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Story Of Alavandar And Three Questions

There is a famous story of Alavandar and three questions and it shows the greatness of Alavandar, the great Vishishta Advaita Scholar.

Once Akkiyalvan, the court scholar, presuming himself to be the greatest scholar, insisted that all other scholars should pay him tribute in the form of dues. When this demand was sent to Alavandar’s preceptor Maha Bashya Bhatta, the disciple asked his preceptor to ignore it. Learning that a young boy had dared to defy the royal scholar, the king was curious to meet him. So he invited him to the court.

Much impressed by his effulgence and demeanour, the king promised him a share in the kingdom if he won in the debate with Akki Azhwan. The queen was sure that the boy would win. Alavandar humbled the conceited scholar by posing three statements and challenged him to negate these. ‘Your mother is not a barren woman, the king is paramount and the queen is a good wife.’ Akkiyalvan had to accept defeat.

The king then asked Alavandar to counter his own statements. Alavandar contradicted his own statements as follows:

The Shastras say “Kaakaa Vanthya Kathali Vanthya”, which means that yielding one egg by the crow or one bunch of fruit by a banana plant, both are considered as Non Yielders. That is a single tree can never form a grove. By that analogy, an only son is no son at all. So, Akkiyalvan's mother (who had only one offspring) was as good as barren in the eyes of the law.

The king cannot be called righteous as he had appointed an arrogant person to be his scholar in his court. That he had not dismissed him, revealed that the king was indeed powerless.

According to the Sruti texts, every woman is married first to Soma, then Gandharva and then Agni before marrying her earthly spouse. The queen was no exception and therefore could not be regarded as a model of chastity.

The queen greeted the boy thus, ‘you who have come to rule us all in spiritual matters.’ and the king gifted him a small country to rule.

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 praptatti (surrender unto God).