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Simple living, high thinking - Tirukudanthai Desikan

From: T.R. Govindarajan (
Date: Fri Sep 29 2000 - 12:52:00 PDT

Srimathe Gopaladesika Mahadesikaya nama:
Dear Bhagavathas:

AdiyEn attached the following article from The Hindu. Sri Ramanuja mission of
USA Inc and Sishyas of Poundarikapuram Ashramam will be celebrating Sri. Vedanta
Desikar and Tirukudanthai Desikan Tirunakshatrams in Boston on Oct 8, 2000.



Artice from The Hindu dt. Sept 29, 2000

 A GREAT luminary in the spiritual firmament of South India was born in 1700
A.D. in a hamlet called Royampettai, in Thanjavur district, on the northern bank
of the Cauvery, near Thiruvaiyaru. He was born in the year Vikrama
(corresponding to 1700 A.D.), in the month of Purattasi, under the star
Pooradam, to Krishnadesika. The child was named Gopaladesika. 

The boy learnt, from his father, the Vedas, Divyaprabandha, Sanskrit and Tamil
grammar, rhetoric and Sastras. Even when he was in his teens, he was sent to
Srirangam to learn the ``Grantha-Chatushtayam' (Rahasyatraya-saram, Sri
Bhashyam, Gita- Bhashyam and Bhagavad-Vishayam) from the great Vedanta acharya,
Ramanuja Muni. 

Young Gopaladesika was advised to settle down in Kumbakonam after he completed
his course. He first undertook an extensive pilgrimage to the holy shrines in
South India and then settled down in a hermitage in the Aravamuthan temple
premises, at Kumbakonam. 

Gopaladesika lived a simple life, sustained by daily alms. Though such a way of
life is not necessary for the householder, one like Vedantadesika or
Gopaladesika, who had no need for money or savings or material acquisitions,
would naturally, and instinctively, adopt this mode of life. 

Three ascetics were attending on him, with implicit reverence, doing his
personal chores - a very unusual phenomenon. They had been drawn from and near:
one was from Watrap, who was devoted to solitude and meditation; the second was
from Seyyanam (in Tirunelveli district), a prototype of Yamunamuni (or
Alavandar), who had a few disciples only; the third was from Vazhuthoor near

He was indeed a second Vedanta Ramanuja Muni, whose service helped the school
reach a
pre-eminent status. The particular ascetic, referred to as Vazhuthoor Swami,
Vazhuthoor Andavan, and Srirangam Swami, was the real torch-bearer of
Gopaladesika's mission from about 1750 A.D. 

The reverence Gopaladesika commanded from the society then, is reflected in his
being addressed as ``Thirukkudanthai Desikan''. He is acknowledged as the
patriarch of the school (or sampradaya, as it is generally termed), referred to
as Munitraya, since it is suppose to have been carried forward by his three
ascetic disciples. The tradition is essentially the same as that of
Vedantadesika; it marks no departure from the path; nor it is a branch since it
was only continuing in the same direction. If it is referred to as
the Munitraya tradition or Thirukkudanthai Desikan tradition, it is only for
convenience and for conveying the regard that he was held in by a large mass of
the religious community. 

In the context of Indian spiritualism, we find two kinds of leaders; one might
be a great author but no great orator; another may be good at discourses or
instructions but may not have a flair for writing works for posterity.
Gopaladesika combined both faculties in happy harmony. He was a `watershed
acharya' in the genealogy of Vaishnavite preceptors. He inherited
Vedantadesika's spiritual legacy totally and from him different streams can be
recognised today. Among these, two are well organised: they are the Srirangam
Periasramam Andavan tradition and the Poundarikapuram Andavan tradition. 

There are a number of others, such as the Kethandapatti tradition, the
Annayaryamahadesikan tradition composed of many Tatacharyas (descendants of
Nathamuni) and Acharya-Purushas, the Denkanikottai stream and so on. One could
make an estimate that some 40 per cent of the Desikasampradaya adherents today
would acknowledge Thirukkudanthai Desikan as their patriarch. 

As an author, his reputation stands simply unassilable: an original work on
(``Nikshepatchintamani''), a commentary on Rahasyatrayasara of Vedantadesika,
commentaries on two works from Divyaprabandham, a commentary on Tattvatika of
Vedantadesika, a terse
Sahasranama-stotra on Vedantadesika; an Anhika work which is a valuable guide on
rituals of daily routine for pious men to followl and a unique work called
``Sri- Jayantyadi-Nirnaya'', where he codifies the criteria for fixing the dates
of such holy fests as Sri Krishna Jayanthi. 

His devotion for the local deity, Aravamuthan, can be gleaned from two short
hymns he has composed.It was he who built the present shrine, with the tower,
for Vedantadesika, almost opposite to his hermitage, within the temple premises. 

He was a model of true humility. He used an unostentatious colophon in his
works, that read somewhat like this: ``written by Gopaladasa, son of
Krishnasoori and receiver of Vedanta knowledge from Sakshat Swami''. It is said
that his grand-uncle Venkatadhwari was so much impressed by his stature, that he
sought to become Gopaladesika's disciple. But Gopaladesika would not allow it!
He commended the grand old man to his own Acharya, Sakshat Swami. 

However, he appears to have suffered the misfortune of begetting a misfit son,
for whom he could only plead with God. The son died young. Gopaladesika had a
scholarly nephew, Venkatacharya and a grandson, Vedantacharya (of Elayavalli
line), who became his `sons' by adoption. They did much to perpetuate his
glorious memory. 

At 82, he took sanyasa and died within a couple of days, in the Tamil Plava year
(corresponding to 1782 A.D.), in Karthigai month on a Krishna Shashti. Just
before he passed away, his loving admirers made an idol of his in iron, which he
approved and blessed with his touch. 

This idol is now worshipped in the Vedantadesika shrine (in East Uttara Street,
Srirangam) which is under the management of the Poundarikapuram Swami Asramam. 

A three-day tercentenary function is to be held at this shrine from October 5,
under the guidance of the present pontiff of this asramam, Sri Paravakkottai

A commemorative volume is to be released on the occasion. 


           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaha -
Let noble thoughts come to us from every side-Rg veda
            namAmi nArAyana pAdha pankajam
            karOmi nArAyana pujanam sadhA  |

            vadhAmi nArAyana nAma nirmalam
            smarAmi nArAyana thathvam avyayam ||

Seyya Thamizh mAlaigaL nAm TheLiya Odhi
TheLiyAtha MaRai nilangaL TheLikindROmE.

En amudhanai kanda kangaL maRRonRinai kAnAvE.


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