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A tale of Faith and Sacrifice: Devotee Srivaishnava Acharyas of Srirangam Temple in Tamil Nadu

Iyppasi sravana is celebrated during the month of October and November as a mark of respect for Acharyar Pillailokacharya’s sacrifice

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Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in srirangam. Image source: www.destinationinfinity.org
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  • The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple which is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati in the south is the abode of  Lord Ranganatha,  the reclining form of Lord Vishnu
  • The historical accounts from the 14th to 17th centuries tell one particular tale about the sacrifice and unwavering devotion of the Sri Vaishnavas
  • About 800 years ago, when the temple was under attack, Swami Pillai Lokacharya led a team to protect the deity and carry the Lord to a safe destination

The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple which is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati in the south of India, is the abode of  Lord Ranganatha, the reclining form of Lord Vishnu. The Tamil month which occurs during March and April (Panguni) is considered sacred, as it is the time when Lord Ranganatha and Goddess Sri Ranganayaki Thayar appears. “Adi Brahmotsavam”, the major festival which lasts for 10 days of this month and culminates on the day of Panguni Uthiram.

The temple town which is situated on the ethereal island of Srirangam in Trichy, Tamil Nadu has many tales to tell. The historical accounts from the 14th to 17th centuries tell one particular tale about the sacrifice and unwavering devotion of the Sri Vaishnavas.

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About 800 years ago, at the banks of the river Kollidam, a huge gathering of devotees lined up to seek the blessings of their lord, Lord Ranganatha. The stage was set; the atmosphere was brimming with devotion; Vedic chants and prayers echoed all the way into everyone’s hearts. Among the most revered Acharyas, priests and devotees was Jagath Acharyar Swami Pillai Lokacharya.

As the worship and proceedings were being carried out, a man came to the old  Acharyar. He informed him that a large battalion of men with weapons was marching towards their land. The great Acharyar, after hearing this walked majestically towards the deity and prostrated before the lord. He asked the man to continue watching the movement of the invaders and assured him that the lord would take care of them.

Jaganmohana Ranganatha at Shivanasamudra Image Source : Wikipedia Commons
Jaganmohana Ranganatha at Shivanasamudra Image Source : Wikipedia Commons

Swamy Pillai Lokacharyar, Swamy Desikar, Swamy Sudarshana Suri and other Acharyas had a meeting and formulated  a plan to safeguard the Lord and his people from the invaders led by  Ulugh Khan, the army commander sent by Tuglak. They decided to secretly carry the Lordships to the temple without the regular Abhisheka. Their aim was to not confront the enemy but to ensure that their moola virat was not desecrated. Three groups were formed. The one headed by Swamy Pillai Lokachariya was to carry Lord Ranganatha and his concerts securely and proceed southward.  Swamy Sudarshana Suri and team was to erect a stone wall in front of the main sanctorum to  misguide the invaders and the third team was to provide cover for the first team.

To also protect their rich culture and holy knowledge from being oblivious to the next generation, they decided to pass on their manuscripts and texts to Swami Desika who was the youngest among the Acharyas. He was to go with the third party and save himself to protect and preserve Vaishnavism and the teachings of Jagatha Acharya Shri Ramanuja. Also, a work called  Shrutaprakashika, which  was made out of generations of learning’s from Acharyas  and an elaborate commentary on Jagatha Acharyar Swamy Ramanuja’s Sri Bhasyam was also entrusted to him.

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The plight of Srirangam after the invaders marched inside was devastating. The invaders left the place after shedding the blood of 12,000 Sri Vaishnavas. By then, the old Acharyar dutifully carried the Lord’s deity for days until he reached a village called Jyothishkudi.

Surrounded by the Annamalai mountains and covered with dense forests, the place seemed right to rest. The Acharyar realised that it was time for him to leave the mortal world.  Such was his greatness that before he departed, the Acharyar touched all of the ants beside him, for the reason that they also could reach Vaikuntam along with him . (It is believed that any living being touched by the hands of a Sri Vaishnava is assured salvation.)

Swamy Pillai Lokacharya's magnum opus “Sri Vachana Bhushanam” is an ornament of divine outpourings from our revered Poorvavacharyas. Image Source: kmkvaradhan.files.wordpress.com
Swamy Pillai Lokacharya’s magnum opus “Sri Vachana Bhushanam” is an ornament of divine outpourings from our revered Poorvavacharyas. Image Source: kmkvaradhan.files.wordpress.com

The disciples performed his last rites and continued their journey along with Lord Ranganatha towards the south.  It took 48 years for the deity to be restored in the temple. By the time, Kambanna of Vijayanagara Kingdom restored the Lord to the Srirangam temple, the idol had criss-crossed the south, passing through Madurai, Ettayapuram, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Melkote, Mysore, Satyamangalam forests and Tirumala, in  a place now known as Ranga Mantapam.

Iyppasi sravana is celebrated during the month of October and November as a mark of respect for Acharyar Pillailokacharya’s sacrifice.

– by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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  • Falcon

    12000 Sri Vaishnavas, I think the eternal HELL is referred and applicable to these moronic moslem uneducated invaders

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Shankaracharya: A remarkable genius that Hinduism produced (Book Review)

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

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He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita
He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita.

Title: Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker; Author: Pavan K. Varma; Publisher: Tranquebar Press; Pages: 364; Price: Rs 699

This must be one of the greatest tributes ever paid to Shankaracharya, the quintessential “paramarthachintakh”, who wished to search for the ultimate truths behind the mysteries of the universe. His genius lay in building a complete and original philosophical edifice upon the foundational wisdom of the Upanishads.

A gifted writer, Pavan Varma, diplomat-turned-politician and author of several books including one on Lord Krishna, takes us through Shankara’s short but eventful span of life during which, from having been born in what is present-day Kerala, he made unparalleled contributions to Hindu religion that encompassed the entire country. Hinduism has not seen a thinker of his calibre and one with such indefatigable energy, before or since.

Shankara’s real contribution was to cull out a rigorous system of philosophy that was based on the essential thrust of Upanishadic thought but without being constrained by its unstructured presentation and contradictory meanderings.

He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. He wrote extensive and definitive commentaries on each of them. Of course, the importance he gave to the Mother Goddess, in the form of Shakti or Devi, can be traced to his own attachment to his mother whom he left when he set off, at a young age, in search of a guru and higher learning.

The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.
Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess.

Against all odds, Shankara created institutions for the preservation and propagation of Vedantic philosophy. He established “mathas” with the specific aim of creating institutions that would develop and project the Advaita doctrine. He spoke against both caste discriminations and social inequality, at a time when large sections of conservative Hindu opinion thought otherwise.

Shankara was both the absolutist Vedantin, uncompromising in his belief in the non-dual Brahman, and a great synthesiser, willing to assimilate within his theoretical canvas several key elements of other schools of philosophy. He revived and restored Hinduism both as a philosophy and a religion that appealed to its followers.

Also Read: Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know

Varma rightly says that it must have required great courage of conviction as well as deep spiritual and philosophical insight for Shankaracharya to build on the insights of the Upanishads a structure of thought, over a millennium ago, that saw the universe and our own lives within it with a clairvoyance that is being so amazingly endorsed by science today. The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara’s philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.

Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess. The added value of the book is that it has, in English, a great deal of Shankara’s writings. Unfortunately, most Hindus today are often largely uninformed about the remarkable philosophical foundations of their religion. They are, the author points out, deliberately choosing the shell for the great treasure that lies within. This is indeed a rich book. (IANS)