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Sri Manavala MamunikaL

Sri Manavala mamunikal was the son of Thikalakidanthan thirunavirudayapiran thatharannan, a disciple of Sri Pillailokacarya, and Sriranga nacciyar. He was born in the town of kidaram in Tamilnadu, in the year 1370 AD. He was the first acarya to comment of the works of earlier acaryas.

His parents named him Azhakiya manavalan, after the Lord Himself. He learnt the Vedas, Vedangas and all other sastras from his father. He was an outstanding student, who knew the Divya prabandhas, the Vedas and had a boundless knowledge of religion. He married at the proper time and lived as a true vaishnava. He moved to Alvar Tirunagari and became a sishya of Tiruvaymozhip pillai.

It is said that Manavala mamuni's devotion to Nammalvar, Ramanuja and to his own Acharya grew as he studied the Alvar's hymns and rahasyas at Alvar tirunagari. On observing his devotion to Ramanuja, Tiruvay mozhip pillai ordered the construction of a Shrine of Ramanuja at Tirunagari and appointed Manavala mamuni to take care of the activities at the shrine. During this time Manavala mamuni composed his first work Yatiraja Vimsati, twenty sanskrit stanzas in praise of Ramanuja. Tiruvaymozhip pillai read the works and gave him the title Yatindra Pravanar. Since that time onwards he was addressed Yatindra Pravanar. He had a son and named him Ramanujap pillai.

After the death of his guru, Tiruvaymozhip pillai, Manavala mamuni moved north to Srirangam with his family and his co-disciple Ramanuja Jeeyar (later to be known as Vanamaamalai Jeeyar). He was very well received at Srirangam in spite of some initial friction with Uttama Nampi who was in charge of the temple administration. Soon they patched up and Manavala mamuni started to institute some reforms at the temple, very much in line with what Ramanuja did. He started to research the manuscripts of earlier acharyas and had them restored and recopied. He went on a pilgrimage to Kanchi, Tirumalai and Sriperumpudur.

While in Kanchi he studied Sri Bhashya with Kitambi Nayanar, a disciple of Brahamatantra Svatantra Jeeyar. After his return to Srirangam he renounced his householder status and became a Sanyasin, concentrating on temple activities. He, soon, began giving discourses on Alvar's hymns and his list of disciples grew constantly. He took over and renovated the old math of Ramanuja, using clay from Pillai Lokacharya's house. He also ordered an idol of Pillai Lokacharya to be installed at Srirangam temple.

After some time he returned to Alvar Tirunagari and when trying to teach Acharya hrdayam, encountered some difficulties. So he decided to consult with Tirunarayanpurattay, who was a co-disciple of Tiruvaymozhip pillai. As he was on his way to Alvar tirunagari to meet Manavalamamuni. They both met at the outskirts of Alvar Tirunagari and returned to Manavala mamuni's residence, and the later studied the secrets of the Acharya Hrdayam. It is said that, Manavala mamuni, during this time had many important disciples such as Kantadai annan, Prativadi bhayankaram anna, Erumbi appa, Appilai and Appillan.

Around 1430, Mamuni conducted a one year lecture series on Tiruvaymozhi according to all five commentaries. During these lectures a small boy stepped forward and uttered the verse that became to be known as Manavala mamuni's Taniyan

srIsailesha dayaapaatram dIbhaktyAdi gunArnavam |
YatIndrapravanam vande ramyajAmAtram munim ||

This was interpreted by the audience as a proclamation by the Lord Himself as
the same verse was revealed through the archakas at Tirupati and Alakar koil.

It is said that, while at a very old age, Manavala maamuni discoverd that part of Periyavachchaan pillai's commentary on Periyalvar Tirumozhi was missing. So he sent word to Tiruppanalvar Tattar Nayanar at Alvar tirunagari to come and help him complete the commentary. It is also noted that he composed the commentary on Acharya Hrdayam with great difficulty as his health was failing. When he became very ill, preventing him from worshiping at the temple, he dedicated one tamil stanza a day, expressing to Ramanuja his anguish at staying in this world and his eagerness to reach Vaikuntham. These collected verses became known as Arti Prabhantham, his last work.

Manavala mamuni had many disciples, however, the following eight were the chief disciples known as Ashtadiggajas (elephants of the eight directions): Vanamaamalai Jeeyar, Bhattar Piraan jeeyar, Tiruvengada jeeyar, Koil kanthaadai annan, Prathivaadhi bhayankaram annaa, Erumbi appaa, Appillai and Appillan. They and their disciples made many contributions to promoting Srivaishnavam.

He has blessed us with 19 granthams. Three of them are in Sanskrit. The rest are in Tamil and ManipravALam. The three works in Sanskrit are: YathirAja Vimsathi, Sri DevarAja mangalam and Sri Kaanchi DevapperumAL SthOthram. His ninteen granthams can be classified under three major categories:

(A) VyAkyAna Granthams or commentaries on the works of earlier AchAryAs like Sri PiLLai Lokaachaar, PeriyavaacchAN PiLLai and Thiruvarangatthu Amudanaar. These eight VyAkhyAna granthams are:

1. Sri Vachana BhUshaNam
2. Mumukshuppadi
3. Tattvathrayam
4. AchArya Hrudhayam
5. Jn~Ana Saaram
6. PramEya Saaram
7. PeriyAzhwAr Thirumozhi
8. RaamAnuja NooRRanthAdhi

(B) Three granthams known as PramANa Thirattu are:

1. Eedu
2. Sri Vachana BhUshaNam
3. Tattvathrayam

(C) His Own Granthams in Sanskrit (3) and Tamil (5) add up
to the remaining Eight :

1. UpadEsa Rathna Maalai
2. ThiruvAimozhi NooRRanthAdhi
3. Iyalc ChaaRRu
4. ThiruvArAdhana Kramam
5. YathirAja Vimsathi
6. DevarAja MangaLam
7. Sri Kanchi DevapperumAL SthOthram
8. Aaarthi Prabhandham, his last grantham .

athAto "brahma" zignAsA - Then thereafter be inquisitive to enquire about "the Absolute"