As adiyen apprised to the readers of this blog at the start of the year, we plan to complete English translations for Upadesa Rathinamalai, Yatiraja Vimsati and Koorathazhwan’s pancha sthavam before the end of this year. We are already 75% through with Upadesa Rathinamaalai and we hope to wrap it up by end June. In the meanwhile, we also thought that it would be a good idea to get started with Yatiraja Vimsati in parallel.
Today, we begin with the avathArikai (background) of Yatiraja Vimsati and will consider the translations of the invocatory verse and individual slokas in the forthcoming entries. The translation presented here owes its credits to Shri. Gwalior Sathyamurthi Iyengar, a shishya of Prativadhi Bhayankaram Annangarachariar swami and a scholar par excellence.
Yatiraja Vimsati Avatharikai
Saint Vara Vara Muni, the last of the ‘Poorvacharyas’, that grand galaxy of preceptors, was known as Alagiya Manavala Nayanar, before he took to be holy order of Sanyasa. One day, his immediate preceptor (Acharya) Thiruvaimozhippillai (Srisailesar), while meditating on the great qualities of Saint Ramanuja, pondered over those stanzas of Thiruvarangathamudanar (Amudanar of Arangam) depicting Ramanuja as a staunch devotee of Saint Nammazhvar (Maaran), proclaiming to the inhabitants of this wide world, end to end, the great glory of the Azhvar’s hymns and running riotous with the joy spouting from those hymns like unto the intoxication of an elephant in rut. This, in turn, led Srisailesar to think in terms of raising a fitting memorial for Sri Ramanuja, right in the birth place of Nammazhvar (Azhvar Thirunagari). This took concrete shape soon thereafter. A temple was built and the Image of Ramanuja installed therein, duly consecrated. The surrounding streets, named as “Sri Ramanuja Chaturvedi Mangalam”, were permanently inhabited, exclusively by the ardent worshippers of Ramanuja.
The zealous disciple, Alagiya Manavala Nayanar, was called upon by Srisailesar to stay in his new colony and look after the daily routine of the temple. Nayanar’s extra-ordinary devotion to this great cause earned the unstinting approbation of Srisailesar, who started calling him as “Yatheendra Pravanar”, signifying the enormous love and devotion borne by him for Saint Ramanuja, the Prince of ascetics-a name which soon gained currency and became wide-spread. Srisailesar did not stop at that.
At his behest, Nayanar composed twenty Sanskrit slokas in adoration of Ramanuja, known as “Yathiraja Vimsati”. In the penultimate sloka, “Sreeman Yateendra! tava divya padaabja sevaam” the author has gratefully acknowledged the grace galore of his loving Master (Srisailanatha), which alone enabled the former to worship the lotus feet of Sri Ramanuja unremittingly. The author’s profession of love and depth of devotion for Saint Ramanuja are very much in evidence in the fourth sloka, which keeps the hymnographer rivetted to the Great Acharya by word, deed and thought.
Nayanar’s co-disciples composed a verse to commemorate the birth of these twenty slokas, eulogising the hymnographer and his hymns, which could sustain the vast multitude of devotees and make them flourish. As regards the grace and sweetness of these slokas, the reader will, apart from his or her own enjoyment, do well to refer to Sri Prativadi Bhayankaram Anna’s Varavaramuni Satakam’ wherein he has paid glowing tributes to the grandeur of these laudatory hymns. Some might, however, question the propriety of Nayanar, himself an incarnation of Ramanuja, extolling Ramanuja and reducing himself to abject humility c.f. slokas 6 to 15. The answer to this is that this is quite in keeping with the tenor of any Avatar c.f. Sri Rama, an incarnation of Bhagavan Narayana, worshipping the idols of Narayana (i.e.) Lord Ranganatha-“Sahapatnya Visalakshi Narayanamupagamat”. It is noteworthy that the author desires to move from one extreme to the other, that is, from the utter distraction of sensual pleasures to utter devotion unto the one who stands last in the chain of Sri Ramanuja’s devotees, vide sloka 16. The author’s implicit faith in Saint Ramanuja, as the sole Support and the great Redeemer, is fully reflected in the last three slokas.
Here then is a string of stanzas twenty,
Hymns bespeaking the sweet bounty,
Of Sri Ramanuja, the ascetic Prince,
Deep from the heart that doesn’t mince,
Of Manavala Mamuni, the votary par excellence.