Narayaneeyam (Bhagavata Condensed)

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Preface The present edition of the Narayaneeyam aims at giving a lucid and readable translation of this great Sanskrit Text to the English reading public interested in Indian devotional literature. While the translation is ' free,' it is never unfaithful to the original. It is based on the edition of the Text by two very competent Sanskrit scholars, Sri P.S. Anantanarayana Sastri and Sri Vatakumkur Raja Raja Varma, published in Malayalam script with a commentary. The details g...

The present edition of the Narayaneeyam aims at giving a lucid and readable translation of this great Sanskrit Text to the English reading public interested in Indian devotional literature. While the translation is ' free,' it is never unfaithful to the original. It is based on the edition of the Text by two very competent Sanskrit scholars, Sri P.S. Anantanarayana Sastri and Sri Vatakumkur Raja Raja Varma, published in Malayalam script with a commentary.

The details given in the Introduction and Appendices concerning the life and works of the author Narayana Bhattatiri and the anecdotes about him and the temple of Guruvayoor have been gathered from several Malayalam periodicals, chiefly from the writings of Profs. K. Kunhunni Raja, C. G. Nair, M.G.S. Narayanan, P. C. Vasudevan Elayath, V. S. Sarma and K. Vasudevan Moozad. Though none can vouch for the historical accuracy of much of these materials, they are in a sense of greater interest than the dry details of history, as they give us a deep insight into the versatility of the great mind we are contacting through this poetical hymn.

The notes are strictly confined to doctrinal points, and much of the Introduction, especially the section on the Bhagavata, is meant to supplement these. As the Narayaneeyam is a condensation of the Bhagavata Purana, a grasp of the specific Bhakti doctrine of the Bhagavata is very essential for the proper understanding of the Narayanceyam, especially of the Krishna episode forming its core. The reader is therefore advised to make a close study of the Introduction.

The use of hyphens in the Text is meant to facilitate reading and has no significance beyond that.

It is hoped that this translation of the Narayaneeyam into a world language like English will attract the attention of a wide public to this great Text and through it, to the great Bhakti tradition of India.


THE Narayaneeyam is a text that takes a high place in Sanskrit literature both as a poem and as a devotional hymn. This double role is responsible for the great popularity it has attained wherever it has come to be known. As its author was a poet-devotee hailing from Kerala, and as it was traditionally connected with the great Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor in that State, its popularity was, till the beginning of this century, confined mostly to that part of the country; but since then it has come to be known all over South India, and editions of it with translation and comments in different languages have appeared. It is only a question of time before it gains recognition in all the Sanskrit-knowing world on a par with great hymns like the Chandi, the Saundaryalahari, the Sivanandalahari etc., on the one hand, and with the great Kavyas of poets like Kalidasa on the other.

The author of this great Text, Meppathur Narayana Bhattatiri, was a Nampudiri Brahmana of Kerala, whose date of birth, according to the latest view expressed by Dr. Kunhunni Raja, Professor of Sanskrit in the Madras University, is 1560 A.D. The site of his home, Meppathur Illam, situated on the northern side of the Bharata river about two miles away from the great temple of Tirunavay in Ponnani Taluq of Kerala, can still be identified, although the family became extinct long ago. As can be gathered from his grammatical work the Prakriya-sarvasva, his father was Matridatta ' devoted to Dharma and an adept in Bhatta Mimamsa (Vedic ritualistic philosophy according to Kumarila Bhatta) and other Tantras (ritualistic lore).' Bhattatiri studied these Sastras from his own father, while lie studied the Veda from one Madhavacharya and Logic from one Damodararya. The identities of these two cannot now be ascertained. Grammar, of which he had special mastery, was taught to him by one Achyutarya, who is identified as Trikandiyur Achyuta Pisharady, a celebrated grammarian of those times. Tradition has it that Bhattatiri in his early days was both a prodigy and a profligate. While the former is a fact, the latter is only a popular ascription to dramatize his later devotional developments. By about sixteen, the prodigy is said to have mastered all learning. He is also said to have been leading a morally indifferent life, from which he was shaken and put on right lines by the sharp reprimand of his grammarian teacher Achyuta Pisharady, whom he seems to have admired and respected very much. A few years after, Achyuta Pisharady fell a victim to paralysis. Bhattatiri attended on his great master and, according to tradition, he took upon himself the ailment of his teacher and became a paralytic himself. He asked himself to be carried to the temple of Guruvayoor where he could take shelter at the feet of Lord Krishna and get His divine intervention. As his malady continued, he sent a messenger to the great devotee-poet of Kerala, Thunchath Ezhuthatchan, for advice. He got the reply that he should start with the fish '. Bhattatiri was quick to understand the implication of the reply-viz. that he should compose a hymn in praise of the Lord, giving an account of all His Leelavataras (Incarnations), beginning with the Incarnation as Fish. So sitting in the precincts of the temple of Guruvayoor, he started composing the Narayaneeyam, a marvellous epitome of the Bhagavata Purana in 1036 verses, dealing with the Lord's principal Incarnations and portraying His manifold excellences and creative activity.' As stated in the hymn itself, lie completed it on 27th November 1587 (Vrischikam 28th of the year 763 of Kollam Era), the hundredth day after he began composing. At the end of it, he had complete recovery. He completed the Narayaneeyam in his 27th year and according to certain traditions, lived up to the unusual age of 106. Bhatta-tiri's is thus one more instance, among several others, of how a great man's sufferings can result in much good to the world; for, had it not been for his crippling ailment, he might not have given to the world this wonderful devotional poem that has gone to enrich the life of several generations of devotees.

The main facts of his life in relation to the Narayaneeyam are clear from these traditions, but the date of his demise is disputed. Beyond a statement in the temple traditions of Aranmpla, written two hundred years after the event, there is no evidence for the view that he lived up to the unusual age of 106. So the best thing, as Professor K. Kunhunni Raja holds, is to leave the question open with 1655 as the latest date. It is certain that he was alive in 1624, as he is known to have attended at the death-bed of his Master Achyuta Pisharady that year. Bhattatiri began his work on grammar the Prakrya-sarvasva in 1617 (at the mature age of fifty seven) according to internal evidence from the work. When exactly he started his Mimamsa work called the Mana-meyodaya (Proofs and Categories) is not, however, known. It might he later than his grammar work. Though he intended, as stated in the work, to write on both the topics dealt with in the book, he could complete only its first part on Mana (Proofs) but could not take up the second part on Meya (Categories). It was completed in about 1655 by another scholar named Narayana. No satisfactory reason can he given for this except that Bhattatiri must have died several years before this date (1655), leaving the Manameyodaya incomplete. That his devotional preoccupation must have alienated him from concern with Mimamsa, looks a very far-fetched assumption as an explanation, seeing that after writing his chief devotional work, the Narayaneeyanz, at the age of twenty seven (in 1587), he had interest enough in secular studies to produce works on Mimamsa, Grammar and even Panegyrics up to his fifty seventh year at least (i.e. 1617, the date of his commencing the Prakriya-sarvasva). So, it is best to assume that Bhattatiri passed away several years before 1655.

**Contents and Sample Pages**


Item Code: NAQ626 Author: Swami Tapasyananda Cover: PAPERBACK Edition: 2012 Publisher: Sri Ramakrishna Math ISBN: 9788171204199 Language: Sanskrit Text With English Translation Size: 8.50 X 5.50 inch Pages: 407 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.4 Kg
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