Ramanuja

  • Bringing about change in a system that has stood like a rock for centuries is no easy task. Just like it takes a mighty wind to nudge a rock, the mighty rock of Hinduism shook when the mighty force of Ramanuja’s principles struck it.

  • Ramanuja was born in the eleventh century and took to Vaishnavism from a very early age. But the Vaishnavism he believed in was not the rigid way of life followed by the people of his time. He believed that God is welcoming of everyone despite their differences. This inclusive version of Vaishnavism is what made Sri Rangam a spectacular religious centre visited by people of all origins.

  • Ramanuja is considered as the thirteenth Azhwar by some. That sounds highly agreeable, since most of his verses hold reference to Azhwars’ songs, mainly Nammazhvar’s songs.

  • The other philosophy that had a major following during Ramanuja’s era was ‘Advaitha’, which Adhi Shankara preached. To put it in a nutshell, Advaitha says that everything from dust to humans is God. Though Visishtadvaitha was prevalent even before the times of Ramanuja, it was Ramanuja who resurrected it and opposed other ideologies, including Advaitha. Visishtadvaitha essentially means that God is different from his creations. Advaitha preaches the presence of only one element, and Visishtadvaitha preaches the multitude of elements. It was only after Ramanuja’s entry into the spiritual world that everyone was able to participate in spirituality.

  • Like most spiritual leaders, Ramanuja also underwent tutelage under several teachers. His first guru Yadhava Prakasha taught Ramanuja Vedas and Upanishads. But Ramanuja was not one with the herd mentality and confidently opposed most of his teacher’s teachings. When Yadhava Prakasha could hear no more of Ramanuja’s alternate theories, Ramanuja had to leave Yadhava Prakasha’s tutelage. From then on, there was nothing to stop Ramanuja’s growth.

  • The speciality of Ramanuja is that he is hailed by both sects – theists and atheists. Theists worship him as a great Guru and as an incarnation of the Lord himself, while atheists look up to him as a revolutionist and a reformer.

  • Ramanuja holds a great role in opening the doors of temples to those from the oppressed sections. He called them ‘Thirukkulatthaar’, which roughly translates into ‘those of a divine clan’. Though this term is not prevalent today, it is important that we analyse the step Ramanuja took in the settings of the era he lived in. Such analysis would show Ramanuja as the broad-minded and forward-thinking leader he is.