ஞாயிறு, 5 மார்ச், 2017

Faced many challenging situations

-C.T.Indra


Udayavar’s exile was a blessing as it led him to establish Vaishnavism in those areas.

The experience of exile from one’s place of residence caused by religious and political hostility makes Ramanuja an interesting subject of study. Exile and accommodation are critically interesting subjects for a modern reader. Ramanuja may be said to have established a diasporic community of Tamil Vaishnavites in the Mandya and Mysuru region as a result of his exile in Karnataka. Although there are glaring historical discrepancies regarding the much-debated question of which Chola king actually persecuted the Vaishnavas and whether he persecuted them at all or for that matter the question whether Ramanuja did really convert the Hoysala king Bittideva from Jainism, or the question whether Ramanuja went to meet the Delhi sultan all the way from Melkote, etc., Ramanuja was certainly caught in an insecure situation when summoned to the court of the Chola king. That Kuresa and Maha Purna resolved to bear the brunt of the political pressure speaks volumes of their devotion to Ramanuja and no less to the cause of Vaishnavism.

The historian M.S. Govindasamy, in his endowment lecture ‘A Brief Historical Study of Sri Ramanujar’ delivered at the University of Madras in 2002, raised this issue and went on to ask how a person of Ramanuja’s compassionate nature could forget what was happening to his preceptor and disciple and be immersed in establishing a Vaishnava community in an alien region and go about constructing temples and establishing mutts. He firmly believes that since all the narratives praise Ramanuja’s humane qualities, he could not have been such a callous person allowing others to suffer on his account. We, as modern readers, perhaps, can surmise that those were days of poor communication and logistics and, anxious as Ramanuja must have been, as is evident from the account of how he sent a few of his disciples to go back to Srirangam on a reconnoitring trip, it could not have been easy for him to have established quick contact, not to speak of the day-to-day problem of fleeing through a dense forest into an unknown region. Certainly Ramanuja had to deal with so many unforeseen circumstances and forces.

However, the real challenge for Ramanuja must have come during his fleeing for his life, when the hunters in the Nilgiri forests came forward to guide him and his followers literally out of the woods. Ramanuja was in a situation that challenged his character and personality. He must have been touched by the hunters’ solicitousness towards his well-being and safety and those of his followers. The biographies note that the hunters did not take any undue advantage of the situation or ask him to compromise. On the other hand, they were anxious to find a Brahmin in a nearby place who could feed the acharya. ‘Guruparamparai Prabhavam’ says that they brought honey and millet (GPP 6000: 242). As food items they are not regarded as ritualistically polluted. No cooked food served by them is eaten by the Acharya and his men.

When we remember all these factors, we are able to examine Ramanuja’s predicament and openness with a greater degree of subtlety.
(Adapted from Introduction to Indira Parthasarathy’s play Ramanujar, translated from Tamil by T. Sriraman, OUP, 2008). 

Courtesy: THE HINDU -FRIDAY REVIEW

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