Swami Vedanta Desika is a popular philosopher and a poet, who belonged to the Vishista Advaita tradition of Sri Ramanuja.
Swami Vedanta Desika
He was born in 1268 CE, 750 years ago, on Vijayadasami day, in a locality called Thupul, which is part of the ancient temple city of Kanchipuram, in South India.
This day corresponds to the year Vibhava, in the month of Purattaasi on the Dasami Day of Sukla Paksha, a Wednesday, in the Shravanam constellation.
His original name was Venkatanatha, and belonged to the Vishvamitra Gotra.
Ghanta of Venkateshwara Perumal
He is reverentially looked up to as an Avatar of Ghanta, the bell of Sri Venkateshwara Perumal Temple of Tirumala, Tirupati.
Bell of Lord Venkateshwara
Big Bang, Omkara and Bell
This theory of Big Bang and the universe emanating from the Cosmic Egg has been beautifully, graphically, scientifically explained in the Rig Veda and the associated ancient texts of India as the concept of Hiranyagarbha or the golden womb or egg, which when breaks open with a bang, spews out the Universe. The resonance of this Big Bang is OM, which is also known by the term Nada Brahaman. The Bell also represents the highly evolved state of metallurgy or Bharthiyo, in ancient India.
This concept of OM, which has been exemplified by the ancients, as the resonance of the bell and is known in Indian texts as Omkara, in discussed in detail in our book and film, Creation – Srishti Vignana.
Also, check out our short film – Om, The Echo of Big Bang: https://goo.gl/pnd6nf
Bell in Bharath Gyan logo
Incidentally this concept of Om has been shown as the overall bell shape in the Bharath Gyan logo.
Swami Vedanta Desika is popularly known as Kavitargigah Simhaya, meaning “Lion among poets”. His erudition was par excellence. He was a polyglot, meaning he was erudite in many languages, among them being Manipravalam, a literary language used in ancient and medieval India which was a mixture of Tamil and Samskrt. He was proficient in 8 languages, including Samskrt, Tamil, Manipravalam, Prakrt, and Pali. He authored more than 120 works, during the course of his life.
His works being,
He brought out the very essence of the Veda in these works.
Paduka Sahasram composed in one night
The work Paduka Sahasram, consisting of 1008 verses on the sandals, paduka of Lord Vishnu, was composed by Swami Vedanta Desika in just one night
One of the works is called Ahara Niyamanam, that deals with food, Ahara, what should be eaten and how?
Swami Vedanta Desika and Chess
Chess is a game that India gave to the world. It was called Chaturanga in India because it comprised of 4 arms of the army – the infantry represented by the Pawn, the horse cavalry represented by the Knight, the elephant represented by the Rook and the chariot represented by the Bishop.
One among the skills of Swami Vedanta Desika, was the composition of Samskrt poems which were ciphers based on geometric patterns.
He composed two verses, with each verse consisting of 32 Aksharas.
Chess board as a base on which 64 aksharas (letters) were laid one each on each square, was one such type of his composition. The cipher was the movement of the chess pieces.
For example, in a cipher based on the movement of the horse, each time a horse moved on the chess board in its unique pattern, those aksharas resulted in the birth of a new poem, with a new meaning.
One of the ciphers, encoded using Chess board and the moves of a horse but making a valid well meaning sentence
The encoded verse, placed on the chess board
The moves of the horse applied for decoding the verse
The decoded verse containing the same letters but in a different sentence with a different meaning
This sort of poetry writing is known as Chithra Bhandhana. It requires a high degree of felicity in a poet to be able to arrange letters thus on a 64 square board.
That the poet Swami Vedantha Desika had used the chess board as a frame for his poem and the unique L shaped movement of the horse, also valid as per the rules of present day chess game.
More on Chess in our book, Brand Bharat – Roots In India.
At the age of 27, Vedanta Desika rose to the stature of an Acharya, and he was conferred the title Sarva Tantra Swatantra, meaning the one with originality in any field of knowledge.
He stayed in Tiruvehindipuram near Cuddalore near Pondichery.
Respected by Other Philosophers
While he espoused the Vishishta Advaita philosophy of Sri Ramanuja, his preceptor, who was born 250 years before him, the scholarship of Swami Vedanta Desika was respected and accepted by other philosophers of other philosophies too.
Judge in a Debate
In a debate on the meaning of the concept of Tat Tvam Asi, between the two great philosophers of that time, Sri Akshobhaya Tirthar, who was a proponent of the Dwaita philosophy, and Sri Vidyaranya Tirthar of Sringeri, of Advaita philosophy, they chose Swami Vedanta Desika as their judge for the debate.
The verdict of Swami Desika post the debate, has been etched in a pillar at Moola Begalu Temple in Karnataka.
Close friend of Appaya Dikshitar
The other great scholar of the time of Advaita philosophy was Appaya Dikshitar, was close friend of Swami Vedanta Desika. This only goes to show how much he was venerated and accepted across viewpoints.
Civil Engineering Skills
Swami Vedanta Desika in the Swami Vardaraja Swamy Pradakshina area built a well in one night. With this he showcased his skill in civil engineering and hydraulics engineering. After 700 years also, this well is functional, and the water is taken only from this well for Sri Vardaraja Perumal for His abhisheka.
Swamy Vardaraja Perumal
A Well built by Vedanta Desika
The challenge Swami Vedanta Desika faced was that he was given uneven bricks to construct the well. He managed to surmount this problem through his civil engineering skills. This shows that Swami Vedanta Desika was not only a poet, but also was well versed in “Kupa Shastra”, meaning the scientific manual for constructing wells.
This field of constructing wells was the specialty of the respected jathi of people, known as Oddan. More on the term Oddan, Jathi of Oddan and their hydraulic engineering skills, and the meaning of the word Edugha in our book Breaking The Myths – About Society.
Vedanta Desika attained Mukti in 1369, after spending 101 fruitful years on this planet. Even to this day , in the daily prayers in every vaishnava temple in south India, people sing the praise of the service of Swami Vedanta Desika, and beseech him to live for another 100 more years, which in Tamil is stated as Innum ora nutra anda irum.
This year, 2018, we will be celebrating, his 750th birthday, as Swami Vedanta Desika continues to live in the hearts of the people.