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SrIgOvinda

From: usdeiva (usdeiva_at_ix.netcom.com)
Date: Sun Sep 21 1997 - 22:42:00 PDT

Mohan Sagar wrote:
> 
> My thanks to Sri Sundara Rajan for clarifying the issues surrounding the
> name bAlAji.  Although I very much enjoy reading sthala purAnAs of various
> temples, when it comes to "malai koil" in particular, I must concur that:
> 
> >There is little historic content,  poetic beauty, elevating philosophy ,
> >or devotional inspiration in   'sthala-purANam' [SP] as a genre, which
> >is being sustained through the oral tradition of 'archaka'/gurukkaL  in
> >the various temples.
> 
> Often times, I find a number of the popular stories about the Lord's temple
> on the hill and its associated temples in Tirupati difficult to accept,
> particulary from a SriVaishnava perspective.   One such story is the history
> behind Sri Govindaraja Perumal Temple in Tirupati.  The popular notion is
> that the Deity in the Temple is Srinivasar's older brother, and that he
> counts the money that is being collected to remit to Kuberan.  And because
> of the burden of responsibility associated with the huge sums of money that
> are pouring in, he reclines on adisEshan.  But, what does not make sense to
> me is that He is known as Govindararaja, is worshipped and adored in the
> same manner as Perumal would be, and His Consort is Andal.  My understanding
> from speaking with people who live around the temple is that, popular views
> aside, the temple was built by EmperumAnAr himself, and is dedicated to the
> same Lord as the one residing in Chidambaram.  I would appreciate some
> clarification on this from Sri Sundara Rajan or others.
> 
> adiyEn,
> 
> Mohan
> msagar@worldnet.att.net
> mohan.sagar@dot.state.co.us
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of SrIgOvindarAja

[I appreciate that Sri Mohan should be vexed with the 
banal 'faith' narrations that circulate around tiru-vEnkaTam-
uDAiyAn.    SrIgOvindarAja was brought from Chdambaram
to Tirupati in 11th cent.AD, and the temple consecrated by
EmperumAnAr, 1017-1137 AD.    

To think of SrInivAsa perumAL as an organiser of sweepstakes is
characteristic of the sterile religious beliefs and practices that are
getting established to-day. I am aware that a very organised group has
been at it by putting up a plastic mega-representation of perumAL and
'encouraging' the public to think that their elaborate worship-pageant
was inspired by perumAL Himself.     This group set up some time in
1983-84 in Talkatora Gardens in New Delhi and rolled it up with the
participation of everybody who was anybody in the Capital.]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~o

"gOvinda, gOvinda!"
-------------------
EmperumAnAr had had to leave Srirangam on account of 
being targeted for the chOzha king's sectarian persecution
of SrIvaishNava(s).    The 'hoySaLa' king biTTidEva, who
ruled from tondanUr [in to-day's district Mandya, Karnataka],
received uDAiyavar with great reverence, and himself became
a convert [from jain-ism] to SrIvaishNavam and was bestowed
the name of 'vishNu-vardhana'.     The hoySala rule is redolent 
in our history with  its benignity and  surpassing art traditions,
especially sculpture.

SrIrAmAnuja lived for nearly twelve years in mElkOTe which
he re-named tiru-nArAyaNa-puram.   It was during this interval
that vishNu-vardhana initiated the building of five temples to
nArAyaNa ~~ known as 'pancha-nArAyaNa-pratishThA' ~~
all under the supervision of  SrI mudali-ANDAn [=dASa-rathi],
the nephew of  SrIrAmAnuja.     The lithic inscription of
SrI ANDAn is said to be on the ceiling of the temple at gadag, 
east of dhArwad.   The temples were (allowing for my memory - 
I'd request someone knowledgeable from Karnataka to 
check out on the list), 

~ cheluva-nArAyaNa at mElkOTe
~ nambi-nArAyaNa at toNDanUr
~ SALagrAmam in district Hassan (?)
~ chenna-kESava in haLebIDu
~ vIranArAyaNa in gadag.

SrIrAmAnuja's twelve-year retreat in mElkOTe was  marked by
crystal achievements.        Despite its own log of pillage and
rapine, mElkOTe and its environs still retain the great traditions
of 'ubhaya-vEdAnta' scholarship, an excellence frozen in time.   
It could take a multi-volume book to comprehensively record 
an account of the AchArya's affection for the deities 
tiru-nArAyaNa and Selvap-piLLai.   
  
mElkOTe has the pride of place in the 'sampradAyam', being 
known as the 'jnAna-manDapam'.     SrI-dEvapperumAl sannidhi
in kAnchI is the 'tyAga-manDapam', tiru-vEnkaTam is the
'pushpa-manDapam', and SrIrangam the 'bhOga-manDapam', as
per the esoteric work 'AchArya-hrdayam'.        At least three 
personages from mElkOTe had eventually received great reverence 
and scholastic renown far beyond the region;  SrI nanjIyar who 
was 'recruited' and brought over to Srirangam by no less than 
Sri parASara-bhaTTar and who wrote a commentary for 
tiru-vAi-mozhi;  tiru-nArAyaNa-purattu Ay [jananyAchArya] who 
wrote vyAkhyA for SrIvachana-bhUshaNam and tirup-pAvai;  
and SrI rAmAnanda who migrated to vAraNAsi [where the Sufi 
mystic Sant kabIr became his disciple] and started the great 
'haridAsa' movement which wafted over the vast Indo-Gangetic 
plains as a healing breeze.

Above all, it was in mElkOTe that SrIrAmAnuja composed the
moving prayer

"SrIman!  SrIranga-Sriyam anupadravAm 
  anudinam samvardhaya!"

which is recited by all SrIvaishNava(s) daily as a 'mantram'
empowered by the AchArya-colossus himself.

While every moment that SrIrAmAnuja  spent in his mElkOTe 
retreat was benign to him and precious to the 'sampradAyam',
there were simultaneous afflictions to the SrIvaishNava
religion on the home-ground under chOzha rule.     As and when
chOzha kulOttunga(1) passed away, SrIrAmAnuja  returned to
SrIrangam to resume his stewardship of the community.  It was
then that he heard that the shrine of SrI-gOvinda-rAja-svAmi 
in tillai-tiruc-chitra-kUTam (to-day's chidambaram) had been
desecrated, and the 'archA-vigraham' cast off  in the waves of the 
sea.    Thanks to some alert and resourceful devotees, the 'archA' 
had been recovered and reached to tirupati (foot-hills).

In 'periya-tiru-maDal', tirumankai-mannan hymns SrIgOvindarAja 
of tillai, and tiru-vEnkaTam-uDaiyAn together:

"ten-tillaic-chittira-kUTatten Selvanai,
 minni mazhai tavazhum vEnkatat-ten vittakanai!"

After returning to SrIrangam, uDAiyavar absorbed the 
disheartening report on tillai shrine, and repaired to tirumalai.
After making his submissions to tirumalai-entAi, uDAiyavar
descended from the hill to reach tirupati.     He had the 'mUla' 
image of SrIgOvindarAja fashioned in the 'ananta-Sayana' 
posture [as was originally, and as is to this day, worshipped
in tillai], and had both the 'archA' [brought from tillai] and the
'mUla' properly consecrated at tirupati foot-hills.  pinbazhakiya-
perumAL-jIyar poignantly records that it moved uDAiyavar 
to tears to think that the periya-tirumaDal  hymn had proved 
prophetic,  in that it took a persecution to bring SrIgOvindarAja 
and tiruvEnkaTam-uDAiyAn together in the same 'divya-dESam'.  
To recall this episode of history does cause a tightening of the 
chest, but it would be a real loss if we fail to remember against 
what odds -- the ruler's power, and distances -- had uDAiyavar 
struggled and succeeded in nurturing the 'sampradAyam'.

It was perhaps to commemorate this that uDAiyavar is said 
to have started the practice of invoking the 'gOvinda-nAmam'
while climbing up and down tiru-vEnkaTam hill.   [This practice
still endures, and reminds us of Sri samartha-rAmadAsa svAmi
who established the common social greeting, SrIrAm-jayarAm, 
all over northern India.]    Lest anyone ascribe local colouration
to the gOvinda tiru-nAmam, it may be remembered that this
sacred name is particularly prescribed for prayer-in-distress;
as in drAupadI's "gOvinda...raksha mAm SaraNAgatAm!",
and SrIkrshNa's acknowledgment, 
"gOvindE/ti yadA/krAndat krshNA mAm dUravAsinam
  rNam pravrddham iva mE hrdayAn-nApasarpati !"

I remember that on a visit to tirupati on official business in
August 1989, I had the fortune to meet a district education officer, 
Sri Ranganath (?), whose ancestor had volunteered to have his 
house demolished to widen the 'parikramam'/'prAkAram' as
uDAiyavar was considering the ground plans for the temple,
so as to facilitate  SrIgOvindarAja's procession  ['purappADu'].
May we preserve the inheritance with such devotion!

aDiyEn rAmAnujadAsan 
T.S. Sundara Rajan, @ Memphis.
<usdeiva@ix.netcom.com>