Swami desika has blessed us with more than 20 prabandhams in tamil and most of them highlight the concepts he analysed in his terse commentries in sanskrit, tamil and mani pravala.One can easily appreciate the sweetness of these verses for its rythem,simplicity and the meanings it convey on our sampradayam.
Adiyen will attempt to provide a brief introduction of these prabandhams in few posts.The source for this write up is the tamil monograph written by SrI V.N.Rama desikachariar swamy of Oppliappan Koil. Adiyen has freely translated the article and all the errors are due to lack of understanding of adiyen and please forgive adiyen and correct me.If you find any worth in this article then the credit goes to SrI Rama desikachariar swamy.
First let us first see the list of Tamil prabandhams composed by swami desikan.
1. Amrutha ranjani
2. Adhikara sangraham
3. Amrutha swanidhi
4. Parama padha sopanam
5. Para madha pangam
6. Meyvradha or aththigiri mahatmiyam
8. Artha panchakam
9. Sri Vaishnava dinasari
10. Thiruchchinna malai
11. Panniru namam
12. Thiru mandhira churukku
13. Dwaya churukku
14. Charama sloka churukku
15. Gitartha sangraham
17. Navamani malai
18. Pandhu *
19. Kazhal *
20. Ammanai *
21. Usal *
22. Esal *
23. Prabandha saram
24. Ahara Niyamam
Out of these 24 prabandhams Pandhu, Kazhal, Ammanai, Usasl and Esal (marked *)are now extinct ie not available (luptam). We also have Pillai andhadhi, which was composed by SrI.Kumara varacharirar the son of Swamy desikan and this is also considered as part of Desika prabandham.
Now let us briefly study about the each of the above prabandham.
Swami desikan has blessed us with 17 rahasya granthas in manipravala style starting from sampradaya parisuddhi to sara deepam.These rahasya granthas form first part of chillarai rahasyas meaning that they are small granthas in size and they are different from major works like Srimad Rahasya Traya saram etc..
Swami desika invariably provides a tamil pasuram at the starting and conculsion of every grantha which summerises the theme or idea of the rahasya grantha.The 39 verses presented in the above 17 granthas starting from sampradaya pari suddhi to sara deepam have been compiled and titled as Amrutha ranjani.
Since this sweet prabandham is tasting like or more than the divine nector and pleases the reader the prabandham got its name, Amrutha ranjani. In this work swami desika remembers HIS acharya’s blessings and explains the three tatvams of chetana, achetana and Ishwara. Besides he provides the meaning of three rahasya mantras namely thiru mantra, dwaya and charama sloka.
Srimad Rahasya traya saram has been considered as magnum opus the most important grantha in our kalekshepams. SRTS has 32 chapters or adhikaras and this grantha has been written in mani pravala style ie with admixture of sanskrit and tamil. This prabandham provides the meaning of the 32 chapters present in the Srimad Rahasya trya saram in brief and so got the name adhikara sangraham.
In this prabandham swami desika praises the ten azhvars, madhura kavi azhvar and eight acharyas. He also separately glorifies Bhagavad Ramanuja, Alavandhar and Natha muni for their outstanding contributions (upakara) to our sampradayam.
Then he provides meaning of the each chapter of SRTS in an andhadhi style. One pasuram is dedicated to one chapter of SRTS. Then three verses are dedicated to Koyil, Thirumalai and Perumal koil (Srirangam, Thiruppathi and Kanchipuram) as these divya desams are considered to be the most important ones among the 108 shrines.
Swami desika captures the glory of SrI Ranganatha’s thiruvadi which can’t be separated even for a moment by HIS bhakatas. This has been presented in a long pasuram and beauty of this pasuram can’t be expressed in words. One should recite and feel it. Swami desika finally concludes this prabandham reminding us the great upakara rendered by our Poorvacharyas.
The rahasya granthas from Saara saram to Muni vaha bhoham that are presented in mani pravala style are compiled as another part of chillari rahasya.The pasurams presented in these rahasya granthas have been compiled and and presented as tamil prabandham titled “ Amrudha svadhini”. Since the prabandham contains nector like pasurams that will please the reader this prabandham got it’s name.
Here too swami desikan explains the tatparyam or subtle meaning of mantra traya ie ashtakshara,dwaya and charama sloka. He explains the important aspects like surrender of kakasura and vibhishana of Srimad Ramayana.This prabandham also provides the meaning of varaha charama sloka which the dialogue between Varahapperumal and Bhumi piratti.The glory of anjali is analysed. The jewel crown of this prabandham is that the glory of Sri Bhashyakara ( Bhagavad Ramanuja) has been presented in a dialogue form. This pasuram concludes with a pasuram that provides the inner meaning of Amalanaadhi piran.
Parama padha sopanam:
Swami desika blessed us a granta with the above title and the pasurams presented in that granta are compiled as a Tamil prabandham with the same title. It is natural that in order to reach an elevated place we have to climb the steps. Similarly to reach the highly elevated place called Parama padham one has to climb nine steps. Swami desika symbolically depicts the 9 important things one should know to attain vaikunta prapthi and they are presented as 9 steps. Sopanam means step.
The nine steps mentioned in this granta/prabandham are:
1. Knowledge of tatvas
2. Aversion to samsara
3. Disinterest in worldly pleasures
4. Fear of Naraka due to the accured sins
5. Performance of an Upaya to invoke the blessings of Sriya: pathi for vaikuntap prapthi
6. Departure of soul from our body
7. Journey through celestial route ( archirathi margam)
8. Reaching parama padam
9. Seeing and enjoying the Sarvesvara and being there forever in ecstasy.
The above points are briefly presented in the prabandham and elaborately dealt in the grantha with the same title.
Para matha pangam:
During Swamy desika’s long stay at Thiruvahendra puram vidhwans of other schools/sampradayams came for a debate with our swami. Swami desika has defeated them easily by exposing the inconsistancies in their theories and proving that they are not in accordance with Vedas.
In order to enable even a commoner to appreciate the glories of our Vaideka matham and to understand the inconsistancies and defects of our rival schools or para mathas Swami desika blessed us with a rahasya grantha titled para matha pangam. The tamil pasurams presented in the beginning and conclusion of this rahasya grantha are compiled as a tamil prabandham and the same title was given to this prabandham.This prabandham beautifully summarises the concepts handled in each of the chapter of the granta.
Swami desika first seek the blessings of Sri Sudarshana to condemn the para mathams and then he fondly remembers the upakara rendered by our acharyas. He goes on to explain the tatva traya of our sidhdhantam and explains the reason for condemning the other mathams. He exposes the inconsistancies of Sarvaka matham, four branches of Buddism (mathyamika, yogachara, sauthraanthika and vaibhashika) Advaitam, Jainism, Bhaskara- Yadava matam, Vaiyaakarana matham, KaNa matham, Yoga matham and Pasupadha matam. Swami desika then glorifies the Pancharatra sastra and saranagathi sastra of our siddhantam.He firmly concludes that the sampradayam taught by our acharyas is the only correct and the best siddhantam and thanking Sri Sudarshana for blessing him to undertake this work and praises the valour of the 16 hands of Sri sudarshana.
Meyvradha manmiyam or Aththigiri mahatmiyam:
Swami desika blessed us with a grantha titled Hasthigiri Mahatmiya in mani pravala style. The tamil pasurams of this grantha are compiled as a tamil prabandham and titled Meyvradha manmiyam.Aththigiri or Hasthigiri means Kanchi puram. As we can easily guess this prabandham provides the sthala puranam of Kachipuram and the birth of Perarulalan.
Here is the story: Long ago Brahma wanted to worship Perumal in person and he could not succeed due to his karmas. He came to bharatha desam and undertook severe penance.That time one divine voice or prophecy from the heavens told him that he should go to satya vratha kshetra and perform aswamedha yagam constructing a Yaga sala or Yaga vedhi at Hasthigiri. Brahma then ordered the cheif architect of devas Viswakarma to construct a Yaga sala at Hasthigiri for which viswakarma oblieged. Brahma was getting ready to perform the Yaga as ordered by the Prophecy.
Unfortunately at that time Brahma’s wife Saraswathi devi was not with him due to some misunderstanding with him(!!).Saraswathi separately went to the banks of river saraswathi and performing penance. Since the religious functions can’t be performed alone and only with the dharma pathni Brahma has sent his son Sage Vashista to invite Saraswathi. Sage Vashishta went to his mother and invited her but she refused. Brahma continued the Yagam with his other wives like savitri etc.
Asuras who never be happy with the welfare of devas went to saraswathi and created further misunderstanding by telling her that Brahma is continuing his Yaga without saraswathi thus ignoring her.This made saraswathi furious and she took the form of a river and hurried to destroy the Yaga sala.Sriman Narayana stopped her from destroying the Yaga sala by lying down across her/river. Saraswathi realised her mistake and re joined Brahma. Brahma was happy at her return and proceeded with the Yagam.
Once the Havis was offered, from the Yaga vedhi a Vimanam called Punya Koti vimanam came out with great tejas. SrI PeraruLalan was also appeared in the vimanam.Brahma was extremely happy and offered his prayers to Perumal. Sriman narayana was also happy with the devotion of Brahma and ordered him to ask for any boons. Brahma immediately requested for Perumal to stay at Hasthigiri for which Perumal agreed to. Brahma thus successfully completed the Yagam and then went to satya lokam and immersed in the bhagavad dhyanam.This is the story of Hasthigiri.
Swami desika beautifully described this episode in different types of pasurams that are suitable for the theme. For example, the pasuram that describes the saraswathi’s anger on Brahma and coming as furious river to destroy the Yaga sala has been presented so nicely that we can feel the anger of saraswathi from reading the pasuram itself.
anna vadivaL asayum anna nadaiyaaL
aru manna araseri varuvaaL.
aththana yaththana anuththithanai aththithana
uththi puriyaaL.. ( pasuram 12)
Similarly the beauty of the Perarulalan and Piratti has been described with apt examples that will fill the readers heart with joy. Can you believe that swami desika has encapsuled the distilled meaning of all the 16 padhas of Sri Bhashyam in one pasuram. Unbelievable! (Pasuram 19). Read the entire prabandham and enjoy your self.
This prabandham also sang in praise of Perarulalan. One who is desirous
of moksha should know the concept of artha panchakam. The five concept
or knowledge referred in artha panchakam are:
1. Knowledge about the Perumal ( Paramatma swaroopam)
2. Knowledge about the Self ( Jeevathma swaroopam)
3. Knowledge about the hassles that prevent us to know about the paramatma(Virodhi swaroopam)
4. Knowledge about the ways and means of attaining moksha(Upaya swaroopam)
5. Knowledge about the fruit of observance of the upaya referred in 4 ( Phala swaroopam)
Swami desika describes the above concept in 10 pasurams each two of them describe one of the above knowledge and the eleventh pasuram is the phala sruthi.
Swami desika has decided to perform bhara samarppanam at the lotus feet of Kanchi Perarulalan.He has beautifully describes the prapatti sastra in ten verses of this prabandham.
Swami desika at the outset explains that kakasura and vibheshana were benefitted by surrendering to Rama. The different types of anushtanam of prapatti like,
are explained nicely. In one pasuram (uhakkum avai uhandhu..) SrI Desika caputures all the five angis of prapatti very nicely. Anukula sankalpam,Pratikulasya vrajjanam,Maha visvasam,Goptrva varnam and Karpanyam are the five angis that are prescribed for Prapatti and this has been very nicely presented by swami desika.
All the ten verses of this prabandham are really wonderful and very easy to recite too.adiyen would request every one of you to recite this prabandham daily during your daily thiruvaradhanam or pooja. This prabandham explains the prapatti sastra as a direct means to moksha,which is unique to our sampradayam. Swami desika has also blessed us with a sanskrit sloka titled nyasa dasakam on the same lines of this prabandham.
SrI Vainava dinasari:
This prabandham explains the daily routine of a srivaishnava as ordained by the sastras. One day is divided in to 5 parts and one activity is prescribed for each of the five parts.
1.Abigaman: Praying to Perumal in the morning for proper performance of daily rituals without any hinderance.
2. Upadhanam: Collecting Tulasi leaves and pushpam etc for Bhagavad thiruvaradhanam. Since the pure mind is the most important requirement for aradhanam it is essential to cleanse it with the kalekshepams of divya sookthis of azhvars and acharyas.
3. Ijaya: Performing thiruvaradhanam in accordance with pancha ratra and ahnika.
4. Svaadhyaayam: Learning vedas and Arulicheyals.
5. Yogam: Remembering Bhagavan’s thiruvadi and going to bed. Thinking that our head is placed at the lotus feet of Sriya: pathi during the sleep.
Swami desika describes the above 5 routines in 10 pasurams.Enjoy swami’s handling of the words. The word Hari( in tamil ari) has been used 7 times in one line to convey 7 different meanings and see the rhythm of the poem (edhukai and monai).
It is customary that in Perumal sannidhis a special blow instrument called “thiruchchinnam” is played. The sweetness and the majesty of this instrument can’t be described in words. Swami desika was mesmerised in the thiruchchinna oli at the Kanchi Perarulalan sannidhi.Perarulalan the one who is the guNa vishesham of thirumantra,dwaya and charama sloka is ready for his “Vedi Ula” and the sabdham of thiruchchinnam indicates that.Swami desika gave name of the instrument to this prabandham.
In this prabandham, SD presents the subtle meaning of thirumantra
in the first 6 pasurams.Dwaya mantra’s inner meaning has been presented
in the verses 7 and 8. Verse 9 explains the important meaning of charama
sloka.Then swami glorifies the Perarulalan in one pasuram.In the concluding
verse he mentions that this prabandham which conveys the acharya
upadesam,will be enjoyed by the bhagavathas who are involved in Perumal(‘s
kalyana gunas) without getting attached to the lowkeeka pleasures
It is essential that srivaishnavas should wear 12 thirumans (Dwadasa urdva pundram) on their body every day as prescribed in the sastras. While doing so, we have to invoke the 12 divine names of Perumal (starting from Kesava to Damodara) and Thayar (starting from Sri to sarva bhiishta phala pradayai). In this prabandham swami desika explains the 12 divine names, their divine colour, their divine weapons,their direction and the part of the body they reside etc.. in a simple and sweet way in his own style.
It is essential that we must recite this prabandham while wearing urdva pundram daily.
The next three prabandhams provide the meaning of thirumantra, dwaya and charama sloka respectively.
Thiru mantra churukku:
This prabandham provides the meaning of thirumantra or ashtakshara. Each of the akshara has been explained in detail:
2. The dative of fourth order (in tamil naakaam vERRumai urubu) that is attached to the Akara
3. “U” kara
4. “M” kara
5. nama: padham
6. nara padham
7. ayana padham
8. The dative of fourth order of ayana padham.
Finally swami desika concludes the prabandham stating that these mantras are a treasure that has been secretly preserved for the benefit of us.
Long long ago, Thayar SrI Maha lakshmi piratti, seeing the jeevas who are immersed in the samsara sagara took pity on us and pleaded to perumal to show us a way to overcome this endless chain of birth and death. Sriman Narayana, blessed her ( and us the jeevas) with a mantra by joining the two stanzas that are scattered in the upanishads.This mantra can be recited by any one, at any time without any restrictions. This is called Dwaya. Dwaya means two. This mantra has two stanzas. First line of the mantra explains the means or upaya to reach HIM. The second part of the mantra explains the fruit or phala of the reciting this mantra. This prabandham explains the meaning of the Dwaya mantra and to this name.
The following padhams of the mantra are nicely explained in this prabandam.
1. SrI sabdham
2. the Madh vihudhi attached to the SrI sabdham
3. Narayana sabdham
4. Charana sabdham
5. sharaNa sabdham
6. “Pra” and “badh” padhams
7. “Thanmai urubu” of prabadh sabdham.
8. Sriman narayana sabdham in the second part
9. Dative of fourth order in the narayana sabdham
10. nama: sabdham.
In the concluding verse swami desika summerises the above 10 meanings.
It is beyond adiyen’s capability to write a even brief about these prabandhams. adiyen can’t translate the various tamil grammatical terms in to English due to his poor knowledge. Knowledgable bhagavathas may provide the suitable words for various tamil grammer terms. One has to learn the meaning of these mantras from an acharya.
Charama sloka churukku:
In the battle field of Kurekshetra, Sri Krishna blessed Arjuna with Bhagavad gita and revealed the most important concept of surrender.This prabandham provides the meaning of the charama sloka.
In the first pasuram Swami desika explains the meaning of charama sloka in brief. In the next 10 verses he explains the meaning of the following.
1. Sarva dharman parityajya
8. Sarva paapebhyo
10. Maa sucha:
SrI Krishna performed the role of a charioteer for Arjuna in the Kurukshetra war. Arjuna on seeing his relatives on the opposite side of the war ready to fight with him, lost his courage to fight and got confused. He has thrown his bow and arrow and sat on the chariot. His mind was filled with emotion and unwarrented love for his relatives.He wasn’t sure whether it is right to fight with all of them. He finally surrendered to SrI Krishna and SrI Krishna advised Arjuna and these conversation is called Srimad Bhagavad Gita.
SrI Alavandhar has blessed us with a sanskrit stotra called gitartha sangraha.Each sloka explains the purport of each chapter and there are 18 slokas in this stotram.Swami desika has also blessed us with a commentry for SrI Alavandar’s stotra.
In this prabandham, Swami desika translates the sanskrit stotra and provides one tamil verse for each of the sanskrit sloka. One can easily understand the basic purport of Srimad Bhagavad gita from this prabandham.
The next two prabandhams are composed on Deiva nayakan of Thiruvahendrapuram. Swami desika infact sang seven prabandhams namely Mummanikkovai,Nava mani malai,Pandhu, Kazhal,Ammanai,Usal and Esal on the Peruaml of this divya desam.Mummaikkovai as the same suggests should have 30 verses. Unfortunately only 10 verses of this prabandham and Nava mani malai are now available and other prabandhams are now extinct due to our mis fortune.
This prabandham have the verses set to three types of tamil poems namely ahaval, veNpa and Kattalai kaliththurai. The meaning of the title of this prabandham is like a garland made of three jems ( mum maNi kovai).
In this prabandham, swami desika glorifies Piratti and explains the six meanings of SrI sabdha.The he prasises the auspicious qualities (kalyana gunas) of Lord Deivanayaka and states that HE is the relative and saviour of all of us with reasons. Finally he concludes that one who has surrendered at HIS lotus foot are equal to Perumal HIMSELF.
In this prabandham, swami desika like azhvars assumes the role of nayaki and enjoys the perumal in nayaki-nayaka bhavam.These verses are wonderful indeed.
Nava Mani Malai:
In this prabandham, nine verses are set to veNpa and hence this name was given by swami desikan to this prabandham. It is also called as nava ratna malai.
In this prabandham, swami desika glorifies the lotus feet of Deivanayaka and the ten avatharas of Perumal.He says that Brahma,Garuda,Anantha and Bhumi devi were blessed in this kshetram and they are permanently residing at Ayindhai as holy rivers/waters. Swami desika describes the Utsavam that is performed in the month of masi at an groove in the seashore. SD states with autheticity that one who never forgets the divya thirumeni of perumal will never be born again ( what a beautiful anubhavam.. Nin vadivazhagu maravaadhar piravaadhaare..) Swami pleads for protection at his ripe old age and then concludes this prabandham stating that he has composed two sanskrit stotras ( Achutha sathakam and Deivanayaka Panchashat) and 7 tamil prabandhams at the divine command of Lord Deivayanaka.
The eighth pasuram of this prabandham deserves special mention. See the edhukai and monai in these eight lines. (Manchulaavu soolai sUzh...) Please read it your self in tamil script to enjoy the nector.
Adiyen is born in this divya desam on the thirunakshatram of swami Nammazhvar. It is indeed a blessing. The Utsavams of Perumal and Swami desika in this divya desam are a treat to watch. There is also a temple for SrI.Manavala maamuni and aippasi moolam is celebrated in grand way. One can see the Peruaml Hayagreeva that swami desika worshipped and the well he has built. The divya mangala vigraham of swami desika that is blessing us today is made by none other than swami himself to a challenge by a sculptor to prove his title sarva tantra swatantra.( Master of all arts).Please visit this temple and get the blessings of Hemambhuja valli thayar sametha SrI deivanayaka and sarava tantra swatantra.
Swami desika out of his deep involvement in the arulicheyals of Azhvars has composed this prabandham.Here Swami desika codifies the birth place of Azhvars, their thirunakshatram and month, names of the prabandhams blessed by them, their verse total count and most importantly the main purport of their prabandham. The brilliance of Swami desika shines extremely well in each and every line of the prabandham as it is breath taking to even assume that all the above information is packed in one pasuram dedicated to one Azhvar. Swami prays to each azhvar to bless him with their prabandhams for his anusandhanam or recitation. In the end Swami summarises the names of all azhvars and their prabandham count in two pasurams and in the next pasuram he prays to all the 12 azhvars and Swami Emperumanar and finally concludes that the arulicheyals are the only means to overcome this samsara sagaram. Swami calls himself proudly as “Tamizh mariyOn” ie the one who follows the tamil vedam divya prabandham. Swami also states that,one who recites this prabandham, will be blessed by Perumal.
This prabandham is marvallous one among the all desika prabandhams in adiyen’s humble opinion. Please read this atleast once and for sure you will like to read it again and again. One can easily remember the thirunakshatrams of azhvars and their prabandhams and how the entire 4000 count has been arranged are obvious in this prabandham.
One important request from SrI Rama desikachariar of Oppili appan sannidhi:
While reciting the divya prabandham at home and perumal sannidhis it would be appropriate to recite the pasruam related to that azhvar from prabandha saram after recitation of the taniyan. Some may feel shy to start a new procedure but we are not doing anything wrong in adapting this new practice. Elders may please consider adiyen’s proposal.
This prabandham stipulates the rules that are to be observed on food habits and hence got this name. If the food we consume is impure then the mind won’t be pure and impure mind can’t do any good deed and he is unfit to do any vaidika karmas.Swami desika has given clear instructions what to eat and what to avoid based on the sastras which are given to us by the sages.
Believe it, If we read thru the prabandham we won’t be anywhere near to be fit for doing any vaidika karmas. One may argue that this stipulation can’t fit in today’s living but adiyen disagree with this argument. Remember that all our acharyas lived long and had a healthy life due to their strict anushtanam and acharam. One must try sincerely to follow the guidelines as laid down by our acharyas. (adiyen)
This concludes the brief write up on desika prabandham. But before concluding one more prabandham to know which NOT by swami desika BUT on Swami desika. ie Pillai andhadhi.
This prabandham was composed by SrI Kumara varadhachariar (also known as SrI Nainachariar).This swami has learnt all the sastras at the lotus feet of swami desika.SrI Kumara varadhacahrya has blessed us with this prabandham which briefly glorifies swami desika. Since this prabandham speaks about Thuppul pillai ie swami desika in andhadhi style (like ramanuja noorandhadhi) it got its name.
The key issues discussed in this prabandham are:
Unless we glorify swami desika we can’t elevate ourselves. The siddhantam given by swami desika based on our poorvacharyas is the only recourse for us. Swami desika is none other than Lord Balaji of Seven Hills. If we sing the glories of swami desika all our sins will vanish and we will be blessed. There is no other upaya to overcome this samsara sagaram without the grace of swami desika.
Like this SrI Nainachariar glorifies swami desika and prays to him for his blessings and give him para bhakthi, knowledge etc.. He also sings pallandu for the divya thirumeni of swami desika and concludes the prabandham stating that one who recites this prabandham will be blessed with the swami’s divine feet on their head.
Swami desikan thiruvadigale saranam.