Kuresa, revered over centuries as a gem of an Acharya, was among Ramanuja's foremost disciples, though older than him by seven years. Humility was his hallmark.
It was Kuresa who helped Ramanuja, while in Kashmir library, by storing all of the ‘Vritti grantha' in memory to serve in Ramanuja's dictation of ‘Sri Bhashya' which Kuresa wrote down.
Kuresa authored five hymns in Sanskrit, which are collectively designated ‘Panchastavee'. Without doubt, they are the outpourings of a saintly soul on the lines of the Naalaayiramof the Tamil savants, the Azhvars. It was but fitting that he came to be known as ‘Azhvan'. In recent times, many have come out with their own explanatory commentaries on them.
Of the five, ‘Sreestava' is the shortest, with 11 verses, and it is on Mahalakshmi. ‘Srivaikuntastava' is on ‘Paratva' and the bliss of Srivaikunta. ‘Atimaanushastava' is in admiration of the superhuman traits of God's incarnations such as Rama and Krishna. ‘Sundarabaahustava', with 132 verses, is on the deity, Kallazhagar (Azhagarkoil), whom he worshipped when he went into exile in the face of the threat of persecution by a Chola king. And the fifth one, ‘Varadarajastava'(101 verses) is in praise of the deity in Kanchi and it is recited in the shrine of the Lord even today. Very significantly, an invocation to Kuresa hails his works as constituting the auspicious maangalya sutraaround the neck of the ‘Veda' damsel, who is devoted to Lord Narayana. Among those who have written commentaries in Sanskrit on these works is Ramanujacharya, a renowned Vyakarana vidwan. His work had presumably been languishing, as manuscript in palm leaves at various places. It is to her credit that Geetha has diligently collated all the recensions, taking care to indicate the source in the footnote.
The book contains a compilation of several authoritative texts, as also the Vyakarana Sutras the author has depended upon. A scholarly analysis of the hymns is also provided. However, inexplicably, the concluding verse in ‘Varadarajastava' — in which Kuresa stakes his claim for divine acceptance by reason of his ‘Vidya-vamsa', down from the Lord up to Ramanuja — does not find a place, while the meaning of the verse is given. And the vagarious splitting of the compound words — this occurs frequently — is annoying. All this notwithstanding, the book is sure to be welcomed by the Sanskrit-knowing serious students of the Ramanuja school.
PANCHASTAVEE of Srivatsankamisra : Edited by L. Geetha; Pub. by Anantacharya Indological Research Institute, G.D. Somani School Building, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai-400005. Rs. 100.