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Sri Rangaraja Stavam – Importance - Contents – Sanskrit Hymn On Sri Ranganatha Of Srirangam

Sri Rangaraja Stavam, a Sanskrit hymn on Sri Ranganatha form of Bhagavan Vishnu worshipped in Srirangam, is in two sections, containing 232 verses. Authored by Parasara Bhatta, it is of immense religious and philosophical significance to the Vaishnavas, as it brings out the full import of dyayamantra.

In the first sixty two verses of the purvasataka (first part), the preliminaries observed prior to entering the sanctum sanctorum are dealt with. This is followed by a detailed description of the forms of the Lord – utsavabera (festival image) and mulabera (permanent image). Uttarasataka (later part) deals with philosophical issues such as the tenets of the other schools, with reference to Visistadvaita, the supremacy of Vishnu, etc.

Overcoming initial hesitation about his capacity to comprehend the greatness of Ranganatha, he avers that the celestial river, Viraja, has taken the form of Kaveri to remove the fatigue of our worldly existence. Srirangam is Sri Vaikuntha, where the nityas and muktas are in configuration as its inhabitants, since Bhagavan has taken His abode there.

The serial and peristyle adjuncts of the temple suggest that Garuda has spread his wings to protect his Bhagavan. Comparing the structures with a thousand-pillared hall, Chandra Pushkarini (sacred tank), glittering Sriranga Vimana, Narasimha, icons of Alvars and punnaga tree, he enters the main shrine, where he salutes Vishwaksena, Garuda, Hanuman, Vibhishana and the five weapons of Bhagavan which offer protection and refuge. Crossing the Amoda-stambha, he reaches the sanctum which houses both the beras (images).

A detailed iconic description of beras, serpent couch, Sridevi and Bhudevi, ad paraphernalia follows. In a series of metaphors, the poet identifies Sri Ranganatha with a lotus-pond in which Sridevi sports – Bhudevi being her reflection, the ever-green parijata tree,the abode of the two kalpa creepers, Sri and Bhu, and the kalpa tree and kamadhenu.

The very embodiment of charm and beauty, utsavabera is extolled as Sriranga Sringara – the cynosure of all eyes when he moves through the streets in a procession.

Bluish in complexion, the mulabera looks like an ocean drunk in by a cloud, a mountain placed in the ocean or an elephant lying on a mountain slope. Parasara Bhatta observes that the right hand of Bhagavan touches the crown, indicating his supremacy, while the left hand points to the feet as the refuge of all.

Yoga Nidra (the sleeping posture) suggests that, forgetful of his original abodes, he is in slumber here. He is the Supreme Being who once floated on a banyan leaf, took birth in Devaki’s womb and adorns the crown of Vedas. The presence of Lakshmi on his chest, tulasi and vaijayanti garlands and kaustubha gem confirm his omniscience and omnipotence.

After stressing the importance of pramana in metaphysical investigations, he critically views the tenets of the other schools in the light of Vishishtadvaita and terms them irrational and illogical. Besides affirming the supreme authority of Vedas, he holds Pancaratra, Itihasa-Puranas etc as also valid.

While forcefully refuting the views of the Bhattas and Prabhakaras on rituals, he exols the nitya and naimitika rites as commandments of Bhagavan. Parasara Bhattar comments that the interpretation of the passage ekamevadvitiyam does not prove the unreality of the Universe. He declares that though ‘Anandavalli’ section of Taittiriya Upanishad was eloquent about the auspicious qualities of Bhagavan – (six of which – jnana, bala, aishwarya, shakti, vira and tejas – are outstanding) – yet it does not fully comprehend His glory, which is seen and felt in the ardha aspect of Bhagavan at Srirangam.

Referring to vyuha theory, he says these forms facilitate meditation. Extolling the vibhava manifestations of Bhagvan, he observes they not only protect the weak but also point to the right path. The mystic nature of the incarnations like Hayagriva and Hamsa are explained as the dasavatharam, which confirm Bhagavan Vishnu’s role as the guardian deity of mankind.

The archa aspect of Bhagavan is the most easily accessible form of his five-fold forms. Recalling that the archa figure of Bhagavan inside the Sriranga Vimana was originally worshipped by Brahma and later by Ikshvakus, he feels beholden to Vibhishana for bringing it to Srirangam. He prays that he may live one hundred years to serve him.