Once Ramanujacharya was giving a lecture on Thiruppavai, the thirty sacred hymns sung in glory of the Supreme Lord by Mother Goda. In the 27th hymn Mother Goda has promised to offer “akkara vadisal”, a type of special kheer, to Lord Sundarabahu Perumal of Thirumalirancholai, near Madurai, if her desire of getting married to Lord Ranganatha is fulfilled. The self-manifested deity of the Supreme Lord in Thirumalirancholai has beautiful broad shoulders and is called Sundarabahu due to that. Ramanuja realized that mother Andal did not have an opportunity to fulfill her promise to the Lord as she disappeared from this planet immediately after getting married to Lord Ranganatha.
Therefore, Ramanuja decided to fulfill the promise made by mother Andal and went to Thirumalirancholai along with his disciples. In accordance with the promise made by Mother Goda, Ramanuja prepared large quantities of akkara vadisal and offered 108 pots of it to Lord Sundarabahu. As the offering was going on, a divine ethereal voice emanated from the sanctum in which a deity of Mother Goda was enshrined and the voice said “Anna”, which means elder brother. Therefore, the devotees believed that Mother Goda accepted Ramanujacharya as her elder brother for having fulfilled her promise to the Lord and glorify him as the elder brother of Mother Goda.
Ramanuja directly went to Srivilluputtur, Mother Goda’s birth place, from Thirumalirancholai and spent some time worshipping the beautiful deity of Lord Krishna, who is known as Vata Patra Sayi and soaking the mercy of Mother Goda. After a few days Ramanuja visited Alwar Thirunagari, the birth place of Nammalwar. Ramanuja had a lot of respect for Nammalwar, who was considered to be the head of Sri-Vaishnava tradition by Yamunacharya. Ramanuja spent some time worshipping the Lord and the self-manifested deity of Nammalwar in Thirunagari before returning to his monastery at Sri-Rangam. As the news of Ramanuja’s return to Sri-Rangam started to spread, people began to gather at his ashram to have a glimpse of Ramanuja and offer their obeisance to him. Kuresha came to see Ramanuja along with his wife and eldest son Parasara Bhattar. Even as Kuresha fell at Ramanuja’s feet to offer his obeisance Ramanuja lifted Kuresha and embraced him.
After exchanging the initial pleasantries, Ramanuja took Kuresha’s son Parasara to the main hall of the ashram and anointed Parasara as his successor. Though Parasara was married, he succeeded Ramanuja, who was a sannyasi, at a very young age purely because of his unconditional love for the Lord and his spiritual knowledge. Parasara had established himself as a good devotee and a great scholar at a very young age. Everyone started appreciating his anointment. Parasara has compiled some very important works including writing a commentary on Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, the thousand names of Lord Vishnu. Till Parasara Bhattar wrote the commentary on Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, people had to rely on the mayavadi interpretation given to it by Shankaracharya. Parasara Bhattar’s concise interpretation of the eight syllabled ashtakshari mantra inspired Pillai Lokacharya to write “mumukshupadi” a compendium on ashtakshari mantra more than a century later. The verses compiled by Parasara are chanted devotedly in the Vaishnava congregations even today. Parasara Bhattar is widely respected as Lord Ranganatha’s son, as the Lord had Himself asked the priest to declare so.
We will reveal more about Ramanuja in the next post.