A Short Introduction to Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava on the Day of his Jayanti today by Dr. M Gokulakrishna Aiyar.
Mahāmahopādhyāya Brahmaśrī Tyāgarāja Dīkṣitendra who is reverentially referred to as Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava or Śrī Mannārguḍī Rāju Śāstrigaḷ was one of the most illustrious descendants of Parameśvarāvatāra, Nityāgnihotri, Advaitavidyācārya, Śrīmad Appayya Dīkṣitendra. He was born in 1815 to Śrī Brahmaśrī Mārgasahāya Appā Dīkṣitar and his dharmapatnī Marakatavallī Jānakī Ammāḷ. The greatness of this family can only be expressed by quoting the words of Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava himself in his Dīkṣitendra-vaṁśābharaṇam, a short work on the life of Śrīmad Appayya Dīkṣitendra:
महत्येषां वंशे मदनरिपुपादार्चनरताः
पुमांसो भूयांसः परमपुरुषार्थादृतधियः ।
श्रुतिस्मृत्यध्वन्याः शुभगुणगणाः शुद्धयशसः ॥
மஹத்யேஷாம்ʼ வம்ʼஶே மத³னரிபுபாதா³ர்சனரதா꞉
புமாம்ʼஸோ பூ⁴யாம்ʼஸ꞉ பரமபுருஷார்தா²த்³ருʼததி⁴ய꞉ .
ஶ்ருதிஸ்ம்ருʼத்யத்⁴வன்யா꞉ ஶுப⁴கு³ணக³ணா꞉ ஶுத்³த⁴யஶஸ꞉ ..
Most of the men in His (Śrīmad Appayya Dīkṣitendra’s) family were devoted to the worship of the feet of Lord Śiva. Their mind was focused in the pursuit of the fourth and the supreme Puruṣārtha i.e mokṣa; they were experts in the study of Sāmaveda; their intellect was mighty; they were men who trod the path of the Religion of the Śrutis and the Smṛtis; they had very noble qualities; and their fame was spotless.
Śrīmad Appayya Dīkṣitendra lived in the 16th Century CE to teach the whole range of Gṛhasthāśrama by precept and by example; Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava lived in the 19th Century CE to execute the same noble task. It is the strong opinion of all Advaitācāryas that brahmajñānam could dawn in a person only when he takes Saṁnyāsāśrama. Although it may also be possible for a person in the Gṛhasthāśrama as well, it is extremely difficult. Only one out of many thousands can achieve brahmajñānam while still in Gṛhasthāśrama itself and mahatmas like Śrī Vācaspati Miśra, Śrīmad Appayya Dīkṣitendra, Śrī Bhāskararāya Dīkṣitendra and Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava could be counted among this set of brahmajñānīs.
He studied Sāmaveda along with the Lakṣaṇa from his grandfather Brahmaśrī Tyāgarāja Dīkṣitar. His father Brahmaśrī Mārgasahāya Veṅkaṭa Subrahmaṇya Dīkṣitar (Appā Dīkṣitar) taught him Kāvyam and Nāṭakam. He studied the basics of Tarkam and Vyākaraṇam from Śrī Gopālācārya in Mannārguḍī, Mahābhāṣyam from his relative Melakāverī Chinnaṇṇā Dīkṣitar, Pūrva Mīmāṁsā from Śrī Raghunātha Śāstrigaḷ of Kumbhaghoṇam, and Vedāntaśāstram from Śrī Nārāyaṇa Sarasvatī Swāmigaḷ. He continued his further studies in Vedānta from his paramaguru Śrī Swayaṁprakāśa Yatīndra. His mighty intellectual prowess, tapas and ātmaguṇas earned him the admiration of all his gurus so much so that, each one of them praised him in different ways.
He was a great Śivabhakta and could always be seen wearing Tripuṇḍram and Rudrākṣas. His Sanskrit commentary on Śrīmad Appayya Dīkṣitendra’s Śivamahimakalikā-stuti and Śivatattvaviveka stand testimony to his sublime devotion towards Śiva and his erudition in Pūrva Mīmāṁsā and Vedānta. Dīkṣitendra proved that he was a pure Advaitin who had equal devotion towards both Lord Śiva and Lord Viṣṇu by composing works like Varadarāja Stava and His own Sanskrit commentary on it, Śrī Kṛṣṇadhyāna-paddhati and by writing Sanskrit commentaries on the works of Swāmi Vedānta Deśikarlike Yādavabhyudaya Mahākāvyam, Haṁsa-sandeśa and Śrīraṅganātha-pādukāsahasra-stotram. Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava proved the same in different ways. His works like Śrī-rājagopāla-navaratnamālikā and Śrī-rājagopāla-mahotsavānukramaṇikā should be remembered here in this connection. Mīmāṁsā-ratna, Trichy Advocate, Pandit AV Gopalachariar of Sriramgam wrote about his devotion towards Lord Kṛṣṇa in his English Introduction to the Sri Vani Vilas Press edition of Dīkṣitendra’s Varadarāja Stava as follows:
“We have heard that his illustrious descendant, the late Mahamahopadhyaya Sastrigal of Mannargudi of revered memory, used to go into raptures while worshipping Sri Rajagopala in His utsavas and that in his last days he had Sri Bhagavatam read and expounded by the late Paruthiyur Krishna Sastrigal of worldwide fame to rivet his dhyanam upon Sri Krishna”.
In short, both Śrīmad Appayya Dīkṣitendra and Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava were beacons of Smārta-brāhmaṇa orthodoxy. Both of them followed the Smṛtis and kulācāras meticulously, performed all the Yajñas enjoined in the Śrauta-sutras meticulously, and performed Śivapūjā meticulously all throughout their lifetimes. Both of them had unswerving faith in following the rules of Varṇāśrama-dharma and executed them without making even the slightest mistakes in observing them or by exhibiting laziness. Dīkṣitendra lived for 72 years, and Śrī Mannārguḍī Periyava lived for 88 years and left his mortal coil in 1903.