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The Strange Snake-1

From: sadagopan iyengar (
Date: Sun Nov 18 2001 - 19:45:07 PST

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra
Mahadesikaya Nama:
                                           The Strange
        When Her marriage is fixed with Sri
Ranganatha, Sri Andal is ragged by Her friends for
having chosen as Her groom, a grand old man, having a
strange bird as His conveyance and a stranger snake as
His bed ( "nAgEsaya: sutanu pakshi ratha:katham tE
JAta: swayavara:pati:purusha:purANa:"-Sri Godastuti)
 The term "swayamvara:pati:" indicates the wonderment
of Sri Andal's friends – it is one thing if an old man
is foisted on a girl as her groom: it is quite a
different and foolish thing to choose such a person,
of one's own volition, as one's life partner.  Perhaps
these girls were unaware that the old man's bed
doubled as His umbrella too- had they known, their
pity for Kodai Nachiar would have been even greater.
  Ananta, SeshA or "aravarasa perunjOthi", as he is
variously known, is a multipurpose servitor of the
Lord, and functions not only as His umbrella, but as
His bed when it is time for YoganidrA, His footwear
when He sets out for a jaunt, as a boat in the milky
ocean, as a shining lamp illuminating His path, and in
a myriad other ways. The Mudal TiruvandAdi pAsuram
makes this amply clear-
 "ChendrAl kudayAm, irundAl singAsanamAm
  nindrAl maravadiyAm neet kadaluL –endrum
  puNayAm maNiviLakkAm poompattAm pulgum
  aNayAm TirumArku aravu".
  The significant word "endrum" in this pasuram
denotes that from time immemorial, for aeons to come,
Sri Sesha has been, is, and will be serving the Lord
in these varied capacities. And by a logical
extension, the term could also be taken to mean that
Adisesha is at the beck and call of Emperuman,
whatever form He assumes-as Para Vasudeva,
KsheerAbdinAthA, VibhavAvatArAs like Sri Rama and Sri
Krishna, or in archAvatArA. (Emperuman is said to have
five states-Paravasudeva,or the Lord as He is at Sri
Vaikuntam, Vyuha murthies- Vasudeva,Pradyumna,
aniruddha and, SankarshaNA ,  Vibhava- avataras like
those of Sri Rama,Sri Krishna, etc., -Archavatara, or
the Emperuman present at various temples, and
Antaryami ,or the Inner Dweller in everybody's Atma)
..Let's see how Adisesha serves Emperuman in each of
these states:-.
   The DhyAna shlokam for the ashtAksharam describes
Para VasudevA, as He is seen by the nitya sooris and
others at Sri Vaikuntam.
 "Savyam pAdam prasArya srita durita haram dakshinam
 jAnuni AdAya savyEtaramitara bhujam nAgabhOge
  In this beautiful posture at Paramapadam, the Lord
sits resplendent with His consorts , with one of his
hands firmly holding on to the velvety form of Sri
 In VyoohAvatAram too, the Lord is to be seen
ensconced on the snaky bed, in the milky ocean
(KsheerAbdi). (This is borne out of SriNammazhwar's
pasuram-"PambaNai mEl ParkadaluL paLLi
 In the Vibhava avatArAs like those of Sri Rama, the
Lord of Snakes is born as the inseparable brother Sri
Lakshmana, who is the personification of "kainkarya".
Service to Sri Rama is the reasond'etre of   His
younger brother's existence. Whether Sri Raghava is
asleep or awake, Sri Lakshamana is always awake,
catering to every need of his elder brother and His
consort. The essence of shastras, that all service is
to be done not only to the Lord, but to the Divine
Couple, is emphasized by Sri Lakshamana's words-
 "BhavAnstu  saha VaidEhya giri sAnushu ramsyasE
 aham sarvam karishyAmi jAgrata: svapatascha tE" .
 Sri Govindaraja (commentator of Srimad Ramayana) says
Sri Lakshmana never slept a minute during the 14 years
that Sri Rama spent in the jungle.
And in Sri Krishnavataram too, Sehsa is born as Sri
Balarama, to keep a watchful and protective eye on the
playful and adventurous Krishna. And who can forget
that stormy night when Adisesha provided a protective
canopy to the just-born Krishna from torrential rains
and enabled Sri VasudevA to cross over from KamsA's
prison to the safe haven of Sri Gokulam?

 In Sri Nrsimhavataram, though there is no specific
mention of Sri AnantA accompanying the Lord, the
presence of a paduka on the lotus feet of Sri Malola
at the Sri Ahobila Matam confirms that Sesha was
indeed there during this avataram too, for the paduka
is after all one of the forms of sesha.  
 Thus, if truth were to be told, what Swami Desikan
says about Sri Mahalakshmi assuming forms
complementary to the Lord's avataras ( "yat bhAvEshu
prithak vidhEshu anuguNAn bhAvAn swayam bibhrati  yet
dharmai: iha dharminee viharatE nAnakruti: nAyikA"-Sri
DasAvatAra Stotram) is true of Adisesha too, for,
whatever forms the Lord assumes, Sesha is there in
some form or the other, to be of service to Him. 
 And when Azhwar says "Adiyam sOthi uruvai angu
vaitthu ingu pirandu", perhaps he includes Sri
Adisesha too!

 And in archAvatArA too, we see Sri Ananta being the
Lord's inseperable slave, in almost all divyadesas,
irrespective of the Lord's posture. If He reclines,
Sri Sesha is His bed – as at Sri Rangam,
Tirukkudandai, TiruAdanur,Tiruneermalai,
Tiruvanantapuram, etc.
 If Emperuman adopts a sitting posture, Adisesha
serves as His Asanam, as at Tirukkoodal and other
 When the Lord prefers to stand, as at Tiruvallikkeni,
Adisesha serves as His footrest or paduka.
  Thus we see Adisesha offering  sarva kAla, sarva
vidha kainkarya to the Lord, wherever He is and in
whatever form.
 It is but rarely that a person's name suits him-for
instance though adiyen carries the venerated Azhwar's
name, adiyen's knowledge or conduct could hardly
entitle adiyen to the haloed name. And the most
seasoned criminal would , more likely than not, carry
the name DharmarAjA. Sri Adisesha is an exception to
this common rule- the name Sesha suits him to a T.  
Defining SEshatvam, Sri BhAshyakarA says" paragata
atisaya AdhAna icchhayA upAdEyatvamEva yasya swaroopam
sa sEsha:para:sEshi". Thus, broadly, one who exists
solely for the purposes of being of some use to
another, is a SEshA , and the counterpart, for whose
sole benefit he exists, is the SEshi. Wouldn't you say
that the epithet "Sesha" suits Sri Ananta perfectly?

   It is a wonder that the other nitya sooris do not
feel jealous of this ubiquitous snake, for he has
appropriated for himself the choicest of kainkaryams,
leaving only morsels for the other residents of Sri
Vaikuntam. A doctrinal question here in a lighter
vein- how can the muktAtma be termed "free" and "his
own master", etc.,  ( "sa svarAt  bhavati" etc.) when
he cannot opt for the particular kainkaryam he wants
to perform for the Divya Dampati?(For, all the
antaranga susrooshaNam seems to have been reserved for
the Lord of Snakes, who obviously wants to have the
Lord's tirumEni sambandham at all times, in some form
or the other.)  Accidentally, adiyen found the answer
to this question too in that magnum opus Srimad
Rahasyatrayasaram- Swami Desikan says that once one
reaches Sri Vaikuntam, one would not wish to perform
the services to the Lord that have been reserved for
others, but is perfectly content with the kainkarya
that has been allotted to one.( "Orouttharukku
vayavasttitangaLAna kainkaryangaLai tAngaL anushtikka
vENum engira abhisandi vEroruttharukku piravAmayAlum……
sarvarukkum sarva vidha kainakrya siddhi undu engayil
There is no doubt that even among nitya sooris, Sri
Adisesha occupies the pride of place. Wherever there
is mention of the eternal servitors of the Lord,
Sesha's name is referred to first, followed by those
of the others (as in Saranagati Gadyam-"Sesha SehAsana
Garuda pramukha nAnAvidhAnanta parijana parichArikA
paricharita charaNayugaLa"). 
 In sri Stotraratnam too, Sri Alavandar talks about
Adisesha immediately after describing PirAtti and
before referring to VainatEyA-
 "nivAsa sayya Asana pAdukAmsuka upadAna varshAt
  sarira bhEdai:tava sEshatAmgatai:yatOchitam SeEsha
iteeritE janai:"
 One could perhaps go on writing in this vein about
this strange and wonderful snake, for it is doubtful
that even the thousand-tongued Sesha himself could
describe his own greatness adequately. However, adiyen
would like to conclude here, for fear of testing the
readers' patience.
       - to be continued
 Srimate Sri LakshmiNrsimha divya padukasevaka
SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya

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