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In love with Vedanta Desika: Dushyanth Sridhar brings out coffee table book

Dushyanth Sridhar’s life revolves round Vedanta Desika. “An association, which began in childhood has become the focus of my life,” agrees the IT-professional turned upanyasaka. Why Desika? In him, Dushyanth finds not only a preceptor but a philosopher, logician, poet and much more. “And his works are accessible to the common man. Not all of them are tough treatises, which require special skills to crack them,” says Dushyanth, whose reverence for his favourite acharya is evident in every page of Vedanta Desika — The Peerless Poet-Preceptor, a coffee-table book, released to mark his 750th birth year. The launch was part of a three-day event, which took place at the Music Academy, Chennai.

Eminent persons from various walks of life were present to release the book on Vedanta Desika.

Eminent persons from various walks of life were present to release the book on Vedanta Desika.   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

The book is a visual treat with pictures — of places and temples — and illustrations — of the important episodes from the life of Sri Vedanta Desika, considered an incarnation of the Ghanta (bell) of Sri Venkatesa of Tirumala. Dushyanth’s narration in a lucid flow takes the readers through the journey of one of the most venerated saints and prolific composers. It has been divided into five sections to dwell at length on each facet of Desika’s personality. The style reflects a facility acquired from osmosis — absorbing Desika for many years. “As a toddler, I learnt the slokas but slowly became aware of the treasure embedded in them as I attended discourses, especially those of the 45th head of Sri Ahobila Math, Villivalam Azhagiya Singar. I pursued Desika seriously and soon it became a passion,” says Dushyanth. The Desika influence made him choose Sumitra as his wife for the simple reason that she belonged to Viswamitra Gotra and hailed from Thoopul, a village near Kanchipuram, where Desika was born.

“That Desika was accepted by followers of other philosophies — Dvaita and Advaita — shows his greatness,” observes Dushyanth. Appayya Dikshitar, renowned Advaita scholar and composer, was a close friend of Desika. So was Vidyaranya Tirtha of Sringeri. “When there was a debate on the meaning of Tatvamasi between Akshobhya Tirthar (dvaita) and Vidyaranya Tirthar, they chose Vedanta Desika as the judge. Desika’s verdict has been etched in a pillar at Moolabagilu in Karnataka. Such was his credibility and clear thinking,” explains Dushyanth.



Spiritually elevated persons may not be practitioners of religious duties, etc. Desika scored in this aspect too, according to Dushyanth. He followed the tenets of Sri Vaishnavism, was an expert in Agama sastras and totally devoted to Sri Varadaraja and Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam. He saved the deities and scriptures during invasions by lying among the corpses pretending to be dead. “But for him, many of the precious slokas and texts would have been lost,” says Dushyanth.


Keshav’s illustration

Keshav’s illustration  

There was not a subject that Deiska did not deal with in the 120 works that he authored during his lifespan of 101 years (1268-1369). One of them, Ahaara Niyamanam, deals with foods — what should be eaten and how. Dushyanth marvels at the brilliance of Desika, who found a solution to the Knight Tour Problem, which western mathematicians identified as a problem in the 18th and 19th centuries. Desika had solved it in the sixth century. His well-known Paduka Sahasram is a garland of 1,008 slokas of 32 cantos. The 30th canto is ‘Chitra Kaavyam,’ which is designed as a game of 32 squares each standing for a letter. One leads to another but the step never repeated — exactly the dilemma set for the knight on the chess board. “This canto is rightly called Chaturanga Taranga Bandam,” says Dushyanth illustrating the mathematical acumen of Sri Vedanta Desika.

“Desika awareness is global,” asserts Dushyanth. “Walking down a street in Melbourne, a total stranger approached me. Having noticed my tiruman, he asked whether I was a Vaishnava. Then he asked whether I was acquainted with the works of Vedanta Desika. He was a researcher on Desika and wanted a copy of a book. The next day he mailed me the pdf of the text. Francis Clooney of Harvard Divinity School has written articles on him.

A polyglot, Desika was proficient in eight languages, including Sanskrit, Tamil, Manipravalam, Prakrit and Pali. “I have only scratched the surface. I have to thank all those who helped me with this project — from learned scholars, who guided me, and those who edited the content and of course, Jagathguru Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Trust for making the coffee-table book dream a reality. It is an effort to rekindle an awareness about an extraordinary personality, even as my journey with him continues,” signs off Dushyanth.

Modern approach

In love with Vedanta Desika: Dushyanth Sridhar brings out coffee table book

Dushyanth Sridhar, a BITS-Pilani alumnus, gave up his corporate job, when he found that his inclination towards spiritual matters demanded his time and attention. Apart from giving discourses and lectures, he leads groups on yatra, heritage tours and is a resource person for dance productions. “At one point, I realised that I was not doing justice to my profession. So I quit,” he says. “Audience for my lectures are young people — both students and those employed,” he adds. His approach — more in the nature of motivation — which draws from science, maths and current affairs, is popular among the target groups.

The publisher

Three persons played a key role in Project Desikar. The book owes it to Jagathguru Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Trust of Coimbatore. The Trust was started by Ravi Sam on the suggestion of Sri Jayendra Saraswati, when he visited the city. The aim was preservation of the Vedas. Funded by philanthropic individuals, industrialists, etc., the Trust takes care of the Veda Pata Sala run by the Math.

Keshav came on board when Dushyanth wanted illustrations. “Desika is my icon too,” said the cartoonist, whose sketches make the volume enchanting. R. Vinod, a young photographer, was assigned the task of capturing the images of places, which include temples, connected to Desikar. Those that found the way into the book were chosen from the 4,000 pictures Vinodh collected after travelling across the State and beyond for six months.

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Printable version | Oct 12, 2021 8:09:13 PM |

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