Devanayaka Panchasat of Sri Vedanta Desika

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Summary

This is the first stotra sung by Vedanta Desika in praise of an arca-murti (icon in a temple). Lord Dēvanâtha of Tiruvahindrapuram, by whose blessings and under whose fostering care Venkatanatha emerged as an Acharya of the first magnitude, appears to have commanded Desika to sing about Him “on the pattern of the ancient Vedas”. His having fulfilled that command by singing in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Tamil is mentioned at the end of Navamaṇimâlai, one of his Tamil poems. Devanayaka Panchasat is the first among them.

The great love and fascination of Desika towards Dēvanâtha can be seen reflected in almost every sloka here. Slokas 14 to 44 indulge in a close description and intimate enjoyment of the Lord’s Form (Body) from head to foot. At times the poet becomes erotic and love-lorn (slokas 17 and 27). That perhaps explains why this stotra is named “Devanayaka” Panchasat instead of “Dēvanâtha” Panchasat. Desika as a naayika (a lady in love) can seek fulfilment only in a nayaka (lover). Moreover, the Alvar who has sung about this Lord has called Him Deivanayakan. Its Sanskrit form is Devanayaka. The Alvar has also referred to this Perumal as adiyavarkku meyyan — one who is true to His devotees. Desika refers to the Lord by this name also often. The first and last words of the stotra put together spell out the same name — praṇatasatyavâdi.