Swami Alavandhar

Swami Alavandar ஆளவந்தார் is amongst the most important acharyas of Sri Vaishnava tradition. He was the foremost to identify that Swami Ramanuja was the future of Sri Vaishnava Sampradayam and ordered all his disciples to give due respect to Swami Ramanuja.

     


Swami Alavandhar Thanian (rendered by Swami Ramanuja):

yathpaadhaamboruha Dhyaana vidhvasthaasheShkalmaShah |
vasthuthaamupayaatho aham yaamuneeyam namaami tham ||


Year : 916 AD to 1042 AD 
Birth Place : Kaattumannargudi
Other Names : Yamunacharyar, Yamunamuni
Month : Aadi 
Thiru Natchathiram: Utthiradam

Yamunacharya, also popularly known as Alavandar, was the son of Ishwara Muni and grandson of the great acharya Nathamuni. He was born in 916 A.D at Viranarayanapuram (present day Kattu Mannargudi) in Tamil Nadu. Yamunacharya was a genius – a child prodigy. He was instructed in all Sastras. He had the gift of eka-santha – graha (remembering forever by learning only once).


Alavandar pronounced Swami Ramanuja as his successor. He ordered that all his disciples should give due respect to him and the act of surrendering to him was the only way for salvation.

na dharma nishtOsmi na chaatma vEdi
na bhaktimaan tvaccharaNAravindE
akinchanOananyagatih saraNya!
tvat paadamoolam saranam prapadye
. (Sthothra Rathnam- 22nd sloka)

Oh you worthy of being sought as refuge! I am not one established in Dharma, nor am i a knower of the self. I have no fervent devotion to your lotus-feet. Utterly destitute as I am and having none else for resort, I take refuge under your feet. (Translation by Swamy Adidevananda)

During that time, AkkiAzhwAn, the rAja purOhithar sends his representatives to all pandits and asks them to pay taxes to him (since he is the chief pandit). mahAbhAshya bhattar becomes worried and seeing that yamunaithuraivar says that he will handle the issue. He sends a slOkam which says “he will destory the poets who look for cheap publicity”. Seeing this AkkiAzhwAn gets angry and sends his soldiers to bring yamunaithuraivar to the king’s court. Yamunaithuraivar tells them that he will come only if he was offered proper respects. So, king sends him a palanquin and yamunaithuraivar visits the court.

While the debate is about to start, rAja mahishi tells the king that she is sure that yamunaithuraivar will win and if he loses, she will become a servant of the king. And the king is confident that AkkiAzhwAn will win and he says if yamunaithurairvar, he will give half the kingdom to him.

Yamuna asked (or stated) three statements. He asked Akkialwan to counter.

  • 1) AkkiAzhwAn’s mother is childless.
  • 2) The King was just a ruler.
  • 3) The Queen was chaste.

The scholar had to deny all the above three statements. They were all very tricky.

How can one say that his mother is barren, when he is her child!
How can anyone say in front of the King that he was unjust!
Punishment could be severe. Worst is, who can dare say that the Queen was not chaste!

The scholar was caught in terrible embarrassment. To get over this, the scholar challenged Yamunacharya to answer by denying the statements. Unfazed, Yamunacharya replied to all the 3 statements:

  • 1) According to shastras, bearing only one child is equivalent to infertility. So, saying Scholar's mother was barren is acceptable, as he was her only child. It is like plaintain trees give only one bunch and mothers having only one child are called kathali vandhya in Sanskrit. 

  • 2) According to Shastras, all crimes committed by his people affects the King. So no King could call himself just.

  • 3) According to Shastras, again, a woman is considered chaste only if she followed her husband implicitly or absolutely. In this debate, the King was supporting the scholar, while the Queen was supporting Yamunacharya. Therfore, the Queen was not following the King implicitly and so she could not be termed chaste.

(This is only to drive home a point that logic can not be the solution fully. One needs to fall back on Saasthras and Sruthi/Smrthis for praMANams.)

The King sent Akkialwan out of his kingdom and gave Yamuna half his kingdom. The queen hailed the boy as "Alavandhaar" ஆளவந்தீரோ - One who came to save me.

During Swami Nathamuni's final days, he had entrusted the task of establishing the siddhanta by his grandson Yamunacharya, to his disciple Swami Uyyakondar [உய்யக் கொண்டார்]. In his lifetime he could not achieve and so, Uyyakondar passed on the responsibility to his disciple Swami Manakkal Nambi [மணக்கால் நம்பி]. Swami Manakkal Nambi found it was difficult to meet Alavandar, as he was a ruler and had little time for religious matters. He devised a plan and offered daily thoodhuvalai keerai [தூதுவளை கீரை], a type of lettuce, to the Royal cook and requested him to serve the King daily. The cook prepared the lettuce and the King Alavandar relished the preparation. This continued for several months.

Suddenly Swami Manakkal Nambi stopped supplying the lettuce and so the cook could not serve the King. Noticing that lettuce was not in the plate, Alavandar called the cook and asked why lettuce was not served. The cook replied that one brahmin was supplying regularly and suddenly the supply was stopped. King Alavandar asked the cook to send the brahmin to him, if he reported again. Swami Manakkal Nambi appeared again and the cook promptly took him to the King Alavandar. Alavandar asked Swami Manakkal Nambi, what was he expecting to get, by supplying all these days lettuce. Swami Manakkal Nambi denied anything he expected from the King; but wanted to hand over a treasure, Alavandar's grand father had given to him. Thus the opportunity came and Swami Manakkal Nambi taught Bhagavad Gita to Alavandar as taught to him by Swami Nathamuni.

Realizing the greatness of Gita, Alavandar wanted to learn more about the Lord. Swami Manakkal Nambi took him to Srirangam and with the grace of Sri Ranganatha, Alavandar was instantly captivated by the beauty of the Lord. Renunciating all wealth and Kingdom, Swami Alavandar devoted himself to our philosophy and established his mutt to preach others. One of Swami Alavandar's disciple was Peria Nambi, whose disciple was Swami Ramanuja. Just like Ekalavya did not get tutored directly from Drona, Swami Ramanuja was not fortunate to be the direct disciple of Swami Alavandar.

ALavandhAr comes back to srirangam and is worried about appointing the successor to lead the sampradhAyam. He finds out about iLayAzhwAr (Sri rAmAnujar) who is studying under yAdhavaprakAsan in kAnchipuram. He visits kAnchipuram and in the dhEvaperumAl kOil, in front of kariyamAnikka perumAl sannidhi, he gives his divine katAksham towards iLayAzhwAr who passes by at that time. ALavandhAr goes to dhEva perumAl and does a sharaNagathi to emperumAn to make iLayAzhwAr the next leader of the sampradhAyam. Thus ALavandhAr plants the seed to what is going to be a mahA vriskham (great tree) i.e., emperumAnAr dharisanam. ALavandhAr asks thirukkachi nambi to help iLayAzhwAr in his spiritual development.

Finally he requests all his disciples and other srivaishnavas to assemble in front of him. He asks for their pardon for any mistakes he committed, accepts sripAdha thIrtham from them, does thadhiArAdhanam to them and leaves his charama thirumEni to paramapadham. All his disciples were plunged into sorrow and finally they start planning for the grand celebration. When srivaishnavas leave their body to go to paramapadham it is actually celebrated in a grand manner considering the great benediction they get when they go to paramapadham. All the charama kainkaryams like thirumanjanam, srichUrNa paripAlanam, alankArams, brahma ratham, etc are all explained in a detailed manner in ALavandhAr’s charithram and other AchAryas lives also.

In the mean time, periya nambi had gone to kAnchipuram to bring iLayAzhwAr with him to srirangam. When iLayAzhwAr goes to sAlai kiNaru for his kainkaryam of bringing water for dhEvaperumAL, periya nambi recites ALavandhAr’s sthOthra rathnam loudly. Hearing that and understanding the deep meanings, iLayAzhwAr enquires periya nambi about the author of the slOkams. periya nambi explaining about ALavandhAr’s greatness, requests iLayAzhwAr to visit him at srirangam. iLayAzhwAr accepting the proposal, goes to dhEva perumAL and thirukkachi nambi and takes permission from them to go to srirangam. While reaching srirangam, they see the procession of ALavandhAr’s thirumEni and periya nambi falls down crying. iLayAzhwAr also being very upset enquires from the local srivaishnavas and understand what has happened.

At that time, when the final kainkaryams for ALavandhAr starts, everyone observes that 3 fingers are folded in one of his hands. When iLayAzhwAr asks if anyone knew the reason, the srivaishnavas mention that ALavandhAr had 3 unfulfilled desires, viz:

We should show our gratitude towards vyAsa and parAsara rishi.
We should show our love towards nammAzhwAr.
We should have a bhAshyam written for vyAsa’s brahma sUtram as per visishtAdhvaitha sidhantham.

Hearing this, iLayAzhwAr immediately takes an oath that he will satisfy all the 3 desires and immediately ALavandhAr’s fingers unfolded. The assembled srivaishnavas become ecstatic looking at this and they say that ALavandhAr’s krupai and shakthi is fully showering on him and hail him to become our dharisan nirvAhakar. Once all the kainkaryams are over, iLayAzhwAr returns to kAnchipuram without even worshipping namperumAL since he was overwhelmed by the loss of ALavandhAr.

Works:


- Chatusloki
- Sthotra Ratnam
- Sidhi trayam (Atma trayam, Samvit trayam, Eeswara trayam) - These helped Swami Ramanuja to formulate his philosophy in Sri Bashyam)
- Geethartha Sangraham (base for the Gita Bashyam of Swami Ramanuja)
- Agama Pramanam (enabled Ramanuja to expound Pancharatra)
- Maha Purusha Nirnayam (This establishes the supremacy of Sriman-Narayana)

Based on this, Swami Ramanuja expounded Vedic Truths in Vedartha Sangraham and in other work like Stotra Ratnam Chatus Sloki.