Ramanuja asked Tirumalaraya to summon the scholars of all sects for a debate and to establish the authenticity of their claims so that the issue can be resolved once for all. The renowned scholars from Shaiva and Shakteya sects and the worshippers of Skanda assembled on a designated day for the debate. In their efforts to prove their stance, most of the scholars said that the conch and discus constitute an integral part of the deity forms of Lord Vishnu. As the deity on Tirumala did not have a conch or discus on it in spite of having four arms, the deity cannot be that of Lord Vishnu. After all the scholars presented their version of the scriptures to claim that the deity belongs to their sect, Ramanuja rose to defend his stance that the deity on the top of Tirumala hill is none other than the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Ramanuja quoted from eleven of the eighteen recognized puranas to establish that the deity on Tirumala is none other than Lord Vishnu.
Quoting from the Brahmanda Purana, Ramanuja narrated the pastime in which the Supreme Lord married Padmavati, an expansion of Maha-Lakshmi. Ramanuja said that the Lord and Padmavati started living on Tirumala hill after their marriage. At the end of the pastime, the Lord manifested as a deity and Padmavati’s uncle Tondaman Chakravarti had constructed a temple for Him. Tondaman Chakravarti was a great devotee of the Lord and could directly speak with the deity. Once some enemies attacked Tondaman’s kingdom and he was finding it difficult to defend it. Fear of losing the war prompted Tondaman to seek the Lord’s intervention. Therefore, he rushed to Tirumala and requested the Lord to help him defeat his enemies. Tondaman requested the Lord to depute His conch and discus to defeat the invaders. The all merciful Lord granted Tondaman’s wish and the invaders were driven out of Tondaman’s kingdom within no time. Tondaman became very happy and requested the deity to hide His conch and discus from people to enable them to remember His pastime of sending the conch and discus to the battle field and to understand His all merciful nature. In accordance with Tondaman’s wish the deity hid His conch and discus. Therefore, the deity on Tirumala is the self-manifested deity of Lord Venkateshwara. Moreover, the scriptures authoritatively say that the Supreme Lord manifested in His deity form as Lord Venkateshwara to be accessible to the devotees and to emancipate them in this age of Kali.
Though Ramanuja had refuted the scholars of different sects they were not willing to accept his arguments. Therefore, Ramanuja said, “let us place the weapons and ornaments of the different deities in the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple on Tirumala and close the doors. Let the deity itself reveal its true nature by picking up the weapons and ornaments that belongs to it.”
Though the assembled scholars were amused at Ramanuja’s proposal they agreed to it. The following day, Tirumalaraya procured the conch and discus which is normally worn by Lord Vishnu, trident and damarukam that is held by Lord Shiva in his hands, trident and lotus held by goddess Devi in her hands and spear held by Lord Skanda. Tirumalaraya and his courtiers placed these weapons and other paraphernalia associated with these deities in the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple before closing the doors for the night in the presence of the scholars from different sects and Ramanuja. In accordance with the king’s instructions the soldiers closed all the doors of the temple and started guarding the temple and its surroundings along with people from different sects for the night.
Let us know what happened on the following day in the next post.