Seeronru Thaniyan - An Analysis

Srimathe Ramanujaya Nama:

There is a thaniyan dedicated to Sri Vedanta Desikan that goes

seeronRu thUppul thiruvEngadamudaiyAn
pAronRach sonna pazhamozhiyuL OronRu
thAnE amaiyAdhO thAraNiyil vAzhvARku
vAnErap pOmaLavum vAzhvu

A beautiful and very appropriate thaniyan for Desikan.

However, there are question marks surrounding the authorship of this thaniyan.

3000padi states that this thaniyan was authored in praise of Vedanta Desikan by Pillai Lokacharyar.

Thenkalaiyars roundly disagree with this statement.

So, let us objectively examine this case and see if we can verify the validity of such a claim.

To do that, first we have to understand what a thaniyan is all about.

A thaniyan is a verse of praise. On that basis, one could not have an objection to a verse of praise to Desikan by any one. Desikan was a remarkable scholar and acharya and verses in his praise are common.

However, a thaniyan is not any general verse of praise. It is specifically dedicated to an acharya by a specific person - most of the time, by a direct disciple or one who takes himself/herself as a disciple to that acharya. The thaniyan is sometimes given during the lifetime of the acharya himself and some times at a later time. In some rare cases, a thaniyan is dedicated to a disciple by that disciple’s acharya himself.

So, if this is a thaniyan authored by Pillai Lokacharyar, then we have to examine the relationship between Desikan and Pillai Lokacharyar.

This is a part of history that is not clear or acceptable to all. The most accepted version is that they both resided in Srirangam at the same time prior to the muslim invasion of the temple city. There are other accounts that state otherwise. It appears that there is a book published by a Sabha called Asmad Desika Sabha in the 1940’s that is said to be a translation of a book authored by the second Brahmatantra Swatantra Jeeyar. This book is said to state that Desikan was on his way to Srirangam when the islamic invasion occured and therefore he never got there during Pillai Lokacharyar’s time.

However, let us go by the popular version - that the two indeed lived together in Srirangam at the same time.

So, the question is: did Pillai Lokacharyar and Desikan have a acharya-sishya relationship (either way)? That is, was Desikan a sishya to Pillai Lokacharyar or was he an acharya of Pillai Lokacharyar?

The answer would be a resounding no from both sides for both cases. There is no evidence to make such a claim.

In fact, if anything, there is evidence that the two had some disagreements with each other, at least early on, in matters of philosophy and interpretations. Desikan has written that there may be philosophical disagreements between the Lord’s devotees but that it does not diminish the respect they have for each other. It is said that this was specifically targeted toward the disagreements he had with Pillai Lokacharyar in the beginning.

So, we can clearly state that the two did not share this kind of relationship.

Is the acharya-sishya relationship critical for a thainyan? That it is, is clear from the fact that vadakalaiyars do not accept the “srishailEsha dayApAtram” thaniyan to have been authored by Azhagiya Manavalan Himself - precisely because of the fact that it leads to the conclusion that Lord Ranganatha took Mamunigal as His acharya.

Nevertheless, let us examine whether Pillai Lokacharyar could have written the thaniyan not as a salute to his disciple or acharya, but as a general praise.

To answer that question, let us examine an important point - the age difference between Desikan and Pillai Lokacharyar.

It is generally accepted that Desikan lived from 1268 to 1369 CE. 6000padi Thennacharya Guru Parampara Prabhavam states that Pillai Lokacharyar was born in the year 1205 CE and lived for 105 years in this world (though some accounts state that he lived for 120 years).

Going by this, there is an age difference of 63 years between Desikan and Pillai Lokacharyar. There are some accounts that claim that Pillai Lokacharyar was closer in age to Desikan. But I think, in general, we can accept that there was a considerable age difference between the two. We can discard certain modern accounts that place them at almost the same age, as there appears to be no factual reasons behind them.

Considering this and accounts that state that Pillai Lokacharyar was the established senior acharya at Srirangam by the time that Desikan arrived there, we can safely state that Pillai Lokacharyar had written many if not all the works of his ashtadasa rahasyams before Desikan started working on his rahasya granthas.

In addition, there is no evidence to show in any of Pillai Lokaacharyar’s works that he ever accepted the positions of Desikan in the points of disagreement between the two.

On the other hand, latter works of Desikn seem to indicate that he was somewhat reconciled to Pillai Lokacharyar’s position. There are many articles by Thennacharya scholars that delineate this very well.

Being this the case, it is very hard to see why the 3000padi would state that ‘Lokacharyar wrote this thaniyan after listening to rahasyArthas from Desikan’!

Finally, it is not clear why Pillai Lokacharyar would write a single verse of praise on Desikan and thereafter say nothing more about Desikan - in his works or in other verses.

In addition, Sri Kanchi PBA Swami has indicated that the name “thUppul” itself was a derivation of the name “thumbai vanam” and that thumbai vanam was an agrahAram established by Appaiya Deekshithar who came after the times of Pillai Lokacharyar and Desikan. If this were true, it is not acceptable that Pillai Lokacharyar would have used the word thUppul, even if we claim that he wrote this thaniyan.

In conclusion,
1. Pillai Lokacharyar and Vedanta Desikan did not share a acharya-sishya relationship.
2. Pillai Lokacharyar was senior to Vedanta Desikan by nearly 63 years.
3. Pillai Lokacharyar did not accept Vedanta Desikan’s philosophy (his earlier philosophy when he was likely living in Srirangam with Pillai Lokacharyar).
4. There is no reason to believe that Pillai Lokacharyar listened to Desikan on rahasyarthas.
5. The name “Thuppul” itself was likely created at a latter time.

Based on this analysis, it can be seen that it is highly unlikely that this thaniyan was authored by Pillai Lokacharyar. We can only reach the conclusion that a misplaced notion and zeal was the cause to introduce the claim that it was authored by Pillai Lokacharyar.

The sad part is that the thaniyan itself is a beautiful verse and is an apt praise of a great acharya, which can be recited by all without entering into this needless claim and the controversy following it.

Azhvar Emberumanar Jeeyar Thiruvadigale Sharanam

adiyEn madhurakavi dAsan

Written in Oct 2005