There is an opinion that Srivaishnavism came into vogue
only after Bhagavad Ramanuja's avatar.
This musing is about whether this claim is true or
Sri Vaishnavism existed even before Ramanuja.
If we look into Ramanuja's life history,
we will find that srivaishnavism is not what he had coined as such.
It was Thirukkottoyur Nambi, who on being greatly moved by Ramanuja
declaring the Thirumanthram for the sake of all,
embraced him and said that this dharshanam which until then
was known as " parama vaidiha siddhantham"
would from thenceforth be known as "Emperumaanaar dharshanam."
This Emperumaanaar dharshnam later came to be known as
Sri vaishnava siddhantham,
though this Siddhantham had existed from 'anaadhi kaalam'
as Vaishnava siddhantham.
The 'Sri' perhaps came to be added to this Siddhantham later,
after Ramanuja vijayam.
The information on Brahma being the first Sri vaishnavite or Vaishnavite
is told by Brahma himslef to Narada (Brahma puranam)
I add ‘sri’, because this narration by Brahma includes the Sri choornam too
on his forehead.
Brahma also says that it was Lord Hayagreeva
who narrated him the relevance of Ashtaakshara
after he received the upadesa from Sri Vishnu.
This is followed by Brahma receiving the upadesa directly from Sri Vishnu
on how to begin creation.
My opinion in my small understanding –
It is not correct to think that Bhagavad Ramanuja 'invented'
the concept of Sri
and included it in his dharshanam.
He could not and would not have done
unless it had existed in traditional texts.
The above narration by Brahma had been in vogue
even before Emperumaanaar dharshanam.
Some instances to show that vaishanvism existed
before Ramanuja's period.
(1) In the very early times, that is, soon after creation,
it has been told in scriptures, that Vishnu,
after doing Jatha karma and naama karma
to His first ever uthpaththi(creation) Brahma,
proceeded to mark the Shanku-chakra in his shoulders
and then applied oordhwa pundaram
that culminated in pancha samskaram.
Brahma is perhaps the FIRST Srivaishnavan of the universe.
This episode also clarifies that
Srivaishnavism comes as a birth right
and this concept is as old as creation itself.
(2) When Thirumangai Alwar wanted to marry Kumuda valli,
she said that she could not marry unless the person had
undergone pancha samskaram and
the Alwar rushed to Thirunaraiyoor (naachiyar koil) and
had the samashrayan done by God Himself.
This is prior to Ramanuja's period.
(3) One will find in Thirunagai (nagapattinam ) sannidhi,
the 18 vaarthaigal advised by
Thirukkottiyoor nambigal to Ramanuja
written on the wall.
Vaishnavattwam is said to come
at the 10th level only.
Prior to coming to attain it,
the following must be removed.
1. removal of desire in samsaram
2. this leads to removal of ahankaara, mamakaaram
3. this leads to removal of deha abhimaanam
4. this leads to birth of athma gyanam
5. this leads to hatred towards aeishwarya moham
6. this leads to onset of prema on bhagwan.
7. this leads to shedding of interest in
8. this leads to bhara thanthruva gyanam
9. this leads to removal of artha-kaama ragadwesham
(ref: BG 4-10- Madhbhavam)
10. this leads to onset of srivaishanttwam!
(4) It happened in Kulashekara alwar's life.
When the ministers of the alwar blamed srivaishnavites,
for the disappearance of the navarathna maalai
in the thiruaaparana petti,
the alwar refused to believe.
He was steadfast in his belief that srivaishnavites are pure
on tri-kaaran -
they are pure in mind, vaak and body.
He even put his hand in a pot that had a serpent inside and
pledged that he would not be bitten by the serpent,
because no srivaishnavite can do such a crime.
And he was unhurt.
This shows how deep-rooted the ethos
which a srivaishnavite is identified with.
Unless a strong code culture for vaishnavites had existed for long,
the alwar could not have gone to such extremes.
(5) A quote on the dialogue between Yama dharma raja
and Sri Krishna. (this comes in Mahabharatha or Bhagavatha purana?)
Yamadjharman instructed his messengers to prostrate
before the srivaishnavites.
who can be identified in the following way.
" Ye baahu moola parichinha shanka-chakra:
Yeva lalaada palakelasa oordhwa pundra:
Ye kanda lagna thulasi nalinaaksha mala:
Teh vaishnava: bhuvana maashubha vidhrayanthi"
The srivaishnavite can be identified by the
oordhwa pundaram and
the thulasi maala.
(6) Sri Krishna was said to have instructed his dwaara-paalagas,
before leaving the fort of Dwaaraka,
to allow sv-s inside,
who can be identified by the
shanku-chakra dhaaranam and the oordhwa pundaram.
" chakraangitha: praveshtavyaa:
Srivaishnavism with the significatory marks and practices
had existed for very long.
There is no difference between Vaishnavism and Sri vaishnavism.
But it was Ramanuja who had arranged or codified the practices
into a body of dos and donts
for easy following and
hence came to be identified as founder of srivaishnavism.