Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sri Bodendra Saraswathi Swamigal

Sri Bodendral (pronounced Bodendraal) was born in 1610 AD in Kanva Gotram and given the namam of Purushothaman by his parents, Sri Kesava Panduranga Yogi and Srimati Suguna Bai. Early on, Sri Purushothaman came under the grace of the then Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Acharyal, Sri Athma Bodendra Saraswathi (or Athma Bodendraal), to whom his parents were devoted. Eventually, he was anointed the 59th Acharyal of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in 1638 AD. Sri Bodendral was on the forefront of establishing Nama Siddhantam. He was the first Guru in Bhajana Sampradhayam. Sri Bodendral was the contemporary of Sri Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval of Tiruvisanallur and Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral.

Sri Bodendral achieved Jeevan Mukthi on the banks of River Kaveri in 1692 AD. For a while, this place was lost and forgotten. In 1803, Sri Maruthanallur Sadguru Swamigal discovered the place after hearing Rama namam emanating from water here and had his Shishya, King Sarabhoji divert the river. Even now, there are reports of devotees hearing Rama namam in Sri Bodendral's Adhishtanam in Govindapuram, Tamil Nadu. Sri Bodendral is Sri Guru of Sri Sri Anna

Childhood to Sanyasam

Sri Kesava Panduranga Yogi and his wife Srimati Suguna Bai settled in Tamil Nadu, though originally they hailed from Maharashtra. They lived in Mandana Misra Agraharam in Kanchipuram, serving Sri Atma Bodendra Saraswathi Swamigal, the 58th Acharyal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. They named their son as Purushothaman, in accordance with the wishes of Sri Atma Bodendral. Purushothaman became a good friend of Jnanasagaran, born 18 months earlier, who came to Kanchi Matam as an orphan when he was an infant. Both Jnanasagaran and Purushothaman were the darlings of Sri Atma Bodendral. Jnanasagaran was destined to be a Jnani.

Sri Atma Bodendral sent Jnanasagaran and Purushothaman to Srimad Kirvanendra Saraswathi Swamigal to learn Advaitist works. Later, Purushothaman who became Sri Bhagavan Nama Bodendral, attributed his works to both Sri Kirvanendra Saraswathi Swamigal and Sri Atma Bodendral. When Sri Atma Bodendral departed for Kashi, he left Jnanasagaran and Purushothaman behind in Kanchi. Soon after, Purushothaman lost both his parents. Now Purushothaman left for Kashi to meet Sri Atma Bodendral, with his closest friend Jnanasagaran. Near Narmada river, Jnanasagaran fell ill and passed away. The distraught Purushothaman buried Jnanasagaran in Narmada and owed to die in Ganga on reaching Kashi.

On the banks of Ganga, Purushothaman received Taraka Mantra Dikshai from Sri Atma Bodendral and then attempted to drown in the river, but Purushothaman survived with Guru Krupa. Sri Atma Bodendral initiated Purushothaman into asceticism, which is considered a rebirth for the person, thereby letting Purushothaman keep his promise to Jnanasagaran on his death bed. Thus Sri Bodendral obtained asceticism in Kashi, a rare event in Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Purushothaman was christened Bhagavan Nama Boda by his Guru. As all Acharyal from Kanchi Peetam have Indra Saraswathi suffix, he came to be known as Bhagavan Nama Bodendra Saraswathi Swamigal. Sri Atma Bodendral commanded Sri Bodendral to spread Bhagavan Namam, following the footsteps of Kabirdas, Tulasidas, Mira Bai, Sri Krishna Chitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Nama Deva, Sri Eknath and Sri Samartha Ramadas.

Nama Kaumudi

After instructing Sri Bodendral to proceed to Kanchi from Puri, Sri Atma Bodendral remained in Kashi. As his Guru commanded, Sri Bodendral proceeded to Puri Jagannath to obtain Nama Kaumudi, a masterly work written by Lakshmidhara Kavi, which propounded that Nama Japam and Bhajan were in accordance with Vedic scriptures. Kaumudi means Moon. Sri Atma Bodendral asked Sri Bodendral to use Nama Kaumudi to ward off resistance from conservatives, who would claim Nama Siddhantam was contrary to Vedic tradition. Later, Sri Bodendral would use Nama Kaumudi as foundation for many of his own works. Independently, Sri Ananda Deva had written a vyakyanam on Nama Kaumudi called Prakasham.

Sri Bodendral had Darshan of Lords Balarama, Subadra and Jagannath in Puri till the temple closed at night, chanting Govinda Namam. To avoid disturbing anyone late at night, he decided to spend the night outside a house unobtrusively.

Sri Bodendral woke up on hearing a Brahmin banging the door of the house at night, but decided to watch the event from darkness. The Brahmin was accompanied by a Muslim lady covered in veil. When the house-owner opened the door, the Brahmin started narrating his tale in tears: The lady in veil was his wife, although disguised in Islamic outfit. They left Tamil Nadu for Kashi, but were waylaid in Bamani Kingdom. The lady was dishonored and disfigured by Muslim extremists, but she managed to escape the terror and joined her husband months later. When they decided to take their lives, an elderly person advised them to approach Lakshmi Kanth, son of Lakshmidhara Kavi, for purification instead. Thus Sri Bodendral ended up at the right place to seek Nama Kaumudi, by Lord Jagannath's grace.

Per Lakshmi Kanth's advise, the Brahmin couple came to Chandan Talab lake the next day. While everyone was watching, the lady entered the lake and chanted Rama Rama Rama with devotion. When she emerged out of water, her disfiguration and Islamic outfit were gone and she came out as a traditional Brahmin lady exuding saintliness. This miracle established the effectiveness of Rama Namam in popular mind and later Sri Bodendral took the couple with him to Kanchi as living proof for Nama Siddhanta. When Sri Bodendral informed his intent to Lakshmi Kanth, he was given Nama Kaumudi. Its author Lakshmidhara Kavi had instructed his wife before his death to preserve Nama Kaumudi and pass it on to a saint from South India who would approach her years later.

Works of Sri Bodendral

Per his Guru's wishes, Sri Bodendral devoted his life to preach the importance of Nama Japam and Bhajan. Sri Bodendral elaborated Nama Kaumudi and composed 8 books: Namamrutha Rasodayam, Nama Rasayanam, Nama Suryodayam, Nama Tharangam, Namarnavam, Hari Hara Beda Thikaram, Hari Harardvaida Bhooshanam, Murtha Brahma Vivekam. These were dedicated to his Gurus Sri Kirvanendra Swamigal and Sri Atma Bodendral. These books conclusively established Nama Siddhanta. Sri Bodendral gave Rama Nama dikshai to individuals, while asking them to chant Govinda and Hara Namam as groups.

Sri Bodendral ascended Kanchi Peetam

Sri Atma Bodendral returned from Kashi to Kanchi. To complete Kashi Yatra in the traditional manner, he left for Rameswaram with Sri Bodendral. On the way, near Villupuram, in VadaVambalam village, Sri Atma Bodendral passed away, chanting SadaSivom SadaSivom. Thus in 1638, Sri Bodendral ascended Kanchi Peetam. Sri Bodendral continued with his journey to Rameswaram and Dhanushkoti in Tamil Nadu. As an interesting aside, Sri Atma Bodendral's Adhishtanam was unknown till it was dramatically discovered by Sri Kanchi Paramacharyal in 1927. Tanjore King Shahaji became a devotee of Sri Bodendral. In 1677, Tanasha, Nawab of Golconda, paid tributes to Sri Bodendral. Among the miracles attributed to Sri Bodendral, he made a dumb boy chant Bhagavan Namam and he cured a Brahma Rakshas by chanting Rama Namam.

Sri Bodendral met Sri Sridhara Ayyaval

Sri Bodendral had great respect and affection for Sri Ayyaval, who reciprocated the emotion. In his works Namamrutha Rasodayam and Nama Rasayanam, Sri Bodendral had quoted Sri Ayyaval's Bhagavan Nama Bhushanam as reference, even before they met. Sri Bodendral met Sri Ayyaval in Tanjavur province. Sri Bodendral even composed a song for his disciples to worship Sri Ayyaval, who was elder to him. This verse thus ended: "Obeisance to Sri Venkatasa Guru, who is Shiva Incarnate" or "Tam Vande Nara Roopam Andakaripum Sri Venkatesam Gurum". Sri Ayyaval worshipped Sri Bodendral thus: "Yasya Smarana Matrena Nama Bhakthi Prayajathe; Tam Namami Yathi Sreshtam Bodendram Jagatham Gurum".

Sri Bodendral retired to Govindapuram

Sri Bodendral nominated Sri Advaitatma Prakasendra Saraswati Swamigal to succeed him for Kanchi Peetam. In 1685, after leading Kanchi Peetam for 48 years, Sri Bodendral left it to his successor and departed for Govindapuram, a village named after Sri Govinda Dikshithar, a minister in Nayak dynasty. Sri Kanchi Paramacharyal speculated that Sri Bodendral started wearing Vaishnava symbol of Urdhva Pundram instead of the traditional Saivite symbol of Vibhooti during this phase. Per Sri Premika Vijayam, Sri Krishna Premi Swamigal had a darshan of Sri Bodendral wearing Urdhva Pundram. Sri Premika Vijayam also recounts a remarkable vision where Sri Bodendral took Sri Krishna Premi Swamigal to a pond where frogs were croaking 'Hara Hara Hara Hara' and assured that even the frogs were guaranteed Moksham. Such is the power of Nama Siddhantam.

As Sri Bodendral called his successor Govinda on occasions, Sri Advitatma Swamigal was also called Govinda Samyami. In 1692 AD Prajotpathi year Purattasi month full moon day, Sri Bodendral, treating himself as consort to Lord Rama, achieved Jeevan Mukthi, by burying himself in ground, just like Sita Devi had done ages back. Over 100 years later, when Sri Maruthanallur Sadguru Swamigal discovered the location where Sri Bodendral had attained Jeevan Mukthi, he also found Nama Kaumudi, that Sri Bodendral had carried with him all along.

Reference based on the book “Kamakoti Ramakoti” by Ra. Ganapathy

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