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Varadaraja Panchasat

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Tue Jul 19 1994 - 16:41:57 PDT

To my untutored eye, Vedanta Desika seems to be near the 
peak of his poetic form in his ``Varadaraaja PancaaSat''.  
His humility and utter awe in the presence of the Lord
by themselves make for fascinating reading.  Following the
tradition of Yamunacharya, Ramanuja, Koorattazhvaan, etc.,
however, Desikar also incorporates the essence of Vedanta
in these verses, all the while making subtle references to
both the Sanskrit and Tamil Vedas.  I'll present a few
select verses over the next few days. I am following nearly
verbatim the explanation of D. Ramaswamy Iyengar as published 
in a small book by the Visishtadwaita Pracharini Sabha.

Sloka 2:

    yasya anubhaavam adhigantum aSaknuvanto
      muhyanti abhanguradhiyo munisaarvabhaumaa.h |
    tasyaiva te stutiShu saahasam aSnuvaana.h
      kShantavaya eSha bhavataa kariSailanaatha ||

    Lord of Karisaila! Even the monarchs among sages
    possessing unobstructed knowledge, feel perplexed
    and bewildered, being unable to comprehend Your glory.
    This (person) who has the rashness to indulge in the
    praise of such a one as You should be pardoned by You.

This and the following four slokas are couched in an apologetic
tone.  It is known as 'avaiyadakkam' in Tamil, and 
'naicyaanusandhaanam' in Sanskrit.

The poet feels aghast at the boldness with which he begins
to sing about the Lord, about whom even the Vedas have said, 
``He is beyond speech or thought.''

Some of the words employed in this sloka are calculated to 
remind us about the first sloka of Srimad Bhagavatam.  There,
it was 'muhyanti yat sUraya.h.'  Here it is 'muhyanti abhangura-
dhiyo munisaarvabhaumaa.h'.  The suris are the denizens of Sri
Vaikuntha, who are free from all trace of Avidya.  They were 
referred to in the Bhagavata sloka as being unable to comprehend
the Ultimate Godhead.  Here, the glory of the 'arca' form of
the Lord is said to be beyond the ken of even the sages and saints
who top the rank of those who contemplate upon God.  These words
have been interpreted as referring to the Azhvars, who were the
special recipients of divine grace and who thereby attained a 
high degree of 'madinalam' or 'bhaktirUpApanna-jnAna.' It is 
interesting to note that the Azhvars themselves felt that they 
were thoroughly unfit to sing about His glory.

    mAya! ninnai naayinEn vaNangi vaazhththum eedelaam
    neeyum nin kuRippinil poRuththu nalgu

This is Tirumazhisai Azhvar's way of apologizing for having praised
the Lord who is beyond all praise.  Saint Yamunacharya (Alavandar)
has also sung in the same strain.  Following the Azhvars and Acharyas,
Desika in this sloka at the very outset apologizes for beginning
to praise Lord Varadaraja.

We may also refer to similar sayings of the other Azhvars:

    (1) uraikkavallEnallEn		(Nammazhvar)
    (2) vaakkuththuymaiyilaamaiyinaalE maadhavaa!
        unnai vaaykkoLLamaattEn		(Periyazhvar)
    (3) azhukkudampeccil vaayaal thooymaiyil
        thondanEn naan collinEn thollai
        naamam paaviyEn pizhaiththavaaRu enRu
        ancinERku			(Tirumangai)

`Saahasa' means rashness.  Desika says here, ``Fools rush in where
angles fear to tread.  Pray, pardon this intrepidity on my part.''

The 1st sloka invoked the Lord's grace.  This sloka invokes His