Swamy Manavala Mamunigal is one of the most well known and significant acharyas of Swami Ramanuja’s Sri Vaishnava Tradition-southern sect. Followers of Sri Vaishnavism believe that Manavala Mamuni was the final acharya of a lineage that begins with the Supreme Being Sriman Narayana, passes through Acharyas such as Yamunacharya, Swami Ramanuja, Embar, Pillai Lokacharya and ends with Manavala Mamuni. It is believed that Manavala Mamuni was accepted by the Lord of Srirangam, Sri Ranganatha, as his own acharya at Srirangam.
Year: 1370 – 1443
Birth Place: Azhwarthirunagiri (Near Thirunelveli)
Other Names: Periya jeeyar, Varavara Muni, Sowmyajamatru muni, Sowmyopayanthru muni, Sundarajamatru muni, Yathendra Pravanar, Ramyajamatrumuni
Thiru Natchathiram: Moolam
Amsam: Adi Seshan
Srirangam in southern India is a celebrated pilgrimage centre. It is the only dhivyakshetram sung by ten azhwars and Andal. It is called Bhuloka Vaikunta. It is the root of all 108 dhivya kshetras. But over these and several other distinctions, the most outstanding is that the Lord showed here the ideal Acharya in the person of Swami Manavala Mamuni.
Swami Manavala Mamunigal was born in 1370, under the asterism of moolam, in the month of aippasi at Azhwarthirunagiri in Tamil Nadu to ‘Tigazhaakkidanthan Tirunaveerudaiya piran dasar annar’ and ‘Sriranga Nacchiyar’. Swami Manavala Mamunigal’s father was the son-in-law and also a disciple of Kollikavala dasar, a junior disciple of Pillai Lokacharya. His parents named him Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar (beautiful groom) after Lord Ranganathan of Srirangam.
The young manavalan had his basic education under his father and maternal grandfather. He learnt the Vedas, Vedanta and the Divya Prabandam from his father. He entered grihasthashrama (married life) at the age of 16 years and soon after his father reached the lotus feet of Lord Narayana. He shifted his residence from Sikkil Kidaaram to Azhwar Thirunagari to become the disciple of the illustrious acharya Thiruvaimozhipillai. In a very short while, the young, brilliant manavalan mastered everything that could be known of shastras and Divya Prabhandham. He also developed, expectedly, a very deep devotion towards his Acharya Thiruvaimozhipillai and Swami Ramanuja.
Sri Thiruvaimozhipillai was instrumental in reviving the archa thirumeni (Idol) of Swami Ramanuja at Azhvar thirunagari and in building a temple for Swami Ramanuja. Appropriately, he put the young Azhagiya Manavalan in charge of the temple. Manavalan’s earnest devotion towards Swami Ramanuja made him write a beautiful composition called “Yathiraja Vimsati”, considered to epitomize the very essence of the exalted ‘ramanusa nootrranthAdhi’. The sincerity, commitment and devotion displayed by young Azhagiya Manavalan so pleased, his acharya Thiruvaimozhipillai, that he gave the title “Yatheendra Pravana” to the young Manavalan.
Around 1430, the discourse was done over a period of one year, over which all the festivities of the temple was put on hold as ordered by Lord Ranganatha. On the last day of discourse, Lord Ranganatha impressed by Swami Mamunigal’s exposition, took the form of a priest child and presented himself in front of the gathering and rendered a benedictory verse or Thanian, honoring Swami Mamunigal and disappeared into the sanctum sanctorum.
The benedictory verse given below, is recited in almost all the divyakshetrams, before the commencement of Divya prabhandham as ordered by lord Ranganatha.
srIsailesa dhayaapaathram dheebhaktyAdi gunArnavam |
Yatheendrapravanam vande ramyajAmAtram munim ||
Meaning: I offer my respects to Sri Manavalamamuni, the receptacle of Srisailesa’s (Thiruvaimozhipillai) grace. He is the abode of jnana, bhakti and all other good qualities and is forever lost in meditation on Swami Ramanuja.
This was interpreted by the audience as a proclamation by the Lord Ranganathar himself as the same verse was revealed through the archakas at Tirupati and Azhagar koil. After this incident, Manavala mamuni started writing commentaries on the works of earlier acharyas, composed independent works and compiled source documentation and cross-referencing on some important works.
adiyArgaL vAzha arangka nagar vAzha
sadakOpan thaNdamizh nUl vAzha * – kadal sUzhndha
mannulagam vAzha * maNavALa mAmuniyE *
innum oru nURRANdirum *
These four lines extols his contributions to continued existence and prosperity of Sri Vaishnavaism, the followers, their holy temples, scriptures, traditions, and the well being of the whole world, and concludes with the prayer, that the great Manavala Mamuni live for another hundred years for that purpose.
The apparent conflict between 100 years and perpetuity is resolved, when one understands the key link of devoted Sri Vaishnava devotees, their ongoing practice of the prayer and traditions as a “Vaazhaydi Vaazhai”, for the perpetuation of the faith. So 100 years down the line there will be faithful chanting the same for the future.