Imageries of lotus and light in Raghavayadaveeyam

Utsava murti at Paruthiyur temple   | Photo Credit: Suganthy Krishnamachari

Vedanta Desika (1268-1369 C.E.) in his early years studied under his maternal uncle, Atreya Ramanuja, also known as Appullar. Atreya Ramanuja was the great grandson of Kidambi Achan, one of the foremost disciples of Ramanujacharya. Thus, on the distaff side, Desika was descended from Kidambi Achan. Kidambi Achan was also in charge of Ramanujacharya’s kitchen, and in his Saranagati Deepika, Desika says he is going to talk of a mAnyam sampraDayam — a great tradition, which came from Yateeswara’s (Ramanuja’s) mahAnasa (kitchen). Thus, Desika records his reverence for his Acharya’s lineage.

Desika wrote two works on Krishna — Gopala Vimsati and Yadavabhyudaya, and a gadya (prose work) on Rama. Desika gave his gadya the title Mahaveera Vaibhavam, although it has come to be called Raghuveera Gadyam. Two centuries after Desika, Venkatadvari kavi (1590- 1660 C.E.) was born in the family of Desika’s Acharya — Kidambi Achan. Venkatadvari, a scholar and poet, was a great admirer of Vedanta Desika.

Venkatadvari composed Raghavayadaveeyam in 30 verses, but here we have a strange case of 30 being equal to 60! Raghavayadaveeyam is an anuloma-pratiloma composition. In such a composition, a verse when read from beginning to end gives one meaning, and when read in reverse, the meaning is different. In Raghavayadaveeyam, each verse when read from beginning to end is about Rama. When read from end to the beginning, it is about Krishna. So, it has 30 verses in praise of Rama and 30 in praise of Krishna! That is how in Raghavayadaveeyam, 30 equals 60! Keeping in mind the difficulty of the work, Venkatadvari himself wrote a commentary for the work.

Among the many qualities of the Supreme Brahman six are stressed as important — jnana, bala, aiswarya, virya, sakti and tejas. In Raghuveeragadyam, in the first verse, Desika says that Lord Rama came to the earth to dispel the darkness of fear. He is the ever-shining Sun of Sri Vaikuntha. So here Desika shows us Rama’s tejas, and establishes right at the beginning that he is the Supreme One incarnated.

Venkatadvari also talks of Rama’s lustre in verse four of Raghavayadaveeyam:

rAmadhAma samAnenam AgOrOdhanam Asa tAm

nAmahAm akshararasam tArAbhA: tu na veda yA

This verse says that Ayodhya was filled with Rama’s brightness.

The same verse when read in reverse goes:

yAdavenah tu bhArAtA samraksha mahAmanAh

tAm sah mAnadharah gOmAn anemAsamadhAmarAh

When read in reverse, the verse says that Krishna is the source of all light.

Kothandaramaswamy Temple in Ariyalur

Kothandaramaswamy Temple in Ariyalur   | Photo Credit: R_M_RAJARATHINAM

Like splendour, another quality distinguishes the Supreme Brahman — his eyes are like lotuses. The Chandogya Upanishad says ‘tasya yathaa kapyaasam pundareekam evam akshinee’. Ramanuja explained it thus — the Supreme One’s eyes are like lotuses which bloom when the sun rises. Desika, in his Raghuveeragadyam writes that Rama’s eyes were more beautiful than lotuses that had blossomed because of the sun’s rays.

Venkatadvari in his Raghavayadaveeyam, verse 24, says that Rama’s eyes resembled lotuses.

In verse six of Raghavayadaveeyam, Venkatadvari says Sita obtained the Lord of Lakshmi as her consort. But in Kaliyuga, Lakshmi seems to have done Sita yet another favour. There is a temple in Ariyalur, where once the presiding deity was Srinivasa, until a late Chola period bronze, which has Rama, Sita and Lakshmana on the same pedestal, was discovered near Marudaiyaru. It was installed in the Ariyalur temple, and from then onwards the temple came to be called Ariyalur Ramar Kovil. The oldest inscriptions in this temple belong to the 17th century.

The temple has Vijayanagar period pillars depicting the Dasavataras. The stone structure in the form of a chariot speaks of a Chola origin. So, when exactly was this temple built? A small digression is needed here. Early sculptures of Lakshmi are known as Srivatsa. Srivatsa sculptures date to the Pallava period, and these are among the early representations of Lakshmi in Dravidian art. What helped in deciding the possible date of the Ariyalur temple was the presence of a Pallava period (6th century C.E.) Srivatsa (Lakshmi) sculpture. So, while Venkatadvari says Sita married Lakshmi’s consort, Lakshmi has clearly helped Sita in more recent times also. Her presence has helped fix the date of Sita’s and Rama’s abode in Ariyalur!


D. Ramaswamy Iyengar’s English commentary on Desika’s Saranagati Deepika

M.K. Srinivasan’s English translation of Raghavayadaveeyam, based on Venkatadvari’s commentary published in Nrisimhapriya 2008

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:44:58 AM |

Next Story