In Islamic Times … of barbaric bloodshed,
mindless destruction, forced conversion
and extreme oppression … through
the reigns of Alauddin Khilji and the Tuglaqs.
Swami Desikan lived for proverbial 100 plus years. He witnessed many historical events and contributed enormously to the sustenance and growth of Sri Ramanuja’s belief system of Vishishta Advaita, which is monism qualified with the conviction that this universe is the body of the Supreme Being.
He was honoured with the title of “Sarvatantra Swatantrar” by Sri Ranganayaki post Muslim invasion of Srirangam, upon Vedanta Desika’s creation of Abheethi Stavam.
Muslim Invasions :
The first of the invasions took place in the year 1311, when the Swami was 43 years old. It was headed by Malik Kafur, who was a general in Allaudin Khilji’s court. He was a converted Hindu from Gujarat and had fierce ambitions to please his master. He was feared widely. He hit hard, plundered and went back with his loot. The fear created by him lasted for decades.
The second Muslim invasion was by Ulugh Khan in 1323 AD, when our Acharya was 12 years older. He was by that time one of the most revered Vaishnava Acharyas. He had composed many treatises at the command of Sri Ramanuja, who appeared in his dream. He was deeply absorbed advancing the glorious tenets of Ramanuja when news spread of the marauding army of Ulug Khan, torching his way south towards Srirangam. The residents of Srirangam including Swami Desikan and Sudarsana Bhattar worried about the calamities that could ensue.Sudarsana Bhattar was the author of Srutha Prakasika, the commentary on Sri Bhashyam of Ramanuja. He had two young sons. He was also the chief priest at Srirangam temple. Both the Bhattar and key people involved with the temple wanted to move the Archa Murthys – worshipped idols – of Srirangam away and sit out the invasion at a safe distance.
They raised a stone wall to hide the Moolavar and transported Sri Ranganatha and Sri Ranganayaki – the revered idols – in special boxes and left at the middle of night. With difficulty , they travelled to Thirumalai and conducted the daily worship there, without attracting much attention.
Swami Desika joined Sudarsana Bhattar in Thiruppatthi hills. Sudarsana Bhattar pleaded with Swami Desikan to protect Srutha Prakasikai and his two sons and stay somewhere deep beyond reach of the Muslim invaders, who might track down those, who removed Sri Ranganatha from Srirangam.
Out of his great affection for Sri Bhashyam, Swami agreed and left for the peace and quiet of Satyamangalam. He gave pravachanams on Srutha Prakasika raised the two sons of the Bhattar as his own. He left from Satyamangalam for Thirunarayanapuram to offer prayers to Sri Ramanuja and Selva Pillai. There, he composed Yatiraja Sapthathi.
Sufferring of separation from Sri Ranganatha, he composed Abheethi Stavam.
Abheethi Stavam – Prayer For Freedom From Fear
We meditate on the Supreme Effulgence of Sri Ranganatha, in the company of His consort Sri Ranganayaki, with their abode at Srirangam. This Supreme Effulgence raises all in this world, who seek, into freedom from fear. Those beings who cause to or remove fear of the people are servants of the Lord of Srirangam and obey His will. May we meditate on the Lord with glorious fullness along with the Goddess, His consort !
His blessings can be realized through mere meditation on the beauty of His divine body. He will never abandon any who seek His protection even once. This is the prayer of Swamy Desikan from his distant post at Sathyagalam in Karnataka, longing to be in service of Lord Ranganatha and for restoration of the daily worship at Srirangam, and for the quelling of fears of the devotees of Sri RanganAtha brought upon by the ruthless Muslim invaders.
Oh Lord of Thiruvarangam ! I am of limited intellect, lacking discrimination, and nescience clouds my vision and comprehension. Pulled hither and tither by forces in my own nature, I commit undesirable acts and a few that are desirable. One such electable act of mine is in these salutations to you thru this eulogy. Yet I do not commence this prayer to you with any clarity of mind. Still, even with these deficiencies, O Ranga Lord, please direct your natural compassion upon me and kindly accept even this defective offering of mine.
Oh unblemished, taintless Sri Ranganatha ! All beings of this and the other world go about their duties assigned by your command. You grant liberation from all fear to the diligent and devoted.
Oh Lord of Srirangam, the infinitely auspicious ! This universe filled with conscious and inert beings is bound together by your will and follows your commands. Any one who praises your infinite majesty and grace, prostrates before you or meditates on you, chants your thousand names or circumambulates around your temple, or merges himself in one of the auspicious qualities in your nature, is blessed indeed ! For, such a person does not experience fear (bheethi) from anywhere at any time.
O Lord of Srirangam ! You create the last remembrance about yourself in the mind of the person who has attained a glimpse of you in life, when his life is at its end and his mind is like a log or stone, unable to think of you. You, verily, lead this being to your Supreme abode of liberation absolute.
O Lord of Srirangam ! Your abode alone is absolutely free of fear and worthy of refuge. In comparison, even the highest heaven is hell, what to speak of the the loftiest seats of power on earth that are surrounded with fear of all kind.
O Ranganatha ! Buddhists and Charvaaks (materialists) today spread their fault ridden beliefs and are set to destroy your sanatan Vedic way. Muslims and Greeks (Yavanas), who appear like special agents of Kali Pursushan (lord of this sinful age), are causing immense injury to all who follow your supremely electable truths. The land is experiencing colossal fear due to the activities of all these four invasive groups. That fear increases with each passing day. Your five weapons are immensely powerful in destroying the enemies of your devotees. They protect the assembly of men of knowledge and followers of truth. Please use these weapons of yours immediately with maximum force and chase away the fear that is enveloping this land !
O Lord with celebrated lofty nature! The invading army consists of fierce and heartless people, whose cruelty is worse than that of demons. Being primitive marauders, intent only on plundering the riches of your temple, they have no respect for your seat (in Srirangam) worshipped by great sages and kings. We are full of fear about the desecration they would cause to your abode and other parts of your temple. We are distraught. Knowing what we are going through, we are sure that Mahalakshmi (Mother Goddess) and Bhumi Devi (Goddess of Earth) will be appealing to your infinite compassion and for your intervention with your invincible power, to remove our fears and restore our lives back to normalcy, to how it was before.
O Lord! I beseech all the mighty protectors you have appointed to safeguard your abode in Srirangam, so that they are alert in securing the temple and confer auspicious bounty upon the whole world !
O Lord Ranga ! If one misled expresses hate for you and stands before you as your enemy, no one, not all the combined forces in the universe can save him from your wrath. If you decide to protect someone, no harm to that fortunate one can happen from anyone, at any time and place. Such is your Glory ! You must therefore chase away these enemies of ours, who are harming us at Srirangam by interrupting our worship of you.
O Lord of Srirangam! I have spent my youth enjoying the nectarine juice of Sri Bhashyam (Sri Ramanuja’s commentary on Brahma Sutras). Now this sinner has entered old age and my hair has turned gray. Now, I has only one request of you for the rest of my life here. Please bless me to live amidst your devotees at Srirangam or at other divine abode of yours, where there are no enemies, who interfere with this devotee’s enjoyment of your company.
O best among devotees ! I has been blessed with the cool, nectarine glances of my teachers. I am respected in this world because of the kindness of these learned seers. I, with the name of Venkatesan, has composed this Sri Sookthi of Abheethi Sthavam about the Lord of Thiruvarangam. Please recite the prayers of this Sthavam. The Paarayanam of this Sthavam will remove all of your fears.
The most merciful Lord of Srirangam will look at you and bless you with the words that He used, when the gods were afraid about the troubles that the demons were causing them.
Sri RanganAthan will comfort you and say: “Please abandon your fears. May auspiciousness shower on you!”.
This is exactly what He said to the gods in their time of distress; He destroyed their fears and showered them with all auspiciousness.
Lord RanganAthan will protect you in every way out of His compassion and parental love !
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The above is a paraphrased and abridged version of Abheet Stavam.
For complete work, visit http://www.sundarasimham.org/ebooks/Abheetistavam.pdf
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This post would not be complete without a reference to Swami Vidyaranya, who was born in the same year as Vedanta Desika, was the disciple of the same Guru, Vidyateertha, the chief of Kanchi Kamkoti Peetha, and had witnessed the same barbarity and destruction by Islamic forces.
Determined to counter the invasive developments inimical to the Vedic way, he underwent a long period of penance and prayer… until the arrival of Harihara and Bukka to his ashrama. He reconverted the brothers into Hindu fold and inspired them to establish the Hindu kingdom of Vijaynagar. He guided three generation of kings of the empire and was their patron saint till the last.
Vidyaranya wrote voluminously and was the chief of the Sringeri Sharada Peetha from 1380 to 1386 AD. Among several treatises he wrote, the more well known are Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha (सर्वदर्शनसङ्रह), a compendium of different philosophical schools of Hindu thought, and Pañcadaśī, an important text in the Advaita Vedanta tradition.
For more in the fascinating biography, visit http://www.freeindia.org/biographies/sages/vidyaranya/
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