Manavala Mamunigal

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Manavala Mamunigal
Born 1370 CE
Tamil Nadu, India
Died 1443 CE
Tamil Nadu, India
Philosophy Vishishtadvaita

Manavala Mamunigal (1370–1443) was a Hindu religious leader, who during the 15th century in Tamil Nadu, with the help of his eight disciples helped spread Vaishnavism. The disciples of Mamunigal established places of learning to teach Vaishnavite philosophy in Tamil Nadu.

Swami Manavala Mamuni the most venerated saint[edit]

Srirangam in southern India is a celebrated pilgrimage centre. It is the only dhivyakshetram sung by all eleven azhwars including Andal. It is called Bhuloka Vaikunta. It is the root of all 108 dhivya kshetras. But over these and several other distinctions, the most outstanding is that the Lord showed here the ideal Acharya in the person of Swamy Manavala Mamuni[citation needed]. Manavala Mamunigal is one of the most well known and significant acharyas of Ramanuja's Sri Vaishnava Tradition-southern sect[citation needed]. Manavala Mamuni is the final acharya of a lineage that begins with the Supreme Being Sriman Narayana, passes through Acharyas such as Yamunacharya, Ramanuja (Emperumanar), (Embar) Pillai Lokacharya and ends with Manavala Mamuni[citation needed]. Manavala Mamuni is accepted by the Lord of Srirangam, Sri Ranganatha, as His own acharya at Srirangam.

Birth details[edit]

  1. Birth Place Alwarthirunagiri (Near Thirunelveli)
  2. Date of Birth (Avatharam)
  3. Day Thursday
  4. Star Moolam
  5. Thithi Chathurthi
  6. Yoga Sukarma
  7. Month Thula
  8. Date Thula 26
  9. Year Saadarana Naama Samavatsaram 1370 AD

Birth and early life[edit]

Swami Manavala Mamunigal was born in 1370, under the asterism of moolam, in the month of aippasi at Alwarthirunagiri in Tamil Nadu, to ‘Tigazhaakkidanthan Tirunaveerudaiya piran dasar annar’ and ‘Sriranga Nacchiyar’. Swami Manavala Mamunigal’s father was the son-in-law and also a disciple of Kollikavala dasar, a junior disciple of Swami Pillai Lokacharya. His parents named him Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar (beautiful groom) after Lord Ranganathan of Srirangam.

The young manavalan had his basic education under his father and maternal grandfather. He learnt the Vedas, Vedanta and the Divya Prabandam from his father. He entered grihasthashrama (married life) at the age of 16 years and soon after, his father reached the lotus feet of Lord Narayana. He shifted his residence from Sikkil Kidaaram to Azhvar Thirunagari to become the disciple of the illustrious acharya Thiruvaimozhipillai. In a very short while, the young, brilliant manavalan mastered everything that could be known of shastras and Divya Prabhandham. He also developed, expectedly, a very deep devotion towards his Acharya ThiruvaimOzhipillai and Swami Ramanuja.

Swami Thiruvaimozhipillai was instrumental in reviving the archa thirumeni (Idol) of Swami Ramanuja at Azhvar thirunagari and in building a temple for Emperumanar (Swami Ramanuja). Appropriately, he put the young Azhagiya Manavalan in charge of the temple. Manavalan’s earnest devotion towards Swami Ramanuja made him write a beautiful composition called “Yathiraja Vimsati”, considered to epitomize the very essence of the exalted ‘iramanusa nootrranthAdi’. The sincerity, commitment and devotion displayed by young Azhagiya Manavalan so pleased, his acharya ThiruvaimozhipiLLai, that he gave the title “Yatheendra Pranava” to the young Manavalan.

Journey towards Srirangam[edit]

Very soon, the aged and venerable Thiruvaimozhipillai died, not before placing some wishes to be fulfilled before young manavalan. Thiruvaimozhipillai at his deathbed, instructed Azhagiya Manavalan to learn and propagate the Sri Bhasya once and spend most of his time in propagating and preaching the arulicheyal (Divya Prabhandam) of the AzhvArs that is so dear to Swami Ramanuja and other acharyas. Further he asked Manavalan to stay at Srirangam and perform service to Lord Ranganatha just as his predecessors did.

Azhagiya Manavalan's grief was immense and he was inconsolable. He immersed himself completely into studying and delivering discourses on Divya Prabhandham and rahasyas, dear to his acharya ThiruvaimozhippiLLai.Young manavalan’s knowledge, erudition and brilliance spread the flames of his fame far and wide and he gathered an impressive set of disciples. Prominent among them was Sri Azhagiya Varadar who undertook sanyasashrama (asceticism) from Azhagiya Manavalan. The sanyasa name was given as "Ramanuja Jeeyar" (Also Known as Ponnadikkal Jeeyar). Thus began the most illustrious jeeyar mutt in the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya, the Vanamaamalai mutt, that continues the great unbroken lineage of acharyas to this day.[1] [2]

With a desirous intent to fulfill the wishes of his acharya, Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar took the permission of Swami Nammalvar and along with his disciples left for Srirangam. En route to Srirangam he also spent some time at Srivilliputhur (birthplace of Aandaal) and Thirumalirun cholai.

Life at Srirangam and visit to Kanchipuram[edit]

Srirangam at that point was facing the worst consequences of the Muslim invasion that took place in the early 14th century. It was structurally dilapidated, sacramentally bare, intellectually barren and spiritually, socially and morally corrupt. Misuse of rights, corruption and disorder were rampant. Nayanar had to exert tremendous effort and bring to force his divinely inspired organizational skills to restore the original pristine glory for daily sacramental and festival procedures at Sri Rangam, without antagonizing the people who were functioning in different capacities at that point in time. He realized the importance of bringing the focus back to the essential tenets of Sri VaishNavam and achieved this objective by bringing to fore scholarly works of Acharyas that had hitherto been pushed into the background. As a matter of natural consequence stemming from his commitment, devotion, erudition NayanAr was put in charge of everyday temple administration as well as anointed the leader for all Sri Vaishnavas of his time.[3]

With normalcy returning to Srirangam, Nayanar set on a pilgrimage to kanchipuram, Thirumalai and Sriperumbudur, after seeking permission from Lord Ranganatha. Nayanar paid his obeisance to Lord Srinivasa at Thirumala and reached Kanchipuram. At the request of his disciples to glorify the Lord of Kanchi, he composed " Devaraja Mangalam" which praises the glory of Lord Varadharaja in thirteen sweet verses.[4] At Sriperumbudur, Nayanar worshipped Swami Ramanuja and sought his blessings to formally study Sri Bhasya under an acharya. Ramanuja directed him to Kidambi Nayanar, a descendant of Kidambi Acchan. Nayanar exhibited his erudition and scholarship by grasping the intricacies of Sri Bhasya deftly and then simultaneously expounding it to other disciples. The discourse took place at Yathothkari temple at Tiruvekkaa, where his idol is seen showing the vyakhyana mudra (Symbolizing spread of Knowledge) to commemorate this event. [5]

After visiting several other holy places, Nayanar returned to Srirangam to fully manage the temple affairs. He undertook sanyasashrama (asceticism) from Sri Sadagopa Jeeyar of Azhwar Thirunagari (who was his classmate earlier) at Srirangam to fully involve himself in service to Sri Vaishnavism. It was during this time he received the beautiful appellation Azhagiya Manavala Mamuni from Lord Ranganatha.

Swami Mamunigal’s divinely inspired brilliance, compassion and commitment endeared him to one and all. At this point of time, some of the prominent scholars namely Koil kanthaadai annan, Prathivaadhi bhayankaram annaa, Erumbi appaa from Erumbi, a Village near Sholinghur, Appillai came and became his disciples.

Philosophical works and commentaries[edit]

Manavala Mamunigal continued to live in Srirangam and involved himself completely in writing commentaries for works of Pillai Lokacharya. He wrote elaborate acommentaries for three of Pillai Lokacharya's rahasya granthas namely Mumukshupadi, Sri Vachana Bhushanam and Thathvathrayam. He also wrote commentaries on the works of swami Arulaalap perumal emperumanar - Gnyaana Saaram and Prameya Saaram. He also blessed us with his commentaries on some decads of Periyazhwar Thirumozhi for which the original commentaries of Periyavaccan Pillai were supposed to be lost. In addition, he provided the gist of Nammalvar's thiruvaimozhi in the form of poetic verses tuned in the andhaadhi metre in his magnum opus Thiruvaimozhi nootrandhaadhi. Mamunigal extolled the greatness of the Azhwars and the acharyas who wrote commentaries on Thiruvaimozhi in his Upadesa rathina malai or the gem-studded garland of instructions.[6] His swansong, Arthi Prabandham - a work composed out of utter despair at having to live in this material world, bears resemblance in part to his earlier Sanskrit work titled Yatiraja Vimsati.[7]

After some time he returned to Alvar Tirunagari and started to write commentaries for Acharya Hrudayam. This is a seminal work written by Azhagiya Manavalapperumal Nayanar (Pillai Lokacharya's brother), which lays bare the philosophy and basic tenets of Sri Vaishnavism with words chosen from Nammalvar's thiruvaimozhi. The text was written completely in Manipravalam and when trying to teach Acharya hrudayam, Mamunigal encountered some difficulties. So he decided to consult with Ayee Jananyacharya Swami, who was a co-disciple of Tiruvaymozhi pillai. Ayee was on his way to Alvar tirunagari to meet Manavalamamuni. They both met at the outskirts of Alvar Tirunagari and returned to Manavala mamuni's residence, and the latter studied the secrets of the Acharya Hrudayam.[8]

Discourse on Thiruvaimozhi[edit]

In 1430, Swami Mamunigal was summoned by Lord Ranganatha to Srirangam and was asked to give a discourse on thiruvaimozhi based on Swami Nampillai's Eedu Muppatharayairam, the celebrated commentary on Nammalvar's Thiruvaimozhi. The discourse was done over a period of one year, over which all the festivities of the temple was put oh hold as ordered by Lord Ranganatha. On the last day of discourse, Lord Ranganatha impressed by Swami Mamunigal's exposition, took the form of a priest child and presented himself in front of the gathering and rendered a benedictory verse or thaniyan, honoring Swami Mamunigal and disappeared into the sanctum sanctorum.

The benedictory verse given below, is recited in almost all the divyakshetrams, before the commencement of Divya prabhandham as ordered by lord Ranganatha.

Srisailesa dhaya pathram dheebhakthyadhi gunarnavam Yatheendra pravanam vandhe Ramyajamataram munim

Meaning: I offer my respects to Sri Manavalamamuni, the receptacle of Srisailesa’s (Tiruvaimozhipillai’s) grace. He is the abode of jnana, bhakti and all other good qualities, and is forever lost in meditation on Sri Ramanuja

This is an instance of Lord showing his respect and devotion to his acharya. This event concludes a beautiful circular symmetry in the history of Srivaisnavism, for with this thanniyen the first acharya (Sriranganatha) becomes shishya to the last (Manavalamamunigal). [9]

At homes and temples, the divya prabhandam chanting concludes with

Srimathe Ramyajamathru muneendhraya Mahathmane Sriranga vasine bhooyath nithyasri nithya mangalam

This is an auspicious verse showing special love towards Srirangam and Mamuni.

Classification of literary work[edit]

Manavala Mamunigal wrote nineteen books known as grantha. Three of these were in Sanskrit and the rest in Tamil language and Manipravalam.

Commentaries[edit]

  1. Sri Vachana Bhushanam
  2. Mumukshuppadi
  3. Tathvathrayam
  4. Acharya Hrudhayam
  5. Gnana Saaram
  6. Prameya Saaram
  7. Periyazhwar Thirumozhi
  8. Ramanuja Nootranthadhi

Pramana Thirattu[edit]

  1. Eedu
  2. Sri Vachana Bhushanam
  3. Tathvathrayam

Independent works[edit]

  1. Upadesa Rathna Maalai
  2. Thiruvaimozhi Nootranthadhi
  3. Iyal Satthu
  4. Thiruvaradhana Kramam
  5. Yathiraja Vimsathi
  6. Devaraja MangaLam
  7. Sri Kanchi Devapperumal Sthothram
  8. Aaarthi Prabhandham

It is said that, while at a very old age, Manavala maamuni discovered that part of Periyavachchaan pillai's commentary on Periyalvar Tirumozhi was missing. So he duly restored the lost portion of the commentary. It is also noted that he composed the commentary on Acharya Hrdayam with great difficulty as his health was failing. When he became very ill, preventing him from worshiping at the temple, he dedicated one Tamil stanza a day, expressing to Ramanuja his anguish at staying in this world and his eagerness to reach Vaikuntham. These collected verses became known as Arti Prabhantham, his last work. [10]

Various names and titles of Sri Manavala Mamuni[edit]

Sri Manavalamamuni is also known as Varavaramuni, Sowmyajamatrumuni,ramyajamatra muni, Sowmyopayanthrumuni, Sundarajamatrumuni, Periya Jeer, YatheendraPravanar etc. He is known as "Vichatavak Shikhamani"- one endowed with striking precision and depth and clarity in utterances.

Deep and permanent influence over day-to-day religious observances[edit]

Sri Manavala Mamuni's devotional practices towards the Lord, especially the presiding deity of Srirangam, and the lineage of teachers like Ramanuja left an indelible influence on followers numbering several millions throughout India. His influence can be traced to everyday observances till this date. But he was so self-effacive that few recognise his deep influence.

His disciples[edit]

His eight famous disciples are known as Ashtadiggajas (elephants of the eight directions). they were: Vanamaamalai Jeeyar, Paravasthu Bhattar Piraan Jeeyar, Tiruvengada Jeeyar, Koil Kandhaadai Annan, Prathivadhi Bhayankaram Annangaracharya, Erumbi Appaa, Appillai and Appillan. Prathivadhi Bhayankaram Annangaracharya's "Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatham" is widely known. In that work and in the connected prapatti and mangala stotras he says "sowmyopayanthrumunina mama darsithou the...", "Srimat Sundara Jamathru Munimanasa vasine", referring to the Lord of the seven hills as residing in the heart of Sri Manavala Mamuni. The teacher-disciple tradition has been followed for over six centuries and exists intact today amongst 74 simhasana adhipathis.

Vaazhi Thirunaamam Chantings[edit]

The Vaazhi thirunaamam are chantings sung in the praise of Lord Vishnu (Perumal), Thayar and Acharyas at the conclusion of the Daily Prayers or Divya Prabhandam recitals, wishing for the long and prosperous perpetuation of Sri Vaishnava tradition.

Vaazhi thirunaamam for Manavala Mamunigal

As in Acharyarkal Vaazhtu

ippuviyil arangkEsarkku IdaLiththAn vAzhiyE
ezhil thiruvAymozhip piLLai iNai adiyOn vAzhiyE
aippasiyil thirumUlaththu avathariththAn vAzhiyE
aravarasap perunjsOdhi ananthan enRum vAzhiyE
eppuviyum srIsailam Eththa vandhOn vAzhiyE
ErArum ethirAsar ena udhiththAn vAzhiyE
muppuri nUl maNivadamum mukkOl thariththAn vAzhiyE
mUdhariya maNavALa mAmunivan vAzhiyE

As in Everyday Sattru Murai.

seyya thAmaraith thALiNai vAzhiyE *
solai vAzhi thirunAbi vAzhiyE *
thuyya mArbum purinUlum vAzhiyE *
sundhara thiruththOLiNai vAzhiyE *
kaiyum Endhiya mukkOlum vAzhiyE *
karuNai pongkiya kaNNiNai vAzhiyE *
poy ilAdha maNavALa mAmuni *
pundhi vAzhi pugazh vAzhi vAzhiyE *

adiyArgaL vAzha arangka nagar vAzha *
sadakOpan thaNdamizh nUl vAzha * - kadal sUzhndha
mannulagam vAzha * maNavALa mAmuniyE *
innum oru nURRANdirum *

The last four lines extols his contributions to continued existence and prosperity of Sri Vaishnavaism, the followers, their holy temples, scriptures, traditions, and the well being of the whole world, and concludes with the prayer, that the great Manavalamaamuni live for another hundred years for that purpose.

The apparent conflict between 100 years and perpetuity is resolved, when one understands the key link of devoted Sri Vaishnava devotees, their ongoing practice of the prayer and traditions as a "Vaazhaydi Vaazhai", for the perpetuation of the faith. So 100 years down the line there will be faithfuls chanting the same for the future.

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