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About Upadesa Ratnamala And Life Story Of Its Author Swami Manavala Mamunigal

Upadesha Rathnamala is a vaishnavite composition by Swami Manavala Mamunigal in Tamil. Upadesha Ratnamala consists of 73 stanzas. In addition, it holds a stanza containing an opening prayer composed by Koil Kanthadevi Annan (in kattalai kalithurai meter) and a stanza containing a closing prayer composed by Erumbiappa (in venba meter).

Upadesha rathina malai has been composed in nerisai venba meter. It is great tradition and most recently preached by Thiruvaimozhipillai. Mamunigal says that he is rendering them again so that it would be of immense use to posterity. The whole theme is rendered in lucid and simple Tamil poetry.

The work opens with pranams (obeisances) to the Alvars. They are great Vaishnavites whose Tamil renderings have been collected as the celebrated Nalayira Divya Prabandham. The months and nakshatras in which the Azhwars were born are mentioned in it. Birthplaces of these saints are also mentioned.

The names of the subsequent Vaishnavite acharyas are listed. They together preached the philosophy called Emberumanar Darsanam. The commentaries written for Nalayira Divya Prabandham include Arayirappadi, Onpathinayirappadi, Irupathunalayirappadi, Edu, Muppatharayirappadi, Panneerayirappadi, and so on.

The acharya parampara (guru shishya parampara) is described followed by a discussion on the glorious text Sri Vacana Bhushana. The importance of guru and duties and code of conduct for a Shishya (disciple) are then outlined.

Acharya Mamunigal was born in Azhwar Thirunagari (Tamil Nadu) in 1370 CE (Tamil Year Sadharana, Aipasi, Mulam). His parents were Thigazhakidanthan Thiru Navirudaiya Piran Dasar Annar and Sriranga Nachiyar. He is supposed to be an incarnation of Sri Adishesha, the serpent bed of Bhagavan Srihari Vishnu. He was praised as Visadavak Sikamani. He approached Thirumalai Azhwar for study. Thiruvaimozhi Pillai, his acharya, ordered him to preach the Vaishnavite Sampradaya, on the footsteps of the earlier acharyas. Accordingly Mamunigal took sannyasa and stayed at Srirangam. He had a number of illustrious disciples, eight among them being considered significant. Sri Vanamamalai Mutt was also one among them (together they were known as Ashtadiggajas). Mamunigal’s other texts, like Sri Vacana Bhushanam, Mumukshuppadi, Tattvatrapa, etc., are all very sacred and popular among the Thenkalai sect of Sri Vaishnavites.

The piece of literature Upadesha Ratnamala falls into the category of Nityanusandhana (the poems to be recited every day, with a ritualistic discipline). It is held in high esteem among the Sri Vaishnavites.