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Sri Sudarsana Suri

Version AB: 10 March 2001

Contents:

a. Life and Age

b. Works

c. Notes

d. References and Bibliography

Credits, Revision Log, Related Links

Life and Age

Sri Sudarsana Suri or Sudarsana Bhatta is the renowned commentator of the ‘Sri Bhasya’- Sri Ramanuja’s commentary on the Brahmasutras written along the lines of Visistadvaita Vedanta. This commentary is called the ‘Srutaprakasika’ and therefore, Sri Sudarsana Suri is also referred by the name ‘Srutaprakasikacarya’ by Sri Vaishnavas.

The colophons of his works state that he was born in the ‘Haritakula’ (Harita lineage) and that his father’s name was Sri Vagvijayi. The lineage of Sri Sudarsana is traced to Kuruttalvan (also called Sri Vatsanka Misra or Kuresa), who was one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramanuja. He had two sons- Parasara Bhattar, who (along with Sri Thirukkurugai Piran Pillan) became the leader of the Sri Vaishnava community after Sri Ramanuja, and Sri Vedavyas Bhattar. The latter had two sons- Vagvijayi, who was the father of Sri Sudarsana Suri, and Sarvajna Bhatta. Sri Sudarsana Suri was conferred the title ‘Vedavyasa’ by the teachers at Srirangam temple owing to his profound scholarship. It is by the name ‘Vyasaraya’, that he is quoted very often by the later teachers of Visistadvaita Vedanta.

According to traditional accounts, Sri Sudarsana Suri studied under the tutelage of Sri Vatsya Varadarya, a renowned scholar of the Sri Bhasya and descendant of Nadadur Alvan- a nephew and disciple of Sri Ramanuja1. He was a very quiet and a reserved student and attended classes regularly, taking down the notes of his teacher diligently. The Srutaprakasika was derived from these very oral instructions of the teacher, hence the name, which means ‘publication of that which was heard.’

Sri Sudarsana Suri lived at Srirangam with his two sons. There, he met Sri Vedanta Desika, who was much younger than him. Tradition accords him a martyr’s death. During the unprovoked invasion of South India by the armies of the bigoted Muslim Emperor Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq in 1323 C.E., led by his son Ulugh Khan2, it became imminent that the temple of Srirangam too would be attacked and desecrated soon by these armies of Islam. To possibly prevent and delay the invasion and thus provide enough time for the inmates of the temple to flee with sacred objects used in the worship of the presiding deity (Lord Ranganatha), the residents of Srirangam divided themselves into two groups. One group took the icons in a palanquin and secretly moved southward after raising a wall in front of the doorway. The other party, lead by Sri Vedanta Desika and Sri Sudarsanacarya and several other un-armed, defenseless Hindus walked towards north to form a human wall in front of the approaching Muslim army, only to be massacred at a place called Samayapuram. Before attaining martyrdom, Sri Sudarsana Suri is said to have handed the manuscripts of his works to his favorite disciple- Sri Vedanta Desika, and asked him to preserve them. He also requested Sri Vedanta Desika to somehow save the life of his sons- Vedacharya Bhatta and Parankusa Bhatta. In the ensuing general massacre of Hindus that followed, Sri Vedanta Desika hid himself, the manuscript of Srutaprakasika, and the two sons of Sri Sudarsana Suri among the corpses. As soon as the marauders had left the field, he fled with them to Mysore, thereby fulfilling his pledge to Sri Sudarsana Suri. The supreme sacrifice of Sri Sudarsana Suri for the sake of Hinduism did not go in vain as Sri Vedanta Desika became a scholar par excellence of the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya of Hindus and earned their gratitude for preserving the Srutaprakasika. And the icons of Lord Ranganayaka and Devi Ranganayika were reinstalled in the temple with full ceremonies and processions after the region was freed from Islamic rule in 1371 CE by the newly founded Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar3. [Raghavan, A. S. 1972:introd.]

Works

1. Srutaprakasika: A massive and a masterly sub commentary on the Sri Bhasya (which itself is a commentary on the Brahmasutras composed by Sri Ramanuja). It is considered the best of all the extant sub commentaries on the Sri Bhasya. When Sri Vedanta Desika fled to Mysore after the sack of the Srirangam temple by the iconoclast Muslim armies, he settled down at a place called Satyamangalam or Satyakalam, where he taught this text to many disciples and kept it from extinction. The Srutaprakasika is an ideal commentary in many different ways. Its explanations are clear and are neither too elaborate nor too brief. The accessories of each topic of discussion (adhikaranas) are stated clearly and the development of thought is clearly delineated from chapter to chapter, from section to section and from topic to topic. The commentary explains the appropriateness of each sentence and the order in which they occur. It highlights the significance of particular choices of words. At the beginning of each topic, it lists a chain of possible objections and the reply thereto. Again, at the end of each adhikarana, the interpretations of Sri Shankaracharya, Sri Bhaskara Bhatta and Sri Yadava Prakasa are stated and refuted or reviewed. In the beginning sections of the sub commentary, these three predecessors of Sri Ramanuja are normally mentioned by name, but thereafter, they are mentioned as ‘pare’, ‘apare’ and ‘anye’, always in that order. Therefore, it is possible to determine which of the three commentators is referred to in all cases. The importance of Srutaprakasika here lies in the fact that it is possible to reconstruct the entire commentary of Sri Yadava Prakasa (now lost) on the Brahmasutras from it. Particularly significant is the fact that Sri Yadava Prakasa frequently interprets the Brahmasutras in a manner different from the other traditional commentaries and seems to impart a quasi-validity to the Samkhya and other schools of Vedic philosophy. Secondly, the Srutaprakasika has long quotations from the Sailali Brahman- a lost Vedic text that belonged to the Sailali recension of the Rigveda (no longer extant). The interpretations of a certain ‘Sri Vatsanka Misra’ are also quoted under the comment on the first four aphorisms. It is unclear if these are from the work of Sri Kuruttalvan (the disciple of Sri Ramanuja, and author of a commentary on the Dramida Bhasya) or the Sri Vatsanka referred to by Sri Yamunacharya in his Atmasiddhi (author of a commentary on the Brahmasutras). [Viraraghavacharya 1967]

2. Srutapradipika: This is a condensed version of Srutaprakasika composed by Sri Sudarsanacarya himself. By and large, it omits the review of the commentaries of Sri Shankaracharya, Bhatta Bhaskara and Yadava Prakasa. It also passes over several aphorisms without commenting on the Sri Bhasya thereupon. The work was apparently composed for the benefit of people who did not possess the skills to study and comprehend the much larger Srutaprakasika. [Raghavan, A. S. 1972]

3. Commentary on Apastamba Grhyasutras: Sudarasana Suri wrote a lucid commentary entitled ‘Tatyparyadarsana’ on the Apastamba Grhyasutras. The author not only explains the meaning of the words of the sutras, but also introduces topics related to subject under discussion. He often quotes varying interpretations of the sutras (notably those of Haradatta) and refutes them. The commentator seems to be following the interpretation of Kapardiswamin, whom he salutes in the introductory verses as a knower of the meaning and a commentator of the Vedas. Kapardiswamin’s commentary on the Apastamba Grhyasutra is no longer extant (although his interpretations of the sutra and points not treated in detail in the sutras are available as a collection of verses called the Kapardi Karikas). In fact, at the end of his commentary on Patala IV of the Sutra, Sudarsana Suri indicates that Kapardi Bhashya was rare even in his own days. As in his other works, Sudarsana Suri quotes a number of Vedic and other texts in his commentary- Taittiriya Samhita/Brahmana/Aranyaka, Taittiriya Kandanukramani, Taittiriya Pratisakhya, Aitareya Brahmana, Manusmriti, Yajnavalkya Smriti, Baudhayana Grhyasutra, Gautama Dharmasutra, Vasishtha Dharmasutra, Apastamba Paribhasha, Apastamba Srautasuta, Apastamba Dharmasutra, Hiranyakeshin Grhyasutra, Bharadvaja Grhyasutra, Katyayana Srautrasutra, Asvalayana Grhyasutra, Vishnu Smrti, Daksha Smriti, Brhaspati Smrti, Laugakshi Smriti, Vyasa Smriti, Brihatprachetasa Smrti, Nirukta, Ashtadhyayi, Ganapatha, Purva Mimamsa Sutra, Vishnu Purana, Tantravarttika of Bhatta Kumarila, Smrtyarthasara, Bharuchi’s Manubhashya. Kapardi is quoted by name under sutra 1.7 alone and as Bhashykara under 20.5 etc. but it is clear that elsewhere too, Sudarsana Suri is indebted to Kapardi, especially when reviewing alternate interpretations of the sutras. [Shastri, A. M. 1896]

4. Commentary on Subala Upanisad: The Upanisad is cited for the first time by Sri Ramanuja in his Sri Bhasya to demonstrate the primacy of Narayana over all other deities. The text comprises of 16 sections, but Sri Sudarsana Suri’s simple commentary (called Vivarana) covers only the first 5 sections (and ends abruptly there) even though quotations from the last 11 sections are also encountered in the works of Sri Ramanuja. It is possible therefore that Sri Sudarsana Suri was either unable to complete the commentary or that the remaining portion of the work is lost. This Upanisad frequently alludes to the Samkhyan cosmological concepts and Sri Sudarsana Suri cites the Mahabharata, Puranas and other texts to demonstrate that the concept of ‘8 Prakrtis and 16 Vikrtis’ is not alien to the followers of the Vedas, although it might have been described in detail by the followers of Maharshi Kapila. [Viraraghavacharya 1972]

5. Srutaprakasika on the Saranagati Gadya of Sri Ramanuja: This namesake of the commentary on Sri Bhasya is an eloquent and a lucid explanation of the Saranagati Gadya. [Bhashyam et al. 1970]

6. Tatparyadipika: This is a commentary on the Vedarthasamgraha of Sri Ramanuja. Sri Sudarsana Suri cites some new quotations from the Vakyagrantha and the Dramida Bhasya, which are not cited in any works of Sri Ramanuja. Therefore, these works were indeed available to him. The commentary is written in the same masterly fashion as the Srutaprakasika. [Sudarsanacharya 1953] Sudarsana Suri explains each word patiently, specifying the exact prima facie view (of Shankaracharya, Bhaskara and Yadava Prakasa) being considered by Ramanuja, expanding upon the base text with additional scriptural citations, bringing together parallel passages and indulging in extensive discussions on the application of the rules of grammar to scriptural passages. Apparently however, the text of Tatparyadipika has not been preserved very well and numerous variants are found in the manuscripts.

7. ‘Saaraavali’ on the Vedantasara of Sri Ramanuja: The Vedantasara of Sri Ramanuja work is a short commentary on the Brahmasutras that avoids logical arguments and rather gives the meaning of each aphorism in a concise form with the relevant scriptural texts. The text is valuable from the perspective of a layman, who cannot read the more detailed Sribhashya on the Sutras. Sudarasana Suri has appended verse(s) at the end of each section of adhikarana of Vedantasara, further summarizing the central purport of the same. [Sastri, R. 1954]

8. Sandhyavandana Bhasya: This is a commentary on the mantras used in the Sandhya ritual. [Raghavan, V.K.S.N 1979:22] I have not been able to consult this work as it is available only in manuscript.

9. Sukapakshiya: This was a commentary on the Srimad Bhagavata Purana. A manuscript of the work exists in the collection of Trivandrum University and if the tradition regarding its authorship is correct, then it does indicate, that the Purana was considered a hallowed text even by the early Sri Vaishnavas. Students of the poetry of Alvars- the forerunners of the Sri Vaishnava community, have noticed that the themes of the poetry of Alvars are the same as the ones which recur in the Bhagvata Purana. [Raghavan, V.K.S.N 1979:22]. According to scholars of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya, the commentary covers only the 10th skandha of the Srimadbhagavatam4.

10. Commentary on the Chhandogya Upanishad: This is listed in the New Catalogus Catalogorum.

11. Commentary on Apastamba Mantrapatha (?): The Apastamba Mantrapatha in two Prasnas (25 and 26 of the Apastamba Kalpasutra) is a collection of accented mantras used by the followers of the Taittiriya Apastamba Yajurveda Sakha for their domestic rites. The authenticity and existence of Sudarasana Suri’s commentary on this text is in doubt and I quote Winternitz [1897] who edited the Mantrapatha: “Commentaries on the Mantrapatha by Sayana (Vidyaranya) and by Sudarsanacarya, are mentioned by Dr. G. Oppert (Lists of Sanskrit Manuscripts in Southern India, vol: ii, 2083, 6790, 10089, 7263). But Dr. Hultzsch, who was kind enough to make enquiries about these MSS., could find no trace of them.”

Notes:

1. This gives us the second way of tracing the lineage of Sri Sudarsana Suri to Sri Ramanuja. Vatsya Varadarya, the teacher of Sudarsana Suri, was the chief disciple of Engalazwhan, who in turn was the chief disciple of Pillan (the direct and one of the two chief disciples of Sri Ramanujacharya). The Vadakalais prefer this lineage, while the Thengalai school of Sri Vaishnavas trace the lineage of Sudarsana Suri via Parasar Bhattar. I owe this information to Anand K. Karakapakkam

2. Ulugh Khan’s expedition and the sack of Srirangam temple in 1323 CE:

Ghiyas-ud-din Tuglaq, the Sultan of Delhi, deputed his eldest son Ulugh Khan to invade the Hindu kingdoms of South India in 1321 C.E. When the Muslim army of Ulugh Khan was close to the Srirangam temple, a festival was being conducted, in the course of which the procession image of Lord Ranganath was taken to a nearby shrine. The gathered devotees decided to keep the image where it was and the festival was continued. When the invaders reached Samayapuram, Srirangarajanathan Vaduldesika, a senior official of the temple, decided that no time was to be lost, and commanding the 12000 ascetics who had gathered there not to disperse, he sent away the procession image of the deity in the southern direction secretly, with Pillai Lokacarya as the guide of the secret party. Then, he dispatched secretly the image of Sriranga Nacciyar and a few boxes of treasure with a few attendants to a safe place, locked the doors of the sanctum sanctorum, barred the doorways of the shrines of both Lord Ranganayaka and Devi Ranganayika, placed pseudo images outside and then fled to the shrine of Panvijavian. The invading army desecrated the shrine, killed all the 12000 ascetics, including the great scholar Sri Sundarsana Bhatta. Another sage, Sri Vedanta Desika, hid himself amongst the corpses together with the sole manuscript of the Srutaprakasika, the magnum opus of Sri Sudarsana, and also the latter’s two sons. When the massacre was over, they fled to Satyamangalam in Mysore, where Sri Vedanta Desika published the Srutaprakasika. It is said that the image was finally housed in the protected sanctuary of Tirupati, unfortunately after Pillai Lokacarya died of shock when he heard of the slaughter of his kith and kin at Srirangam. The Muslim army occupied the temple precincts and put and an end to Hindu worship. A temple courtesan, who fascinated the invading general, prevailed upon him not to destroy the temple altogether, and restrict his vandalism to the destruction of a few cornices. The Brahmins in the surrounding areas tried to perform the sacred rituals whenever they could, but were harassed by the occupying Muslim forces constantly. The general was constantly attacked by disease as long as he remained in the temple, and so he moved to the nearby Poysalesvara temple, which he destroyed and erected a fortress at its place. The tale of sack of Srirangam cannot be complete without the mention of the sacrifice of the temple courtesan. Unable to bear the harassment of the devotees by the Muslims, she enticed the Muslim chief, took him up a temple tower in the east, and in the pretext of showing him a famous icon from there, she pushed him down and killed him. Scared, that she will be tortured by the Muslims as a result of her deed, she threw herself also down. According to tradition, to honor her memory, the funeral pyres of temple courtesans are lit by fire brought from the temple kitchen. [Rao 1976]

3. According to some scholars, the temple was freed from Islamic control in 1360 CE. See the site http://www.srivaishnava.org/sva/desika.htm

4. I owe this information to Mr. Anand K. Karalapakkam (private communication)

References and Bibliography

Bhashyam, Krishnamachari and Viraraghavacharya, Uttamur T.; Sri Bhagavad-Ramanuja’s Saranagati Gadya; Ubhaya Vedanta Granthamala; Visistadvaita Vedanta Pracarini Sabha; Madras; 1970 (3rd Ed.)

Raghavan, A. Srinivasa; Srutapradipika of Sudarsana Suri; Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Series No. 139; Thanjavur; 1972

Raghavan, V. K. S. N.; History of Visistadvaita Literature; Ajanta Publications; Delhi; 1979

Rao, V. N. Hari; History of the Srirangam Temple; Sri Venkareswara University; Tirupati; 1976

Sarma, T. Srinivasa; Sribhashyam of Sribhagavad-Ramanujamuni with the Commentary of Srutaprakasika by Mahamahopadhyaya Sudarsanavyasabhtta; Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan; Delhi/Varanasi; 1983. (On Brahmasutras 1.1.1-4 only)

Sastri, Ramadulare; Srimadramanaujaviracita Vedantasarah (with Sudarsana Suri’s Saaraavali); Haridas Sanskrit Series, vol. 251; Chaukhamba Sanskrit Series; Varanasi; 1954

Sastri, P. S. Rama Misra; Sribhashya of Ramanuja with the Commentary Srutaprakasika of Ramanuja of Sudarsanacharya (2 vols.); E. J. Lazarus & Co.; Benares; 1891

Shastri, Alladi Mahadeva; Apastamba Grhya Sutra with the Commentary of Sri Sudarsanacarya; Oriental Research Institute Series-160, Oriental Research Institute, Mysore; 1987. Reprint of first edition in 1896

Sudarsanacharya, T. K. V. N.; Sribhagavadramanaujamuniviracitah Sri Vedarthasamgrahah Srimacchrutprakasikacaryaih Srimatsudarsanabhattarakaih Anugrhitaya Sri Tatparyadipikaya yuktah; Tirumalai-Tirupati Devasthanam’s Press; Tirupati; 1953

Viraraghavacharya, Uttamur T.; 1972; Kenadyupanishata-Purusha Sukta- Sri Sukta Bhasya; Ubhaya Vedanta Granthamala No. 16; Madras (contains Sudarsana Suri’s commentary on Subala Upanishad).

______. 1967; Brahmasutra-Sribhashya with Srutaprakasika; Ubhayavedantagranthamala; Madras

Winternitz, M.; The Mantrapatha or the Prayer Book of the Apastambins; Clarendon Press; Oxford; 1897. Reprinted by Oxford University Press (Delhi, 1985) and by Sri Satguru Publications (New Delhi, 1985)

Related Links

Sri Vaishnava Homepage : The unofficial official homepage of Sri Vaishnava community

Sri Vaisnava.org : Extensive links on Sri Vaishnava web resources

Vishishtadvaita Vedanta Homepage : Biographies, works and teachings of this school of Vedanta

Bhakti List : Scholarly discussion on Sri Vaishnavism

Global Hindu Electronic Network : Comprehensive homepage on Hinduism

Indian Civilization List : Scholarly discussion list on Indian culture, traditions, history and civilization

Indic Traditions List : Study of contributions of India to the world and discuss ways of removing misconceptions about India in the West

Karl H. Potter’s Bibliography on Indian Philosophy : An up to date and extensive list of works on all schools of Indian philosophy

Credits: The author wishes to thank Dr. Vasudha Narayanan (Professor of Religion, University of Florida at Gainesville) for reviewing an initial draft of the Webpage. Mr. Anand K. Karalapakkam provided some useful information (see above)

Revision Log: Version AA (22 February 2001)- Website set up

Version AB (10 March 2001)- Information provided by Anand K. Karalappam included in the text.

(c) 2001 Contact the author