Monday, March 14, 2011

Sri Venkateshwara

kAraNaparachidrUpAyai namaH

matsyakUrmavaraahaadinAnArUpavidhAriNyai namaH

veMkAro.amR^itabIjastu kUTamaishwarmamuccvhyate |
amR^itaishwarya saMghatvaadvenkaTAdri iti smR^itaH || [vArAhe 36-32]

The hill that grants eternal bliss is Venkatachala. Or, Vem refers to sin and kata, to destroy. That hill which destroys the sins is called Venkatadri. The lord of such a hill is called Venkatesha or Venkatadrisha. From time immemorial, the formless Brahman has been worshipped in his saguNa aspect as Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya, Skanda and Ganapati. Followers of each of these forms claim their chosen deity to be superior over the rest, ignoring the lofty truth of the Upanishads, which proclaim that the Parabrahman is formless and that these murtis represent the saguNa aspect of the same Brahman.

Does Sri Venkatesha at Tirumala represent Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti or Subrahmanya? This question has been raised, answered and contested by several individuals and sects for several centuries now. Sri Venkatesha has been worshipped by Jains worshipped as Adimuleshwara, Vaishanavas as Srinivasa, Shaivas as Harishankara and Shaktas as Sri Bala Tripurasundari. There are enough reasons to associate this mUrti with Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu and Subrahmanya. I will not list the reasons why this mUrti is associated with Srimannarayana as these are already well known.

Association of Sri Venkateshwara with Lord Mahadeva and his parivAra:

1. Early Azhwars [Vaishnavaite saints] praised Venkateshwara as a blend of Hari and Hara. In some of the older pasurams of Azhwars, the lord is said to have worn Chakra and Parashu, signifying Hari-Hara-Samaikya Murti But after the advent of Ramanujacharya, this practice was severely discouraged. By this time, Shaivaites called him Shiva and Vaishnavaites called him Vishnu. This becomes clear after one reads several shAsanas in the name of a local king called Thalalu Gosina Yadava Rayalu. He was a staunch devotee of Ramanuja who beheaded 101 Shaivas who claimed Venkatesha to be Shiva. For his staunch adherence to Sri Vaishnava philosophy, he was honored by Ramanuja with the title Sri Bhashya, to be named after him. We find the mention of this king with the epithet Sribhashya Yadava Rayulu. It is said that the original deity at Venkatachala did not sport Shamkha or Chakra or even the Srivaishnava Tilaka we see today. After a series of conflicts between Shaivaite and Vaishnavaite assemblies in Kalahasti and Tirupati, Ramanuja fitted Shankha and Chakra to the hind wrists of the original deity.

2. The Mula mantra of Venkatesha is of nine and eight letters [ashtakshari and navakshari], both of which refer to Venkatesha and not Srinivasa. Traditional Vaishnavaites have always preferred to use Srinivasa and not Venkateshwara as the word 'Isha', though meaning 'Lord' in general terms, was always seen with suspicion as only referring to Lord Shiva. Also, the Dhyana Shlokas for these mantras [given in Brahmanda and Brahmavaivarta Puranas] refer to nAgabhUshana and Srivatsa chinha which suggest a Hari-Hara murti.

3. It is a practice to worship Srinivasa with Bilwa during Dhanurmasa. Bilwa is very sacred for Shivarchana and traditional Vaishnanas stay away from Bilwa, though it is recorded as sacred for the worship of Mahalakshmi as well.

4. The idol of Srinivasa has a jaTA - matted hair, which is a lakshana of Shaiva Murtis.

5. On Shivaratri day, all archakas of the temple visit Kshetrapalas and Abhisheka is performed according to Shaivagama. Though Srivaishnavaite scholars claim this to be non-traditional, this practice is still in vogue. This is suggestive of a greater celebration on this day in the main shrine itself in the bygone days, which has now seemingly got reduced to a customary visit of the Kshetrapalaka. In fact, this is similar to the worship offered to the Shiva Linga behind Lord Narasimha in Ahobilam in the cave, neglected on all days other than on Shivaratri.

6. On Vinayaka Chaturthi, Modakas or Kadubu is offered to Lord Venkatadrisha, suggesting his swarUpa as Lord Mahaganapati.

7. Shiva Rahasya, an Itihasa, describes Venkatadri as the abode of Lord Subrahmanya in his form as a VaTu, without a consort. It is described that the famous tIrtha - swAmi puShkariNi - is named after swAminAtha or kumAra swAmi. This is also indicated by the Sahasranama of Venkateshwara which has the nama: swamidhyeyaya namaH, one who is meditated upon by Kumaraswami. According to some legends, Vishnu and Subrahmanya worshipped Dakshinamurti in the hill of Venkatam and attained oneness with each other and the Lord. Another name, kartikeyavapushe namaH is suggestive of the same.

8. Also, from the story of Venkateshwara, one can see an episode where he emerges from an anthill, suggesting his oneness with Subrahmanya. It is very common to find names such as Venkatasubbayya or Venkatasubrahmanyam in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, indicating this forgotten aspect. Also, one should carefully understand the Muttuswami Dikshitar Krti - subrahmaNyena rakShitoham - in Suddha Dhanyasi: venkateshwara namarUpeNa, vichitra vishAkhA mahotsavena. This was later modified as venkateshwara vibhavitena, probably by Semmangudi mama, but pAtti's (DKP) version has the former pATha.

9. The Venkatesha Sahasranama goes like this: venatesho virUpAkSho vishwesho vishwabhavanaH, the very second name indicating his shiva swarUpa. Every hymn, in the first verse, conveys the gist of the entire hymn by indicating the central focus of the hymn, the path or the philosophy adopted to elaborate on the chosen subject etc. The first verse has no mention of any of the popular epithets of Vishnu at all. Exactly 500 names apply to Shiva in this Sahasranama and 500 to Vishnu.

10. The feet of the idol is underground, which is a necessity for all Shiva murtis according to kAmikAgama

Association of Sri Venkateshwara to Sridevi:

1. Lord has Simha Niketanam [emblem is a couchant lion] which is peculiar to forms of Sridevi everywhere.

2. The special annual festival of the Lord is performed during Sharannavaratri, special to Sri Lalita.

3. Swami is bathed in Manjal or turmeric every friday, which is generally a prescribed practice for Amba [Durvasa Samhita, 29-6].

4. To this day, auttareyas worship Lord as Balaji - non-different from Sri Bala Tripurasundari, and it is believed that the prosperity of this shrine is due to a Srichakra established by Adi Shankara somewhere on this hill.

5. Lord's waist is very slender which, according to sAmudrikA shAstra, is characteristic of Ambika.

6. Lord's hair is very long, reaching the knee, again characteristic of Ambika.

The Gayatri associated with Venkateshwara Ashtakshari is:

OM vekateshAya vidmahe tripatinAthAya dhiimahi tanno sriinivAsaH prachodayAt ||

What we currently refer to as Tirupati, is a distortion of `Tripati'. Tripati is the original name of the place, metaphorically referring to Ajna chakra, where the three nADis iDA, pingaLA and suShumnA join. Lord, situated above this hill in an elevated place, which is sahasrAra, is tripatIsha or vekatesha. Tripati also refers to that Brahma Vastu, who is the Lord of three kUTas - vAgbhava, kAmarAja and shakti, which form the three elements of the mantra of Sri Bala Tripurasundari. Or, tripadi is an alternate reading, which refers to Kundalini Shakti residing in a triangle or trikona in mUlAdhAra, who reaches her Lord Paramashiva, called here as Venkatesha or tripadi-Isha residing on the seventh hill of Sahasrara, after crossing the six chakras [mUlAdhara to AjnA], represented by six hills.

Thus, it would be limiting to exclusively associate Sri Venkateshwara with Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Subrahmanya or Ganapati. He represents any/all of them. Today someone orwarded an article written by yet another Professor at some Western University who wrote endlessly on how Samayachara was extinct, a concoction of Brahmins [Brahmin-bashing I thought was Karunanidhi's patent, by the way the latest I heard was that the Brahmins were responsible for global warming, for Bush's war in Iraq and for the outbreak of Bird flu], how interpretation of Srichakra was incorrect in Samaya form [The Srichakra at Kamakshi temple, drawn by Sri Durvasa, prescribes to the rules laid out in Shuka Samhita, later quoted by Lolla Lakshmidhara, who represented one school among the five], how nyAsa is impossible [he seems to have no clue of samayAchAra as nyAsa is performed in Shatchakras and according to samanvayAdhikarana], how everyone followed Kaula but called it Samayachara etc. It is the mindset of the ignorant to reject what is beyond their realm of perception or understanding as untrue. Some sane unbiased thinking guided by a study of scriptures and personal experience is the only way out in such cases. The same is applicable in the case of Sri Venkateshwara as well. To conclude, it would be right to call the parama puruSha: shivashaktyaikya rUpiNi or harishankararUpavAn or skandanArAyaNAtmakaH.

govindarUpiNyai namaH

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