Thursday, June 16, 2011


Dear Readers,

I am glad to present the article on the Great Scholar, Saint, Yogi, Bhakta Mahan Sri Appayya Dikshitar.

I have heard about Appayya Dikshitar in some of the forums but was not aware of him till I read the story about him in the Ramakrishna Mission publication “Kathai Malar” which I had bought for my son. The “Kathai Malar” which contains life history of many mahans has come out so far with 20 odd issues which is worth buying and can be taught to the kids as the same is presented nicely in pictorial forms. Mahan Appayya Dikshitar who lived in the 16th Century is considered as an Avatar of Lord Shiva. In the words of Swami Sivananda He is a Genius a Yogi, Bhakta and a Scholar. If you go through his life history you will find he has written many works on Siva-Advaita mainly to counter the negative attacks on Saivaism. Even though his works are based on advaita he is very catholic in his approach and sees both Lord Shiva and Vishnu as one and the same. This is very much felt in his work Hari Hara Stuti. He has also written the Varadaraja Stavam a stotra on Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram. He also admired Vedanta Desikan. He has also written in his works about all the schools of thought i.e. Dvaita, Vishisdadvaita, Sivadvaita and Advaita.

The various stotras of Sri Appayya Dikshitar are very powerful. The Margabandhu Stotram composed by Sri Appayya Dikshitar if recited before going on any travel will ward off the evils and dangers associated with the travel and our travel mission will be successful. Similarly the Apitakuchambastava which is composed on the presiding Goddess at Thiruvannamalai if recited with devotion will cure all the illness. Once Dikshitar swallowed some dhattura juice and got into a state of semi conscious state to check whether he still remembers the Lord even in that state. He wrote Unmattapanchasa or Athmarpanastuti in that state surrendering himself to Lord Shiva with sincere prayer that he should be freed from the cycle of births and deaths. Such is the greatness of his devotion.

I hope this article will be an eye opener about Sri Appayya Dikshitar to many of us.

Let us worship Mahan Appayya and seek his blessings to obtain devotion towards the Lord.

Happy Reading

Warm Regards
AV Devan

Mahan Sri Appayya Dikshitar

Birth & Education

The forefathers of Appaya Dikshitar were great Shiva bhaktas and great scholars well versed in all the shastras and smrithis. Appaya Dikshitar’s great grandfather was Sri Achan Dikshitar who was a great scholar patronized by Sri Krishnadeva Raya, the famous King of Vijayanagar Empire. In order to save a young Vaishnavite girl named Thotamba from being married to an old man he had to marry her as his second wife. She bore him a son named Rengarajadhwari. He was a symbol of Unity of a Vaishnavite and Saivite family. Sri Rengarajadhwari had no issues for a long time. On the advice of elders and relatives he went to Chidambaram and led a life of penance and prayer for a period of six years. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Nataraja, the presiding deity of Chidambaram Temple blessed him with a son who was named Vinayakasubramanya Sarma but was affectionately called as “Appa” or “Appaya” which name struck to him later. Appaya was born in Adayapalam a village near Arani in the North Arcot district in the year 1554 A.D. He was born in the Krishna Paksha of Kanya month of Pramateecha Varsha under the “Uttara Proushthapada” constellation. He had a brother named Achan Dikshitar who was none other than the Grandfather of Palamadai Nilakanta Dikshitar, who was minister to the Madurai King Tirumalai Nayyakkar and a sister named Gnanambika born after him. Endowed with the qualities of devotion, erudition and quick learning Appaya studied the holy scriptures from his father who was a great scholar patronised by the Vellore hamlet King Chinna Bomma Nayakkar. Appayya also studied the holy scriptures under Guru Rama Kavi. It is believed that Appaya had a spark of divinity in him from his very birth. He mastered all the shastras within a short span and completed the study of fourteen Vidyas while he was quite young which itself was a great marvel. The King of Vellore invited Appaya and his brother Achan to his capital after the death of their father Rengarajadhwari, who was the Chief Pundit of the State. Srinivasa Thathachari, the Dewan had great dislike for the worshippers of Lord Shiva. Appaya praised the Siva Lilas and the glory of Lord Shiva. Appayya was very intelligent. He was a master logician. He was well versed in grammar, metaphysics and other sciences. He was a master in all branches of learning. His exposition of Vedanta was unique. He cleared the doubts of all. His name and fame spread far and wide. The Rajas of Thanjavur, Kalahasti and Tirupathi invited him.


Ratnaketa Srinivasa Dikshitar an erudite scholar in Sanskrit a devotee of Goddess Kamakshi of Kanchipuram was the Chief Pundit of the Court in the Chola Kingdom. Ratnaketa Dikshitar came to know that Sri Appaya Dikshitar was a great scholar. He wanted to defeat him. He proceeded to Kanchipuram to propitiate Kamakshi Devi in order to get her blessings. He did severe tapas. The devi appeared before him and said “O Bhakta choose your boons from Me”. Thereupon Ratnaketa said, “Kindly bestow me all the powers to defeat Appayya”. The devi replied “O Bhakta, Appayya is not an ordinary human being. He is verily the incarnation of Lord Shiva. Please do not enter into a controversy rather give your daughter in marriage to him”. At the same time Lord Siva appeared in Appayya’s dream and said, “O child go to Kancheepuram. Ratnaketa will give his daughter Mangalambika in marriage to you”. Appayya went to Kancheepuram immediately and lived there. Ratnaketa took his daughter and reached Appayya’s residence. Appayya honored Sri Ratnaketa Dikshitar duly with Arghya (offering of special hospitality by way of respectful libations and glorification), Padya (washing of the feet), Asana (offering of an elevated seat), etc. Ratnaketa Dikshitar said, "The Devi has ordered me to give my daughter in marriage to you. O Appayya, please marry her and attain fame, prosperity and tranquility". Appayya then married Mangalambika. He led the life of a householder. He gave education to all the students who came to him from different parts of the land. He disseminated Siva Bhakti and sang the praise of Lord Siva. The king learnt Dharma from Appayya. Appayya spread Sanskrit learning far and wide. Appayya had two daughters.

The Soma Yajna sacrifice

Sri Appayya Dikshitar known also as Dikshitendra, performed Soma Yajna to propitiate Chandramauleswara. He performed the Vajapeya sacrifice in Kanchipuram. Several kings came to pay homage to Appayya and to receive his blessings, but Chinnabomma, Raja of Vellore, who was deluded by the evil counsel of his minister Thathacharya, did not come. He later on repented very much for not attending the grand Vajapeya Yajna. Chinnabomma came to know of the extraordinary merits and remarkable spiritual glory of Appayya. He wanted to bring Appayya to his State. He sent several scholars to invite Appayya. Appayya accepted the invitation and went to Vellore. Chinnabomma honored Appayya. He constructed a hermitage called "Sarvato Bhadram" for Appayya. Appayya became the Premier. Thathacharya became very, very jealous of Appayya.

Appayya and Ayyappa

Thathacharya an aggressive propagator of Vaishnavism became jealous of the fame and Royal Patronage of Sri Appaya Dikshitar and gave him lot of pinpricks and troubles. This story about how the ruler of a small kingdom in the South India, invited both Shri. Appaya Dikshita and Thathacharya for the Kumbhabhishekam ( Consecration ) of a Shastha (Lord Ayyappa) temple. While going round the temple with the great two scholars, the King was puzzled to note that the Ayyappa’s idol standing with its index finger on its nose – a posture indicating a mood of serious doubt. The King asked the priest why it was so. The priest said that he had heard from his predecessor, that The Shastha would remove his finger, the moment some great man explained the reason for its doubt. The King looked at Thathacharya and Thathacharya explained the reason in a verse: "Vishnosutoham Vidhinaa Somoham Dhanyastatoham Surasevitoham ! Thatapi Bhutesa Sutohamethair Bhutairrvtas Chintayatee Shastaa.", meaning: "I am the son of Lord Vishnu and blessed I am, saluted by the Gods. Yet , I am the son of the Lord of the Demons (Lord Siva) – so thinks Shastha surrounded by a group of demons." The finger remained on the nose of Shastha. Then the King turned towards Shri. Appaya Dikshita, who sung in all humility : “Ambeti Gaureem Aham Aahvayaami Patnaya; Pitur Mataraa Yeva Sarva Kathannu Lakshmeem Iti Chintayantam Shastaram Ide Sakalarrhasiddhyai " – meaning : "I call Gowri ( Goddess Parvathi ) mother for all the wives of the father are mothers. But how am I to call Lakshmi !(Meaning Vishnu being the mother, and Lakshmi becoming mother’s wife?!!). May Shastha who is steeped in this thoughts give me all prosperity." (Shastha according to Puranic version, is the off-spring of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu , in his manifestation as Mohini.) The King and all those around saw a miracle happen, the Shastha idol removed its index finger from its nose!.

Prolific Writings & Magnificent Works

A prolific writer, Shri. Appaya Dikshita produced 104 works (Chaturadhikasataprabandha Karta) 25 works on Vedanta, 26 on Sivadvaida, 7 on Mimamsa, 26 on Devotional nature, 3 on Alamkara, 1 on Kavya Vyakhyana , 1 on Vyakarna Vyakhyana and 15 on other subjects. There is no branch of literature or philosophy, which he did not touch and embellish with his contributions. Some of his works are :

· Sivarkamani Dipika

Srikantacharya wrote a great commentary on the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana, seeking to derive from it the sivadvaita doctrine. It is generally believed that Srikanta lived after Sri Sankara and before Sri Ramanuja. The present work of Sri Appayya Dikshita is an elaborate commentary on the Srikanta bhashya. The Srikanta doctrine is generally called also as the Saiva visishtadvaita. There is a close resemblance between the advaita of Sri Sankara and the Sivadvaita of Srikanta. Sri Appayya Dikshita very graphically describes dvaita as the lowest step, visishtadvaita as the middle step and sivadvaita and advaita which are very close to each other as the highest steps. Sri Appayya Dikshita calls himself again and again in this work as a follower of the advaita doctrine, but the followers of sivadvaita also claim him as one of their great Acharyas. The Sivarka mani dipika displays the most thorough-going knowledge of mimamsa, vyakarana, nyaya, rhetoric, and in fact of the whole field of Sanskrit literature. What Vachaspati, Sudarsana and Jayatirtha have done for the Bhashyas of Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva, Sri Appayya Dikshita has done for the Bhashyas of Srikanta.

In many places the book is more an original discussion than a commentary. As an intellectual treat, there is not a more learned and well reasoned and interesting work than the Sivarka mani dipika. To the Siva bhakta, the book is a priceless treasure. The author pronounces Srikanta to have been a practioner of the Dahara Vidya. He detects this fact by a critical examination of Srikanta’s references to the different vidyas. On the completion of his magnum opus "Sivarkamani Dipika", he was honored with a "Kanakabhishega" (showered with gold flowers & coins) by his patron King Chinna Bomma Nayakkar. With that gold, Appayya built the Kaalakanteshwara Temple at Adayapalam. He so much loved and revered him, that he created endowments for the maintenance of a college of 500 scholars who studied the "Sivarkamani Dipika" under the author himself (Referred in the Adayapalam epigraph) they were trained to do propaganda for the Sivadvaita philosophy to meet the Vaishnavite arguments. Appayya Dikshitar gave a new life and orientation to Saivism in South India. He made people tread the path of devotion. By his own exemplary life he converted atheists, created a strong faith in them in the Vedic injunctions and in devotion to Lord Siva. He did not stop there. He went a step further and proclaimed in his work Sivarkamani Dipika that through the grace of the personal God alone could men get a taste for the study of the Vedanta philosophy.

· Parimalam

Bhagavadpada Adi Sri Sankaracharya wrote a classic commentary on the Brahmasutras of Badarayans. For this commentary or Bhashya of Sri Sankara, a great advaitic teacher, by name Sri Vachaspati Misra wrote another commentary called Bhamati. For this work Bhamati, another subsequent advaitic teacher by name Amalananda wrote an abstruse and difficult commentary called kalpataru. The kalpataru is an extremely difficult piece of work, which would require extensive scholarship to understand. For this work kalpataru, Sri Appayya Dikshita wrote an extensive and easily understandable detailed commentary called the Parimala. He also wrote "Parimalam" which deals with Advaithic interpretation. This magnificent work brought him the title "Advaita Sthapanacharya". Kanchi Paramacharya says Vedanta Shastra means Brahma Sootram by Veda Vyasa, Bhashyam or commentary on it by Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, Commentary on that called Parimalam by Vachaspati Mishra, Commentary on that called Bhaamati by Amalananda and Appaya Dikshitar’s commentary Parimalam on Kalpataru these five works together are called Veda Shastram.

"Nyayarakshakamani" and "Siddhantalesa" are other noteworthy works in this line. His "Durga-Chandrakala Stuti", "Chitramimamsa" , "Varadharaja Sthava", "Kuvalayananda" are all literary classics and speak of his poetic ability. No student of Sanskirt literature , can afford to miss these excellent works.

· The Varadarajastava and its commentary

Sri Appayya Dikshita, though he was by conviction an advaitin had no differences with regard to worship of Lord Siva or Lord Vishnu. Moreover, he and his ancestors had all along lived in Kanchipuram and hence they were highly devoted to Lord Varadaraja, the presiding deity of that place. It is said that Sri Acharya Dikshita had written a work called Varadaraja Vasantotsava Varnana. Sri Appayya Dikshita in his Varadarajastava describes the divine beauty of the Lord in 106 verses of exquisite beauty and charm. It is as if he has adorned the beautiful form of the Lord with a garland as it were of 106 verses. He has himself written a commentary on this. In it he explains in great detail the Lakshanas of the various alankaras handled by him in the main work. For every great work of composition what is indispensable is not so much the mere technical skill as the inner shining beauty called the pratibha. This pratibha consists of five elements,namely, Atisayokti, Vakrokti, Slesha, Pada Saushtava and Sabda Madhurya. A kavya is said to be a great one only if it contains all these elements. The varadarajastava is full of these and is forever shining as an ornament of beauty to the Lord of Kanchipuram.

· Atmarpanastuti Or Unmatta Panchasati

His "Unmattapanchasa" also known as "Athmarpanastuti" is unique. It is a work of 50 verses composed in a state of semi-consciousness. Once Sri Appaya Dikshita wanted to test his sincerity and devotion to God. So he swallowed a cup of dhattura juice and got into a state of inarticulate stage. He had instructed his disciples to observe his behavior and write down whatever he prattled. It was during this semi-conscious state that he uttered these 50 slokas ( verses) surrendering himself to Lord Shiva with sincere prayer that he should be freed from the cycle of births and deaths. Sri Appayya Dikshita who demonstrated his complete mastery over descriptive verses in his Varadarajastava has in the Atmarpanastuti dealt with equal facility with mystic poetry and makes the inner self melt as it were by his exquisite poetry. In this work, we see the profound maturity of the true devotion to the Supreme Lord. The Atmarpana or surrender of oneself, is the very acme or end in the various stages of devotion to the Lord. There cannot be a greater stage in one’s evolution than this. This work seeks moksha or release as a final end. This reflects the inner mental state of a great devotee, in whom the ego has become fully extinct. The state of one who surrenders himself to the Lord is a stage of complete detachment. What he wants is eternal happiness. What he aims at is only release from the bondage of the never-ending cycle of births and deaths. The disjointed prattle of Sri Appayya Dikshita in a stage of intoxication became this stutikavya which is generally known as Unmatta Panchasati, because all the fifty verses in this work, were composed at a stage when Sri Appayya Dikshita had no control over his mental faculties. From this work the fact that Sri Appayya Dikshita had completely identified himself with the ninth stage of self-surrender or atma samarpana in bhakti yoga became very clear. In this work, Sri Appayya Dikshita has totally surrendered himself to Lord Siva with a deep prayer that he should be given complete freedom from the cycle of births and deaths and be identified in the advaitic state of oneness with Lord Siva. Sri Sivananda Yogi, a biographer of Sri Appayya Dikshita has written a commentary on this work.

· Apitakuchambastava

Once Sri Appayya Dikshita had gone to Tiruvannamalai for darshan of Lord Arunachaleswara there. There he was laid with a severe fever. At that stage he prayed to the Goddess of that place, Apitakuchamba for relief from his suffering and this work composed in that context is now known as Apitakuchambastava. If this sloka is recited sincerely is capable of relieving one from illness.

· Margabhandu Stothra

This stotra is written in praise of the Lord Margabandhu of Virinchipuram, near Vellore of South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. People who undertake any journey should recite it before traveling, on the days when they are traveling and after the completion of travel. Lord Shiva as Margabandhu would always be with them and protect them.

· Hari Hara stuti

In the great kshetra, Chidambaram, the temple to Sri Govindaraja, the Vishnava Lord, which was closed for worship was thrown open again for worship during the time of Ramaraya, the regent of Vijayanagar, through the good offices of one vaishnavite teacher Doddacharya. Sri Appayya Dikshita who had no distinction between Siva and Vishnu, fully welcomed this. In honor of that great event he wrote the Harihara Stuti. This contains ten verses. In each both Siva and Vishnu are praised alternatively. It is well-known that in Chidambaram one can have darshan of both the Lords at the same time.

Sri Appaya Dikshitar was a firm believer in the unity and oneness of God. Yet the age in which he lived made him extol Lord Shiva as the supreme in the Trinity. During 16th century, South India witnessed sectarian disputes between Vaishanvism and Saivism, which had taken deep roots during the days of Sri Appaya Dikshitar. Thathacharya, did everything in his power to propagate Vaishnavism. It was to project the Saivite point of view and to strengthen its hold that Sri Appaya Dikshita had to write a series of books like "Sivarkamani Dipika", "Sikharinimala", "Sivatatva Viveka" , "Sivakarnamratha", "Sivamahimakalastuti", "Sivadvaidanirnaya" – all extolling Lord Shiva and Advaita. In these tasks, he received the support and patronage of King Chinna Bomma Nayyakkar. Yet he was not a bigot. He himself says that it was due to the circumstances he had to do so. In a verse he says, "It is not important if Vishnu or Shiva is considered as the Supreme God by the Upanishads; for we belong to the Advaita School. But when men with crooked ideas and narrow outlook proclaim in abusive language their hatred towards Shiva, we cannot keep quite. To refute this , I had to produce these works. This in no way means that I am not a worshipper of Vishnu". That Sri Appaya Dikshitar was catholic can be seen from the fact that he wrote a commentary on the "Yadavabhyudaya" of Sri Vedanta Desika, whom he admired very much.

Great Reconciler

He praised Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi in hymn. In the "Kuvalayananda" he prays to Lord Mukunda for his blessings. When the worship of Lord Govindaraja was revived at the Chidambaram Temple at the instances of the Vijayanagara King, he welcomed it wholeheartedly and wrote "Hariharastuti", praising both Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva). He proclaimed his catholic outlook through his "Chaturmatasara", which elucidate the philosophical basis of the four important school of Indian Vedantic system. This work has been acclaimed as a masterly and impartial exposition of the respective schools, even by the aggressive proponents of these schools. To him, all schools of Vedanta and all deities were the same, leading to the same goal. He was for reconciliation and not for quarrel, for harmony and not for hatred for tolerance and not ill-will, for mutual understanding and not cantankerous bickering, among the various sects. His name and fame spread far and wide. Kings vied with one another to honor him and get honored by his presence in their courts. His sons and disciples mastered his works and were considered great scholars. His life’s mission was accomplished, yet Sri Appaya Dikshitar led a simple, unostentatious life in his village.

His Last Days

Sri Appaya Dikshitar spent his last days in Chidambaram. He was running 73rd year. One day the priests of Lord Nataraja temple saw Sri Appaya Dikshitar pass over the "Panchakshara Steps" and vanish into the deity of Lord Nataraja. It was at the same time that he breathed his last in his house uttering a half completed sloka meaning, "The splendor of the lotus feet of Lord Nataraja flashes before me as if the sun has risen in the sky". His grandson (Brother Achan Dikshita’s grandson Shri. Nilakanta Dikshita of Palamadai) who was nearby completed the unfinished verse declaring "since the suryodaya has occurred, it is certain that the great soul has reached the final beatitude after leaving the darkness of night of Samsara".
Thus lived a Great Vedantin, an un-biased philosopher, a true devotee, a versatile scholar, a prolific writer, a polymath of learning, a Maha Yogi, who indelibly stamped his personality and teachings on all and gave Saivism and Advita Vedanta, a new life and direction.
Lets us remember and worship Sri Appayya Dikshitar and get the blessings of Hari and Hara!


Appayya Dikshitar by Sri Swami Sivananda
Shri Appaya Dikshita by Sri U. Vaidyanathan (The Indian Review October 1976)
Srimad Appaya Dikshitar’s greatness by Sri Kanchi Mahaperiyava
Appayya Dikshitar articles -
Appayya Dikshitar –

Contact Us :

eMail :
Web :



Very nice reading indeed

Famous grammarian Bhattoji DIkshit of Maharashtra was a disciple of Sri Appaiya DIkshita

Many fail to include this fact in His Carita


ramesan said...

Dear Anand Vasudevan,

Nice to read your article on Appayya Dikshita.The way you have presented his greatness, is wonderful and exhaustive.
I wish to share my impressions on the subject.
My father has also written a book on Appaya Dikshita in the early 1970's.
My father's name is Dr N Ramesan MA IAS.He was a preeminent administrator and archeologist working the cadre of Andhra Pradesh.

In fact my father wrote, this book on the directions of the Paramacharya of Kanchi.

Some of the other works of my father are

THE GROWTH OF THE KANCHI MUTT FROM ADI SANKARA TO THE 68TH PONTIFF.(These working papers are with the Kanchi Mutt).

Every visit to the Kanchi Mutt is,personally for me, spiritually invigorating and refreshing.

For records sake, I am a Chartered accountant and Company secretary, working in the Private Sector in e mail id is