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Date: Mon Mar 03 1997 - 13:32:42 PST

Dear Members of the Bhakti List,

In response to Smt. Nagu Satyan's request, I am summarizing important 
aspects of Swami Desikan's Garuda Dandakam.

Swami Desikan was initiated into Garuda mantram by his Acharya, Sri AppuLLar.
In Tamil, PuL stands for a bird. In this context, the reference is to 
the divine bird, Garuda or Pakshi Raja(the king of Birds). Consequently, the 
Garuda Mantram contains among its five syllables the two syllables
constiuted by the word  Pakshi. The Garuda Mantram was a  Mantram of AppuLLar"s
family. After instructing Swami Desikan on all relevant Sri Vaishnava granthas,
Rahasyas, and Sri Bhashya, Sri AppuLLar initiated him into the recitation of
Garuda Mantram. Swami Desikan had mastered the tenets of Bhagavad Ramanuja 
Siddhanta at a very young age and by the time he was twenty years old, he 
used to give discourses on Bhagavad Ramanuja Siddhantam. H.H. Srimad 
Andavan Swamigal of Srimad Paundarikapuram Ashramam very eloquently 
describes the greatness of Sri AppuLLar in his Yatiraja Sapthati Upanyasams. In 
particular, he refers to Sri AppuLLar as the only one in the line of Sri 
Ramanujacharya's disciples who had mastered both Sri Bhashya as well as 

After his Acharya's demise, Swami Desikan settled at Thiruvaheendrapuram 
and worshipped Sri Devanayaka Perumal and Hemabjavalli Thaayar. While residing
there, he climbed the hill near the Lord"s temple known as Oushadhadri and
sat under an Aswatha tree and recited Garuda Mantram with intense 
concentration for a considerable time. Garuda Bhagavan was pleased with the 
devotion of Swami Desikan and appeared before him and blessed him. Garuda 
Bhagavan also gave an archa murthy of Bhagavan Hayagriva in Yoga posture to 
Swami Desikan for use in his daily Aaraadhanam. Garuda also initiated Swami 
Desikan into the recitation of the Sacred Hayagreeva Mantram. The Hayagriva 
Mantram contains references to PraNavam, Udgita Vak, and the Veda Swaroopam 
of Bhagavan Hayagriva. Those who meditate on Bhagavan Hayagriva through 
this mantram are blessed with unmatched scholarship and unmitigated eloquence 
of speech. All aspects of the Hayagriva Mantram are contained in the 
Hayagriva Stotram of Swami Desikan. 

The tremendous accomplishments of Swami Desikan are entirely due to 
the Anugraham of Sri Garuda Bhagavan, who is recognized in Sri
Vaishnava tradition as Veda Swaroopi. Swami Desikan composed the Garuda
Panchasat to record his gratefulness to Sri Garuda Bhagavan and incorporated
the Garuda Mantram in the Garuda Panchasat. He then recited
Sri Hayagreeva mantra and had the good fortune of seeing Sri Hayagreeva and
received His blessings as  well. Swami composed the Hayagreeva Stotram and
incorporated the Mantra of Sri Hayagreeva in this stotram. All the acheivements
of Swami Desikan as  a Great Acharya  arise from the blessings conferred by Both
Garuda Bhagavan and His Lord Sri Hayagreeva  at Thiruvahindrapuram. 
Specifically, Swami Desikan was blessed with unmatched scholarship, 
unbounded knowledge, unmitigated eloquence of speech, extremely keen intellect,
and a razor sharp memory. The archa murthy of the Hayagreeva in Yogic posture 
presented by Garuda Bhagavan can be seen even today, next to the Vigraha of 
Swami Desikan sculpted by his own hands, when he was challenged by a 
sculptor, who wanted to  to defeat Swami  in a contest.

Sri Garuda Dhandakam was composed on a later occasion, when a Snake charmer
challenged Swami Desikan"s title as Sarvatantra Swatantrar and sent some
venomous snakes towards Swami to test his power in handling poisonous snakes.
Swami Desikan drew a line with a piece of chalk and declared that none of the 
serpents could cross it. Yet when one serpent crossed the line and advanced 
menacingly towards Swami Desikan, he recited the Garuda Mantra and the snakes 
were carried away by Garuda Bhagawan. The snake charmer lost thus his snakes 
and his livelihood. He fell at the feet of Swami and asked for forgivenness. 
Full of compassion for the snake charmer, Swami Desikan forgave him and 
requested Garuda Bhagawan to return the snakes. Garuda promptly heeded the 
request of his ardent Bhakta. Swami Desikan then composed the Garuda
Dhandakam as a mark of gratitude to Garuda for his unfailing protection. This 
stotram was composed at Kanchipuram.

Thus, the Stotras associated with Garuda Bhagavan and Sri  Hayageeva, the Lord
of Learning occupy  a special place among the 28 stotras of Swami Desikan. 
Details of the Garuda Dandakam will follow in the next posting.
Many instances from Swami Desikan's life presented above have been presented 
in great detail by Srimans Sadagopan and Anbil Ramaswamy previously in this 

Namo Narayana,

Muralidhar Rangaswamy