Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri

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Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (1559–1645), third student of Achyuta Pisharati, was a member of Madhava of Sangamagrama's Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics. He was a mathematical linguist (vyakarana). His most important scholarly work, Prkriya-sarvawom, sets forth an axiomatic system elaborating on the classical system of Panini. However, he is most famous for his masterpiece, Narayaneeyam, a devotional composition in praise of Guruvayoorappan (Krishna) that is still sung at Guruvayoor Temple.

Birth and education[edit]

Bhattathri was from Melpathur, on the north banks of Bharathapuzha River, close to the holy town of Thirunavaya, near Tirur, that was famed as the theatre of the Mamankam festival. Bhattathiri's father was Mathrudattan, a pandit himself. Bhattathiri studied from his father as a child. He learned the Rig Veda from Madhava, Tharka sastra (science of arguments in Sanskrit) from Damodara and Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar) from Achyuta Pisharati. He became a pandit by the age of 16. He married Achuta Pisharati's niece and settled at Thrikandiyur in Tirur.

He was one of the last mathematicians of the Sangamagrama school, which had been founded by Madhava in Kerala, South India and included among its members: Parameshvara, Neelakanta Somayaji, Jyeshtadeva, Achyuta Pisharati, Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri and Achyuta Panikkar. It flourished between the 14th and 16th centuries and the original discoveries of the school seems to have ended with Bhattathiri.

Narayaneeyam[edit]

The Narayaneeyam is a devotional Sanskrit work, in the form of a poetical hymn, consisting of 1036 verses (called 'slokas' in Sanskrit). It was written by Bhattathiri in 1586 AD and gives a summary of 18,000 verses of the Bhagavata Purana.

Pisharati has been affected by rheumatism. Unable to see his pain, by yogic strength and by way of Gurdakshina, Bhattathri is said to have taken the disease upon himself and relieved his guru. To relieve Narayana of this disease, Ezhuthachan, a Malayalam poet and Sanskrit scholar hinted- "meen thottu koottuka" (start with the fish). On the face of it, the suggestion would seem offensive to an orthodox Brahmin, who are strict vegetarians. However, Bhattathiri, understanding the hidden meaning, decided to present the various incarnations of Vishnu starting with the fish, as narrated in the Bhagavata Purana in a series of Dasakas (groups of ten slokas). Upon reaching Guruvayur, he started composing one dasaka a day in the presence of the Lord. The refrain in last sloka of every dasaka is a prayer to him to remove his ailments and sufferings. Every day, he sang 10 shlokas on Sri Guruvayoorappan. Each set of 10 poems ends with a prayer for early cure. In 100 days he finished his compositions. On 27 November 1587 when he finished the last dashakam ("Ayuraarogya Sowkhyam") he was cured. The 100th canto composed on that day gives a graphic description of this form of the Lord from the head to the foot. On that day he had a vision of the Lord in the form of Venugopalan. He was 27 then. He was a propounder of Purva Mimamsa, Uttara Mimamsa and Vyakarana.

See also[edit]