Sri Ramanuja shrine at Tirumala gets a facelift
Sri Ramanuja ... resplendent.
THE SACRED Seven Hills, also known by the names of Seshadri, Tiruvengadam and Tirumala, seat of Venkata Nayaka (Srinivasa), is believed to be a manifestation of Adisesha Ananta, the serpent bed of Sriman Narayana. The Azhwars assert that the Lord "jumped" from Paramapada, his blissful abode, atop the Seshadri hill, and then came down to Srirangam to recline on His Seshasayanam.
Sri Ramanuja is proclaimed to be an incarnation of Adisesha. He was closely associated with Srirangam and Tirumala. Born in Sriperumbudur, he settled down in Kanchipuram after a study of the languages and Vedanta, and dedicated himself to the service of Lord Varadaraja. Srirangam was then the pontifical seat of Sri Vaishnavism, and Yamunacharya (Alavandar) the pontifical chief. After the demise of Yamuna, Ramanuja was invited by Sri Ranganatha to move over to Srirangam and carry on the mission of spreading the Vaishnava faith and also look after His temple.
Even while in Srirangam, Ramanuja began to pay attention to Tirumala. He first sent Anantazhwar, an ardent disciple, to the hills to establish a flower garden which would provide Tulasi and flowers for the daily worship. His maternal uncle and Acharya Srisailapurna Tirumalai Nambi, a disciple of Yamuna, was already there, serving Sri Venkatesa.
After a few years, probably around 1050 A.D., Ramanuja undertook his first trip to Tirupati. Unwilling to tread upon the holy body of Adisesha, Ramanuja crawled on all fours. While he paused to take rest on the steep `knee-breaker' hill (`mokalla mitta'), Sri Tirumalai Nambi and Ananthazhwar, who were coming down to receive him with the Lord's prasada holy tirta and fruits met him there. Ramanuja eagerly partook of the prasadams, consumed some mango fruits and buried the seeds there. In course of time, trees grew out of these seeds.
On reaching the abode of Sri Venkatesa, Ramanuja was received with temple honours. Inside, he feasted his eyes on the lovely form of the Lord and was delighted to see the verdant nandavana, established by Anantazhwar, with a tank. He fondly embraced the disciple, blessed him by saying, "Valarthadhanal Payan Petren" (I have obtained the fruits of bringing you up). Ramanuja stayed on the hill for three days and used the opportunity to deliver several discourses on the Upanishads. These were soon compiled in the form of a book, "Vedanta Sangraha", Ramanuja's first work on the Vedanta.
Ramanuja stayed for a year in Tirupati, to study the significance of Valmiki's Ramayana under the guidance of acharya Tirumalai Nambi. Since he thought it was a sacrilege to live on the holy hill, which he revered as the body of Adisesha, and Tirumalai Nambi could not miss his service and worship of Venkateswara even for a day, they met at the foot of the hills everyday to study the epic.
Venkatesa, did not want to miss the company of His ardent devotees, and joined them. The imprint of his Tiruvadi can be seen at the foothills where they studied the Ramayana. Years later, Ramanuja had to go to Tirupati again, as he was summoned to establish that the Lord atop the Venkata Hill was solely a manifestation of Mahavishnu. Ramanuja convinced the ruling chieftain at Tirupati, quoting extensively from the Veda, Puranas and other sources that the deity was none other than Mahavishnu. He also restored the Chanka and Chakra on the deity. The Lord had given them away to King Thondaman to help him win battles. Ramanuja established the utsava idol of Govindaraja displaced from Chidambaram at the Vishnu temple in Tirupati.
He arranged for the extension of the temple and regular conduct of puja and festivals there. He introduced a number of reforms in the worship of the Lord and in the temple administration at Tirumala. The reforms introduced by Ramanuja, called "Ramanujarya Divyagna", have been recorded in detail in "Sri Venkatachala Itihasamala" and the "Tirupati Tirumala Itihasamala" (Tirumalai Ozhugu).
An image of Ramanuja, after he shed his mortal coil, was consecrated in a shrine at the Tirumala temple. There is no other acharya or Azhwar in `urcha form' at Tirumala. Several centuries later, Sri Manavalamamuni, a reincarnation of Ramanuja, visited the Tirumala temple and strengthened the administration on secular and religious matters.
Manavalamamuni, identified the spot where Ramanuja had rested, and wished to build a temple there. Kandadai Ramanuja Iyengar (Muni), a trusted lieutenant of Mamunigal, built a temple there and consecrated a beautiful archa image (moolavar) of Ramanuja and arranged for food offering every day at Tirumala.
Manavalamamunigal had lovingly referred to this archa form as "Mambazha Emperumanar".
This temple has now been renovated, thanks to the efforts of Srimad Chinna Jeer Swami, with the blessings of Srimad Periya Jeer Swami. The mahasamprokshana of this renovated temple was performed on February 7, with a three-day preliminary function, according to the Vaikhanasa agama under the supervision of the agama advisors to TTD. All the offerings for the "homam" and the prasadams for all the days were brought from the main temple in Tirumalai and offered to Ramanuja.
On the mahasamprokshanam day, Baghavat Senapati Azhwar (Senai Mudaliar) from Sri Venkateswara temple was brought in procession with the Lord's Sri Satakopan to the renovated temple and in the presence of both the Jeers, Acharya purushas and Srivaishnava goshti, purnahuti, Samprokshanam and Sathumurai were performed.
The mahasamprokshanam was fittingly celebrated at the main temple of Venkateswara with a grand procession of Malayappaswami and Bashyakara Swami (utsavar), with a full goshti chanting, "Ramanuja Nuttrandadi" round the four mada streets in the evening. The function concluded with the offering of prasadam to the Lord and Sri Ramanuja, in the Ramanuja shrine, inside the main temple.
The renovation was carried out by Subbiah Stapathy and his son Swaminathan (Siva) Stapathy of Kanchipuram. The temple is located on the left before the Mukkala Mita Mantap as one ascends the steps, and is about 1.5 km before the `toll gate'.
V. V. RAMANUJAM
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