SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 4 – Chapter 2 (Verses 1-10) – Sankhya Yoga

Introduction to Chapter 2

At the end of Chapter 1, we saw Arjuna was disillusioned and miserable.  Bhagavan did not even utter a word in the entire Chapter 1 while Arjuna was lamenting, thereby underlining the importance of listening without interrupting or getting judgmental. Something for the TV News anchors to take note!

The first Chapter was the preparatory for the actual teachings of Gita to begin.  The Second Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is called “Sankhya Yoga”. Sankhya means number and Yoga means Union, hence Sankhya Yoga means the Union of Numbers. The numbers are with regard to the number of realities (tattvas) that are present in existence.  Samkhya Yoga deals with the union or the combination of a number of hidden realities, which manifest the existential reality.

It is important to note the difference between the Sankhya Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and the Sankhya philosophy of Sage Kapila.  Sage Kapila attempted to classify the world into different categories such as matter, the sense organs, the mind, the intellect etc. It states that the Universe is a combination of: Prakriti (Matter) and Purusha (Spirit). There is no reference to a God in the Sankhya school of philosophy.  Thus, the Sankhya school of Kapila is quite similar to the modern theories of evolution, which consider the world and life as products of chance. Their theory is based on the premise that live manifested when right conditions presented themselves.

Sankhya in the Bhagavad Gita has blended the key elements of the classical Sankhya Yoga while retaining the existence of a Supreme Being.

The 2nd Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita covers the following aspects:

  • The first ten verses describe the disturbed state of Arjuna’s mind and his emotional state. Finally, Arjuna surrenders to the Lord and seeks his guidance (Arjuna Saranagati – Verse 2.7)
  • Verses 11 to 38 cover Jnana Yoga, also called Sankhya Yoga
  • Verses 39 to 53 covers Karma Yoga
  • Verses 54 to 72 explains the quality of Stithapragna (one who is equipoise, steady and single pointed)

Shri Krishna makes Arjuna to recognise the reasons for his unsteady mind, and explains how he can cultivate equanimity using his intellect.

From a philosophical perspective, the Sankhya Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita lists Ishvara Tattva (God), Atma tattvas (Soul), Body, Senses, Mind, Ego, and intellect. Of them, the first two are pure (Shuddha) and eternal realities (Nitya tattvas), and the rest are impure (Ashuddha) and finite (Anitya). The chapter also briefly mentions the Gunas or modes of Nature which governs the behaviour, attitudes and actions of beings.

Let us now examine the teaching in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

2.1       Shloka 2.1

Sanjaya Uvaca
Tam tatha krpayavistam asru-purnakuleksanam      |
Visidantam idam vakyam uvaca Madhusudanah ||2.1||
Meaning:  Sanjaya said: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion and grief-stricken, his eyes brimming with tears, Madhusudana, spoke:

 Arjuna is a mighty warrior and tears in the eyes of a mighty warrior was unsightly. The philosophical way of looking at this is, when one’s eyes are full of tears the vision is blurred and obstructed and thus it refers here to Arjuna’s inability to see the situation with a clear perspective. As a Kshatriya he was duty bound to fight and desisting from the battle was due to his ignorance.

The use of Madhusudhana in this verse to address the Lord is significant.  This shows that Arjuna is seeking help from the Lord to destroy the demon of his ignorance and misunderstanding, just like the Lord destroyed Demon Madhu.

Having heard Arjuna’s justifications for desisting from the battle, due to the fear of receiving sin for the slaying of relatives, Dhritarashtra was relieved of the fear for his sons and he desired to know what happened next.

2.2       Shloka 2.2

Shri Bhagavan Uvaca
Kutas tva kasmalam idam visame samupasthitam |
Anarya-justam asvargyam akirti-karam Arjuna  ||2.2||
Meaning: Bhagavan said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planes, but to infamy.

The meaning of the term ‘Bhagavan’ is explained by Parasara Muni, the father of Veda Vyasa, as the Supreme Personality who possesses all the six Kalyana Gunas namely, Jnana (Knowledge), Balam (Strength), Aishwaryam (Sovereignty or Opulence), Shakti (Infinite Power), Veeryam (Courage), and Tejas (Splendour). Besides these six auspicious qualities, Bhagavan also possesses infinite compassion (Sausheelya) and is easy to access (Saulabhya).

The Vishnu Purana in 6.5.74 states:
ऐश्वर्यस्य समग्रस्य धर्मस्य यशसरिश्रयः।
ज्ञानवैराग्ययोश्चैव षण्णां भग इतीरणा ।। VP 6.5.74
Meaning: Complete Splendour, Virtue, Glory, Opulence, Knowledge and Dispassion – these six are known as ‘Bhaga’. One who possess these Bhaga is known as Bhagavan.

He is the primeval Lord, or Bhagavan, known as Govinda, and He is the supreme cause of all causes. Srimad-Bhagavatam explains the Absolute Truth as:
Vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam  |
Brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate         ||1.2.11||
Meaning: Learned souls who know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance as Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan.

In the presence of the Supreme Being, Arjuna’s lamentation for his kinsmen is ungainly, and therefore Shri Krishna expressed His surprise with the word ‘Kutas’ meaning ‘wherefrom’? Shri Krishna desiring enquires Arjuna the source for delusion in the hour of action. Although Arjuna was a Kshatriya, he was deviating from his prescribed duties by declining to fight.

2.3       Shloka 2.3

Klaibyam ma sma gamah partha naitat tvayy upapadyate   |
Ksudram hrdaya-daurbalyam tyaktvottistha parantapa  ||2.3||
Meaning: O son of Prtha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.

By addressing Arjuna as Partha (son of Prtha), Shri Krishna reminds Arjuna by referring to his mother Kunti who by worshipping Indra, was endowed with Arjuna, a warrior with extraordinary might and valour just like Indra.

Shri Krishna instructs Arjuna not to yield to this impotence as it does not befit him and that he should discard this weakness of heart.  By using the vocative ‘Parantapa’ meaning chastiser of enemies Shri Krishna is reinforcing the thought in Arjuna’s mind that he was destined to conquer all enemies.  While Arjuna wanted to give up the fight due to his magnanimity for the respected elders like Bhishma and his relatives, Shri Krishna advises that such magnanimity is misplaced and not in accordance with Kshatriya Dharma.

2.4       Shloka 2.4

Arjuna Uvaca
Katham Bhismam aham sankhye Dronam ca Madhusudana    |
Isubhih pratiyotsyami pujarhav ari-sudana                                  ||2.4||
Meaning: Arjuna said: O’ killer of Madhu, how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhishma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship?

Respectable superiors like Bhishma, the grandfather and Dronacharya, the Guru are always worthy of worship. Even if they attack, Arjuna feels that they should not be counterattacked.

It is general etiquette that one should not engage even in a verbal duel with elders. Then, how is it possible to counterattack them, asks Arjuna?

Arjuna is asking why they should engage themselves in this battle being aware of the great sins accruing from disregarding superiors and showing aggression against the preceptor which results in the perpetrator becoming a ghostly demon known as a Brahma-Rakshasa, as declared in the Vedic scriptures.

2.5       Shloka 2.5

Gurun ahatva hi mahanubhavan sreyo bhoktum bhaiksyam apiha loke           |
Hatvartha-kamams tu gurun ihaiva bhunjiya bhogan rudhira-pradigdhan ||2.5||
Meaning: It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed, our spoils will be tainted with blood.

According to scriptural codes, a teacher who engages in an abominable action and has lost his sense of discrimination is fit to be abandoned. Bhishma and Drona were obliged to take the side of Duryodhana because of their bounden duty to Kind Dhritarashtra, although they should not have accepted such a position of power under a King who is unrighteous. Under the circumstances, they have lost their dignity. But Arjuna nevertheless thinks they remain his superiors who are to be respected, and therefore to enjoy material gains earned by killing them would mean to enjoy spoils tainted with blood.

Arjuna says that it is better to live in this world by begging alms as no sin will be incurred by this than to kill the respected elders. But Bhishma’s statement that, due to accepting wealth and position offered by Dhritarashtra, he was controlled by the Kauravas.

So when one who is controlled by wealth and not righteousness, slaying such a person does not incur any sin. But Arjuna states enjoying pleasures would be tainted with blood as they are derived from the sin of slaying the elders.

2.6       Shloka 2.6

Na caitad vidmah kataran no gariyo yad va jayema yadi va no jayeyuh     |
Yan eva hatva na jijivisamas te ‘vasthitah pramukhe Dhartarastrah       ||2.6||
Meaning: We do not know what is better for us – whether we conquer them or they conquer us. Those sons of Dhritarashtra, whom if we killed, we would not desire to live, are now standing before us on this battlefield.

All these considerations by Arjuna definitely prove that he was not only a great devotee of the Lord but was very compassionate. His desire to live by begging, although he was born in the Royal lineage, is another sign of detachment, compassion and humility. He was truly virtuous, as these qualities, combined with his faith in Shri Krishna (his spiritual master) confirm this. We can see that Arjuna had all the necessary qualities for surrender and quite fit for liberation.

It can be questioned that as a Kshatriya how can Arjuna abandon his duty to fight as is prescribed in the Vedic scriptures. How  could he decide that begging was better? Finally, in his state of confusion he says that he does not know which one is better, whether to be victorious or be vanquished. In either situation he sees sorrow and did not see a clear path to deal with this paradox.

2.7       Shloka 2.7

Karpanya-dosopahata-svabhavah prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah                             |
Yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me Shisyas te ‘ham shaadhi mam tvam prapannam ||2.7||
Meaning: My natural attributes are besieged by weakness and am bewildered about what is my righteous duty and am unable to think clearly. I am asking You to tell me definitively what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, surrendered unto You, please instruct me.

This is a very important Shloka in this Chapter where  Arjuna unconditionally surrenders unto the Lord as a disciple and seeks his clear and definitive guidance.

In the previous verse Arjuna had determined that life would not be worth living even if he won the battle.  As he is unable to deal with this paradox he determines that the best course of action for him was to unconditionally surrender to Shri Krishna.  In his mind, this was the greatest panacea than any other means prescribed in Vedic scriptures.

Those who seek shelter of the Supreme Lord Krishna are never deluded. Lord Krishna is known as Janardhana meaning He who always removes the ignorance of His devotees. Arjuna has lost the power of discrimination and so realising this he surrenders to Shri Krishna who is an ocean of qualities.

According to Vedic scriptures one who dies in this world without becoming self-realized is a miser (Karpanya). One is called a miser, who is destitute of knowledge of the nature and qualities of their immortal soul. In worldly parlance one is known as a miser who is extremely stingy. Miserliness in this context is the affliction of weakness regarding ones spiritual identity and integrity. Discriminatory power weakened by delusion which bewilders the intelligence. Arjuna unconditionally surrenders to Shri Krishna with the words ‘tvam prapannam’ meaning ‘surrender unto You’ and asks the Lord for spiritual guidance as confirmed by the words ‘shaadhi mam’ meaning ‘instruct me’. Arjuna also expresses his readiness to receive these instructions from Shri Krishna by saying the words ‘Shishyah te aham’ meaning ‘I am your disciple’.

One should not, therefore, remain in material perplexities but should approach a spiritual master. This is the purport of this verse.  Who is the man in material perplexities? It is he who does not understand the problems of life. In the Garga Upanisad the perplexed man is described as follows:

‘yo va etad aksaram gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa krpanah’

He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization.

This human form of life is a most valuable asset for the living entity who can utilise it for solving the problems of life; therefore, one who does not utilise this opportunity properly is a miser.  The krpanas, or miserly persons, waste their time in being overly affectionate and are bonded by attachments in the material conception of life.

Although Arjuna could understand that his duty to fight was awaiting him, still, on account of miserly weakness, he could not discharge his duties. He is therefore asking Shri Krishna to give him a definite answer.

2.8       Shloka 2.8

Na hi prapasyami mamapanudyad yac chokam ucchosanam indriyanam    |
Avapya bhumav asapatnam rddham rajyam suranam api cadhipatyam   ||2.8||
Meaning: I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to destroy it even if I win an unrivalled kingdom on the earth with sovereignty like that of the Devas.

Although Arjuna was putting forward so many arguments based on knowledge of the principles of religion and moral codes, it appears that he was unable to solve his real problem without the help of the spiritual master, Lord Shri Krishna.

He could understand that his knowledge was not helping him to drive away his problems and it was impossible for him to solve such perplexities without the help of a spiritual master like Shri Krishna.  

The problems of material existence—birth, old age, disease and death—cannot be counteracted by accumulation of wealth and economic development. In many parts of the world which are economically developed and wealthy are not without the problems of material existence.  If economic development and material comforts could drive away one’s lamentations for family, social, national or international inebrieties, then Arjuna would not have said that even an unrivalled kingdom on earth or supremacy like that of the Devas would not be able to drive away his lamentations.

He therefore sought refuge in Shri Krishna for right path for peace and harmony. Even elevation into a higher planes is impermanent. The Bhagavad-Gita states: ‘ksine punye martyalokam visanti’ (BG9.21) – When the results of pious activities are finished, one falls down again from the peak of happiness to the lowest status of life.

Therefore, if we want to curb lamentation for good, then we have to take shelter of the Lord, as Arjuna is seeking to do. So Arjuna asked Shri Krishna to solve his problem definitely.

Arjuna’s understanding is that even if he was to win the kingdom of unrivalled prosperity free from enemies, he still could not see any means of alleviating the grief that was drying up his senses. By the use of the word ‘hi’ meaning ‘certainly’, the conviction that he could not see any solution to his grief is reinforced, indicating that only the Lord is fit to instruct him and guide him on the right path.

2.9       Shloka 2.9

Sanjaya Uvaca
Evam uktva Hrsikesam Gudakesah parantapah            |
Na yotsya iti Govindam uktva tusnim babhuva ha ||2.9||
Meaning: Sanjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, the chastiser of enemies, told Shri Krishna, ‘Govinda, I shall not fight’, and fell silent.

Dhritarashtra’s expectancy to know what happenned next was answered by Sanjaya which would have been music to Dhritarashtra’s ears as Arjuna was not going to fight and was instead contemplating leave the battlefield and preferred to live by seeking alms.

By addressing Lord Shri Krishna as Govinda, Arjuna is seeking His protection as Govinda protects His herd and He who controls everyone’s senses.

2.10     Shloka 2.10

Tam uvaca Hrsikesah prahasann iva Bharata                 |
Senayor ubhayor madhye visidantam idam vacah ||2.10||
Meaning: O’ descendant of Bharata, thereafter situated between both the armies, Shri Krishna, as if smiling,  spoke the following words to the grief-stricken Arjuna.

Arjuna and Krishna, being cousins were intimate friends and both of them were at the same level, but one of them voluntarily became a student of the other.  Shri Krishna was smiling because His friend had chosen to become His disciple.

As Lord of all, He is always in a superior position as the master of everyone, and yet He accepts one who wishes to be a friend, a son, a lover or a devotee, or who wants Him in such a role. But when He was accepted as the master, He at once assumed the role and talked with the disciple like the master—with gravity, as is required.

Lord Krishna with a subtle smile on his face then spoke to Arjuna. The word ‘prahasan’ meaning ‘smiling’ is used to subtly indicate sarcasm due to the nature of the situation where the two armies were face to face ready for the battle while Arjuna, a mighty warrior, was reluctant. This subtle smile is used to remove any lingering vestiges of pride that Arjuna might have had about his knowledge, intelligence and prowess.

The first ten verses covered Arjuna’s delusion and lamentation culminating with his surrender unto Lord Shri Krishna.  We will now see Lord Shri Krishna’s response to Arjuna’s request for giving him definitive instructions and guidance and he offers himself as a disciple to Shri Krishna.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat


SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 3 – Chapter 1 (Verses 21-46) – Arjuna Vishada Yoga

In the first part of Chapter 1, we saw the vivid description of the battlefield by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana insinuating Drona to fight with vigour and offer no concessions to his favourite disciples.  In this part, we will see the state of Arjuna’s mind as he prepares for this Maha-Bharata war and this sets the prelude to the conversation between him and Bhagavan Shri Krishna. 

1.21     Shloka 1.21

Arjuna Uvaca
Senayor ubhayor madhye ratham sthapaya me ‘cyuta ||1.21||

Meaning:  Arjuna said: O’ Achyuta, please draw my chariot between the two armies. 

Arjuna instructs the Shri Krishna to take his chariot between the two armies. He addresses Bhagavan as “Achyuta” meaning “the infallible one”.  Though Shri Krishna is the Supreme Being, because of His “Sausheelyam” (affection) for His devotees, He readily acts on the instructions of Arjuna, without showing any hesitation.

1.22     Shloka 1.22

Yavad etan nirikse ‘ham yoddhu-kaman avasthitan             |
Kair maya saha yoddhavyam asmin rana-samudyame ||1.22||
Meaning: Arjuna says, So I may see who is present here, who is desirous of fighting, and with whom I must contend in this great battle.

Arjuna was anxious to see who the leading persons in the battlefield to assess who he had to contend in this battle.

1.23     Shloka 1.23

Yotsyamanan avekse ‘ham ya ete ‘tra samagatah               |
Dhartarastrasya durbuddher yuddhe priya-cikirsavah ||1.23||
Meaning: Arjuna said, let me see those who have come here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra.

Though Arjuna had full confidence in Himself, more so with Shri Krishna on his side, he wanted to see the enemy army closely to see evil Duryodhana’s allies.

1.24     Shloka 1.24

Sanjaya Uvaca
Evam ukto hrsikeso gudakesena bharata   |
Senayor ubhayor madhye sthapayitva rathottamam ||1.24||
Meaning: Sanjaya said: O’ descendant of Bharata, as instructed by Gudakesa (Arjuna), Hrisikesha (the controller of all senses) drew up the fine chariot in the midst of both the armies.

Dhritarashtra is addressed here by Sanjaya as O’ descendant of Bharata, thus subtly stressing that Dhritarashtra is born in the exalted lineage of the righteous and noble King Bharata.  It appears that Sanjaya is attempting to appeal to the conscience of Dhritarashtra to make a last ditch effort to review his foolish and ill thought out decision of forcing this conflict.

In this verse Arjuna is referred as Gudakesa. ‘Gudaka’ means sleep, and one who conquers sleep is called Gudakesa.  So Arjuna had conquered both sleep (also means ignorance) because of his association with Bhagavan Shri Krishna.  A devotee of Shri Krishna can conquer ignorance simply by constantly meditating on Him.

1.25     Shloka 1.25

Bhishma-Drona-Pramukhatah Sarvesam ca mahi-ksitam  |
Uvaca Partha pasyaitan samavetan Kurun iti              ||1.25||
Meaning: In the presence of Bhishma, Drona and all other Kings of the world, the Bhagavan Shri, said, behold Partha (Arjuna), all the Kurus who are assembled here.

And the word Partha, or the son of Kunti or Prtha, is to emphasise the closeness between Shri Krishna and Arjuna. He wanted to comfort Arjuna that as he was the son of Prtha, the sister of Shri Krishna’s father Vasudeva. What did Shri Krishna mean when He told Arjuna to ‘behold the Kurus’?

Placing the chariot in front of Bhishma and Drona between the two opposing armies, Bhagavan Shri Krishna said: O Partha observe all these Kauravas and see those who are favoring them. Bhagavan Shri Krishna could understand what was going on in the mind of Arjuna. The use of the word Partha was to emphasise the affection for Arjuna, as he was the son of Kunti who was the sister of Vasudev (Shri Krishna’s father).  This was to give confidence to Arjuna that He will engage Himself by accepting the position of Arjuna’s charioteer.

1.26     Shloka 1.26

Tatrapasyat sthitan parthah pitrn atha pitamahan
Acaryan matulan bhratrn putran pautran sakhims tatha      |
Svasuran suhrdas caiva senayor ubhayor api                     ||1.26||
Meaning: There Arjuna saw, within the midst of the armies of both parties, his fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, and also his father-in-law and well-wishers-all present there.

He could see Bhurisrava and grandfathers from the same generation as his grandfather Bhishma. The teachers like Drona and Kripa, maternal uncles like Salya, brothers like Bhima and Duryodhana, sons are like the age of his own son Abhimanyu, grandsons like Lakhsmana and friends like Asvatthama and others.

1.27     Shloka 1.27

Tan samiksya sa kaunteyah sarvan bandhun avasthitan        |
Krpaya parayavisto visidann idam abravit                            ||1.27||
Meaning: When the son of Kunti, Arjuna, saw all these different friends and relatives, he became overwhelmed with compassion and struck with grief, he spoke thus:

The reference to Arjuna as Kaunteyah, the son of Kunti, is to denote his natural afflictions of the mundane world. He is struck by grief and compassion that accompanies the attachments one develops in this Samsara.  The word ‘Krpaya’ signifies Arjuna’s nature of being compassionate and the word ‘paraya’ denotes that this compassion is only for his own soldiers but also for the enemy soldiers.  The word ‘visidan’ connotes all the symptoms of being grief stricken, like shedding of tears, shuddering, choking, etc. and Arjuna exhibited these as he began to speak (showing all signs of ‘Vishada’).

1.28     Shloka 1.28

Arjuna Uvaca
Drstvemam sva-janam Krishna yuyutsum samupasthitam  |
Sidanti mama gatrani mukham ca parisusyati                     ||1.28||
Arjuna said: ‘My dear Krishna, seeing all my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, the limbs of my body are quivering and my mouth is completely parched’. Arjuna, after seeing his kinsmen, friends and relatives on the battlefield, was at once overwhelmed by compassion for them foreseeing their imminent death. That thought made his limbs quiver, and his mouth dry.

Such symptoms in Arjuna were not due to fear or weakness but because of his kindness, a quintessential characteristic of a pure devotee of the Bhagavan Shri.

In Srimad Bhagavatam (5.18.12) it says:
yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah     |
harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih   ||5.8.12||
Meaning: One who has unflinching faith in the Supreme and has utmost devotion, that person is blessed by God with all the good qualities that make it endearing to Him. But one who merely engages in seeking knowledge without Bhakti such knowledge is of little value. Knowledge without Bhakti is useless tinsel.

1.29     Shloka 1.29

Vepathus ca sarire me roma-harsas ca jayate                |
Gandivam sramsate hastat tvak caiva paridahyate ||1.29||
Meaning: My whole body is trembling, and my hair is standing on end. My bow Gandiva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning. 

Arjuna is losing his composure as he feels his hair standing on its end, his heart racing, his skin burning and his famous bow Gandiva slipping out of his hand.  All of this is happening to him not because of the fear of the battle but out of his compassion for all those assembled and their kins.

1.30     Shloka 1.30

Na ca saknomy avasthatum bhramativa ca me manah    |
Nimittani ca pasyami viparitani kesava                             ||1.30||
Meaning: I am now unable to keep my composure. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I foresee only evil, O killer of the Kesi demon.

Arjuna was unable to stay focussed and was losing control of senses as he was overwhelmed with grief. Bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah: such fearfulness and loss of mental equilibrium takes place in persons who are too attached to the material world. Arjuna envisioned only unhappiness in the battlefield—he would not be happy even by gaining victory over his foes as he saw his cousins, uncles, gurus and grandfathers among them.

The use of the word ‘nimitta’ is significant.  Nimittani is used to mean inauspicious omens but not as an indication or sign of what might happen but as the result.

1.31     Shloka 1.31

Na ca sreyo ‘nupasyami hatva sva-janam ahave           |
Na kankse vijayam Krishna na ca rajyam sukhani ca ||1.31||
Meaning: I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor do I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness.

Arjuna thought that his victory in the battle would only be a cause of lamentation for him and says he does not desire the Kingdom that is obtained by killing his kinsmen. He sees the consequences of war presenting conflicting results. Arjuna says that even if he were victorious in the battle and obtains the Kingdom he would not feel any satisfaction or happiness, on the contrary he would be remorseful.

1.32     Shloka 1.32

Kim no rajyena Govinda kim bhogair jivitena va                   |
Yesam arthe kanksitam no rajyam bhogah sukhani ca ||1.32||
Meaning: O’Govinda! What need do we have for a Kingdom or what need of enjoyments and livelihood, if for those whom we desire the Kingdom and happiness for are all here?

By addressing Shri Krishna as Govinda, Arjuna is appealing to the compassionate virtues of the Lord. Arjuna explains that he does not desire the Kingdom that is to be won in a battle in which the destruction of one’s kins’ is certain. Hence, he says, it is a fruitless desire to engage in a battle where all kinsmen will perish.

1.33     Shloka 1.33

Ta ime ‘vasthita yuddhe pranams tyaktva dhanani ca       |
Acharyah pitarah putras tathaiva ca pitamahah             ||1.33||
Meaning: All of these men in this battlefield will be giving up their lives and riches. Amongst them are Acharyas, Fathers, Sons, as well as grandfathers.

Arjuna appears to have even forgotten the moral codes for a kshatriya. It is said that two kinds of men, namely the Kshatriya who dies directly in the battlefield under Shri Krishna’s personal command and Sanyasi, a person in the renounced order of life who is absolutely devoted to spirituality, are eligible to enter into the Surya mandala, which is so powerful and dazzling.

Arjuna is reluctant to kill even his enemies, let alone his relatives. He was not willing to fight as he was overcome by grief at the thought of killing so many of them.

1.34     Shloka 1.34

Matulah svasurah pautrah syalah sambandhinas tatha      |
Etan na hantum icchami ghnato ‘pi madhusudana        ||1.34||
Meaning: O’ Madhusudana, even if I am killed, I do not wish to kill my maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and all relatives for the sake of a Kingdom.

1.35     Shloka 1.35

Api trailokya-rajyasya hetoh kim nu mahi-krte                    |
Nihatya dhartarastran nah ka pritih syaj Janardhana ||1.35||
Meaning: I am not prepared to fight with them even if I get all three worlds in exchange, let alone this world. O’ Janardhana, the maintainer of all living entities, what happiness shall we derive by killing the sons of Dhritarashtra?

Arjuna’s deep affection and compassion for the community and his family members comes to the fore. Arjuna is addressing Shri Krishna by his various names as Govinda, Madhusudhana and Janardhana and is appealing to compassionate virtues of the Lord to relieve Him of his agony.

Janardhana means ‘One Who destroys the ignorance of His devotees’. Thus, Arjuna is appealing to Bhagavan Shri Krishna to destroy his ignorance as well in this verse.

1.36     Shloka 1.36

papam evasrayed asman hatvaitan atatayinah
tasman narha vayam hantum dhartarastran sa-bandhavan
sva-janam hi katham hatva sukhinah syama Madhava        ||1.36||
Meaning: Sin will accrue if we slay such aggressors. Therefore, it is not proper for us to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra and our friends. What would we gain, O’ Madhava, the consort of Maha Lakshmi, and how could we be happy by killing our own kinsmen?

According to Vedic injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors:

  • a who poisons
  • one who commits arson
  • one who attacks with deadly weapons without just cause
  • one who plunders riches
  • one who occupies another’s property, and
  • one who kidnaps someone’s wife.

Such aggressors can be slain without instantly without accruing any sin and as mentioned in Vedic injunctions – ‘Atatayinam ayantam hanyad’ meaning ‘Without hesitation such aggressors may be slain as there is no sin in killing them’. The sons of Dhritarashtra have committed these heinous acts of aggression against the Pandavas.

Although there is no reward in this world or the next for such an action, a responsible King of a State is required to be righteous and should not be cowardly. However, one should consider in the case of Arjuna, the aggressors were his own relatives viz. grandfathers, Gurus, friends, sons, grandsons, etc.

Arjuna considered that rather than kill his kinsmen for political gains, it would be better to forgive them. So, he reasoned that such killing is not worthwhile or legitimate for acquiring temporary enjoyments. After all, Kingdoms and pleasures derived therefrom are not permanent, so why should he risk salvation by killing his own kinsmen?

Arjuna’s reasoning is based on Dharma Shastra which states ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’ meaning ‘Non-violence is the ultimate obligation’ while the moral codes of Niti Shastra states one can rightfully kill his aggressors. Since Dharma Shastra is superior to Niti Shastra, Arjuna reasoned that killing of revered elders such as Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and others can only accrue sin.

Arjuna addresses Shri Krishna as Madhava, reinforcing the aspect that He is the consort of Maha Lakshmi who is the controller of all wealth and opulence, to stress his point that why is the Lord who is the consort of the Goddess of fortune asking him to fight a battle in which there will be blood, gore, death, and devoid of wealth and opulence.


1.37     Shloka 1.37

Yadi api ete na pasyanti lobhopahata-cetasah             |
Kula-ksaya-krtam dosam mitra-drohe ca patakam ||1.37||
Meaning: These men, overtaken by greed in their heart, do not see any fault in killing one’s family or quarreling with friends.

Arjuna begins with ‘yadi api ete na pasyanti’ to underscore the reason for the Kauravas to be engaged in this war was out of greed. As we don’t have this greed there is no need for a battle.

1.38     Shloka 1.38

Katham na jneyam asmabhih papad asman nivartitum  |
Kula-ksaya-krtam dosam prapasyadbhir Janardana ||1.38||
Meaning: O’ Janardana, although these men are unaware, why should we engage in the destruction of a dynasty with full knowledge of the sin? 

Being a devotee of the Bhagavan Shri Krishna, who is the propounder of dharma or righteousness, Arjuna addresses Him as Janardhana meaning ‘the remover of ignorance’ and asks Why should they not refrain themselves from such ignorance being aware of the implications of unrighteous acts?

1.39     Shloka 1.39

kula-ksaye pranasyanti kula-dharmah sanatanah                   |
dharme naste kulam krtsnam adharmo ‘bhibhavaty uta ||1.39||
Meaning:  With the destruction of dynasty, the spiritual family tradition is destroyed forever, and when spiritual practices are destroyed, unrighteous acts predominate the entire society. 

There are many principles of religious traditions to help members of the family to attain spiritual values. The elder members are responsible for such purifying processes in the family, beginning from birth to death. But on the death of the elder members, such family traditions may stop, and the remaining younger family members may develop unrighteous habits and thereby lose their chance for spiritual salvation. Therefore, for no purpose should the elder members of the family be slain.

Arjuna now describes the evil consequences of war in detail with this verse beginning kula-ksaye pranasyanti. The compound word ‘kula-dharmah’ means ‘the righteous family traditions prescribed in Vedic rites such as the agnihotra (yagna)’. Arjuna argues that due to the destruction of the dynasty there will be lack of qualified family members knowledgeable enough to guide the younger members on the path of dharma. When dharma or righteousness is absent then adharma or unrighteousness takes hold and the remaining dependants along with the whole family will destroy the foundations of society.

1.40     Shloka 1.40

Adharma abhibhavat Shri Krishna pradusyanti kula-striyah       |
Strisu dustasu varsneya jayate varna-sankarah        ||1.40||
Meaning: When unrighteousness is prominent in the family, O Shri Krishna, the women in the family are sullied, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrsni, comes unwanted progeny.

As the society degenerates without proper spiritual guidance, Arjuna opines that the female of the family become easily accessible and are placed in conditions of compromise. From this polluted and degraded position arises undesirable progeny. The purpose of Arjuna addressing Bhagavan Shri Krishna by the vocative Varsneya is to remind Him that He took birth in the exalted royal Vrsni dynasty and as such should be fully aware of these things.

1.41     Shloka 1.41

Sankaro narakayaiva kula-ghnanam kulasya ca        |
Patanti pitaro hy esam lupta-pindodaka-kriyah ||1.41||
Meaning:  When there is an increase of unwanted population, a hellish situation is created both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. In such corrupt families, there is no offering of oblations of food and water to the ancestors. 

According to the traditions, there is a need to offer periodic oblations of food and water to the departed forefathers of the family. This offering is performed by worship of Vishnu, because eating the remnants of food offered to Vishnu can deliver one from all kinds of sinful actions.

However, one who is engaged in the devotional life is not required to perform such actions. Simply by performing devotional service, one can deliver hundreds and thousands of forefathers from all kinds of misery. It is stated in Srimad Bhagavatam (11.5.41):
Devarsi-bhutapta-nrnam pitrnam na kinkaro nayamrni ca rajan  |
Sarvatmana yah saranam saranyam gato mukundam parihrtya kartam ||
Meaning: Anyone who has taken shelter of the Lotus feet of Mukunda, the bestower of salvation, giving up all kinds of obligation, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the Devas, Sages, general living entities, family members, humankind or forefathers. Such obligations are automatically fulfilled by engaging in devotional service of God.

1.42     Shloka 1.42

Dosair etaih kula-ghnanam varna-sankara-karakaih        |
Utsadyante jati-dharmah kula-dharmas ca sasvatah ||1.42||
Meaning: Due to the evil deeds of the destroyers of family tradition, all kinds of spiritual traditions are eradicated and the nobility of the family devastated.

Arjuna describes the misery experienced for those who are responsible for causing this destruction of the family traditions. Due to these evils, the essential duties prescribed in the Vedic scriptures that are faithfully instructed by holy sages and spiritual gurus are all forsaken.

1.43     Shloka 1.43

Utsanna-kula-dharmanam manusyanam Janardhana  |
Narake niyatam vaso bhavatity anususruma                 ||1.43||
Meaning: O Janardhana, maintainer of the people, I have heard from the learned that those people whose family traditions have been destroyed always reside in hell.

Arjuna is supporting his argument by affirming that he has heard from respectable sources in Guru Parampara, that those who are responsible for destroying righteousness reside permanently in hellish existence. Therefore this decision to fight is not the wisest of choices.

1.44     Shloka 1.44

Aho bata mahat papam kartum vyavasita vayam    |
Yad rajya-sukha-lobhena hantum sva-janam udyatah ||1.45||
Meaning: Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts, driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness. 

It is a sinful act even to think about the killing of friends and relatives. As Arjuna has surmised in the previous verse that it is not in his best interest to fight according to his understanding. Now he is seen repenting that as such an act would bring only evil consequences. Thinking that his intelligence must be marred by delusion he sorrowfully speaks the words: ‘aho bata’ – alas how ironic it is. It is ironic to him that he has committed himself to great sin by his intention to slay friends and kinsman in the pursuit of royal pleasures and enjoyments.

1.45     Shloka 1.45

Yadi mam apratikaram asastram sahastra-panayah            |
Dhartarastra rane hanyus tan me ksemataram bhavet ||1.45||
Meaning: I would consider it better for me for the sons of Dhritarashtra to slay me in the battlefield unarmed and unresisting, rather than fight with them.

It is the custom—according to Kshatriya fighting principles—that an unarmed and unwilling foe should not be attacked. Arjuna, however, in such an enigmatic position, decided he would not fight if he were attacked by the enemy. All these symptoms are due to kind-heartedness resulting from him being a great devotee of the Bhagavan Shri Krishna.

Bhishma and the Kauravas will certainly attempt to kill Arjuna as they are eager to engage in this war. To answer this, Arjuna is speaking this verse beginning ‘yadi mam apratikaram’ – being not resistant is my atonement.  Ksemataram means much better, since the atonement will wash away all sins. Bhishma and the others fighting on the Kaurava side will not be able be able to escape the result of that sin.

Arjuna states that even if the sons of Dhritarashtra being devoid of wisdom and obsessed by greed would slay him unarmed and unresisting, this would still be more preferable than perpetuating sin by slaying friends and kinsman and permanently going to hell as a result. Arjuna feels that if he refrains from fighting, then after the death of his physical body there would be no feelings of guilt or repentance from committing such a sin.

1.46     Shloka 1.46

Sanjaya Uvaca
Evam uktvarjunah sankhye rathopastha upavisat         |
Visrjya sa-saram capam soka-samvigna-manasah ||1.46||
Meaning: Sanjaya said, Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.

Sanjaya spoke that Arjuna whose mind was agitated by grief cast aside his bow and arrows and sank down despondently in the back of the chariot.

Summary of Chapter 1

Chapter 1 explains the problems of this Samsaara. They arise from attachment (Raga), grief (Soka) and delusion (Moha). When one is not happy with oneself, one seeks happiness from external sources. This leads to dependence and attachment to those external sources. Since the conditions of the external factors are unpredictable, therefore happiness from such sources is unsustainable leading to losing of one’s peace of mind.  A disturbed mind can only make erroneous judgments which would complicate things further. This, in short, is the problem of Samsaara.

The main topics of this chapter are:

  • Verses 1 to 20 – These verses contains a vivid description of the armies and their formations. After a brief inspection followed by instruction by Duryodhana to his commander Drona, Bhishma blows the conch to please Duryodhana.  This is followed by blowing of conch by Shri Krishna, Arjuna, and others, signaling the commencement of the battle.
  • Verses 21 to 25 – Arjuna instructs Shri Krishna to place his chariot in the middle of the armies to scrutinize the enemy-forces. The Lord brings the chariot in front of Bhisma and Drona and asks Arjuna to survey the army.
  • Verses 26 to 27 – Arjuna, looking at the army sees his grandfather Bhishma, his Guru Dona, his uncles, cousins and relatives and has a change of mind arising from his attachment (Raga). In a moment of weakness, Arjuna slips down from reason to relation. Instead of seeing the violators of dharma, he sees his beloved kith and kin. Arjuna is overpowered by attachment which is followed by its twin offshoots grief and delusion.
  • Verses 28 to 34 – Arjuna’s expresses his intense grief (Soka) which shakes him completely. This indicates the extent of his attachment.
  • Verses 35 to 45 – Arjuna’s veiled by attachment loses his discriminative power and he commits a series of false judgments from his delusion (Moha). Interestingly, Arjuna quotes the scriptures to bolster his unjustifiable stand.

Arjuna finds himself in the deep sea of attachment, sorrow, and delusion.  He sincerely wants to get out of this predicament where he is overcome by grief due to his attachment and compassion. In his mind, it is better to die without fighting than kill his kinsmen for the sake of Kingdom and enjoyment that comes with it. At the same time, he has not realized that the problem is so deep for him to solve independently with an unclear head.

In a confused state of mind, Arjuna casts his bow and arrow aside and drops down on the chariot in grief.


Om Tat Sat iti Srimad Bhagavad Gitasu Upanishatsu Brahma Vidyayam Yoga Shastre
Shri Krishna Arjuna Samvade Arjuna Vishaada Yogo Naama Prathamo dhyaayah||

Meaning: Om Tat Sat. This Srimad Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishad, is for gaining knowledge of the Brahman, the Yoga Shastra, is a conversation between Shri Krishna and Arjuna.  The first chapter is called Arjuna Vishada Yoga (Arjuna’s despondency).

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 2 Chapter 1 (Verses 1 -20) – Arjuna Vishada Yoga

Chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita is called the “Arjuna Vishada Yoga” meaning Arjuna’s despondency which is interestingly called a “Yoga”. It is paradoxical to call an expression of sorrow or despondency as a “Yoga”.

Yoga means “union” but the question arises as to union with what? Why should Arjuna become despondent having come to the battle field to wage a war and why is this even a Yoga?

As Arjuna requested Krishna to take the chariot to the center of the battlefield to survey the ranks of his enemies—he saw his own kith and kin including his grand-father Bhishma and his Gurus Dronacharya, Krupacharya and many other elders. He was overcome by grief and shuddered at the thought of killing his relatives and his preceptors for the throne.

Arjuna not wanting to fight, expresses words of wisdom by saying – “Ahimsa paramo Dharmaha” – Non-violence is the best policy or prime duty. It is important to note that Arjuna was not a coward to run away from the battlefield.

His despondency arose from a sudden realisation which made him introspect and question what will be the use of a Kingdom that is gained by killing one’s cousins, elders and Gurus.  What is the value of such success? This pain and sorrow, when it arises not for personal well-being but for the larger good, is transformed into what we may call as “VISHADA YOGA”.

The ‘VISHADA’ or sorrow leads to a state of Sanyasa Yoga, which is the bedrock of detachment. We have read this in the lives of the great Nayanmars and Azhwars where this type of sorrow and suffering for the larger good is described.  Similarly, Arjuna’s grief is slowly turning into that of a grief for larger good and he is on the verge of doing a total Surrender or “Saranagati” to Lord Shri Krishna. Thus VISHADA, true and sincere, is a first step for union with GOD!

Swami Krishnananda explains this scenario with an analogy of a person taking a vaccine to protect against a severe disease.  While the vaccine is to prevent a severe ailment, the after-effects of a vaccine typically causes a temporary period of illness. He compares Arjuna’s despondency as this temporary state of illness before Arjuna makes himself ready to receive the wisdom and knowledge from Lord Shri Krishna. In this sense, the state of Arjuna’s despondency is seen as Vishada Yoga.

The Bhagavad Gita begins with the verse, “Dharmakshetra, Kurushetra”, indicating a conflict between one’s righteous duties and one’s heart’s desire….there is constant battle between wisdom and ignorance that is present in the mind of each being. This battle to overcome ignorance to gain wisdom, and become detached from what is impermanent and perishable leads to eternal bliss.

Having set the context, let’s begin with Chapter 1 which mainly is a description of the battlefield and the state of Arjuna’s mind and his despondency.

1.1          SHLOKA 1.1

धृतराष्ट्र उवाच |

धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः |
मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ||1.1||

Dhṛitarashtra Uvaca

Dharma-kṣhetre kuru-kṣhetre samaveta yuyutsavaḥ      |
Mamakaḥ Paṇḍavashchaiva kimakurvata Sanjaya      ||1.1||
Meaning:  Dhritarashtra said: O’ Sanjaya, What are my sons and Pandava’s sons doing after assembling for the battle on the virtuous land of Kurukshetra?

King Dhritarashtra, apart from being blind from birth, was also bereft of spiritual wisdom.  His attachment to his own sons made him deviate from the path of virtue and usurp the rightful kingdom of the Pandavas.  He was conscious of the injustice he meted out to his nephews, the sons of Pandu.  His guilt worried him about the outcome of the battle, and he inquires Sanjaya about the events on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where the war was about to commence.

Dhritarashtra’s question was superfluous as it was obvious that they had assembled in the Kurukshetra battlefield with the sole purpose of waging a war.  His doubt can be discerned from the words he used—dharma kṣhetre, the land of dharma (virtuous conduct).  Kurukshetra was a sacred land.  Dhritarashtra apprehended that the influence of the holy land of Kurukshetra may have an impact on the result which could lead to victory of the Pandavas, though he had great faith in the army of the Kauravas led by Bhishma. At the same time, he was uncertain of the consequences of the war, and wished to ascertain the fate of his sons.  As a result, he asked Sanjaya about the goings-on at the battleground of Kurukshetra, where the two armies had assembled.

1.2          SHLOKA 1.2

सञ्जय उवाच

दृष्ट्वा तु पाण्डवानीकं व्यूढं दुर्योधनस्तदा
आचार्यमुपसङ्गम्य राजा वचनमब्रवीत् २॥

Sanjaya Uvaca:

Drstva tu Pandavanikam vyudham Duryodhanas tada    |
Acaryam upasangamya Raja vacanam abravit              ||1.2||
Meaning: Sanjaya said: O King, after looking over the army gathered by the sons of Pandu, King Duryodhana went to his teacher and began to speak the following words (next Shloka).

Sanjaya informed King Dhritarashtra that his son, Duryodhana, after seeing the military forces of the Pandavas, at once went to the commander-in-chief, Dronacharya, to take stock of the situation on the ground. Duryodhana’s egoistic veneer could not disguise the fear he felt when he saw the military arrangement of the Pandavas.

1.3          SHLOKA 1.3

पश्यैतां पाण्डुपुत्राणामाचार्य महतीं चमूम्
व्यूढां द्रुपदपुत्रेण तव शिष्येण धीमता ३॥

Pasyaitam Pandu-putranam acarya mahatim camum    |
Vyudham Drupada-putrena tava sisyena dhimata      ||1.3||
Meaning: O my teacher, behold the great army of the sons of Pandu, so expertly arranged by your intelligent disciple, the son of Drupada.

Duryodhana, wanted to point out the flaws of Dronacharya and very subtly brings up the rivalry of Dronacarya with King Drupada by referring to the son of Drupada.

As a result of a clash with Dronacharya, in which Drupada was humbled, Drupada performed a great sacrifice, by which he received the benediction of having a son who would be able to kill Dronacharya. Even though Dhristadyumna, son of Drupada, was the prophesied killer of Drona, he was accepted as a student by the benevolent Drona, and he learned advanced military arts. Now, on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, Dhrstadyumna took the side of the Pandavas, and he has arranged their military phalanx, after having learned the art from his Guru Dronacharya.

Duryodhana pointed out this blunder of Dronacharya’s so that he might be alert and uncompromising in the battle. By mentioning this he also wanted to point out that he should not be similarly lenient in the battle against the Pandavas, who were also Dronacharya’s affectionate students. Arjuna, especially, was his most affectionate and hence, Duryodhana warned Dronacharya that any leniency in the battle could lead to defeat.

1.4          SHLOKA 1.4

अत्र शूरा महेष्वासा भीमार्जुनसमा युधि
युयुधानो विराटश्च द्रुपदश्च महारथः ४॥ 

Atra sura Mahesv-asa BhimArjuna-sama yudhi           |
Yuyudhano viratas ca Drupadas ca Maha-rathah  ||1.4||
Meaning: Here in this army there are many heroic bowmen equal to the might of Bhima and Arjuna, such as Satyaki, King Virata, Drupada  and other great fighters.

Duryodhana’s use of the words ‘atra surah’ in addressing Drona is an insinuation and he says to Dronacharya that If you are thinking that because the Pandavas army commanded by Dhristadyumna are less than ours and they can be easily defeated, and there is nothing to worry about, then you are mistaken. These warriors are all mighty bowmen just like Bhima and Arjuna, and the arrows from whose bows are as vicious as they come. The warriors such as Yuyudhana (who is also known as Satyaki), Virata and Drupada are distinguished as ‘maha-rathi’ meaning ‘the mightiest of chariot warriors’.

1.5          SHLOKA 1.5

धृष्टकेतुश्चेकितानः काशिराजश्च वीर्यवान्
पुरुजित्कुन्तिभोजश्च शैब्यश्च नरपुङ्गवः ५॥

Dhrstaketus cekitanah kasirajas ca viryavan                |
Purujit Kuntibhojas ca saibyas ca nara-pungavah ||1.5||
Meaning: There are also great, heroic, powerful fighters like Dhrstaketu, Cekitana, Kasiraja, Purujit, Kuntibhoja and Saibya.

Duryodhana continues to enlist the warriors in the enemy camp to ensure that Dronacharya does not get complacent and that he prepares for the battle in the right earnest.

1.6          SHLOKA 1.6

युधामन्युश्च विक्रान्त उत्तमौजाश्च वीर्यवान्
सौभद्रो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्व एव महारथाः ६॥

Yudhamanyus ca vikranta uttamaujas ca viryavan        |
Saubhadro draupadeyas ca sarva eva maha-rathah ||1.6||
Meaning: There are the mighty Yudhamanyu, the very powerful Uttamauja, the son of Subhadra and the sons of Draupadi. All these warriors are great chariot fighters.

Duryodhana goes on further with his list of other warriors so that Dronacharya feels offended enough to prove him wrong by showing his full might in the battlefield.

1.7          SHLOKA 1.7

अस्माकं तु विशिष्टा ये तान्निबोध द्विजोत्तम
नायका मम सैन्यस्य संज्ञार्थं तान्ब्रवीमि ते ७॥

Asmakam tu visista ye tan nibodha dvijottama                  |
Nayaka mama sainyasya samjnartham tan bravimi te ||1.7||

Meaning: O’ the best of the dvijas (Brahmanas), for your information, let me tell you about the captains who are especially qualified to lead my military force.

Receiving not much of a response from Dronacharya to his long speech and to make amends for his censuring him, Duryodhana changes tack and begins to enumerate the names of the warriors on his side, also exaggerating their qualities, in order to look self-confident and hide his nervousness.

1.8          SHLOKA 1.8

भवान्भीष्मश्च कर्णश्च कृपश्च समितिञ्जयः
अश्वत्थामा विकर्णश्च सौमदत्तिस्तथैव ८॥

Bhavan Bhishmas ca Karnas ca Krpas ca samitim-jayah     |
Asvatthama Vikarnas ca Saumadattis tathaiva ca        ||1.8||
Meaning: There are personalities like yourself, Bhishma, Karna, Kripacharya, Asvatthama, Vikarna and the son of Somadatta called Bhurisrava, who are always victorious in battle.

Duryodhana mentioned the exceptional heroes all of whom were ever-victorious. He lists Bhishma, Karna, Kripacharya, Ashvatthama (son of Dronacharya), Vikarna (brother of Duryodhana), and Saumadatti, or Bhurisrava (son of the King of the Bahlikas).

1.9          SHLOKA 1.9

अन्ये बहवः शूरा मदर्थे त्यक्तजीविताः
नानाशस्त्रप्रहरणाः सर्वे युद्धविशारदाः ९॥

Anye ca bahavah sura mad-arthe tyakta-jivitah          |
Nana-sastra-praharanah sarve yuddha-visaradah ||1.9||
Meaning: There are many other heroes who are prepared to lay down their lives for my cause. All of them are well equipped with different kinds of weapons, and all are experienced in military science.

Duryodharana goes on further to assert that there are many others – like Jayadratha, Krtavarma, Salya, etc.— who are all determined to lay down their lives in support of his cause.

1.10        SHLOKA 1.10

अपर्याप्तं तदस्माकं बलं भीष्माभिरक्षितम्
पर्याप्तं त्विदमेतेषां बलं भीमाभिरक्षितम् १०॥

Aparyaptam tad asmakam balam Bhishmabhiraksitam        |
Paryaptam tv idam etesam balam Bhimabhiraksitam ||1.10||
Meaning:  Our strength is immeasurable, and we are perfectly protected by Grandfather Bhishma, whereas the strength of the Pandavas, carefully protected by Bhima, is limited.

In his estimation of comparative strength Duryodhana thinks that the strength of his armed forces is immeasurable, being specifically protected by the most experienced general, Grandfather Bhishma. On the other hand, the forces of the Pandavas were limited being protected by a less experienced general Bhima when compared with that of Bhishma.  Duryodhana was always envious of Bhima but at the same time, he was confident of his victory on account of the presence of Bhishma, who was a far superior general.

1.11        SHLOKA 1.11

अयनेषु सर्वेषु यथाभागमवस्थिताः
भीष्ममेवाभिरक्षन्तु भवन्तः सर्व एव हि ११॥ 

Ayanesu ca sarvesu yatha-bhagam avasthitah              |
Bhishmam evabhiraksantu bhavantah sarva eva hi ||1.11||
Meaning: Now all of you must give full support to Grandfather Bhishma, standing at your respective strategic points in the phalanx of the army.

Duryodhana, after praising the prowess of Bhishma, went on to praise others so that they do not think that he considered them less important, and hence chose to add to the list of warriors on his side. He emphasized that Bhishma was undoubtedly the greatest hero, but he was old.  So everyone must hold their positions and offer cover to him from all sides as he gets engaged in the fight. It was important that other warriors should not leave their strategic positions and not allow the enemy to break through the phalanx.

Duryodhana clearly felt that the victory of the Kurus depended on the presence of Bhishma. He was confident of the full support of Bhishma Pitamaha and Dronacharya in the battle because he knew well that they were bound by a sense of duty to the King, although they had some affinity for the Pandavas.

1.12     SHLOKA 1.12

तस्य सञ्जनयन्हर्षं कुरुवृद्धः पितामहः
सिंहनादं विनद्योच्चैः शङ्खं दध्मौ प्रतापवान् १२॥

Tasya Sanjanayan harsam Kuru-vrddhah Pitamahah  |
Simha-nadam vinadyoccaih sankham dadhmau pratapavan ||1.12||
Meaning: Then Bhishma, the great valiant grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, the grandfather of the fighters, blew his conchshell very loudly, like the roar of a lion, giving Duryodhana joy.

The legend of the Kuru dynasty, Bhishma, could understand the anxiety of his grandson Duryodhana, and out of his natural compassion for him, tried to cheer him up by blowing his conch-shell very loudly, befitting his position as their leader.

1.13        SHLOKA 1.13

ततः शङ्खाश्च भेर्यश्च पणवानकगोमुखाः
सहसैवाभ्यहन्यन्त शब्दस्तुमुलोऽभवत् १३॥ 

Tatah sankhas ca bheryas ca panavanaka-gomukhah
Sahasaivabhyahanyanta sa sabdas tumulo ‘bhavat    ||1.13||
Meaning: After that, the conch-shells, bugles, trumpets, drums and horns were all suddenly sounded, and the combined sound was tumultuous.

1.14     SHLOKA 1.14

ततः श्वेतैर्हयैर्युक्ते महति स्यन्दने स्थितौ
माधवः पाण्डवश्चैव दिव्यौ शङ्खौ प्रदध्मतुः १४॥

Tatah svetair hayair yukte mahati syandane sthitau |
Madhavah Pandavas caiva divyau sankhau pradadhmatuh ||1.14||
Meaning: On the other side, both Lord Shri Krishna and Arjuna, stationed on their divine chariot drawn by white horses, sounded their transcendental conch-shells.

In contrast with the conch shell blown by Bhishma, the conchshells in the hands of Shri Krishna (Panchajanyam) and Arjuna (Devadattam) are described as transcendental.

The impact of the sound of these transcendental conch shells indicated that there was no hope of victory for the other side – “Jayas tu pandu-putranam yesam pakse Janardanah” – Victory is always with persons like the sons of Pandu because Shri Krishna was on their side.

And whenever and wherever the Lord is present, the Goddess of fortune is also there because the She is inseparable from the Lord – I refer to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (6.10.10) – “Agalagillen iraiyum en alarmel mangai  urai marba” meaning “O Lord, you bear the inseparable Lotus-dame Lakshmi on your chest!”

Therefore, victory and fortune were awaiting Arjuna, as indicated by the transcendental sound produced by the conch-shell of Shri Krishna. Besides that, the chariot on which both of them were  seated was donated by Agni (the fire-god) to Arjuna.  This indicated that this chariot was capable of conquering all sides, wherever it was drawn over the three worlds.

1.15        SHLOKA 1.15

पाञ्चजन्यं हृषीकेशो देवदत्तं धनञ्जयः
पौण्ड्रं दध्मौ महाशङ्खं भीमकर्मा वृकोदरः १५॥ 

Pancajanyam Hrshikesho Devadattam Dhananjayah     |
Paundram dadhmau maha-sankham Bhima-karma Vrkodarah ||1.15||
Meaning: Then, Shri Krishna blew His conch-shell, called Pancajanyam; Arjuna blew his conch, the Devadattam; and Bhima, the voracious eater and performer of Herculean tasks, blew his terrific conch shell called Paundram.

Shri Krishna is referred as Hrshikesha in this verse because He is the owner and controller of all senses. All the living entities are part and parcel of Him, and, therefore, the senses of these living entities are also part and parcel of His senses.  The Lord, situated in the hearts of all living entities, directs their senses. But in the case of a pure devotee He directly controls the senses.

On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Lord directly controls the transcendental senses of Arjuna, and thus the use of His particular name of Hrshikesha. The use of Hrshikesha assumes significance as He gives directions to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Arjuna is referred to as ‘Dhananjaya’ in this verse because he helped King Yudhistra in fetching wealth by conqueiring kingdoms when it was required for the Rajasuya Yagna. Arjuna blew his conch called Devadattam.

Bhima is also known as Vrkodara because he could eat as voraciously as he could perform Herculean tasks such as killing the demon Hidimba.  Vrkodara also means wolf waisted or wolf-bellied, referring to Bhima’s six pack abs.  Bhima blew his conch called Paundram.

1.16     SHLOKA 1.16

अनन्तविजयं राजा कुन्तीपुत्रो युधिष्ठिरः
नकुलः सहदेवश्च सुघोषमणिपुष्पकौ १६॥

Anantavijayam raja Kunti-putro Yudhisthirah         |
Nakulah Sahadevas ca sughosa-manipuspakau ||1.16||
Meaning: King Yudhisthira, the son of Kunti, blew his conch shell, the Anantavijaya, and Nakula and Sahadeva blew the Sughosa and Manipuspaka.

1.17     SHLOKA 1.17

काश्यश्च परमेष्वासः शिखण्डी महारथः
धृष्टद्युम्नो विराटश्च सात्यकिश्चापराजितः १७॥

Kasyas ca paramesv-asah sikhandi ca maha-rathah       |
Dhrstadyumno viratas ca satyakis caparajitah          ||1.17||
Meaning: That great archer the King of Kasi, the great fighter Sikhandi, Dhrstadyumna, Virata and the unconquerable Satyaki,

1.18        SHLOKA 1.18

द्रुपदो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्वशः पृथिवीपते
सौभद्रश्च महाबाहुः शङ्खान्दध्मुः पृथक्पृथक् १८॥

Drupado Draupadeyas ca sarvasah prthivi-pate |
Saubhadras ca maha-bahuh sankhan dadhmuh prthak prthak ||1.18||
Meaning: Drupada, the sons of Draupadi, and the others, O King, such as the son of Subhadra, greatly armed, all blew their respective conch-shells.

So, the different types of conch-shells blown by the different personalities from the Pandavas camp, beginning with the Lord’s Panchajanyam, were all very encouraging to the fighting soldiers.

1.19        SHLOKA 1.19

घोषो धार्तराष्ट्राणां हृदयानि व्यदारयत्   
नभश्च पृथिवीं चैव तुमुलोऽभ्यनुनादयन् १९॥

Sa ghoso Dhartarastranam hrdayani vyadarayat            |
Nabhas ca Prthivim caiva tumulo ‘bhyanunadayan ||1.19||
Meaning: The tumultuous sound of these different conch-shells vibrating both in the sky and on the earth, pierced the hearts of the sons of Dhritarashtra shattering their confidence.

When Bhishma and the others on Duryodhana’s camp blew their respective conch-shells, there was no heart-break on the part of Pandavas or their army. But in this particular verse, it is mentioned that the hearts of the sons of Dhrtarashtra were shattered by the sounds vibrating from the Pandava camps conch-shells.

Sanjaya informed King Dhrtarashtra very tactfully that his policy of deceiving the sons of Pandu to enthrone his own sons on the seat of the kingdom was neither wise nor righteous. These were ominous signs of destruction of the whole Kuru dynasty beginning with the grandsire, Bhishma, down to the grandsons and others—including Kings from many states—who were all present there, were doomed. The great catastrophe was about to unfold which was as a result of King Dhrtarashtra’s prejudice, envy, sense of entitlement and greed.

1.20        SHLOKA 1.20

अथ व्यवस्थितान्दृष्ट्वा धार्तराष्ट्रान् कपिध्वजः
प्रवृत्ते शस्त्रसम्पाते धनुरुद्यम्य पाण्डवः २०॥

atha vyavasthitan drstva dhartarastran kapi-dhvajah      |
pravrtte sastra-sampate dhanur udyamya pandavah ||1.20||

Hrshikesham tada vakyam idam aha mahi-pate

Meaning: O King, at that time Arjuna, the son of Pandu, who was seated in his chariot, his flag marked with Hanuman, stood up raising his bow and spoke to Hrshikesha these words (to be covered in next part).

The stage has been set and the battle is just about to begin. The sons of Dhrtarashtra were more or less disheartened by the unassailable arrangement of the military force of the Pandavas, who were guided by Lord Shri Krishna on the battlefield.

As Arjuna stood up in his chariot and picked up his bow, he spoke to Shri Krishna the following words;  which turned out to be the beginning of a long dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna (the Krishna-Arjuna Samvada), that gave us the great Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat



Invoking the blessings of Sri Swami Desikan and Shri Krishna, I embark on this journey of gaining a deeper understanding of this great source of knowledge for the human kind – “Srimad Bhagavad Gita”!

As I began with this introduction, a friend came in to deliver me “Prasadam (Laddoo)” from Tirupati, signifying a divine blessing to begin this journey! With that, I begin my quest for gaining a deeper meaning of the purpose of our life.

The word “Gita” means song and Bhagavad Gita means the God’s song. The Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual text composed by Maharishi Veda Vyasa as revealed to him by Shri Krishna,  It comprises of a 700-verses and forms part of the great epic ‘Mahabharata’.

Gita is a quintessential part of the Prasthana Trayam, the holy books of Sanatana Dharma,. Prasthana trayam, literally, three sources (or axioms), or texts of Hindu philosophy, especially of the Vedanta schools:

  1. The Upanishads, known as Upadesha prasthana (injunctive texts), and the Shruti Prasthana (the starting point or axiom of revelation), especially the Principal Upanishads.
  2. The Brahma Sutras, known as Nyaya Prasthana or Yukti Prasthana (logical text or axiom of logic)
  3. The Bhagavad Gita, known as Sadhana Prasthana (practical text), and the Smriti Prasthana (the starting point or axiom of remembered tradition)

Srimad Bhagavad Gita speaks about “the way of living, the nature of things and provides many paths to attain self-realisation.” It speaks about humanity, Reality and our place in that Reality, as well as the actions we are to take to find inner peace. It emphasizes the various forms of Yogas — ways in which humans can deal with the challenges of the ever-changing world and the constant vacillation of emotions of the mind. It deals with the path to wisdom and the relationship of self (Atma) with that of the ultimate Reality (ParamAtma).

The essence of the Gita is that it establishes a person’s right to question every aspect of life.  Sanatana Dharma (ancient wisdom) thrives on “tarka” or debate to explore and find “truth”.  There are many paths that lead to the Absolute truth and each path, followed with utmost faith and devotion, leads to Self-realisation and Salvation.

The Bhagavad Gita is set as a dialogue between a human, namely, Arjuna, and the God Reality, Shri Krishna. The dialogue between the two establishes the principle to question life and gain a true understanding.  Shri Krishna answers Arjuna’s many questions that clarify the confusions and doubts clouding Arjuna’s mind.

The core principles of Srimad Bhagavad Gita are:

  • The consciousness that exists in the macrocosm and the consciousness that exists in each one of us is one and the same. If one understand what upholds one’s being, one can understand the consciousness that sustains and upholds the Cosmos.
  • Everything is composed of matter (that which forms matter) called “Prakriti”, and Spirit or Consciousness called “Purusha”.
  • The life on Earth has only one purpose – to know the spiritual foundation that sustains and upholds the cosmos and all that is there.
  • Humans are capable of this self-realisation, which is knowing the Absolute.

The knowledge found within the Bhagavad-Gita is incomparable as it gives specific information regarding the purpose of human existence, the immortality of the soul and our eternal relationship with God. This information applies to each and every one of us without exception. Without realization of our divine relationship with the God it is impossible to establish our eternal relationship with Him.

There are three paths which lead directly to establishing a relationship with God. According to the Bhagavad-Gita these paths have been designated as the yoga of perfect actions, the yoga of perfect devotion and the yoga of perfect knowledge. These three paths have been fully explained in the Bhagavad-Gita, within chapter 23 to 40 in the Bhishma-Parva of Mahabharata.

The Bhagavad-Gita consists of 18 chapters and each chapter is called a Yoga. Yoga is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness. So each chapter is a specialized yoga revealing the path of attaining realization of the Ultimate Truth.

The first six chapters have been classified as the Karma Yoga section as they deal with the realisation of the Ultimate Consciousness through actions.

The middle six chapters are known as the Bhakti Yoga as they principally pertain to the path of devotion to attain communion with the Ultimate Consciousness.

The final six chapters are regarded as the Jnana Yoga as they explain the science of the attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness through the intellect.

Aum ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya |
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah ||
Meaning: I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.

जय श्री कृष्णाJai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat

Bhakta Kavi Jayadeva Goswami

Bhakta Kavi Jayadeva Goswami, was a Sanksrit poet during the 12th century. He is most known for his epic composition Gita Govinda which vividly describes Shri Krishna’s love for Gopikas in general and Radha in particular.

The Gita Govinda is organized into twelve chapters. Each chapter is further sub-divided into twenty-four divisions called Prabandhas. The Prabandhas contain couplets grouped into eights, called Ashtapadis. The poem presents the view that Radha is greater than Shri Krishna, is considered an important part of the Bhakti movement, in which Jayadeva describes Lord Shri Krishna’s yearning for Radha!

The poems also elaborates the eight moods of the Heroine, the Ashta Nayika, which has been an inspiration for many compositions and choreographic works in Indian classical dances.

Sri Jayadeva – Ashtapadi reveals the  True Essence of Love between Radha and Shri Krishna.  Sri Gita Govinda Mahakavyam declares the beautiful blend and unison of JivAtma with ParamAtma.

The twelve chapters of Gita Govinda vividly describes the different facet of Shri Krishna:

  1. Samoda Damodaram (Exuberant Krishna)
  2. Aklesha Keshavam (Blithesome Krishna)
  3. Mugdha Madhusudanam (Winsome Krishna)
  4. Snigdha Madhusudanam (Tender Krishna)
  5. Sakankṣa Puṇdarikakṣham (Passionate Krishna)
  6. Dhrṣta Vaikuṇṭa (Audacious Krishna)
  7. Nagara Narayanah (Dexterous Krishna)
  8. Vilakṣya Lakṣmipatih (Apologetic Krishna)
  9. Mugdhada Mukunda (Unpretentious Krishna)
  10. Chatura Chaturbhujah (Tactful Krishna)
  11. Sananda Damodaram (Joyful Krishna)
  12. Suprita Pitambaraj (Exultant Krishna)

Jayadeva’s birth

jayadevaJayadeva was born to Kamalabai and Narayana Sastri, a very pious Brahmin couple. Kamalabai was very devout and longed for a child. She prayed to the Lord to be blessed with a child.  One night, Lord Krishna appeared in his dream and told him that his wife’s prayer would be fulfilled and they would soon be blessed with an illustrious son. Soon, Kamalabai gave birth to Jaya Deva.

Jaya Deva was very devoted to Shri Krishna from his childhood and his Upanayanam ceremony was performed when he was only five years old.  He learnt the scriptures at a very young age and was incessantly lost in prayers of Shri Krishna.  His parents left for Vanaprastha after sometime and Jayadeva led a nomadic life with no fixed abode.

One day, he had a divine visualization and went into an ecstatic state. In his divine vision, he saw the Yamuna River flowing through four Blue Mountains. Beside the river bank, under a tree, Lord Shri Krishna was playing his flute delightfully. The vision of Krishna and His music enthralled Jayadeva so much that he composed a Shloka extempore. This gave birth to the famous epic, ‘Gita Govinda’, validating the words ‘Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and emotions’.

Jayadeva described Sriman Narayana’s Dasha Avataar in his first Astapadi ‘Jaya Jagadeesha Hare! He had a visualisation of these ten avatars and was in a trance as he witnessed the vast ocean which depicted the presence of God in His vast creation. He prayed to the Lord and sought his blessing.  Later, he went to Jagannath Puri Temple with his friend Parasara and spent all his time in prayer, meditation and chanting the name of the Lord.

Deva Sharma, a Brahmin in Puri, had a daughter by the name Padmavathi.  As he was keen to get his daughter married, he prayed to Lord Jagannath for His blessings. The Lord appeared in Deva Sharma’s dream and advised him to perform her marriage with His ardent devotee Jayadeva.

Accordingly, Deva Sharma and his wife went in search of Jayadeva.  When they found him they told him of Lord’s wish. Jayadeva refused to marry as he was leading the life of Sanyasi and said he was unfit for Grihastadharma. But Deva Sharma refused to accept that and since it was Lord Jagannath’s order, he could not go against it.  Jayadeva was forced to oblige as he too wouldn’t oppose the Lord’s wishes. He married Padmavathi and came back to his village Kendybilva and they lived happily there and prayed to Radha Madhav in their house regularly.

After sometime Jayadeva went on a pilgrimage. On his way he met King Lakshmana Sena who was very much impressed with Jayadeva and forced him to stay with him and accepted him as his Guru. Later, Padmavathi joined Jayadeva, and the King was surprised to learn that his Guru was a Grihasta.

Jayadeva explained to the King that one can be a Sanyasin even as a Grihasta if one is performs one’s duties without attachment to the fruits. He explained that renunciation meant gaining control over the mind and all the senses. Jayadeva’s life is an example to the world that God-realisation can be had even as a Grihasta. Several other Saints such as Swamy Desikan, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa have gained self realisation while leading the life of a Grihasta.

Padmavathi was a perfect match for Jayadeva as she too was a pious lady and was inspired by her husband’s faith, treated him like a God. She spent her hours in spiritual discourses to other ladies in the court. The Queen too was one of her disciples but unknowingly had the pride of a royal family that propped up every now and then.

Once Padmavathi was discussing Sati Sahagamanam with the Queen. She opined that ‘whoever dies on her husband’s funeral pyre is not a great lady. A true wife is one who breathes her last, the minute she hears of her husband’s demise.’  The Queen wanted to test Padmavathi on her assertion, so she decided to play a practical trick on her.

The next day she informed Padmavathi, with tears in her eyes, that Jayadeva was killed by a lion while accompanying the King in the forest. As soon as she completed her statement, Padmavathi fell unconscious and upon close examination the Queen discovered that Padmavathi had breathed her last! The Queen was shocked and remorseful of her action and was worried how Jayadeva and the King would react to her foolish behaviour. While the King got furious, Jayadeva was not perturbed and he picked her up and prayed to God.  Within no time Padmavathi woke up as if from sleep and she too joined their prayer. The Queen was relieved and humbly acknowledged the Bhakti of Jayadeva and the pious nature of Padmavathi.

After some time Jayadeva came back to his village and while residing here, he composed his famous  “Gita Govinda”.

Gita Govinda

jayadevas_gitagovindaJayadeva wrote poem Gita Govinda which celebrates the glorious divine love of Radha and Krishna. The Gita Govinda comprising of Sanskrit songs describes Shri Krishna’s courtship of Radha. With lucid and tender lyrics, the Gita Govinda explored many aspects of love and passion.

At a mundane level, it narrates the love of Radha and Krishna as simple cowherds, but at a spiritual level the poem describes the union of JivAtma with ParamAtma.


One day while Jayadeva was composing the Ashtapadi, he got the inspiration to write the beautiful lines ’Smara Garala  Kandanam Mama Shirsi Mandanam Dhehi Padha Pallavam Udharam ….’

O’ love, place the tender-leafy foot of yours on my head as it is an antidote to the venom of Love God…

But as soon as he penned these lines, he rubbed it off immediately and felt extremely guilty. He threw away his pen and with a wavering mind got up from his seat.  His eyes welled with tears as he lamented, ‘What sin have I committed… Apacharam…Apacharam.  How could I write these lines? How can a devotee (Radha) place her feet on Lord Krishna’s head?

Jayadeva felt very restless and could not stop thinking of the sin he had committed.  He walked out of the house towards the river bank.  After seeing her husband’s restlessness Padmavathi prayed to Lord to help her husband complete the compositions of Ashtapadi without any break.

Padmavathi expressed her surprise and went to get the shlokas and the stylus.  Jayadev said ‘I was struck with the poem but got flash with wonderful lines to complete the poem and so I came back.’

He completed the poem as below:
Smara-Garala-Khandanam Mama Shirasi Mandanam
Dehi Pada-Pallavam Udaaram
Jvalati Mayi Daruno Madana-Kadanaruno
Haratu Tad-upahita-vikaram ||19.8||

O’ Dear Radha, your tender-leafy foot is an antidote to the venom of Love God. Please place it on my head, and make it my motif and my glory… for that scorching fire of Love God is burning me intolerably… hence, tread my body to tread on that Love God, to tread out his fire and its abnormalities.

After that he asked Padmavathi to arrange water for his bath and his bath, he offered nivedanam to God and had food and dozed off comfortably on his bed.

A little while later, Padmavathi began to eat, but there was a knock on the door again.  She was shocked and confused to see Jayadeva standing before her. Jayadeva was even more than surprised and questioned her ‘What’s wrong with you today? Have you ever dined before offering food to the Lord or before I had my food? I have never seen such a thing before!’

Padmavathi was even more shocked and stammered, “but you came back from a little while ago, took the poem, and completed it. After that had your bath, did prayers, had food and were resting. Jayadeva immediately knew what might have transpired and rushed into the room. But nobody was there in the room. He asked Padma to bring the Shloka to see how it was completed. He had guessed it right! The Lord Himself came to complete the poem and had written the same words as Jayadeva had originally composed it.

Jayadeva was ecstatic at one level that his composition was accepted by the Lord but at another level felt sad that he missed Lord’s Darshan.  He thought, how lucky Padmavathi was as she saw the Lord and served Him personally. He cried unto the Lord. O’ Prabhu, O’ Krishna! What wrong have I done that you did not grace me your Darshan? You left me out and blessed Padmavathi alone.’ He grabbed the food from Padvamathi’s leaf since it was the food enjoyed by the Lord Himself! He did not care for Padmavathi’s protest that he was eating from her half-eaten leaf.

After this incident, Jayadeva completed his Gita Govindam with renewed vigour. He was deeply involved in his songs and sang them wholeheartedly. The Lord followed him, invisibly and wholeheartedly, to listen to his rendition.

The Ashtakas are sung before Lord Jagannath during the annual festival. People were struck with the splendid music and poetry of Gita Govinda and praised it highly. The fame of Jaya Deva reached far and wide.

ggOnce a woman was singing the Gita Govinda beautifully in the forests as she was collecting fruits for her daily trade. Lord Jagannath was very pleased with her singing and He began to wander in the forest after her to hear her rendition. The Lord’s garment was torn to pieces while He was running all over the forest, as it was caught in the thorny bushes of the forest.  Next morning, the priest of the temple and the King saw the Pitambara of the Lord in rags. They were not able to find the reason for the torn condition of the Pitambara. They prayed to the Lord to make them know the reason.

The Lord appeared in their dream and said, ‘A woman was singing Gita Govinda in the forest. I ran in the forest to hear her song. When I ran, the Pitambara was torn to pieces by the thorns.’

The Lord becomes a slave of His devotees and will do anything for the sake of His devotees.  The King honoured the Lady for her devotion.

Jayadeva’s last days

Jayadeva had taken a vow that he would take bath in the Ganga till the end of his life. As he became old he became indisposed. The King offered a palanquin to Jayadeva but he declined to accept it. Due to his tapas, Ganga herself appeared with lotus flowers in the well of Jayadeva’s house.  Finally, Jayadeva attained the Lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna.

Every year on Sankranthi day, a big event is organised in memory of Jayadeva in his village Kendubilva and devotees chant Gita Govinda.

Such was the glorious life of Jayadeva, one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shri Krishna.  He led a simple, humble, unpretentious life with no possessions, and always found joy and happiness in meditating on Lord Shri Krishna, and was a perfect embodiment of forgiveness.

Glory to Jayadeva Goswami whose life inspires us all!


Swami Desikan composed 10 verses on “Saranagati” (absolute surrender) in his “Adaikkala Patthu” wherein he seeks refuge of Lord Varadarajar of Kancheepuram for Moksha (Liberation).  Swami Desikan has also composed ‘Nyasa Dasakam’ in Sanskrit which has a similar set of Shlokas for Saranagati.

Before we delve into the meanings of Adaikkala Patthu or the approach to Saranagati, let’s understand the rationale of our Acharyas preferring Saranagati as a means to attain Moksha as opposed to the Jnana Marga or the Bhakti Marga as detailed in the Bhagavad Gita, both of which were available to them.  In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 12 Verse 1) Arjuna asks Bhagavan Sri Krishna this very question, which is seeking Bhagavan’s view on Jnana Marga and Bhakti Marga:

Arjuna Uvaca:
Evam satata-yukta ye bhaktas tvam paryupasate
Ye capy aksaram avyaktam tesam ke yoga-vittamah ||12.1||
Meaning: Arjuna asks: Which is considered to be more perfect, those who are properly engaged in Your devotional service, or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?

Bhagavan Sri Krishna, true to his nature, does not give a straight answer but instead lays out the paths to ‘Realisation’ and the rigour required for each of these paths.

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
mayy avesya mano ye mam nitya-yukta upasate
sraddhaya parayopetas te me yuktatama matah ||12.2||

ye tv aksaram anirdesyam avyaktam paryupasate
sarvatra-gam acintyam ca kuta-stham acalam dhruvam ||12.3||

sanniyamyendriya-gramam sarvatra sama-buddhayah
te prapnuvanti mam eva sarva-bhuta-hite ratah ||12.4||

kleso ‘dhikataras tesam avyaktasakta-cetasam
avyakta hi gatir duhkham dehavadbhir avapyate ||12.5||

Bhagavan Sri Krishna says – He whose mind is fixed on My personal form, always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith, is considered by Me to be most perfect.

But those who fully worship the unmanifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, fixed, and immovable-the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth-by controlling the various senses and being equally disposed to everyone, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all, at last attain Me.

For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.

ye tu sarvani karmani mayi sannyasya mat-parah
ananyenaiva yogena mam dhyayanta upasate ||12.6||

tesam aham samuddharta mrtyu-samsara-sagarat
bhavami na cirat partha mayy avesita-cetasam||12.7||

Meaning: For those who worships Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who have fixed their mind upon Me, O son of Prtha, for them I am the swift deliverer from the Samsara of birth and death.

Hence, Bhagavan clearly explains that both the Jnana Marga and the Bhakti Marga lead to salvation but require great rigour and discipline. However, even Sri Adi Sankara, who propounded the Advaita philosophy (Jnana Marga), composed the famous Bhaja Govindam song emphasising the need for Bhakti.

Finally, in Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan says there is an easier approach to reach Him:
Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru
Mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo ‘si me ||18.65||

Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
Aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah ||18.66||

Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus, you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.

Relinquish all forms of righteous actions, just surrender unto Me exclusively. I will deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not despair.

Bhagavan gives his assurance to Arjuna that by simply surrendering unto Him exclusively, He guarantees Moksha.

Our Acharyas led a life of austerity with discipline and rigour. They followed the path of Dharma as well as engaged in staunch Bhakti which would have made them eligible for liberation under either of those two Margas (Jnana or Bhakti).  Yet, they chose Saranagati (Absolute Surrender) as an approach to gain Moksha.  This was mainly to show the path to liberation to the followers out of their compassion as they knew that following the Jnana or the Bhakti Marga which requires rigour and discipline would be extremely difficult for the common folks who are caught in this Samsara.

Ashtanga Yoga

Before we go into Saranagati, let’s also understand Yoga as a means of attaining liberation.  Patanjali begins his treatise by stating the purpose of Yoga sutra by defining the word “yoga” in his second sutra of Book:

योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
yogah citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ — Yoga Sutras 1.2

This terse definition means ‘Yoga is the restraint (nirodhaḥ) on the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta). Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as ‘Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)’.

Yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or latent thought, and of eventually attaining a state where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself, that is, is only aware of its own nature as consciousness unmixed with any other object.  Yoga has eight different stages or ‘Angas’ and hence called as the “Ashtanga Yoga”. They are described by Patanjali as: Yama (abstinences), Niyama (observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (Realisation).

Since it is difficult to practice Yoga to perfection, Bhagavan Sri Krishna offers unconditionally the ultimate option of Saranagati for release from the cycle of Samsara.

There are many ways of performing Saranagati.  For example:

  1. Pranava Mantra: AUM iti Atamanam yunjita (Narayana Upanishad 147.8)
  2. Dwaya Mantra (as shown by Sri Ramanuja Acharya in Gadya Trayam):
    Sriman Narayana charanau Saranam prapadye
    Srimathe Narayanaya Namah
    Meaning:  Sriman Narayana, I surrender at your feet, Sriman Narayana, my obeisance to you. I hold Sriman Narayana’s feet, who is forever associated with the compassionate Goddess Sri Lakshmi, as the object of my surrender.
  1. Venkatesa Prapatti: Shree Venkatesha charanau Saranam Prapadhye
  2. Part of Nitya Karma:
    Shankha Chakra Gadha paane Dwaraka NilayAcyutah
    Govinda Pundarikaksha Rakshamaam Sharanagatam
    Meaning: O’ Acyuta, who resides in Dwaraka, holding a Conch (Shanku), Discus (Chakra) and a Mace (Gadha) in his hands (paane), O’ Govinda, who has Lotus-like eyes (Pundarikaksha), please protect me, for I have come to you seeking your refuge.

Saranagati (Prapatti) consists of three steps:

  1. Firstly, surrender one’s Atma (self) — Recognize that this Atma is not independent but is subservient to the Lord. This is called Svarupa Samarpanam.
  2. Second, surrender the responsibility for our protection to the Lord — this is called Bhara Samarpanam or Bhara Nyasam.
  3. Finally, surrender all the fruits of our actions arising out of existence to Bhagavan with humility as if we had no part in it — this is called Phala Samarpanam.

In the first Shloka of Nyasa Daskam, Swami Desikan bring this out nicely – ‘aham, mad rakshana bharah, mad rakshana phalam tatha, na mama, Sripatereva iti, Atmanam nikshipet, budhah’.

Saranagati has five pre-conditions (Angas) that are to be embraced before offering oneself to Lord’s feet (Surrender) to serve Him:

  1. Accepting those things that are favourable for devotion to God (Anukulya Sankalpam)
  2. Rejecting those things that hinder righteous actions (Pratikulya varjanam)
  3. Considering God to be the protector in all circumstances (Maha Vishvasam or Raksishyati Vishvasah)
  4. Accepting God as one’s maintainer (Goptrtva Varanam)
  5. Cultivating a humble attitude (Karpanyam)
  6. Finally, the sixth one is called the ‘Angi’ which is the act of surrendering everything at the Lord’s feet (Atma-niksepam)

The five Angas of Saranagati, namely Anukulya Sankalpam, Pratikulya varjanam, Raksishyati Vishvasah, Goptrata Varanam and Karpanyam should be practiced along with the Angi namely ‘Atmaniksepa’. The Atmaniksepa is the act of Saranagati while the Angas precursors that prepare us and equip us for Saranagati.

Vibheeshana Saranagati – Illustrates all the Saranagati Vidhis

Ramayana is admitted as a practical guide and is considered as the Saranagati Veda in which Vibhishana’s Saranagati to Rama is regarded as the Upanishad. The surrender of Vibhishana illustrates the five ‘Angas’ of Saranagati and the ‘Angi’ the act of surrender as specified in the Saranagati Vidhi.

Vibhishana sought refuge in Rama, rebelling against the authority of his brother, who symbolised evil for him.  He requested his brother Ravana to set Sita free and return her safely to Rama and seek forgiveness. He expressed this in quite a number of times.


The Shloka in Ramayana states:
पुरा शरत् सूर्य मरीच्चि सम्निभान् |
नव अग्र पुन्खान् सुदृढान् नृप आत्मजः |
सृजति अमोघान् विशिखान् वधाय ते |
प्रदीयताम् दाशरथाय मैथिली || ६-९-२१
Meaning: Before Rama the prince discharges for your destruction, very strong and unfailing arrows equal to the rays of autumnal sun and provided with new heads and shafts, let Seetha be given away to Rama.

तदेवम् प्रस्तुते कार्ते प्रायश्चित्तमिदम् क्षमम् |
रोचये वीर वैदेही राघवाय प्रदीयताम् || ६-१०-२२
Meaning: O’ brave man! When the omens of evil forces are appearing this way, I would like you to atone for your sins by giving back Seetha to Rama.

This is an illustration of the first Anga namely, Anukulya Sankalpam, acts that are righteous and conducive to the devotion of the Lord.

Ravana’s refusal to heed to Vibhishana’s advice and the latter’s subsequent abandonment of Ravana when he rebukes Vibhishana can be interpreted as the avoidance of evils i.e., Pratikulya Varjanam.  This is further elaborated by his rejection of all the possessions including his sons, wife, friends etc. -‘परित्यक्ता मया लंका मित्राणि च धनानि च || ६-१९-५’. The very abandonment of Lanka shows this Anga.

The third Anga, namely Raksishyati Vishvasah or Maha Vishvasah, is indicated in the following verse of Vibhishana – Sarvalokesarnyaya Raghavaya Mahatmane which means Raghava is the refuge to all the living creatures in all the worlds.

The fourth Anga Goptrata varanam consists in Vibhishana’s faith as expressed in the words:
भवद् गतम् हि मे राज्यम् च जीवितम् च सुखानि च | ६-१९-५
Meaning:  I place my kingdom, life and happiness at your disposal.

The fifth Anga namely Karpanyam (humility or helplessness) is traced in the following utterances of Vibhishana when he introduced himself to Sugriva and others.

अनुजो रावणस्य अहम् तेन च अस्मि अवमानितः || ६-१९-४
Meaning: I am the younger brother of Ravana and I have been humiliated by him.  

The Angi, Atmaniksepa or surrender of the Self is expressed in:
निवेदेअयत माम् क्षिप्रम् राघवाय महात्मने |
सर्व लोक शरण्याय विभीषणम् उपस्थितम् ||६-१७-१७
Meaning: Inform immediately to high soul Rama, the protector of all the worlds, that Vibhishana, has come.

And then Vibhishana says: भवन्तम् सर्व भूतानाम् शरण्यम् शरणम् गतः | ६-१९-४ – I place my kingdom, life and happiness at your disposal.

Lord Rama declares that He is ready to admit into His fold even one who poses himself to be friendly and assures that He would not forget him even though there are defects in him. He states:
मित्र भावेन सम्प्राप्तम् न त्यजेयम् कथंचन |
दोषो यदि अपि तस्य स्यात् सताम् एतद् अगर्हितम् ||६-१८-३
Mitra bhavena sampraptam na tyajeyam katamcana I
Dosho yadyapi tasya syat satam etad agarhitam II
Meaning: I will never give up anybody who approaches Me with friendly attitude even if he is full of defects. This is the way of noble people.

Sri Rama further says:
Sakrdeva prapannaya tavasmi ca yacate |
Abhayam sarva bhutebhyo dadamy etad vratam mama ||18.33||
Meaning: He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that ‘I am yours’, I shall give him the assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge. 

Now let’s look at Swami Desikan’s Adaikkala Patthu.

Adaikkala Patthu

Adaikkala Patthu (also written in Sanskrit by Swami Desikan as ‘Nyasa Dasakam’) elaborates on the approach to Saranagati (absolute surrender to the God), the main approach for the followers of Vishisht Advaitha philosophy. Bhara-nyasam, Bhara-Samarpanam, Prapatti or Saranagati are all acts of surrendering oneself to the service of the Lord and offering the fruits of all actions at the feet of the Lord.

Swami Desikan describes in 10 verses, the approach to Saranagati wherein he surrenders to the Lord Varadaraja of Kancheepuram, whose temple stands on a hill called Hastha Giri (also called Atthi giri in Tamil), and seeks Moksham or Liberation. Let’s now look at the verses:

Pasuram 1

பத்தி முதலாம் மவதில், பதி எனக்கு கூடாமல்,
எத்திசையும் உழன்றோடி, இளைத்து விழும் காகம் போல்,
முத்திதரு நகர் ஏழில் முக்கியமாம் கச்சி தனில்,
அத்திகிரி அருளாளற்கு, அடைக்கலம் நான் புகுந்தேனே ||1||

Patthi mudhalaam mavathil, pathi yenakku koodamal,
Yethisayum uzhandru odi ilaithu vizhum kakam pol,
Mukthi tharum nagar ezhil mukkiyamaam kachi thanil,
Athigiri arul aalarkku, adaikkalam naan pugundhene     ||1||
Meaning: I was not able to practice the path of devotion as there wasn’t any suitable place for Bhakti that allowed me to focus without distraction of the mind.  Just like the crow which scurried in eight different directions that got very tired in the end only to come back and fall at the Lord’s feet for mercy, I surrender to the blessed Lord Varadaraja presiding over Hasthagiri, who is in Kancheepuram, which is the greatest blessed towns among the Seven towns that lead to Salvation.

In his opening line, Swami Desikan laments on the lack of a suitable place for praying to the Lord without distraction and single minded devotion.  He compares his condition to that of the Crow which scurried frantically in all eight directions seeking refuge from others but in the end fell at Lord’s feet.

Swami Desikan in this verse is referring to the Kakasura’s episode from Srimad Ramayana. Kakasura (Indra’s son in a crow form) committed a blunder by physically hurting and injuring Sita. This enraged Rama attacked Kakasura with a simple grass and ultimately fell at Rama’s feet helplessly. The crow’s father Indra abandoned him and so did the sages as they could not intervene against Rama’s arrow.  Kakasura wandered all the worlds and at last surrendered before Rama seeking his forbearance.  Valmiki lucidly narrates this in the following Shlokas:

Sa pitra ca parityahtah suraisca samaharscbhih,
trin lokan samparikramya tamova saranam gatah.
satam nipatitam bhumah sapranyah saranagatim,
vadhirhemepi kakutstah krupaya paryapalayat ||
Meaning: That Kakasura, having been disowned by his father the Gods and the Sages, wandered all the three worlds and took refuge in Rama. Kakasura deserved death but was protected because he took refuge in Rama and fell on the ground before Him. Sri Rama forgave him but plucked one of the eyes as a measure to thwart its wickedness by constantly reminding of the incident leading to loss of an eye.

Swami Desikan says after wandering many places, just like the Kakasura, I have come to you, O’Lord Vardaraja seeking your refuge.

In the third line of his Pasruam, Swami Desikan says of the seven holy places – Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kashi, Kanchi, Avanti (Ujjain) and Dwarkavati – that grant Liberation, Kanchipeerum is one of the important ones and hence I am seeking Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi, residing on top of Hastha Giri to grant me refuge.

Pasuram 2

சடை முடியன், சது முகன் என்று, இவர் முதலாம் தரம் எல்லாம்,
அடைய வினை பயன் ஆகி, அழிந்து விடும் படி கண்டு,
கடி மலராள் பிரியாத, கச்சி நகர் அத்திகிரி,
இடமுடைய அருளாளர், இணை அடிகள் அடைந்தேனே ||2||

Sadai mudiyan, chathur mukanendru, ivar mudhalaam tharam yellam,
Adaya vinai payanagi, azhindu vidum padi kandu,
Kadi malarial piriyatha, kachi nagar athi giri,
Idamudaya arulaalar, inay adikal adainthene ||2||
Meaning: I have seen the boons granted by Shiva, Brahma and other Gods, have a limited span and dilapidate over time. I have seen Shiva and Brahma seek Lord’s refuge to rid of their sins. Knowing this, I surrender to the twin feet of the great Lord of Hasthigiri of Kanchi with whom the Goddess Lakshmi is ever present, and seek his grace to grant me Moksha, the eternal bliss.

Swami Desikan refers to Lord Shiva seeking Lord’s help when he had incurred Brahmahatya dosham when plucked one of Brahma’s five heads. Brahma cursed Shiva for that act which resulted in the skull getting stuck to Shiva’s hand. Shiva was forced to seek alms with that skull in hand.  He cursed such that he can get rid of his sin only if the Kabaalam is completely filled-up with food.  Shiva went around the world on a pilgrimage to find salvation from the curse by begging for food with Brahma’s skull as the begging bowl. Every time someone filled the vessel with food, it vanished immediately to Shiva’s horror.

Finally, Shiva reached Goddess Lakshmi and appealed to her.  She filled the vessel with food ending Shiva’s hunger. However, to Shiva’s dismay, Brahma’s skull still lay fixed on his hand. Shiva did penance and offered His worship to Sriman Narayana. Vishnu answered Shiva’s prayer for salvation and asked him to bathe at Kandiyur Pushkarini. Shiva took a dip in the Pushkarini and with the Lord Kamalanathan’s blessing, the kapalam detached itself from his hand. As a result, the Bhagavan, at this temple, is known as Hara Saapa Vimochana Perumal and the Pushkarini is recognized as Kapaala Thirtham.  Hara is another name for Shiva.

Swami Desikan also refers to Brahma losing the Vedas to the two demons, Madhu and Kaitapa.  Once Lord Brahma was tired of his creative activities and took some rest. Given his fatigue, Lord Brahma yawned. All the four Vedas slipped out of his open mouth. The two demons Madhu and Kaitapa, who were nearby, stole the Vedas from Brahma.  Brahma was powerless in creating life anymore without the knowledge of the Vedas. Brahma approached Lord Narayana who took the form of Hayagreeva (A man’s body with a horse’s head) and slayed the demons and retrieved the Vedas. Since Lord Hayagreeva rescued the Vedas, which are the essence of all knowledge, we worship Hayagreeva as the God of Knowledge.

Swami Desikan emphasises that it is Lord Narayana who is the saviour and protector of all the worlds including that of Brahma and Shiva.  Hence, he is approaching Lord Varadaraja of Hastha Giri who is forever with Lakshmi Piratti, who is full of compassion, as the ultimate protector and grantor of Moksha.

Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar says similarly:

சாக்கியம் கற்றோம், சமணம் கற்றோம், சங்கரனார் ஆக்கிய ஆகமநூல் ஆராய்ந்தோம்; பாக்கியத்தால் வெங்கடகிரியனை சேர்ந்தோம்.
Saakkiyam katrom Samanam katrom, Sankaranaar Aakkiya Agamanool arinthom bhaaghyataal Venkatkariyaaanai Sernthom
Meaning: We learnt Saakkiyam (Jainism), Samanam (Buddhism) and the Agamic Scriptures by Lord Shankara (Shiva) and due to sheer grace, we landed at the feet of Lord Thiruvengadathaan (Lord Venkateshwara).

Pasuram 3

தந்திரங்கள் வேரின்றித், தமது வழி அழியாது,
மந்திரங்கள் தம்மாலும், மற்றும் உள்ள உரையாலும்,
அந்தரம் கண்டடி பணிவார், அனைவர்க்கும் அருள் புரியும்,
சிந்துர வெற்பிரையவனார், சீலம் அல்லதறியேனே ||3||

Thanthirangal verindri thamathu vazhi azhiyaadhu,
Manthirangal thammalum, mathumulla urayalum,
Antharam kandu adi panivaar, anaivarkkum arul puriyum,
Sinthura verpu iraiyavanaar, seelam allathu ariyene ||3||
Meaning: After understanding the rigours of Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga to reach Him as prescribed in the Vedas, Upanishads and other scriptures, and after appreciating the Saranagati vidhi as well; and seeing the differences between them, many may choose Prapatti to get His grace. Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi, whose unbounded compassion is beyond compare, blesses all of them with his Grace, no matter the path chosen by His devotee.

Pasuram 4

காகம் இராக்கதன், மன்னர் காதலி கத்திரபந்து,
நாகம் அரண் அயன் முதலா, நாகநகரார் தமக்கும்,
போகம் உயர் வீடு பெறப், பொன் அருள் செய்தமை கண்டு,
நாகமலை நாயகனார் நல்லடி போதடைந்தேனே ||4||

Kaagam irakkadhan, mannar kadali katthira bandhu,
Nagam aran ayan mudhalaa naga nakaraar thamakkum,
Bhogamyuar veedu pera ponnarul cheythamai kandu,
Naga malai nayakanar nalladi podadainthene. ||4||
Meaning: Seeing that that Bhagavan showered aishwaryam and granted moksham to Kaagam (Kakasura), Rakshasas (Vibheeshana), Mannar Kadhali (Draupadi), Kshatrabandhu (a sinner who gets liberated by chanting Govinda), Naagam (can refer to Gajendra or Kaliyan), Aran (Shiva), Ayan (Brahma) and to the Devas etc. I surrendered myself with full faith at the feet of the Lord of Hastha Giri, (the elephant mountain) and attained Him.

Pasuram 5

உகக்கும் அவை உகந்து, உகவா அனைத்தும் ஒழிந்து, உறவு குணம்
மிக துணிவு பெற உணர்ந்து, வியன் காவலன்  என வரித்து,
சகத்தில் ஒரு புகல் இல்லாத், தவம் அறியேன் மதிட்கச்சி,
நகர்க் கருணை நாதனை, நல் அடைக்கலமாய் அடைந்தேனே ||5||

Ugakkum avai ugandhu, ugava anaithum ozhindhu, uravu gunam
Miga thunivu pera unarnthu, viyan kavalen ena varithu,
Jagathil oru pugal illa, thavam ariyen mathitkacchi,
Nagar karunai nathanai, nalla adaikkalamai adainthene. ||5||
Meaning: Choosing those that are conducive to serve the Lord, and leaving out those actions that are hindering the path, Understanding the relation between Jiva and Paramatma with great courage, taking Him as one who protects and guards, and understanding that there is no greater glory than to serve Him, I surrender completely to the merciful Lord of Kanchi.

This Pasuram covers the Shad-vidha Saranagati:

  1. Anukulya Sankalpam – Ukakkum avai uhandhu
  2. Pratikulya Varjanam – Ukava anaithum ozhindhu
  3. Maha Vishvasam – Uravu guna Miga thunivu pera unarnthu
  4. Goptretva Varanam – viyan kavalan ena varithu
  5. Karpanyam – Jagathil oru pugal illa thavam ariyen
  6. Atmaniksepam – Kachi nagar karunai nadhanai nal adaikkalamai adainthene

Bhagavan has Shad Gunas of Jnana, Shakti, Veeryam, Balam, Aishwaryam and Tejas, but above all these are qualities like Karunyam (compassion), Vatsalyam (affection), Sausheelyam (excellent disposition) and Saulabhyam (affability or ease of access) are paramount. Without, compassion all other qualities would not be of much benefit to the devotee and Bhagavan has unbounded compassion. His compassion extends even to His enemies where He gave them time to reform (e.g. Ravana, Kakasura, Shishupala etc.).

Pasuram 6

அளவுடையார் அடைந்தார்க்கும், அதன் உரையே கொண்டவர்க்கும்,
வளவுரை தந்தவன் அருளே, மன்னிய மாதவத்தோர்க்கும்,
களவொழிவார் எமர் என்ன, இசைந்தவர்க்கும் காவலராம்,
துளவ முடி அருள் வரதர், துவக்கில் எனை வைத்தேனே ||6||

Alavudayar adaintharkkum, athan uraye kondavarkkum,
Valavurai thandhavan arule, manniya mathavathorkkum,
Kalavozhivaar amar yena, isainthavarkkum kavalaraam,
Thulava mudi arul varadar, thuvakkil yenai vaithene.  ||6||
Meaning: People with great knowledge of Prapatti surrender on their own (Sva Nishtai); some depend on their Guru who have great understanding of the scriptures and follow the instructions for surrender (Ukti Nishtai); for some the Guru performs the prapatti on their behalf (Acharya Nishtai) and some people benefit from the prapatti of great devotees who surrender to the Lord with a clear understanding that their Atma or Self belongs to the Lord.  Such devotees are dear to lord and those people who are with such great devotees gain salvation by their mere association (Bhagavatha Nishtai). I surrendered myself to Varadan who is adorned with Thulasi garland who gives boon of salvation to all those who surrender unto Him by any of the four methods.

Four kinds of Prapatti have been referred in this Pasuram:

  1. Sva Nishtai – This followed by those with knowledge. Such jnanis perform Prapatthi at the sacred feet of the Lord directly (e.g. Azhwars, Acharyas)
  2. Ukthi Nishtai: The Mumukshu (One who desires Moksham) repeats the Prapatti words as per Acharyan’s instructions.
  3. Acharya Nishtai: Acharyan performs prapatti for Mumukshu.
  4. Bhagavatha Nishtai: The Mumkshu is covered within the prapatthi performed by a Bhagavatha, who is not an Acharyan. (e.g. People who were associated with Koorathazhwan or accompanied Vibheeshana were liberated by mere association or Satsang).

Pasuram 7

உமதடிகள் அடைகின்றேன் என்று, ஒரு கால் உரைத்தவரை,
அமையும் இனி என்பவர் போல், அஞ்சல் என கரம் வைத்து,
தமது அனைத்தும் அவர் தமக்கு, வழங்கியும் தாம் மிக விளங்கும்,
அமைவுடைய அருளாளர், அடி இணைய அடைந்தேனே ||7||

Umadhu adikal adaikendren yendru oru kaal uraithavarai.
Amayum ini yenbavar pol, anjal yena karam vaithu,
Thamadhu anaithum avar thamakku vazhangiyum thaam miga vilangum,
Amaivudaya arulaalar adiyinayai adainthene. ||7||
Meaning: To the one who committed to surrender at His feet even once, He Kept His hand on them assuring them to be not be afraid, and as He becomes their protector. He gives them all the goodness and wealth and is delighted at that even as His Tejas and Aishwaryam keeps growing. I surrender at the feet of that great Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi.

Pasuram 8

திண்மை குறையாமைக்கும், நிறைகைக்கும் தீவினையால்,
உண்மை மறவாமைக்கும், உள மதியில் உகக்கைக்கும்,
தன்மை கழியாமைக்கும், தரிக்கைக்கும், தணிகைக்கும்,
வண்மையுடை அருளாளர், வாசகங்கள் மறவேனே ||8||

Thinamai kuryamaikkum, niraikaikkum thee vinayaal,
Unmai maravamaikkum, ula mathiyil ugakkaikkum,
Thanmai kazhiyamaikkum tharikkaikkukm, thanikkaikkum,
Vanmai yudai arulalar vachakangal maravene ||8||
Meaning: I seek His blessing so that my faith is not diminished, and grant me wisdom.  I seek his blessing so that I never forget the truth as a result of any sin committed by me.  I seek His grace to attain bliss as a result of my surrender, and for continuing with this state of mind without feeling inferior and free from the pains of this Samsara. I would never forget the teachings of the very powerful Lord of Kanchi.

Pasuram 9

சுரிதி நினைவிவை அறியும், துணிவுடையார் தூ மொழிகள்,
பரிதி மதி ஆசிரியர், பாசுரம் சேர்ந்தருக்கணங்கள்,
கருதி ஒரு தெளிவாளால், கலக்கம் அறுத்தத்திகிரி,
பரிதி மதி நயனமுடைப், பரமன் அடி பணிந்தேனே ||9||

Surithi ninivu ivai ariyum , thunivudayor thoo mozhigal,
Parithimathi aasiriyar pasuram chernthu arukkanangal,
Karuthiyoru theli vaalaal kalakkam aruthathathu kiri,
Parithi mathi nayanamudai paraman adi paninthene.  ||9||

Meaning: I learnt from those who knew the Vedas and the Smritis.  I gained knowledge from the Divya pasurams of great Saints, and from the wise words of great Sages having brains as bright as the Sun. I cut off my confusions and attained clarity of thought.  I surrendered at the feet of the Great Lord, who has Sun and Moon as His eyes, and who is the SarvaLokeswara.

Pasuram 10

திருமகளும், திருவடிவும், திருவருளும், தெள் அறிவும்,
அறுமை இலாமையும் உறவும், அளப்பரிய அடி அரசும்,
கருமம் அழிப்பளிப்மைப்பும், கலக்கம் இலா வகை நின்ற,
அருள் வரதர் நிலை இலக்கில், அம்பென நான் அமிழ்ந்தேனே ||10||

Thirumagalum, thiruvadivum, thiruvarulum, thellarivum,
Marumai ilamayum uravum, alappariya vadivarasum,
Karumam azhippu alippu amaippum, kalakkam ilaa vagai nindra,
Arul varadar nilai ilakkil, ambena naan amizhndene.  ||10||
Meaning: With Goddess Lakshmi, who has a very beautiful and charming form, with divine grace and knowledge, and Who is easily accessible to His devotees and having great association having an immense form, and accomplishing the duty of creation, sustenance and destruction with great precision; and standing with stability sans confusion, Lord Varada with divine grace is my steady aim and I attain and merge with him like an arrow released from a bow.

In the Mundaka Upanishad (2.4), it says:
Pranavo dhanuh sharo hi atma brahma tal lakshyam ucyate
apramattena veddhavyam sharavat tan-mayo bhavet ||
Meaning: Using AUM as the Bow (Dhanuh), the Self (Atma) as the Arrow and fixing the Supreme Being as Target, a seeker should reach Him like an arrow (Atma) to its target (Brahman).


ஆறு பயன் வேறில்லா, அடியவர்கள் அனைவர்க்கும்,
ஆறும் அதன் பயனும் இவை, ஒரு காலும் பலகாலும்,
ஆறு பயன் எனவே கண்டு, அருள் ஆளர் அடியினை மேல்,
கூறிய நற்குண உரைகள், இவை பத்தும் கோதிலவே ||11||

Aaru payan verilla, adiyavarkal anaivarukkum,
Arum athan payanum ivai, oru kaalum pala kaalum,
Aaru payan yenave kandu, arul aalar adiyinai mel,
Kooriya narkunai uraigal, ivai Patthum kothilave.  ||11||

For all those devotees who do not have any other method, these ten pasurams would be useful to bring them peace.  Even if one surrenders once after understanding that these are going to be useful, they benefit forever. I attained Varada after reciting these ten verses at His Lotus feet.  Bhagavan is both Upaayam (path) and Upeyam (goal).

கவி தர்கா சிம்ஹைய கல்யாணி குண ஷாலினே,
ஸ்ரீமதே வேங்கடேசாய வேதாந்த குரவே நாம.
Kavi tarkika simhaya kalyana Guna shaline,
Srimathe Venkatesaya Vedantha gurave nama ||
Meaning: A Lion among poets and philosophers who is endowed with sublime, divine and auspicious qualities.  Our obeisance Lord Venkatesha and to the Vedanta Guru.

Swami Desikan Thiruvadigale Saranam




On 21st September 2018, we will be commemorating the 750th birth anniversary of Swami Vedanta Desikan.

While it will require more than a life time to fully read and comprehend Swami Desikan’s works, this is a humble beginning to understand some of his works and will carry on over the next several months.  I begin with an overview of Swami Desikan’s life and works as a first in the first of the series on his works and offer this as a mark of reverence to this giant of a Vedanta Guru.

Swami Somayaji Ananthasuri and Tottarambha were leading an ideal householder’s life in their house at Thuppul. Years passed by and their desire to beget a son grew. They started on a pilgrimage and visited several divya desams and finally came to Tirumala (Tirupati). They bathed in the Pushkarini and paid obeisance to Lord Varaha and then went on to worhip Lord Srinivasa inside the temple.  They prayed to the Lord for a son and after their evening worship, they went back and retired. That night Lord Srinivasa appeared in their dream and gave them the divine hand bell (Ghantamani) from the Sanctum. Tottarambha swallowed it in her dream and next day at dawn they both felt invigorated and and shared their dream with each other feeling extremely happy.

At the Sanctum, the Bhattar (priest) of the Sannidhi came in to conduct the daily morning Aradhana. When he opened the door, he observed that the divine bell was missing and he immediately initiated his enquiries. Just at that time, the Tirumalai jeeyar appeared on the scene and said that he had a wonderful dream in which he saw the Lord Himself giving the divine Bell to the devoted pilgrim couple.

They decided not to replace the small bell and even to this day, the Big bell outside the sanctum is used for Thiruvaradhanam at the Tirupati Temple.

Anantasuri and Tottarambha took leave of the Lord after worshipping him and returned to Kanchi with great joy. Tottarambha was soon blessed with the divine child and day by day, her whole body shone with extraordinary lustre.

Swami Desikan was born as Venkatanathan in Thuppul in Kanchipuram in the Tamil month of Purattasi (mid-September to mid-October) under the Thiruvonam Star in 1268 CE as the ‘Amsam’ (form) of Sri Tirupati Venkateshwara’s Ghantam (Divine Bell).

Venkatanathan mastered the Vedas, Vedanta and Shastras under the guidance of Guru Appullar (brother of Tottarambha).

Sri Appullar taught Venkatanathan the sacred Garuda mantra. By the age of 20, he was well versed in all Shastras.

At the age of 21 (in 1289 CE), Venkatanathan was married to Kanakavalli.   He started his family life as ordered in the Shastras and was strictly performing all the duties required by a Srivaishnava, living on uncha vritti i.e. their daily supply of food provided by disciples or secured by seeking alms. A Brahmin is supposed to do Veda adhyayanam and teach every one in the village and their needs are taken care by the students and other residents who learn from him. Desika in Sanskrit means a ‘Guru or a spiritual teacher’ and hence Venkatanathan came to be known as Swami Desikan.

Some of the local people in Kachipuram felt bad that a great master like Swami Desikan was doing uncha vrutti i.e. seeking alms for grains. As Swami Desikan refused to accept money or Gold given as dakshina, the students and residents started mixing gold coins along with rice and offered him.

Swami Desikan did not notice this and gave the rice to his wife for making prasadam. She called Swami Desikan’s attention to the glittering coins and Swami Desikan promptly chucked all the coins out of the window saying they were vermins.

In the year 1317 CE, Swami Desikan and Kanakavalli were blessed with a son with the grace Sri Varadaraja Perumal, in the Tamil month of Avani (birth star Rohini), and they named the child as Varadhacharya.

Varadhacharya followed the footsteps of Swami Desikan and shone just like his father.

After the death of Sri Appullar Swami, Swami Desikan wanted to chant the Garuda mantra taught to him by Sri Appullar.  He observed fast for many days to receive the blessings of Garuda, as Garuda is known as Veda Swarupi. Swami Desikan went to Thiruvaheendrapuram and went up a small hill before he began to chant the Garuda Mantra. Garuda was pleased with his devotion and blessed him with the Hayagreeva mantra and instructed him to chant the Hayagreeva mantra continously to receive the blessings of Lord Hayagreeva.


As Swami Desikan continuously recited the mantra, Lord Hayagreeva was pleased and appeared before him.  Lord Hayagreeva blessed him and agreed to reside on the tip of Swami Desikan’s tongue as desired by him. Lord Hayagreeva gave a Vigraha (idol) of Himself to Swami Desikan for his daily worship. This Vigraham is still being preserved in the Devanatha temple in Thiruvaheendrapuram.

While in Thiruvaheendrapuram, Swami Desikan composed the ‘Hayagreeva Stotram’, Devanayaka panchashat in Sanskrit, Achyutha Satakam in Prakrut, and Mummanikkovai and Navamani maalai in Tamil.

Swami Desikan came back to Kanchipuram and composed various Stotrams explaining the concept of prapatti or surrender. These Stotrams are Nyasa Vimshati, Nyasa Dashakam and Nyasa tilakam in Sanskrit and Adaikkala pathu and Artha Panchakam in Tamil.

While in Kanchi, Swami Desikan was enchanted by the beauty of Varadharaja Perumal and composed fifty Shlokas on Him. He also wrote Stotrams on Perumal by visiting the various temples in and around Kanchi.

While in Srivilliputhur Swami Desikan composed the famous Godha Sthuthi. He was observing mounam (silence) befitting the occasion of the Pradhosham evening. He was planning to go to Sri Andal’s Sannidhi later for MangaLasasanam. When he heard the sounds of Koil Vaadhyams (percussion), he stepped out from the house and found to his greatest surprise and joy, the archa murthy of Sri Andal being carried by the devotees approaching.  While the normal processional route did not include the street where Swami Desikan was staying, but on this special day, there was some obstacle on the main street and hence the temple priests had re-routed the procession. Swami Desikan’s astonishment at this unexpected bhagyam and his Bhakthi for Sri Andal came out pouring the form of 29 Shlokas (Godha Sthuthi) in two beautiful Sanskrit poetic metres known as Vasantha Tilakam and Maalini.

Godha Sthuthi First Shloka:
Sri Vishnuchittha Kulanandana Kalpavalleem
Sri Rangaraja Harichandana yoga dhrusyam |
Saakshath Kshamam Karunaya Kamalamivanyam
Godham Ananya Sharana Sharanam Prapadhye ||
Meaning: Godha Piraatti is the wish-granting Kalpaka tree in flower garden of the clan of Sri VishNu Chitthar; She is most beautiful as She gives us Her darsanam as the Karpaka creeper united with Her Lord Sri Rangarajan standing majestically as the Harichandana tree in that Nandavanam; She is the incarnation of Bhumi Devi known for Her auspicious qualities of forbearance; Godhai is the embodiment of forbearance; When it comes to the quality of Her Mercy, Godhai is a veritable Maha Lakshmi (Kamala). I, who has no other refuge, seek Her as my sole refuge.

Later, Swami Desikan went to Tirupati and composed the beautiful Stotram called Daya Satakam.  Lord Srinivasa blessed Swami Desikan and he was conferred the title ‘Vedanta-Acharya’. Later, Swami Desikan went to Badrinath, Ayodhya, Kashi, Nepal and other places in North India on foot to visit the temples over there.

Swami Vedanta Desikan wrote extensively in Sanskrit and Tamil and some of his compositions are:

  • Desika-prabhandham which enjoys a status equal to that of the Azhwars’ Divya Prabhandham
  • Many Storams such as – Bhu Stuthi, Daya Satakam, Godha Sthuthi, Hayagreeva Stotram, Kamasika Ashtakam, Paduka Sahasram, Shodasha Ayudha Stotram, Sri Sthuthi, Sudharsana Ashtakam, Yathiraja Saptati etc.
  • Gadyams e.g. Raghuveera Gadyam (a.k.a. Mahveera Gadyam)
  • Dandakams e.g. Garuda Dandakam
  • Adaikkala Patthu, Artha Panchakam, Nyasam Vimshati, Nyasa Dashakam for Saranagati
  • Paramapada Sobanam (Way of Living)

He composed over 2000 Shlokas of exquisite Sanskrit poetry on a variety of religious themes mostly in praise of SriRangam Raganatha, Thiruvengadam (Venkateswara), Kanchi Varadar etc. His poetry flowed in an impressive variety of forms ranging ‘Stotras’, ‘Gadyams’ to ‘Dandakams’, in every known metric rhythm – from the simple ‘Malini’ metre to the long-winded ‘Saardulavikreedita’.

In his famous work praising the Lord Thiruvengadam, titled ‘Daya-Satakam’, Swami Desikan composed 108 Shlokas in 10 different metres each most appropriate to the underlying theme of the verse. He was known as ‘Kavi Kesari’, ‘Tarkika Simham’, ‘Kalyana Guna Shali’ and ‘Vedanta Guru’.

The following Thanian (prefatory verse honouring the Guru or Acharya) was composed by Swami Desikan’s disciple, Brahma-tantra-swatantrar Jeeyar (who established the Parakala Mutt), on the day of star of Hastham, the star of Varadharaja Perumal of Kancheepuram in the Tamil month of Avani.

This Thanian on Swami Desikan is recited before reciting Divya Prabandham:
Ramanuja-Daya-patram jnana-vairagya-bhushanam |
ShrImad-Venkata-natharyam vande Vedanta Desikam ||

Swami Venkatanathan is also revered through the following ‘Thanians’ that is recited at the beginning of all his works and again at the end:
Sriman Venkatanatharya Kavi-tarkika Kesari |
Vedantacharya varyome sannidhathaam sadahrudi ||
Meaning:  Sriman Venkatanathan, who is a Lion among poets and philosophers, May He ever reside in our hearts. Our obeisance to the Vedanta Acharya.

Kavi-tarkika Simhaya Kalyana Gunashaline |
Srimathe Venkatesheya Vedanta Gurave Namaha ||
Meaning: A Lion among poets and philosophers who is endowed with sublime, divine and auspicious qualities.  Our obeisance Lord Venkatesha and to the Vedanta Guru.

Let us now explore how Swami Desikan perfectly fits the four great attributes ascribed to him viz. Kavi Kesari, Tarkika Simham, Kalyana Guna Shali and Vedanta Guru.

  1.     Kavi Kesari

Swami Desikan’s poetry was enchanting that exhibited his genius. An interesting event happened one evening in Sri Rangam, where Swami Desikan lived and worked for many years. A rival poet disdainfully challenged him to compose poetry on a pair of common footwear, as a heap of insult. Next morning Swami Desikan astounded the rival, and the rest of the poets, with a poetic work of 1008 stanzas entitled ‘Paduka-Sahasram’.  Over one thousand stanzas in chaste Sanskrit, in praise of the sacred Sandals of Sri Ranganatha, composed within the course of one night!  Such was his genius!

In these verses, Swami Desikan brings the words to visual effect by the use of pure sound of the words to create vivid images.  In the ‘Paduka-Sahasram’, Swami Desikan demonstrates this with telling effect where seemingly meaningless words are woven to create enchanting sound. In his Verse 933, the Acharyan uses only two syllables:
paa paa dha paa paa dha paa paa paa dha paa dha dha paa dha paa |
dha paa dha paa paa dha paa dha paa dha paa dha dha paa dha paa ||933||

A mere reading of the above, if penned by someone of a lesser stature than Swami Desikan, would have invited derision for passing it off as poetry. But Swami Desikan’s genius shines through these seemingly senseless assemblages of the two syllables (Pa and Dha) when read as follows:
paapaadhapaa paadhapaapaaa paadhapaa dhadhapaadhapaa I
dhapaadhapaa paadhpaadha paadhapaa dhadhapaadhapaa II 

The above verse reveals the following sublime meaning:
The Paadhuka cleanses our sins; it bestows lustre to the Lord’s feet (It confers effulgence to individual souls, which are aspects of the Lord). Its water used to cleanse His Padhuka protects those who perform this service of respectfully and adorn it to the Lord’s feet. Those Paadhukas saved me from sins!

It is a profound construction of two syllables to say the least. One cannot but marvel at the genius of this great Acharyan who effortlessly intertwined sound and meaning that are tightly coupled to celebrate the glory of Sri Ranganatha Paadhukas. It is no wonder why Swami Desikan is hailed by all as ‘Kavi-Kesari’.

He was known as ‘Kavi-kesari’ also for his mastery over phonetics and linguistics. He could create beautiful sound out of words and words out of pure sound.  As an example of the first case, the two verses from the Kamasika Ashtakam are presented below. In these Stotrams, Swami Desikan evokes the fearsome, awe-inspiring image of ‘Jwala-Nrsimha’ Avataar of Sriman Narayana.

The Shlokas from the Kamasika Ashtagam have been composed with hard syllables to create guttural-sound, intended to deliver the effect of an angry roaring lion:
Vikaswara nakha swaru kshatha Hiranya vaksha sthalee,
Niragala vinirgalath rudhira Sindhu sandhyayithaa,
Avanthu madha nasika manuja Pancha vakthrasya maam,
Aham prathamikaa mitha prakatithaa havaa bhagava ||6||
Meaning: With his open claws, He tore open the chest of Hiranyakashipu, and the blood flowed non-stop like a river, which made his claws like that of a red thunderbolt. I worship the Man-Lion form of Kamasika, Whose hands compete with each other to protect His devotees and Who declares war on those who try to harm His devotees.

Sataa patala bheeshane, sarbha saa attahaso adbhate,
Sphurath kruthi parisphutath bruguti kepi vakthre kruthe,
Krupaa kapata kesarin dhaunuja dimba datha sthanaa,
Saroja dhrusaa adrusaa vyathi bhishajya they vyajyathe ||7||
Meaning: With fearsome thick mane and loud reverberating majestic laughter, brows brandishing immense anger but His lotus eyes dripping with mercy towards the child (Prahlada) of that Asura (Hirayakashipu), He appeared in form of a roaring Lion but with the true karunya guna of a mother.

His compositions in Sanksrit were peerless, perhaps only matched by Kalidasa. Even till this day, scholars find it arduous to sufficiently describe the power of his poetry that has so much depth and diversity. Hence, Swami Desikan is aptly known as ‘Kavi Kesari’, a Lion amongst Poets.

  1.     Tarkika Simham

Swami Desikan was not only a ‘Kavi Kesari’ but also a ‘Tarkika Simham’, a lion that struck dread in the hearts of ideological adversaries.  The word ‘tarka’ in Sanskrit refers to a highly technical method of reasoning based on complex and formal rules of ratiocination.  Tarka usually involves long debates (‘Vaadha’) and discourse between exponents of rival schools of philosophy.

During the 13th century CE some some extreme elements in the school of Advaitins, through aggresive polemics and propaganda, began to undermine the vast influence of VisishtAdvaita Vedanta wielded amongst its followers in its own bastion, the temple-town of Srirangam. These Advaitins began to seriously question the Vedic basis for the authority and validity of Sri Ramanuja’s ‘Siddhantha’.

Periya Vaachaan Pillai, Pillai Loka-Acharya and others sought the advise of the veteran Acharya Sudarsana Bhattar. Sudarsana Bhattar said that it was only Swami Desikan who could save the situation and sent a letter to Kanchi inviting Thuppul Pillai, Swami Desikan, to face the challenge from his opponents.

Swami Desikan left for Srirangam and on the way he visited Sri Perumpudhur, the birth place of Sri Ramanuja-Acharya, and composed a Stotra on Sri Ramanuja to seek his blessings for the debate. This Shloka is called Yatirja Saptati which glorifies all our Acharyas and Sri Ramanuja in particular.

In Srirangam the debate with schloars of other sampradayas went for 7 days and finally Swami Desikan demolished every argument of their philosophies. The scholars who had debated with Swami Desikan accepted defeat and become his disciples. This debate has been compiled as Satha dhudhani.

Lord Ranganatha was pleased with Swami Desikan’s intelligence and conferred him the title of ‘Vedantachariar’ through the temple priest.  Sri Ranganayaki thaayar conferred the title of ‘Sarva Tantra Swatantrar’ which means that he is master of all arts, crafts.

During the 50-odd years of his life in Sri Rangam, he authored some of the most profound and formidable works ever to be written in the annals of VisishtAdvaita Vedanta.

The philosophy of Sri Ramanuja, as authored in ‘Sri-Bashyam’ about two centuries earlier, found its fullest and most sophisticated expression in Desikan’s philosophical works, some of which were pure treatise and some counter-polemics. Swami Desikan’s most famous works, the ‘tattva-mukta-kalapa’, ‘Sarvartha-Siddhi’ and the ‘Sata-dushani’, were all authored around this time. Together, they constituted by far the most solid and irrefutable defense of the school of Sri Ramanuja’s VisishtAdvaita Vedanta against every known rival Vedantic system that challenged his philosophy.

In recognition of Swami Desikan’s services to the firm establishment of one of the greatest schools of Vedantic philosophy, Sri RamanujAcharya’s VisishtAdvaita Siddhantam, the other acharyas declared that Swami Desikan as ‘Tarkika Simham’.

There was another reason for Venkatanathan’s reputation to grow as a ‘Tarkika-simham’. Some sections of Vedic orthodoxy in Sri Rangam objected to the rendition of Azhwar’s Tamil ‘Divya-Prabhandham’ which Sri RamanujAcharya had introduced into temple rituals and festivities. They resented the status given to the Tamil ‘marai’ by Sri Ramanuja equal to that of the timeless Vedas that were in Sanskrit.

Swami Desikan, though a deep Vedic adherent himself, stoutly defended the mysticism of the Azhwar’s Tamil ‘marai’. In two magnificent works titled ‘Dravida Upanishad-tatparya-ratnavali’ and ‘Dravida Upanishad Saaram’, Swami Desikan demonstrated Sri NammAzhwAr’s Thiruvai Mozhi as the perfect and peerless Tamil equivalent of the Vedantic Upanishads.  He explained how the Vedas and the Divya Prabhandam together constituted the bed-rock of a unique tradition of Vedanta called ‘Ubhaya-Vedanta’ — the twin-fold way to Vedanta.

The recitation of Azhwar’s Divya-prabhandham prevails and flourishes in all Sri Vaishnava temples is due to the relentless efforts of Swami Desikan, the ‘Tarkika Simham’.

  1.     Kalyana Guna Shali

Swami Desikan was bestowed with many rare and sublime qualities and was aptly called ‘Kalyana Guna-Shali’. Two of his outstanding qualities were his courage and his compassion. He was utterly fearless (‘nirbhaya’) and full of compassion (‘Karunyan’). And because he was utterly fearless, he was also utterly compassionate towards a world around him that was mired in fear of every conceivable kind. The fears and anxieties that beset ordinary men in life held no dread for Desikan. Poverty, disease, old age, social approval etc. never mattered to him.

Throughout his life he held steadfast to the age-old value of ‘simple living and high thinking’. He shunned wealth that was offered to him and never sought any position or financial gain for himself or his family.  Once his friend Vidyaranya of the Vijayanagara Court sent him an invitation to serve as a full-time royal poet-laureate. He wrote to his friend in Vijayanagara, that the only wealth and heirloom that he coveted was already with him. He mentioned that the everpresent resident of the Hastigiri Hill in Kanchi was his ultimate wealth, referring to Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi. He responded to Vidyaranya with ‘Vairagya-panchakam’ Stotram.

Once a magician confronted Swami Desikan and drank water from a pond. With his magical powers, the magician made Swami’s stomach bulge as he drank water from the pond. Swami Desikan, while with his disciples, felt uneasy and immediately understood the trickery. Swami Desikan just scratched a pillar nearby with his fingernails and the water flowed out of the pillar. The magician was shocked with the super magic of Swami Desikan and begged his pardon.

Once a snake charmer challenged Swami Desikan to control his poisonous snakes. Swami Desikan drew a chalk line on the ground and recited some mantra. None of the snakes could cross over the line drawn by the Swami but one ferocious snake crossed over to harm Swami. Swami Desikan immediately recited the Garuda mantram and instantly Garuda came and took away all the snakes. The Snake Charmer begged Swami Desikan’s forgiveness and requeted him to give back his snakes as it was his only livelihood. Swami Desikan again prayed to Garuda to return the snakes.

Once, Swami Desikan was on a pilgrimage trip and he rested in the thinnai of a house for the night. Since he could not get anything to offer as Naivedyam to the Lord, he just offered some water to the Lord with a heavy heart and went to bed on an empty stomach. Suddenly, he was awakened by the landlord who reported that a white horse was eating the grain in his stores. Swami understood that it was the Leela of Sri Hayagreeva and comforted the house owner. He asked the landlord to bring some milk and offered it to his upasana murthy. Thereupon, the horse disappeared and the next morning, when the landlord went to his shop he saw all the sacks were fully laden with gold. He offered the gold to Swami Desikan, but as usual Swami refused.

Swami was requested to preside over as the moderator in a debate between the Advaitha Vidhvan, Vidhyaranyar and Dvaita Vidhvan, Akshobhya. Although Vidhyaranyar was his childhood friend, after hearing the arguments of both the vidhvans, Swami gave an impartial ruling that Akshobhya’s views were in accordance with Pramanas and settled the dispute.

Once Swami Desikan was performing the annual rites for his late parents. Unfortunately nobody came for eating on the occasion of the observance, but Swami did not lose heart. He put the banana leaf and served all the items and prayed to the Lord. Lord answered his prayers and instantly Lord Devaraja, Lord Hayagreeva and Lord Srinivasa came in person and partook the offering on the occasion.

Once a young boy wanted some money for marriage and approached the wealthy people in Kanchipuram. They were jealous of Sri Desikan’s simplicity and not seeking any financial help from them. Just to embarrass Swami Desikan, they told that only Desikan can give lots of money because he is rich. The boy did not know the evil intention of the jealous people and went to Swami Desikan for financial help.

Swami Desikan took the young boy to Thayar Sannidhi and started reciting Sri Sthuthi and lo and behold it started raining gold coins. Swami Desikan thanked the Thayar for her mercy and told the boy to take as much he wanted and did not take any coin for himself. The jealous people were shocked at this incident and came rushing to seek forgivenss of Swami Desikan.

Swami’s visit to Melkote, Karnataka.

In the year 1327, Srirangam city was invaded by Mughals. The General of the Sultan of Delhi ransacked the temple and savagely attacked the people.  The temple was closed and many bhagavathas were killed by the brutal invaders forcing people to flee Srirangam. Sri Sudharshana Bhattar, the author of the famous commentary on Ramanuja’s Sri Bashyam known as Shrutha Prakaashika, was one of those who could not escape. He however passed on the book and asked Swami Desikan to take his two young children in his safe custody. While some acharyas left for Tirupati with the idol of Ranganatha, Swami Desikan had to hide among the corpses (with the two young boys) for one night before travelling to Satyagalam.

Swami was crying for the death of many acharyas and bhagavathas by the ruthless invaders. We can even see the place where he stayed in Karnataka and the vigraham of Swami Desikan is unique as he is in standing posture, as if he was on his toes, ready to travel back to Srirangam.

During his stay in Satyagalam, Swami Desikan wrote the ‘Abhiti-stavam’ Stotra, that dealt with the story of human struggle to conquer the primal fear of death became one of the marvellous themes, praying to Sri Ranganatha to restore the glory of Srirangam.

Swami Desikan was a man of great compassion and was acutely aware of the social ills and problems of the world around him and deeply empathised with the community and wished for their welfare. An example of Desikan’s compassion for the commoner is the ‘Sudharsana Ashtakam’ Stotram.  He composed this Stotram upon seeing the plight of the people struck by a devastating epidemic in a village near Kanchi. It became at once both a prayer of hope and a therapy for relief at a time of great calamity for the people of Kanchi.

Once a mason challenged Swami Desikan to construct a well with the bricks supplied by him. Swami Desikan accepted the challenge. The mason gave broken and irregular shaped bricks to Swami Desikan.

Despite this Swami arranged them nicely and finished the construction of the well successfully. This well exists even today in Thiruvaheendrapuram.

Again at another time a sculptor challenged swami whether he can make an idol of himself and fitted in the pedastal that was made by the sculptor. Swami made an idol and the sculptor tried to fix it in the pedastal and could not do so. He thought that the idol was wrong and tried to chisel some part of the idol to fix it. Blood flowed out of desika’s corresponding part of the body where he chiseled out. The sculptor accepted that the pedastal is of wrong size and then Swami Desikan corrected the pedastal and installed the idol on it. This image is even today available in Thiruvaheendrapuram.

Once a shoe maker challenged that whether Swami Desikan can mend his sandal and Swami accepted this challenge and to every one’s surprise he made the sandal quickly as if he was a skilled shoe maker. People were astonished at Swami Desikan’s knowledge in various crafts.

Swami Desikan as Sarva Tantra Swatantrar (Master of all arts, crafts):
There are many incidents in Swami Desikan’s life which prove that he is not just an acharya or poet. He was well versed with many other crafts and the following three incidents prove this point.

Swami Desikan was without doubt a ‘Kalyana-Guna-Shali extra-ordinaire.

  1.     Vedanta Guru

When Swami Desikan returned to Srirangam after 12 years in Satyagalam, it was time for yearly utsavams when the entire Divya Prabandham are recited in 20 days. The first ten days the utsavam is during the day and for the next 10 days it is in the night. Since this utsavam was stopped for many years due to Muslim invasion, the orthodox people objected to recitation of Divya Prabandham since it is in Tamil and only Sanskrit vedas should be recited. They also objected to install vigrahas of Azhvars because they were just human beings and many of them were not even Brahmins. Swami Desikan argued with them at length proving that the divya prabandham is nothing but the essence of Vedas and Upanishads and the Azhvars are great devotees of Sriman Narayana and they are fit to be worshipped in side the temple. Finally the orthodox devotees agreed with Sri Desikan and the utsavam has been celebrated in a grand manner. Swami was pained to see the objections and to make sure no such problems in the future he has got the details of the utsavam written in a stone and installed in the temple. Sri Ranganatha was pleased with this and commended that the Thaniyan glorifying Swami Desikan “Ramanuja daya patram….” should be recited every day in the temple before starting the Divya Prabandham recitation.

While at Srirangam Swami composed the famous Bhagavad Dhyana Sopanam glorifying the beauty of the Sri Ranganatha from the feet to the head. This Stotram is like the Amalanaadhi piran of Sri Thirupaan Azhwar.

Swami Desikan was the first Acharya in the Vedantic tradition who boldly went as far as to define God’s quality of Universal compassion as being not merely a theological necessity but a philosophical axiom and said that a God without compassion would be a contradiction. Since we see that compassion exists in this world, therefore we should conclude that God too must exist. He added a fourth dimension ‘Daya’ to the Upanishad definition of Brahman viz. Satyam, Jnanam, and Anantham. It became the central theme of his famous ‘Daya Satakam’, a Stotram only a man possessing great ‘Daya’ could have ever composed.

Swami Venkatanathan was above all a Vedanta Guru as recited in the verse ‘Srimathe Venkateshaya Vedanta-Gurave Namah’. Sri Desikan showed his followers the true way of living, both in practice and precept, by setting out how one should lead their life and what purpose is to be achieved by human existence. He expounded on Vedanta with his illumining insights thereby providing a wonderful ‘Vedanta-marga’ in a way never accomplished by any of the great Scholars before his time.

One of the greatest pathways of Vedanta shown by Swami Desikan is contained in ‘Paramapada-Sobanam’. It is a magnificent work wherein he set out in a cogent and easily comprehensible manner the ‘Art of Living’.

The word ‘Parama-padam’ means ‘highest state of existence’. The word ‘sobanam’ is commonly understood to mean a hymn that describes anything in graphic detail from ‘start’ to ‘finish’. Sobanam can also mean a multi-tiered stairway, a sort of tiered structure increasing in height. These stepping-stones are called ‘pariankam’ in Sanskrit. Swami Desikan’s ‘Paramapada Sobanam’ refers to a step-by-step approach that leads, slowly but surely, from the bottom-most rung of existence to the ‘highest state of human existence’.

Swami’s last days:

In the last stages of his life, Swami Venkatanathan lived happily for many years in Sri Rangam amidst peers and disciples. He became a highly renowned and venerated ‘VedantaAcharya’. His fame spread far and wide in the country. He presided over a period in history when the school of ‘Sri-Ramanuja-Darsanam’ flourished and the SriVaishnava tradition grew and the institutions strengthened.

Swami Desikan lived for 101 years and in the year 1369 CE, he felt that the time had come for him to leave for the spritual abode of Sriman Narayana. He went to Sri Ranganatha and took his permission. His disciples and his son were sobbing inconsolably. Swami Desikan consoled them and instructed them to continue their divine works and follow the Ramanuja Darshanam. He kept his head on the lap of his son Kumara Varadhachariar and left his mortal coil while listening to the chanting of Thiruvai Mozhi and Upanishads.

Later Sri Ranganayaki Thaayar ordered that a Sannidhi should be made for Swami Desikan close to her Sannidhi inside the temple. One can see the Swami Desikan’s Sannidhi in front of the Thaayaar Sannidhi in Srirangam.

In 1369 CE, Swami Desikan passed away in Sri Rangam. His son, Varadachariar composed the immortal ‘Thanian’ by which we know Swami Desikan’s life and work today (meanings given earlier):

Sriman Venkatanatharya Kavi-Tarkika Kesari |
VedantAcharya varyome Sannidhatam sadahrudi ||

Kavi-Tarkika Simhaya Kalyana Guna shaline |
Srimathe Venkatesheya Vedanta Gurave Namaha ||

Sri Pillai Lokacharya composed this Thaniyan on Swami Desikan which is recited before the Desika Prabandham:
Seeronru Thuppul Thiruvenkata mudaiyan
Par onra chonna pazhamozhiyul- Orondru
Thane amaiyadho Dharaniyil Vazhvorkku
Vanerap Poma Lavum Vazhvu ||
Meaning:  For a person who desires to ascend to the Satya Loka, even a single statement of the great Acharya, Thuppul Thiuvenkadamudaiyan (Sri Vedanta Desikan) uttered by him for the benefit of humanity would be sufficient to lift him up to his desired goal.

When we reflect upon the moving tributes above, we can visualise the unparalleled nature of Swmai Desikan as Kavi-Kesari, Tarkika Simham, Kalyana Guna Shali and the Vedanta Guru.  The Lion that he was amongst poets and philosophers, as a ‘Kalyana Guna Shali’, a person of rare and sublime human qualities and  as a VedantAcharya’ or ‘Vedanta-Guru’, a preceptor  who showed the way.









Swami Desikan was a great poet, philosopher, logician and took upon the task of upholding the concepts preached by Sri Ramanuja. It is because of him the

Ramanuja Darshanam is being recogonised and is widely practiced.

No other Acharya among the followers of Sri Ramanuja have fought for the rightful place for Divya Prabandham as did Swami Desikan. It was he who re established the recitation of Divya Prabanhdam in Srirangam and other temples.

Swami Desikan has composed more than 100 works and it will take more than a lifetime to read and comprehend them.  His Tamil prabandhams are equally delightful and they bring the essence of Vedas in Tamil prabandhams.  He also translated the Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi to Sanskrit. His Sanskrit was considered to be as sweet as that Mahakavi Kalidasa.

Let us pray to this great VedantAcharya and seek his blessings.

Swami Desikan Thiruvadigale Saranam _/\_