Ordeals of a saint
Poignant incidents from the life of Ramanuja and his disciple Vaduga Nambi, have been included in this narrative by T. A. SRINIVASAN.
The figure of Vaduga Nambi, whose devotion to his Guru remains unparalleled ...
SAINT RAMANUJA faced many ordeals, first under his teacher, Yadavaprakasa, an Advaitin, who took him on a tour of the North to finish him off as he was constantly differing with his views. Then he had to walk all the way from Srirangam to Tirukoshtiyur near Sivaganga, not once or twice, but 18 times to learn the secret meaning of "Thirumanthiram".
The Chozha King, Paranthaka wanted Ramanuja to sign a declaration to the effect that Siva was the Supreme Lord, but he refused to do so. When the king ordered him to be produced before him, his disciple, Kurathazhwan, and preceptor, Periya Nambi, appeared before the King, who mistaking them to be Ramanuja and his chief disciple, ordered their eyes to be gouged. Kurathazhwan removed his eyes himself while Periya Nambi, in his ripe old age, was unable to bear the agony and died.
In the meantime other disciples in the Math, forced Ramanuja to leave the Chozha Kingdom and find shelter in a neighbouring State. Ramanuja and his followers threaded their way through trackless wilds and reached the base of the Nilgiri hills.
The forest men there, who were disciples of Thirumalai Nallan Chakravarti, helped them by giving pots full of grains and honey.
Continuing their journey, they went further North West, following the course of the River Cauvery as far as Sathyamangalam and later taking a shorter route reached Ramanathpur about 70 km. west of Mysore which was then known as Vahnipushkarni.
Resting there for a few days they later went to Mithila-Saligrama, now known as Mirle and Saligramam, two villages 80 km west of Mysore, which are set amidst sylvan surroundings with lush green fields, trees, canals and many water sources. It was a village occupied by staunch followers of Vira-Saivism who considered Ramanuja and his followers as intruders.
It was here that one of the important events in Ramanuja's life took place. According to some scholars Ramanuja asked Dasarathi or Mudaliandan, one of his two chief disciples, the other being Kurathazhwan, to dip his feet in the water source there.
The idol of Saint Ramanuja ... a great religious philosopher of all time.
The villagers drank the water and not only did their hostility towards Ramanuja vanish, but they became his followers.
Though the place was known as Saligramam the place where paddy grows in abundance (Sali means paddy), Ramanuja is said to have exclaimed that the place is as holy as Salagrama in the North, where the stone symbol of the Lord is available in plenty in the Gantaki river there. It was at Saligramam near Mysore that Ramanuja got another important disciple known as Andhra Purnar or Vaduga Nambi. The idols of Vaduganambi, Ramanuja and Nammazhwar are found in separate shrines. No one is allowed to enter the holy water source as a serpent is said to be guarding its purity by remaining inside. Only the priests in the temple take water from the small tank and offer it to devotees.Vaduga Nambi who followed Ramanuja to Srirangam was his most devout and intimate follower. He has left for posterity, "Sri Yathiraja Vaibhavam", a Sanskrit work in 114 verses, which gives the entire life history of Ramanuja.
Many anecdotes connected with Vaduga Nambi are found in "Guruparampara Prabhavam". He was to Ramanuja what the great saint Madurakavi Azhwar was to Nammazhwar.Vaduga Nambi, according to some scholars, was born at Tirunarayanapuram (Melkote), near Mysore, and his father was Salagrama Aiyan. Nambi himself was also known as Andhra Purnar, Salagrama Aiyan and by other names.
His reverence for Ramanuja was boundless and he worshipped the Tiruvadi Nilai (sandals) of Ramanuja daily.
Once, when in Srirangam,he was heating the milk to be offered to Ramanuja, the Saint called him to worship Lord Namperumal (Ranganatha) as the procession was passing through the place. Ramanuja told Vaduga Nambi: "Vaduga, come out immediately, the Lord's procession is passing through our place; let us go and worship Him.'' Pat came the reply from the disciple, "If I come out now to worship your Lord, who will attend to the milk for my Lord (Ramanuja)?''
He is said to have lived for 95 years. He spent his last days in Saligramam where Lord Narasimha and Ramanuja's holy feet are enshrined and worshipped even now.
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