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The Strange Snake-2

From: sadagopan iyengar (
Date: Fri Nov 23 2001 - 19:24:05 PST

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedantadesika Yatindra
Mahadesikaya Nama:

                                    The Strange
 Poets are extremely particular that the first stanza
or couplet of their work begins auspiciously, to
ensure unhindered completion (nirvignEna parisamApti)
of the work. As the adage goes, “well begun is half
done”. We can see this in Sri Bhashyam, where Sri
Ramanuja begins with an invocation to the Ultimate,
commencing his magnum opus with the auspicious letter
A (“akhila bhuvana janma stEma bhangAdi leelE” etc.). 
Thus it is a measure of Sri Adisesha’s importance that
Sri Kulasekhara Perumal deems it fit to begin his
Perumal Tirumozhi with an invocation to the Lord of
Snakes. To adiyen’s limited knowledge, there doesn’t
seem to be any other prabandam, with an invocation
dedicated to a nitya suri (except perhaps “Odum
puLLEri” in Tiruvaimozhi, which in any case is not the
first pasuram of the work). Here is the beautiful
opening pasuram of Perumal Tirumozhi-
 “IruLiria sudar maNigaL imaikkum netri, inattutti aNi
paNam AyirangaL Arnda
  aravarasa perum sOthi anantan ennum aNi viLangum
uyar veLlai aNayai mEvi
  Tiruvaranga perunagaruL teNNeer Ponni tiraikkaiyAl
adivaruda paLLi koLLum
  KarumaNiai komaLatthai kandukond   u en kaN iNaigaL
endru kolO kaLikkum nALE ‘
Each of anantA’s thousand heads is bejeweled with a
precious stone. While even one of these mANikkams is
luminous enough to dispel all darkness, consider the
dazzling brilliance of thousand such stones!  Here,
Sri Kulasekhara Azhwar would appear to be expanding on
Sri Peyazhwar’s “maNi viLakkAm”(in the pasuram
“chendrAl kudayAm”). Perhaps Adisesha sports a
thousand heads, to provide an adequate canopy to the
thousand-headed Emperuman (“sahara seershA Purusha:”).
And as if the luminance provided by the headstones is
not enough, Sri Sesha has a brilliance of his own,
which Azhwar describes as a “perum sOthi”. It is
indeed in the fitness of things that the “ParamjOti”
has for His abode a “Perum sOthi”. And, indicative of
his character of “suddha satvam”,Sri Sesha’s colour is
a brilliant white (and hence the reference to the
“veLlai aNai” in the aforesaid pasuram). This
contrasts well with the colour of the Lord, which is a
shining black –this is borne out by the word
”karumaNi’ in the pasuram.

Moving on to Tiruvaimozhi, we find Sri Ananta’s
virtues extolled in several pasurams. Here is one for
a sample-
  “aNaivadu aravaNai mEl, poompAvai Agam puNarvadu”
Azhwar says, just as Adisesha cannot live without
service to the Lord, the Lord too needs the constant
company of Ananta, in some form or the other, at all
times. Commentators recall here one of the paths for
liberation set out in the Kausheetaki Upanishad,
called   Paryanka Vidya, where the MuktAtmA, after
reaching Sri Vaikuntam, is welcomed by Emperuman,
ensconced on the pure-white serpent bed (nAga
paryanka) along with the inseparable PirAtti. The new
entrant to Paramapadam, invited by Emperuman to join
Him, climbs up the steps to the bed (tam Evam vit
pAdEna adhyArOhati) and rejoices in eternal bliss.
 And what sort of a bed does Ananta make? To suit the
delicate tirumeni of the Lord and His consort, Sesha
makes his body extremely soft. “Uraga mellaNayAn” says
Sri Periazhwar. “Mridu tara PhaNi rAt bhOga paryanka
bhAgE ” confirms Sri Bhattar. 
 The Kausheetaki Upanishad describes the Lord’s bed as
“amitoujasam”. Adisesha forms a four-poster bed for
Emperuman, with two of its legs represented by the
Past and the Future. The four Vedas form the bed
ropes, and Moonlight forms the bedspread. On Sri
Piratti’s side of the bed, « UtgeetA”, another Sama
mantra (or the PraNavA) forms the spread. No wonder
that with such comfortable bedding, Emperuman is
forever in Yoga nidra. Obviously, Sri Kalian was not
referring to Emperuman and His nAgasayanam, when he
talked about the danger of sharing a roof with a snake
(pAmbOdu oru koorayil payindrAr pOl).
 Sri Ananta’s maternal affection for the Lord knows no
bounds and hence he is overprotective, even when there
is no danger (astthAnE bhaya shankA), for who would be
able to penetrate Sri Vaikunta (which the Vedas
describe as “Ayodhya” and “aparAjita”, meaning
impregnable and formidable) and harm the Lord, of all
people! This is akin to Sri Periazhvar fearing
Emperuman’s falling a prey to the evil eye and singing
“pallAndu” to Him, to ward off dhrishti dOsham. Sesha
even serves as a protective mountain barrier, as”
SeshAdri” to Srinivasa at Tirumala

 This Strange Snake and his stranger master have
several strange similarities, probably due to their
eternal association.  They share the same name- both
answer to the names Ananta and Ramanuja. Both have Sri
Vaikuntam as their abode. Both are timeless and
immortal. The glory of both is beyond description.
Both are famed for their thousand heads. Both have
taken avataras, mostly together. Both are the
personification of Suddha Satva. Both have been
eulogized by Azhwars. 

Like other nitya suris, Ananta is also sent by
Emperuman to this world, as a part of His untiring
efforts to wean away mankind from evil and make them
toe the right path. The following sloka proves this-
 “anata:prathamam roopam, Lakshamana: tu tata:param
   Balabhadra : triteeyAstu kalou Ramanuja :smrita : »
For being of service to the Lord whenever He takes an
avatara, and to spread the light of knowledge, Sesha
in born in this world first as Lakshmana, next as
Balarama, and finally, in this Kali Yuga, as Sri
Ramanuja.   Sri Vatuka Nambi, one of the Bhashyakara’s
closest disciples, describes Sri Ramanuja as an
incarnation of Sesha- “Sesha roopa pradarsaka:” in Sri
Ramanuja Ashtotthara sata nAma stotram.   And the
Divya Soori Stotram authored by Sri Brahmatantra Jeer,
immediate disciple of Swami Desikan,affirms
this-“Sesha moortim Ramanujam bhajE”.
  Guruparampara has it that Sri Ramanuja, while
engaged in a polemical battle with a thousand Jains,
resorted to his original swaroopam as a
thousand-headed snake, and argued individually,
simultaneously, with each of the thousand Jains.
That was a thousand years ago: finding that people
have still not mended their ways, Sri Sesha took
another avataram 75 years ago, in the form of the
Mahatma who is now venerated as Sri Narayana Yatindra
Mahadesikan, the 45th Pontiff of Sri Ahobila Mutt, and
whose avatara mahotsavam is being celebrated the world
over on 26th Nov.   This Azhagiasingar is verily the
personification of kainkarya, the hallmark of
Adisesha. The services this Paramahamsa has performed
to the Lord would defy enumeration. Sri Devadiraja and
Sri Perundevi Tayar of Kanchi, Sri Veeraraghavan of
Tiruvallur, Sri Prahlada Varadan of Sri Ahobilam, etc.
all proudly sport beautiful jewels lovingly offered to
them by this Azhagiasingar. This Yati’s maternal love
for the Lord is evident from the way he bedecks Sri
Malola lovingly with flowers, natural and golden,
during ijyArAdhanam, just as Sri Periazhwar did. In
each upachara he offers to Sri Nrsimha, we can find a
reflection of Seshatvam. His indefatigable efforts at
protecting and preserving Sri Malola and His
ishwaryam, the radiance born of GnAnA and Vairagya
that He emits, His intolerance for separation from His
deity- all of these confirm that this mahatma is
indeed an avataram of Sri Adisesha, come to emancipate
us all through the panacea, Saranagati. Adiyen offers
this piece with all humility, at the lotus feet of
this great Acharya, knowing full well that it can do
little to enhance His boundless glory.
 Srimate SriLakshmi Nrsimha divya paduka sevaka
SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya

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