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Mahan Sri Appaya Dikshitar

Birth & Education

The forefathers of Appaya Dikshitar were great Shiva bhaktas and great scholars
well versed in all the shastras and smrithis. Appaya Dikshitar’s great grandfather
was Sri Achan Dikshitar who was a great scholar patronized by Sri Krishnadeva Raya,
the famous King of Vijayanagar Empire. In order to save a young Vaishnavite girl
named Thotamba from being married to an old man he had to marry her as his second
wife. She bore him a son named Rengarajadhwari. He was a symbol of Unity of a
Vaishnavite and Saivite family. Sri Rengarajadhwari had no issues for a long time.
On the advice of elders and relatives he went to Chidambaram and led a life of
penance and prayer for a period of six years. Pleased with his devotion, Lord
Nataraja, the presiding deity of Chidambaram Temple blessed him with a son who was
named Vinayakasubramanya Sarma but was affectionately called as “Appa” or “Appaya”
which name struck to him later. Appaya was born in Adayapalam a village near Arani
in the North Arcot district in the year 1554 A.D. He was born in the Krishna Paksha
of Kanya month of Pramateecha Varsha under the “Uttara Proushthapada”
constellation. He had a brother named Achan Dikshitar who was none other than the
Grandfather of Palamadai Nilakanta Dikshitar, who was minister to the Madurai King
Tirumalai Nayyakkar and a sister named Gnanambika born after him. Endowed with the
qualities of devotion, erudition and quick learning Appaya studied the holy
scriptures from his father who was a great scholar patronised by the Vellore hamlet
King Chinna Bomma Nayakkar. Appayya also studied the holy scriptures under Guru
Rama Kavi. It is believed that Appaya had a spark of divinity in him from his very
birth. He mastered all the shastras within a short span and completed the study of
fourteen Vidyas while he was quite young which itself was a great marvel. The King
of Vellore invited Appaya and his brother Achan to his capital after the death of
their father Rengarajadhwari, who was the Chief Pundit of the State. Srinivasa
Thathachari, the Dewan had great dislike for the worshippers of Lord Shiva. Appaya
praised the Siva Lilas and the glory of Lord Shiva. Appayya was very intelligent.
He was a master logician. He was well versed in grammar, metaphysics and other
sciences. He was a master in all branches of learning. His exposition of Vedanta
was unique. He cleared the doubts of all. His name and fame spread far and wide.
The Rajas of Thanjavur, Kalahasti and Tirupathi invited him.

Marriage

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 came to know that Sri Appaya Dikshitar was a great scholar. He
wanted to defeat him. He proceeded to Kanchipuram to propitiate Kamakshi Devi in
order to get her blessings. He did severe tapas. The devi appeared before him and
said “O Bhakta choose your boons from Me”. Thereupon Ratnaketa said, “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”. 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”. Appayya went to
Kancheepuram immediately and lived there. Ratnaketa took his daughter and reached
Appayya’s residence. Appayya honored Sri Ratnaketa Dikshitar duly with Arghya
(offering of special hospitality by way of respectful libations and glorification),
Padya (washing of the feet), Asana (offering of an elevated seat), etc. Ratnaketa
Dikshitar said, "The Devi has ordered me to give my daughter in marriage to you. O
Appayya, please marry her and attain fame, prosperity and tranquility". Appayya
then married Mangalambika. He led the life of a householder. He gave education to
all the students who came to him from different parts of the land. He disseminated
Siva Bhakti and sang the praise of Lord Siva. The king learnt Dharma from Appayya.
Appayya spread Sanskrit learning far and wide. Appayya had two daughters.
The Soma Yajna sacrifice

Sri Appayya Dikshitar known also as Dikshitendra, performed Soma Yajna to


propitiate Chandramauleswara. He performed the Vajapeya sacrifice in Kanchipuram.
Several kings came to pay homage to Appayya and to receive his blessings, but
Chinnabomma, Raja of Vellore, who was deluded by the evil counsel of his minister
Thathacharya, did not come. He later on repented very much for not attending the
grand Vajapeya Yajna. Chinnabomma came to know of the extraordinary merits and
remarkable spiritual glory of Appayya. He wanted to bring Appayya to his State. He
sent several scholars to invite Appayya. Appayya accepted the invitation and went
to Vellore. Chinnabomma honored Appayya. He constructed a hermitage called "Sarvato
Bhadram" for Appayya. Appayya became the Premier. Thathacharya became very, very
jealous of Appayya.

Appayya and Ayyappa

Thathacharya an aggressive propagator of Vaishnavism became jealous of the fame and


Royal Patronage of Sri Appaya Dikshitar and gave him lot of pinpricks and troubles.
This story about how the ruler of a small kingdom in the South India, invited both
Shri. Appaya Dikshita and Thathacharya for the Kumbhabhishekam ( Consecration ) of
a Shastha (Lord Ayyappa) temple. While going round the temple with the great two
scholars, the King was puzzled to note that the Ayyappa’s idol standing with its
index finger on its nose – a posture indicating a mood of serious doubt. The King
asked the priest why it was so. The priest said that he had heard from his
predecessor, that The Shastha would remove his finger, the moment some great man
explained the reason for its doubt. The King looked at Thathacharya and
Thathacharya explained the reason in a verse: "Vishnosutoham Vidhinaa Somoham
Dhanyastatoham Surasevitoham ! Thatapi Bhutesa Sutohamethair Bhutairrvtas
Chintayatee Shastaa.", meaning: "I am the son of Lord Vishnu and blessed I am,
saluted by the Gods. Yet , I am the son of the Lord of the Demons (Lord Siva) – so
thinks Shastha surrounded by a group of demons." The finger remained on the nose of
Shastha. Then the King turned towards Shri. Appaya Dikshita, who sung in all
humility : “Ambeti Gaureem Aham Aahvayaami Patnaya; Pitur Mataraa Yeva Sarva
Kathannu Lakshmeem Iti Chintayantam Shastaram Ide Sakalarrhasiddhyai " – meaning :
"I call Gowri ( Goddess Parvathi ) mother for all the wives of the father are
mothers. But how am I to call Lakshmi !(Meaning Vishnu being the mother, and
Lakshmi becoming mother’s wife?!!). May Shastha who is steeped in this thoughts
give me all prosperity." (Shastha according to Puranic version, is the off-spring
of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu , in his manifestation as Mohini.) The King and all
those around saw a miracle happen, the Shastha idol removed its index finger from
its nose!.

Prolific Writings & Magnificent Works

A prolific writer, Shri. Appaya Dikshita produced 104 works


(Chaturadhikasataprabandha Karta) 25 works on Vedanta, 26 on Sivadvaida, 7 on
Mimamsa, 26 on Devotional nature, 3 on Alamkara, 1 on Kavya Vyakhyana , 1 on
Vyakarna Vyakhyana and 15 on other subjects. There is no branch of literature or
philosophy, which he did not touch and embellish with his contributions. Some of
his works are :

· Sivarkamani Dipika

Srikantacharya wrote a great commentary on the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana, seeking


to derive from it the sivadvaita doctrine. It is generally believed that Srikanta
lived after Sri Sankara and before Sri Ramanuja. The present work of Sri Appayya
Dikshita is an elaborate commentary on the Srikanta bhashya. The Srikanta doctrine
is generally called also as the Saiva visishtadvaita. There is a close resemblance
between the advaita of Sri Sankara and the Sivadvaita of Srikanta. Sri Appayya
Dikshita very graphically describes dvaita as the lowest step, visishtadvaita as
the middle step and sivadvaita and advaita which are very close to each other as
the highest steps. Sri Appayya Dikshita calls himself again and again in this work
as a follower of the advaita doctrine, but the followers of sivadvaita also claim
him as one of their great Acharyas. The Sivarka mani dipika displays the most
thorough-going knowledge of mimamsa, vyakarana, nyaya, rhetoric, and in fact of the
whole field of Sanskrit literature. What Vachaspati, Sudarsana and Jayatirtha have
done for the Bhashyas of Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva, Sri Appayya Dikshita has
done for the Bhashyas of Srikanta.

In many places the book is more an original discussion than a commentary. As an


intellectual treat, there is not a more learned and well reasoned and interesting
work than the Sivarka mani dipika. To the Siva bhakta, the book is a priceless
treasure. The author pronounces Srikanta to have been a practioner of the Dahara
Vidya. He detects this fact by a critical examination of Srikanta’s references to
the different vidyas. On the completion of his magnum opus "Sivarkamani Dipika", he
was honored with a "Kanakabhishega" (showered with gold flowers & coins) by his
patron King Chinna Bomma Nayakkar. With that gold, Appayya built the
Kaalakanteshwara Temple at Adayapalam. He so much loved and revered him, that he
created endowments for the maintenance of a college of 500 scholars who studied the
"Sivarkamani Dipika" under the author himself (Referred in the Adayapalam epigraph)
they were trained to do propaganda for the Sivadvaita philosophy to meet the
Vaishnavite arguments. Appayya Dikshitar gave a new life and orientation to Saivism
in South India. He made people tread the path of devotion. By his own exemplary
life he converted atheists, created a strong faith in them in the Vedic injunctions
and in devotion to Lord Siva. He did not stop there. He went a step further and
proclaimed in his work Sivarkamani Dipika that through the grace of the personal
God alone could men get a taste for the study of the Vedanta philosophy.

· Parimalam

Bhagavadpada Adi Sri Sankaracharya wrote a classic commentary on the Brahmasutras


of Badarayans. For this commentary or Bhashya of Sri Sankara, a great advaitic
teacher, by name Sri Vachaspati Misra wrote another commentary called Bhamati. For
this work Bhamati, another subsequent advaitic teacher by name Amalananda wrote an
abstruse and difficult commentary called kalpataru. The kalpataru is an extremely
difficult piece of work, which would require extensive scholarship to understand.
For this work kalpataru, Sri Appayya Dikshita wrote an extensive and easily
understandable detailed commentary called the Parimala. He also wrote "Parimalam"
which deals with Advaithic interpretation. This magnificent work brought him the
title "Advaita Sthapanacharya". Kanchi Paramacharya says Vedanta Shastra means
Brahma Sootram by Veda Vyasa, Bhashyam or commentary on it by Sri Sankara
Bhagavatpada, Commentary on that called Parimalam by Vachaspati Mishra, Commentary
on that called Bhaamati by Amalananda and Appaya Dikshitar’s commentary Parimalam
on Kalpataru these five works together are called Veda Shastram.

"Nyayarakshakamani" and "Siddhantalesa" are other noteworthy works in this line.


His "Durga-Chandrakala Stuti", "Chitramimamsa" , "Varadharaja Sthava",
"Kuvalayananda" are all literary classics and speak of his poetic ability. No
student of Sanskirt literature , can afford to miss these excellent works.

· The Varadarajastava and its commentary

Sri Appayya Dikshita, though he was by conviction an advaitin had no differences


with regard to worship of Lord Siva or Lord Vishnu. Moreover, he and his ancestors
had all along lived in Kanchipuram and hence they were highly devoted to Lord
Varadaraja, the presiding deity of that place. It is said that Sri Acharya Dikshita
had written a work called Varadaraja Vasantotsava Varnana. Sri Appayya Dikshita in
his Varadarajastava describes the divine beauty of the Lord in 106 verses of
exquisite beauty and charm. It is as if he has adorned the beautiful form of the
Lord with a garland as it were of 106 verses. He has himself written a commentary
on this. In it he explains in great detail the Lakshanas of the various alankaras
handled by him in the main work. For every great work of composition what is
indispensable is not so much the mere technical skill as the inner shining beauty
called the pratibha. This pratibha consists of five elements,namely, Atisayokti,
Vakrokti, Slesha, Pada Saushtava and Sabda Madhurya. A kavya is said to be a great
one only if it contains all these elements. The varadarajastava is full of these
and is forever shining as an ornament of beauty to the Lord of Kanchipuram.

· Atmarpanastuti Or Unmatta Panchasati

His "Unmattapanchasa" also known as "Athmarpanastuti" is unique. It is a work of 50


verses composed in a state of semi-consciousness. Once Sri Appaya Dikshita wanted
to test his sincerity and devotion to God. So he swallowed a cup of dhattura juice
and got into a state of inarticulate stage. He had instructed his disciples to
observe his behavior and write down whatever he prattled. It was during this semi-
conscious state that he uttered these 50 slokas ( verses) surrendering himself to
Lord Shiva with sincere prayer that he should be freed from the cycle of births and
deaths. Sri Appayya Dikshita who demonstrated his complete mastery over descriptive
verses in his Varadarajastava has in the Atmarpanastuti dealt with equal facility
with mystic poetry and makes the inner self melt as it were by his exquisite
poetry. In this work, we see the profound maturity of the true devotion to the
Supreme Lord. The Atmarpana or surrender of oneself, is the very acme or end in the
various stages of devotion to the Lord. There cannot be a greater stage in one’s
evolution than this. This work seeks moksha or release as a final end. This
reflects the inner mental state of a great devotee, in whom the ego has become
fully extinct. The state of one who surrenders himself to the Lord is a stage of
complete detachment. What he wants is eternal happiness. What he aims at is only
release from the bondage of the never-ending cycle of births and deaths. The
disjointed prattle of Sri Appayya Dikshita in a stage of intoxication became this
stutikavya which is generally known as Unmatta Panchasati, because all the fifty
verses in this work, were composed at a stage when Sri Appayya Dikshita had no
control over his mental faculties. From this work the fact that Sri Appayya
Dikshita had completely identified himself with the ninth stage of self-surrender
or atma samarpana in bhakti yoga became very clear. In this work, Sri Appayya
Dikshita has totally surrendered himself to Lord Siva with a deep prayer that he
should be given complete freedom from the cycle of births and deaths and be
identified in the advaitic state of oneness with Lord Siva. Sri Sivananda Yogi, a
biographer of Sri Appayya Dikshita has written a commentary on this work.

· Apitakuchambastava

Once Sri Appayya Dikshita had gone to Tiruvannamalai for darshan of Lord
Arunachaleswara there. There he was laid with a severe fever. At that stage he
prayed to the Goddess of that place, Apitakuchamba for relief from his suffering
and this work composed in that context is now known as Apitakuchambastava. If this
sloka is recited sincerely is capable of relieving one from illness.

· Margabhandu Stothra

This stotra is written in praise of the Lord Margabandhu of Virinchipuram, near


Vellore of South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. People who undertake any journey
should recite it before traveling, on the days when they are traveling and after
the completion of travel. Lord Shiva as Margabandhu would always be with them and
protect them.

· Hari Hara stuti


In the great kshetra, Chidambaram, the temple to Sri Govindaraja, the Vishnava
Lord, which was closed for worship was thrown open again for worship during the
time of Ramaraya, the regent of Vijayanagar, through the good offices of one
vaishnavite teacher Doddacharya. Sri Appayya Dikshita who had no distinction
between Siva and Vishnu, fully welcomed this. In honor of that great event he wrote
the Harihara Stuti. This contains ten verses. In each both Siva and Vishnu are
praised alternatively. It is well-known that in Chidambaram one can have darshan of
both the Lords at the same time.
Catholicity

Sri Appaya Dikshitar was a firm believer in the unity and oneness of God. Yet the
age in which he lived made him extol Lord Shiva as the supreme in the Trinity.
During 16th century, South India witnessed sectarian disputes between Vaishanvism
and Saivism, which had taken deep roots during the days of Sri Appaya Dikshitar.
Thathacharya, did everything in his power to propagate Vaishnavism. It was to
project the Saivite point of view and to strengthen its hold that Sri Appaya
Dikshita had to write a series of books like "Sivarkamani Dipika", "Sikharinimala",
"Sivatatva Viveka" , "Sivakarnamratha", "Sivamahimakalastuti", "Sivadvaidanirnaya"
– all extolling Lord Shiva and Advaita. In these tasks, he received the support and
patronage of King Chinna Bomma Nayyakkar. Yet he was not a bigot. He himself says
that it was due to the circumstances he had to do so. In a verse he says, "It is
not important if Vishnu or Shiva is considered as the Supreme God by the
Upanishads; for we belong to the Advaita School. But when men with crooked ideas
and narrow outlook proclaim in abusive language their hatred towards Shiva, we
cannot keep quite. To refute this , I had to produce these works. This in no way
means that I am not a worshipper of Vishnu". That Sri Appaya Dikshitar was catholic
can be seen from the fact that he wrote a commentary on the "Yadavabhyudaya" of Sri
Vedanta Desika, whom he admired very much.

Great Reconciler

He praised Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi in hymn. In the "Kuvalayananda" he prays to


Lord Mukunda for his blessings. When the worship of Lord Govindaraja was revived at
the Chidambaram Temple at the instances of the Vijayanagara King, he welcomed it
wholeheartedly and wrote "Hariharastuti", praising both Hari (Vishnu) and Hara
(Shiva). He proclaimed his catholic outlook through his "Chaturmatasara", which
elucidate the philosophical basis of the four important school of Indian Vedantic
system. This work has been acclaimed as a masterly and impartial exposition of the
respective schools, even by the aggressive proponents of these schools. To him, all
schools of Vedanta and all deities were the same, leading to the same goal. He was
for reconciliation and not for quarrel, for harmony and not for hatred for
tolerance and not ill-will, for mutual understanding and not cantankerous
bickering, among the various sects. His name and fame spread far and wide. Kings
vied with one another to honor him and get honored by his presence in their courts.
His sons and disciples mastered his works and were considered great scholars. His
life’s mission was accomplished, yet Sri Appaya Dikshitar led a simple,
unostentatious life in his village.

His Last Days

Sri Appaya Dikshitar spent his last days in Chidambaram. He was running 73rd year.
One day the priests of Lord Nataraja temple saw Sri Appaya Dikshitar pass over the
"Panchakshara Steps" and vanish into the deity of Lord Nataraja. It was at the same
time that he breathed his last in his house uttering a half completed sloka
meaning, "The splendor of the lotus feet of Lord Nataraja flashes before me as if
the sun has risen in the sky". His grandson (Brother Achan Dikshita’s grandson
Shri. Nilakanta Dikshita of Palamadai) who was nearby completed the unfinished
verse declaring "since the suryodaya has occurred, it is certain that the great
soul has reached the final beatitude after leaving the darkness of night of
Samsara".
Thus lived a Great Vedantin, an un-biased philosopher, a true devotee, a versatile
scholar, a prolific writer, a polymath of learning, a Maha Yogi, who indelibly
stamped his personality and teachings on all and gave Saivism and Advita Vedanta, a
new life and direction.
Lets us remember and worship Sri Appayya Dikshitar and get the blessings of Hari
and Hara!

Vedic Chetna Jagrati Sansthan