Acharya Vaibhavam (44th Jeeyar)
Despite the tremendous strides in the fields of Science and Technology, mankind is still in a state of despair and anguish. The real peace of mind the human seeks is elusive. Only a living faith as that displayed by those peerless band of devotees the Alvars and Acharyas can help us overcome this paralysing sense of fear.
The Lord Himself declares in the Geetha that "When the sacred Law fails and evils raise their ugly heads, I take embodied birth in this world" to guard the righteous and root out the sinners.
The Amsas of the Lord Narayana descended into this World when the heretical religions were on the ascendant. The 'Alvars' as we call these messengers of the Lord went about the country singing the praise of Narayana, communicating the joy of their communion with Him through their soul stirring hymns celebrated as the "Nalayira Divya Prabandham" which contains the quintessence of the Visistadvaita philosophy. Their mission complete, when they returned to Sri Vaikunta, the Lord again descended into this World in the garb of Acharyas. Of these Sri Nathamuni, Sri Yamuna and Sri Ramanuja belong to the formative period of Vaishnavism, when the foundations of Vaishnavism were firmly laid. After Sri Ramanuja, Sri Vedanta Desika held aloft the flag of Vaishnavism. His was an age of giants both in the literary and religious fields.
The period from 1370 A.D. saw the task of preservation ,and propagation of Vaishnavism largely institutionalised. Of the institutions that came to the fore, Ahobila Math founded in 1398 A.D. was easily largest and most influential. The Founder, Sri Adivan Satakopa Jeeyar blazed a new trail which continues till this day.
In the history of Vaishnavism since the fifteenth century A.D., the Jeeyars of Ahobila Math have made very significant contribution to Vaishnavism. The First Jeeyar was a disciple of Sri Nainaracharya - the son and disciple of Sri Desika the apostolic leadership from 1371-1410 A.D held by him has been most faithfully carried forward by the later Jeeyars.
Among them, we find the fortyfourth Jeeyar, Sri Van Satakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatheendra Mahadesikan as towering figure among the contemporary Acharyas. He was the 'Asthana Vidwan' of the Ahobila Math under the previous two Alagiasingars, namely - Sri Injimedu and Sri Devanarvilagam Swamis. He assumed the headship of the math in November 1957 and for nearly thirtyfive years he held the position with great distinction till he shed the coils of earthly existence on the morning of 16th August 1992. His period as the pontiff is indeed an eventful and productive period as he strove hard to re-establish the grandeur of Ahobila Math.
The 44th Azhagiyasingar was born in - Avani - in the Asterism of Hasta (August 1895 A.D.) in the Mukkur village in North Arcot District situated on the banks of 'Cheyyaru'. Mukkur has also the additional distinction of being the birth place of the 42nd Jeeyar Sri Injimedu Alagiasingar. His parents - Sri Rangachariar swami and Smt. Ranganayaki Ammal (strange indeed) bore the names of the Divya Dampatis at Srirangam. Sri Rangachariar swami was a strict adherent of rigid daily routine prescribed by Vaishnava Acharyas down the ages and was well-versed in the Vedic lore. Named Rajagopalan, the son underwent the Upanayanasamskara at the age of eight.
He studied the Kavya Grantha under Thaiyar Josyam Madaboosi Srinivasachariar who resided at the nearby village Parasoor. Sri Injimedu - Alagiasingar in his poorvasrama and other Vidwans of the day were also instructed-by the Swami in 'Kavya Granthas'. His father, himself, administered the 'Panchasamskara' to his son Sri. Injimedu Alagia Singar, (then in Poorvasrama) was present on the occasion and helped in the conduct of the ritual. At the age of twelve, he was sent to the Veda Patasala at Srimushnam where he studied under Sri Krishnamacharya Swami-renowned as "Srimushnam - Ganapati". There was another eminent scholar named Sri Swarnam Krishnamachari at Srimushnam. Under him, Rajagopalan received instructions in 'Kavya Natakas'. It is pertinent to note that Srimad Injimedu Alagiasingar - in his poorvasrama - had also studied Kavya Grantha' under the same swami.
After completing successfully the 'Vedic Adyayana; he went to Mannargudi - to which place his parents had moved some time ago. Here, he learnt 'Vyakarna' at the feet of the Mannargudi Alagiasingar. Later he mastered the 'Vyakarna Sastras under the renowned Vyakarana Vidwan Nadadur Sri Krishnamachariar swami. When a patasala was established at Mannargudi under the management of Kottur Rangaswami Mudaliar Sri Rajagopalan joined the same. Some of the eminent Vidwans of the day like Sri Puthamkottam swami Thilliambur Sri Chakravarthiacharya swami and Perugavalandan Sri Krishnamachariar swami were on the staff. He learnt 'Divya Prabhanda' under Sri Kasi Kuppuswami Ayyangar. It was about the time, 'the 39th Jeeyar had nominated Karukurichi Srimad Alagiasingar to succeed him in office. At the age of eighteen, he married one Janakavalli. The couple were blessed with- a daughter and son.
When the 40th Jeeyar Srivan Satakopa Sri Lakshmi Nrusimha Paduka Sevaka Srivan Satakopa Sri Ranganatha Satakopa Yatheendra Mahadesikan passed away, his successor, the 41st Jeeyar proceeded on a tour of Divyadesas. With the specific consent of the Jeeyar, Sri Rajagopala Ayyangar swami learnt Vedanta Sastras at the feet of the renowned Thilliambur swami. He became an adept in Kalakshepa granthas. He attended several sadas conducted at Kodiyalam, Pudukottai etc. and distinguished himself as a versatile scholar and a doughty exponent of Visistadvaita.
When the 40th Jeeyar Swami sent a 'Srimukham' to Sri 'Thilliambur swami to nominate suitable Sishyas to do Kainkarya (service) in the math, the latter nominated Sri Rajagopala Ayyangar swami. Thence forward began an unbroken period of very intimate and cordial relationship with the successive Jeeyars. Serving under the fortieth Jeeyar, he accompanied him on his tour of Andhra Desa when the Jeeyar effected many structural improvements to the Temple at Ahobilam.
When the Swami became too ill to perform the daily aradhana etc., he called upon Sri Gopala Ramabadrachariar to assume 'Sanyasa' and adorn the peetam as his successor.
Sri Rajagopala Ayyangar swami's discourses on Ramayana enthralled asthikas everywhere. He also instructed many devout Srivaishnavas in Rahasya granthas. When the 41st Jeeyar was at Tiruvellore, he became ill and initiated Sri Injimedu Madaboosi Sri Ranganathacharya swami into Sannyasa Asrama on 4.6.1929, thus paving the way for eventual succession after him.
The period of pontificate of Srimad Injimedu Alagiasingar will go down as a 'Golden era' in the history of Ahobila math. He started the journal Sri Nrisimhapriya, conducted the Malola Sadas with great distinction and established the Sanskrit college at Madhurantakam. By the time Sri Injimedu Alagiasingar returned to Tiruvellore after a pilgrimage, Sri Rajagopala Ayyangar swami had moved over to Tiruvellore with his family. He was appointed as the Asthana Vidwan by the 42nd Jeeyar and permitted to deliver discourses at Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and other great cities and he won wide acclaim as an outstanding exponent of our Sampradaya. Under Sri Devanarvilagam Alagiasingar - 43rd in this illustrious tine - Sri Rajagopala Ayyangar continued his services as the Asthana Vidwan. He accompanied the Jeeyar on his tour of the North. The Jeeyar observed his 'Chaturmasya Sankalpa' at Risikesh. Plans were afoot to celebrate his birth asterism - Poorvashada falling in the month of Krittika at Naimisaranya - but the Jeeyar fell ill and passed away on 24.11.1957. At this critical moment in Math's history, Sri Rajagopala Ayyangar swami assumed the Sanyasasrama in the asterism of Sravana in November 1957 - and was installed on 6.12.1957 at Naimisaranya P-s the fortyfourth Jeeyar. For nearly thirtyfive years, he presided over the affairs of the Math with great distinction.
Now, he assumed the name - Sri Vedanta Desika Yatheendra Mahadesikan combining the names of two of our most illustrious Acharyas - namely Sri Desika and Sri Ramanuja. Like Sri Ramanuja, he had the privilege of sitting at the feet of five Acharyas - and earned the title "Panchacharya Padasrayah". Like Sri Vedanta Desika, he has composed several works of great merit. Some of them are "Dayasagarasataka, Panchamrita Stotra, Brahmasootra Vivarana (565 slokas), Tiruppavai Subodhini, Lakshmeenrishimha Mangalam, Lakshmeenrisimha Karavalambam, Dwadasa Stotram, Karana Samarpana Santhanam, Injimedu Alagiasingar Mangalam and Sadhupadesa. Under his stewardship, the math witnesses spectacular growth.
The 44th Swami constructed Brindavan in Naimisaranya for his predecessor, built a rest house and renovated the Rajagopurams of Upper Ahobilam and Adanoor. The Samprokshanam at Upper Ahobilam was performed on 30th June 1978.
Several shrines were spruced up - Mukkur Temple, Kanchi Nammalvar sannidhi - Thayar Sannidhi at Injimedu Temple, Chaitra Brahmotsava mandapa, the tank (Hritthapanasini) at Tiruvellore, Sri Lakshminarayana Temple at Chembur (Bombay), Tiruvaheendrapuram Ahobila Math and Pullabhoothangudi Temple. The Sannidhi of Perumal, Sri Rama, Andal, Selvar at Trivellore were given facelift. A mirror room was also built and the Moolavar and Utsavar were adorned with costly jewellery like Muthangi and Ratnangi. The Sanskrit college at Madhurantakam- was provided with a first floor.
In 1979, the Jeeyar returned to Srirangam saying that he had been commissioned by Lord Ranganatha in a dream to complete the construction of the Rajagopuram in the Southern entrance. Since then till his passing away in 1992 he stayed at Srirangam. The structure known as 'Mottai Gopuram' had long remained incomplete.
Due to historical conditions, all the four Rajagopurams in the seventh enclosure remained incomplete. In the case of the southern gopuram or the Mottai gopuram the stone Kudya i.e. the wall portion was complete. The super structure of brick and mortar was not at all taken up. Even in its incomplete form, the Southern Rajagopuram, had attracted the viewers by its sheer size and grandeur. It measures 130' by 100'. The passage in the middle is 21'6" and has a row of five Jambs of enormous size. The Jambs - made-out of a single stone are 43' in height. The cross beams measured 23', x 4', x 4', We have no record to tell us how these huge stone slabs were hauled up and put in position. According to Fergusson, had it been completed, the gopura would have risen to an immense height of 300'. In the centre of the passage, there are two small shrines at the ground level of Srinivasa perumal in the east and Anjaneya in the West.
The Srirangam Temple, the Holy of the holies has seven prakaras and hence it belongs to the Utthamottama class. Lord Ranganatha reclines facing south. The main entrance to the temple has remained ''Mottai' and nobody came forward to undo this anachronism which was certainly not in harmony in relation to otherwise complete and fullfledged Periakoil. This has to be set right and the indefatigable Jeeyar felt an irresistible urge within himself to set matters right - whatever the cost.
With meticulous planning the swami obtained Government's permission to complete the huge structure. He went about the task of building the thirteen tired super structure. Thanks to his untiring efforts, the engineering marvel in temple architecture was achieved on the 25th March 1987 when the newly built Rajagopuram was sanctified in the presence of a most distinguished assembly which included a former President of India, Sri R. Venkataraman and the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Sri M.G. Ramachandran.
This stupendous tower rising to a height of 236' - the largest of its kind in Asia testifies to the Jeeyar's iron will, noble heartedness, religious fervour and dedication to a cause so dear to Vaishnavas all over.
Since then, millions of people from all parts of the globe have looked at it with awe. It has consumed 12,000 tons of cement, 130 tons of steel, 1,705 million specialized bricks, 20,000 tons of sand and 1,000 tons of blue metal besides 8,000 litres of paint to give it a bewitching colour effect. The total weight of this mighty structure varies between 1.25 and 1.35 lakhs of tons.
People contributed their mite the moment it was realised that the Jeeyar would not swerve from the objective.
For ages to come, this will stand as a fitting monument to the memory of the indefatigable Jeeyar.
The Swami made Srirangam his headquarters and stayed at Dasavatara Sannidhi - built by Tirumangai Alvar himself. In fact, the Jeeyar was also instrumental in founding the colony known as 'Dasavatara Nagar'.
The Jeeyar lived a full span of life. Except for a few weeks before his sad demise on the 16th August 1992 at the ripe age of 97, he was performing the aradhana himself and looking after the affairs of the math.
He displayed great foresightedness when he chose the successor and initiated him into the ascetic order. A smooth succession was effected on 24.8.1992 when the 45th Jeeyar assumed office.