Seer, sage and savant
The Jeeyar of Ahobila Math, Sri Adi Van Satagopan, offering prayers to the Lord Laksminarasimha.
NARASIMHAM PARAM Deivam... Ahobilam, Ahobalam. The Devas gasped on witnessing the awesome Narasimha avatar.
Thus, the place of this incident, that is situated to the north of Tirupati and now in the district of Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, attained name and fame as Ahobilam. However, there are other etymological variations to the same word.
The Ahobilam Kafiyat, a digest containing varied information on the place, states that Garuda did penance in this bilam (cave) and realised the Lord. History and folklore apart, this Nava Narasimha Kshetra (abode of nine Narasimhas) was recognised as one of the 108 Divya Desams when Tirumangai Alwar sang 10 pasurams (songs) in praise of this Lord.
The greatness of Ahobilam has also been delineated in great detail in the various puranas as also in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavatam.
It is noteworthy that the great Advaitic saint Sri Adi Sankara, when Lord Narasimha saved him from a distressful situation, composed two hymns in praise of this non-pareil avatar. But yet another significant event in the hallowed story of Ahobilam took place in the 14th century.
Kidambi Kesavacharya, a renowned Vaishnava scholar, lived in Tirunarayanapuram (Melkote) in Karnataka. In August 1379 A.D., a son was born to him. The parents named him Srinivasacharya. Noticing his son's precocity and mental acumen, Kesavacharya decided to send him to Kanchipuram to learn from Ghatikasatam Ammal, the grandson of the famous Nadadur Ammal and of the sishya parampara of the legendary Ramanuja. (story goes that the Lord, moved by the motherly affection showered on him by these acharyas, conferred the title of Ammal on them).
When Srinivasacharya was 20 years old, he had a dream wherein Lord Lakshmi Narasimha adjured that he come to Ahobilam immediately. There, a series of incidents took place that left an indelible mark in the history of Vaishnavism.
Lord Narasimha, Azhagiya Singar (beautiful lion), emerged from the swayamvakta moorthy (idol not sculpted by human hands) as a sanyasi and initiated Srinivasacharya into the ascetic order. The Ahobila Math was thus established in 1398 A.D. Sri Srinivasacharya became its first Jeeyar and was conferred the appellate of `Adivan' Satagopan.
It is said that the title `Adivan' (first and powerful) was given by the great saint Nammalvar. The Azhwar also gave the Jeeyar a gold ring with the hamsa mudra on it. This ring to this day adorns the fingers of all Ahobila Math Jeeyars. The formalities of initiation having been completed, the Lord instructed that the Jeeyar move from village to village to propagate the tenets of Vaishnavism.
It is interesting that the subsequent acharyas began to be addressed as `Azhagiya Singar' after their Lord and preceptor. It is even more fascinating that at Ahobilam, one can see the sculpture of Lord Narasimha in the role of an acharya, along with a disciple on his left. Another significant feature is that the utsava murti of Malola Narasimhan wears Padukas (slippers) on his feet revealing that he is ready for travel.
Various inscriptions and other evidences testify not only to the antiquity of the Ahobila Math but also to its glory.
Over the years this Holy Order and its pontiffs attracted as its disciples not only the masses and feudatories and chieftains of several regions but also the Orissa, Pandya and Vijayanagar kings.
With increasing patronage the Ahobila Math grew to be an influential institution active in the spread of Vaishnavism. The succession of 45 dedicated acharyas to this date, has made this great Math itself a sacred place of pilgrimage to the Vaishnavites and is referred to with veneration as a `Divya Desa Emberuman's Temple on the move'.
The acharyas of the Ahobila Math, apart from being spiritual leaders have also been scholars of great repute. Many of them have authored several books on various branches of Vaishnavite literature. The 42nd Azhagiya Singar started a Sanskrit College at Madhurantakam and commenced the publication of the now widely read journal, Sri Nrisimha Priya. Amongst many other significant achievements by the Jeeyars of the Ahobila Math, the completion of the 13-tier Rajagopuram in 1985, by the 44th Jeeyar Mukkur Azhagiya Singar, is now legendary. However, by 1991, this aged savant decided that the time had come to look for a successor.
Ubhaya Vedanta Narasimhachariar and Ranganayaki Ammal had six sons. Their second son was Villivalam Narayanacharya Swami who grew up to be an outstanding scholar in the sastras. On December 12, 1926, their sixth son was born. They named him Krishnamacharya.
Learning came very easily to these young lads but it was not surprising for their father was himself a Ubhaya Vedantin (mastery in both the Divyaprabandham and the Vedas). Krishnamacharya was a student of the Madras University.
He passed the Nyaya Siromani in 1949 and received the first prize for general proficiency. While Krishnamacharya did receive sound education from his very scholarly elder brother he had the unique privilege of learning Nyaya and Mimamsa Sastras at the feet of the 42nd and 43rd Jeeyars.
He also served as a Tamil Pandit in the Ramakrishna Vidyalaya, Chinglepet, for four years from 1956. In his eighteenth year he was married. In recognition of his scholarship, the 44th Jeeyar appointed him as the Asthana Vidwan of the math in 1966. Sri Krishnamacharya authored commentaries on several ancient works and took over as joint editor of the Nrisimha Priya in 1982.
Above all Sri Krishnamacharya stood out because of his unflinching devotion and surrender to Lord Lakshmi Narasimha.
Thus it was not surprising that the aging savant Mukkur Azhagiya Singar, decided that he could not find a more appropriate person to carry on the work of this glorious math.
On Oct. 21st 1991, Sri Krishnamacharya was initiated into the ascetic order. (A distinctive feature of the Vaishnava acharyas, who come in the tradition of Ramanuja, is that generally only `grihasthas' (family men) are allowed to embrace the `sanyasa ashram'.
The mantle had indeed fallen on the right person. On November 24, 1992, after the 44th Jeeyar attained Vaikuntha, Villivalam Sri Krishnamacharya took over the reins of the Ahobila Math as Sri Adivan Satakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Maha Desikan the 45th Jeeyar of the Ahobila Math.
In the past ten years, this 75-year-old Acharya, has strived ceaselessly to fulfil his numerous responsibilities. Strictly following the commandments of Lord Narasimha, he has travelled the length and breadth of the country propagating Vaishnavism and the glory of the Lord.
In addition, his Holiness's genial demeanour and easy accessibility endears himself to his legionary devotees. In keeping with the tradition of his predecessors the acharya has taken up a number of social and religious causes.
This benevolent seer also combines in himself the skills of a capable administrator.
At Selaiyur, near Tambaram, in Chennai, a new centre for the math is being established in a five-acre complex, which will include amongst a host of other things a home for the aged.
The various educational institutions under the math afford free education without any compromise on quality.
The activities of the math notwithstanding, the acharya devotes himself steadfastly to the worship of the Lord. His day begins at 3 a.m. and ends close to midnight. The three Sevais performed at the Math, to the chorus rendering of the Vedas and the Divya Prabandham, is a veritable treat in itself. This septuagenarian sage stands at the holy feet of the Lord and performs the puja rituals that take up all of four hours.
This month, the 75th birthday of this seer coincides with the tenth year of his stewardship. In commemoration of this occasion, several pujas are being planned at the Selaiyur Math (near Tambaram, Chennai), in the holy presence of the Jeeyar, between November 21 and 26.
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