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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 20

DISCOVERY OF Śrī YADAVADRI-PATI

After the conversion of Viṣṇu-vardhana and his priests to Vaiṣṇavism, Yatiraja remained in that city for several months in order to properly instruct his new disciples. Then, accompanied only by the followers who had come with him from Śrī Rangam, he travelled on to the town of Yadavadri.

One morning, a few days after their arrival, Rāmānuja was walking through a Tulasī grove when he saw something unusual sticking out a little way from underneath an anthill.

Calling for his followers, he had them dig in that place, and it quickly became apparent that what Yatiraja had discovered was a beautiful Deity of Lord Nārāyaṇa. The Deity was cleansed and then installed upon an altar.

The older inhabitants of the town recalled their fathers speaking of a Deity known as Yadavadri-pati, who had previously been worshipped there:

"When a party of fierce Muslims attacked this country," they continued, "all the inhabitants of the town fled in terror. The brāhmaṇas hid the Deity somewhere to prevent the invaders from seizing Him. Since that time nobody has seen Lord Yadavadri-pati. Because of the greatness of your devotion, it seems the Lord has decided to make Himself visible once more"

Rāmānuja then confirmed the words of the elders by saying:

"This is certainly Lord Yadavadri-pati, for last night He appeared to me in a dream and requested that His service be re-established in this place. Now all of you must work together to construct a beautiful temple for the worship of the Lord.”

Following the order of the ācārya, Yatiraja's disciples and all of the townspeople set to work. That same day they constructed a spacious straw cottage in which Lord Yadavadri-pati might be worshipped.

In less than one year, by dedicated performance of devotional service, a beautifully decorated stone temple was built in the town of Yadavadri, and with great pomp, the Lord was moved to His new residence.

A nice lake was dug outside the entrance to the temple, and the water was used for the daily bathing of the Lord.

Around the shores of the lake the white clay used by Vaiṣṇavas for marking their bodies with tilakā was discovered. Previously they had to bring all of their tilakā clay from the village of BhaktagRāma, and so this discovery saved them considerable inconvenience.

RECOVERY OF Śrī RĀMA-PRIYA

It is the custom in south India for two Deities to be worshipped in each temple. One Deity is worshipped daily by the temple priests, while the other, generally smaller in size, is carried out of the temple for processions on festival days. This form of the Lord is known as the Utsava-vigraha or the Vijaya-vigraha.

One night, a short time after the completion of the new temple, Śrī Yadavadri-pati appeared to Rāmānuja in a dream, saying:

"Rāmānuja, I am very pleased with your service, but as My Vijaya-vigraha is not present here I am unable to leave the temple to bestow my blessings upon all of My devotees.

Therefore, please endeavour to install this Deity, known as Rāma-priyā, who is at present kept by the Emperor of Delhi, having been carried to the north by the Muslim raiders."

Accepting the order of the Lord as his life and soul, Yatiraja departed for Delhi the very next day, accompanied only by a few of his disciples. After travelling northwards for two months, they finally arrived in that famous city.

As Rāmānuja's reputation had by this time spread all over India, he was admitted into the presence of the Emperor, who was very pleased by his purity and scholarship and asked him the purpose of his arduous journey.

When Rāmānuja informed him of his desire to return Śrī Rāma-priyā to south India, the Emperor agreed to his request.

The Vaiṣṇavas were then conducted into a large halt where many different Deities were kept, all of them having been seized by the Muslims on their various raids across India.

However, even after a thorough search, Rāmānuja saw that Rāma-priyā was not to be found in that place and returned to the Emperor disappointed.

The Emperor then told them that there was one more Deity in his possession, the most beautiful of all. This form of the Lord was so attractive that the Emperor's daughter was keeping Him in her own apartment.

When Yatiraja was shown the Deity he recognized Him at once as Śrī Rāma-priyā and fell down to offer his prostrate obeisances. With the permission of the Emperor, the devotees took possession of the Lord and set off at once for south India.

They walked day and night, for Rāmānuja was well aware that, if the princess wanted the Deity restored to her, the affectionate father might easily change his mind.

THE PRINCESS'S DISTRESS

In fact, when the princess, whose name was Bibi Lachimar, came to learn that some brāhmaṇas had taken the Deity away, she was overwhelmed with grief, and all her father's efforts to console her were in vain.

She refused to eat and grew weaker day by day, until it seemed she would certainly die if something were not done at once to remedy the situation.

In great anxiety, the Emperor prepared to dispatch a company of soldiers to pursue the brāhmaṇas and take the Deity from them - by force if necessary.

When Bibi Lachimar heard of this, she begged that she be allowed to accompany them, and the doting father readily acceded to her request.

Therefore, in command of the troop of soldiers and surrounded by many servants, the princess mounted a decorated palanquin the next day and departed from the city of Delhi to find the form of the Supreme Lord who had so captivated her.

A young man named Kuvera very much desired to marry Bibi Lachimar, and, in hopes of winning the princess's favour, he also went along with the party.

In the meantime Rāmānuja and his followers had been travelling as swiftly as they were able, and by this time they were far ahead of their pursuers.

On this journey they were greatly assisted by the chaṇḍālas, who carried the Deity and showed them the easiest routes to the south. Aided in this way, the Vaiṣṇavas arrived at Yadavadri still a long way ahead of the pursuing Muslims.

Thinking that there still might be danger, Yatiraja had Śrī Rāma-priya installed in a concealed room in the temple, where He was worshipped in secret with only a few devotees aware of His presence.

Meanwhile the princess continued southwards with her retinue, determined to recover the Deity who was the Lord of her heart.

However, when they reached the borders of her father's domain, she became filled with despair, believing that she would never again set eyes on her worshipful Lord.

Overwhelmed by lamentation, she shed many bitter tears, and none of Kuvera's words of consolation could alleviate her suffering.

BIBI LACHIMAR FINDS HER LORD

One night, unknown to anyone, Princess Bibi Lachimar slipped away from her attendants into the darkness of the forest. Only Kuvera noticed her absence, and he also left the party and went with her as she continued on further towards the south.

Thinking only of her beloved Lord, the princess journeyed on, while Kuvera acted as a servant, bringing fruits from the forest to keep her alive.

After travelling for several weeks, the couple arrived at the town of Yadavadri. As if by divine inspiration, Bibi Lachimar was certain that their long quest would end at this place.

Being guided by the townspeople, she came to the temple of Śrī Yadavadri-pati. There she fell at the feet of the Vaiṣṇavas and begged them to allow her to see her beloved Rāma-priya once more.

When Yatiraja came there, he saw at once that the girl's heart was filled with pure devotion. Thus, although she was a Muslim by birth, he ordered that she be admitted to the temple to behold the beautiful form of Śrī Rāma-priyā.

From that time on Bibi Lachimar remained at Yadavadri, engaging in the service of the Lord and constantly singing His glories. After a short time she gave up her body. Being immersed in continual thoughts of Śrī Rāma-priyā, she returned to His eternal abode.

THE DEVOTION OF KUVERA

For all this time Kuvera also remained at Yadavadri, rendering service to the princess like a menial servant.

When she gave up her life, he was so overcome with sorrow that he could no longer stay there. Abandoning his Muslim ways, he went to Śrī Rangam and took shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Ranganātha.

Although he was not allowed to enter the temple, Kuvera remained outside singing the praises of Lord Nārāyaṇa. He lived on whatever alms the visitors to the temple would give him, seeing everything as the mercy of the Lord.

Once, while absorbed in meditation on the Lord, he heard a voice speaking to him, saying:

"Because you are unable to enter the temple, I cannot bestow My full mercy upon you. Therefore you should go to Nilacala, for Lord Jagannātha is the deliverer of all beings."

Having received this order, Kuvera journeyed to Jagannātha Puri. There he was able to see the transcendental form of Śrī Jagannātha as He rode to Gundica in the Ratha-yatra parade.

Constantly glorifying the Supreme Lord, Kuvera passed the remainder of his days at Jagannātha Puri. By his unalloyed devotional service he became completely pure at heart and liberated from all material attachments.

Although Bibi Lachimar and Kuvera were born in Muslim families, they attained the highest perfection of life by the purity of their loving devotion. Devotion to God is always completely spiritual, transcending all barriers of race, caste, and creed.

To this day the Deity of Bibi Lachimar, the pure devotee of Rāma-priyā, is worshipped in several Vaiṣṇava temples in south India.