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Re: Persecution of Ramanuja

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani)
Date: Wed Apr 03 1996 - 11:08:00 PST

a. prathivadi-bhayankaram-a writes:
> I read in the latest issue of Indian Economic and Social History Review 
> an article by A.Srvathsan about the persecution of Ramanuja by Kulottunga 
> Chola. On the basis of wider sociological connotations, he points out :

> (b) the Kulottunga Chola was weakened due to external threats and hence 
> he was in need of keeping local elites and chieftains happy;

This is plausible, as historians are uncertain as to which Chola
king persecuted Ramanuja.  Kulottunga I is known to have equally
supported Saiva and Vaishnava temples, and given that the 
traditional histories have the Chola king as an ardent devotee
of Siva, it is unlikely that the persecutor was this Kulottunga.

However, if his Saivism was not as fanatical as the biographies
suppose, any Kulottunga could be the persecutor.  On the other
hand, by the time of Ramanuja's leaving Srirangam, he was 
already well-established as the leader of the Sri Vaishnava
community, and his temple reforms had already taken root.
It is therefore surprising that the anti-Ramanuja animosity
among the elites could last so long as to allow the Chola
king to take advantage of it!

[...]

> (c) in these circumstances, the only place that Ramanuja could go safely 
> was Hoysala kingdom; it is said the Bitti Hoysala king who later seems to 
> have been converted to vaishnavism by Ramanuja (from Jainism perhaps) and 
> hence his name was later changed;

It is said that after Ramanuja arrived in the Hoysala
kingdom, Kind Bittideva changed his name to Vishnu Vardhana
Raya, and he correspondingly became an adherent of Vaishnavism.
While he undoubtedly was influenced by Ramanuja, it is
questionable as to whether this was a wholescale conversion
from another religion.  To begin with, Bittideva is simply
a Kannada form of Vittaladeva, which is already a name of 
Vishnu.  In addition, while his wife Shantala is well-known
to have been a devout Jain, Kind Bittideva's military 
practices do not show him to be a practicant of ahimsa.

Incidentally, perhaps under the influence of Ramanuja,
King Bittideva constructed the marvellous Vishnu temples
at Belur and Halebid.  These structures represent the
pinnacle of the Hoysala style of architecture.

Mani