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Saint and philosopher



Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan

SRI YAMUNACHARYA (also called Sri Alavandar) was the great Acharya who inspired Sri Ramunaja to propagate Vishishtadvaita Sampradaya. Sri Yamunacharya is the grandson of Sri Nathamuni, who restored Nalayira Divya Prabandham of Azhwars to the world. Sri Nathamuni belongs to the Shadamarsha gothra.

A few centuries later, in the same Shadamarsha gothra vamsa, Sri Ayya Kumara Thathadesikan was born in a tiny hamlet called Navalpakkam near Vandavasi in Tiruvannamalai district. Sri Ayya Kumara Thathadesikan was an erudite scholar and a great spiritual personality. From Navalpakkam village, he migrated to Thanjavur and officiated as Rajaguru for three generations of Nayak kings of Thanjavur.

In the same Navalpakkam village, one Thirumalai Thathachariar was born in 1924 in the Tamil month Margazhi. He learnt the Vedas, Vedangas, Sastras and Vedanta from Annaya Thathayarya Mahadesikan who was also a descendant of same Navalpakkam. Volumes can be written about the greatness of Annaya Thathayarya Mahadesikan. Similar to Thoopul Sri Vedanta Desikan, he had realised Lord Sri Lakshmi Hayagriva. Thirumalai Thathachariar received the full blessings of his acharya, Sri Annaya Thathayarya Mahadesikan and thereby attained absolute proficiency in all religious and philosophical works.

The unique greatness of the acharyas of Navalpakkam is that apart from their Vedic and Sastraic scholarship, all of them diligently practised the rituals prescribed in the Vedas and also led a life of utmost renunciation. Thirumalai Thathachariyar was not an exception. When he lost his wife quite early in his life, he became an epitome of Vairagya and set out on a pilgrimage.

When he was offering his prayers to Lord Aravamuda in Kumbakonam, the Srivaishnavas in Kumbakonam appealed to him fervently to stay there and guide them in their spiritual pursuits. Thirumalai Thathachariar heeded their request as a divine command and decided instantly to take up sanyasa. He did not even bother to inform his relatives in Navalpakkam about the decision.

Accordingly he got himself initiated into Sanyasa by the eminent saint Rangaramanuja Mahadesikan (popularly known an Kethandapathi Swami) with the name Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan. Thereafter, Swami set up an ashram at a tiny village called Valayapettai on the outskirts of Kumbakonam. The ashram was situated near a lotus pond on the bank of the Cauvery amidst coconut, bamboo and areca nut groves. The ambience was so nice that all visitors to the ashram automatically got attuned to the spiritual wavelength of Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan.

Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan propagated the

Visishtadvaita philosophy by various means like Kalakshepams to ardent seekers, upanyasams and authoring books. Many of the great scholars and teachers of Visishtadvaita sampradaya of the 20th century had their tutelage under Sri Swami. Prominent among them are Ayya Narasimha Thathacharya, Srinivasa Thathacharya, Dharmasastram Aravamuda Thathacharya,

Narasimha Thathacharya (all from Navalpakkam) and Ammasatram Sri Seshachariar.

Thus the spiritual seeds sown by Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan have sprouted with such deep roots that even today, Navalpakkam village is the home to more than dozen Vedic and Sanskrit scholars of repute of whom several have won the award for Sanskrit scholars from the President of India.

Similarly Sri. Vedanta Ramunaja Mahadesikan has authored several books on Dharma Sastras, Vedanta and commentaries to the works of earlier Acharyas. The hallmark of his works was that while upholding the tenets of Visishtadvaita philosophy, he never made any adverse remarks about other sampradayas and darsanas. His commentary on Bhagavadhyana Sopana of Vedanta Desika is a masterpiece. Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan was meticulous in observing the sanyasa ashrama dharma in every respect.

After taking up sanyasa, he lived for 30 years. Unfortunately after a few years, he totally lost his vision. Despite that, every day early morning he used to go to the Cauvery by holding a rope, have his bath and perform anushtana.

Thus, in all respects, Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan lived the life of a scholar and saint and thereby radiated his divine and spiritual wisdom and grace to all his devotees and disciples. Hailing from the same Sadamarshana Gothra as Yamunacharya, upholding the Sanyasa Ashrama in all its splendour and propagating Sri Vishistadvaitha Sampradaya by various means, Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan was rightly called "Abhinava Yamunacharya" by his devotees.

The 180th Thirunakshatram celebrations of Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan are scheduled on January 4 and 5, 2005 at S. Navalpakkam Village, Vandavasi Taluk, Thiruvannamalai District - P.C. 604408.

N. S. SRINIVASAN

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