parAsara bhattar

srimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

In the previous article ( we discussed about embAr. Now we will move on to the next AchAryan in the OrAN vazhi guru paramparai.

parAsara bhattar (with nanjIyar at his thiruvadi) – srirangam

Thirunakshathram: vaikAsi, anusham

avathAra sthalam: srirangam

AchAryan: embAr

Sishyas: nanjIyar

Place where he attained paramapadham: srirangam

Works: ashtaslOki, srirangarAja sthavam, sri guNa rathna kOsam, bhagavadh guNa dharpaNam (vishnu sahasranAma vyAkyAnam), srirangarAja sthOthram

parAsara bhattar is the illustrious son of kUrathAzhwAn and ANdAL ammangAr. He and his younger brother vEdha vyAsa bhattar were born out of sriranganAthan’s prasAdham consumed by ANdAL.

Both bhattars were born to AzhwAn and ANdAL out of the prasAdham from periya perumAL (srI ranganAthan). Once when AzhwAn and ANdAL were lying down in the evening without consuming any prasAdham (AzhwAn was doing unja vruthi and on that day due to rain he was unable to collect any grains), they hear the final naivEdhyam bell ringing from the temple. ANdAL says to emperumAn “Here you have AzhwAn who is your pure devotee without any prasAdham but you are enjoying nice bhOgam there”. Understanding this, periya perumAL sends his prasAdham to AzhwAn and ANdAL with all his paraphernelia through uththama nambi. Seeing the prasAdham coming in, AzhwAn is awe-struck. Immediately, he turns to ANdAL and asks did you complain to emperumAn and ANdAL admits her request. AzhwAn becomes upset for insisting emperumAn to provide for their prasAdham. He accepts 2 handfuls of prasAdham alone, consumes some and gives the remnants to ANdAL. Those 2 handfuls of prasAdham eventually blesses them with two beautiful children.

embAr performs dhvaya mahA manthrOpadhEsam to both parAsara and vEdha vyAsa bhattars when they were only 11 days old and emperumAnAr orders him to be the AchAryan for both of them. emperumAnAr also instructs kUrthAzhwAn to give parAsara bhattar as an adopted son for periya perumAL and AzhwAn does so. bhattar was also taken care off by sriranga nAchiAr herself in her sannidhi when he was very young.

When bhattar was very young, he once comes to periya kOil for mangalAsAsanam. At that time after bhattar worships periya perumAL, he comes out and emperumAnAr tells ananthAzhwAn and other srivaishnavas, that bhattar should be treated just like himself.

bhattar was extremely brilliant right from his childhood. There are many incidents which prove this fact.

  • Once when he was playing in the street, a vidhwAn named sarvajna bhattan comes in a palanquin. bhattar shocked to see some one being carried in a palanquin in srirangam, goes straight to him and challenges him for a debate. sarvajna bhattan considers bhattar as a child and says bhattar can ask any question and that will be answered by him. bhattar picks a handful of sand asks how much sand he has in his hand. sarvajna bhattan becomes speechless and says he does not know. bhattar says that he could have just answered “its a handful”. Amazed by bhattar’s brilliance, sarvajna bhattan at once comes down from a palanquin and carries bhattar to his parents and glorify him.
  • When he was very young during his gurukulam time, bhattar was playing in the streets. At that time, AzhwAn comes by and asks why bhattar was playing instead of attending the class. bhattar says “every day they are teaching the same santhai again and again” – usually the same santhai is repeated for 15 days or so. But bhattar could grasp right in the first day itself. AzhwAn tests him with a pAsuram and bhattar easily recites it.
  • Once when AzhwAn was teaching nedumArkkadimai padhigam in thiuvAimozhi, when the term “sirumA manisar” is encountered – bhattar asks “is it not contradictory that the same person be small and big?”. For that AzhwAn explains that like mudhaliAndAn, aruLaLaperumAL emperumAnAr, etc., some srivaishnavas are small physically but their heart and intelligence are very big. bhattar is satisfied with the logical answer.

After growing up bhattar becomes the dharisana pravarthakar of the sampradhAyam. bhattar had many special qualities like extreme humility, magananimity and he was a great rasikar of aruLicheyal meanings. In many vyAkyAnams, nampiLLai and other AchAryas quote bhattar’s view point as the best opinion.

Also, similar to AzhwAn, bhattar would also get immersed in thiruvAimozhi and its meanings. There are many such incidents that are shown in vyAkyAnams. Many times when AzhwAr sings in the mood of parAnkusa nAyaki – bhattar would just say “no one can understand what is going on in AzhwAr’s mind now”.

There are many incidents which portray bhattar’s humility, magnanimity, brilliance, etc. bhattar’s humility is praised by maNavALa mAmunigaL in yathirAja vimsathi in comparison with ALavandhAr’s and AzhwAn’s humility. Actually the vyAkyAnams is filled with Idhihyams (incidents) and nirvAhams (instructions/conclusions) of bhattar.

  • In his srirangarAja sthOthram, he identifies an incident. Once a dog some how enters periya kOil. The archakas decide to do a lagu (small) samprOkshaNam. Hearing this bhattar runs to periya perumAL and tells him that every day he (bhattar) walks into the temple and no samprOskhanam is done and why are they doing a samprOkshaNam when a dog enters the temple. Such was his humility – even after a being such a great scholar, he considers himself lower than a dog.
  • In the same srirangarAja sthOthram, he says that he would rather be born as a dog in the streets of srirangam than being born than dhEvalOkam as a dhEvan.
  • Once in front of namperumAL, some kainkaryaparas without looking at bhattar starts scolding him out of jealousy. Hearing this bhattar presents his grand ornaments and shawl to him. He thanks him saying “Every srivaishnava should do two things – sing the glories of emperumAn and also lament the faults of oneself. I got immersed with singing the glories of emperumAn and forgot my duty of lamenting about my faults. Now you have done me a great favour of fulfilling my duty, so I should only reward you”. Such was his magnanimity.
  • Several srivaishnavas attend bhattar’s kAlakshEpa gOshti. Once bhattar waits for a srivaishnava who is not so learned in sAstram. Other vidhwAns in the gOshti ask him why he was waiting and bhattar says it is because that srivaishnava though may not be a vidhwAn knows the absolute truth. To prove his point, he calls out one of the vidhwAn and asks “what is the upAyam?” and the scholar replies “there are so many upAyams mentioned in the sAstram –  karma, jnAna, bhakthi yOgam, etc”. Then he asks “what is the upEyam?” and the scholar replies “there are so many goals – isvaryam, kaivalyam, kainkaryam, etc”. bhattar says, even after being vidhwAns – there is no clarity. When that srivaishnava arrives bhattar asks the same questions and that swamy replies “emperumAn is upAyam and emperumAn is upEyam”. bhattar says this is the proper nishtai of a srivaishnava and that is why he waited for that swamy to arrive.
  • When sOmAsiyAndAn asks about thiruvArAdhana kramam, bhattar teaches him a detailed version of it. Once when sOmAsiyAndAn visits bhattar, bhattar is about to eat his prasAdham and suddenly remembers that he had not done thiruvArAdhanam yet. He calls for his thiruvArAdhana perumAL to be brought over and he offers the perpared food to him and straight away starts eating the prasAdham. When sOmAsiyAndAn asks why detailed thiruvArAdhanam for him, bhattar says for bhattar even small thiruvArAdhanam is too much to handle (because the moment he starts thiruvArAdhanam he will be overwhelmed with emotions and faint) and for sOmAsiyAndAn even a big thiruvArAdhanam is not sufficient (because he is a person who is used to performing sOma yAgam which is very nature by big – so anything small will not satsify him).
  • Once during a uriyadi purappAdu in srirangam, bhattar left the vEdha pArAyaNa ghOsthi and joined the idayar (cowherds) gOshti. When asked he says, emperumAn’s katAksham will be on the idayars that particular day (since this purappAdu is specifically for them) and it is important for us to be where his katAksham is.
  • Once ananthAzhwAn asks bhattar if parampadhanAthan has two hands or four hands. bhattar says it can be either one and says if he has two hands he will be like periya perumAL and if he has four hands he will be like namperumAL.
  • ammaNiAzhwAn comes from a long distance and requests bhattar to give some valuable advice. bhattar explains nedumArkkadimai padhigam in thiruvAimozhi and says knowing emperumAn means eating a little bit and knowing bhAgavathas means eating full stomach.
  • Once a king comes to bhattar after hearing his glories and tells bhattar to come and visit him for some financial help. bhattar says even if namperumAL’s abhaya hastham (hand in protection posture) turns the other way, he will not go to anyone for help.
  • Once when amudhanAr considers himself greater than bhattar because of his AchArya-sishya relationship with AzhwAn (in comparison to Father-Son relationship with bhattar), bhattar simply says “it is very valid, but amuthanAr himself should not have said that”.
  • When some one asks bhattar “how should srivaishnavas treat dhEvathAntharams?”, bhattar responds saying the question itself is wrong and the question should be “how should dhEvathAntharams treat srivaishnavas?”. He says since, dhEvathAntharams are filled rajO/thamO guNam and srivaishnavas are filled with sathva guNam,  it is only natural for dhEvathAntharams to be subservient to srivaishnavas. (This idhihyam is also explained in relation to AzhwAn).
  • bhattar’s glories are boundless, even his own mother (who has a great scholar herself) would take the sripAdha thIrtham of her own son. When asked, she would say just because a sculptor creates a sculpture, it does not mean that he cannot worship/adore that sculpture once it becomes emperumAn’s thirumEni. The same way even though bhattar is born from her, he is great and should be worshipped.
  • Once a dhEvathAntharaparar’s dhoti touches bhattar accidentally. Even being a great scholar, bhattar gets shaken up by this simple incident of having mild contact with a dhEvathAntharaparar. He runs to his mother and asks what to do. His mother says the only way is to accept sripAdha thIrtham of a abrAhmaNa srivaishnava. Bhattar locates one such srivaishnava and requests for his sripAdha thIrtham. That srivaishnava looking at the stature (position) of bhattar refuses to give sripAdha thIrtham but bhattar insists and accepts the same from him.
  • Once bhattar was doing thiruvAlavatta (fan) kainkaryam in a mandapam near cauvery river. The sun is about to set, so the srivaishnavas remind him about sandhyAvandhanam. bhattar replies since he is in antharanga kainkaryam (confidential service) to emperumAn, chithragupthan (yaman’s administrative incharge) will not count this as a pApam. azhagiya perumAL nAyanAr explains this principle in AchArya hrudhayam as “aththANi chEvagaththil pothuvAnathu nazhuvum” (அத்தாணிச் சேவகத்தில் பொதுவானது நழுவும்). This cannot be taken as an excuse for not doing nithya karmAs when we are watching TV, etc.
  • Once during adhyayana utsavam, ANdAL ammangAr reminds bhattar about pAraNam on dhvAdhasi. For that bhattar replies, “How do we even remember EkAdhasi/dhvAdhasi during periya uthsavam?”. This means when there is bhagavadh anubhavam we should not think about food at all (this is mis-interpreted by many to say that we dont have to fast on EkAdhasi which is a karthavyam for us).
  • Once bhattar instructs his disciples to develop detachment on this body and bodily decorations. But the next day, he wears nice silk clothes, ornaments, etc. When the disciples ask about the contradiction in his instructions and the actions, bhattar says, he considers his body as a kOilAzhwAr – vAsasthalam (residing place) of emperumAn. So just like we decorate a mandapam where emperumAn stays for a short while, if we have developed that athavasAyam (strong faith) we can also decorate our body in many beautiful ways.
  • When vIrasundhara brahma rAyan, the local king and sishya of AzhwAn, wants to build a madhiL, he decides to disturb/destroy piLLai piLLai AzhwAn’s thirumALigai in the process. bhattar instructs him not to do that but the king does not listen to that. bhattar leaves srirangam and goes to thirukkOshtiyUr and lives there for some time. During those days, bhattar is unable to bear the separation from sriranganAthan and is plunged in sorrow fully. Finally after the king dies, bhattar returns to srirangam and srirangarAja sthavam was composed on his way back to srirangam.
  • Once bhattar defeats some vidhwAns in debate. To trick him they put a snake in a pot and ask him what is in the pot. bhattar realizing that there is a snake, says that “there is an umbrella inside” – the vidhwAns were puzzled by the answer and bhattar explains since poigai AzhwAr says “chendrAl kudaiyAm” – snake (AdhisEshan) means umbrella as well.

There are so many incidents like this in his life which are absolutely enjoyable every second and every time we read it again and again.

bhattar is very attached to sriranga nAchiAr who is his mother. He is attached to her even more than periya perumAL. Once when namperumAL adorns nAchiAr thirukkOlam and asks he if looks like sriranga nAchiAr – bhatter says everything is fine, but the karuNai in her eyes are not to be seen in the eyes of emperumAn. This also reminds us how hanumAn compares rAman and sIthai and in the end says sIthai is asithEkshaNa (have beautiful eyes) which is even better than rAman emperumAn’s eyes. sriguNa rathna kOsam is his out pourings of his attachment towards sriranga nAchiAr.

Bhattar gives wonderful explanations for many pAsurams where the meanings are difficult to understand. Let us see a couple here.

  • In periya thirumozhi 7.1.1 karavA madanAgu pAsuram, piLLai amudhnAr explains that AzhwAr is the cow and emperumAn is the calf – AzhWar is longing for emperumAn just like the cow longing for its calf. But bhattar looks at it slightly differently and gives a better view point which is appreciated by the pUrvAchAryas. bhattar says “karavA mada nAgu than kanRu” should be read together. So he says “just like the cow’s calf longs for the mother cow”, AzhwAr is longing for emperumAn.
  • In periya thirumozhi 4.4.6 vyAkyAnam it is shown that AppAn thiruvazhunthUr arayar and other srivaishnavas request bhattar to explain the meaning of this pAsuram. bhattar asks them to recite the pAsuram and quickly points out that AzhwAr is saying this pAsuram speaking as rAvaNan. bhattar explains here that rAvaNan (out of pride) is saying that “I am the king of all the 3 worlds, but a normal human being is thinking that he is a great warrior comes to fight with me” – but eventually he gets defeated by rAman emperumAn.

One of the highlights of bhattar’s life is him going to thirunArAyaNapuram to debate and bring nanjIyar in to our sampradhAyam. It was emperumAnAr’s divine order that nanjIyar should be reformed. bhattar goes all the way to thirunArAyaNapuram in his palanquin with grand srivaishnava gOshti to debate with madhavAcharyar (nanjIyar’s original name) on the sidhAntham. Eventually he was stopped and suggested that going like that in a grand manner will not be favourable as the disciples of mAdhavAchAryar will stop him and just delay him from meeting him forever. So he changes to a very simple attire and goes to the thathiArAdhana kUtam (hall) of mAdhavAchAriar. He waits there without eating and mAdhavAchAriar taking a note of him, comes to him and asks him why he does not eat and what he wants. bhattar says he wants to debate with him. mAdhavAchAriar having heard about bhattar before quickly realises this to bhattar (since no one will have the guts to challenge him) engages with bhattar for a debate. bhattar first uses thirunedunthAntakam to establish the parathvam of emperumAn and subsequently presents all the meanings from sAsthram. mAdhavAchAriar accepts the defeat and falls at the lotus feet of bhattar and accepts him as AchAryan. bhattar gives him specific instructions to learn aruLicheyal, etc and teaches him our sampradhAya arthams. bhattar takes leave from him and goes to srirangam on the day before the start of adhyayana uthsavam. There is a grand welcome arranged in srirangam for bhattar. bhattar goes to periya perumAL and he narrates in front of him the whole incidents. periya perumAL being very pleased orders bhattar to recite thirunedunthAntagam and this is made a custom ever after that in srirangam – the adhyayana uthsavam starts with the recital of thirundenthAntagam there alone.

bhattar was the first to document rahasya thrayam in a grantham. His ashta slOki is a master piece, where thirumanthram, dhvayam and charama slOkam are explained excellently in just eight slOkams. Also, in srirangarAja sthavam, he explains most complicated sAstra arthams in simple slOkams. In vishnu sahasranAma vyAkyAnam, he shows that each thirunAmam relates to a particular guNam of emperumAn and his explanations are of absolute beauty. sri guNa rathna ghOsam is a dedication to sriranga nAchiAr which is unparallel to any other work.

bhattar leaves samsAram at a relatively young age compared to most of our pUrvAchAryas who lived for more than 100 years. It is said that, if only he lived a few more years he would have built a staircase to paramapadham from here. bhattar instructs nanjIyar to write a commentary for thiruvAimozhi. He also appoints nanjIyar as the dharisana pravarthakar.

Once bhattar recites some pAsurams and nice meanings in front of periya perumAL who gets very pleased and says “you are given mOksham now”. bhattar is ecstatic, but he says that if he is unable to see namperumAL in paramapadham, he will make a hole and jump out of paramapadham and come back to srirangam. He goes to his mother and informs this and His mother is even happier for her son getting mOksham (really, this is the nishtai of our pUrvAchAryas – they had fully understood the purpose of our life). When some srivaishnavas asked bhattar “periya perumAL out of his joy gave mOksham to you. Why did you accept that? What are we going to do here? There are so many jIvAthmAs to be reformed in this samsAram. Who is going to do that?”. bhattar replies, “I wont fit in this samsAram. Just like high quality ghee does not fit in a dog’s stomach – I am not a fit for this samsAram either”.

bhattar invites all srivaishnavas to his thirumALigai and performs a grand thadhiArAdhanam. He sits in padhmAsanam, starts reciting thirunedunthAntagam and with a big smile on his face give up his thirumEni and reach paramapadham. Every one starts crying but eventually start doing the charama kainkaryams. ANdAL ammangar, happily embraces bhattar’s charama thirumEni and gives him a great send off. bhattar’s life has the power to melt even a stone.

Let us pray at the lotus feet of bhattar that we also develop such attachment towards emperumAn and AchAryan.

bhattar’s thanian

srI parAsara bhattArya srIrangEsa purOhitha:
srIvathsAnga sutha: srImAn shrEyasE mEsthu bhUyasE

ஸ்ரீ பராஸர பட்டார்ய ஸ்ரீரங்கேஸ புரோஹித:
ஸ்ரீவத்ஸாங்க ஸுத: ஸ்ரீமான் ச்ரேயஸே மேஸ்து பூயஸே

In our next article, we will see nanjIyar vaibhavam.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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Sources: 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhavam, periya thirumudi adaivu, vyAkyAnams

40 thoughts on “parAsara bhattar”

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  8. thank you so much ..i am currently hearing the vishnu sahasranama vyakyanam as elucidated by parashara bhattar and I wanted to know more about him. I also read on the internet that he left sri rangam because of some displeasure of the chola king..I was not sure what happened to him next and my heart was broken as I could not imagine him anywhere but in srirangam. Reading your article delighted me..he returned to sri rangam!!!-
    thank you for your article. I am just surprised in the end that he compared himself to and expensive “ghee”..somehow that explanation needs more refining as I am sure that would never have been his intention reading the rest of his story.
    Thank you so much for the article.

    • thanks for the feedback.
      “expensive ghee” is an anectode to explain that a most valuable person like himself does not fit in a place that is considered very lowly.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

      • adiyEn Swami. I think Smt. Deepa wanted to say that Sri Parashara Bhattar would not have spoken highly of Himself and wanted to understand why He compared Himself to expensive ghee given that He was humility personified. If the explanation for that is given then it will help her enjoy Sri Parashara Bhattar’s greatness more.

        • Yes swamy – he was humility personified certainly. But at times he manifested what is known as “rAjakula mAhAthmyam” (pride of being a prince) since he is the adopted son of srI ranganAchiyAr and srI ranganAthan. Our pUrvAchAryas have enjoyed both aspects of bhattar equally due to his unsurpassed greatness.

          Also, it is a fact that, this samsAram is considered as a miserable place – even nammAzhwAr in his first pAsuram (thiruviruththam 1) says he wants to be uplifted from this samsAram. So, even in this context, AthmA being a pure entity of knowledge and bliss, it does not fit well in this samsAram which is the abode of ignorance – so, its also an important philosophical point revealed by bhattar here.
          adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

  9. Swamin , Devarir gave great explanation about Para sara Battar vaibhavam. Battar also wrote a Vyakayanam for Kaishika mahatmiyam which is a part of Varaha apurana telling glories of Kaishika ekadesi. Varaha peruman tells the easy way or upayam to reach him to Bhoomi devi thayar. In that he explains about the story of parama bhagavathan called Nampaduvan. In that bhagavan himself tells about his parathvam and no devathantram is equal to him. Battar made Vyakayanam to that Kaishika puranam and recite it in front of nam perumal in day of Kaishika ekadesi. Pleased by batter’s Vyakayanam nam perumal gives him moksham telling “Umaku peru veedu thandhom”. After hearing this battar tells this incident to his mother and she bless him by telling ” Nalam anthamellathor nadu puguveer” nalam anthamellathor nadu ie Srivaikundam. After this battar went to sleep ,thirukanmalarthu arula, next day battar reach vaikundam. The Kaishika ekadesi utsavam is celebrated in Srirangam in grand mannar with Kaishika mahatmiyam vinnappam. Swamin this charitram about battar is also prevalent , pl clarify.
    Adiyen dasan

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