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A Stotra & a Kavya: Memories of Invasion & Srirangam’s Tragic Decades

Aradavarul amudam podinda koyil

ambuyatton ayotti mannarkalitta koyil

tolada taniviran toluda koyil

tunaiyana vidanarkut tunaiyam koyil

cerada payanellam cerkkum koyil

celumaraiyin mudaleluttuc cernda koyil

tirade vinaiyanaittum tirkkum koyil

tiruvarangam enat tigalum koyil tane

(The temple filled with the nectar of infinite compassion

The one seated on the Lotus gifted it to the kings of Ayodhya

Worshipped by the one who could never be defeated

To be the protector of Vibishana the friend

The temple that grants devotees all that desired

It is the first letter of the sacred Vedas

Remover of all the otherwise indestructible sins

It is Srirangam, the one that shines as the Kovil)

Verse 42, Adhikaara Sangraham

The short verse extolling the virtues, highlighting the significance of the kshetra Srirangam, its sthala mahatmya is part of a Tamil prabandham of Swami Vedanta Desikan called ‘Adhikarasangraham’. Part of a larger work, yet I have chosen to quote this – one, as an introduction to Srirangam, and two, to point out how the poetic form, like the shlokas, sutras, this Tamil prabandham too is a way of telling the story, the philosophy, in an easy to memorize and recite format. In a simple yet profound way it introduces us to the greatness of the kshetra and the deity as well as the importance of it to the devotees. The present conference has chosen Srirangam for the Vaishnavism seminar, and undoubtedly Srirangam has been the capital of Vaishnavism and exceptionally so for the Sri Vaishnavism of the Ramanuja Sampradaya. Stotras like these are recited, read and internalised. In Sanatana Dharma tradition the shruti, as in the heard, and smriti as in memory form an important part. Srirangam which hosts the annual festival of recitations, the Adhyayana Utsavam shows clearly how the texts through memorizing and reciting preserved them for a millennia – recitation at homes, the annual recitation festivals, kept the Nalayira Divya Prabandham the most important Sri Vaishnava text close to the devotees. That was also accompanied by a commentary tradition, ensuring the transmission of the text as well as connecting it to the theology.

It is in the context of Srirangam, its centrality to the Sri Vaishnava tradition, the great significance of the deity Sri Ranganatha (Thiruvarangan as referred to in Tamil) and the Sriranga Vimana to the Vaishnava sampradaya would like to highlight a set of verses from the Stotra Abhitistavam of Vedanta Desikan. Stu the root that means to praise or eulogize gives us a stotra, stuti and stava – starting from the Vedas to the stutis and stotras that continues to be composed on specific deities, sthalas, extolling the greatness, incorporating historical, philosophical, theological ideas.1 This is a genre that dominates Sanskrit literature and we are blessed with works of all the great acharyas from Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva to contemporary gurus.2

“There is scarcely any Hindu, man or woman, young or old, who does not recite every day some prayer or other. The young used to imbibe select Stotras from their parents while yet on their parents’ knees, even as they did epic legends or folk-songs,” wrote V. Raghavan.3

It is the nature of the stotra literature that has given us over the millennia a combination of facts, guidelines, traditions, practices as well as historical anecdotes, emotional appeals, perspectives.

Vedanta Desikan a polymath who lived in 13-14 century CE has left behind copious amounts of literature spanning many genres, and significant are also the stotra literature. He has sung on his favourites archa murtis, kshetras, philosophical explorations, diet in the stotra literature, both Tamil and Sanskrit. Abhitistavam is one such stotra addressed to Sri Ranganatha. Though as a stotra recited for protection and strength, his Sudarshanashtakam is popular, and Abhitistavam has remained a lesser-known work. If he sang the praises of Vishnu’s chakra in Sudarshanashtakam, in Abhitistavam the prayer is straight forward. A prayer and a command to Vishnu to pick up his ayudhas and put them to use, to protect his kshetra, to crush the enemies, to restore nitya pujas and normalcy at Srirangam.

The stotra which begins as any other prayer would be, but there is this one verse that has been quoted in a popular novel Thiruvarangan Ula4 based on the flight of Ranganatha, that of the utsava murty during the sack of Srirangam and also in few other instances when the incident is narrated. This verse from the 29-verse stotra is the only one that gives the perspective, without giving the history. The stotra does not convey history even in a remotest way, but the prayer is an ardent one from devotee which read in full makes one realize the impact of what it was to have lived at a time when the greatest of the Vishnu temples shut down, leaving the town devastated, many dead, and many living in exile.

kalipraNidhi lakshaNai: kalitashAkyalOkAyatai:

turushka-yavanAdibhirjagati jrmbhamANam bhayam |

prakrshta-nijashaktibhi: prasabhamAyudhai: panchabhi:

kshiti tridasharakshakai: kshapaya RanganAtha kshaNAt ||

(Like Kalis battalions the Baudhas and Carvakas

Turushkas and Yavanas have spread fear among people

The five weapons of yours are powerful, protects Brahmanas

Use force, drive away the fear in a moment)

Verse 22 – Abhitistavam

This is the only verse in circulation out of the total 29 verses, if I may use the term without any disrespect. The verse is quoted to say how it was composed to ward off fears arising out of attack from outsiders, outside traditions, with names mentioned that include Turushkas to identify Muhammadan invasions in South India.

Without getting into the issues of history and historicity of the events, I would only like to point out the two incursions that are believed to have caused disturbances to worship at Srirangam temple, and the second one attests to the fact of flight of deity, as the return confirmed by epigraphic records dated to 1371 which we would get back to later. As far as attacks by the Muhammadans go, two attacks – the first one by Malik Kafur around 1310-11 CE in south and later attack by Ulugh Khan around 1323 CE, clearly remembered as a deadliest from the traditional sources.

When a few more verses are read together with the one quoted above, readers can see what a soulful, fervent appeal the devotee makes, that is a reminder of the times the author lived. What circumstances could have forced a scholar, who one would presume by his work and life to be a pacifist to talk about using force, using weapons to destroy the enemy. Whatever force that was required to save the shrine of Sri Ranganatha, to see the return of the deity and a prayer for restoration of normalcy at all Vishnu shrines.

There is no direct reference to the Islamic invasion or what destruction Srirangam faced. First 19 verses talk about fear, including the fear of the samsara, the philosophy, the grace of Vishnu and in between in one stanza, the 9th verse mentions what devotees desire, the elimination of enemies who come in the way of their worship of the archa form of Vishnu at Srirangam – it is the gunas of Vishnu that will protect the devotees. Verses 20 to 27 are more focussed on the fear about protection of Srirangam, and the explicit prayer.

In verse 20 he prays for uprooting enemies of the devotees of Srirangam who seek nothing but praying to his archa, destroying them fully establishing SrirangaShri, so that they continue to enjoy the worship of Sri Ranganatha and live like the Nityasuris in Sri Vaikuntam. The next verse asks Bhagawan to use his bright weapons leading up to the famous verse 22 quoted above. The intensity of the prayer increases when Desika asks Bhagawan to use the Chakrayudha in his hand that is capable of cutting through the bodies of asuras who are enemies of His devotees to ensure “punah:” once again the Vaidika Dharma rules in His abode of Srirangam.

“We fear these terrorisers can inflict damage to the Sriranga Vimana worshipped by Manu, Mandata … You are full of kindness and grace. But the enemies here are more cruel than asuras inflicting terror. Use your grace to remove the fear”, prays next verse (Verse 24). Garuda, Ananta, Vishwaksena, Kumuda, the gatekeepers should be blessed to save not only Srirangam, but all the divya kshetrams from the enemies – “kshipatu mangshu rangathvisha:” (Verse 27) to quickly destroy the enemies. And Desikan ends the prayer with a personal note: “I have greyed with age, and there is nothing I desire more than living among the satvikas at Srirangam or any other place, away from the fear of enemies” (Verse 28).

In an edition of Sri Stuti and Abhitistavam, commentator Veeraraghavacharya makes a touching statement. “ஸ்ரீஸ்துதியினால்நமக்குக்ஷேமம், அபீதிஸ்தவத்தினால்பெரியபெருமாளுக்குக்ஷேமம்வாய்த்தது” Sri Stuti confers prosperity on us, Abhitistavam gave Ranganatha the comfort. An intimate observation on another intimate devotees’ appeal that has come down to us over hundreds of years and still remains in the memory of a few devotees. It was at Sathyagalam I was made aware of what the text meant, and its impact.

As per traditional accounts Vedanta Desikan is recorded to have spent his years in exile from Srirangam, fleeing the town to safeguard the text Sruthaprakasika a commentary on Sri Bahsyam along with author Sudarshana Suri’s two young sons. There is a vigraha of Desikan at Sathyagalam in a standing posture unlike the other vigrahas that are in seated posture, at Kanchipuram, Srirangam, Thirvahindapuram, places he was closely associated with. Devotees at Sathyagalam express it as a depiction of Desikan’s mind – his wait, alertness to leave at once, as and when news reached him of return of normalcy at Srirangam. Devotees at Sathyagalam had also printed a copy of Abhitistavam, and they gave me a copy during my visit in 20125, and according to them, Desikan composed the stotra while he was residing in that village, close to Shivasamudram in Karnataka.

(Figure 1: Credit: Wikipedia – It was at Sathyagala that Swami Vedanta Desikan composed Abhitistavam, verses invoking Lord Ranganatha seeking relief from fear – a place where he lived for 12 years in exile)

The memory of that exile has been alive in the minds of the devotees at Sathyagalam. In the Vedanta Desika Vaibhava Prakasika by Doddacharya who lived in the 16th century wrote the stotra on Desikan where he mentions about Desikan’s efforts to save Srutaprakasika, time spent at Sathyagalam, composing Abhitistavam and also the end – Gopanarya’s restoration of the deity at Srirangam after defeating the enemies. It shows the memory was passed on, kept alive through texts and oral traditions.

It is interesting to note that from Srirangam, it was not only flight of deities, when one of the acharyas Pillai Lokacharya left with the utsava murthy towards south, a flight of a text also happened. An example of how the text and transmission are crucial for any sampradaya, and the extent to which devotees went in those difficult times to save the temples from destruction and also preserve the texts. With internet there has been a great awareness that has come about, accessibility to the texts. Online and offline shloka classes have since then increased general awareness.

But peculiar are the problems when the transmission of the texts met with the hurdle of language. Stotras are not history, but they are important literature in preserving, sharing memories, and emotions of the authors, the times, apart from being prayers. I will take the case of Tamil Nadu alone here to highlight the issue of two generations being totally cut off from Sanskrit language forced by the State. Removing a language is distancing a generation from the texts crucial for the tradition, a religion. While it is possible to learn languages outside of schools through personal efforts, a language policy can significantly impact the importance of a language. Unlike other states, Tamil Nadu has a mandatory two-language policy at the state board level, in contrast to the new education policy’s recommendation of three-language policy. With Tamil becoming the compulsory second language, has led to the exclusion of Sanskrit from CBSE schools,6 where it is not offered as an option at the high school level. So neither would textbooks teach the history, of past incidents like what happened to Srirangam in the 14th century nor would necessary linguistic tools be made available to keep the memory alive, passed on through different genres of literature.

Legacy has something to explain about the emphasis I place on learning Sanskrit and on literature studies. The Self-Respect movement and the later Dravidian branches were keen not only to remove Sanskrit but also belittle literature, as religious literature was a burden for the avowed atheists. “Periyar viewed Sanskrit as the vehicle of Hindu superstition and obscurantism and a knowledge of it as a sign of priestly indulgence and authority. However, his opposition to Sanskrit did not automatically translate into a praise of all things Tamil – he was blunt in his rejection of language piety, and merciless in his attack on scholasticism”.7

Unfortunately, the political ideology that opposed Sanskrit also found helping hand from the scholarly circles, the linguists. For example, A.K. Ramanujan in explaining the Alvar poetry makes case for the intimate mother tongue as the first language, and Sanskrit as the remote, second language8. The binaries that came up from within the sampradaya despite the pride in being the Ubhaya Vedanta tradition, has been further exploited to deny Sanskrit its place in our homes and schools.

The Kavya – Prayers fulfilled

Now, I turn to the Kavya. Like the stotra that was unique in addressing fear, bhiti, we have a unique Kavya or a Mahakavya that connects us to the story of how the prayers of Desikan were addressed by a courageous king. Kumara Kampana, the son of one of the founders of the Vijayanagara Kingdom Bukka had an expedition further south, first took the Tondai Mandalam, that is the northern territory of present Tamil Nadu and some parts of Andhra Pradesh from the Sambuvarayas and marched down up to Madurai to end the rule of Madurai Sultanate. It is a unique text, one of the very few Sanskrit kavyas from women authors, and also a kavya written by the wife of the king, praising the battle exploits and victories of the husband – the Madhuravijayam or Virakamparayacarita by Gangadevi.

Desikan and Gangadevi as the pratyaksha darsha sakshis have given us a stotra and a kavya. One is a prayer to vanquish the enemies and restore Hindu temples, and second a kavya explaining how a king was blessed with a sword from a mysterious woman, considered to be Goddess Meenakshi herself, to drive away the enemies and restore dharma. Both lived during the time of the siege and end of it is established – Desikan’s departure from Srirangam with Srutaprakasika is not disputed, and the editors and most historians who have quoted Gangadevi find no reason to suspect her presence during her husband’s campaign. “The peculiar interest of this biographical poem is that its author Ganga Devi was the wife of the hero whom it celebrates, and that in all probability she accompanied her husband in his sojourns in the South. She was the chief queen of Kampana II, and though nothing is known about her lineage, she must have sprung from a noble family as the Devi suffix would imply. She was very highly accomplished and was endowed with all charms and grace. Kampana lavished all his love and attention on her though he had other wives”.9

Yes, the editor says it is a probability, but goes on to explain how it was probable, with evidence from within the text. The salutation to Goddess Meenakshi immediately after the colophon is cited to attest the fact that she herself would have written it and two, Kampana resided at Kanchipuram after winning it from Sambuvarayas described in the cantos 6 and 7 as having lived a happy life with his queens. Some of her account on the atrocities committed by the invaders are corroborated by accounts of Ibn Battuta, though her account is questioned for the brutalities it depicts.10

We will look at her descriptions and the details from the book before discussing other aspects. Sticking to our subject, we proceed directly to Canto 8 that describes the conditions of certain places. The canto begins with an incomplete verse “It is like Vyaghrapuri” or Vyaghrapuri as true to its name has turned out to be an abode of tigers – Chidambaram could have been the Vyaghrapuri.

“In Srirangam the lord of serpents is seen warding off the tumbling debris of brick with his hood lest their fall disturb the sleep of yoga in which is Hari is wrapped up there”, is the next verse. A general description follows this: “When I look at the state of the temples of other gods also, my distress knows no bounds. The foldings of their door are eaten up by wood worms. The arches over their inner sanctuaries are rent with wild growths of vegetation”11.

A powerful description follows next and an eerie one at that. The temples that used to resonate with the melody of mrudangam were instead echoing howls of jackals. River Kaveri was not running her course, her course not determinable taking all sorts of wrong directions like the actions of Turushkas. The Brahmin streets that used to reverberate with the sound of Vedic chanting, houses where smoke from sacrificial smoke would rise, were emitting musty odour of meat and resounding with the “lion-roars of drunken Turuskas”.

The punishments to infidels we mentioned earlier – that comes in reference to Madhura, that is Madurai. The coconut grove, Gangadevi says through the voice of the mysterious lady, that the tree heads were all chopped of and in that place, iron spikes where human skulls were dangling was seen. “On the highways where the sounds of anklets of beautiful women once heard, now screeching sounds of Brahmins who were being dragged, bound in iron-fetters”.

Amidst all the gruesome observations comes a slightly different one, perhaps something that was ominous of the presence of the invading armies. “Screechings of owls in worn-out pleasure groves do not afflict me so much as the voice of parrots taught to speak Persian in the houses of Yavanas (Turuskas)” (Turushkas, Yavanas, Parasika are some of the terms used to denote the Muhammadans).

As in the stotra the kavya too has the mention of the Kali. “The Kali age deserves now deepest congratulations for being at the zenith of its power; for gone is sacred learning, hidden in refinement, hushed is the voice of dharma; destroyed is the discipline and discounted is the nobility of birth”.

Such distressing scenes forced the lady, the Goddess to present a sword to Kampana. It was a sword made by Viswakarma, with melted fragments of all the divine weapons, who gifted it to God Shiva for the destruction of asuras. It was given to Pandyan kings for their austerities and sage Agastya having sensed that the Pandyan race had lost its strength with passing of time wanted it to be given to Kampana. One may call Goddess Meenakshi giving the sword to Kamana as a folklore, but at times of distress, looking up to a King to restore Dharma has been a recurring theme, and not inappropriate for an epic to mention a miraculous intervention. Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the sword of Tulja Bhavani is one another instance we can recall in this connection.

Gangadevi then gives a detailed picture of the battle between Kampana and the Sultan, which was a fight among equals, both showing valour in the battle field. But ultimate victory was on Kampana’s side. She compares the peace that victory brought to the forest that is saved from a forest fire, the sky after the eclipse and the calm of River Yamuna after Kaliya was vanquished.

A work as important as this was lost, till a lone manuscript was found “by accident amidst a heap of worn-out palm-leaf manuscripts as part of a series of Sanskrit works”. But for the curator of the manuscripts department, it would have been as good as lost. The manuscript that was in possession of Pandit N. Ramaswami Sastri was published by Pandits G. Harihara Sastri and V. Srinivasa Sastri of Trivandrum in 1916 with an introduction by scholar and historian T.A. Gopinatha Rao.

Wars, disruptions, displacements, many are the causes of loss of texts. Transmission of information gets lost when such works disappear. But what happens to the works that have luckily surfaced, survived to be read, edited, published and analysed? There are various ways in which in the academic system a text can become a non-entity. Literary worth of Gangadevi’s kavya might be undisputable for Sanskrit scholars, its merit as a possible historical account as a southern contribution akin to a Rajatarangini valued by some historians. However, there are dangers that the textual analysis by partisan scholars delegitimizes its worth as a historical memory even if I do away with the word “historical account”.

Velcheru Narayana Rao, David Shulman and Sanjay Subrahmanyam pick up literature in different languages Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Persian, Sanskrit like the karnam stories, local ballads, bakars, kaifiyats etc., that “have usually been seen as something else, in line with the genre in which they are couched, from folk-epic to courtly poetry (kavya) to variously categorised prose narratives. They may not have looked like history to the eyes of conventionally oriented observers of the late nineteenth or twentieth centuries – probably because these works are not dull enough to count as historical narrative”12. Very fair, and interesting that they bring out or extract history from different genres that have come down from different sources. They, however, try to pick-up a subjective yardstick of texture to determine their validity.

They put down a text by denigrating the author. ‘Gangadevi and Pseudo-History’ is the title they give in the book and in a condescending tone say, “Gangadevi was Kampana’s courtesan. There is no reason to expect her to have produced a historical monograph as a birthday present for her royal lover. What we have, naturally enough, is more like a long birthday card. Gangadevi celebrates, at considerable length and with a certain charm, her lover’s physical beauty, erotic talents, and athletic interests. She seems to know a good deal about all three domains, which, somewhat surprisingly, fuse in the military mission to Madurai”. First, calling her a courtesan is trying to be dismissive of her work. It is not that courtesans cannot be scholarly, but they have deliberately tried to attach a certain status to the term to lower the value of Gangadevi’s work. The three editions of Maduravijayam we have consulted for this paper, none of the editors call her a courtesan. She is mentioned as the favourite queen of Kampana, one of the many queens, and in fact the introduction she gives, acknowledging the great writers of the past as in the Indian epic tradition, she displays the range of her understanding, knowledge of the writers of the past as well as her contemporary writers13. “In the galaxy she has supplied only the most famous find a place,” says Thiruvenkatachari.

Even as they dismissed Gangadevi, one good deed they do is to suggest reading of an alternate view provided by Richard Davis. Apart from quoting historians who accepted the text for its portrayal of its times, Davis says “texts like Madhuravijaya seek to portray the accomplishments of their heroes as bringing about the reestablishment of a preexisting, stable, harmonious social order that had been temporarily disturbed”14.

The categorization and acceptance of texts play an important role in its transmission. Obviously neither the stotra nor the kavya would find a place in history studies. If we are looking at literature studies as the means, then there is a need to look at how and where these texts will find a place. Increasingly literature departments as seen from their curriculum in many of the Indian Universities, over the years have become language departments. There are no more B.A., in English Literature, but a B.A., in English which does away with many of the classical texts in the name of categorizing the subject into English for communication, journalism and various others like gender studies, Dalit literature and all. Once an elementary school student in Tamil Nadu would have memorized a few lines form the ballads on Desingu Raja. As a local tale, the memory of Desingu Raja continued through the Tamil text books. Slowly they have disappeared. These changes are perhaps inevitable, but that takes us to the question of how are we going to keep the texts alive for generations to come, for the memory that it tries to pass on is valuable.

“It has been commented in the book more than once that there is a slight variation between the philosophical works of Desika and his devotional poetry, on the issues of God’s grace, human effort and self-surrender. This is not correct because poetry, and more so devotional poetry, by its very nature, is allowed certain amount of poetic licence, poetic excess and exaggeration. The aim of devotional poetry is to praise unstintedly God, His magnanimity and His mercy as all-pervasive and so, such devotional poetry has to be understood in the proper perspective, duly understanding the in-built philosophy, shorn of poetic exaggeration”.15 It is this spirit that is necessary to understand how Desikan has left behind memory of an event, as a witness, asking for divine intervention. To understand how poetry or an epic legitimately uses freedom and imagination.

The reply to that prayer of Desikan came in the form of Kampana and his general Gopanarya. Gangadevi did the part of chronicling the divine intervention that propelled Kampana into action to go and save Madurai. Moses and Exodus is a memory of the Jewish community. Historical evidence or not, the story of the Exodus as memory has been a sustaining force of the community over two millennia. That memory is important for Indians in understanding how over centuries the kings and devotees have fought to preserve Dharma, texts to counter the false narrative of the losers who never wrote history.

In this context, I would like to quote the instances Phyllis Granoff presents as the Hindu and Jain ways of reacting to the Islamic iconoclasm and how the stories of destruction and reconstruction were kept alive. The Ekalingamahatmyaits preoccupation with the Muslim invasions and in what ways it tells the stories of importance of a sthala and the “consummate artistry that is at work in the reshaping of the underlying puranic stories to fit its special cirumstances”16. In the case of Jains, it is the Jinaprabha’s Vividhatirthakalpa, where the author’s pilgrimage across India visits “ravaged sites and documenting for the faithful how in every case the Faith survived intact, and indeed was strengthened through ongoing miracles”. Puranic tales, mahatmyas, oral histories, kaifiyats, bakars and myriad ways in which Indians have preserved stories, valuable memory, useful tools to reconstructing histories. Prejudices in interpretations and acceptance remain the issue combined with hurdles of language and transmission through formal education system, which would seek secular, rational etc.,17 Memories are passed on through community efforts, and non-transmission gets them confined to texts, if we have to take comfort in their existence in print or digital form. It loses its life as an essential memory of the community. This puts the onus of learning the languages, keeping the texts alive and memory of the incidents of past on individuals and families.

(Figure 2: Credit: vskbharat – The annual viruppan Tirunal Car Festival of Srirangam in the Tamil month of Chithirai)

It is in connecting the genres, keeping connected to languages one can recreate stories. The stotra and the kavya we discussed together with this inscription completes a picture. The inscription found on the walls of the Srirangam temple on Gopanarya dated 1371 CE, has two shlokas attributed to Vedanta Desikan by most.18 The three together convey the story of Srirangam’s misery that lasted for decades in the 14th century, the prayer, the conquest and the return of Sri Ranganatha with his consorts to his abode under the Sriranga Vimana.

Hail Prosperity, Wealth, our Great Goddess!

In the year 1371-72:

Gopanarya, mirror of earthly fame,

after carrying Ranga’s Lord back down

the dark hills of Tirumalai

that charm the whole world

with their shiny

black peaks

He worshipped that god for a time

In his fortress of Gingee.

And when he had spoiled the Muslims

whose ranks bristled

with raised bows,

he set him up again

in his own home town –

the Lord of Ranga and his two wives,

Laksmi and Earth.

It was there he gave to the god perfect

honor and praise.

Kampana’s general helped the return. Virupanna Udayar helped restart festivities in 1383. Srirangam remembers it till day with the celebrations of Viruppan Tirunal in the Tamil month of Chithirai every year.


  1. Kalpa, Sailaja ‘The stotra – A literary form’ International Journal of Sanskrit Research – Anantha’ 2017
  2. Raghavan, V. Introduction to ‘Stotra Samuccaya: A Collection of Rare and Unpublished Stotras (Ed. Parameshwara Aithal)’. The Adyar Library and Research Centre, 1969

“One of the largest class of works in manuscript collections is the literature of stotras, devotional poems. The Stotra has had a continuous history from the Vedas to modern times and in its wealth and variety, affords material to study not only the idea of devotion and its expression but also the growth of modes of worship, forms of devotion and devotional cults”.

  1. Raghavan, V. Prayers, praises and psalms: selections from the Vedas, Upanishads, Epics, Gita, Puranas, Agamas, Tantras, Kavyas & the writings of the Acharyas and others. In the note as a translator to an edition, collection of verses from Vedas to Itihasas, Agamas, Puranas and Gita. G. A. Natesan, 1938
  2. Venugopalan, Sri Thiruvarangan Ula Vol I & II, Narmada Pathippagam 2012
  3. Krishnaswami, K.R. Sathyagala: Abheethisthava, A&K Prakashana 2012
  4. Times of India online edition:
  5. Geetha, V. ‘Tamil, Sanskrit and an Other’ published on
  6. Ramanujan, A.K. Hymns for the Drowning, Penguin Books India 1993. “To Nammalvar, god is not a hieratic second language, a Sanskrit to be learned, to be minded lest one forget its rules, paradigms, and exceptions: he is one’s mother tongue”, making distinctions between mother tongue and Sanskrit.
  7. Thiruvenkatachari, S. Madhuravijayam, Annamalai University Press 1957. In the notes to the English translation the translator gives detailed commentary on the author of the book and the historical background and also correcting certain historical doubts the earlier edition had raised.
  8. Jain, Meenakshi. Flight of Deities and Rebirth of Temples: Episodes from Indian History, Aryan Books International 2019. Pg 254-55
  9. Thiruvenkatachari, S. Madhuravijayam, Annamalai University Press 1957 & Reddy, Sujatha. Madhuravijayam , or Virakamparayacaritra of Gangadevi, D.K.Printworld 2021 – both these editions have been used for translation and summary of the verses.
  10. Narayana Rao, Velcheru, Shulman, David and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. Textures of Time – Writing history in South India 1600 – 1800, Permanent Black, 2001
  11. Reddy, Sujatha. Madhuravijayam , or Virakamparayacaritra of Gangadevi, D.K.Printworld 2021 – She introduces author Gangadevi as Andhra princess of Kakatiya lineage born near Orugallu, the present day Warangal
  12. Davis, Richard H. Lives of Indian Images, Princeton University Press 1999
  13. Desikachariar, V.N.Gopala. Book Review of Singing the Body of God in The Hindu published in 2003
  14. Granoff, Phyllis. Tales of Broken Limbs and Bleeding Wounds: Responses to Muslim Iconoclasm in Medieval India, East and West, 1991. Vol. 41, No. 1 /4 (December 1991), Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO)
  15. 7. “Writing in a related context, S. Ramanathan observed how the refusal to detach art fromreligion had resulted in a truncated development of the aesthetic sensibility. This insistence on developing the arts—music, literature and dance—in the context of areligious world-view, he argued, had resulted in a mystification of meaning in the arts. Asfar as literature was concerned, this had caused a lopsided development of the critical faculty, which was wont to dwell on the intricacies of metaphor and interpretation, than on problems of relevance and communication”. Rationalist, Marxist approaches to imparting language, literature education can remove most of them from formal education framework.
  16. Hopkins, Steven Paul. Singing the Body of God, Oxford University Press 2002.

(The Koil Olukku quotes the first part of the inscription, but attributes it – for obvious doctrinal reasons – to Gopanarya himself. But Vatakalai and Tenkalai politics aside, the verses bear the mark of a real poet, and so could very well have been written by someone as accomplished as Desika). The epigraphic verse translation that follows is also from the same source.


Davis, Richard H. Lives of Indian Images, Princeton University Press 1999

Desikachar, Srirama. Sri Desika Prabandham – Edited with commentary, Lifco Publishers

Desikachar, Srirama.Sri Desika Stotramala – Edited with Tamil translation, Lifco Publishers

Hopkins, Steven Paul. Singing the Body of God. Oxford University Press 2002

Jain, Meenakshi. Flight of Deities and Rebirth of Temples: Episodes from Indian History, Aryan Books International 2019

Krishnaswami, K.R. Sathyagala: Abheethisthava, A&K Prakashana 2012

Narayana Rao, Velcheru, Shulman, David and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. Textures of Time – Writing history in South India 1600 – 1800, Permanent Black, 2001

Narayanan, Vasudha: The Vernacular Veda – Revelation, Recitation and Ritual, University of South Carolina Press 1994

Parthasarthy, T.S: The Koyil Olugu (History of the Srirangam Temple), Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, July 1954

Rao,V.N.Hari. Koil Olugu: The Chronicle of Srirangam Temple with Historical Notes, Rochouse, Madras 1961

Reddy, Sujatha. Madhuravijayam, or Virakamparayacaritra of Gangadevi, D.K.Printworld 2021

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Thiruvenkatachari, S. Madhuravijayam, Annamalai University Press 1957

Venugopalan, Sri Thiruvarangan Ula Vol I & II, Narmada Pathippagam 2012

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