Ramanuja donning the saffron robes again
Ramanuja not only expounded the profound truths of the Vedanta in Nrisimha’s temple at Tondanur, but with those truths converted thousands of alien faiths to the royal roads of Vedantic Vaishnavism. While thus employed he ran short of Tiruman, or the holy white earth, with which Srivaishnavas are required to illumine their foreheads. To go without this distinguishing mark is the greatest misfortune to Sri-Vaishnavas.
Naturally therefore Ramanuja was much concerned. He had a dream in which Lord Sri Narayana of Melukote appeared and spoke thus “I am very near you, Ramanuja, on the Yadugiri hill, awaiting your arrival; and there you shall have your Tiruman also as well. Come soon.”
Ramanuja awoke and related his wonderful dream to all his comrades, and sending for Vishnu-Vardhana, the king, delivered to him the message. The king marvelled and immediately ordered gangs of men to clear the forests in the direction indicated by Ramanuja, and as Ramanjua advanced, the king devoutly followed him behind.
Steadily progressing thus, they arrived at the foot of the Yadugiri hill, and ascending it, arrived at the foutain called Vedapushkarini, and sighting the holy slab, (paridhanasila), where of yore Dattatreya had worn his ascetic robes, Ramanuja bathed in the fountain and laying aside Kuresa’s white robes, worn when leaving Srirangam, put on his colored ascetie robes. The date of entry into Yadugiri is chronicled as the Bahudhanya year, in the month of Tai (or about 1090 A.D., or when Ramanuja was about 80 years of age).
From the Veda-pushkarini, they silently walked forward in search of where Lord Narayana (i.e. His idol) lay hidden. They failed that day to find the place. Ramanuja however saw in a vision vouchsafed to him that He lay covered up in an ant-hill, between a Champaka and a Vakula- tree on either side, and to the south-west corner of the Kalyani-pond, and that the ant-hill was overgrown with the sacred basil.
He also saw that the place where tiruman was deposited lay to the north-west corner of the same Kalyani-pond, and he also heard as if Narayana telling him that fragments of basil leave would be strewn along the path which lay between Ramanuja and the places indicated.
Ramanuja awoke from his reverie and followed the directions given. This led to Kalyani, and thence on to the ant-hill. This was covered with basil as prophesied. Ramanuja was transported with joy and prostrating himself before the place, removed the earth, and lo, the statue of Narayana was found underneath.
Inexpressible joy animated the devout band who were privileged to be present on this most auspicious and blissful occasion; and the divine sight so intoxicated them that they deliriously danced, chanted, praised, sent forth peals of hand clappings and with king Vishnua-Vardhana in their midst, celebrated the occasion with a blast of trumpets and a beat of tom-toms and a burst of instrumental and other music- all, a united out burst and demonstration of the intense spiritual glow in which they had become enveloped by an event.
It was the most unusual and extra ordinary event in the annals of mankind. Pails of milk were brought and emptied over the Holy Idol followed by a detail of ritual prescribed by the Pancharatra Sastra. Ramanuja himself personally worshipped the Deity for three days, and Narayana was thus reinstalled after ages of oblivion, and the decad of St. Nammazhvar, beginning with oru-nayakam (Tiruvaymozhi,V-i), was dedicated to this God, in asmuch as Ramanuja was the rightful inheritor of all the spiritual wealth of the apostles preceding him, and was thus the authority to interpret forgotten traditions.
Holy Clay for Thirumani
Ramanuja next proceeded to the north-west corner of the Kalyani-pond, and made a furrow on the ground with his holy staff. It revealed white beds of clay, and thus was another act of his vision realized, to the marvel of all present. Ramanuja thus obtained the holy earth he wanted, with which he signed himself on the twelve parts of the body prescibed, and to his great delectation.
Ramapriya – Selva-ppillai
The jungle over the summit of the Melukota (Yadavagiri) hill was cleared away, streets were aligned, rows of houses built, a temple erected for Lord Narayana over the ant-hill; and a series of festivals, monthly, annual and so on were instituted. But an utsava (processional) image was wanting – an image cast of a compound of five select metals in fixed proportions.
But this was difficult of accomplishment, and Ramanuja fell to musing deeply as to how this difficulty was to be overcome. He was again given a vision, in which Narayana appeared to him and spoke thus, “Ramanuja, our moveable representative is alive, named Rama Priya, which is now in Delhi with the Turk Emmadu Raya. Proceed there and bring it.
Ramanuja accordingly made preparations and journeyed all the way to Delhi and there meeting the Raya or king, prevailed upon him to grant his request. The Turk king gave orders that Ramanuja be taken to the apartments where his plundered treasures were hoarded. There were many idols, but Ramanuja failed to find among them Ramapriya; and he fell into a reverie as he pondered how to trace it.
He was given a dream in which Ramapriya appeared and said, “I am with the daughter of the king. She has made a plaything of me. To her dallyings and caresses, I am a living person. Come there and find me.” Ramanuja awoke and reported to the king that the idol he sought was with the Sultani.
The king’s curiosity was roused at the revelations, a foreign Sanyasin of a different faith was making to him; and not only curiosity but respect and adoration for the holy saint. The King took the Sanyasin Ramanuja into the queen’s palace, where no other man dared enter; and wonderful to relate, Ramapriya was there found, fondled by the Sultani, his daughter, to whom He played the husband.
Ramanuja, entering, called Him by His name, and lo, the Image jumped down from the couch on which the Sultani had placed Him, and walked to where Ramanuja stood, in all the glory and grace of an incarnated deity, embellished according to all the ideals of taste natural to Aryan imagination. Ramanuja embraced the advancing Divine Beauty with all the fondness of a parent finding his long-lost son; and in commemoration of the discovery, called him by the endearing name of Selva-p-pillai, which in Samskrit is Sampatkumara, by which name the image is still called. The king, who witnessed all this procedure, was simply astonished beyond measure, and loading Ramanuja with gifts and honors, sent him back from the scene of his holy mission.
The daughter Sultani would not bear the separation from the, to her, living doll. She wanted it back for herself. But the father said: “It is their god, daughter; how can we claim Him?” “Then,” cried the Sultani piteously to her father: “Send me with my God.” “Most cheerfully,” said the father, and allowed her to depart with untold wealth and other things, telling Ramanuja, “Holy hermit, your God goes not alone, but with a wife as well -a precious wife. I consign her to your care.” Ramanuja proceeded with his Divine treasure, and reached Yadavagiri in due time.
Here he inaugarated Sampatkumara in all ceremony, and instituted all the festivals which must be celebrated throughout the year, with the neceessary establishment to conduct them for all time to come.
And Ramanuja assured all who made Yadavagiri their holy residence, that they would be entitled to attain to the same spiritual state as him. By the name Narayanadri in the Krutha-yage, Vedadri in the Threta-age, and Yadavadri or Yadavagiri in Dvapara age is the holy hill of Melukote known, and in the Kali-age, as having been restored by the Yati (ascetic) Ramanuja, it is called Yati-Saila. Thus it is written in Satyata-Samhita (pancharatra).
Ramanuja – Harijans
[In those days, in the stupendous work involved in the institution of this Holy shrine , the Panchamas or the Pariahs or those low-caste Hindus who are downgraded to a place in the Hindu Society were of great help to Sri Ramanuja. He gave them the title of ‘Tirukkulattar’ or the ‘Blessed Descendants’, and further allowed them the privilege of entering into the Holy Temples this practice remaining in force even up to this day, in the Temples of Srirangam, Melukote and Belur. They are allowed to bathe in the Holy Ponds attached to the Temples. Ramanuja opened the doors of religious instructions for these classes as well as certain modes of ritual and othe privileges peculiar to Sri Vaishnaas, such as the Pancha-Samskara or the Five Holy Vaishnava Sacraments.
It is thus evident how seriously had Ramanuja bethought of elevating the low-classes as regards their eligibility for salvation. Ramanuja had already confirmed too in his own days, what his predecessors had ordained – the enshrinement of saints in the Temples to whatever caste they might belong.
VICTORY OVER BAUDDHAS
Ramanuja also established a monastery of his at Yati-saila, called the Yatiraja-math, where a Sanyasin is always to live and manage the affairs of the Fane. The building still exists intact, and the monastery has had a line of illustrious successors to this day. An old badari tree still lives in it. During the time Ramanuja was so installed in his high pontificate, he is said to have gone to Padmagiri, and engaged there with the Bauddhas in a philosophical controversy. He succeeded in subjugating the atheists.
Ramanuja stayed in the Mysore Country, with his head-quarters at Sri Narayanapura (Melukote) for 12 yrs.
News arrived at this time that king Chola had died of a carbuncle on his neck, infested with worms.
Ramanuja entering the sanctum sactorum of Lord Narayana, asked leave of Him to return to Srirangam, as his work was completed. Narayana gave no answer for a long time. Then Ramanuja urged his request again, “Almighty! Ranganatha’s command was that I should stay forever in Srirangam. Owing to unexpected calamities, I was forced to leave the place. Now that all has been accomplished here, may I not return?” Lord Narayana’s voice now came: “Be it so, then.”
Ramanuja had established in Melukote, fifty-two officers to take care of Narayana. These officers, on hearing that Ramanuja was about to leave them, fallen at his feet weeping, “Holy Sire, how can we live without you?” Ramanuja raised them up lovingly and wiped off their tears, and said, “Take heart, sons I shall let an image be cast after my own likeness, and leave it here, filled with my power. It shall answer all your purposes. Further, I lay it on you all to take care of our Sampathkumara brought from Delhi. He is like my son standing near the brink of a well. Such is my love for Him. See to the proper discharge of all the sacred functions connected with Narayana’s Temple. See that you do not cheat God of what is due to Him, or cheat each other. Always remain friendly to one another, and never lag behind to perform the necessary services to God whom we have installed in this country.”
Leaving behind a detailed code of temple-procedure, he left Melukote, with a heavy heart for leaving his beloved Sampatkumara and his disciples. Ramanuja’s disciples too bid him farewell sorrowfully to part with their cherished master and pontiff. Even the townsfolk did not allow him to depart quietly. After he had gone some way forward, they waylaid him and cried, “Sir, how can we be sure you are in your Image? Give us evidences; else you cannot leave us in bereavement.” “Beloved men,” said he, “Go back, stand before my image and call me by my name.” They ran back and did so. “Ramanuja, our Lord!” they cried.” “Yes, I am here and forever” came the voice from the Image. They were satisfied, and running back to Ramanuja, fell before him and after an outburst of grief and of gratitude, and consolation by Ramanuja, he was allowed to bid adieu to them all.
In rapid marches – love for Sampathkumara restraining him, while the prospect of seeing Lord Ranga urging him forward- he arrived at the banks of Kaveri at Srirangam.