Saturday, August 4, 2018

Ramanuja is a history – 4 (Proof of Delhi visit)

Part 1 - Modern vs Traditional methods

One of the major events during Ramanuja’s stay in Karnataka was the discovery of the Moolavar murthy of Thirunarayana from an anthill at Melkote. This discovery leading to the consecration of the Murthy did not end without finding out the Utsava murthy of the temple. For this Ramanuja made a trip to Delhi in his ripe age of more than 80 years. This part – the Delhi visit – is treated as a myth by the modern historians who question the authenticity of this version for two reasons, one, the doubt over the presence of Muslim rulers in Delhi at that time and two, the absence of any primary source of evidence for the Delhi trip. The first reason arises from the earlier discussed issue on whether Muslims did come to Melkote and looted the temple. This issue was settled in the previous part.

The controversies.

Writing on the Delhi trip of Ramanuja, Dr R.Vasantha says the following in her book published by the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of Mysore and subsidised by ICHR,

The story relating to the processional image is probably the recounting of the bringing of that image by Ramanuja from elsewhere. It is extremely difficult to consider that he brought this image from Delhi. The story that this was in the treasury of Muslim kings appears in later versions of the story whereas the earliest, the GuruParamparai, simply says that it was with one Emmādu Rāya, a king unknown to history[i]

There are two issues raised here, one is that she just thinks that the image could have been brought from somewhere but not from Delhi, and the other, the reference to Muslim kings is found in later versions while the earliest versions speak about one Emmādu Raya.

The first issue that she raises is contradicted by her own version in the same book written under a sub-title “Historical Account” wherein she is bringing out many inscriptions to show that they match with Guruparampara accounts. In her own words,

There is a good evidence to consider that the Guruparamparai’s account of Ramanuja may have been based mainly on historical facts.”[ii]

The second issue is a flawed one as the earliest Guruparamparai text called ‘6000 Padi’ does not mention the name Emmādu Raya, but it does say that the murthy was in the custody of ‘Turushka Raja’. This text was written within 100 years of Ramanuja’s exit.

Yatiraja Vaibhavam, the earliest of all and the primary source of evidence minces no words in saying that the murthy was found out by Ramanuja in the house of the daughter of Dilleeshwara (the ruler of Delhi)!  Common sense dictates that the identity as Dilleeshwara was because he was in Delhi and not anywhere else!

Yet another authentication for Ramanuja’s Delhi visit can be traced to the annual festival in the temple which is just known as ‘Delhi Utsava’! Dr Vasantha had written about this in the same book as a “festival special to Melkote which commemorates the bringing of the processional image from Delhi by Ramanuja.[iii] On that day the murthys of Ramanuja and the Utsavar are taken in separate palanquins in a procession to re-live the moments of re-entry of Ramanuja with the murthy into Melkote.

This festival could have been named in any other way, but by calling it as Delhi Utsava, the Delhi connection is specifically emphasised. Every year this festival is done in the month of Kumbha (when Sun is in Aquarius) in the star Jyeshta, thereby revealing that Ramanuja entered Melkote on a Kumbha Jyeshta with the utsava murthy that he got from Delhi! It could have just been a Cheluvaraya Day or Ramanuja re-entry day, but no, it is a Delhi Utsava day! That tells a story behind it!

An alternate name has been raised by Dr Vasantha that the murthy was got from one Emmādu Raya. The source for this claim is not known and no source has been quoted by her. This name appears in the foot note of another book on the life of Ramanuja[iv], presumably taking cue from Buchannan’s version of an oral tradition that existed in Mysore region while he was crossing the region after Tipu Sultan was defeated. 

Yet another name “Jagaddeva” has been quoted in a chronology of Ramanuja prepared by Sri Purisai Veeravalli Varada Desikachar Swamy of Pondicherry and published in Sri Ranganatha Paduka.[v] Our endeavour therefore includes an analysis of these names before proceeding further with the evidence on Dilleeshwara.

Emmādu Raya.

The names Emmādu Raya and Jagadeva  do not appear in 6000 Padi Guruparampara that was composed within 100 years of Ramanuja’s exit. They don’t appear in Yatiraja Vaibhavam either.
Some researchers interpreted Emmadu as corrupt pronunciation of Mahmud[vi] but this name does not appear in Turkish chronicles during Ramanuja’s visit to Delhi. The King of Ghazni, Ebrāhīm died in the same year that Ramanuja discovered the Moolvar murthy (1099). He was succeeded by Masud III. Both these names do not bear resemblance to Emmādu.

Looking for this name Emmādu, we do come across similar name in Karnataka region itself. There was a ‘Hemmadi Raya’ who was the son in law of Ereyanga of Hoysala dynasty. As Vishnuvardhana alias Bitti Deva was the son of Ereyanga, it can be safely assumed that Hemmaadi Raya was a contemporary of Vishnuvardhana. A corruption of the name Hemmadi as Emmadu is possible but he being the contemporary of Vishnuvardhana, the utsava murthy of Melkote could not have been looted by him or left in his custody.

Looking at the history of Melkote there appears another name phonetically similar to Emmādu in the 15th century. He was a Vijayanagara King by name Immadi Raya or Immadi Praudha Deva Raya (1446 -1467) in whose reign Melkote suffered on account of a Mohammadan raid of Dvarasamudra. The Mysore Gazetteer says that Melkote was restored around 1460 by Timmanna Dannayaka of Nagamangala, who was a minister of the Vijayanagar King Immadi Praudha Deva Raya[vii]

It is possible to assume that the temple riches including the Utsava murthy was kept in the custody of Immadi Raya of Vijayanagara during the period of turmoil and was restored to the temple once normalcy returned. This might have been recounted by the people met by Buchannan and quoted by later day historians. This did not happen in Ramanuja’s times.


Yet another name that appears in recent chronicles was Jagaddeva. It is believed that the utsava Murthy of Melkote was recovered from him. There was a Jagaddeva, the ruler of Malwa who lived in the times of Vishnuvardhana. He was defeated by the three brothers of Hoysala dynasty together, namely Ballala I, Vishnuvardhana (Bitti Deva) and Udayaditya. Historians put the date his defeat to anytime before 1118 CE, but after 1100. [viii] This is close to Ramanuja’s discovery of Moolavar murthy in Melkote. But the battle with Jagaddeva had happened when he invaded Dvarasamudra, the capital city of Hoysalas. If the utsava murthy was recovered from him by Vishnuvardhana and his brothers, that would have entered into Vaishnavite chronicles and also in epigraphy. But no Vaishnavite text says that the Utsava murthy was recovered over a battle with Jagadeva. Moreover if it is assumed that the Utsava murthy was in the custody of Jagaddeva, the question arises when he got the murthy in the first place. His reign coincided with the time of Ramanuja in Thondanur and therefore he could not be linked with the theft or recovery of the Utsava murthy.

There appears another Jagaddeva in the region of Melkote towards the end of 16th century. Mysore Gazetteer[ix] says that he was given charge of Nagamangala (near Melkote) in addition to Channapatna (Bangalore district) for his valiant defence of Penugonda against the Mohammadans. Nagamangala had suffered very often as it was in the line of march for any invading army. Every time danger bells started ringing in Nagamangala, Melkote was evacuated, for, Nagamangala was the final defence before anyone could enter Melkote from northern side. The temple priests narrate the past events of closing the sanctum sanctorum by a wall many times. One such time seemed to have happened when Jagaddeva defended the region from Mohammadam invasion.  It is possible to assume that the utsava murthy and the wealth of the temple were kept in the safe custody by Jagaddeva and was returned to the temple once normalcy returned. Later day accounts have mixed this up with Ramanuja’s times.

The probable cause for this confusion in the names in later day texts could be due to the doubt whether Muslims were present in North India at the time of Ramanuja. When we shed these doubts and go ahead analysing systematically the narratives given in the primary texts we are able to solve the riddles.

Ramanuja did go to Delhi.

It all started with the discovery of the Moolavar Murthy through his intuition (dream). The absence of any foundation inscription shows that he had immediately installed the deity at the very place without waiting for any aid to flow in. His next concern was to get the Utsava murthy. He could have got it made and installed but he didn’t. A comparable event happened after he went back to Srirangam. As soon as he reached Srirangam he was informed by the people in the temple that they could not do the festival for Nammāɻwar which was done by going over to AlwarThirunagari (Thirukkurugur), the birth place of Nammāɻwar. Ramanuja’s solution was to install the murthy of Nammāɻwar at Srirangam temple itself and conduct the festival[x]. Why didn’t he do the same at Melkote? Why didn’t he get the new image of the murthy done and consecrate it?

This can be explained by means of the technique of traditional Indian methodology of research that we explained in Part 1. This is absent in modern historical research. It is Anupalabdhi, which means non –apprehension. The negation of non-apprehension establishes the existence of a thing. To know how this works, we will see an example.

There is a statement that ‘there is no chair in the room’. Is it true or false? We look at the room and there is no chair. In the event of a chair not being there in a room, the statement should have been about what is there in the room. If there is a table, we would say there is a table. If the room is empty we would say that the room is empty. But we won’t say that there is no chair. We would say that only if we have a prior knowledge that there was a chair sometime ago and now it is not there. The non-apprehension of the existence of the chair does not mean the non-existence of the chair. The chair was there some time ago and now it is not there which means it must be at some other place. This is now Anupalabdhi works.

At Srirangam episode described above, the murthy of Nammāɻwar was there in his birth place and not in Srirangam. They needed to do the festival in the presence of the murthy of Nammāɻwar. So Ramanuja immediately got the murthy consecrated within the temple to get the festival done every year.

In Melkote the Utsava murthy was not there. But its presence could be apprehended from the presence of the Moolavar murthy in buried condition. Non-apprehension of the Utsava murthy in that situation does not mean that it was non-existent. It was there once but had gone out somewhere and it is upto them to find out and bring it in. That is what Ramanuja did. The original Utsava murthy must be got from wherever it was and by all means. Even if it was in Delhi, Ramanuja was ready to go over there.

Traditional texts say that he came to know about its presence in Dilleeshwara’s palace through intuition (dream). Modern historians would not accept it but let them assume it in any way they want. Ramanuja could have heard about it from people or from Bitti Deva himself of the raid by Mir Bakhtiar in 1030s.

The important proofs for Ramanuja’s Delhi visit are

(1) Yatiraja Vaibhavam

(2) Celebration of Delhi Utsav in Melkote even today.

(3) Legends of Bibi Nachiar and

(4) Thirukkulatthar.

Return date from Delhi.

Of the four proofs mentioned above, the Delhi Utsav was already discussed. The date in the traditional Panchanga system is Kumbha Jyeshta. This must have been in the very next year of the discovery of Moolavar Murthy. Moolavar was discovered in Pushya –Punarvasu in Bahudhanya year (Jan 14, 1099 – refer Part 2). Kumbha is the next month of Pushya and therefore it is assumed Ramanuja got the Utsava murthy in the Kumbha month of the very next year (Pramathi). The date in Gregorian calendar was 11th February, 1100. It seems that once the Utsava Murthy was consecrated immediately on return from Delhi, the Brahmotsava was initiated (in the same month).
The date of return from Delhi on Kumbha Jyeshta the next year is identified in the astrology software and shown below.  It coincides with 11th February in the year 1100 in the Gregorian calendar.

Probable date of Return of Utsava Murthy to Melkote (or)
The first Delhi Utsava date

Before elaborating on the other proofs, we must establish that Muslim presence was there in Delhi at the time of Ramanuja.

Was Delhi occupied by Muslims around 1099 / 1100?

A place by name Dilli had existed before Ramanuja’s times[xi]. So the reference to Dilli in Vaishnavite texts like Yatiraja Vaibhavam is to Delhi only and not to any other place. Many researches have traced the name of Dilli, but the point of agreement with almost all researchers is that Delhi was associated with Tomara dynasty. Tomara kings had existed in the contemporary period of Ramanuja. The Delhi Gate flanked by life size statues of elephants is proved to have been created by the Tomara king Anangpal in 1060[xii].

But his descendant, Mahipal Tomara had chosen to shift his capital to Mahipalpur, at 15 kilometres south west of New Delhi, according to historian Y.D.Sharma[xiii]. This king’s period is ascertained to be between 1103- 1128 by Cunningham based on the coins bearing the legend ‘Sriman Mahipaladeva’[xiv]   Not much is known about Mahipal Tomara and nor it is known why the capital was changed from Delhi-proper that has the Delhi-Gate established by Anangpal Tomara.
Another strange feature related to Mahipal Tomara is that some of the coins featuring his name also feature the signs of Mawdud of Ghazni (1041-50 CE)[xv]. It is possible to assume that Mahipal imitated the features of the Ghazni coin. However with nearly 400 silvers coins discovered so far bearing his name, it is strange that some coins bear the features of Ghazni dynasty.

Looking around the region of New Delhi, Hānsī situated at 140 km northwest of Delhi was raided by Masud I, the son of Mahmud of Ghazni in the year 1037[xvi]. A huge cache of Jaina statues were discovered at Hansi in 1982 belonging to 7th and 8th centuries. This is proof of a Mohammadan raid which had prompted the people to bury the idols. Close to that time, the fanatical followers of the nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni had attacked many places in India including Kannur and Melkote and all the loot must have been collected at some centre. Delhi is likely to be the centre.

The Tomaras seemed to have been around throughout the time of Muslim invasion in the 11th century and early 12th century and managed hold on to some territory in or around Delhi. The shift in the capital and Mahipal coinage with a blend of Ghaznavi features imply a co-existence at very close distance between Tomara kings and Muslim rulers.

Location of Mahipalpur from New Delhi

Until 1099, Ebrāhīm was the ruler from Ghazni. Masud III who took the reign after him seemed to have made some successful raids in North India and taken back the spoils of war and temple-loots to Ghazna to construct palaces and gardens[xvii]. It was only after the death of Masud III in 1115, the dynasty had become weak.

It looks that the cache of loot had remained within Delhi and not yet moved to Ghazni for a long time during Ebrāhīm’s reign. Ebrāhīm who was in power for 40 years until 1099 was focused on retaining the territories with friendly treaties as his reign is characterised as “ a period of comparative tranquillity for the empire, deriving from the stability and prosperity attained by Ebrāhīm’s restraint and sagacity..”[xviii]

Looking at these features, it looks certain that the temple-loots and spoils of war were dumped for quite a few decades in places like Delhi which the Ghaznavids still held under their control through their commanders. After Masud III took over the scenario changed, but Ramanuja was quick enough in reaching over to Delhi which coincided with the reign-change at Ghazni. Ramanuja had met the commander at Delhi and not the emperor of Ghazni.

The proof of Delhi visit from Yatiraja Vaibhava.

Yatiraja Vaibhavam, the primary source of evidence for Ramanuja’s history says that Ramanuja searched for the murthy in the house of the daughter of the King of Delhi! The relevant verse (verse 100) is reproduced to show this.

Another reliable source, 6000 Padi clearly says that he went to the house of Turkish king in Delhi.
Yatiraja Vaibhavam gives additional information, that the daughter of the Dilleeshwara (from whose palace he got the murthy) had followed him and also disappeared in Him! This information appears in the 101st verse.

According to 6000 Padi and every other text on Ramanuja’s history that came up later, it is said that the Utsava murthy was kept by the daughter of the Dilleeshwara. Ramanuja received it in a rare kind of display of connect with and devotion to the God. Dilleeshwara was witness to the spectacle of the Murthy coming to Ramanuja thereby earning a name that it (He) was the “Beloved son” (Selva Pillai / Chellap pillai / Cheluvaraya) of Ramanuja.

All these texts also speak about the cordiality of the Dilleesshwara to Ramanuja on witnessing the event.

There are 2 proofs for this cordiality expressed by Dilleeshwara to Ramanuja.

(1) The temple priests of Melkote say that there is an old garland of coins (Kasu malai) used to adorn the murthy of Ramanuja at Melkote which bears some legends that resemble Urdu (or Persian – not sure). The meaning is not known but the presence of this garland is unusual. The oral tradition coming from antiquity is that this was presented by the Dilleeshwara.

(2) The 2nd proof is a name attributed to Ramanuja by Vaduga Nambi (the composer of Yatiraja Vaibhava) in his composition of 108 Namavali for Ramanuja. Each name of this Namavali represents an event or a feature related to Ramanuja’s life. The 94th name is “Dilleesheara samarchita:” It means ‘he who was worshiped by Dilleeshwara”.

If there was no Dilleeshwara, and if Ramanuja had not come into contact with a Dilleeshwara, this name would not have appeared. But that it had appeared in the Namavali shows that there existed a king of Dilli and the events around him in Ramanuja’s life are true.

Proofs from the legends of Bibi Nachiar.

After getting back the Utsava Murthy, Ramanuja had started back to Melkote. He was followed by the daughter of Dilleeshwara who had held the Murthy dear to herself until then.

In this context, the primary text, Yatiraja Vaibhavam makes a significant observation in the 101st verse – an observation that need not be made unless it is true. It says that the daughter of the king of Delhi came to Him and disappeared there in Him.

The word used is ‘antaradhaatthamaapya’ or ‘antaradhaatthamethya’ as found in another print edition of this text. In theological application this refers to a person dying and his/ her atman entering the Lord. The Delhi princess had felt too dear to the murthy that she could not bear the separation from the murthy. She had come to Melkote desiring the Murthy and left her mortal coils at the feet of the Murthy. This is the interpretation for this kind of terminology.

This information coming from Yatiraja Vaibhavam makes it a fact, nothing but a fact. This reiterates the presence of Muslims in Delhi and also a Muslim princess who chose to make it all the way to Melkote to be with her dear murthy of Selva pillai.

According to temple sources, after Ramanuja had reached Melkote with the Utsava murthy he had immediately installed the murthy. He had also installed Sri (Lakshmi) at the feet as a manifestation of Dvaya mantra, the second of the supreme three secrets known as Rahasya Traya of Srivaishnavism. This envisages twin parts of means and end of devotion to God with Sri removing all obstacles (virodhi swarupa). It is a mantra that protects the Jivas (atman). According to the priests, Ramanuja protected the Lord Himself with this mantra (எம்பெருமானார், எம்பெருமானை த்வயத்தால் ரக்ஷித்தார்) so that no calamity befalls anytime in future.

Though there is no proof to substantiate this, we can see two features that guide us to understand what had happened. One is that the image of Lakshmi at the feet was not part of the Moolavar murthy recovered by Ramanuja from the anthill. It is separate from the main murthy and therefore had been installed after the recovery. Though there is no doubt about who installed it, the question remains why Ramanuja installed it.

The second feature pertains to the rules of iconography of Lakshmi. The image of Lakshmi consecrated at the feet of the Lord at Melkote is the oldest form given in the iconographic details of Mayamatam. Though there are many forms of Lakshmi with two hands or fours hands and with or without weapons, the form seated on a lotus with legs crossed and with four hands, with anterior ones holding the lotus and the front ones gesturing bestowing and absence of fear is the best for domestic worship according to Mayamatam.[xix]

Lakshmi at the feet of Utsavar.

The above image of Lakshmi installed at the feet of Utsava Murthy (that Ramanuja recovered from Dilleeshwara’s house) exactly fits with the details of iconography of Mayamatam. This figure is the domestic form of Gajalakshmi. Gajalakshmi has two elephants sprinkling waters and fan bearers standing on her either side. According to Mayamatam they will be installed in public worship but not in domestic worship.

Based on these iconographic rules, it appears that the image of Lakshmi at the feet of Selvapillai (utsava  murthy) was worshiped at home earlier. It is possible to assume that this image was one of the personal deities of Ramanuja. This assumption is strengthened by the legends of Gaja Lakshmi associating her with bringing back the lost wealth of Indra!

By consecrating her at the feet of the Lord, did Ramanuja signal the recovery of wealth of Melkote and renewal of worship to its past glory? A similar image carved out of stone is also found installed at the feet of Moolavar murthy.  This is not part of the main murthy but a later addition. It is possible to assume that this image also was installed after recovery of the Utsava murthy.

Lakshmi at the feet of Moolavar

Today an opinion is widespread that this image of Lakshmi is that of the Muslim girl, popularly known as Bibi Nachiar.

Only the 15th century text written by Anantacharya and called “Prapannamruta Darpanam” makes a statement that the daughter of Dilleeshwara merged with Hari and was made into ‘archa’ form[xx].

The word archa means idol and also worship. There is no scope to say that Ramanuja made her into an image and placed it at the feet. He was a stickler of tradition and never deviated from agamic practices. In all likelihood the consecration of Lakshmi at the feet was done by him signalling the recovery of Utsava murthy and the wealth from Dilleeshwara like how Gajalakshmi recovered the wealth for Indra.

By initiating Dvaya mantra, he wanted to make sure that the temple and the murthys are protected besides offering a conduit for the Jivas seeking Liberation at the feet of the Lord. The first one perhaps to reach the feet of Lord through the compassion of Lakshmi was the Muslim girl!!

Soon after this consecration, the Muslim girl reached Melkote. Ramanuja did mantropadesa to the girl and asked her to mediate on the mantra sitting in a nearby cave. Within days the girl attained liberation from the body. One version is that she disappeared in Jyothi swarupam (as light) at the feet of God. So she is Varanandamma, (வரத்தைப் பெற்றவள்) the one who attained the boon to reach the feet of God or Moksha. Yatiraja Vaibhavam also says that she disappeared - which could refer to her attainment of the lotus feet of God. Without that being a fact, there is no need for Vaduga Nambi to have mentioned this particularly.

From Prapannamrutam we deduce that she merged with “Sri” at the feet of the Lord and became an object of worship. For having attained that state she is referred to as ‘Varanandi’ – the one who got the boon.

This worshipful state is proof of factuality of a Muslim girl from Delhi from whom Ramanuja recovered the utsava murthy.

A question may arise here how the father of the girl, a musalman, the Dileeshwara could have reacted to the disappearance of his daughter. He would have been shown “Sri” at the feet of the Lord and that his daughter had merged in Her. For an iconoclast this situation would have been terrible. For one grown with the belief that destroying the images of Gods is the holiest service to his Faith, to see his own daughter worshiped in an idol form is the worst calamity to have happened to him. But that could have changed his view about Hinduism also. 

He must have been familiar with this image, for, the image of the seated Goddess with four hands with a legend ‘Sri’ in kannada had been widespread in coinage in the Malwa region that was friendly with Ghaznavids. This coin was in vogue in the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century[xxi]. As one already in the know of this image in the coins, Dilleeshwara must have realised the high position conferred on his daughter by Ramanuja and others. The Guruparampara texts speak of him as having given a lot of wealth to the temple, now that Cheluvaraya has become his son-in-law.

The son-in-law concept continuing in the form of a number of folk songs and literary works is also proof that there is no smoke without fire. The Muslim connection to Melkote and Ramanuja’s Delhi visit are the basis of these songs. 

Concurrent to the narratives of the temple sources, there does exist a cave in the outskirts of Melkote called as “Horagammanagudi” (or Horage-iramma) which means the abode of an outsider. Horage in Kannada means outside. Her origins from Delhi and a Mleccha community had given her an identity as an “outsider”.

Today a panel of Saptamatha is found in the cave. The Gangavadis of this time period were known to be worshipers of Sapta matha. They could have installed the Saptamatha her, but the people of the surrounding villages continue to regard this cave as belonging to Horagavamma, the outsider who came after Ramanuja to get back the murthy of Cheluvaraya.

Legends of marriage of Cheluvaraya with the Muslim girl.

Numerous literary works had come up in Sanskrit and Kannada on the love affair between the Muslim girl and Cheluvaraya whom she adored in murthy form[xxii]. Among them Yavaniparinaya authored by Prabhakara gives details of the gotra of the girl[xxiii]. In the description of marriage rituals, the girl is identified to have belonged to Gargya gotra while Cheluvaraya was identified with Harita gotra, the gotra of Ramanuja.

Writing on this, Buchanan in his journal has recorded that rishi Gargya was said to have begotten Kala-yavana from whom the Greeks evolved.  Gargya (Greek) was thus the progenitor of Greeks. To the Hindus all foreigners are Mlechas and Yavanas. The girl, though of Turkish origin was named as Yavani by the Hindus. The Yavana gotra was therefore assigned to her.

 Today no Kalyana utsava for this Muslim is being held in the temple. But that is not a proof for absence of this festival in the past. The marriage festival of the Muslim girl with Cheluvaraya continues to be present in the marriage rituals of the people (Hindus) living around this cave. This ritual traced to an undated past could not have come into practice without the performance of Kalyna utsava of the Muslim girl with the deity in earlier times.

Sometime ago a series of paintings of Kalyana Utsava of Cheluvaraya with the Muslim girl was noticed in the temple at Sriperumbudur and were photographed before they were whitewashed to give space for new paintings. Those photographs are now housed in a museum in Melkote, say the temple sources. Melkote Kalyana utsava with the Muslim girl found in the paintings of Sripermbudur , the birth place of Ramanuja could not have been a mere imagination, but a depiction of a practice in the past that has now become redundant.

Earlier a festival for Andal was held - something we come to know from an inscription dated at 1564 CE[xxiv]. But today no festival of Andal is held in Melkote and no sannidhi for Andal is there. Only a stone image of Andal is found stored in one of the rooms of Kattale-Pradakshina[xxv] Series of invasions could have caused the loss of murthys and the festivals also. If this is the fate of Andal festival, one can understand that the Kalyana utsava also would have been forgotten. However the presence of the legends and the paintings at Sriperumbudur do convey what we wanted to convey in this article – that a Muslim girl from Delhi had come here following the visit of Ramanuja to Delhi.

Proof of Delhi visit from Thirukkulatthar.

All the Vaishnavite texts speak about a people, originally outcastes but who were given the name ‘Thirukkulatthar’ (Blessed descendants) by Ramanuja. They helped Ramanuja in safely bringing back the utsava murthy from Delhi when he was confronted with forest brigands. In appreciation of their help Ramanuja honoured them with the title Thirukkulatthar and gave them the privilege of entering the temple on specific days.

The very presence of these people even today enjoying the privileges is a proof of the Delhi visit. This is comparable to the privileges granted to Mina tribes in Srinath Dvaraka temple. Their ancestors had ensured safe passage for the murthy of Srinathji from Mathura to Nath Dvaraka when Mathura was ambushed by Aurangazeb. This is in recent memory. But Thirukkulathars had existed for nearly 1000 years. Their service having a parallel to the service by Mina tribes is proof enough that the narratives of olden times written in Guruparampara texts are indeed true and Ramanuja’s Delhi visit was also true.


Ramanuja’s onward journey must have been safe given the fact that the probable route through Nagamangala, Phandarpur and Ujjain had shrines of Vishnu. The Tomara kings were Vishnu worshipers. The entire stretch had Yadava presence. It is wrong to say that Hoysala kings patronised the

Jaina to the detriment of Hindus. The founder dynasty of Hoysalas were Yadavas according to the Hoysala inscriptions. Only Yadu vamsa became Poysala vamsa (Poysala became Hoysala)[xxvi]. Even Thondanur was originally known as Yadavapuri when Ramanuja went there. Melkote was known as Yadavagiri. With overwhelming influence of Yadavas, one can say Ramanuja would have been received well throughout the route and he would have had a safe and comfortable journey.

Only on the return journey, he had faced threat from robbers on knowing that he was carrying the murthy and the wealth given by Dilleeshwara. Ramanuja had suffered some injuries on the return journey. Tradition has it that his image made when he left Melkote was so perfect of how he looked at that time including the bruises on his body, suffered while escaping the robbers in forest area. The image of Ramanuja at Melkote shows those bruises on his shoulders and arms.

Nothing can be more authentic than this depiction of bruises on his body. This image has gained a name “Thamar ugantha Thirumeni” – the image of Ramanuja adored by his associates in Melkote.
Verse 110 of Yatiraja Vaibhavam also tells about this and the other two images of Ramanuja made in his life time. This image depicting the way he looked, it conveys how healthy and fairly built Ramanuja was even at his old age.

Ramanuja entered Melkote in his 82nd year and this image was made before he left Melkote for Srirangam.  At 82nd year he was able to undertake a journey to Delhi. Till the last decade of his life he had been moving around. The above image made sometime before he left Melkote would remove any doubts about his ability to undertake arduous and long journeys.

Secret of long life.

The secret behind Ramanuja’s physical fitness and mental vigour was the Yogic meditation he had been doing. Two of his preceptors, Periya Nambi and Thirukoshtiyur Nambi lived upto 105 years, according to Prapannamruta Darpanam. Of them Periya Nambi could have lived even longer, but for the torture he suffered at the hands of Chola king, who is better known as Kirumi Kantha Chola.

Kurathaɻwar, his close associate lived for 118 years. Few others of his time like Mudaliyandan lived for more than 100 years. For them, their meditative power and disciplined way of life had given very long life.

It is customary to refer to those who crossed 100 years as having lived a full term of 120 years. (120 years is the maximum possible life granted by all the planets together in astrological calculations of longevity).

Even today we use the term Shatabhishekam for those who cross 80 years. It refers to 100 year-completion which is calculated on the basis of 1000 full moons that the person had crossed in his life of 80 years. Similarly on completion of 100 years a person would have crossed 1300 Full moons. That is equated to 130 years, exceeding the maximum possible years attributed to all the planets. Such references found in tradition have to be understood in the meaning they have been told. For modern researchers having no grasp of tradition  or even the history of great seers like Ramanuja who stood by Truth, to dismiss his life-events as untruth is nothing but the demonstration of their limitations.

Having said this, we need to further establish when Ramanuja returned to Srirangam. It happened upon the death of Kirumi Kantha Chola whose identity will be established in the next (last) episode of this 5-part series.


We thank the following dignitaries of  Melkote for their inputs in writing this article.  
Sri Ramapriya Sampathkumaran Swamy (temple priest) 
Sri Parthasarathy Iyengar Swamy (temple priest)
Sri Selvapillai Iyengar Swamy (archaeologist) 

[i] Dr R.Vasantha (1991), “The Narayanasvami temple at Melkote”, published by Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Mysore. Pages 42-43

[ii] Ibid., Page 41

[iii] Ibid. Page 98

[iv] Govindacharya, Alkondaville (1906), “The Life of Ramanujacharya”, Madras. Page 189.

[vi] Govindacharya, Alkondaville (1906), “The Life of Ramanujacharya”, Madras. Page 189.

[vii] Rice, Lewis.B.  “Mysore, A Gazetteer compiled for Government” Volume II. Page 272.

[viii] Coelho, William (1949) “Hoysala Vamsa”. Page 63

[ix] Rice, Lewis.B.  “Mysore, A Gazetteer compiled for Government” Volume II. Page 286

[x] Yatiraja Vaibhavam, Verses 104 & 105

[xii]  “Redfort in Delhi was originally built by Raja Anangpal Tomar in 1060 AD”   

[xiv] Chandra Roy, Prafulla. (1980). “The Coinage of Northern India: The Early Rajaputa Dynasties from the 11th to to the 13th Centuries A.D.” page 69.

[xvi] (Bayhaqī, ed. Fayyāż, pp. 703-04; Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 128, 235).

[xvii] (Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 35, 87-89)

[xix] Mayamatam, Volume II, Translation by Bruno Dagens, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd, Delhi. pages 881-882

[xx] “Prapannamrutam” (Tamil) Part I, Published by Krishnaswamy Iyengar, Trichy, page 525.

[xxi] Chandra Roy, Prafulla. (1980). “The Coinage of Northern India: The Early Rajaputa Dynasties from the 11th to to the 13th Centuries A.D.” page 67

[xxii] Dr R.Vasantha (1991), “The Narayanasvami temple at Melkote”, published by Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Mysore. Pages 40-41

[xxiii] Govindacharya, Alkondaville (1906), “The Life of Ramanujacharya”, Madras. Page 190

[xxiv] Dr R.Vasantha (1991), “The Narayanasvami temple at Melkote”, published by Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Mysore. Pages 97.

[xxv] Ibid., page 144.

[xxvi] Coelho, William (1949) “Hoysala Vamsa”. Page 9.


Arun said...

There was a mention by Tridaṇḍī Swāmī Viṣvaksenāchārya of Buxar (UP-Bihar border) of Prativādi-Bhayankara sect of Rāmānuja that he was invited for Prāṇa-Pratiṣṭhā of Śrī Jagannātha temple at Purī. During that journey, he had commented that Odisha was junction of both traditions-Samskṛta āmnāya (Pingala-Chhanda śāstra, a place name in Odisha) and Dravḍa āmnāya (Tingala-Tamil & Telugu both start with T). Is there any reference of that?

K G Dhouhithri said...

Sir, am not aware of the event you have shared. However, Sri Jagannatha had directed Swami Ramanuja (in a dream) to leave the Jagannatha Temple rituals as-is without any changes (as a response to the plea of the local Purohithas). The Acharya was directed to Srikoormam Kshetra where the Lord had asked the Acharya to establish that the presiding Deity is Sri Vishnu as Sri Koormaa. Even today, that Kshetra has 2 Dhwajasthambas as a testimony to the Acharya's words that the enshrined Moorthy would face Sri Ramanuja (by turning) if He were Lord Vishnu. It's said that Sri Garuda had transported the Acharya from Sri Puri to Sri Koormam.

jayasree said...

Dear Arun ji,

I have not come across such an observation in the texts referred by me. If I come across, I will inform you.

Sriram V said...

Very systematic, rigorous analysis. Establishes unequivocally that the Utsavar was indeed taken to Delhi; Sri Ramanuja made an arduous rip to Delhi at the age of 82; Delhi was ruled by a Muslim, whose daughter indeed possessed the Vigraham; and when the Guru beckoned Him as Selva Pillai, the Lord moved to him; which melted the king's heart, and he in turn let the Acharya carry the Vigraham back to Melkote; the girl followed the Guru, got the mantropadesa, meditated and merged into the Lord. The beauty of your research is that every step has been corroborated through multiple sources (Astrology, history, epigraphy, legend) and they are consistent with one another. Very educative experience. Great kainkaryam to Sanathana dharma.-sriram