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A luminary remembered


The ``Thirunakshatram'' of the great religious scholar, Lakshmi Kumara Tatadesikan, will be celebrated at the Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram, on November 26. R. VARADARAJAN presents salient facts of the acharya's life.

NALAN CHAKRAVARTHY, Nadadur, Kadambi and Tatacharya are prominent Srivaishnava families of kinship with Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika. The geneology of the Tatacharyas emanates from sage Shadarmarshana who incarnated as Sadagopan in Alwar Tirunagari. Nathamuni is a scion of Sadagopan's lineage. He was born about 824 AD in Kattu Mannar Koil of South Arcot District. Once he heard some pilgrims in the Tirukudandai Sarangapani temple rendering a Tamil pasuram which contained an inspiring eponym `Aravamudan'. It seemed to him that to comtemplate God with such nectarine pasurams was more blissful than the realisation of God by means of yoga. He therefore devoted himself to the task of resurrecting the pasurams from oblivion. So he went to Alwar Tirunagari where Sadagopan alias Nammalwar in a state of trance had delivered ``Tiruvaimozhi'', acclaimed as the quintessence of the Vedas in Tamil. Nathamuni restored and compiled the Alwars' ``Naalayaira Divya Prabhandam'' in a state of mystic communion with Sadagopan. Later his grandson Alavandar and the succeeding generation of Tirumalai Nambi, Ramanuja and Tirukkurakai Piran Pillai elaborated and propagated these cardinal tenets of Visishtadwaita system inherited from Nathamuni.

One of the luminaries in the lineage of Nathamuni was Panchamata Banjanam Tatadesikan who lived in the fifteenth century A.D. He was intiated into Sri Bhashyam by his maternal uncle Shashta Prankusha Swami of the Ahobila Math. His adopted son was Sri Lakshmi Kumara Tata Desikan. He was born at Kumbakonam in the Tamil year of Prajotpathi, in the month of Karthikai, Anusha nakshatram in 1575 A.D. At the time of his birth he was presumed to be a still born baby because he did not cry and show any signs of body movement. A matronly woman of resplendent portliness appeared in a flash, took over the baby, embraced it on her bosom and left the child on a piece of cloth torn from her saree assuring the perplexded parents that the child henceforth would live a full life of fame and fortune. In the Komalavalli Thayar shrine, the saree adorned by the deity was found torn to match the piece of cloth wrapped around the baby. Realisation dawned on the parents that the lady of Divine beauty who gave life to their child was none other than Komalavalli Thayar. Likewise Perundevi Thayar at the Kanchipuram temple cured the child of his fever and delirium on the first birthday ceremony.

The Tatacharyas are the custodians of the Kanchipuram Perarulalan Kovil popularly known as Varadaraja Perumal temple. They are the Pradhana Acharya Purushas in the protocol to receive and deliver the temple honours. In retrospection Tirumalai Nambi's son Tirukkurukai Piran Pillan was ordained by Ramanuja himself as the first and foremost among the 74 Peetadhipathis to propagate Visishtadwaita philosophy after him. Pillan was also chosen by Ramanuja as the competent person to write the commentary on ``Tiruvaimozhi''. The annotation of Tiruvaimozhi thus brought out by Pillan under the behest of Ramanuja is called the famous `Araiyarpadi' the first gloss in Manipravala, an elegant mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit words, on the Divya Prabhandam. After Pillan, Tirumalai Srinivasacharya in the fifth generation of Tatacharyas was installed by Vedanta Desika as the Sri Kariyam of the Devaraja Swamy Kovil. Since then the office of Sri Kariyam is institutionalised in the diligence and devotion of the Tatacharyas to the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram. Lakshmi Kumara Tata Desikan inherited this mantle from his ancestors and made epoch making contributions to the temple annals. He was the Sri Kariya Durandhara - a phrase connoting absolute dedication and authority - of the temple affairs. Simultaneously he was also the Raja Guru of the Vijayanagar king Venkatapathi Deva Maharaj. In Ayengarkulam, a village named after him near Kanchipuram, he built a tank and temple to Sri Rama and Hanuman. A grand festival is performed annually on the Chitra Pournami day at Ayengarkulam where he constructed a huge well with a big cloistered verandah and a mantap underneath, which is known as Nadapavi. He composed the hymn ``Hanumat Vimsati'' which is inscribed on the walls of the Sri Ram temple. Tatadesika authored ``Lakshmi Niyudam'', ``Panchagranthi Nipaharam'', ``Desika Prabanda Yeedu'', ``Nigama Parimala Arumpadam'' in a devotional fervour. He also brought out a philosophical work called Satvika Brahama Vidya Vilasa Parijata Apaharana, a Sanskrit play in five acts, is attributed to him in the temple archives.

Tatadesikan conducted mass marriages with elan and zeal earning him the sobriquet `Koti Kanya Danam'. He is deified with his consort Ammangar in Vedanta Desika's Sannadhi within the precincts of the Perumal Kovil. Tatadesikan's life in its entirety symbolised the noble qualities of a Srivasishvava as pronounced by Ramanuja. A day after Sri Rama Navami, in 1632 A.D. Prajotpathi Samvatsaram, in the month of Panguni, this great Acharya attained moksha on the way to Chandagiri from Tirumalai hills. Lakshmi Kumara Tatedesikan's Tirunakshatram will be celebrated at the Kanchipuram Devaraja Swamy temple on Sunday November 26 that corresponds to Karthigai Anusham.

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