After accepting the renounced order of life, Ramanuja started to spend most of his time worshipping or contemplating on the glories of the Supreme Lord. Ramanuja’s nephew, Dasarathi, became his disciple and started to serve him. Everyone in Kanchipuram used to admire Ramanuja and gather around him whenever he used to discuss scriptures with Kanchipurna and Dasarathi. The news of Ramanuja accepting Sannyasa from Lord Varadaraja started to spread and people from distant places started to flock around Ramanuja to listen to his profound talks. Ramanuja had become so popular that even Yadava Prakasha’s mother had come to see him.
Very soon the disciples of Yamunacharya at Sri-Rangam got to know about Ramanuja accepting sannyasa. As the disciples in the monastery established by Yamunacharya were eagerly looking for a good guide, Mahapurna and other disciples wanted to bring Ramanuja to Sri-Rangam. But, they were reluctant to request him to come to Sri-Rangam as he was very devoted to Lord Varadaraja. Therefore, they prayed to Lord Ranganatha and requested Him to bring Ramanuja to Sri-Rangam to look after the legacy established by Yamunacharya. Lord Ranganatha spoke through his priest and said, “Ramanuja will not even step out of Kanchipuram without the permission of Lord Varadaraja and the Lord too is attached to him. Therefore, send Vararanga to Kanchipuram and ask him to try and appease the Lord with his melodious songs. When Lord Varadaraja asks him to seek a boon let Vararanga ask Lord Varadaraja to send Ramanuja to Sri-Rangam.”
Though the Supreme Lord manifests Himself in various deity forms, each deity form is considered to be distinctive and different from the other. It is appropriate to narrate a pastime of Lord Ranganatha and His consort Ranganayaki to enable the devotees understand this concept, though the pastime happened long after Ramanuja left this planet.
Once, a Muslim king invaded Sri-Rangam and the Chola king was losing the war. As the Muslim kings used to desecrate the temples in those days, the devotees shifted the utsava deity of Lord Ranganatha to a secret location in Tirumala and buried Ranganayaki’s utsava deity beneath a Tulasi plant within the temple. As the Muslim king ruled Sri-Rangam for a long time, the deities were not brought back to the temple.
Ranganayaki’s deity emerged from the ground on its own after a very long time and the devotees started to worship it. As a long time had elapsed and most of the devotees who were present when the invasion took place had died by then, no one remembered about the whereabouts of Lord Ranganatha’s deity that was shifted to Tirumala. The temple authorities consecrated a new utsava deity of Lord Ranganatha for performing festivals in the temple. The Ranganayaki’s deity refused to sit by the side of the newly consecrated deity of Lord Ranganatha. Therefore, the temple authorities were forced to consecrate one more deity of Sri Ranganayaki.
After many years, the tribal chieftain who was guarding the original utsava deity of Lord Ranganatha revealed the whereabouts of the deity to his nephew and asked him to take the deity to Sri-Rangam. The tribal boy brought the utsava Deity of Lord Ranganatha to Sri-Rangam with the help of some devotees from Tirumala. As very few people in Sri-Rangam had seen the original deity they were unable to identify it. A very old washer man came to the temple as soon as he came to know about the arrival of the deity as he was very attached to the deity and used to wash the deity’s robes when he was a boy. He soaked the clothes of the deity in some water and drank it and started shouting, “This is my Lord, I used to drink the water that was used to wash His clothes, and I still remember the taste. This is the original utsava deity of Lord Ranganatha.”
After performing certain rituals, the priests of the temple reinstalled the original deity and started to perform utsavas to it. The original deity of Ranganayaki once again started to participate in the utsavas. The utsava deity that was consecrated in the place of the original deity is kept on one side of Lord Ranganatha’s sanctum sanctorum to remind the devotees of this pastime. According to popular belief, the deities and utsava deities of Lord Ranganatha and Ranganayaki are self manifested. The main deity of Lord Ranganatha is called Periya Perumal (Big Lord) and the utsava deity is called Namperumal (our Lord).
We will reveal how Lord Varadaraja sent Ramanuja to Sri-Rangam in the next post.