501st Jayanthi of Srimad Appayya Dikshitendra
Among the preceptors of our Advaita Parampara in the Post-Shankara Bhagavatpada era, Srimad Appayya Dikshitendra holds foremost significance. Born in Adayapalam, Arani district, Tamil Nadu as Vinayaka Subramania in 1520 to Sri Rangarajadhwani, in an illustrious family of Dikshitas, He attained mastery over the Vedas and the Yagnas at a young age and was accorded the title of Vinayaka Subrahmanya Dikshita or Appayya Dikshita. He made colossal contributions to the Advaita Vedanta formulated by Shankara Bhagavatpada through his works such as Sastra-Siddhantalesha-Sangraha, Kalpataru-Parimala and Upakrama-Parakrama. With his devout Bhakti towards Lord Parameshwara, He also composed Sivarkamani Deepika as an interpretation of Veda Vyasa’s Brahma Sutra through Shivadvaita philosophy propounded by Srikantacharya. Apart from Bhashya Granthas, He composed several Stothra Granthas on several Devatas such as Durga Chandrakala Stuthi, Margabandhu Stothram and Varadarajasthava. A strong proponent of the idea of Hari-Hari Abedha, he opposed the divisions promoted by different clans of those times to seed differences between worshippers of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. He himself explains His stance on his philosophy beautifully through the following verse:
वस्तां पिशङ्गं वसनं दिशो वा
गरुत्मता यातु ककुद्मता वा।
निद्रातु वा नृत्यतु वाऽधिरङ्गे
भेदो न मे स्यात्परमस्य धाम्नः ॥
Whether he wears yellow silk or the directions themselves,
Whether he travels on Garuda or whether he travels on a bull,
Whether he is found sleeping or found to be dancing,
In my conscience, I do not have Shiva and Vishnu as different.
Ratnaketa Srinivasa Dikshitar an erudite scholar in Sanskrit a devotee of Goddess Kamakshi of Kanchipuram was the Chief Pundit of the Court in the Chola Kingdom. Ratnaketa Dikshitar propitiated Goddess Kamakshi Devi in order to get her blessings to defeat Appayya Dikshita ina scholarly debate. He did severe tapas. The Devi appeared before him and Ratnaketa prayed, “Kindly bestow me all the powers to defeat Appayya”. The Devi replied “O Bhakta, Appayya is not an ordinary human being. He is verily the incarnation of Lord Shiva. Please do not enter into a controversy rather give your daughter in marriage to him so that He will prostrate to you as a son-in-law”. At the same time Lord Siva appeared in Appayya’s dream and said, “O child go to Kancheepuram. Ratnaketa will give his daughter Mangalambika in marriage to you”. Sri Appayya Dikshita married Sri Mangalambika and continued to teach several students within and outside his family.
On one such occasion, He was intrigued by His level of Bhakthi to Lord Parameshwara and wanted to test himself. After referring to the Shastras, He identified that He can self-confirm His Bhakthi towards Lord Shiva only by seeing if He still contemplated and remembered Lord Shiva even when He is mentally affected by insanity. He instructed His students to give him a potion made of Unmatta (Datura) flowers and record whatever He uttered after turning insane. If He uttered the name of Lord Shiva, the students were to bring him back to normal with an antidote. Otherwise, He wished to remain in that state due to the futility of life He perceived without Bhakti to Lord Shiva. Immediately after He drank the potion, verses of utmost Bhaki flowed from His mouth even in that mental state. The verses known today as Atmarpana Stuthi or Unmatta Panchasathi are a testament to this Mahan’s ShivaBhakti.