Oct 22: Ananthazhwar

22 Oct

The twenty-second of October is a very auspicious day indeed since a lot of festivals are lined up on this day. The most significant of them is Valmiki Jayanthi, the great saint who gave the first sloka in Sanskrit grammar and that sloka happens to be the first sloka in Ramayana –

mA NishAda prathishtAntamagamahsAsvati SamA
yat kraunchamithunAdekam avadhI kAmamohitam

Even though the Vedas which are composed in Sanskrit came to be known before Ramayana, the Vedas are referred to be the voice of the Lord himself and hence the first sloka in Sanskrit is the one mentioned above which was recited by Valmiki.

It was only through this great Saint Valmiki that we got the Divine Name Rama. It was through his guru’s grace, Sage Narada and Lord Rama that he chanted the hymn “MaRaMaRa” and so we all could get the great name “Rama” and also get to know the beautiful Charitra of Lord Rama.

In Ramayana, the Lord was banished to the forest by his step mother Kaikeyi. He departed to the forest and the first river he crossed was Yamuna. The divine mother Sita and Lakshmana were very depressed with the sequence of events that happened before their departure to the forest. After crossing Yamuna, the Lord tried to dissuade their hard feelings and make them feel lighter and hence decided to show them different places in the forest. When they were en route to Chitrakutam, Sita Devi was enticed by the beauty of Yamuna river and she requested the Lord to spend some time in river Yamuna. Lord Rama exhorted to her request and said that it was not the right time to spend time in Yamuna since he being a “Eka Patni Vrita” and that their river was Ganga and politely said that they will spend not just one or two days but a lifetime in river Yamuna. He promised to Sita Devi that he will take another incarnation to spend the entire lifetime in river Yamuna. Since Lord Rama was a Sathyasankalpa his words would never go falsified and so in next incarnation of the Lord he came down as Lord Krishna and did many leelas on the banks of river Yamuna. The above dialogue between Lord Rama and Lordess Sita is not present in Valmiki Ramayana but it an exposition of the Mahans. The greatness of river Yamuna is that it is river of Prema [divine love untainted by any needs and wants]. Lord Krishna was so enticed by river Yamuna so much so that the Gopis were also jealous of river Yamuna.  Krishna never drank the water from Yamuna with a cup or bowl, instead he sucked the water through his mouth with his hands tied back akin to how a cow drinks water from a river. The Lord realized that the Gopis were envious about this and so he decided to please them as well.  During the fall season [Sharad Ritu], it was on this auspicious day of Sharat Poornima [aka Rasa Poornima], the Lord played Rasa Kreeda with the Gopis. The divine play, Rasa Kreeda was so enchanting that Sage Narada was the first one to witness this scene. He wanted to share this joy with everyone and hence proceeded to Mount Kailasha and requested Lord Shiva to come down and he also viewed the divine play of the Lord. This day also marks significance to Lord Shiva. In South India, all the Shiva Lingas are decorated with different food items. Such is the greatness of this day in which the three Lords namely Lord Rama, Krishna and Shiva are worshipped.

After reminiscing the glories of Lord Venkateshwara the previous week, Hemaji of Dallas spoke on one of His devotees….

We know that Perumal did Kamsa Samhara, Ravana Samhara and even Hiranya Samhara. But he was not able to do Kali Samhara and successfully win over Kali. But the devotees of Lord Hari by chanting the Divine Names of Lord Hari and by extolling his divine glories were able to win over Lord Hari. There was a disciple of Ramanujacharya and his name was Ananthazhwar.

akhilAtma guNAvAsam ajnAnatimirApaham |
AshritAnAm sucharaNam vande anantArya desikam ||

This hymn was composed by Lord Venkateshwarea Himself on Ananthazhwar where the Lord extolled his greatness, the one who possessed all the qualities and absolves the darkness of ignorance, the one who gives a safe aboard to dwell to those who surrender unto him and the Lord offers his prayers and obeisance to Anantharya.

Tirumalai was once in dilapidated state and the worship of Lord was not happening as expected. Ramanujacharya visited this place and shed tears looking at the state of affairs.  He called all his devotees and confided to the congregation the plight of the seven hills and posed them a question if anyone would be interested to serve the Lord on the hills on a day to day basis. Everyone was hesitant fearing the hard life up the hills.

There rose Ananthazhwaar, a silent devotee in the midst of the gathering and said “Oh revered Acharya, please bless me to serve the Lord of the seven hills” and he said that he will be immensely happy to take up the service. Ramanujacha was mightily pleased and happy and embracing Ananthazhwaar proclaimed in front of the gathering, “Oh Ananthazhwaar, You are the right man to undertake this service “.

Ananthazhwaar departed from Srirangam along with his pregnant wife and settled down in Tirumala to serve the orders of his guru. He served the Lord of the seven hills under Sri Arulalaperumal Emperumanar guidance who was another devotee of Ramanuja. In Tirumala, he started to grow a flower garden atop the hills. He would collect the flowers from the garden and make a beautiful garland and bedeck the Lord every day. This was the routine for Ananthazhwaar every day. He had to carry water for the garden from the down-hills and when it rain slammed the hills, it was extremely difficult for him to carry the water from the down hills. A thought struck Ananthalvar to build a water tank for his garden.  He started to digging up the earth to build the tank and he was assisted by his wife to empty the dirt to another place. The couple toiled hard to construct the tank. Since she was pregnant, she became tired very soon and the compassionate Lord of the hills was unable to see this. So he disguised as a young lad wearing a religious and requested Ananthazhwaar if he can be of any help to construct the water tank.

The couple toiled day and night to serve their Guru. Their only aim was service to the Guru.  Ananthazhwar quipped, and asked him to mind his own business since he wanted to build the garden and the tank all by himself.  The lad did not deter and proceeded straight to Ananthazhwar’s wife. She feared her husband but the young lad said to her that he will help her in running chores to build the water tank. She being a compassionate lady could not deny the boy’s offer to render help and so she took his help.  The boy’s help really started to expedite his wife’s work and hence the removal of earth was happening faster than ever before and she was now productive than ever. This really surprised Ananthazhwar and so he secretly followed his wife. He saw the young boy helping his wife and severely chastised the boy and hit him with a crowbar and the boy started to bleed started to ooze from his chin. He chased the boy away.

The Lord through Sri Arulalaperumal Emperumanar ordained Ananthazhwar to the sanctum sanctorum.  He said that he would come to the temple after stringing the flower garland. The Lord was not happy to hear this and belittled that he will not wear the garland. Upon hearing this, Ananthazwar said that it was his duty to serve his Guru and to obey his orders. The Lord then ordered him to leave the Divya Desam. Ananthazhwar refused to move out of the seven hills and humbly said that he would leave Tirumala if he is ordained by his Guru.  In the evening Ananthazwar went to the Temple to offer worship, he noticed that the Lord’s chin was hurt and was oozing blood and he immediately realized that the boy was none other than the Lord himself.  He pleaded to the Lord for forgiveness and the Lord replied that it was not blood but was indeed the tears of joy coming out from his chin. So he immediately took a flower and applied on the wound and the bleeding stopped. He then applied some camphor on the Lord’s chin. To remember this incident, some camphor is applied on the Lord’s chin even today. The crowbar with which Ananthazhwaar  hit the Lord is hung at the right-hand side of the temple Gopuram to remember the divine play of the Lord.

After finishing the water-tank construction, he started to grow a beautiful garden and named the garden with his Guru’s name- Ramanuja and grew a lot of flowers.

One day, the Lord of Tirumala decided to play a divine play with Ananthazhwaar. One night, the Lord along with his consort, Goddess Lakshmi visited the garden and plucked all the flowers. The next day, Ananthalwar was not very happy to see this. So the next day, he decided to keep a vigil in the night and during the middle of the night, he saw a young boy and a girl with glowing radiance playing in the garden. He started to chase them and the boy escaped but Ananthazhwaar caught hold of the girl. He tied her to a tree and she stayed there over-night. The next day when the Pandits opened the temple door they were surprised to see the goddess missing from the Lord. The Lord then directed them to go to Ananthazhwaar’s garden and requested them to bring Goddess Lakshmi along with Ananthazhwaar. The Pundits then rushed to Ananthazhwaar’s garden and explained the divine play of the Lord. Ananthazhwaar then realized that he had tied Goddess Lakshmi and immediately released her and accompanied her to the Lord to get her married. Ananthazhwaar is known as the father-in-law of the Lord.

Ananthalwar once decided to embark on a pilgrimage tour. He took some Prasad along with him for his trip and descended the Tirumala hills and came down to Tiruttani. He was hungry and so he opened the Prasad. As soon as he opened them, he saw some ants coming out of the Prasad. He immediately closed the Prasad and started to go back to the hills. He did not want to separate out the ants from the Lord and climbed the hills again to unite the ants with the Lord.

After expounding on the Lilas of Srinivasa on His devotee Ananthazhwar, the satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.

 

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