திங்கள், 19 டிசம்பர், 2016

The temple Ramanuja built

-Suganthy Krishnamachari

Melkote Thurnarayanan Temple


The Acharya discovered the idol of Tirunarayanan under an ant hill in Melkote.

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“In the 17th Century, Rayasada Varadarya wrote a Kannada work titled ‘Prapannamrtam’ about Ramanuja, for which he sourced a lot of material. According to Prapannamrtam, Ramanuja leaves Srirangam in 1,096 C.E., reaches Ramanathapura in Karnataka, then proceeds to Saligrama and after a stay there, he comes to Tondanur and thence to Melkote,” says R.K. Narayanan, Sanskrit scholar and researcher at Academy of Sanskrit Research, Melkote. “Varadary v a’s manuscript has been published by the Academy.”
A Kannada book titled ‘Yadavagiri Jeernodhara’ was published in 1932 by Aasuri Tirunarayana Iyengar and Aasuri Srinivasa Iyengar. “This book gives Ramanuja’s time of arrival in Melkote as Bahudhanya year, Salivahana Saka 1020. Ramanuja discovered the idol of Tirunarayanan under an ant hill in the Makara masa (third week of January to second week of February) shukla paksha, chaturdasi, Punarvasu star. The year of discovery, therefore, would be 1,099 C.E. An earlier temple must have crumbled down. Ramanuja, therefore built a new temple to house the idol. Hoysala Bitti Deva, gave him one lakh varahas, of which 50,000 were used for construction of the temple. Bitti also stationed one of his officers in Melkote, to help the Acharya. Udayavar drew up construction plans too. Ramanuja fixed the muhurtham to begin construction — Phalguna (March-April) month, Sukravara, Hasta nakshatra, Vrishaba lagna,” says Narayanan.

According to Yadavagiri Jeernodhara, construction work was completed on Svabhanu Samvatsara Vaishakha, Bahula Panchami, which means it took four years, two months and eleven days for the work to be completed. Sukha nasi, Ranga mandapa, Chakrathazhwar sannidhi, yagasala, ugraanam, Rama sannidhi called Sitaranyam opposite Kalyani tank and kattalu pradakshina path were all completed by this time. “Kattalu means darkness. This path is opened only on the last day of Vairamudi Brahmotsavam.”

Ramanuja performed Tiruvaradhana to the idol, according to Pancharatra Agama tenets for three days, after which he handed over charge to Srirangaraja Bhattar. Interestingly, Yadavagiri Jeernodhara refers to the deity as Adinarayana. Ramanuja also built the gopura and floor in the Narasimha shrine and had Dwarapalakas installed.

“When Ramanuja first saw the deity of Tirunarayana at Melkote, he sang Bhoothathazhwar’s ‘Pagarkanden, Narananaikanden’ verse and the decad of Thiruvaimozhi verses beginning with ‘Orunayakamai.’ These are still recited at Melkote during Punarvasu utsava and on the Jayanthi of Tirunarayana. Ramanuja instructed his disciples to first recite Madhurakavi Azhwar’s ‘Kanninun Siruthambu,’ before Dravida Veda Parayanam begins, and this practice continues,” says Ramanujamuni Krishna Iyengar, who, for more than 60 years, recited all 4,000 verses of the Divya Prabandham 11 times a year at the Melkote temple.

During the Kotharotsava, on the day on which Orunayakamai decad is offered to Lord Thirunarayana, Cheluvanarayana and His Consorts, and also idols of Nammazhwar and Ramanuja are taken to the Aayi family residence. The family has the right of mangalasasanam on the day. “The Aayi family is descended from Asuri Perumal, who accompanied Ramanuja from Srirangam. He was one of the 74 Simhasanadipathis designated by Ramanuja, and had supervisory duties in the temple,” says Narasimhan, who belongs to the Aayi family.

Ramanuja stayed at what is now the Yatiraja matha in Melkote, which has a 13th century inscription that begins with the invocation “Srimathe Ramanujaya Namaha.” It records grant of land to a Ramanuja kootha by Kettiappa Setti.

Everything in Melkote reminds one of the Acharya who stayed here. A few years ago, I met Sampathkumara Bhattar, who had served as the chief priest in the temple. He pointed out that Melkote was the only temple where a Brahmotsava was celebrated to mark the Acharya’s Jayanthi. “To mark the discovery of the idol by Ramanuja, during the Punarvasu utsava, Ramanuja’s idol is brought to the sanctum sanctorum. The curtain is then drawn, to indicate that Ramanuja himself is going to decorate the idol, as he did several centuries ago! Fruits and flowers are brought from the house of the priest who serves at the Ramanuja shrine. These are considered Ramanuja’s offerings to the Lord,” said Sampathkumara Bhattar.

Before Ramanuja left Melkote, an image was made of him and this is one of the three main images of Ramanuja celebrated by Sri Vaishnavas, the other two being in Srirangam and Sriperumbudur.

During Kalyanotsava, the processional deities of the Lord and His Consorts come first, with Ramanuja’s image bringing up the rear. Not surprising, for Ramanuja, like Lakshmana, was an incarnation of Adi Sesha. And didn’t Valmiki say in Aranya Kanda that Rama and Sita walked ahead, while Lakshmana followed them? It is perhaps to remind us of Adi Sesha’s service to the Lord.

The utsava idol is adorned with the Vairamudi in front of Ramanuja’s sannidhi, causing poet Tirumal Arya II, court poet of King Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673–1704 C.E.) to observe in his Yadugirinarayana stava, that in the empire of Yatiraja, Lord Sampathkumara is just a yuva raja.

courtesy: The Hindu


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