Ramanuja and his disciples reached a village called Dehali on the first day of their pilgrimage to Tirumala and stayed in a disciple’s house. The following day, they resumed their journey at dawn and reached a place called Ashtasahasra by early afternoon. Ramanuja had two disciples in Ashtasahasra. One of them, Yajnesha, was a very rich man and the other, Varadacharya, was a great devotee who used to subsist on begging and spent most of his time contemplating on the glories of the Lord. Ramanuja thought that it would become very difficult for Varadacharya, who was a very poor man, to host him and his accompanying disciples and decided to go to Yajnesha’s house. Ramanuja sent two disciples in advance to inform Yajnesha about his willingness to visit his house. Yajnesha became very excited as soon as he came to know that his guru, Ramanuja, would be visiting his house. He summoned his servants and ordered them to get whatever was necessary to host Ramanuja and asked them to cook a variety of dishes. Yajnesha also got involved in making arrangements to welcome Ramanuja and in his excitement; Yajnesha forgot to attend to the disciples who had come as messengers from Ramanuja.
The disciples returned to Ramanuja and told him about Yajnesha’s eagerness to host him and the preparations that were being made at Yajnesha’s house to receive him. Seeing the tired faces of his disciples, Ramanuja asked the disciples who had gone as messengers if Yajnesha attended to them properly and the disciples told him that Yajnesha was too exited to attend to them. Ramanuja immediately abandoned his plans to go to Yajnesha’s house and decided to go directly to Varadacharya’s house without informing him about their visit in advance.
As usual, Varadacharya had gone out to beg for his subsistence. Ramanuja and his disciples reached Varadacharya’s house. As no one was seen outside the house, Ramanuja personally entered the verandah of the house. Varadacharya’s wife, Lakshmi, who was drying the clothes after having her bath, ran into the inner chamber of the house as soon as she heard Ramanuja’s foot steps as she did not have a second set of clothes to wear. As soon as Ramanuja entered the house Lakshmi clapped her hands from the inner chamber to tell Ramanuja that she is in the house, thinking Ramanuja might go away if he did not see anybody in the house. Ramanuja understood the plight of Lakshmi and threw the upper cloth that he was wearing towards her. Lakshmi hastily covered herself with the cloth and came out to greet and welcome Ramanuja. Lakshmi became very happy to see Ramanuja in her house and she repeatedly offered her obeisance to Ramanuja. Lakshmi greeted all the disciples who had accompanied Ramanuja and asked them to refresh themselves by taking a bath in the tank that was situated very next to her house. She also told the devotees that she would make arrangements to feed them before they return from the tank.
Lakshmi searched the entire kitchen and could not find anything to offer to Ramanuja and his disciples. She began to ponder over various means to get items to feed the holy guests who had visited her house. A rich business man in Ashtasahasra was captivated by Lakshmi’s beauty and wanted to attain her. He had sent various female messengers to convince Lakshmi to submit to his will and had offered to give her a lot of money if she agreed to satisfy him. However, Lakshmi, being a very good devotee and a chaste wife, rejected all the offers and had preferred to lead a virtuous life. All of a sudden, Lakshmi remembered the rich man and his offer. She was willing to offer everything that she possessed to her guru, who was worshipped as the personification of Lakshmana. Therefore, she thought of what use are the body and chastity if they cannot be of any help to her guru and decided to take the help of the rich man to procure items to feed her guests.
Let us know more about Ramanuja in the next post.