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Alavandar – Short Life Story

Alavandar (Yamunacharya) was a forerunner of Sri Ramanujacharya in Vaishnavism. Alavandar (916 – 1036 CE) was the grandson of Nathamuni, the first pontiff of Vaishnavism. Alavandar established the orthodoxy of the Pancharatra School (as against the Vaikhanasa), refuted the Advaita doctrine of avidya (knowledge that doesn’t lead to spiritual understanding), and advocated prapatti (surrender unto God).

It was indicated through divine will to Nathamuni that his grandson would preserve and propagate the Vaishnava tradition that was entrusted in his custody. At the time of his death, Nathamuni asked disciples to bequeath his inheritance to his grandson and name him Yamunai Thuraivar. The term ‘Alavandar’ means ‘One who has come to reign,’ and his advent is seen as a landmark event in Vaishnava tradition. Born as a precocious child, he gained extraordinary proficiency in the sastras at a young age.

Alavandar’s original name was Yamuna. Studying under great teachers, he blossomed into a scholar with a debating skill of a high order. When Alavandar defeated a court pandit in debate, the queen exclaimed ‘yennai Alavandar (he has come to reign over me). His preceptor, Ramanuja, weaned him away from mundane pleasures and made him renounce worldly life to dedicate himself wholly to the service of Bhagavan Vishnu and the propagation of Visishtadvaita.

A bold and original thinker and the first among the Vishitadvaitins to counter rival doctrines by the dialectical method, he entered on his mission of propagating Sri Vaishnavism.

Alavandar composed eight works – Atmasiddhi, Ishwar siddhi, Samvitsiddhi, (the three together called Siddhitraya), Agama pramanya, Gitarthasangraha, Mahapurusanirnaya and the two hymns – Chatushloki and Stotraratna.

Siddhitraya is a masterly exposition of Vishishtadvaita and refutation of rival systems. Agamapramanya vindicates the orthodoxy of the Pancaratra School. Gitarthasangraha is an excellent commentary on the Bhagavad Gita in the light of Visishtadvaita, while Mahapurushanirnaya (not extant) upheld the supremacy of Vishnu.

Chatushloki, the earliest Stotra of Sri and an epitome of the four chapters of the Brahmasutras, furnishes the foundational bliss for similar future works. Stotraratna is a devotional lyric in praise of Bhagavan Vishnu in sixty-five stanzas.