A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1940 | 232,512 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the influence of the aḻvars on the followers of ramanuja: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fifth part in the series called the “an historical and literary survey of the vishishtadvaita school of thought”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 5 - The Influence of the Āḻvārs on the followers of Rāmānuja

We have already referred to the Divya-prabandhas, written by the Āḻvārs in Tamil, which exerted a profound influence on all teachers of the Śrīvaiṣṇava school[1].

  • Kureśa (Tirukkurukaippiran Pillai) wrote a commentary of 6000 verses on a selection of Nāmm’-āḻvār’s one thousand verses called the Sahasra-gīti.
  • Parāśara Bhaṭṭārya wrote a commentary of 9000 verses.
  • Under the directions of Kalijit (Lokācārya) Abhaya-prada-rāja wrote a commentary of 24,000 verses.
  • Kṛṣṇapāda, pupil of Kalijit, wrote another commentary of 3600 verses.
  • Saumya Jāmātṛ muni wrote 12,000 verses interpreting the views of Nāmm’-āḻvār.

The commentaries of Abhaya-prada-rāja on the Divya-prabandhas helped the later teachers to understand the esoteric doctrine of the later works.

The commentaries on the Divya-prabandhas written by SaumyaJāmātṛ muni, the younger brother of Pillai Lokācārya, had already become rare in the time of Abhirāma Varācārya, the translator of the Upadeśa-ratna-mālā and the grandson of Saumya Jāmātṛ muni.

It is thus seen that Parāśara Bhaṭṭārya, the successor of Rāmānuja in the pontifical chair, and his successor VedāntI Mādhava, called also Nanjiyar, and his successor Namburi Varadarāja, called also Kalijit or Lokācārya I, and his successor Pillai Lokācārya, all wrote works dealing not so much with the interpretation of Rāmānuja’s philosophy, as with the interpretation of devotion as dealt with in the Sahasra-gīti and the Divya-prabandhas. Their writings are mostly in Tamil, only a few have been translated into Sanskrit, and in the present work notice is taken only of the Sanskrit works of these writers (mostly in the manuscript form) which have been available to the present writer. Both Pillai Lokācārya and Saumya Jāmātṛ muni, called also Vādikeśari, were sons of Kṛṣṇapāda, but this Saumya Jāmātṛ muni must be distinguished from a later Saumyajāmātṛ muni, called also Yatīndrapravaṇācārya, who was a much more distinguished man. Parāśara Bhaṭṭārya was probably born before a.d. 1078 and he died in a.d. 1165. He was succeeded by VedāntI Mādhava or Nanjiyar, who was succeeded by Namburi Varadarāja or Lokācārya I.

He was succeeded by Pillai Lokācārya, a contemporary of Veṅkaṭanātha, and Śruta-prakāśikā-cārya or Sudarśana Sūri. It was in his time that the Mahomedans attacked Śrīraṅgam. as has already been mentioned in connection with our account of Veṅkaṭanātha. The Mahomedans were expelled from Śrīraṅgam by Goppaṇārya, and the image of Raṅga-nātha was re-installed in a.d. 1293. It was at this time that the famous Saumya Jāmātṛ muni (junior) was born.

The senior Saumya Jāmātṛ muni, younger brother of Pillai Lokācārya, called also Vādikeśari, wrote

  • some commentaries on the Divya-prabandhas,
  • a work called Dīpa-prakāśa,
  • and Piyaruli-ceyalare-rahasya.

He is referred to by the junior Saumya Jāmātṛ muni, called also Vara-vara muni, in his

We cannot be sure whether the Adhyātma-cintāmaṇi, in which Vādhūla Śrīnivāsa is adored as his teacher, was written by Saumya Jāmātṛ muni. Mahācārya also described himself as a pupil of Vādhūla Śrīnivāsa, and, if the senior Saumya Jāmātṛ and Mahācārya were pupils of the same teacher, Mahācārya must have lived in the fourteenth century. If, however, the junior Saumya Jāmātṛ wrote the Adhyātma-cintāmaṇi, Mahācārya will have to be placed at a later date.

The present writer has been able to trace only three books in Sanskrit by Pillai Lokācārya:

  • Tattva-traya,
  • Tattva-śekhara,
  • and Śrīvacana-bhūṣaṇa[2].

The Tattva-traya is a very useful compendium of the Śrīvaiṣṇava school of thought, in which the nature of the inanimate (acit), the souls, God and their mutual relations are dealt with. There is an excellent commentary by Varavara muni. The Tattva-śekhara is a work in four chapters. The first chapter quotes scriptural evidences in support of the view that Nārāyaṇa is the highest God and the ultimate cause; in the second chapter he describes the nature of self by reference to scriptural testimony. The same description of the nature of self is continued in the third chapter. In the fourth chapter he deals with the ultimate goal of all souls, self-surrender to God. He says that the ultimate summum bonum (puruṣārtha) consists in the servitude (kaiṅkarya) to God roused by love of Him (prīti-kārita), due to the knowledge of one’s own nature and the nature of God in all His divine beauty, majesty, power and supreme excellence.

Not all servitude is undesirable. We know in our ordinary experience that servitude through love is always pleasurable. In the ordinary idea of emancipation, a man emphasizes his own self and his own end. This is therefore inferior to the summum bonum in which he forgets his own self and regards the servitude of God as his ultimate end. Lokācārya then refutes the various other conceptions of the ultimate goal in other schools of philosophy. He also refutes the conception of the summum bonum as the realization of one’s own nature with a sense of supreme subordination (para-tantratvena svā-nubhava-mātram na puru-ṣārthaḥ). This is also technically called kaivalya in the Śrīvaiṣṇava system. Our ultimate end is not cessation of pain, but enjoyment of bliss. Positive bliss is our final aim.

It is held that in the emancipation as described above the individual realizes himself in close association with God and enjoys supreme bliss thereby; but he can never be equal to Him. Bondage (bandha) is true and the removal of bondage is also true. Prapatti, or self-surrender to God, is regarded as a means to cessation of bondage. This prapatti may be direct (a-vyavahita) and indirect (vyavahita). In the first case the selfsurrender is complete and absolute and done once for all[3]. The indirect prapatti is the continual meditation on God through love of Him, along with the performance of the obligatory duties and the non-commission of prohibited actions. This is decidedly the lower stage; the more deserving ones naturally follow the first method.

The main contents of Pillai Lokācārya’s Śrī-vacana-bhūṣaṇa follow in a separate section in connection with the account of the commentary on it and sub-commentary by Saumya Jāmātṛ muni (junior) and Raghūttama. The Śrīvacana-bhūṣaṇa consists of 484 small sentences longer than the Sūtra-phrases, but often shorter than ordinary philosophical sentences. Lokācārya followed this style in his other works also, such as his Tattva-traya and Tattva-śekhara.

Ramya-Jāmātṛ muni or Saumya Jāmātṛ muni, called also Maṇavāḷama muni or Periya-jlyar, was the son of Tikalakkidandān-tirunāvīrudaiyāpirān-Tātar-aṇṇar, a disciple of Pillai Lokācārya and grandson of Kollikavaladasar, who was also a disciple of Pillai Lokācārya. He was born in the Tinnevelly district in A.D. 1370 and lived for seventy-three years, that is till A.D. 1443. He first obtained training from brīśaileśa, called also Tiru-marai Āḻvār, in Tiru-vāy-moḻi.

One of the first works of his early youth was a poem called Yati-rāja-viṃśati, in honour of Rāmānuja, which is incorporated and published in Yaravara muni’s Dina-caryā.

On account of his deep devotion for Rāmānuja he was also known as Yatīndra-pravaṇa, and wrote a commentary on a short life of Rāmānuja called

  • Prapanna-sāvitrī
  • or Rāmānuja-nuṛandādi
  • of Tiruvarangatt-amudanār.

After completing his studies under Śrīśaileśa he remained at Śrīraṅgam and studied the commentaries on

In his study of the Divya-prabandhas and the Gītā-bhāṣya he was helped by his father Tatar-āṇṇar. He also studied with Kidambi-Tirumalai-Nayinār, called also Kṛṣṇadeśika, the Śrī-bhāṣya and Śruta-prakāśikā. He also studied the Ācārya-hṛdaya with Aṇṇayācārya, called also Devarājaguru, of Yādavādri.

He renounced the world, became a sannyāsin, and attached himself to the Pallava-matha at Śrīraṅgam, where he built a vyākhyāna-maṇḍapa, in which he used to deliver his religious lectures. He was very proficient in the Draviḍa Vedānta, produced many works in the maṇi-pravāla style (mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil), and had hundreds of followers. He had a son, called Rāmānujārya, and a grandson, called Viṣṇucitta.

Of his pupils eight were very famous:

  1. Bhaṭṭa-nātha,
  2. Śrīnivāsa-yati,
  3. Devarājaguru,
  4. Vādhūla Varada Nārāyaṇa-guru,
  5. Prativādibhayaṅkara,
  6. Rāmānujaguru,
  7. Sutākhya,
  8. and Śrī-vānācala Yogīndra.

These eight disciples were great teachers of Vedānta[4]. He taught the Bhāṣya to Raṅgarāja. There were many ruling chiefs in South India who were his disciples.

Among his works the following are noteworthy,

  • Yati-rāja-viṃśati,
  • Gītā-tātparya-dīpa, a Sanskrit commentary on the Gīta,
  • Śrī-bhāṣyā-ratha,
  • Taittirīyo-paniṣad-bhāṣya,
  • Para-tattva-nirṇaya.

He wrote also commentaries on the

  • Rahasya-traya,
  • Tattva-traya and Śrīvacana-bhūṣaṇa of Pillai Lokācārya
  • and the Ācārya-hṛdaya of the senior Saumya Jāmātṛ muni, called also Vādikeśari, brother of Pillai Lokācārya;

commentaries on

glosses on the authorities quoted in the

  • Tattva-traya,
  • Śrīvacana-bhūṣaṇa,
  • and commentaries on the Dirya-prabandha called the Iḍu ;

many Tamil verses, such as

and many Sanskrit verses.

He occupied a position like that of Rāmānuja, and his images are worshipped in most Vaiṣṇava temples in South India.

Many works were written about him, e.g.

  • Varavara-mnni-dina-caryā,
  • Yaravara-mimi-śataka,
  • Varavara-muni-kāvya,
  • Varavara-muni-campu,
  • Yatīndra-pravaṇa-prabhāva,
  • Yatīndra-pravaṇa-bhadra-campu,
  • etc.

His Upadeśa-ratna-mālā is recited by Śrīvaiṣṇavas after the recital of the Divya-prabandha. In his Upadeśa-ratna-mālā he gives an account of the early Āḻvārs and the Aḻagiyas. It was translated into Sanskrit verse by his grandson Abhirama-varācārya, whose Aṣṭādaśa-bheda-nirṇaya has already been noted in the present work. He also w rote another book called Nakṣatra-mālikā in praise of Śaṭhakopa[5].

Though Mr Narasimhiengar says that a commentary on the Śrīvacana-bhūṣaṇa was written by Saumya Jāmātṛ muni (junior) in the maṇipravāla style, yet the manuscript of the commentary, with a sub-commentary on it by Raghūttama, which was available to the present writer, was a stupendous volume of about 750 pages, all written in Sanskrit. The main contents of this work will appear in a separate section.

Footnotes and references:


These Divya-prabandhas are four thousand in number. Thus

  • Poygaiy-āḻvār wrote Muḍal-tiru-vantādi of 100 stanzas;
  • Bhūtatt’-āḻvār, Iraṇḍam-tiru-vantādi of 100 stanzas;
  • Pēy-āḻvār, Munṛām-tiru-vantādi of 100 stanzas;
  • Tiru-maḻiṣai Pirān,
    Nān-mukam Tiru-vantādi

    and Tiru-chaṇḍa-vruttam of 96 and 120 stanzas respectively;
  • Madhura-kaviy-āḻvār wrote Kaṇṇinuṇ-śiruttāmbu of 11 stanzas;
  • Nāmm’-āḻvār wrote
    of 100 stanzas,
  • Tiru-vāśirīyani,
    of 87 stanzas
    and Tiru-vāy-moḻi of 1102 verses;
  • Kula-śēkhara Peru-māl wrote
    of 105 stanzas,
    and Periy-āḻvār-tirumoḻi of 12 and 461 stanzas,
  • Āṇḍal, Tiruppāvai and Nācchiyār-tirumoḻi of 30 and 143 stanzas;
  • Toṇḍar-aḍi-poḍiy-āḻvār, Tiru-paḷḷiy-eḻuchi and Tiru-mālai of 10 and 45 stanzas respectively;
  • Tiru-pān-āḻvār, Amalanaḍi-piḻān of 10 stanzas;
  • Tiru-maṅgaiy-ājrvār wrote
    Periya-tirumoḻi of 1084 verses,
    of 20 stanzas,
    of 30 stanzas,
    of 1 stanza,
    Siriya- tirumaḍal
    of 77 stanzas
    and Periya-tirumaḍal of 148 stanzas,

thus making a total of 4000 verses in all. They are referred to in the Upadesd-ratna-mālā of Saumya Jāmātṛ muni (junior) and in its introduction by M. T. Narasimhiengar.


Some of his other works are

  • Mumukṣu-ppaḍi,
  • Prameya-śekhara,
  • Nava-ratna-mālā,
  • Tani-praṇava,
  • Prapanna-paritrāṇa,
  • Yādṛcchika-ppaḍi,
  • Dvayam,
  • Artha-pañcaka,
  • Sāra-saṃgraha,
  • Paranda-paḍi,
  • Saṃsāra-sāmrājyam,
  • Śrīyaḥ-pati-ppaḍi,
  • Caramam,
  • Arcir-ādi,
  • Nava-vidha-sambandha.

Vide footnote in Tattva-śekhara, p. 70.


Prapatti is defined as follows:

bhagavad-ājñātivartana-nivṛtti-bhagavad-ānukūlya-sana-śaktitvā-nusandhāna-prabhṛti-sahitaḥ yacñā-garbho vijṛmbha-riipa-jñāna-viścṣaḥ ; tatra jñeyākāra īśvarasya nirapekṣa-sādhanatvaṃjñānākaro vyarasñyā- tmakatvam ; etac ca śāstrā-rthatvāt sakṛt kartavyam.

Tattva-śekhara, p. 64.

Just as the baṅkarites hold that, once the knowledge regarding the unity of the individual with Brahman dawns through the realization of the meaning of such texts, there remains nothing to be done. So here also the complete selt-surrender to God is the dawning of the nature of one’s relation to God, and, when this is once accomplished, there is nothing else to be done. Ṭhe rest remains with God in His adoption of the devotee as His own.


See Prapannāmṛta, Ch. 122.


The present writer is indebted for some of his information regarding the works of Saumya Jāmātṛ muni to M. T. Narasimhiengar’s Introduction to the English translation of the Upadeśa-ratna-mālā.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: