Friday, November 12, 2010

Sridhara! Gangadhara!!







Hello readers,


The Vedic scriputures like Srimad Bhagavadam and Upanishads says in this age of kali the path to salvation is “Nama Sankeerthanam” i.e. chanting the divine and holy names of the Lord. Lord Krishna Chaitanya pioneered the movement of Hari Nama Sankeerthan in the Kali Yuga. In this article we are going to dwell about Sri Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval who was a pioneer in propogation of Nama Sankeerthan in South India. We would have heard of music ‘Trinity’ (i.e. Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Deekshitar and Syama Shastri) who are composers of carnatic music. Many of us would not have heard of another ‘Trinity’ i.e. Bodhendral, Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval and Marudhanallur Sadhguru Swamigal who are considered as the primordial acharyas in the “Dakshina Sampradaya Bhajana Padathi”. Bodhendral who was the Acharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam renounced his position to propogate Bagavan Nama and established the Bagavan Nama Siddantham. Bhodendral’s contemporary was Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval who had spurned his ministerial post to dedicate his life for propagating Bhagavan Nama. Marudhanallur Sadguru Swamigal who travelled far and wide to collect various compositions and prepared the format for performing the Sampradaya Bhajan starting from Thodaka Mangalam, Guru Keertan, Abhangs, Music of Trinity, Dolotsavam, Ashtapadi, Radha Kalyanam and finally ending with Anjaneya Utsavam. Currently various Bhagavatars are doing the yeomen service of rendering Bagavan Nama Sankeerthanam which eradicates the evil effects of Kali or current situation. Bagavathars like Pudukottai Sanjeevi Bagavathar, Haridoss Giri Swamigal in recent years have contributed significantly towards the development of this tradition, which has produced lots and lots of Bhagavatars. Any one who attends the Sampradaya Bhajans, Radha Kalyanam, Seetha Kalyanam etc., will definitely attain peace and happiness. Music CDs on Sampradhaya Bhajas are also available aplenty now in leading music stores. One can take the first step in eradicating all the evil effects which are washed away by simply hearing these Bhajans which are fraught with the divine names of the Lord. Sravanam (Hearing) and Keertanam (Singing or Chanting) are the first step of devotion or bhakti towards the Lord…Please teake the first step……..


Happy Reading! & Warm Regards …… A.V. Devan


Sridhara!! Gangadhara!!

India is land of Saints. Mother India has given birth to countless saints. Srimad Bhagavatham proclaims that Lord would incarnate in this land in this age of Kali in the form of Saints. The Saints have blessed this land with the touch of their feet and have spread the divine names of the Lord. Not stopping with just immersing themselves in this bliss of chanting the divine names these selfless souls strived to take this simple and sweet message to the masses. One such divine person who spread the message of divine name is Sri Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval who was an epitome of compassion and love.

Early life

In the Court of King of Mysore there was a noble minister whose belonged to Karnataka Smartha Brahmin community by name Lingaraya. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He was a person of good repute owing to his learning and wisdom. Lingaraya married to a girl who came from a very noble family. To this illustrious couple was born Sridhara Venkatesa. Sridhara grew up to be a very pleasant young boy and at an early age was already well versed in Shaastras and the Vedas. In due course of time Srdihara was married to Sowbagyavathi Lakshmi. Soon after his marriage Sridhara’s father attained heavenly abode. Sridhara Venkatesa performed all the rites as mentioned in the Vedas to his father for a full year.

Wealthy to Unchavrithy

The Maharaja of Mysore who was aware of Sridhara Venkatesa’s knowledge and capabilities offered him the post of ‘Dewan’ of Mysore. However he declined the offer. He did not have any attachment to either his ancestral property or even the wealth that his father had left for him. He preferred to rather go around singing the names of the lord and lead a simple life by taking “Unchavritti” (i.e. engaging oneself in singing the divine names of the Lord and living through alms without attachment towards wealth). He could easily sense the divine call guiding him to move around the world and spread the divine message of true devotion and nama mahima. When he conveyed his decision to his mother and wife they were too happy to follow him. On knowing his decision the King and people of Mysore gathered at his door step and pleaded them to stay back. Sridhara Venkatesa said, “These riches belong to me no more anyone can walk in and take whatever they want without any restrictions” and left his mansion followed by his devoted wife and loving mother while the King and the people watched on helplessly.

Spreading the divine name

After leaving the city of Mysore, Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval passed through many cities and villages singing the divine names of the Lord and preaching the Kali Yuga Dharma i.e. Nama Sankeertan, accepting things offered as alms. After winning the hearts of the people there and hearing them chant with devotion he would continue his journey. He also visited temples along the way and spent considerable time in reading scriptures. In every place he visited he preached in simple language about importance of chanting the divine names of the Lord. His discourses emphasized devotion towards both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva without bias. Thus moving places Ayyaval reached the town of Tiruchirapalli in Tamilnadu and stayed there for some time. The local King came to know about Ayyaval and became his devotee.

Why Nama Sankeerthanam?

The Yuga dharma for this age as mentioned in various scriptures is Nama Sankeerthanam. Nama Sankeerthanam is singing the divine names and glories of the Lord. To perform Nama Japa is very easy which is very much suitable for this fast world where every one is busy day and night. We get only the time to sleep that is also getting reduced. Hence any one can chant while he is bathing, eating, travelling, working or even in sleep. There are no rules and regulations for chanting the divine name of the Lord. A person can choose any name to chant Shiva, Krishna, Muruga, Rama etc., and keep onself engaged in chanting even though he is engaged in all activities of the material world. Chanting helps a person to be always in touch with the God. Please see the following quotes from various scriptures which tells the importance of chanting the divine names of the Lord.

Hari and Hara

While Ayyawal was staying in Trichy some greedy neighbours voiced their opinion to the King that Ayyawal was more leaning towards Lord Shiva than Lord Vishnu and he should be put to test. The King who was a great devotee of Ayyaval did not like the idea of testing the saint. However the desire to know the heart of the saint sprouted in him and hence he decided to test Ayyaval without malice and hit upon a plan. He ordered the priests to dress up Sri Mathrubhuteshwara Lord Shiva in Tiruchirapalli as Lord Krishna and take him in procession. He thought that Sridhara Ayyaval’s reaction would indicate his bias. When the procession passed through the home of Ayyaval he was meditating on Lord Shiva. Upon hearing that the procession is nearing his house he came out to see the Lord and found Mathrubuteshwara in the form of Krishna. Upon seeing this Ayyaval spontaneously poured out and started praising Lord Krishna through his divine composition known as “Krishna Dwadasa Manjari comprising of twelve verses and in one of the verse he asks , “Oh! Lord Krishna! When will I spend every moment of my life in meditating on your Lotus Feet by reminding myself of the transitory nature of this world, being humble, knowing my deficiencies, turning blind to other’s faults, being compassionate towards all living beings, being a servant of the devotees of the Lord and eyeing both joy and sorrow alike?” The King was taken aback on this and all his greedy neighbours fell at the feet of Sridhara Ayyaval and apologized for their ignorance. The King then requested Ayyaval to stay back in Trichy. However Ayyaval politely declinded the offer as that will stop his mission of spreading the divine message to the world.

Tiruvisainallur

After leaving Tiruchirapalli Ayyaval reached the City of Tanjavur. During the course of his journey his mother attained the Feet of the Lord. The King of Tanjavur Shahaji hearing the scholarship and devotion of Sridhara Ayyaval visited him and blessed by his darshan. Ayyaval was not very much interested in staying in a city and was looking for a calm and serene place to setlle down. When he reached the village of Tiruvisainallu he realized he had found the place he had desired and decided to reside there. Tiruvisainallur (a.k.a Tiruvisalur) is a small village situated about ten kilo meters from the City of Kumbakonam in Tamilnadu. This is the birth place of Marudhanallur Sadhguru Swamigal. This is also the place where Bhodendral, Ayyaval and Sadasiva Brahmendral congregated to spread the divine message of Bhagavan Nama. This is the place where Sadasiva Brahmendral had studied Vedas. This is birth place to many saints like Sri Ramabadra Deekshitar, Mamahopadyaya Ramasubba Shastrigal and many more divine personalities. A visit to this place will wash away once accumulated papas and vasanas. Among all the great scholars who lived Ayyaval is the most accomplished and revered.

Association with Bhodendral

Ayyaval was contemporary to Bhodendra Saraswathi Swamigal (1610 to 1692) or Bhodendral. Bhodendral was the 59th Pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Bhodendral renounced his peetam to spread the message of Nama Siddantham. Sri Bodendral had deep reverence for Sridhara Ayyaval. They used to meet often and enjoy the bliss of talking about the glory of the Lord. Ayyaval loved to chant the holy name of Shiva whereas Bhodendral loved the name of Rama. When Bodendral read the Ayyaval’s work “Aakya Shasti” which talked about the greatness of Lord Shiva’s name is 60 verses, he commented that Ayyaval could have named the work as “Shivaakya Shasti” instead of “Aakya Shasti”.

Bhodendral then asked is he not interested in chanting the holy name of Rama? Ayyaval replied that “While Lord Shiva, the glory of whose name I have sung in these sixty verses, himself does not cease to chant the divine name of Rama even for a moment out of such taste and love for that name, how can I dare to describe the beauty and glory of the divine name of Rama?”. Hearing this Bhodendral shed tears of joy. Sri Bodendral had great respect and affection for Sri Ayyaval, who reciprocated the emotion. In his works Namamrutha Rasodayam and Nama Rasayanam, Sri Bodendral had quoted Sri Ayyaval's Bhagavan Nama Bhushanam as reference, even before they met. Sri Bodendral met Sri Ayyaval in Tanjavur province. Sri Bodendral even composed a song for his disciples to worship Sri Ayyaval, who was elder to him. This verse thus ended: "Obeisance to Sri Venkatasa Guru, who is Shiva Incarnate" or "Tam Vande Nara Roopam Andakaripum Sri Venkatesam Gurum". Sri Ayyaval worshipped Sri Bodendral thus: "Yasya Smarana Matrena Nama Bhakthi Prayajathe; Tam Namami Yathi Sreshtam Bodendram Jagatham Gurum".

Works of Ayyaval

Ayyaval composed many literary works which includes, Bhagavan Nama Bhooshanam, Aakya Shasti, Dayasatakam, Ramamrutha Rasayanam, Stuti Paddathi, Shiva Bhakti Kalpalatha, Shiva Bhakta Lakshanam, Achyutaashtakam, Dola Navaratna Malika, Padamani Manjari, Gangashtakam, Navaratnamalika, etc., All his wokrs mainly talks about the greatness and glory of the divine names of the Lord.


Thiru-Idai-Maruthur Mahalingaswamy temple

Ayyval used to visit the Mahalingaswamy temple (Lord Shiva) situated at Thiruvidaimarudur near to Thiruvisainallur. The name is derived from the tamil word Idai meaning middle and marudur is derived from the Maruda tree. The Stala Vriksha of Mahalingaswamy (Lord Shiva) temple here is Mardua Tree. The talai or top temple having mardua tree as the stala vriksha is Malligarjuna temple in Sri Sailam (Andhra Pradesh), Madhyaruja is Idai Maruthur (near Kumbakonam) and Kadai or bottom one Sputarjuna i.e. Thiruppudai Marudur in Ambasamundram (Thirunelveli Dist). This is one of the Panchakrosha Sthalas. The Ambal here is Brihat Sundara Gujaambika is one of the Sakthi Peeta. The temple deity has been sung by Appar, Sundarar, Manickkavasagar, Sambandar, Pattinathar and Karuvoor Thevar. Brahma-hathi i.e. sin caused by killing a brahmana is found in the south wall with head disheveled and face immersed between the knees. King Varaguna Pandia’s horse accidentally crushed a Brahmin and killed him. The sin followed wherever he went. The King came to this temple. The Brahmahathi could not enter and waited outside. The King went out by another entrance. The Brahmahathi is waiting outside still. The King was relieved of his sin. People inflicted with mental disorders go round the circumambulatory path and get redress.

Divine grace of Mahalinga!

Ayyaval used to visit the temple of Mahalinga on a daily basis as a routine to have the darshan of the Lord Mahalinga. He loved the deity very much that rain or shine he would not miss visiting the temple. To reach the temple he used to cross River Kaveri. One particular day there was a huge rain and the river kaveri was flooded. The boatmen refused to ferry the boat to cross the river. Ayyaval was saddened as he could not visit the temple that day and gazing the tower of the temple on the other shore Ayyaval stood with tear-filled eyes. He went back home and composed a soulful prayer “Aarthi Hara Stotra”. Later that day the priest of the Shiva temple visited his house and gave the sacred ash “Vibhuthi” prasada. Ayyaval felt it was Lord Shiva himself had come in the guise of the priest. Overwhelmed he then composed “Dayasathakam” i.e. 100 verses glorifying the compassion of the Lord.

From Sridhara to Gangadhara

Once Ayyaval had to perfom his father’s annual Shraddha Ceremony. He made all arrangements for the ceremony and invited the Vedic Purohits to perform the ceremony. On the shradda day Ayyaval was on his way to Rivery Kaveri to take his moning bath, he was a low caste man fallen on the ground suffering from hunger. Ayyaval an epitome of compassion could not bear the pain rushed back home and brought the food prepare for the shradda ceremony and offered it to the poor man. Later he went back home and again started cooking afresh for the ceremony. However the orthodox Brahmins were of the opinion that Ayyaval’s act is agains the vedic rituals and rites and they cannot perfrom the ceremony and went back. Ayyaval had no other option but to perform on his own. Sri Iyyavaal conducted the cermony by putting darba instead of brahmins. When he uttered the mantras invoking his ancestor s Bhahma, Vishnu, and Siva came and sat as Brahmins. The ceremony was thus completed that year. Later Sri Iyyavaal told the orthodox Brahmins and said that he was willing to do any purifing act ordained by them for removing the sin incurred by his act. The Brahmins informed ayyaval to take the Holy dip in the river Ganges as remedy. Sri Iyyavaal told them that since his physical condition was not favourable for under taking such a journey told he would rather invite the sacred Ganges to his place and bathe in it. Saying so Ayyaval sincerely prayed Mother Ganges and composed “Gangaashtakam”. Moved by the devotion Mother Ganges gushed out from the House-Well of Ayyaval and started flooding the entire village.


The Brahmins congregated there were awe-struck realized that Ayyaval was none other than Lord Shiva who carries River Ganga in his head. The Brahmins later apologized to him and prayed ayyaval to stop the floods. Ayyaval then prayed to Mother Ganges to stay in his well in the backyard of his home forever. The Holy River Ganag paid heed to his prayer and subsided into the well. This incident occurred on the New Moon day in the tamil month of “Karthigai”. Even today many pilgrims travel to Tiruvisainallur to take a dip in this well every year. This year the annual “Ganga Aakarshana” celebration commences on 24th November and concludes on 5th December 2010. On the last day all the devotees take bath in this well which is equivalent of taking bath at River Ganges. [The Ganga-Avadharana-Mahotsva Patrika of 2010 is enclosed herewith for the benefit of the devotees]

Merging with Mahaling Swamy

One day when Ayyaval was singing songs on Lord Shiva at the Tiruvudaimaruthur temple with prema bhakti. Suddenly he ran into the Sanctum Sanctorum and embraced and merged with the Lord Mahalingaswamy. Bhaktas fainted and all were loudly uttering “Hara Hara Mahadev” “Gangadhara” and danced in ecstasy with tears in their eyes!
Lets workship the divine feet of Sreedhara Ayyaval and get his divine grace!


Bibliography/Reference

Sri Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval – Sriayyaval.Org
Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval – Namadwaar.Org
Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval – Namasankeerthanam.Com
Nama Sankeerthanam An introduction – Namasankeerthanam.Com
Nama Siddantham – Paranur.Org
Why Nama Sankirtan? – Namadwaar.Org
Ayyaval an embodiment of humaneness (R. Krishnamurhty) – THE HINDU
A devout savant (N.V.R. Swamy) – THE HINDU

1 comment:

vasu said...

lot of thanks for posting