Vedanta Desika's Hayagriva Stotram

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January 26, 1998

Following is a summary of some thoughts that registered in my mind as I was going through the Hayagriva Stotra of Sri Vedanta Desika. These thoughts are based on the translation and explanations provided by Sri Vangipuram Rama Desikacharya Svami in his book titled “Sri deśika stotramâlâ” published by the LIFCO Publishers.

I am aware that many of Sri Vedanta Desika’s stotrams have already been presented in our forum by others, with translations, etc. The material I am presenting here provides a different perspective to those which have already been presented in the earlier writings.

It is believed that Sri Hayagriva stotram was the first of the many stotra-s that were composed by Sri Desika. Sri Desika had worshipped Lord Hayagriva as part of his nitya aradhana (daily worship). Sri Rama Desikacharya points out that for this reason, wherever Sri Desika’s vigraham has been installed, Lord Hayagriva’s idol is also installed alongside.

Among the points that I noticed as I went through the 33 sloka-s in this stotra are:

  1. The sphaṭika (crystalline) hue of Bhagavan Hayagriva
  2. The Vedas and Bhagavan Hayagriva
  3. Sri Desika’s prayer for the defense of the sampradayam (tradition)
  4. Swami Desikan’s simplicity and humility.

In the following sections, the above topics are elaborated with quotes from Swami Desikan’s Hayagriva Stotram. The sphatika hue of Bhagavan Hayagriva Sri Desika points out in several places that Lord Hayagriva’s form is pure white like a flawless sphatika maṇi.

  1. nirmala sphaṭikâkṛtim — One with a pure white form, in sloka 1
  2. Suddha sphaṭika maṇi in sloka 2
  3. mugdha-indu-nishyanda, dugdha-sindhōh udârâm, tava mūrtim — Your appearance is pure white like the molten form of the rising moon or the great product from the Milk Ocean (Sloka 13)
  4. viśadaih mayūkhaih âplâvayantam tvâm ye kshaṇardham api kalayanti… --- Those who meditate even for a fraction of a second on your form which radiates pure white rays… (sloka 15)
  5. viśadaih mayūkhaih tamâmsi bhittvâ Sarad-ghane candramiva nava-puṇdarîke sphurantam — You remove the darkness of ignorance in your devotees through the pure white rays emanating from you, and appear like the beautiful milk-white moon seated on the new white lotus (sloka 26)
  6. amṛta viśadaih amśubhih mâm plâvayan mânase âvirbhūyât — O Lord Hayagriva! Please shower me with Your white radiant rays which are like nectar, and dwell in my mind always.

In his Rahasya Traya Sara, he also says the following (in Tamil) :

வெள்ளைப் பரிமுகர் தேசிகரை விரகால் அடியோம்
உள்ளத்தெழுதியது ஓலையில் இத்தனம் யாம் இதர்க்கென்

Lord Hayagriva with the face of a white horse appeared as the acharya and wrote this grantham in my mind, and all I have done is reproduced it. So there is no fault in this work.

Lord Hayagriva and the Vedas

There are several references by Swami Desika beautifully describing the origin of the Vedas from Bhagavan Hayagriva. He variously describes the “hala hala” sound arising from Lord hayagrîva with the face of a horse, and the sound of the oranments in His leg, as the Vedic emanations from the Lord.

  1. anantaih traiyantaih anuvihita heshâ hala halam in sloka 2
  2. sâmnâm samâhârah, ṛcâm pratipadam, yajushâm dhâma, pratyūhânâm layah, bodha jaladheh lahari vitatih, hahavadana heshâ hala halah — The hala hala Sabda of the horse-faced Lord Hayagriva which is the source of the Sama, Rg, and Yajur Vedas, which removes all obstacles to knowledge and which is the like the waves arising out of the ocean of knowledge, in sloka 3
  3. vedân vaktree - One who taught the Vedas (sloka 4)
  4. tvam daitya apanîtân nigamân dayayâ eva bhūyah api na adhyâpayishyah cet — If only you had not with your mercy restored the Vedas to Brahma after they had been stolen by the asura-s… (sloka 8 )
  5. te mañjupraṇâdam maṇi nūpuram veda girâm ma~ñjūshikâm pratîmah — We know that the Vedas are stored in the sounds arising from the decorative ornament you wear in your feet and given to this world kalpa after kalpa (sloka 22).

Sri Desika’s Prayers For the Defense of our Sampradayam Sri Vedanta Desika’s thoughts seem to have been preoccupied with the efforts of those with other beliefs who were putting up annoying fights and arguments against his own philosophy. He repeatedly prays to Lord Hayagriva in this stotram to give him the ability to overcome these obstacles and to establish the right path.

  1. In sloka 3 he says kathâ darpa kshubhyat kathaka kolâhala bhavam antardhvântam haratu — Let Lord Hayagriva remove the darkness of ignorance in those who are making big celebration based on their haughtiness resulting from their wrong arguments.
  2. samara angaṇeshu kavi târkika indrân jigîshatah me jihva agra simhâsanam abhyupeyâh — O Lord Hayagriva! Please take your seat at the tip of my tongue so that I can win in these warring debates involving the best of those who debate with me (sloka 28)
  3. samâjeshu svacchanda vâda Avaha baddha SUrah samedhishîya — Please bless me so that I can be the unquestionable victor in the battleground of debates where the people of other faith indiscriminately put forth arguments against me (sloka 29)
  4. kavi târkika venkatanâthena viracitâm — (This stotra is) composed by Venkatanatha, the lion among the composers and those that excel in debates.

Sri Vedanta Desika’s extreme Simplicity and Humility More than once in this stotram, swâmi Desikan gives expression to His extreme simplicity and humility, which is a key aspect of saranagati (whole-hearted self-surrender).

  1. nâtha! Aham mugdha iti tvayâ kâruṇyatah eva katâksahṇîyah O Lord! Please accept me as an ignorant kid (mugdha iti) and bless me with your Mercy (sloka 6).
  2. aham nânâvidhânâm agatih — I am not learned in the different arts

tîrtheshu ca na api kṛta avatârah — I have not learned from the great acharyas anâtha parigrahâyâh tava dayâyâh navam navam pâtram, dhruvam — I am the most fitting case for your mercy which you shower on the destitute and the helpless; That I am the most deserving case for your mercy, there is no doubt, (sloka 30)

  1. apa nîti bhedaih akampanîyâni śankâ kalanka apagama tattvâni mama hṛdayam alankr*shîran — By your blessings, let my mind be rid of the dirt of uncertainty that is being sprayed on me by the indiscriminate arguments of my opponents, and let truth be revealed to me by your Grace.

It should not be forgotten that the main content of the stotra is the praise of Lord Hayagriva, which is covered throughout the stotram. It should also be clearly kept in mind that the main purpose of the stotram is that the followers of Sri Desika chant the stotram and benefit with the blessings of Lord Hayagriva. Hopefully the summary I have presented here will lead to this next step by all of us. Sri Desika’s concluding lines are “paṭhata hayagrîva stutim bhaktyâ — Read the Hayagriva stotram with devotion”, for the purpose of “vâk artha siddhi hetōh — attaining fluency over words and true knowledge about the Truth” (Sri Rama Desikacharya Svami has translated this part as the ability to be able to compose the praise of the Lord (kavi pâḍum vallamai) and to attain true knowledge about the siddhanta-s (uṇmaip poruḷgaḷaip paṝiya śiṛanda aṛivu).

[I have not done a literal translation of all the Sanskrit portions, but have tried to keep the thoughts that were meant to be conveyed.]

Addendum

Even though what follows is not part of Bhagavad-dhyana Sopanam which is the topic of the present write-up, I noticed a “mini Bhagavad-dhyana Sopanam” embedded in the Hayagriva stotram as I was going through the latter yesterday. Swami Desikan composed the Hayagriva stotram as Lord Hayagriva was giving His pratyaksha darsanam to the acharya in Tiruvahindrapuram. In this stotram also, just as in Bhagavad-dhyana Sopanam, we find Swami Desikan describing his anubhavam of Lord hayagrîva’s beautiful form part by part, starting with His sacred feet. There is a sequence of 8 sloka-s (19 to 26) describing the Lord’s beauty. sloka 32 is a summary of the eight sloka-s.

In sloka-s 19 to 21, Swami Desikan describes Lord Hayagriva’s lotus feet. In sloka 22 the beautiful anklets of the Lord are described. Sloka-s 23 and 24 describe the Lord’s two right hands showing the jñâna mudra and holding the japa-mâlâ respectively. Sloka 25 is a description of the Lord’s sacred left hand with a book, and sloka 26 talks about the Lord’s beautiful pure white moon-like form as He is seated on the fresh white lotus flower. Sloka 32 (vyâkhyâmudrâm karasarasijaih…) is the dhyâna sloka where the over-all beauty of Lord Hayagriva is summarized. I had not included the overall meaning of this dhyana sloka in my write-up on Sri Hayagriva stotram, and so am including it here.

व्याख्यामुद्रां कर-सरसिजैः पुस्तकं शङ्ख-चक्रे

बिभ्रद-भिन्न-स्फटिक-रुचिरे पुण्डरीके निषण्णः |

अम्लान-श्रीरमृत-विशदैः अम्शुभिः प्लावयन् माम्

आविर्भूयात् अनघ-महिमा मानसे वागधीशः ||

May Lord Hayagriva, the Lord who bestows His grace of knowledge on His devotees,

  1. with the four divine hands which carry the sacred Sankha and cakra, the book and the jñâna mudra respectively,
  2. who is full of flawless greatness and eternal radiating brilliance,
  3. who is seated on the beautiful white lotus which is like it has been carved out of the pure white sphatika maṇi, and
  4. whose greatness and brilliance are eternal and flawless —

may He always reside in my mind and grace me with His nectar-like cool white rays so that I am always immersed in His thoughts.

— dâsan kṛshṇamâcâryan