History & Culture

Claim justified

After lunch break, the proceedings at the Sri Vaishnava court room resume and those around wait to get the final verdict on the argument as to who has the first claim over Sri Ramanuja. The first part of this imaginary arbitration appeared last week in these columns.

Judges Lord Narayana (Chief Justice), Sree Devi and Bhooma Devi take their seats. Plaintiffs Ranganatha and Srinivasa — represented by counsel Parasara Bhattar — and defendant Varadaraja — represented by Kidambi Achan.

KA (Kidambi Achan): Saddened by Alavandar’s departure from this world, Ramanuja told Tirukacchi Nambi that he was troubled by many questions, but didn’t spell out what they were. Nambi assured him that Varadaraja would set his mind at rest. But before Nambi could solicit His help for Ramanuja, Varadaraja volitionally came out with the answers, thereby establishing again His credentials as Ramanuja’s parent. Who but a parent can tell at once that his child is beset by worry?

Varadaraja’s six words blew away the clouds of doubt, and showed Ramanuja the path he had to take.

PB (Parasara Bhattar): My learned friend is merely elaborating on what is known to all Sri Vaishnavas.

KA: I’m trying to show how these well-known facts establish my client’s claim.

CJ (Chief Justice): You may continue.

KA: Lord Varadaraja told Tirukacchi Nambi the following: “I am Parabrahman. The jivatma and Paramatma are different. Surrender is the means to moksha. Once we surrender, even if we do not think of the Lord when our end is near, moksha is assured. Ramanuja must become a disciple of Peria Nambi.”

So it was Varadaraja, who indicated to Ramanuja, the core concepts of Visishtadvaita. Neither of the two plaintiffs offered such concise spiritual advice to Ramanuja. It was in Kanchi that Ramanuja’s former teacher Yadavaprakasa, who had once tried to kill him, became Ramanuja’s disciple, and took the name of Govinda Jeer.

When Ramanuja wrote Sri Bhasyam, Kooratazhwan was of immense help to him. Kooratazhwan was from Kooram, a village close to Kanchipuram. So Lord Varadaraja also brought an excellent disciple to Ramanuja. It was in Kanchi that Ramanuja became a sanyasi, and it was in Kanchi that Kooratazhwan and Mudaliandan sought refuge at Ramanuja’s feet.

PB: And yet, Ramanuja didn’t stay on in Kanchi, but left for Srirangam.

KA: My learned colleague knows how his client Ranganatha took Ramanuja away to Srirangam. Nevertheless, let me jog his memory. My client Varadaraja would not willingly part from Ramanuja.

Knowing this, and also knowing Varadaraja’s fondness for music, Ranganatha sent Thiruvaranga Perumal Arayar to Kanchipuram, cleverly instructing him that he should get Varadaraja to send Ramanuja to Srirangam.

Varadaraja was impressed by Araiyar’s musical rendering of pasurams and in an expansive mood offered any boon of his choice to Araiyar. Araiyar requested that Ramanuja be sent to Srirangam. None can describe the wrench Varadaraja felt on having to part from Ramanuja.

It was the sorrow of a parent who had to perforce part from his child.

But even in Srirangam, Varadaraja was Ramanuja’s aradhana murthi. And Varadaraja continued to guide Ramanuja. When Ramanuja debated Yajnamurthi, Varadaraja, who is also known as Arulalaperumal, appeared in Ramanuja’s dream and told him to use arguments from Alavandar’s Maayavaada Khandanam.

Yajnamurthi conceded defeat, became Ramanuja’s disciple, and was named Arulalaperumal Emperumanar. The first part of this name was to acknowledge the role of Varadaraja, who had shown Ramanuja the direction in which he had to steer the debate. This debate took place in Srirangam, but it was my client Varadaraja who helped Ramanuja, and brought a new disciple into his fold.

Ramanuja travelled the length and breadth of the country, but who could have been prouder of his achievements than Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram? Need I say more on why Varadaraja has first claim over His son Ramanuja?

(On the day when the Honourable judges gave their judgment, the court was packed with Sri Vaishnavas, who waited with bated breath for the judgment).

CJ: We have heard the arguments of counsel for the plaintiffs and counsel for the defendant.

Ramanuja belongs to the entire community of Sri Vaishnavas, and to all Vaishnava shrines, but does someone have first claim over him? It is a peculiar question, one which we never expected to encounter. But as counsel for the defendant pointed out, who but a parent can have first claim over a child? It is the parents who are the force behind how a child shapes up.

Counsel for the defendant has established beyond doubt that the defendant Varadaraja played the role of a parent with regard to Ramanuja. So we have to concede that Varadaraja has first claim over the great Acharya Ramanuja. While Ramanuja’s service later on in Srirangam, Tirumala and Melkote was prodigious, all of this was possible only because of Varadaraja. This Court therefore rules in favour of the defendant.

This court thought of awarding costs to the defendant. The plaintiffs, especially Srinivasa, are wealthy, and can easily afford to pay costs to the defendant. But because the defendant Varadaraja, who is financially well placed, has not pressed for costs, this court leaves it to all parties to bear their own costs.

Honourable Justices Sree Devi and Bhooma Devi concurred with the Chief Justice.

(Concluded)

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 5:17:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/Claim-justified/article14488653.ece

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