You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : August 1995

Kanthadai Ramanuja Iyengar

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Sat Aug 05 1995 - 18:46:28 PDT

K.Srinivasan referred to Kantadai Ramunuja Iyengar (KRI) in an earlier note.
In a recent article in the Journal of Vaishnava studies, Prof. Vasudha Narayanan
has  a lot of input on KRI, his times and his contributions to the growth of
Thiruvengadam temple, "a far away temple in the hills to a major pilgrimage
center."  I have included the highlights from that  article with some of my
comments  for the benefit of those , who might have not seen this  article:

1. He was a " Sattatha   Parama Ekaanki"(superior ascetic Srivaishnava  of
Nonbrahmin class) according to the A.D 1489 temple inscription of Srirangam.	

2. He built Ramanuja Kutams at Srirangam, Kanchipuram and Thirumalai to feed the
pilgrims and to provide shelter during their pilgrimage.

3. He was  a trusted freind of the Vijayanagar King of his time known as Saluva
Narasimha, who played an equally important part in the transformation of
Thirumalai temple from its state as a difficult to access, remote Divya Desam to
a temple receiving 60M$ revenue today (Sreekrishna's Numbers). The seed for that
growth was sown by KRI and two of his contemproaries..

4.KRI  was a disciple of Koil Kanthadai Annan of Srirangam. Latter  was himself
a well known disciple of the  famous Srivaishnava Theologian, Manavala Maamuni.
Kantadai wa sthe family name of Mutalinatan, the nephew of Acharya Ramanuja.
KRI adopted His Acharya"s family name to reveal his association with the prime
line of descendants of Acharya Ramanuja.KRI also refers himself as the disciple
of Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar. The Tenkalai -Vadakalai disputes had not arisen at
his time. The prediliction of the Vadakalai Acharyas for Sanskrit Texts  for the
defense of Srivaishnava theology and the Tenkalai Acharya's leaning to Alwar's
Tamil works for the same was however taking shape during KRI's time.

5. His Major Contributions to the growth of Srivaishnavism .

*** In the Year A.D 1476, He arranged for a major endowment to initiate
Adhyayana Utsavam at Thirumalai in front of the Sannadhi of Ramanuja. He also
arranged for the celebration of the Janma Nakshtrams of the Alvars to be
celebrated annually along with the recitation of their Pasurams. That  tradition
continues even today in front of Ramanuja's sannidhi at the temple..

*** He was not only involved with the establishment of grants and supervising
the above celebrations related to Alwars, but made sure that the recitation of
the Divya Prabhandam was done by people of ALL castes.Until then , the temple
liturgy was dominated by the Brahmin Srivaishnavas. KRI's reform has thus deep
social and theological significance. Since the recitation of the 4000 verses has
salvific import, the theological significance has a major impact in the style of
Ramanuja, who opened up Srivaishnavism to one and all independent of Caste or
the accident of birth or scholarship.

*** He established a  sannidhi for Kulasekhara Alwar at lower Tirupati.
Srirangam records indicate that KRI  was a brother of Saluva Narasimhan, the
king of Vijayanagar and suggest that KRI's  special respect for Kulasekara could
have come from latter's heritage as a King of the Royal family of Cheranadu.

He lived during the time of another great devotee of the Lord of Thirumalai,
viz., Talapakkam Annamacharya, whose Sankirtanas . Hence the Vijayanagara
King(Saluva Narasimha), Annamachar and KRI must have combined their energies to
raise the flag of Thiruvenkatam as the most popular pilgrim center for people of
all faithsin general and Srivaishnavas in particular.