In accordance with tradition, the holy body of Ramanuja was made to sit in a padmasana pose and was taken in procession on the important streets of Sri-Rangam before it was buried in a samadhi. Thousands of people from Sri-Rangam and surrounding areas came to witness Ramanuja’s samadhi. According to traditional belief, normal beings are either cremated or buried when they die. Whereas, great saints like Ramanuja quit their bodies on their own and their bodies attain divine status even after they quit their bodies. Therefore, the bodies of such saints are enshrined in a samadhi and are worshipped. Similarly, Ramanuja’s disciples were planning to construct a samadhi around his holy body after burying it in the ground. However, Ramanuja’s body emerged to the surface of the ground on its own three days after it was buried. The disciples who were guarding the area and planning a grand samadhi for their guru got terrified and ran away from there.
Lord Ranganatha appeared in the dream of His chief priest and told him that Ramanuja was a part manifestation of Adi-sesha. Therefore, Ramanuja’s body is also divine. The Lord directed the priest to worship Ramanuja’s body as he would worship the deity. The priest revealed the Lord’s instructions to Ramanuja’s disciples the following morning. A temple was constructed to house Ramanuja’s holy body within the precincts of Lord Ranganatha’s temple as instructed by the Lord and devotees started worshipping Ramanuja’s body since then. The holy body is kept by the side of Ramanuja’s deity which was consecrated by Ramanuja himself in the temple. Though Ramanuja’s holy body is kept in normal condition from the past 980 years it has not decayed and it is still intact. Kashmiri saffron and edible camphor is applied to Ramanuja’s holy body once every six months. One can see Ramanuja’s body in the temple even today.
Parasara Bhattar, who was anointed as his successor by Ramanuja himself, started to take care of the day-to-day activities of the matha with the help of 74 pontiffs appointed by Ramanuja to administer 74 important temples in different parts of the country. Parasara was a versatile scholar and his discourses were liked by people. His discourses were so captivating that the devotees used to prefer listening to his discourses over taking part in the festivities that were being organized everyday in the temple. Therefore, Parasara had to postpone his discourses to enable the devotees to participate in the festivities many times. Being captivated with Parasara’s devotion, Nanjiyar, a great devotee who had accepted the renounced order of life, once carried Parasara in a palanquin on his shoulders. As Parasara was a householder, people started criticizing him for allowing a Sanyasi to carry him on his shoulders.
Once when Nanjiyar was about to offer his obeisance, Parasara stopped Nanjiyar from falling at his feet and said, “You are a Sanyasi and householders like me should worship you. Please don’t embarrass me by falling at my feet.”
Nanjiyar replied, “The purpose of different stages in life and the duties attached to them is to ensure that one attains pure devotion for the Lord. A person becomes worthy of worship irrespective of his status, caste and learning if he is devoted to the Lord. You are a great devotee who is personally blessed by the Lord and chosen as successor by great Ramanuja. Your devotion to the Lord is unblemished. One attains devotion just by serving people like you. Therefore, please don’t deprive me of an opportunity to serve you just because I am a Sanyasi.”
Parasara was afflicted by a strange sort of a disease at a very young age. As there was a tumor on his neck, the physicians decided to remove it. As there was no anesthesia in those days, operations were performed on fully conscious patients. Parasara started to contemplate on the glories of the Supreme Lord when the physicians started to perform the operation. The intensity with which Parasara had focused his mind on contemplating on the glories of the Lord was such that he did not even notice the physicians cutting a portion of his body. Parasara died at a very young age. But, he proved to be a worthy successor of the great Ramanujacharya. His works bear testimony to this fact.
With this we conclude our series on the glorious pastimes of the Alwars and Acharyas who preceded Ramanujacharya.
May all glories be to the lotus feet of the alwars and the acharyas, who have left a legacy in the form of their teachings to help future generations attain liberation and lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.
Blessed be the devotees who read their pastimes and draw inspiration from them.