Immortal saint

Tirupoonturuthi is a tiny, nondescript hamlet in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. Hidden away inside this village is the final resting place of one of the great saints of India, Narayana Tirtha. This divine soul, who lived in the seventeenth century, lead a remarkable life, noted for his spiritual attainments. Born in the Telugu country as Govinda Shastri to a pious couple, he showed great promise at a very young age, gaining proficiency in Sanskrit, music and philosophy. Deeply devoted to Lord Krishna, he took to asceticism under the name Narayana Tirtha and in the course of his wanderings as a peripatetic ascetic, came to Tamil Nadu, visiting various places like Kanchipuram, Tiruvisainallur etc. Under divine directions from Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupathi he settled in a village called Varahur, noted for the ancient temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara.

Narayana Tirtha led a life of total devotion to his chosen diety, Lord Krishna. To him, Krishna was not one of the Gods in the Hindu pantheon, but the very manifestation of the supreme creator, the universal power, the Brahman. He saw this Brahman everywhere in an undifferentiated form, in all things, animate and inanimate, thus realising the highest ideals of Advaita or non-dualism.  This philosophy is best seen in his masterpiece, the Krishna Leela Tarangini, a stunning combination of poetry, dramatics, dance, music and philosophy. Though at first glance it appears to be a delineation of the life of Lord Krishna, the underlying sentiment is that of pure, unadulterated devotion and surrender to the creator in the best possible expression of Advaitic understanding.

Being deeply influenced by the Namasankirtana tradition of chanting the Lords name, recollection of his powers and exploits, surrender and prayer, Narayana Tirtha drives home the fact of sincere prayer as remedy for man's ills like ignorance of the true purpose of his life, his arrogance and conceit which in turn lock him in the relentless, unending cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Narayana Tirtha visited Varanasi, the venerated centre for learning where he stayed for many years, acquiring a deep insight into philosophical treatises. His magnum opus, the Krishna Leela Tarangini was composed over a period of time , when he travelled to various places like Prayag, Puri, Tirupathi, Simhachalam, Sobhanadri, Vedadri, Srikakulam and Vijayawada and carries descriptions of the divinities extant therein. He settled down in Varahur, completing and dedicating his work to the presiding diety, Lord Venkateshwara. His concept of the holy town of Prayag with its confluence of the sacred rivers of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati is a magnificent instance of a poet's imagination and a saint's unsullied devotion. He says that a dip in this sacred Sangam cleanses the body while the reverential dip (chanting) in the Sangam of the holy names Rama, Krishna and Govinda cleanses the mind of its impurities, dispels ignorance and sin and leads to liberation. Narayana Tirtha surrendered to the call of the Lord in 1745 AD at Tirupoonturuthi.

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