Category Archives: Srimad Bhagavat

Venkatadri Swami & the Lord’s Diamond Crown!

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. 

Sriranganatha, Srirangam, Kanchi, Namperumal, Vaikunta Ekadashi, Lord Venkateshwara, Ranganatha,
Alluri Venkatadri Swami

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!

Pandian Crown with the green emerald

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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Krishna and Akrura!

Kamsa, the self-proclaimed tyrant king of Mathura sent rakshasas time and again to Gokula and Vrindavan to annihilate Krishna, but Krishna very easily destroyed them all. Furious that all his plans and schemes had failed, Kamsa decided to bring Krishna to Mathura. He conceived of a plan to destroy Krishna. Kamsa arranged for a Dhanur Yagna to invoke Lord Shiva and earn His grace and blessings to win over his enemies. He arranged for wrestlers to challenge Krishna. He made sure a wild elephant was there at the entrance of the Yagnasala ready to trample Krishna as He enters. Kamsa then summoned the wise and elderly Akrura and sent an invitation to Krishna and His elder brother Balarama to attend the Yagna. Akrura saw the irony behind this. Till now Kamsa was sending rakshasas all the way to Vrindavan to kill Krishna. Now, as his end was approaching, Kamsa himself, without his knowledge, was sending an invitation and making all arrangements and preparations to receive Krishna at whose hands he was to die, right in his own territory! Lord’s ways are unique! Destiny ultimately has its own mysterious ways of fulfilling itself! Akrura started for Vrindavan. He was very happy – he was going to have darshan of the Lord! 


In the meantime, Sage Narada came to meet Krishna in Vrindavan. In the divine presence of the Lord, Sage Narada saw the entire happenings of the future unfurling themselves in front of him! Starting from “the Lord slaying Kamsa in the immediate future to becoming the charioteer of Arjuna in the kurukshetra war later on” – he had a glimpse of everything! Rest assured of the purpose of the Lord’s Avatar, Narada offered his prostrations to the Lord and left.

On reaching Vrindavan, Akrura saw the footprints of Sri Krishna on the sacred soil of Vrindavan! He got down from his chariot and applied the sacred dust on his forehead. He was received by Nanda. The moment he saw Krishna and Balarama, he prostrated at their feet. Totally overwhelmed, Akrura wept with joy at his blessed fortune of the Lord’s darshan! The next day, Akrura left Vrindavan along with Krishna and Balarama. As they were travelling to Mathura, a doubt crossed the mind of Akrura, “Can these two young, delicate boys – Krishna and Balarama, really challenge the mighty Kamsa? Is it possible? Will they be able to accomplish this mission of destroying the tyrant Kamsa and redeem Mathura and its people from his dictatorship?” Krishna understood what was going on in Akrura’s mind. Both the brothers looked at each other and smiled! The Lord had to dispel Akrura’s doubt….

They reached the banks of river Yamuna. Akrura got down from the chariot to perform his mid-day sandhya. When he took a dip in the waters, he beheld Krishna and Balarama in the waters. He was astonished at the vision because both the brothers were seated in the chariot. He immediately rose up from the waters and looked towards the chariot. Sure enough, he saw Krishna and Balarama seated in the chariot! He was puzzled. To check whether the first vision was true or a mere hallucination, Akrura again plunged into the waters. 

This time he saw Lord Vishnu reclining on Adisesha, blue in colour, clad in yellow, with sankha, chakra, gada and padma in his four hands. He shone resplendent with gem-studded golden ornaments, the shining kaustubha and the fragrant Vaijayanti garland. He was attended to by the divine gods, gandharvas, the kumaras and devotees like Prahlada, Narada and others. Bhagavan was surrounded by the Goddess of Beauty and Fortune (Sri), Goddess of Nutrition (Pushti), Goddess of Speech (Saraswati), Goddess of Splendour (Kanti), Goddess of Glory (Kirti), Goddess of Contentment (Tushti), Goddess of Knowledge (Vidya), Goddess of Energy (Sakti) and others. Extremely overjoyed at the unique and auspicious darshan of the Lord in full Glory, Akrura prayed fervently to the Lord. He realized the Omnipotency of Lord Sri Krishna. Akrura’s doubts vanished like mist melts at the very touch of the early morning sun’s rays.

The Lord withdrew His divine form. Akrura emerged out of the waters. Overwhelmed at the divine beautiful vision of the Lord – rare and unique, Akrura reached the chariot. 
Still revelling in the joyous experience of the Divine Vision, Akrura approached Krishna and Balarama. Krishna smilingly asked him, “You seem to have had an unearthly wondrous experience in the waters of Yamuna, what is it?” Akrura prayerfully replied, “O Lord, whatever wonders that exist in all the worlds, they all exist in You alone, who pervades and permeates the entire universe. What wonders can remain unseen by me, when I am directly looking at the Wonder of all wonders, Your Divine Form!” With a mind calm and serene, totally free from anxiety and doubts, Akrura silently drove the chariot to Mathura. It was Akrura, the Lord’s devotee, who had the rare and unique privilege of bringing Sri Krishna and Balarama to Mathura! 

“Deva deva Jagannatha Punyashravanakeerthana; Yaduttamottamashlokaya Narayana Namostute!” ~ Akrura’s invocation (Srimad Bhagavatham)

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Narahari realizes the Oneness of Hari and Hara!

Narahari Sonar (13th century) was a great devotee of Lord Shiva residing in Pandarapur. He was a goldsmith by profession and was known for his honesty and sincerity. His skill and craftsmanship in creating the best of jewellery drew lot of customers from far and near. He often visited the Mallikarjuna temple nearby. Being a staunch devotee of Shiva, he refused to enter the famous Vittala temple. He would not even look at the gopuram of the temple, and during the festival time, he would move away to the neighbouring village to avoid listening to the bhajans and keerthans sung by the devotees of Panduranga!

A rich landlord along with his wife visited Pandarapur. The childless couple prayed to Lord Panduranga to bless them with a child. The landlord took a vow that if blessed with a child, he would in return offer a gold waistband to the Lord as a token of his devout gratitude. The Lord answered his prayers and he was blessed with a child. To keep his promise, the landlord came to Pandarapur. On enquiring he was informed that Narahari was the best craftsman in the town.The landlord came to Narahari and asked him to make a gold waistband for Lord Vittala. Initially, Narahari refused, but the landlord convinced him saying that it was he who was the customer and he would pay him well. Narahari agreed but on one condition. He would not go to the temple to take the Lord’s waist measurement. The landlord agreed to get the same for him. With the help of the pandit the Lord’s waist measurement was taken and provided to Narahari.

Narahari made a beautiful gem-studded gold waistband for Vittala and handed it to the landlord. He took it to the temple and handed it over to the pundit. When the pundit tried to put the waistband around Vittala’s waist, he found it small. It would not fit the Lord’s waist. Disappointed, the landlord brought it back to Narahari for rectification. Narahari was surprised. He had made the waistband strictly as per the specifications. Narahari again worked on the waistband and gave it back to the landlord. When the pundit tried to put it round the Lord’s waist, this time it was large! The waistband slipped down the Lord’s waist! The landlord became impatient. This time he pleaded with Narahari to come to the temple and take the measurement himself. But Narahari refused to enter the temple and have the Lord’s darshan. The landlord suggested that Narahari could blindfold himself and take the measurement without seeing Vittala. Narahari agreed. 

Narahari blindfolded himself and was led to the sanctum of Lord Panduranga. With eyes covered, Narahari extended his hands towards the deity to take measurement of the Lord’s waist. Strange! As he moved his hands over the deity, he suddenly felt that it was his beloved Lord Shiva in front of him. He felt the Lord’s matted hair. His hands felt the familiar rudraksha and snake ornament round the neck. And around the Lord’s waist it was surely the tiger’s skin and not the silken robe! Narahari even felt a few drops of water on his hand – from Ganga who adorns Lord Shiva’s matted locks!! How could this be Shiva, the Lord-of-his-heart? He quickly removed the cloth that covered his eyes and looked. There in front of him was the smiling Vittala with hands on His waist. Rather annoyed, Narahari quickly blindfolded himself and again felt the idol with his hands. Sure, this time also, it was the idol of Shiva and not Vittala! There was no mistaking. Realization dawned on Narahari. He now realised that Lord Shiva and Lord Panduranga Vittala are ONE AND THE SAME. This was all the Lila or Sport of the Lord to make him realize the essential oneness between Hara and Hari! And Lo! The waist band perfectly adorned the Lord Vittala’s waist.

He fell prostrate at Lord Vittala’s lotus feet and begged to be forgiven for differentiating between Hara and Hari. Narahari was now a totally changed person. He renounced everything and completely dedicated himself to Lord Vittala who wears a crown with an emblem of Shiva-linga on it! Sant Narahari’s devotion to the Lord is evident in the beautiful abhangs (kirtans) that he has composed.

Hara Hara Mahadev!!Jai Jai Vittala Panduranga! Jai Hari Vittala Panduranga!!

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Hindu Calendar: Chaitra to Phalguna: A Spiritual Yatra!

Lord Surya

Life is a series of experiences – an eternal journey from birth to death riddled with ups and downs: pain and pleasure, profit and loss, success and failure. Man is so preoccupied with his outer journey that he completely misses out the inner journey. In fact, every step taken outside should carry the stamp of a beautiful step taken within. Each one of our life’s journey – YAANA, must become a YATRA: a movement which helps one to cross the ocean of samsara. If the inner life is taken care of, the outer journey is automatically taken care of. This inner reorientation and transformation is the content of the Scriptures and the theme of the Puranas. Fulfillment is in “living” the words of the Scriptures and Realized Masters.

However, in and through life’s journey, constant reminders and guides are essential to keep us on the right path. The whole WORLD as an open UNIVERSITY provides us with these reminders. The entire VISHWA is a VIDYALAYA!! Everything around and about us are silent reminders of the great grand spiritual pilgrimage to be accomplished within each one of us – a rich culture and glorious tradition indeed!

The Hindu Calendar Year, known as SAMVATSARA has twelve months: CHAITRA to PHALGUNA. And throughout the year there are numerous festivals celebrated: UGADI to SHIVARATRI. Every month or rather the NAME of the month indicates where we are and what we should do on the path of self-improvement. It is equivalent to twelve graded exercises or steps in the scheme of spiritual evolution: from MANAVA to becoming MADHAVA – from the state of NARA to the State of NARAYANA: from BONDAGE to ABSOLUTE FREEDOM. Similarly with the FESTIVALS too!

The first month CHAITRA, indicates “many” or “variegated” (chitra – vichitra). It denotes our present individual state in the space-time world in a cause-effect relationship. VAISHAKA means more or excessive branching. It suggests our outer and inner world of multiplicity, diversity and plurality – the realm of change. Once identification and relationships become predominant, JYESHTA arrives! Jyeshtha means elder, big, or superior. Their opposites then automatically become evident. Comparison, contradiction and conflict starts! There is “I or ME” and the “OTHER”. The individual is then in a state of ASHADA! ‘Shad’ means ‘to sit’. ‘A-shad’ is its opposite, and hence ‘A-shad’ denotes an inner state of restlessness – a state which is not at all comfortable. An individual may have everything in life, but still can come to experience dissatisfaction, discontentment and unfulfillment. It is then that one starts enquiring into the ‘why’, ‘wherefore’, ‘how’, and ‘what’ of life. This is when Introspection starts. This month is also known as AA-SHADA, which means to “continuously sit” and introspect, take stock of one’s life and investigate into it. Guru Purnima comes in this month which signifies that one is ready for the Guru to enter into one’s life – a major turning point! When the Guru enters our life, SHRAVANA or ‘listening’ to the scriptures begins. Having heard the scriptural declarations, they have to be now reflected upon again and again, so that the knowledge gets well-rooted in the mind. This is BHADRAPADA: the state of ‘well-securing’ the knowledge within oneself. It denotes a sense of inner well-being (bhadratva). The next stage is Nidhidhyasana or Contemplation, represented by ASWAYUJA. ‘Yuj’ means to connect, unite or identify with. ‘Swa’ means tomorrow. ‘Aswa’ means ‘not-tomorrow’ and therefore signifies TODAY or the PRESENT. ASWAYUJA therefore represents contemplation. It also represents ‘pervasiveness’ or ‘expansion’, wherein the attempt is to include and accommodate everything and every being within oneself: to connect the micro with the macro; the individual with the Universal.

The next stage is KARTHIKA: invoking the Light of Knowledge, with the help of which the seeker can discriminate between the Real and unreal, the Permanent and impermanent. MARGASHIRSHA: ‘marga’ means path; ‘shira’ means ‘head’ or ‘higher’. Therefore, Margashirsha denotes ‘path leading to the Highest’ – negating and rejecting the lower and the false; and asserting and identifying with the Higher and the Real. PUSHYA means to nurture, nourish and maintain. When the seeker starts getting glimpses of the Higher within himself, he must consistently, constantly and totally identify and maintain that Higher State within himself. MAGHA means “don’t fall or don’t slip”. The seeker must not lose his hold of that Higher State. Inadvertedness can cause a spiritual fall which can be disastrous. The seeker should be alert and vigilant on the spiritual path. PHALGUNA denotes ‘not this….not this’. It denotes the Highest State of “That Am I” – the Absolute State of Realization.

The names of the twelve months of a Samvatsara through suggestion, significance and implication represent one’s Spiritual Evolution – the inner Spiritual Yatra leading the seeker from the realm of ignorance, change and mortality to the State of Absolute Knowledge, Changelessness and Immortality: the State of Jeevanmukti (Liberated-in-Life).

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