S ri:Ra:ma:yana is a poem which can be sung. It is a commentary on human relationships and also guides us in our spiritual life. Graceful poetry, highest ethics, embedded mantras – all these are included in Sri:Ra:ma:yana. Our a:cha:ryas also reveal to us that Sri:Ra:ma:yana is all about the relationship between the soul and God! Thus Sri:Ra:ma:yana is multi-layered, each layer elevating us in its own way!
Sri:Ra:ma:yana is a narrative of Lord Ra:ma However, the entire epic sings the glory of Si:tha De:vi. Va:lmi:ki maharshi eulogies his work Sri:Ra:ma:yana as ‘Si:tha:yah charitam mahat’ ( ba:la kanda, 4th sarga, 7th slo:ka). According to him, Sri:Ra:ma:yana is sublime story of Si:tha. Thus Si:tha De:vi is the central character in the epic.
As we go through Sri:Ra:ma:yana, we find many women characters with distinct relationship with Sri:Ra:ma. After Si:tha De:vi, we remember Kausalya, Sumithra, Kaike:yi as mothers of Sri:Ra:ma. We come across U:rmila, Ma:ndavi, Srutha ki:rthi who are consorts of Sri:Ra:ma’s brothers Lakshmana, Bharatha and Sathrughna respectively. Manthara, a close housemaid of queen Kaike:yi , is an unforgettable character
We come across Ahalya, Anasu:ya, Sa:bari who ideals and exalted deeds. It also reveals to us the traits of Ji:vas (souls) and Parama:thama (God), their relationship and how Divine Mother Lakshmi ( as Si:tha De:vi) plays the role of mediator between them.
Be it in English language or our regional languages, we often refer Sri:Ra:ma as ‘Lord’ Sri:Ra:ma and Si:tha De:vi as ‘Mother’ Si:tha. It is not without a reason that we show this distinction. Lord Sri:Ra:ma ever protects those who seek refuge in him. It is his vow to do so. However, to bestow her grace, Mother Si:tha requires no such formal surrender. She showers love and mercy unconditionally!
With the help of Va:naras, Lord Sri:Ra:ma waged war with Ra:vana and killed him. Hanuma:n went to Si:tha De:vi to announce the victory. Hanuma:n was angry with the demonesses who guarded and threatened the captive Si:tha thereby making her miserable. He sought Mother Si:tha’s permission to punish them. The compassionate Mother Si:tha said,
| vidhe:ya:na:m cha da:si:na:m kaha kupye:th va:naro:ththama||
(Yuddha Ka:nda, 116th Sarga,37th sloka)
Mother says, ‘Best among Va:naras! We cannot be angry on these servants of Ra:vana who only obeyed their king’s orders.’ Mother needs no request from those demonesses. On her own she takes their side and defends them! She gives several arguments as to why the demonesses must be forgiven. She does not hesitate to say ‘I experienced all these sorrows because of my past misdeeds’.
To worship Mother Si:tha is to imbibe the idea that before arriving at conclusions about a situation, we must attempt to understand the context as well.
Yathira:jar and the purpose of his life was to propagate Ma:ran’s marai (Tamil vedam). Maha:muni lived for Tamil vedam as per the instruction of his immediate preceptor. He spent his time mastering Tamil vedam and its explanatory texts, particularly E:du of Sri Nampillai. His mastery of this text was so admirable that Sri Namperuma:l spent one year learning from him.
Lord Azhagiya Manava:lan was so elated with the lecture of Maha:muni, who submitted the thaniyan as guru samarpanam. This section indicates the importance of Swa:mi Nama:zhva:r’s Thiruva:imozhi and its explanatory texts. For Sri Vaishava:s, bhagavath and bha:gavatha ara:dhanam gets fulfilled only with the recitation of Thiruva:imozhi.
Thaniyan Par Excellence
The thaniyan recited by the Lord as an eulogy to his preceptor is a the “Sri,” as highlighted by Yajur veda indicating the importance of Sruti. For us, this thaniyan is indeed a mantram that sings the praise of our a:cha:ryan. While overtly, it showcases the attributes of Maha:muni, it sketches the mastery of these texts by Varamunigal. Covertly, it talks about the four great texts, which are reverential for us. The thaniyan points out that Swa:mi Maha:muni lived the life as prescribed in these texts and nudges us to learn these texts.
Swa:mi Manava:la Maha:muni is guru par excellence and the lineage of early preceptors (po:rva:cha:ryars) ends with him as his disciple was Lord Rangana:than himself who is indeed our first preceptor, thus completing the early preceptor cyclical arrangement. What an act by the Supreme to showcase the greatness of Maha:muni as his preceptor in this Kali yugam.
Srisailesha thaniyam is indeed preternatural and a perfect gift from the Supreme for us to get uplifted and attain our purusha:rtha:.
Azhva:r Emperuma:na:r Jeeyar Thiruvadigale Sharanam!
– By: Professor Gomatam Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA