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Re: Maayanai Mannu Vada Mathurai....

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Wed Dec 27 2000 - 16:24:05 PST

Sri M.S. Hari opines:
> Also, the nUpura-ganga (at Tiru-mAl-irun-chOlai, kaL-Azhagar
> sannadhi) is told as "paSupathi jatA-sparsha-sUnyA" by our
> swAmi. [...] This dhAra of gangA is free from the sambandam 
> of paSupathi jatA sparsham and thus distinguished from the
> known river gangA. The dEvathAntara-sambanda-varjanam is
> the distinguishing feature of this nUpura-ganga, which is
> held as a special viSEshaNam for nUpura-gangA here.
> These points may be noted here in this context. This is to
> substantiate that dEvathAntara-sambanda-varjanam is a purity
> for SrI VaishNavas. That is, SrI VaishNavas should NOT have
> dEvathAntara-sambandam.

The noble doctrine of only meditating on and worshipping 
the Ultimate Cause is here reduced to a mockery of its 
true self.  The true meaning of 'devatAntara-sambandha-varjanam'
is straightforward -- to not take recourse to other means or other
divinities when one has settled on the worship of the First Cause 
Sriman Narayana.  It is a proof of faith.  It does NOT mean, as 
Sri Hari suggests, that one should avoid anything even remotely 
associated with another divinity. That would be both absurd and 
an impossibility.

For example, should one stop breathing, because Vayu is the
deity of air? Should one not use fire to warm oneself, because
of contact with the god Agni? Should one not make use of the
sun because Surya is its devatA? Or, is Siva Perumaan the
only one who is shunned, because of prior prejudice? If so,
are we to abandon the crescent moon because it adorns Siva's
head? 

The premise, as stated above, is that anything that even touched
the body of Siva, is unfit for Sri Vaishnavas.  This, plainly put,
is nothing short of abuse of a great jnAni like Siva, but rather
than venture down that line of discussion, I present the
following verse, put in the mouth of Sri Rama by Swami Vedanta Desika:

   The gentle breeze, which is the lover as it were of the lotus
   ponds of the river Kampa, bears with it drops of dew, 
   cooled by the moon, which is found on the head of Pasupati
   [Lord Ekamresvara], who lives near the mango grove.  This
   breeze shall receive you as a loving friend who has come from
   a distant place.

   mandAdhUtAt tadanumahito nissRtaS cUtashaNDAt
      pArSvetsayAH paSupatiSiraS candranIhAravAhI |
   dUrAtprAptam priyasakham iva tvAmupaishyaty avaSyam 
      kampApAthaH kamalavanikAkAmukogandhavAhaH ||

                                 -- hamsa sandeSa, 1st AsvAsa, v.28

The great scholar Sri A.V. Gopalacharya writes, "[Sri Desika] does not 
omit to make a charming reference to the shrine of [Sri Ekamreswara]. 
The gentle breeze proceeding from the mango grove brings with it the 
dewdrops from the moon on the head of the Lord of Pasus and cools its 
wearied friend, the Hamsa, coming from a distance. The sloka is simply 
beautiful."

Unfortunately, Sri Hari has tried to give his opinions the stamp
of authority of Swami Desika, by quoting the revered acharya entirely
out of context. The phrase 'paSupati-jaTA-sparSa-SUnya', describing
the waters of the second Ganga that came from Lord Vishnu's anklets
as "not touched by the locks of Pasupati" occurs in verse 49 of the 
same work.  This line is interpreted by Sri Hari as meaning that this
new Ganga is superior to the old one because of the latter's contact
with Siva. How could Sri Desika, who has spoken so beautifully about 
the same Lord Pasupati just a few verses earlier, abuse him so profoundly, 
as if he were an untouchable? 

Clearly, Sri Desika had no such intention, and the learned
commentators on the hamsa sandeSa are quick to point this out.
Desika certainly does not mean to criticize the original Ganga
in this verse; nor does he mean to belittle Lord Siva.  He merely
means to separate the legends of the origins of the two rivers; the
original Ganga fell from Lord Vishnu's feet onto Siva's locks, 
and then fell to the earth.  These other waters, the so-called 
'nUpura-gangA', fell directly from Lord Trivikrama's anklets onto 
the Tirumaaliruncholai mountain. This is explicitly clarified by 
both Sri Krishna Brahmantantra Parakala Swami in his elaborate 
'rasAsvAdinI' commentary as well as by Mahamahopadhyaya 
Sri Kasturi Rangacharya's explanatory notes and brief commentary. 

Both emphatically declare that it is foolhardy to conclude
that the Ganga should be avoided because of contact with 
Siva, and that this would be a misinterpretation of the
verse. [1]

The rasAsvAdinI goes on to extol in no uncertain terms the
greatness of the original Ganga, citing the Mahabharata,
Bhagavatam, and Pancaratra Samhitas, which all describe
its origin from the feet of Trivikrama.  There is a beautiful
line in the commentary that states that even the omniscient
great god Siva chose to receive the Ganga on his head to
further purify himself: "yAm hi sarvajno mahAdevo'pi
svapAvanArtham eva mUrdhnA'grhNAd ity udghushyanti pramANa-
sahasrANi".

Sri Desika in the rahasya-rakshA states that the very fact 
that the great god Siva chose to himself bear the sacred waters 
of the Ganga is reminder of the river's purifying power [2].

Sri K.V. Soundararajan, who introduces the English translation 
of the hamsa-sandeSa makes the following salient points:

   It should be boldly admitted that the author, being
   concerned mainly with creating a lyric of great literary
   charm, refuses to be inhibited by any sectarian or religious
   rancour.  In fact, the several places where he introduces
   Siva -- as when he even indirectly suggests the famous
   sthala of Kalahasti on the Swarnamukhi as a landmark in
   itinerary, without any real need or obligation for this 
   (v.23, A.1) -- ... are uniformly in fine taste, with much 
   poetic charm, and with a lively familiarity with the legend 
   and lore about that god...
   
   Where he refers to the nupura Ganga of Alagarkoil as 
   not having come into contact with the matted hair of
   Pasupati ... the implication here was clearly not any 
   sectarian superiority, but his keen desire to keep two 
   different legends about Ganga well separated.


We would be well-advised to set aside our prejudices, 
exaggerations, and misquotations in light of the comments of 
these great scholars.  If Sri Desika can hold Bhagavan Siva
in high respect, I think we are capable of it as well.

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan
Mani

--

[1] From the tippani:

yat tu ayam ASayaH na gAhante gangAm ityAdy uktArItyA 
SivajaTAsAratvena snAnAdi anarham iti keshAmcid vacanIyam 
api nAtra kincid asti. aprApyaiva SivaSIrsham vrshabhAdrAv
avatIrNatvAd iti ... tan na. ... tasmAt AnuSAsanikAdi-pramANo-
panyAsapurassaram rsAsvAdinIdarSitam tac chankAvAraNam eva
yuktam ity avadheyam.

Sri Rangacharya Swamin also states, in his own brief
commentary, that the reason Desika uses this image is
to point out to the swan that the nUpura-ganga, being
unfettered by Siva's locks, shines in a way that the
original trapped Ganga simply could not.

[2] Commentary on stotra ratna 13:

bhavena SirasA dhrtatvAt pavitram iti jnAtvA paspRSuH 
ity arthaH |


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