Vaduga Nambi was a disciple of Ramanuja. He was born in a place called Saligramam in Karnataka. He had the same star as Kulasekhara Azhvar, who had been known for his Rama bhakti. Vaduga Nambi, likewise, was known for his Ramanuja bhakti, said Rajahamsam in a discourse.

Kulasekhara Azhvar also wrote verses in praise of Lord Krishna, but he is primarily known for his Rama bhakti. He lost himself in Rama and would often imagine himself to be Rama and ask for a bow and arrows to go and slay demons. In the same way Vaduga Nambi was lost in Ramanuja bhakti.

Ramanuja’s time coincided with a period when there was a threat to the Vedas. The Divya Prabandham consists of verses composed by the Azhvars, and it is considered the Tamil equivalent of the Vedas. Ramanuja came into this world to save the Vedas and establish the importance of the Divya Prabandham. His philosophy gained many adherents, and among them was Vaduga Nambi. To Vaduga Nambi, even God ranked next to his Acharya.

Many instances are cited to show Vaduga Nambi’s bhakti towards Ramanuja. On one occasion, Ramanuja gave to Vaduga Nambi the idol that he (Ramanuja) used to worship. He asked Vaduga Nambi to take care of it, as he and Ramanuja travelled. Vaduga Nambi carefully packed the idol, but put it above the sandals of Ramanuja! The latter then asked him how he could do something so irreverent. Vaduga Nambi replied that to him his Acharya was more important than God Himself!

Once when the processional deity in Srirangam was passing by, Ramanuja called out to Vaduga Nambi to hurry up, so that he could have darshan of the deity. But Vaduga Nambi replied that having darshan of the deity was not as important to him as attending to the needs of his Acharya.

On another occasion, a man came to pay his respects to Ramanuja. The visitor recited the Ashtakshara mantra. Vaduga Nambi wondered why the man did so. After all, God was far away, and Ramanuja was close by. What was the use of praising a distant God, when a merciful Acharya was present close to him, Nambi wondered.

More In: Faith | Friday Review