Sri Narayana Thirtha
There are numerous devotees who have sung the glory of Lord Krishna in their native tongues – Oothukkaadu Venkata Subbaiyer in Tamil, Purandaradasa in Kannada, Pandarpur devotees in Marathi, Meera Bai in Hindi, etc. These devotees’ songs don’t accord as much importance to the raga and tala of the music as it does to the meaning and the divine emotions conveyed. Yet, many a Mahan has given equal weightage to music and divine emotions in their songs, Saint Thiyagaraja being an example. It is the same with Muthuswamy Deekshitar and Shyama Shastri also.
Jayadeva composed the Gita Govinda (Ashtapadi) in Sanskrit. Another great Saint was Sri Narayana Thirtha. He has composed kirtans in Telugu and Sanskrit.
The Krishna Janmashtami festival is celebrated in a grand manner in a hamlet called Varahur, near Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu, thanks to Sri Narayana Thirtha. His compositions called “Krishna Lila Tarangini” are accorded great respect and recognition in Nama Sankirtan and music concerts alike. Although these songs portray the divine plays of young Lord Krishna, scholars opine that it is verily the essence of Srimad Bhagavatam.
In the village called Villathur in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh was born SriNarayana Thirtha to Sri Neelakanta Shastri. When he reached the marriageable age, Sri Narayana Thirtha entered into wedlock and ran the household.
Once when he was about to cross a river, Narayana Thirtha was caught in the raging floods. He immediately prayed to the Lord and embraced ‘Aapat Sanyasa’ right there. (‘Aapat Sanyasa’ is vow of sanyas undertaken for relief from some grave danger). The waters immediately subsided and Narayana Thirtha returned home forgetting his vow. His wife, who knew through divine intuition that her husband had embraced Sanyasa, questioned him as to why he came home after having taken Sanyasa Deeksha! Such is the power of the truth in Mahans’ words that the moment they utter a statement, it becomes truth. Later, he was formally initiated into Sanyasa through a guru.
Following his Guru’s instruction, Narayana Thirtha undertook pilgrimage. After visits to holy shrines like Tirupati he came to Govindapuram, near Kumbakonam, in Tamil Nadu. As per his Guru’s wish, he came there to have darshan of Sri Bodendra Swami; but unfortunately Sri Bodendra Swami had already attained ‘Jiva Samadhi’. He then visited various holy towns in and around the banks of river Kaveri.
At this point of time he contracted severe stomach ache. In spite of visiting many holy places, he was not cured of his stomach ache. Once, when he was sleeping in a Ganesha temple in a village called Nadukkaveri, Lord Krishna appeared in his dreams and said, “When you wake up, you will see an animal. Follow the animal and you will be relieved of your stomach ache.” When Narayana Thirtha woke up, he saw a boar.
It is considered a bad omen to sight a boar on waking up! And now, he had to follow the boar! As it was a divine instruction, he sincerely followed the white boar for about a distance of 4 kms. He became too tired to follow the boar further. Just then, the animal disappeared into the temple and he heard a voice: “Search not for me! It is I who brought you here!” Narayana Thirtha’s joy knew no bounds when he realized that the Lord who had incarnated as a boar had taken the form of a boar now and had led him there!
Strange are the ways the Lord adopts to win over His devotees. That very moment, Narayana Thirtha’s stomach ache vanished. The incident in which Lord Siva appeared as a Brahmin to Sundaramurthy Nayanar and disappeared into a temple, another involving Tirunavukkarasar where Lord Siva cured him of his stomach ache and this incident in the Life of Narayana Thirtha, all go to show that the Lord is indeed a conjurer of divine plays!
Thenceforth that town Bhoopatirajapuram was called Varahur. Lord Venkatesa Perumal decorates the temple here. It is said that He had given ‘Viswaroopa Darshan’ (darshan of the colossal form of the Lord) to Narayana Thirtha.
Narayana Thirtha’s kirtans on Lord Krishna are filled with devotion and warmth. It is said that he would hear the jingling of anklets of the Divine Couple Radha-Krishna whenever he sang. Through his numerous kirtans, Sri Narayana Thirtha encouraged the traditional Bhajana Sampradhaya and shone as a Guru to a huge number of followers.
`Sri Krishna Leela Tharangini,” is his narration of the story of Sri Krishna from His birth up to His marriage with Rukmini. It is a literary masterpiece, composed in Yakshagana style with 12 Tarangams, consisting of 145 kirtans, 267 verses, 30 gadyams (prose passages) and 30 darus (narrative songs).
Legends have it that Sri Narayana Tirtha attained Siddhi at a nearby village called Tirupoonthuruti under a huge mango tree, on the banks of river Kudamurutti, on the Masi Sukla Ashtami day when the Kritika star was on the ascent. A small shrine has been constructed on this hallowed spot, under the sprawling mango tree.
Those who visit the holy kshetra of Varahur with devotion and faith are sure to reap the grace of Lord Venkatesa Perumal and the blessings of the Guru.