Shri Ramanujacharya was known for his surging compassion for the downtrodden sections of society. The Statue of Equality in Hyderabad is seen as a stirring tribute to Ramanuja Acharya, the great savant-saint of mediaeval India, during the heady days of the Bhakti Movement. The statue was recently unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Statue of Equality is the result of the vision of His Holiness Chinna Jeeyar Swami. Ramanuja was the first to give the message of equality. Till date, Ramanuja's contribution to the society has not been accorded the due recognition it deserves.
Through this Statue of Equality and the Temple complex, a very evocative initiative of Chinna Jeeyar Swami, an attempt is being made to showcase to the world the constructive contribution of Ramanuja in building the Hindu society. It seeks to reignite and reinforce the great work done by Ramanuja. It serves as a beacon, reinforcing the continued relevance of Ramanuja in these troubled times.
The Statue of Equality seeks to commemorate the millennium birth anniversary of Ramanujacharya (1017-2017). Born in 1017 in Sriperumbudur, in present-day Tamil Nadu, he lived up to 1137, attaining the age of 120 years. He travelled across India to propagate his philosophy of Vishisht Advaita. Finally, he passed away in Srirangam.
Commemorating the Savant-Saint
The two idols of Ramanuja, unveiled in Hyderabad, have a special significance. The Statue of Equality stands apart, it is billed as the second largest sitting statue in the world.
With a height of 216 feet, this Ramanuja statue is unique in itself. The height of this statue is 108 feet, while the height of Tridandam in the statue is 138 feet. The Statue of Ramanuja has 5 lotus petals, 27 Padma Peetham, 36 elephants and there are 108 steps to reach the Statue. One hundred and eight temples have been built with a giant statue of Ramanuja. The second one is special, as the small statue of Ramanuja is made of 120 kg of gold, to commemorate 120 years of his existence.
Three Saints from South
Ramanuja is one among the three famous Acharyas from South India. Each one of them has the distinction of establishing their respective philosophical systems on a firm-footing. Adi Shankara propagated Advaita Vedanta, while Madhwacharya was the chief proponent of Dvaita. Ramanuja Acharya firmly put on a high-pedestal, his system of Vishisht Advaita, or qualified monism.
Acceptable to People Across
Ramanuja gave the philosophical foundation to the path of devotion, or Bhakti-Marga, making him an influential system of thought during the Bhakti Movement. In fact, Ramanuja's contribution to Hinduism is enormous. He aligned Bhakti or Devotion, with the pursuit of philosophy. He provided an intellectual basis for Bhakti, making it acceptable to people across the board.
The principal works of Ramanuja include the Veda-Artha Samagraha, Bhagvad-Gita Bhashyam and Sri Bhashyam, which is his commentary on Brahma-Sutras.
Ramanuja's message was as simple as it was direct and universal. That God is supreme, all men are equal, prapatti or unconditional surrender to God, is the way and Bhakti, or devotion, is the means to achieve moksha, salvation, or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths
Apart from these, Ramanuja is credited with writing the Gadya-Trayam, comprising of Sharanagati-Gadyam, Sriranga Gadyam and Vaikunta Gadyam. Among the key concepts that Ramanuja gave are Samipya; Salokya; Sayujya; Sarupya; and Sanidhya. The individual soul reaches God, but retains individual identity.
Ramanuja was a great visionary and free thinker, he revived society on the grounds of universal salvation through Bhakti, compassion, humility, equality, and mutual respect. He spread theDivine Message of God to the common man, irrespective of caste, gender, or creed. Ramanuja not only preached equality of all people, but practised it in his own lifetime. Ramanuja combined in himself both a spiritual leader and a zealous social reformer. He was largely responsible for unifying and integrating the different strata of Hindu society, who were divided into different castes and creeds. Ramanuja has come up with a simple message, which was most intelligible and easily understood even by the lay person.
All through his life, Ramanuja fought against inequality and injustice to the depressed, downtrodden and disinherited sections of society. In his lifetime, he created new milestones. He was a great proponent not only of Vishisht Advaita, but also of the Shri Vaishnava Sampradaya.
Ramanuja's message was as simple as it was direct and universal. That God is supreme, all men are equal, prapatti or unconditional surrender to God, is the way and Bhakti, or devotion, is the means to achieve moksha, salvation, or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.
Yet another abiding contribution of Ramanuja is his emphasis on the Shri Vaishnava Sampradaya or tradition. This tradition is widely followed in temple worship rituals in at least two principal temples in South India. These are Ranganatha Temple in Srirangam in Tamil Nadu and Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. In the Venkateswara Temple, there is a shrine of Ramanuja in the main complex, known as Bhashyakara Sannidhi.
Ramanuja was initially a disciple of Yadava Prakash, who was a preceptor in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankara. Increasingly, Ramanuja had serious differences with his preceptor. Then, he turned to Yamunacharya of Shri Vaishnava Sampradaya or tradition and eventually succeeded him as a preeminent leader of the Shri Vaishnava cult.
Revealing Mantra to All
A key turning point came when Mahapurna, a disciple of Yamunacharya, asked Ramanuja to go and receive initiation of the Vaishnava Mantra, with all its subtle meanings, from Goshti Purna. Ramanuja made sincere and persistent efforts to attain a secret mantra from Goshti Purna. After the 18th attempt, Ramanuja broke down, shedding tears of dejection. It was then that Goshti Purna relented and gave him the sacred eight-syllable mantra with its mystic meaning but warned Ramanuja not to divulge it to all and sundry and a breach of promise, will result in going to hell.
Ramanuja reasoned that by going to hell, if the vast masses would stand to benefit, he would not hesitate to take the risk. He decided to reveal the mantra to all. It is difficult to find a parallel to Ramanuja. He neither lived in an ivory tower, nor did he lead a secluded life. What is more fascinating about him is that he lived in the midst of the people, especially those, who needed him the most.