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Gopalarya Mahadesikan's 302nd Thirunakshatram

From: Shyam Sreenivasan (shyam.sreenivasan_at_msdw.com)
Date: Tue Sep 25 2001 - 07:00:04 PDT

                                  Sri
               Srimathe Rangaramanuja Mahadesikaya Namaha
                 Srimathe Gopalarya Mahadesikaya Namaha
                Srimathe Nigamantha Mahadesikaya Namaha
         Srimathe Bhagavathe Bhashyakaraya Mahadesikaya Namaha
            Srimathe Ranganatha Divyamani Padukabhyam Namaha

Today (Wed, Sep 25 Purattasi-Pooradam) is Srimath Gopalarya
Mahadesikan's 302nd Thirunakshatram. Gopalarya Mahadesikan also called
Thirukudanthai Mahadesikan is the great acharya who established
Munithraya Sampradayam. Great Srivaishnava Acharya paramparais like
Srirangam Srimath Andavan Periyashramam, Srimath Poundarikapuram Andavan
Ashramam, Navalpakkam paramparai, Kedandipatti paramparai, Annayarya
Mahadesikan paramparai and many more hail from this Acharya's lineage.
Let us all recite this mahan's thaniyan on His thirunakshatram day.

 Sri krishna dEsika padhaamBHuja brunga raajam
 VEdaantha lakshmana muneendra krupaaththa bOdham
 Thraiyantha dEsika yatheendra shaTaarimoorthim
 GOpaala dEsika shikhaamaNi maasrayaamaha

dasan,
Shyamsundar Sreenivasan

PS: Here is an article by Sri V.N.Vedantha Desikan published in The
Hindu dated Sep 29, 2000 on the occasion of the 301st thirunakshatam of
this Acharya
  ------------------------------------------------------------------------

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 Ayyampettai.

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 ``Prapatti'' (``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.




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