’t bother about himself and cares for his AchAryan’s thirumEni. The time came when rAmAnujar comes to thiruppathi to learn the essence of SrI rAmAyanam from periya thirumalai nambi. After learning it from nambi for an year, while departing, nambi offers to give something to rAmAnujar. rAmAnujar asks for gOvindhap perumAL and nambi also gladly agrees to give away gOvindha perumAL to rAmAnujar for kainkaryam. On learning this, gOvindhap perumAL feels sad to leave periya thirumalai nambi.

vyAsa : pAtti, why did nambi give away gOvindhap perumAL? Why did gOvindhap perumAL have to leave if he was happy doing the kainkaryam to his AchAryan?

pAtti : vyAsa, gOvindhap perumAL had a greater role to play in the sampradhAyam by doing various kainkaryams to rAmAnujar. Right from his childhood, he had great love and affection towards rAmAnujar. After rAmAnujar reached paramapadham, he also took in parAsara bhattar and other Sishyas of rAmAnujar to guide them. With so many responsibilities and duties waiting for him, he must make this sacrifice of leaving his AchAryan periya thirumalai nambi and accept rAmAnujar as his guide and mentor. He later accepts rAmAnujar as his everything and also composes a beautiful pAsuram depicting the beauty of rAmAnujar’s thirumEni (divine form). It is called “emperumAnAr vadivazhagu pAsuram”. As I told you last time also, when it comes to sampradhAyam, you must be ready to make sacrifices for the greater good. So did gOvindhap perumAL.

aththuzhAy : Did gOvindhap perumAL marry? Did he have kids?

pAtti : gOvindhap perumAL was always involved in bhagavath vishayam that he always saw emperumAn in everything and everyone. Even though he gets married , looking at gOvindhap perumAL’s elevated status in bhagavath vishayam, emperumAnAr himself initiates sanyAsASramam to gOvindhap perumAL and gives him the name embAr. During his final days, embAr instructs parAsara bhattar to carry forward the beautiful SrIvaishNava sampradhAyam. He instructs bhattar to always meditate upon the lotus feet of emperumAnAr and always chant “emperumAnAr thirvadigaLE thanjam” . Meditating on his AchAryan rAmAnujar’s lotus feet and fulfilling the promises he made to his AchAryan, embAr reaches paramapadham to continue his kainkaryam to his AchAryan. bhattar follows in the steps of his AchAryan and continues the blemish-less and bright legacy of our sampradhAyam.

vEdhavalli : pAtti , tell us more about bhattar.

pAtti : I will tell you more about bhattar the next time you visit. Now go home as it is getting dark outside. And do not forget to visit the temple for ALavandhAr thirunakshatram tomorrow.

The children leave to their homes thinking about ALavandhAr, periya thirumalai nambi, rAmAnujar  and embAr.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – rAmAnujar – Part 2

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parAsara , vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy.

parAsara : pAtti, yesterday you said you will be telling us about the life of rAmAnujar and all the disciples that he had.

pAtti: Yes. Before telling about his Sishyas, we should also know one great special aspect of rAmAnujar. That is, even before his physical appearance, nammAzhwAr foretold his appearance some 5000 years ago to madhurakavi AzhwAr and subsequently to nAthamunigaL too. There is a great grantham named charamOpAya nirNayam, which fully reveals our emperumAnAr’s glories – this book documents nammAzhwAr – nAthamunigaL conversation and the revelation of emperumAnAr’s appearance. The divine vigraham of emperumAnAr that was presented by nammAzhwAr to madhurakavi AzhwAr is still worshipped in AzhwArthirunagari, bhavishyadhAchAryan sannidhi.

rAmAnujar – AzhwArthirunagari

vyAsa : Wow! So, AzhwAr and some AchAryas already knew his birth. That is great pAtti. Please continue with his life more.

pAtti: Yes, rAmAnujar traveled the length and breadth of our country propagating the vaishNava philosophy , sometimes with no struggle but most of the times with lot of resistance from the other side. rAmAnujar won over all the people with his knowledge and affection. When he was in kAnchIpuram, he was married to thanjammAL but later accepts sanyAsASramam from dhEva perumAL. When rAmAnujar accepts sanyAsASramam, he promises to forego all his belongings in his life except for his nephew, mudhaliyANdAn.

vyAsa : pAtti, why did he get married and then accept sanyAsAshramam? Why couldn’t he just stay married and do all the kainkaryams that he did?

pAtti : vyAsa, there are many reasons to it. One, there were few difference of opinions between him and his wife, two, you must always be willing to do some sacrifices for a greater cause. As we all know, he shouldered the responsibility of winning over the lengths and breaths of our country by propagating the vaishNava philosophy. For eg., the soldiers of our country guard our country, leaving their families and dear ones because they have a greater responsibility. A greater good called safeguarding the country. Similarly, rAmAnujar had a greater cause in his mind. He knew his purpose was to uplift the true essence of vEdhas. Hence he accepted sanyAsASramam. Immediately after he became the jeeyar, great scholars like mudhaliyANdAn and kUraththAzhwAn become Sishyas of rAmAnujar.

aththuzhAy : Isn’t it a burden to take up such a huge responsibility? How did rAmAnujar do it all alone?

pAtti : No aththuzhAy! It was not a burden at all. When you are passionate about your work, you never find it as a burden. Moreover, rAmAnujar was never alone. He was always accompanied by great Sishyas like mudhaliyAndAn, kUraththAzhwAn, embAr, ananthAzhwAn , kidAmbi AchchAn, vaduga nambi, pillai urangavilli dAsar etc who took care of him day in and day out. They were with him throughout his journey of accomplishments. There were many attempts on hurting rAmAnujar and even kill him. On such occasions, Sishyas like embAr and kUraththaAzhwAn put their life in danger to save their AchArya’s life. You all remember how kUraththAzhwAn and periya nambi went to the kingdom of the Saiva emperor and lost their eyesight? With such great disciples around, rAmAnujar also took great care in re-establishing the correct temple administration in many temples.

Ramanujar-srirangamrAmAnujar – SrIrangam

vEdhavalli : Yes pAtti, I heard that all the temple rules and customs established in many temples like SrIrangam and thiruppathi were all established by rAmAnujar. Can you tell us more about it?

pAtti : That’s right vEdhavalli. He just re-enforced the customs that were stated in vEdhas. He saw to it that all the customs were followed as prescribed and took great care in establishing them. In SrIrangam, the temple was guarded by one named periya kOyil nambi. As I said earlier, rAmAnujar did not get the immediate approval of periya kOyil nambi to make the needed changes in the temple administration. rAmAnujar had to send kUraththAzhwAn to guide and educate periya kOyil nambi to the folds of SrI vaishNavam and proceeded with the changes in the temple administration. periya kOyil nambi, after being guided by AzhwAn , surrenders to rAmAnujar and is later renamed as thiruvarangaththu amudhanAr. He later writes rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi in praise of rAmAnujar. Do you know that the identification of thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn as a vishNu lord was done by rAmAnujar and there were other sects of people who claimed otherwise?

 ramanujar-tirupathirAmAnujar – thirumalai

parAsara : What? We all know that thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn is none other than lord VishNu Himself. When did they have doubts on that?

pAtti : yes! thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn is lord VishNu Himself. But there were few people who claimed otherwise. Some said He was rudhran and some claimed Him to be a form of skandhan. rAmAnujar traveled to thiruppathi after hearing such claims. He was very unhappy about the events and established the truth on the identity of thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn that He is none other than lord SrIman nArAyaNa with the conch and the chakra. So, in thiruppathi, rAmAnujar did more than establishing the temple administration. He established the very identity of thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn. Hence, rAmAnujar is glorified as thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn’s AchAryan. Here is where, rAmAnujar learns the essence of rAmAyana from his maternal uncle periya thirumalai nambi. He goes on to establish the temple duties in many other temples with thirunArAyaNa puram temple being the other prominent one.

rAmAnujar – thirunArayaNapuram

aththuzhAy : pAtti, I heard that the jains in mElkote in those days created problems to rAmAnujar.

vyAsa : I also heard that the perumAL of thirunArAyaNa puram temple was stolen by muslim invaders.

pAtti : Yes, that’s true. rAmAnujar faced numerous hardships while bringing about the reforms that he was willing to establish for the betterment of the temples and our sampradhAyam. However, change is something that many don’t welcome. Everybody feels safe with the old customs, right or wrong and never accept changes or the person who tries to bring about the much needed change. That is the common attitude of the society. Even in today’s age, change is difficult, so imagine 1000 years back, when customs and beliefs were so rigid, rAmAnujar had to face so much of resistance before he could bring any positive outcome. The jains scholars were reluctant to accept the eternal truth of our vishishtAdhvaitha philosophy. rAmAnujar was challenged to answer 1000 questions by the 1000 jain scholars simultaneously. rAmAnujar takes his original form – that of AdhishEsha with 1000 hoods and answers all their questions simultaneously thereby winning over the debate.

selvappiLLai uthsava mUrthy of thirunArAyaNa puram temple was stolen by the muslim invaders and was in the premises of the invader’s daughter who was filled with affection and love for selvappiLLai. When rAmAnujar came to rescue selvappiLLai, the invader’s daughter could not bear the separation from selvappiLLai.

aththuzhAy : Just like AndAL could not bear the separation from lord krishNa!

pAtti : yes, exactly like AndAL. The muslim invader’s daughter also couldn’t bear the thought of letting rAmAnujar go away with selvappiLLai. Eventually, rAmAnujar performs the marriage of the muslim king’s daughter and selvappiLLai. This again shows that true devotion and love for lord is beyond any caste or creed.

kurathazhwan-ramanujar-mudhaliyandankUraththAhwAn – rAmAnujar – mudhaliyAndAn

vyAsa : pAtti, you never told us how rAmAnujar fulfilled the 3 wishes of ALavandhAr.

pAtti : kUraththAzhwAn was blessed with two children. rAmAnujar named the two sons as vyAsa and parAsara thereby acknowledging the greatness of the two rishis and thereby fulfilling his first promise to ALavandhAr. gOvindha bhattar, who was later named as embAr had a younger brother called siriya gOvindha perumAL , whose son was named parAngusa nambi after nammAzhwAr, thereby fulfilling the second promise. And finally, he writes SrIbhAshyam to fulfill the third promise. To write SrIbhAshyam, rAmAnujar travels to kashmir with kUraththAzhwAn.

vEdhavalli : What happens in kashmir?

pAtti : rAmAnujar travels to kashmir to get a previously written book required to write SrIbhAshyam. When they get the book, some wicked people over there, who could not bear the idea that rAmAnujar is using the book from their repository for his own purpose, followed them and snatched the book too.

vyAsa : How cruel!

pAtti : yes! However, even before the wicked people could get their hands on the book, AzhwAn had memorized the entire book and the contents required for writing the SrIbhAshyam.

vyAsa : Memorized an entire book? How is that possible pAtti? Wish even I could memorize my entire subject books like that!

pAtti ( smiling) : kUraththAzhwAn was not just a disciple to rAmAnujar , he was a great asset and a blessing to rAmAnujar. When everyone were uplifted due to the association with rAmAnujar, rAmAnujar himself says that he is uplifted by his association with kUraththAzhwAn. In spite of being such a great scholar, not even an iota of arrogance seeps into the pure heart of AzhwAn which is the residence of rAmAnujar. With the help of kUraththAzhwAn, rAmAnujar completes writing the SrIbhAshyam thereby fulfilling the final promise he made to ALavandhAr. After the Saiva king who ruled SrIrangam, died, rAmAnujar returns to SrIrangam.

Finally, before leaving this world to reach the eternal abode, just like ALavandhAr, rAmAnujar decides on the next AchAryan to lead the torch of our sampradhAyam, the revered son of AzhwAn, parAsara bhattar. He instructs bhattar and few other Sishyas to take shelter of embAr and learn under embAr’s guidance. He tells all his disciples to treat bhattar just like how they treat him. He also tells bhattar to bring nanjIyar to the sampradhAyam, just like how ALavandhAr appointed periya nambi to bring rAmAnujar to the sampradhAyam. Meditating on his AchArya, periya nambi and ALavandhAr, emperumAnAr leaves this world to continue his kainkaryam in the eternal abode of lord SrIman nArAyaNan. Soon, unable to bear the separation of rAmAnujar, embAr ascends to paramapadham too.

parAsara : pAtti, I heard that rAmAnujar’s body is still preserved in SrIrangam. Is that true?

pAtti : Yes parAsara, it is true, And when we talk about great AchAryas, we say thirumEni, just like we refer to perumAL, with respect. It is indeed true that the thirumEni of rAmAnujar is preserved inside the SrIrangam temple, just below the rAmAnujar thirumEni in his sannidhi. The sannidhi that we see today as rAmAnujr sannidhi was once the vasantha mandapam of lord SrI ranganAthan of SrIrangam. Now, let us all pray at the lotus feet of rAmAnujar and lord SrI ranganAthan to give us the interest and involvement to learn more about our AchAryas and their glories. Now, you all must leave as it is getting late. The next time we meet, I will tell you about rAmAnujar’s various Sishyas , their glories and their contribution in rAmAnujar’s victorious journey.

The children leave thinking about rAmAnujar, his various kainkaryams, the various difficulties he faced and how he emerged as the great AchAryan of our sampradhAyam.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – rAmAnujar – Part 1

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parAsara , vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy.

pAtti : Welcome children. Wash your hands and feet. Here is the prasAdam for thiruAdip pUram festival that took place in our temple. Today, we will start our discussion on someone very dear to AndAL pirAtti, someone she called as her own brother. Can you guess who it is?

vyAsa : No pAtti, who is AndAL’s brother? Did AndAL have a brother?

pAtti : Yes, he was her brother, not by birth but by his act of love and affection. He was called gOdhAgrajar or kOyil aNNan, who is none other than our rAmAnujar! agrajan means elder brother in sanskrit. Being regarded as the elder brother by AndAL or gOdhA herself, he is called gOdhAgrajar. iLaiyAzhwAr was born in SriperumbuthUr to kEsava dhIkshithar and kAnthimathi ammangAr. He was an avathAram of AdhiSEshan himself. He was born with the grace of thiruvallikkENi pArthasArathy perumal.

pArthasArathy with ubaya nAchchiyArs and udaiyavar – thiruvallikkENi

parAsarA : pAtti, wasn’t AndAL born long time before the birth of rAmAnujar? Then how could he be her elder brother?

pAtti : Good question parAsara. As I said, he was not her brother by birth but by his action. AndAL , out of pure love towards perumAL, wanted to offer 100 plates of akkAra adisil (sweet rice) and 100 plates of butter to thirumAlirunchOlai azhagar perumAL. But, being a small child that she was, she couldn’t practically make it possible. rAmAnujar reads the pAsuram in nAchchiyAr thirumozhi, where AndAL conveys her wish to make this offering happen. rAmAnujar then offers 100 plates of akkAra adisil and 100 plates of butter to thirumAlirunchOlai azhagar perumAL on behalf of AndAL. After he finished offering to azhagar, he goes to SrIvillipuththUr and on reaching SrIvillipuththUr, AndAL welcomes him and calls him as her aNNan from kOyil (SrIrangam), hence the name kOyil aNNAn. He calls him as her elder brother as brothers are the ones who care of their sisters and fulfill their sister’s desires and wishes.

aththuzhAy, can you recite some pasurams from thiruppAvai? I remember that you enacted as ANdAL in your school fancy dress competition and recited some pAsurams!

(aththuzhAy recites some pasurams )

pAtti : Do you know why I asked you to recite it today? Because, rAmAnujar was also called thiruppAvai jeeyar. He always recited thiruppAvai everyday. Being a great scholar, rAmAnujar always found thiruppAvai close to his heart and recited it everyday. Do you know why?

vEdhavalli : because it is easy to learn? I know all the 30 verses!

pAtti (Smiling) : That’s very good vEdhavalli. thiruppAvai is not just easy to learn but also has the entire essence of our sampradhAyam in those simple 30 verses. It is equal to all the knowledge available abundantly in our vEdhas. That is why it is called “vEdham anaiththukkum viththAgum” – the 30 verses contain the core essence of all the 4 vEdas.

aththuzhAy: pAtti, rAmAnujar seems to have a lot of names. First, you said iLaiyAzhwAr , then rAmAnujar, and now kOyil aNNan and thiruppAvai jeeyar!

pAtti : yes. He was given such names by various AchAryas, ANdAL and emperumAn out of affection. We have already seen all the AchAryas of rAmAnujar and their contributions in his life. Let us now see the various names of rAmAnujar and who gave them to him.

  • iLaiyAzhwAr was the birth name given by periya thirumalai nambi , rAmAnujar’s maternal uncle.
  • SrI rAmAnuja was given by periya nambi during his pancha samskAram at  madhurAntakam.
  • yathirAja and rAmAnuja muni was given by dhEvap perumAL during the time rAmAnujar accepted his sanyAsASrama.
  • udaiyavar was given by namperumAL himself stating that both the worlds’ riches are now the possession of rAmAnujar too.
  • lakshmaNa muni was the name given by thiruvarangap perumAL araiyar.
  • emperumAnAr was given by thirukkOshtiyUr nambi when rAmAnujar gave the rich meanings of our sampradhAyam to all the ones who surrendered to him in thirukkOshtiyUr. thirukkOshtiyUr nambi was so impressed by rAmAnujar’s kindness that he said , “You are kinder than emperumAn himself, hence the name emperumAnAr – someone who is more benevolent than emperumAn himself”.
  • He was given the name satakOpan ponnadi by thirumAlai AndAn.
  • We just saw that he was called kOyil aNNan by AndAL.
  • SrI bhAshyakArar was the name given to him by sarasvathi in kashmir.
  • bhUthapurIsar given by Adhi kEsava perumAL of SrIperumbUthUr and finally
  • dhESikEndhrar was the name given to him by none other than our very own thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn.

So, to sum it up, rAmAnujar had so many AchAryas who raised rAmAnujar with all the care and knowledge that they could provide so that our sampradhAyam can flourish and carry forward after ALavandhAr. He was first taken into the folds of SrIvaishNavam by thirukkachchi nambi with the blessings of ALavandhAr, later was given pancha samskAram by periya nambi, learns the essence of thiruvAimozhi fully from thirumAlai ANdAn , learns the essence of our sampradhAyam from thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar, learns charama SlOkam from thirukkOshtiyUr nambi and finally learns the complete meaning of SrI rAmAyanam from his maternal uncle periya thirumalai nambi. Thus, the 6 great disciples of ALavandhAr fulfilled their duties towards their AchArya.

rAmAnujar – srIperumbuthUr

vEdhavalli : pAtti, while talking about AlavandhAr, you said that rAmAnujar could not become his disciple but promised to fulfill his wishes. What were they? How did rAmAnujar know that AlavandhAr had any wish at all?

pAtti : A very good question. When periya nambi was asked by ALavandhAr to bring rAmAnujar to SrIrangam, periya nambi leaves to kanchIpuram. By the time periya nambi comes back to SrIrangam with rAmAnujar, ALavandhAr leaves from this world to paramapadham. On reaching SrIrangam, periya nambi and rAmAnujar come to know about it. When rAmAnujar sees the thirumEni (divine form) of ALavandhAr, he notices that 3 fingers of one of his hands are folded. When asked, ALavandhAr’s disciples say that ALavandhAr had few unfulfilled desires. rAmAnujar immediately takes an oath to :

  • establish his gratitude towards vyAsa and parAsara rishis in his lifetime.
  • show his love and gratitude towards nammAzhwAr in his lifetime.
  • have a bhAshyam (commentary) written for vyAsa’s brahma sUtram, which is what is later called as SrIbhAshyam, written by rAmAnujar with the help of his foremost disciple kUraththAzhwAn. He travelled to Kashmir with kUraththAzhwAn, for this purpose specifically.

As soon as rAmAnujar takes these 3 oaths, the folded fingers of ALavandhAr straighten themselves up. All the disciples who watched this incident were surprised and full of praises for rAmAnujar and hailed him as the next AchAryar of our sampradhAyam. However, rAmAnujar was so overwhelmed and sad by the demise of ALavandhAr that he did not even stop to offer his prayers to SrI ranganathan of SrIrangam and immediately left to kAnchIpuram.

vyAsa : But pAtti, how can someone’s body respond in such a manner like how ALavandhAr’s fingers responded to rAmAnujar’s oath?

pAtti: vyAsa, the bond that rAmAnujar and ALavandhAr had was beyond the bodily senses. It was by mind and soul that they were bonded. Did ALavandhAr tell rAmAnujar what his last 3 wishes were? Still, rAmAnujar took the oath as per ALavandhAr’s wishes. How could that happen? Such relations did exist vyAsa. Very similar to the incident where dhEvap perumAL clarifies the doubts lingering in rAmAnujar’s mind even without rAmAnujar telling Him what they were. Such relations are bound by mind and soul and not by body. Such was the relation between AlavandhAr and rAmAnujar.

So long, we have seen everything about rAmAnujar and the different AchAryas in his life. Tomorrow I will tell you, all about how rAmAnujar went on to become the great leader and the various disciples who joined him in his journey.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – ALavandhAr’s Sishyas – 2

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thirukkOshtiyUr nambi, thirukkachchi nambi and mARanEri nambi


parAsara and vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house. They were accompanied by their friends vEdhavalli, aththuzhAy and SrIvathsAngan.

pAtti (smiling) : Come in children. vyAsa, looks like you have brought all your friends as I had said yesterday.

vyAsa : yes pAtti, parAsara and I were telling the stories of rAmAnujar and his AchAryas to SrIvathsAngan and he wished to join us today to listen more from you.

pAtti : That is great. Come, sit. Today I will tell you all about thirukkachchi nambi and thirukkOshtiyUr nambi, the two great AchAryas of rAmAnujar who hold a very special place in the sampradhAyam.

SrIvathsAngan : pAtti, thirukkachchi nambi was born in a place called pUvirunthavalli near Chennai, on the way to SrIperumbUthUr. We visited that temple last year during our summer holidays.

pAtti: Wonderful. That is right. He was very well known for his thiruvAlavatta (fan) kainkaryam to dhEva perumAL and his regular conversations with perumAL. He was very dear and close to dhEva perumAL. When rAmAnujar came to kAnchIpuram, thirukkachchi nambi was the first AchAryan to take him under his fold and bless rAmAnujar with his first kainkaryam to emperumAn.

vyAsa: What kainkaryam did rAmAnujar do, pAtti?

pAtti : On being requested by rAmAnujar for proper guidance, thirukkachchi nambi asks rAmAnujar to bring theertham from sAlaik kiNaRu (a near-by well) for perumAL thirumanjanam. That was the first kainkaryam bestowed upon rAmAnujar by thirukkachchi nambi. His knowledge on SAsthram and his love towards emperumAn was par excellence. rAmAnujar develops such immense affection and respect towards thirukkachchi nambi that he requests him to accept rAmAnujar as his shishya and perform pancha samskAram.

parAsara : But, pAtti, didn’t you say that periya nambi did pancha samskAram to rAmAnujar in madhurAnthakam?

pAtti : Yes parAsara. I’m happy that you remember the incident. thirukkachchi nambi, a scholar in SAsthram, was well aware that he cannot perform pancha samskAram to rAmAnujar based on the restrictions specified in SAsthram. He explains the same to rAmAnujar who accepts it as it is said in SAsthram. This shows the respect and unwavering belief that rAmAnujar had on the sanctity and righteousness of our SAsthram. He believed, like all our AchAryas that if it is said in SAsthram , it is right beyond any question or doubt as SAsthram is none other than God’s own words and will. thirukkachchi nambi also guided rAmAnujar through all his doubts and questions related to our sampradhAyam. There is a very interesting story of how thirukkachchi nambi conversed with dhEva perumAL to clarify rAmAnujar’s doubts.

vEdhavalli : What were the doubts pAtti? What did dhEva perumAL say?

pAtti : Once rAmAnujar had few confusions and doubts in his mind. He knew that thirukkachchi nambi could converse with dhEva perumAL, he requested nambi’s guidance once again. Nambi goes to emperumAn and performs his kainkaryam as usual and waits for the right time to open up about rAmAnujar’s request. dhEva perumAL, enquires about nambi’s hesitation. Nambi reveals that rAmAnujar has few doubts to be clarified. Nambi had no idea what the doubts were but dhEva perumAL being the antaryAmi of all, the ever merciful emperumAn states, ” Tell rAmAnuja that 1) I’m the supreme of all, no doubt 2) I’m the one residing in all living and non-living things as antharyAmi but that doesn’t make them equal to me. They are different from me and always are subservient to me 3) Accepting me as the only refuge is the only way to understand and attain me 4) Once surrendered, I will, without fail, remember and take care of my bhakthas during their last moments 5) Once my bhakthas  leave this world, I will give them eternal kainkaryam in my abode, SrIvaikuNtam and finally 6) Accept periya nambi as his AchAryan. Neither did dhEva perumAL ask what rAmAnujar’s doubts were nor did Nambi know what the doubts were. When nambi goes back to rAmAnujar with these answers, rAmAnujar’s happiness knew no bounds. Such was the mercy of dhEva perumAL. He was always there when rAmAnujar had doubts or fear of any kind. Now that it became very clear that rAmAnujar must approach periya nambi for samASrayanam, he takes the blessings of thirukkachchi nambi and leaves to SrIrangam to meet periya nambi and we all know the rest of the story, isn’t it children?

vyAsa : yes pAtti, we remember.

pAtti : One of the very important characteristic qualities of a SrIvaishNava is humility, often referred to as naichya bhAvam or feeling humbled in the presence of other SrIvaishNavas, in our sampradhAyam. periya nambi was a living example of humility which came genuinely from his heart and were not just words from his mouth. periya nambi was very humble and always treated other SrIvaishnavas with great respect. One very interesting incident happened which proves this. There was once a great AchArya called mARanEri nambi who was also a disciple of ALavandhAr like periya nambi. mARanEri nambi wanted his last rites to be performed by a SrIvaishNava and requested periya nambi to take care of the same. periya nambi gladly agrees to it and faces the wrath of the local people in the town for performing the last rites of a person who is lower to periya nambi by caste and thereby going against SAsthram. When asked, periya nambi says that he was just following the teachings of nammAzhwAr who says that bhAgavatha kainkaryam is of utmost purity and importance. A bhAgavatha, irrespective of caste or birth, must be treated with respect. The naichya bhAvam was not theoretical but put into practise by periya nambi. He truly believed that all SrI vaishnavAs are dear to emperumAn and must be revered and respected. He also believed that no matter where and how a true devotee of emperumAn spends his last moments, emperumAn gives them the eternal bliss of kainkaryam in SrI vaikuntam, just as assured by dhEva perumAL to thirukkachchi nambi. He was a great AchArya who lived by the teachings of his AchArya, AlavandhAr, and nammAzhwAr throughout his life. Is it enough for today or do you want to listen about thirukkOshtiyUr nambi also?



vEdhavalli : Do you have stories about him too?

pAtti : yes, plenty!

aththuzhAy : Then please tell us about thirukkOshtiyUr nambi too.

pAtti : thirukkOshtiyUr nambi was also one of the prominent Sishyas of ALavandhAr who was given the responsibility to teach the meanings of thirumanthram and charama SlOkam. Do you know what they are?

vyAsa : Om namo nArAyanAya is called the thirumanthram.

SrIvatsAngan : sarva dharmAn parithyajya mAmEkam SaraNam vraja ; aham thvA sarva pApebhyO mOkshayishyAmI mAsucha: is called charama slOkam.

pAtti : Quite impressive. Now these three verses have such deep and profound meanings that one needs to learn it thoroughly from an AchAryan.

vEdhavalli : But pAtti, most of us know the meanings of these verses.

pAtti: yes, most of us know the generic meaning of these verses but each of these carry such in-depth essence of our sampradhAyam that it is beyond one’s capability to know it completely without the blessing and guidance of an AchAryan. That is why thirukkOshtiyUr nambi was given the important task of teaching rAmAnuja the meanings of these verses.

aththuzhAy : pAtti, I heard that rAmAnujar had to travel 18 times to learn from thirukkOshtiyUr nambi. Is that true? Why did he have to go through so much trouble?

pAtti : Yes, it is very much true. It can be taken as a way used by thirukkOshtiyUr nambi to test rAmAnujar’s involvement and sincerity in learning about our sampradhAyam and it can also be taken as a testimony to rAmAnujar’s perseverance and patience. When we face difficulties, we must face it and overcome the hurdle with patience and not give up easily. Look how many times rAmAnujar had to travel to thirukkOshtiyUr. 18 times! He was steadfast and finally, the 18th time he was taught the rich meanings of charama slOkam by thirukkOshtiyUr nambi.

vyAsa : pAtti, thirukkOshtiyUr nambi seems to be a very strict AchArya. He could have been more kind towards rAmAnujar.

pAtti : This is the exact misconception that all have after learning about this incident. But it is not true. He always had rAmAnujar’s welfare in his mind and although he seemed strict outwardly, he was very kind and loved rAmAnujar. Just like a doting father would seem to be strict with his son but would do any kind of sacrifice for the son’s welfare. Remember, yesterday when talking about thirumAlai AndAn, I said there were few differences of opinions between AndAn and rAmAnujar? It was thirukkOshtiyUr nambi who intervened and resolved the conflict amicably for the sake of rAmAnujar. In fact, he was so impressed by rAmAnujar’s selfless love for other SrI vaishnavAs that he lovingly bestowed the name emperumAnAr ( someone who is greater than emperumAn Himself) to rAmAnujar. Thus came the beautiful name “emperumAnAr” to rAmAnujar . When rAmAnujar was poisoned by some miscreants in SrIrangam, it was thirukkOshtiyUr nambi who came in time and appointed kidAmbi AchAn to prepare food for rAmAnujar so that his life is safe. thirukkOshtiyUr nambi was always concerned about rAmAnujar’s well-being just like a loving father. There are so many more stories on his greatness, abundance of knowledge and his devotion towards his AchAryan AlavandhAr. I would love to keep telling you stories and I’m sure you all would love to keep listening to them but don’t you think your parents will be worried that you all are getting late? Now take these fruits and go home. Next time, I will tell you many such stories about our AchAryas.

The children share the fruits and leave, thinking about thirukkachchi nambi, periya nambi and thirukkOshtiyUr nambi.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

Beginner’s guide – ALavandhAr’s Sishyas – 1

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thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar, periya thirumalai nambi and thirumAlai AndAn

pancha-acharyasALavandhAr’s Sishyas

parAsara and vyAsa enter ANdAL pAtti’s house with their friend vEdhavalli.

pAtti : Welcome vEdhavalli. Come in children.

vyAsa : pAtti, last time you said you will tell us more about rAmAnujar and his AchAryas.

parAsara : pAtti, didn’t you say that rAmAnujar had many Acharyas and not just periya nambi? Who were the others pAtti?

pAtti : As I told you children last time, ALavandhAr had many Sishyas who worked towards nurturing iLaiyAzhwAr in to the sampradhAyam. The prominent ones are :- 1) thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar 2) thirukkOshtiyUr nambi 3) periya thirumalai nambi 4) thirumAlai AndAn 5) thirukkachchi nambi along with periya nambi. Do you remember that we talked about periya nambi last time when we met? Now, let me tell you about the other AchAryas and their valuable contribution to our sampradhAyam.

parAsara : pAtti, why did rAmAnuja have so many AchAryas?

pAtti : Each of them in their own way moulded SrI rAmanuja into a great AchArya that he turned out to be. thiruvarangapperumAL arayar did the great kainkaryam of bringing rAmAnujar from kAnchipuram to SrIrangam.

vyAsa : How did that happen? Tell us the story pAtti.

pAtti : rAmAnujar was living in kAnchipuram then and had also accepted sanyAsASramam. araiyar goes to kAnchipuram at that time and requests thirukkachi nambi to allow him to perform the araiyar sEvai before dhEvap perumAL . dhEvap perumAL through his archakars asks araiyar to render araiyar sEvai in front of him. araiyar with great love and devotion sings pAsurams with dance and action. emperumAn becomes extremely pleased and offers him many gifts. araiyar says that he does not need those gifts and tells him that he needs something else. emperumAn agrees and says “I will give anything; go ahead and ask”. araiyar then points at rAmAnujar and says that he wants him to be brought along to SrIrangam. dhEvap perumAL says “I did not think you were going to ask for him; ask for something else”. araiyar replies “you are none other than SrI rAman who does not have two words – you cannot refuse any more”. dhEvap perumAL then finally agrees and gives farewell to rAmAnujar.

vyAsa: What a great trick pAtti? That was very intelligent of araiyar to some how convince perumAL.

pAtti: Yes vyAsa. Immediately, araiyar holding rAmAnujar’s hands, starts his journey towards SrIrangam. Thus, araiyar did the most important favour for SrIvaishnavam by bringing rAmAnujar over to SrIrangam to establish our sampradhAyam firmly and take it to great heights.

vEdhavalli : pAtti, you said each AchArya moulded rAmAnujar in some way. What did araiyar teach rAmAnujar?

pAtti : ALavandhAr instructed each of his prominent Sishyas to teach different aspects of our sampradAyam to rAmAnujar. araiyar was asked to teach the true essence of our sampradhAyam to rAmAnujar. Now , rAmAnujar performs a beautiful thing before he went to araiyar to learn. He performs kainkaryam to his AchArya (araiyar) for 6 months before he sets forth to learn anything. This is a very important aspect that rAmAnujar, kUraththAzhwAn, mudhaliyANdAn and many other AchAryas did in their lives – kainkaryam to their respective AchAryas before learning anything from them. This shows the devotion they have towards what they are intending to learn and also on the one who will be teaching them. rAmAnujar used to prepare milk in proper warmth every day and also prepared turmeric paste for araiyar to be applied when necessary.

vyAsa: pAtti, what did the other AchAryas teach rAmAnujar?

pAtti : Yes, I’m coming to them one by one. thirumalai nambi was rAmAnujar’s maternal uncle. He is the foremost of SrIvaishNavas hailing from thiruvEnkatam. He did kainkaryam to lord SrInivAsa and was engaged in bringing thIrtham (holy water) from AkASa gangA (a water source on thirumalai) everyday. He served lord SrInivAsa with great care and dedication. He was instructed by his AchArya ALavandhAr to teach the essence and beautiful meanings of SrI rAmAyaNam to rAmAnujar. SrI rAmAyaNam is famously called as SaraNAgathi SAsthram in our sampradhAyam. It was thirumalai nambi who, being the maternal uncle of rAmAnujar, named him as iLaiyazhwAr when he was born. Not only this, thirumalai nambi also brought gOvindhap perumAL , the maternal cousin of rAmAnujar back to our sampradAyam. His knowledge in our sampradAyam and his love for AzhwAr’s pAsurams are unparalleled.

parASara : pAtti, can you tell us more about thirumAlai ANdAn? How did he help rAmAnujar?

pAtti : thirumAlai ANdAn was given the responsibility of teaching the meanings of thiruvAimozhi. After rAmAnujar arrives at SrIrangam, thirukkOshtiyUr nambi guides him to thirumAlai ANdAn to listen and learn the great meanings of nammAzhwAr‘s thiruvAimozhi. Although, initially the two had few differences of opinions as it happens between any great scholars, it was resolved amicably and rAmAnujar learnt the intricate meanings hidden in the pasurams of AzhwArs with the blessing of his AchArya thirumAlai AndAn. thirumAlai AndAn had such great respect and devotion for his AchArya ALavandhAr. He never swayed away from the path and the teachings of his AchArya and taught them to rAmAnujar so that he can carry forward the kainkaryam to our sampradAyam.

vEdhavalli : and what about thirukkOshtiyUr nambi and thirukkachchi nambi?

pAtti : I will tell about them the next time we meet. There are many interesting stories about them.

vyAsa, parAsara and vEdavalli ( in chorus) : Tell us the stories now pAtti.

pAtti : It’s getting late. This is enough for today. Go home now and come back tomorrow and don’t forget to bring your friends along with you.

The children leave to their homes thinking about the AchAryas and eagerly waiting for the stories that pAtti will tell them the next day.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi