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Re: Melkote Ramapriyan

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Thu Dec 14 2000 - 14:04:47 PST

Here is the excerpt from Sri M.R. Sampatkumaran's paper,
entitled "History and Ramanuja's Biography". Taken from
"Sri Ramanuja Vani", inaugural issue, 20 May 1977,
published by Sri Ramanuja Vedanta Centre, Triplicane Madras.

>From p. 56:

   The story of his bringing the idol of Sampatkumara
   from the palace of the Muslim king at Delhi to Melkote
   cannot at all be reconciled with history.  For Delhi 
   was ruled by Rajputs for more than fifty years after 1137.
   [Note: Ramanuja's life is dated as 1017-1137].

>From p. 58:

   The story of Sampatkumara is a glaring anachronism,
   though one can easily guess how it arose.  It is related
   that Sri Ramanuja set out on a tour in north India in
   search of the processional idol of Tirunarayana at Melkote.
   He found it in the palace of a Muslim king at Delhi. It was
   the beloved possession of the king's daughter.  However,
   the Muslim king who had with him many idols looted from
   Hindu temples, was persuaded by Ramanuja to give him the 
   one idol he wanted.  Ramanuja, overwhelmed by the Lord's
   grace, called it his darling child (Sampatkumara). Hence
   it came to be known as Yatiraja-sampatkumara or briefly
   Sampatkumara.

   The story assumes that long before the times of Ramanuja,
   Muslim invaders had penetrated as far south as Melkote,
   carrying away temple idols with them, and that during
   Ramanuja's time there was a Muslim ruler at Delhi.  Both
   those assumptions are obviously wrong.  The first Muslim 
   kingdom at Delhi was set up by Mohammed Ghori after 
   defeating Prithvi Raj Chauhan iin the last decade of the
   twelfth century. 

   [...]

   It was only Malikkafur, the general of Allauddin Khilji who
   made the first Muslim incursion into the deep south and
   stormed Dvarasamudra. We cannot also believe that the Muslim
   princess followed Sampatkumara all the way to Melkote and
   that her figure is found in a dilapidated shrine a little
   distance from the Narasimha temple on the hill at Melkote.
   The image must be that of some other goddess or lady.

   The story may have this much of historical truth in it -- 
   that Ramanuja acquired the idol somewhere in the north.  The
   revolutionary reform of permitting the Panchamas [untouchables]
   to enter the temple at Melkote for three days during the
   annual Brahmotsava and te honorific name of Tirukkulattar
   (persons of blessed families) given to them clearly point 
   to someone like Ramanuja at work, with overriding authority
   in religious and social matters.  And the Tirukkulattar owe
   their new privileges to having formed Ramanuja's bodyguard
   when he recovered the idol of Sampatkumara.  Later chroniclers
   must have assumed from the conditions in their times that 
   Moslem rule must have prevailed in the north even much earlier.


As we can gather from historical data, there was no Musliim incursion 
into the Deccan until well after Ramanuja's time. Hence, the utsava mUrti
could not have been taken from South India by a Muslim. Furthermore, 
there was no Muslim presence in Delhi until 1192, when Prithvi Raj Chauhan
was defeated by Mohammed Ghori (Venkatesh's earlier message has some of
the dates confused in this regard).  Earlier, Mohammed Ghazni merely raided  
north-west region in the eleventh century and there is no evidence of any
contact or looting of South India.

Regarding Malolan's statement about the presence of bIbi nAcciyAr's tirumEni
at the feet of Tirunarayana Swami, I am unaware of this despite several 
visits to Melkote.  However, even if some nAcciyAr is present at the Lord's
feet, there is no evidence that it was a *Muslim* princess who came and
sought union with Him.

I find Sri Sampatkumaran's arguments convincing.

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan
Mani


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