Srirangam after Ramanuja

Sri Ramanuja redefined Vaishnavism and revolutionised spiritual thinking. The way he showed regarding the conduct of affairs in the Srirangam temple is followed even today. The foundation he laid was so strong that the legacy continued after his departure in 1147. True to the Sanskrit saying, “Deepath Utpanna Prateebam,” — just as a small lamp lights a bigger and bigger torch and spreads glitter and shine — a succession of Acharyas, each outdoing the predecessor in intellect, philosophy, scholarship and saintliness succeeded Sri Ramanuja and adorned the Srivaishnava peetam at Srirangam. Nadamuni, Alavandar and Ramanuja were followed by Parasara Bhattar.

Parasara Bhattar

Ramanuja loved Koorathalwan’s son Parasara Bhattar and in the presence of Lord Ranganatha, directed that Bhattar should be venerated as the Acharya after him. He had mastered Sanskrit and Tamil and his interpretation of the Divya Prabandham became legendary. The Lord of Srirangam appears in Mohanalankara, a day before Vaikunta Ekadasi and Bhattar wonders if the Lord’s eyes can ever radiate the compassion and grace of the Mother. His commentary on Vishnu Sahasranamam is known as Bhagavad Guna Tarpanam.

The interpretation is radically different from the commentary of Sri Sankara. For instance, ‘Vijithatma’ in Vishnu Sahasranamam, according to Sri Sankara, meant one who had conquered the mind. Bhattar interprets it as one who is conquered by the devotee. ‘Vitheyatma’ means someone who can never be enslaved by another as per Sankara. Bhattar interprets it as some one who obeys the command of the devout devotee. ‘Satkirthi’ means fame attained by all glories. Bhattar thought, the glory of the Lord lies in his Saulabhya. Bhattar was deeply engrossed in Thiruppavai. Surgery was performed on his back without anaesthesia. He was chanting Thiruppavai and remained unaffected by pain.


Ramanuja had known Nanjeeyar as a profound Advaitic scholar in Melkote. He had mastered Vedanta and Mimamsa. To fulfil the command of Ramanuja, Bhattar goes to Melkote and seeks Tharka Bikshai. After three days of debate, Bhattar conquers the Vedanti (Nanjeeyar) by his interpretation of Thirunedunthandakam of Thirumangai Alwar. Nanjeeyar dons the saffron robes and becomes a disciple of Bhattar, foregoing the large wealth he was commanding in Melkote. The term Jeeyar in Tamil means a superior person. Bhattar designates Vedanti as Nanjeeyar (Nam Jeeyar). He was so humble that he once carried the palanquin with Bhattar in it. One of the earliest commentaries on Nammazhwar’s Thiruvaimozhi happens to be Nanjeeyar’s ‘Onpadhayirapadi’ which provided inspiration for subsequent commentaries.


Nampillai was known as Kalikandri Dasar because he was born in the birth star of Thirumangai Alwar. He was born during Ramanuja’s life time and had known Nanjeeyar and Bhattar. The title was given to him by Nanjeeyar as Nampillai. Nanjeeyar openly lauded Nampillai for his scholarship. Nampillai’s lectures were so largely attended that when the crowd dispersed, people used to wonder whether it was for Namperumal or Nampillai. The Lord himself is said to have risen from his Serpent bed to listen to the lecture of Nampillai. Even today we can see the plaque where Nampillai was lecturing, close to the main shrine.

Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai

This acharya was a close disciple of Nampillai and was the father of Pillai Lokacharya. He copied the lectures of Nampillai, which are preserved for posterity and became famous as ‘Eedu muppathiarayira padi.’

Pillai Lokacharya

Pillai Lokacharya is the author of ‘Irupathi Naalayirapadi.’ Vadikesari Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar is the author of ‘Pannirayira Padi.’ Pillai Lokacharya and his younger brother Azhagiya Perumal Naayanar became justly famous because of ‘Srivachana Bhushanam’ and ‘Acharya Hridayam.’ They concentrated on Nammazhwar’s Thiruvaimozhi, Thirumanthiram, Dwayam and Charamaslokam.

Enter Vedanta Desika

It was a tumultuous period — kalaba kalam. Srirangam came under siege. Pillai Lokacharya escaped with Lord Namperumal to Jothishkudi. Who was to lead the Srivaishnava world in that cataclysmic period? Vedanta Desika. He is justly known as Kavitharthika Kesari. He composed ‘Abeethi Sthavam’ to ward off fear at Srirangam. Vidyaranya of Vijayanagara sent a palanquin filled with gold and diamond to Kanchi to fetch Vedanta Desikar to Vijaya Nagar.

Vedanta Desikar is the author of 28 stotra granthas, four Kavya granthas, one drama, 14 vedanta granthas, eight Vyakyana Grantham, two Anushthana granthas, 32 rahasya granthas and 24 Tamil prabandhas. Who will not be inspired when hearing ‘Jaya Jaya Mahavira’ in Raghuvir Gadyam?

Thiruvaimozhi Pillai

Thiruvaimozhi Pillai was the Minister under the ruler of Madurai when he was inducted into the Srivaishnava fold by Kurakulothunga Dasa. He chose Manavala Mamunigal (1370 A.D) as the ultimate successor to the Srivaishnava peetam.

Manavala Mamunigal

Some centuries after Sri Ramanuja, Srivaishnava orthodoxy was reverting back to Vedic norms diluting the tenets of the great Acharya. It was left to Sri Manavala Mamuni to restore the reformist zeal and the catholic outlook propagated by the Savant from Sriperumbudur. Legend has it that Lord Azhagiya Manavala listened to Mamunigal’s lecture on Bhagavad Vishayam and chose to declare Himself as the disciple with the famous Thaniyan.


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