Vedanta Desika bigraphy, stories - Great Sri Vaishnavaitic Guru and Incarnation of Sri Venkatachalapathy of Tirumala

Vedanta Desika : biography

1269 - 1370

Vedanta Desika (Swami Desikan, Swami Vedanta Desikan, Thoopul Nigamaantha Desikan) (1269–1370) was a Sri Vaishnava Guru. He was a poet, devotee, philosopher and master-teacher. He was the disciple of Swamy Sri Kidambi Appullar alias Sri Aathreya Ramanujachariar who comes in the lineage starting from Sri Ramanuja with Sri Thirukurugai Piran Pillan alias Sri Kurugesar,Sri Kidambi Aachan, Sri Aathreya Ramanujar, Sri Aathreya Rangarajachariar and many in the order. He is considered as an Avatar (incarnation) of the divine bell of Lord Venkateswara of Tirumalai by Sri Vaishavites.


A 'Thanian' is a 'laudatory dedication verses' composed on a 'Aacharya' (in simple terms [Guru]) in Sri Vaishnavism by one more great Aacharya who either being the pupil of the former or by a person who was greatly admired by the former. The 'Thanian' of Swamy Desikan are (in ITRANS)

"rAmAnuja-dayA-pAtraM j~nAna-vairAgya-bhUShaNaM | shrImad-venkaTa-nAthAryaM vande vedAntadeshikaM ||"

This taniyan was composed by Sri Periya Parakala Jeeyar swamy of Sri Parakala Mutt on the day of star of Hastham, the star of Sri Varadharaja Perumal of Kanchipuram in the Tamil month of Avani. This taniyan is recited before starting Divya Prabandham — the works of Alwars by Vadakalayars. The meaning of this taniyan is "I salute the great Venkata Natha also called Vedanta Acharya and Lion among poets and logicians and who was well adorned by both Knowledge and discretion and who well deserved the grace of Athreya Ramanujar who also had the same name."

His son Kumara Varadacharya has composed a thaniyan on Swami Desika. This thaniyan is recited before reading Sri Bhasya of Sri Ramanuja and any Sanskrit stotra of swami desikan by Vadakalai sect of Sri Vaishnavites. In ITRANS, it is:

"shrImAn venkaTa-nAthAryaH kavitArkika-kesari | vedAntAcharya-varyo me sannidhattAm sadA hridi ||"

The meaning of this verse is "the great lion of poets and the great preceptor of Vedanta (that Swami Venkatanatha was) should reside in his heart always." It is good to note that, Sri Kumara Varadhacharya was a great scholar and has also composed "Pillai Anthathi" in Tamil and "Sri Desika Managalam" in Sanskrit, on Swamy Vedanta Desika. These two works are chanted in most of the Vadakalai Divya Desam till today.

"Seeronru Tooppul Thiruvenkata mudaiyan par onra chonna pazhamozhiyul- OronRu thane amaiyadhO Dharaniyil Vazhvorkku Vanerap PomaLavum Vazhvu ||"

The meaning of this verse is "For a person who desires to ascend up to the Heavens, even a single statement of the great Acharya, Tooppul Tiuvenkadamudaiyan (Vedanta Desika) uttered by him for the benefit of humanity would be sufficient to lift him up to his desired goal".

Early life

Swamy Desikan was born in Thoopul, near Kanchipuram, (according to legend, on the order of Lord Srinivasa and Padmavathi Thayaar, the God and Goddess of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple the divine bell of Narayana took the incarnation as Swamy), as the son of Ananta Suri and Totaramba. Swamy is also considered to be the incarnation of the 'Lord of Seven hills' known as Tirumala Sri Venkateswara himself. It is widely revered as Swamy is the incarnation of Baghavath Ramanuja to once again reform the Vaishnavism and to give the world about its elaborated Treatises.He was named "Venkatanatha" and belonged to the Vishwamithra gothra (lineage). He was educated and trained by a scholarly maternal uncle of his, Kidambi Appullalar who was a direct disciple of Nadadoor Ammal (Grand Nephew of Ramanuja). Appullalar also initiated Venkatanatha into Brahmacharya Upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony) at the age of seven and then to the SriVaishnavaite school of philosophy through Panchasamskara and made him master the Vedas, Divyaprabandam, Puranas and Sastras. By the age of twenty he was a great scholar without peer in the history of Vaishnavism. He got married at the age of 21 to Tirumangai (also known as "Kanakavalli"). Vedanta Desikan rose to the status of an "Acharya" by the age of 27. Swami Desikan was conferred the title of Sarva Tantra Swatantra (one with the capacity for independent thinking and originality in any field), by Ranganayaki thaayar Herself, and Swamy was adorned with the title Vedantacharya by the Lord of Sri Rangam Sri Ranganatha, Himself.

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