Alluri Venkatadri Swami (1806-1877) was born to a pious couple in Alluru in Andhra Pradesh. He was devoted to Lord Narasimha of Alluru. He obtained mantra deeksha from his Guru, Narasimha Dasa and took to Hari Nama Sankeerthana. Venkatadri Swami travelled to many pilgrim centres and temples and offered his services to the various Deities in the form of keerthanas – Naadopaasana. At Bhadrachala, along with sangeeta seva, he completed one crore Rama Nama and had the divine vision of the Lord. He then travelled to Tirumala and offered his services to Lord Venkateswara.
From Tirumala, Venkatadri Swami reached Kanchipuram and stayed in a room on the banks of the Brahmateertha pond which is even today known as “Venkatadri room”. Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi would physically be present to enjoy the beautiful keerthanas while an overwhelmed Venkatadri Swami sang for him! Venkatadri Swami was different from other renunciates. He accepted donations from devotees and utilised it completely for the Lord’s daily seva. He contributed to renovation and construction works related to various temples. Inscriptions are available for the same in the temples. Along with Veda-abhyas program for children, he started various seva projects and to make sure that all the projects continued without any hindrance, he set up a permanent charity and bought dry and wet lands to generate revenue for the same.
One day, Lord Varadaraja appeared in Venkatadri’s dream and asked for a diamond crown for himself! In search of resources, Venkatadri Swami came to Chennai. Amidst hardships, he reached the famous Sri Parthasarathi temple in Triplicane and sang, “Parthasarathi pada bhajana cheyave manasa (O mind! sing the glories of Lord Parthasarathi)”. By Lord’s Grace, the devoted people volunteered and contributed for the diamond crown. The beautiful diamond crown was completed in time. The devotees carried the crown in a procession through the streets of Chennai, accompanied by umbrella (chhatra), dhwaja (flag) and sangeeta (music). The crown reached Kanchi Sri Varadaraja temple. On the Vaishaka full-moon day, during the Garuda Seva, the Lord (utsava murthi) was adorned with the crown which came to be known as “Venkatadri Crown!” An overwhelmed Venkatadri Swami poured out his devotion to Lord Varadaraja in the form of beautiful keerthanas. Even today, on special occasions the Lord’s utsava murthi is adorned with the “Venkatadri Crown”. He then proceeded to make crowns studded with diamonds and other precious gems for the Lord’s consorts, Sridevi and Bhudevi.
At the behest of the Lord’s divine will, Venkatadri Swami had a precious crown made for the utsava murthi (known as Namperumal) of Srirangam to replace the old damaged Pandian Crown. Unaware of the actual measurements, a model crown was made, and yet the crown fitted the deity perfectly! It is said that Lord Ranganatha Himself provided the measurements for His crown! The diamond crown needed a ONE INCH SQUARE EMERALD for completion. Not knowing what to do, Venkatadri Swami invoked the Lord to show him the way. The Lord appeared in his dream and told him that the required emerald was available with a diamond merchant, Madhav Seth in Kolkata. When the merchant was approached, he cheated them by providing an ordinary green stone. However the Lord forewarned and the merchant was confronted. Finally, the real and big emerald was obtained and the Pandian Crown was completed. The Utsava murthi, Namperumal was adorned with the new Pandian Kondai (Crown) on Margashirsha Vaikunta Ekadashi day!
Sri Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar of Kanchi initiated Venkatadri Swami into the Pancha Samskaras of the Sri Vaishnava tradition. Later on, he was initiated into the sanyas order by Sri Ranga Narayana Jeeyar and came to be known as Thiru Venkata Ramanuja Jeeyar. Venkatadri Swami was well known for his socio-religious services. In recognition of his seva, apart from scholars, high-ranking officials and businessmen, the then Governor of Chennai, Lord Francis Napier also came to Srirangam and paid his respects to Venkatadri Swami.
In 1877, Venkatadri Swami left his mortal body and attained to the Lord’s feet. His memorial is situated on the banks of the river Kaveri. Venkatadri Swami was a great Composer-Musician-Saint as well as a Karma Yogi. His compositions are simple yet profound in their message. None of his keerthanas which are overflowing with devotion carry his signature-name which speaks of his extreme humility and dispassion. Various Bhajan Mandali-s have been carrying forward his rich musical legacy even to this day.
Om Namo Narayanaya!
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