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Re: A Doubt

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Thu Apr 27 2000 - 10:41:45 PDT

> Dear Sri Bhagavathotamas,
> 	While discussing with my friend(an advaithin), the topic of tirumala
> deity cropped up. my friend said that it was emperumanar who chaned the
> appearance of a swyampu ambal to resemble thiruvengadamudiyan. is it true?

> 	also can anyone tell me why smarthas refuse to accept
> thiruvengadamudiyan as an incarnation of naryana?

Dear Anand,

This is a totally baseless assertion that has neither
iconongraphic nor historical evidence.  In fact, most
traditional smArtas do not accept this version of the
facts either -- the theory that the Venkatesvara
mUrti is female is a purely modern concoction.

For the best reference on this subject, please see
S.K. Ramachandra Rao's monograph on the history of
the Tirumala temple, from which most of the following
is derived.

The best proof of the identity of Venkatesvara with
Vishnu is to visit the deity on Fridays, when a
tirumanjanam (abhiSekam) is done.  On this day, you
will be able to see the mUrti with barely any adornment.
As S.K. Ramachandra Rao points out, the SrIvatsa mark
characteristic of Vishnu is clearly identifiable on the 
mUrti, and there are absolutely no distinctive feminine 
features. 

Furthermore, the iconographic details on the mUrti coincide
identically with descriptions contained in some of the
Vaikhanasa Agama samhitas, the texts which codify worship
in many Vishnu temples.  In addition, from time immemorial
only Vaikhanasa priests have been associated with this
temple. The Vaikhanasa priests are strict Vaishnavas but
do *not* belong to the tradition of Ramanuja. 

Historically, all the inscriptional evidence contained 
within the temple boundaries point to the Vaishnavite nature
of the deity.  All references in religious and non-religious
literature, from the Jaina Tamil work SilappadikAram to 
the Alvars' hymns in the Divya Prabandham uniquely identify
the deity of the Venkatam Hill with Vishnu.  Ask your friend
this question: if Ramanuja was the one who "changed" the
nature of the image, why do all the Alvars, who are the
strictest of Vaishnavas, unreservedly worship and take refuge 
in this mUrti, identifying it only with Vishnu?

Furthermore, if the mUrti truly were representative of
any other deity, why is there no poetic reference as such
by any Saiva or SAkta poet-saint?  

aDiyen rAmAnuja dAsan
Mani

P.S.: 

In recent times, scholars such as Sri P.B. Annangaracharya
and Sri Puttur Krishnaswamy Iyengar have fought public 
battles against such false propaganda.

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