All about Guru bhakti

Updated - December 02, 2016 01:14 pm IST

Published - November 03, 2016 05:16 pm IST

The famous Vaishnavite shrine at Tirukoshtiyur in Ramnad district.
(Pubd on November 8, 1964)

The famous Vaishnavite shrine at Tirukoshtiyur in Ramnad district.
(Pubd on November 8, 1964)

One fine morning about 900 years ago, the Thirumukkalam tank at Srivilliputtur was bustling with activity. An ardent Srivaishnavite was seen dipping into the tank repeatedly. When people around asked him the reason, Thirumalai Ananthazhwan said, “I am searching for the sacred turmeric which would have been left behind by Andal when bathing in this tank.” His devotion for Andal became part of Srivaishnava lore. He penned the beautiful Godha Stuthi, eulogising the daughter of Tulasi and Vishhnuchitta. Andal’s acharya was none other than her father and she took pride in calling herself Vishnuchittan Kothai.

Ananthazhwan was also one of the devotees of Ramanuja. It was Ramanuja who fulfilled Andal’s dream of offering 100 measures of akkaravadisal at Thirumaaliruncholai and Andal acknowledged him as ‘Em Annano!’

There is another incident that brings forth Ananthazhwan’s devotion and dedication. He went to the Tirumala Hills at the behest of Sri Ramanuja. He was stringing a shenbaga garland when the Lord sent for him. But Ananthazhwan took a while to finish making the garland. . This angered the Lord, who asked him to leave the Hills. Ananthazhwan replied, “I am here on the command of my Acharya Sri Ramanuja to serve you. Remember, you are as much a visitor to the Hills as I am. You came a little earlier from Sri Vaikunta. It does not give you the right to expel me. The abode, if at all belonged to someone it is Sri Varahaswamy .” The Lord was pleased at this exhibition of acharya bhakti.

Speaking of guru bhakti, Ramanuja, had five teachers — Periya Nambi, Thirumalai Nambi, Thirukoshtiyur Nambi, Thiruvarangaperumal Araiyar and Thirumaalai Aandan.

We all know how Ramanuja obtained the secret doctrine from Thirukoshtiyur Nambi after visiting him 18 times and broke the promise made to him by revealing the mantra to the people. Thirukoshtiyur Nambi, who had threatened him with dire consequences, ended up calling him ‘Emberumanar.’

There are many such incidents that proves Ramanuja’s devotion to his teachers. Uttama Nambi tried to poison Ramanuja when he went around for Madhukaram. Uttama Nambi's wife shed tears as she approached Ramanuja to offer Madhukaram. Ramanuja understood the situation, threw the poisoned food and stopped going for Madhukaram thereafter. Hearing of this sacrilege, Thirukoshtiyur Nambi immediately set off to visit Ramanuja at Srirangam to settle things. Ramanuja proceeded to the Cauvery basin to receive him. Ramanuja prostrated before Nambigal, who did not ask him to get up. The other disciples were aghast.

Watching the whole incident, Kidambi Achaan questioned Nambigal, “Is it humanity to allow Ramanuja’s submission on the hot sand for such a long time? O! Chozhiya! You want to kill our beloved sanyasi.” Nambigal pleased with the reaction asked Ramanuja to get up and embraced Kidambi Achaan. “I was testing him,” said Nambigal. “If there is someone in whose care Ramanuja can be entrusted for food it is Kidambi Achaan.” And from that day Achaan took care of the kitchen in the mutt.

Much has been written about Alavandar’s three commandments, which Ramanuja fulfilled.

It was the ardent wish of the devotees that there should be an image of Sri Ramanuja. Kandhadai Aandan makes a fervent plea and Ramanuja grants the wish. Thus came about the image at Sriperumbudur.

Madura Kavi Azhwar declares that the only God he knew was Kurugur Sadagopan. Ramanuja ordered that after the Adhyayana Utsava for 20 days in the Margazhi month, the 21st day should be celebrated specially to chant Madurakavi's ‘Kanninun Siruthambu’. The tradition continues to this day, at Srirangam, Tirumala and Kanchipuram.The great Acharya knew how to obey and how to conquer.

(The supplement will carry articles on Sri Ramanuja up to his millennium birth anniversary.)

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