By Jatin Ranjan
India Post has released a commemorative postage stamp on Vedanta Desika on 2nd May 2019. Sri Vedanta Desikan (Swami Desika, Swami Vedanta Desika, Thoopul Nigamaantha Desikan) (1268–1369) was a Sri Vaishnava guru/philosopher and one of the most brilliant stalwarts of Sri Vaishnavism in the post- Ramanuja period. He was a poet, devotee, philosopher and master-teacher (desikan). He was the disciple of kidambi Appullar, also known as Aathreya Ramanujachariar, who himself was of a master-disciple lineage that began with Ramanuja. Swami Vedanta Desika is considered to be avtar (incarnation) of the divine bell of Venkateswara of Tirumalai by the Vadakalai sect of Sri Vaishnavite. Vedanta Desika belongs to Vishwamitra gotra. Desika was born in the year 1268 CE, to a pious couple named Ananta Suri and Totaramba, who named him ‘Venkatanatha’. When he was five, his maternal uncle, Kidambi Appullar took him to attend a spiritual discourse of Nadadhoor Ammal, a revered Sri Vaishnava scholar of that time. As soon as Ammal saw the divine radiance of the child, he stopped his discourse, and hugged Venkatanatha affectionately.
He composed over one hundred works in the following genre:
- 28 devotional poems in Sanskrit such as Hayagriva-stotram, Kamasika-ashthakam and Gopala-vimshati
- 24 devotional poems and treatises in Tamil such as Gitartha-sangraham and Charama-sloka-churkku
- 11 philosophical treatises such as Shata-dushani, Mimamsa-paduka and Tattva-mukta-kalapam
- 10 commentaries on the works of previous acharyas such as Stotra-ratna-bhashya , Chatus-shloki-bhashya and Tatparya-chandrika
- 5 Narrative poems such as his magnum-opus, the Paduka-sahasram, and the epic poem called Yadavabhyudaya which rivals the decorative poetry of Mahakavi Kalidasa’s works, and the Hamsa-sandesha
- 32 esoteric texts revealing the hidden meanings of prappati-marga such as Srimad Rahasya-traya-saram, Paramapada-sopanam, Amrita-ranjani and Amrita-svadhini
- 1 drama named Sankalpa-suryodayam
- 13 works on arts and sciences such as Bhugola-nirnayam and Silpartha-saram
- 4 works that codified religious rites and practices such as Sri-vaishnava-dinasari and Bhagavad-aradhana-vidhi
Sri Vaishnava books record how Goddess Lakshmi, known as Ranganayaki in the holy town of Sri Rangam, personally conferred on him the title of ‘Sarva-tantra-svatantra’ or master of all arts and crafts. It is also believed that Lord Rangantha who is the presiding Deity of Sri Rangam, awarded the title of ‘Vedanta Desika’, meaning: the supreme teacher of the conclusion of all knowledge. This was done because the Lord was immensely pleased when Desika debated with differing scholars, and established the supremacy of the path of loving surrender or prapatti-marga.
He received other titles such as ‘Kavitarkika-kesari’ and ‘Kavitarkika-simham’, the lion amongst poets; and ‘Ramanuja-daya-patram’, the recipient of Ramanuja’s causeless mercy, given in a laudatory verse composed by the famous Brahma Tantra Svatantra Swami.