The Vaishnavaite saint, Vedanta Desika (1261-1362 A.D.), lived a life full of honours. His prodigious output of over 100 works includes original treatises in Sanskrit, commentaries on the works of Yamuna and Ramanuja, philosophical texts (Sastra Grantha), poems (stotras) and dramas. Of these, 18 are in Tamil and 21 in a mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit.
Meditating in Tiruvahindrapuram, near Cuddalore, he had the vision of Garuda, who instructed him on Lord Hayagriva. Quite a few of his works, such as Hayagriva Stotra, Sudarsana Ashtakam, Daya Satakam, Garuda Dandakam, Raghuveera Gadyam and Vairagya Panchakam, are recited frequently to this day.
However, the magnum opus is Paduka Sahasram (1,000 hymns) on the Sacred Sandals (Padukas) of
Sri Ranganatha and his incarnate, Sri Rama.
According to the legend, jealous contemporary scholars challenged Desika to compose 1,000 verses
on a subject not yet tried by any other person.
One of them attempted Padakamala Sahasram; but could not compose more than 300 slokas on the divine feet. Lord’s discus, conch, mace, sword, bow and other appurtenances and attributes had already been subjects of various hymns, leaving little scope for Vedanta Desika.
In One Night
But the versatile Desika could not be outwitted. He composed 1008 verses of matchless beauty on the Lord’s sandals, which support the divine feet; and all these in one night, fully complying with the conditions of the wager.
The work comprises 32 chapters, each called paddhati. Paddhati means path or the means of attainment. The Upanishads talk of 32 Vidyas comprising Paravidya. Similarly, this hymn talks about 32 different facets of the Ranganatha Paduka. Of these, 270 verses describe the handsome shape of the Padukas.
In Abhisheka Paddhati, Vedanta Desika describes the self-denying sacrifice of the Paduka--greater than that of Sri Rama’s consort. For, while her separation from the Lord was only for ten months, the divine.....