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Sri Devarajaashtakam by Thirukkacchi Nambi

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Mon Feb 26 1996 - 12:24:29 PST

Dear Members of the group:

On this occasion of the birth day of this great Acharya, I will
make a few observations on his magnum opus on Sri 
Varadaraja PerumaaL.,Sri Devarajaashtakam .
 As an Ashtakam , this sthotram has 
eight verses. The number eight has sacred significance
for Sri Vaishnavaas, since their sacred mantram is Ashtakshari 
or the one with 8 letters. The Acharyas therefore are fond of
creating Ashtakams or sthutis with 8 verses known as 
Ashtakam . For example, Parasara Bhatta, the son of Kuresa
composed his Ashtasloki to dwell upon the meaning of
Ashtaakshari . Swami Desikan composed Ashtabhujaashtakam
and Kamaseekaashtakam to salute the Archa Murthys of two divya
desams near Kanchipuram . His third ashtakam is the powerful
Sudarsanaashtakam. Multiples of 8 and particularly 32 have
special significance and I have posted earlier a note on that 
number and its relevance to Sri Sampradhaayam..

.             Thirukkacchi Nambi, composed in chaste Sanskrit
the first Ashtakam on the Lord of Kanchi and prayed for the well
being of Ramanuja and the Sri Sampradhayam that he was going to
establish as per the wishes of ALavandaar. One can consider therefore
the Devarajaashtakam of Nambi as the trend setter for the other 
Ashtakams that followed.
 Thirukkacchi Nambi was also known as Kaanchi Poorna . As
one of the early preceptors of Sri Ramanuja, he had a key role to 
play at different stages of Sri Ramanuja"s ascendancy as the heir
to ALavandaar. Thirukkacchi Nambi was born in Poonamalle . He used 
to go to Kanchi every day to serve Sri Varadaraja .
The  summum bonum of Nambi"s life was service to  
Sri Varadaraja. He performed the Fan service to the Lord of Kanchi.
In hot summer days , he used to dip the fan in water and 
waved the fan in service to the Lord, so that the Archa Murthy 
could benefit from the cool breeze generated by his devotee.
The Lord of Kanchi did some thing exceptional during those
hours of kainkaryam. He broke His Archa silence and conversed with
Thirukkacchi Nambi. Inview of this great devotion and
 status of Nambi, he was revered by one  and all as a Mahatma.

Sri Perumbudur is in  between  Poonamalle and Kanchi.
Thirukkacchi Nambi used to walk everyday from his home to kanchi
to offer his services to Sri Varadaraja.

 One day, the young Ramanuja saw the great devotee of 
Varadaraja walk though his village. He saluted Thirukkacchi Nambi
 and invited him to rest for few minutes at his house. Nambi recognized
 the marks of greatness of a future Acharya in Sri Ramanuja.When 
latter tried to prostrate before Nambi, he said: " O, Ramanuja ! I am 
a low-born Sudra! you should not prostrate before me. How could you
salute your servant?" Ramanuja was  saddened by the remarks of 
Nambi and replied: " O, Great soul!  dearest devotee of Sri Varadaraja!
Is it the wearing of the sacred thread that  makes one a Brahmana? He, who
is devoted to God , he alone is a genuine Brahmana.You know about 
the life of ThiruppaNazhwaar, who became the object of worship of
the Brahmanas and the temple priest of Srirangam." Nambi was 
very pleased with the utter devotion of Ramanuja and drew close to him.

Time went by. Ramanuja became the student of the Advaitin, Yadava Prakasa.
Thirukkacchi Nambi kept up his friendship with Ramanuja .
Yadava Prakasa  was the promulgator of the rigid Advaita school, that
would not accept or acknowledge the God with form. Ramanuja was
all devotion and cared a great deal for the service to God
 with a form (Saguna Brahman ). Ramanuja
served his Acharya well  inspite of the fundamental differences 
in their view points.The anger and jealousy of Yadava Prakasa
 over Ramanuja"s scholarship and divergence of views
 led the Acharya to think of  doing  away with his star pupil . He 
arranged hastily a Kasi Yatra, during which he wanted to 
drown Ramanuja in the river Ganga at Kasi. . Tipped off by his cousin Govinda, 
Ramanuja escaped from the clutches of his plotters halfway during that Yatra
 and was  rescued by the Divya Dampathis of kanchi , who appeared before
 Ramanuja as a fowler couple. They walked with Ramanuja and received 
water that he fetched from a well to quench their thirst three times.
 When Ramanuja returned
 for the fourth time, the fowler couple had  disappeared and Ramanuja found
 himself at the boundary of Kanchipuram. He understood immediately that 
it was the Divya Dampathis of Kanchi Temple that had blessed him with 
service to them . He returned to his home to the utter joy of his mother.
Thirukkachi Nambi came to the house on hearing about Ramanuja"s return 
from the ill-fated theertha Yatra and was overjoyed to see Ramanuja. Latter 
fell at the feet of Nambi and asked Nambi to accept him as his disciple. 
Nambi protested and asked Ramanuja to offer service to Varadaraja by
fetching water daily  from the very same  Well that Ramanuja had used
earlier to remove the thirst of the Divya Dampathis and that  service will help
Ramanuja to gain the proper Guru later. Ramanuja continued that
service and during one of the occasions of such a service, he met
Maha Purna , who was sent by  ALavandaar topersuade Ramanuja
 to accept the responsibilities of  succeeding  him
 and strengthen Sri Sampradhaayam. Thirukkacchi Nambi"s 
prediction thus came true.

Meanwhile, Ramanuja revered Nambi as his Acharya and once had invited him 
to come to his home and be his guest . Ramanuja"s wife was  a strict observer 
of Varnaasrama formalities and she committed an Apachaara to Nambi , when 
Ramanuja was away. When Ramanuja came home, he learned that Nambi had
 come earlier, partaken the food , gave the remaining food to a Sudra lady and
wife had cleaned the place, where Nambi had eaten and had taken a bath and was
cooking afresh to serve him his meal. Ramanuja was extremely unhappy at his wife
 for insulting the Mahatma dear to the Lord and began to distance himself from 
his wife.     

Before this  incident,Ramanuja had a number
of doubts on Tattvas and begged Nambi to ask Varadaraja to clarify his 
doubts. Ramanuja appealed to Nambi and said : " To whom but you shall
I tell about the matters that agitate my mind for long?" . Kanchi Purna during
the night service to the Lord passed on the queries of Ramanuja. The Lord 
answered Ramanuja"s question and directed Nambi to convey His answers
to Ramanuja. Next morning , Thirukkacchi Nambi met Ramanuja and 
delivered the message of Sri Varadaraja , which was in six parts. Those
parts of the message are:

(I am the Absolute Brahman,the cause of Prakriti, which is the 
cause of the Universe).

(O Bright one! The distinction between Jiva and Iswara is axiomatic).

(Self-surrender (at my feet)  is the only means for  liberation for  those 
who seek  Moksham (final Beatitude).     

(The liberation of My devotees ,even though they fail to remember Me during the 
last moment of their lives, is sure to take place).

(As soon as My devotees give up their bodies , they attain residence 
at my supreme abode ).

(Seek Refuge in the great soul  Maha Purna, who is endowed with all virtues).

(Go soon to Ramanuja and tell him , what I have told you).

After hearing the Lord"s answers to his questions, Ramanuja went 
for initiation by Maha Purna at Srirangam. Maha Purna at that time was 
hurrying towards Kanchi at  the command of the Lord to meet Ramanuja.
They met half  way at Madhuraanthakam .Ramanuja  received the five
 Purificatory rites (Pancha Samskaaram : Yajna, Ankana, Urdhvapundra,
Mantra and Dasyanama ) from Mahapurna. He also returned with Maha Purna
and his wife to his home in Kanchipuram. Kanchi Purna met with Maha Purna at 
Ramanuja"s home and both enjoyed each other's company discussing 
Bhagavat Vishayam. Rakshambaal , the wife of Ramanuja committed two 
more grave Apacharas to her Husband"s guru Patni and a guest . Ramanuja 
decided then to take Sanyasa Asrama and tactfully sent his wife to her Parent's
before becoming a Sanyasi . When Ramanuja took Sanyasam at Kanchi Temple
of Sri Varadaraja, Kanchi Purna  addressed Ramanuja as Yati Raja for the 
first time at the behest of Lord Varadaraja. 

Thus, Thirukkacchi Nambi"s pervasive influence as the messenger of 
Sri Varadaraja  had a central role in shaping the life of Ramanuja at critical 
moments and set him forth on his journey to strengthen the Sri Sampradaaya
even unto this day.

In the next posting, I will comment on the Devarajaashtakam composed by
Thirukkacchi Nambi on his Ishta Daivam, the Lord Of Kanchi.

Thirukkacci Nambi Thiruvadigaleh saranam

Oppiliappan Koil Varadachari Sadagopan