Pathway to Paramapadham – Post 6

Srimathe Ramanujaya Namaha
Sri Rangapriya Divya Padukabhyam Namaha
Song Bhaja Yathirajam Bhaja Yathirajam:
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There was a sudden turn of events. Sri Ramanuja had gone to the river to take bath and Sri Koorathalwan was guarding his saffron robes. When he returned, he was told that the palace guards had taken Sri Koorathawlan to Krimikanta Chola. His disciples informed him that Sri Koorathalwan had posed himself as Sri Ramanuja so that he did not have to suffer persecution from the king. Although he did not want to leave Srirangam, his disciples persuaded him to leave to a safer place. Since Sri Ramanuja had many more tasks to complete, he agreed to leave Srirangam.
After a long journey from Srirangam, Sri Ramanuja reached a place called Thondanur. Hoysalas ruled that region. Bitti Deva, a Jain king was the ruler during that period. Thondanur was his headquarters.
King Bitti Deva had a daughter who suffered from a strange mental ailment and people thought that she was possessed by evil spirit. The king tried many sources to cure the ailing princess but it was of no use. When he heard of Sri Ramanuja being in the same town, he requested him to come and see the princess. Sri Ramanuja sprinkled holy water on the princess and she was immediately cured. Bitti Deva was over joyed to see his divine powers and decided to become his follower.
The Jain scholars felt that it was not right that their king changed his religious path just because Sri Ramanuja cured his daughter’s illness. They were very upset because they lost royal patronage. They decided to test Sri Ramanuja by having a philosophical debate. One thousand Jain scholars came to Thondanur to test Sri Ramanuja. Sri Ramanuja seated himself behind a curtain and said that all the assembled one thousand scholars could ask their questions at the same time! The Jain scholars were stunned to get convincing responses for all their questions at the same time. They also heard a constant hissing sound. When the curtain was drawn, they saw Sri Ramanuja as Adisesha with one thousand hoods… The Jain scholars accepted defeat and left the place. To commemorate this experience, there is a vigraham of Sri Ramanuja with serpent background in Thondanoor.
 The king Bitti Deva was renamed as Vishnuvardhana. King Vishnuvardhana appointed Ramanuja as Raja Guru. Thondanur became the seat of Sri Vaishnava activity. In addition to religious preaching, Sri Ramanuja was keenly involved in social welfare activities. He even helped to build a beautiful lake to provide water to all the residents of Thondanoor.
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While residing in Thondanoor, Sri Ramanuja needed thiruman (white clay paste). In his dream, Perumal revealed to him that he was residing deep inside a pit in a nearby hill where thiruman is available in plenty. With the help of king Vishnuvardhana, Sri Ramanuja was able to find the beautiful moolavar (main deity) in Thirunarayana Puram (Melukote). Then he built a temple for Cheluva Narayana Swami.
To do uthsavams (processions), Sri Ramanuja wanted a uthsavar (smaller deity) that one could carry around during processions. Once again, Perumal spoke in his dreams and said that uthsavar was with the Sultan of Delhi. Sri Ramanuja who was in his seventies…went all the way to Delhi and asked for the deity. The Sultan said that he had many idols in his custody and asked Sri Ramanuja to come and pick what he wanted. In an endearing tone, Sri Ramanuja said “come to me Selva Pillai.” The Lord came on his own and seated himself on the lap of Sri Ramanuja… But this happened to be the Sultan’s daughter’s favorite idol. She could not stay separate from the deity of Selva Pillai even for a second. Such was the captivating power of Selva Pillai… So, she followed Sri Ramanuja to Melukote and finally merged with Perumal. In her name, Sri Ramanuja installed a deity called Bibi Nachiyar at the feet of Lord Cheluva Narayana.
Now that uthsavar was also available, Sri Ramanuja, set in place procedures for regular worship, rituals and annual festivals. He stayed peacefully in Melukote for 12 years.
One day he came to know that Krimikanta Chola who harassed Vaishnavites had passed away and that the current Chola king exhibited religious tolerance towards all faiths and convictions. He felt it was time to move back to Srirangam. The people of Melukote were extremely sad to let go of their Acharya. So, Sri Ramanuja made a bronze statue of himself and told the people that he would always reside in the statue and bless them all. His only request was that people should take good care of his dear Selva Pillai…
To be continued… Next