Anantazhvan, a disciple of Ramanuja, obeyed His Acharya implicitly. Ramanuja observed that Tirumala had many fragrant flowers lying scattered all over. He wished someone would string the flowers into garlands for the Lord. Providing flowers is one of the ways of serving God. Ramanuja’s disciples were reluctant to part from him. But Anantazhvan accepted the duty. In this sense, he was like Bharata, who wanted Rama to come back and be king of Ayodhya, but went back to Ayodhya, when Rama refused to return. Likewise, Anantazhvan chose to stay back in Tirumala, and did not accompany Ramanuja, when the latter left, because Anantazhvan wanted to please his Acharya, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan, in a discourse.

Lakshmana had served by remaining with the Lord in the forest, and yet Bharata’s service is extolled even more. For, Lakshmana’s service, though invaluable, could be compared to a block of gold. A chunk of gold has monetary value, but can it be worn as an ornament? But once the gold is melted and made into an ornament then it can be worn. In the same way, Lakshmana no doubt served the Lord selflessly, but Bharata, by not contradicting the Lord, but yielding to the Lord’s wishes, was like a gold bar that has been melted and made into an ornament. Many were the disciples who were with Ramanuja and who went with him wherever he went. But Anantazhvan’s service remains unique. Just as Bharata had obeyed Rama, so had Anantazhvan obeyed Ramanuja. Selflessness such as Anantazhvan’s is rare. Even today the garden that Anantazhvan tended can be seen in Tirumala and so can the pond that he made on the hills.

On one occasion, the Lord Himself revealed the greatness of Anantazhvan, by assuming the guise of a disciple of Anantazhvan and offering food to a group of pilgrims, headed by Nadadur Ammal. When Anantazhvan later clarified that he had not known of their arrival, the pilgrims realised that Lord Srinivasa Himself had brought them food. To dispel the doubts of the pilgrims, Lord Srinivasa Himself composed a verse in praise of Anantazhvan. This too shows Anantazhvan’s greatness.

More In: Faith | Friday Review