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VaikunTa EkAdast --Part 2 : Sri RamAnujA and AndAL

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Fri Dec 20 1996 - 15:14:35 PST

Dear Members of the BhakthiGgroup :

Sri RamAnuja was given the title of Thiruppavai
Jeeyar by his Acharya , Periya Nambi . He earned this 
title because of his(1) intense attachment to the uplifting 
thoughts enshrined in that Composition and(2) his practise
of frequent recitation of the verses of Thiruppavai especially
during the times of BhikshA seeking .

1 .The Bare Foot Thiruppavai Jeeyar described by Swami Desikan

Sri VedAntha Desikan refers to the habit of RaamAnujA 
walking on the streets of Srirangam for his daily bikshA (alms )
barefoot , although Yathis are allowed to wear PadhukAs during 
those sanchArams . The 69th slokam of Yathiraja sapthathi 
refers to this practise of RamaanujA travelling bare foot 
on those occasions and the sacredness of those feet :

" On the pretext of treading the earth at the time of going out 
for alms , the twin feet of RamAnujA destroy the sins of the world 
girdled by the oceans , and they adorn the ground by leaving on it 
lovely imprints (of Conch and disk ) . The dust particles raised by
those sacred feet are worn by the groups of learned men on 
their heads as a protection against evil , and they regard 
themselves fortunate and blessed thereby . I long for those 
feet of RamaanujA ." 

One wonders why RamanujA elected not to wear 
the PadhukAs that he was allowed to wear according to 
Yathi DharmA .The explanation is hinted by Swami Desikan 
in the above verse and is connected to the incident narrated in
relation to the Thiruppavai verse , " UndhumatakaLiRRin ".
One day , RamAnujA was going from door to door on barefoot 
reciting Thriruppavai on the occasion of his Bhiksha collection
for his one meal of the day in ThirukkottiyUr . 

The unchivritthi or BikshA seeking Yathis always recite 
Divya NamAs as Saint ThyagarajA  did while he went around 
the streets of ThiruvaiAru Others recite sacred texts or sthuthis 
on the Lord and His consort . Infact , a  pious neighbor of mine at
Oppiliappan Sannidhi street recited for many months 
Daya sathakam and went around the four raja veethis of the Lord 
to collect money through Unchivritthi to create and present 
the Mahalakshmi icon adorning today the chest of the Uthsava
moorthy of Oppiliappan Koil revered as Ponnappan . 

2 . Bare foot RamAnujA on the streets of Thirukkotiyur

Similarly RamAnujA  went around the streets of ThirukkottiyUr
barefoot reciting the Thiruppavai PAsurams. Because of the sacredness
of Thiruppavai and his reverence for AndAL , he would not wear 
any PadhukAs on such occcasions . As he reached the door of 
his Acharya , ThirukkottiyUr nambi , he was reciting the paasuram ,
 " UndhumadhakaLiRRan OdAtha thOL valiyan ." Devaki Piratti, 
the daughter of RamAnujA's Acharya opened the door with her 
bangles jingling . RamanujA was reciting the section of this
Paasuram , " SenthAmarai kaiyAl seerar VALAIOLIPPA
VANDHU TIRAVAAI . "  This extraordinary  coincidence made RamAnujA
faint . ThirukkottiyUr Nambi rightly concluded that " the Thiruppavai
Jeeyar "  must have been reciting the Paasuram " UndhumadhakaLiRRan"
at the time of his swooning. Such is the greatness of RamanujA's reverence 
for ThiruPPavai and AndAL . 


RamaanujA is also known as the "elder brother " of AndAL 
or Koil ANNar . Ramanuja was reciting 
paasuram of NacchiyAr Thirumozhi (NT ) , Naaru Narum Pozhil ,
(NT 9.6 ) as he approached  ThirumAlirumcholai on his way to Srivilliputhur .
In that NT pAsuram, AndAL desires to offer a hundred vessels of butter 
and a hundred more vessels of KshirAnnam (AkkAravadisil ) to Lord 
SundararajA of ThirumAlirumcholai. Suddenly , RamAnujA got worried 
whether AndAL did indeed fulfil her prarthanA . He therefore decided
to fulfill  her wish and offered the Naivedhyam of Butter and 
KshirAnnam in hundred vessels each . 

Thereafter , RamAnuja continued on his journey 
to Srivilliputthur . As he entered the ardha ManTapam of 
AndAL's temple , he was surprised to see AndAL waiting for him 
in person to thank him for the services he rendered on Her behalf 
at ThirumAlirumcholai . She moved out of the Inner sanctum 
(Garbha Graham ) and waited for him at the ardha Mantapam 
to greet Her "elder brother " for carrying out Her wish across the span of 
centuries just as a responsible elder brother would fulfill the dear wishes of
his younger sister. She broke Her archa silence and called 
RamAnuja as Her aNNan . She never went back into the sanctum 
and stays even today at the Ardha Mantapam with Her consort. 
RamAnujA is therefore saluted in his ashtottaram as 
" GodhAgrajO digvijethA GodhAbhishta prapuraka : ".

4. Consecration of the Archaas of AndAL

RamAnujA out of his reverence for the works of AndAL 
consecrated Her icon in the northwestern corner of many
divya desams. At lower Thirumalai , he consecrated AndAL's
archa murthy and placed Her on the  right side of GovindarajA ,
 where Sri Devi normally resides to indicate that AndAL was 
the principal Devi at Keezha Thiruppathi GovindarAjA temple. 
AndAL always wanted to enjoy the company of Venkatavan 
and partake in all the temple festivities as His principal consort 
in Her NT Paasurams. RamAnujA fulfilled that wish too ! 

5 . AmudanAr's salutation of Thiruppavai Jeeyar 

Thiruvarangatthu AmudanAr , a contemproary of RamAnuja and the 
author of RamAnuja NooRanthadhi salutes RamaanujA 's
reverence for AndAL this way : " Arangar Mowli soozhinra maalai
soodikkodutthavaL thol aruLAl  vazhinra IrAmAnusanennum muniyE . "
Here AmudanAr states that RamAnujA's life was sustained by the grace of 
Soodikkoduttha NaacchiyAr and Her hymns were RamAnujA's life-breath . 

6. Thiruppavai and Gitaa Bhashyam

One more instance of RamAnujA's reverence for GodhA has been 
pointed out from his Gita Bhashyam on the verse 3.21 . Both MadhvA
and SankarA had intrepreted this verse s " Whatever  a distinguished man
does , that alone other men also do. To whatever extent he does that , 
the world follows it " . Swami Desikan in his GitA Bhashyam known as
Taatparya Chandrikaa Points out how RamAnujA differed from 
the above view of the other two commentators based upon his 
inspiration from the 26th paasuram line of Thiruppavai 
( MelayAr seyvanagaL venduvana KEttiyEl ) . RamAnujA differed from
the other intrepretation based on his insight gained from the above
Thiruppavai line. RamAnujA indicated that the learned undertake only 
those parts which are needed and leave out which are not needed. He
leaned upon the word VENDUVANA and intrepreted the GitA word of
verse 3.21 Yath PramANam as two words instead of intrepreting as
one word , YathpramAnam . 

7 . UpanyAsams on Thiruppavai & RamAnuja's reverential position

Finally , RamanujA's reluctance to perform upanyAsams on Thiruppavai
as opposed to NammAzhwAr's and other AzhwAr's works is an indication
of his special affection and reverence for  AndAL . Sri Badri SeshAdri has
described our Azhagiya Singhar"s reference to this aspect of RamAnujA 
feeling not pure enough to comment on NaachiyAr"s aruLiccheyal. 
Such is the magnitude and quality of Acharya RamAnujA's reverence
for Soodikkoduttha Sudarkodi .

AndAL , Yathrajar ThiruvadigalEh SaraNam .

SrivaishNava Dasan ,
Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri Sadagopan