In Kaliyuga, the most toughest enemies that cannot be conquered easily are Arishadvargas that are present inside us. If you see you could understand how difficult it is to conquer lust, false ego etc..
Except for great personalities like Paramacharya garu and such, pretty much all of us find it extremely difficult to overcome them. Alwars descended in order to conquer the enemies present inside us and to establish the kingdom of Bhakti. Each Alwar’s life is an example to overcome one each of the enemies present inside us.
Today we shall see into the life story of Vipra Narayana. We shall see how he was tormented by lust and how he overcame it by the grace of Lord. He was born in Thirumandangudi in Thanjavur district. There is one temple in that place.
Initially his parents don’t have children. They went to Melkote (also known as Narayanadri) near Mysore and rendered service to Lord CheluvuNarayana. Melkote is a very powerful place. There are thousands of examples of childless couples who were blessed with children by worshiping Narayana there for few days. Similarly, Vipra Narayana was born to his parents after they worshiped Lord Narayana in Melkote. He was born in the Amsha of Lord’s Vyjayanthimala. That’s why he was named Vipra Narayana, after Lord Narayana whom his parents worshiped.
He was a scholar in vedas, vedantas etc.. since childhood. Another unique quality in him is that he was very handsome. In his youth, women used to get attracted and fall for him. But he doesn’t have attraction on anyone. His mind was always fixed on Lord Narayana.
In his youth, he left home, went to Sri Rangam, grew a beautiful flower garden, used to make garlands and offer them to Lord Ranganatha. He was always engaged in this service. No matter how many women came and tried to attract him, he was never distracted.
Once, there was a courtesan by name Devadevi in a nearby place. She was a very beautiful woman. And because she was a courtesan , men used to stand in queue for her. She used to dance in the court of King Chola raja. Seeing her beauty, king became extremely happy, honored her in the court, and sent her with gifts. While she and her elder sister were returning back home, they saw Vipra Narayana’s flower garden on the way. Seeing the garden she felt thrilled, “Who must have grown this garden? This garden looks like a beautiful woman decorated even more beautifully.” She decided to take a look at the garden and went inside along with her sister.
They roamed around the whole garden and felt amazed. Under one tree they found Vipra Narayana sitting and chanting Lord’s names. She was astonished to see such a handsome man, handsome more than anyone she ever saw. She decided to get him as her partner.
She decided to somehow get his courtship and tried to lure him. Even though he was looking at her, his mind was elsewhere. We know that if mind is somewhere, senses will not work (or) will be out of sync. If you keep thinking about Cinema while you are in a class, even though your ears are hearing, you would not get what’s said in class into your mind. Mind should be synced in the present. His mind was fixed on the lotus feet of Lord Narayana. So even though he was looking at her, he was not disturbed.
She felt confused why he was not reacting or responding. She felt confident about her beauty as many men would line up for her, even to the motion of her eyebrow. Her sister then came and told her, “You are making a mistake. He is a great devotee of Narayana. So let us leave now. Many young girls tried for him, but he never fell for anyone. He dedicated his life for Lord Ranganatha.”
Immediately she replied, “I am not like other girls. I am Devadevi. If I desire once, any kind of man should come and fall for me, what to speak of this Vipra Narayana?” Both of them got into argument and went to a point of betting out of their false egos.
Devadevi said, “I will make Vipra Narayayana submit to me for pleasure within 6 months. I will become your slave in case if I fail to do so.”
Her elder sister smiled and said that she would become her slave in case if she (Devadevi) wins.
Out of their false egos they bet with each other, because of which a great person who has no connection at all with them became the victim. Later, she left her elder sister at home. She removed all the ornaments, took bath, wore a saffron cloth and went to Vipra Narayana’s place as a simple woman.
She told him, “Swami, I led a very awful life. I came to seek your shelter by Lord Ranganatha’s grace. I am also Lord’s devotee. Please kindly show your mercy upon me.”
He said, “That’s alright. You can stay in this Ashram. We both could worship Lord Ranganatha. But you please stay outside of Ashram, on the raised flat terrace, as you are a lady.”
She agreed and was staying outside the Ashram, watering flower plants, also dancing for the Lord while Vipra Narayana was doing upacharas for the Lord. Not knowing the intention of her, Vipra Narayana used to become happy thinking that she is also another devotee of the Lord just like himself.
He used to do bhiksha, offer the food to the Lord and eat it. Devadevi used to eat the remnants of him after he finished eating and used to render services.
Surprisingly there is a change in her. Her actual intention was to spoil him by distracting him towards her. But by eating his remnants and rendering service to him, who is a great devotee of Lord, she got rid of lust, false ego and slowly it changed to love towards him.
Once there was a heavy storm in Sri Rangam for two continuous days. It was shady even during the day time with thick black clouds. After two days Vipra Narayana became conscious about it. He doesn’t know anything. He was of the type “Chatuh sagara paryantam Go Brahmanebhyah subham bhavatu”
He then became concerned about her thinking what might have happened to her, as he did not care for the last two days. He went outside and found her shivering in cold. He became worried and told her, “Please come inside and sleep until the rain subsides. You can go outside and live as usual after the storm.”
She became very happy thinking that she got his attention after long time. She starts massaging his legs. Even though he asked her not to do that, she insisted him to allow her to massage as his legs must be tired after long day works in the garden. Slowly there is a change in him upon feeling her touch. She already has love towards him, besides she is a courtesan . Hence she starts a romantic talk with him. The scene is: It was raining outside. Inside, she was massaging his legs. So he automatically submitted, just like a hard condensed ghee when kept near fire would definitely melt. So he too slowly melted and submitted to her that day.
Once he got into that happiness, there is no puja for Lord Ranganatha. He was only worshiping her beauty. He started living with her leaving aside puja for the Lord. She too started wearing nice clothes with jewels. Both of them looked so beautiful like Rati and Manmadha. They left worship of the Lord and all.
After few days she tells him that she wanted to go, see her mother and sister once. Vipra Narayana also accompanies her as he cannot bear separation from her. Just look at his situation. Earlier, he only desired for Lord Ranganatha’s company and he did not want family ties. Now everything turned around.
Her mother sees them and scolds her saying, “What would you get from a Brahmana? You have to take shelter of someone like a king.” She did not allow Vipra Narayana inside saying that she would allow him only if he brings money. She locked her daughter inside house.
Vipra Narayana went and sat outside a temple crying. Both he and devadasi were crying out of separation from each other.
He was crying praying to Lord, “Lord Ranganatha, please give back Devadevi’s company to me”. Before he used to pray “Lord Ranganatha, please take me back to Your lotus feet.”
Lord Ranganatha’s heart melted upon seeing His devotee cry. Lord stole one of the 5 golden vessels inside Sri Rangam temple, gave it to Devadevi’s mother and told her, “I am the disciple of Vipra Narayana. He told me to give this vessel to you.”
Just see, Lord Ranganatha (Vishnu murthi) Himself came and told that He is Vipra Narayana’s disciple. He handed over the vessel and told her to respectfully offer hospitality to Vipra Narayana. Amazed at seeing the golden vessel she brings Vipra Narayana to her house.
Next day, priests found that the vessel inside the temple was missing. They became concerned about the missing vessel, sent people to search everywhere and finally the news reached the king. The kind inquired about the whole situation and found that the vessel was given to Devadai’s mother through Vipra Narayana.
Vipra Narayana was called to the court and an inquiry was made. All the proofs were against him. He was imprisoned and was ordered that his hands be cut the next day for stealing the vessel. At that time he got rid of all the lust that tormented him until then.
He cried to Lord Ranganatha, “Lord, I made a very big mistake. I used to offer garlands to you with these hands. But I used them to obtain pleasures from a courtesan . I made a mistake and now I got into my senses.”
While he was being taken to cut his hands, the Lord appeared to the king in his dream, and said that it was all pastime enacted by Lord in order to make Vipra Narayana go through 7 years of prarabdha karma in just one day in jail.
Lord told him that there is no Vipra Narayana’s fault in it and asked him to release him by honoring. Then he was honored and released. He went to Sri Rangam, washed the Lord with his tears and stayed there in Lord’s service.
Lord and Mother Lakshmi were also very happy, just like parents who would become happy to see their lost son come back on track. While he was rendering service, once the Lord appeared to him and told him, “Dear son, I am very pleased with your service. Ask me for a boon.”
Vipra Narayana replied, “Dear Lord, what boon can I ask you? I became very depressed mentally. I was named after You, but I got succumbed to lust.” Saying this, he cried.
There would be no one who doesn’t succumb to Arishadvargas in life. But there would be a day when there will be a turn by God’s grace. When that turn comes, life would change completely. No one could compare the life before and after that turn.
While he was crying Lord consoled him saying, “Dear son, please don’t feel sad. There is a Runanubandham between you and Devadevi. I enacted this play in order to finish that off.”
“You don’t feel sad. Ask Me for a boon now.”
He replied, “Dear Lord, I went far from Your service because I got this lusty intelligence in my mind. In order never to get such lusty thoughts, I have been sprinkling dust of Your devotees on my head daily.”
“That’s why, I don’t want to be called Vipra Narayana from now onwards, because I have spoiled your pure name by my impure actions. So please bless me to be called Tondaradippodi Alwar”
Meaning, he was asking Lord to name him as “someone who is desiring for devotees dust to be sprinkled on his head”. From then on, he was called Tondaradippodi Alwar.
Devadevi also remained in the temple doing service like sprinkling water and cleaning it. From then on, they never got any lusty thought even though they happened to see each other at times.
Because their Runanubandham is over and they became normal humans again. In the end, she merged into the Lord. Vipra Narayana also went back to Lord’s abode.
If you go to Sri Rangam, there is Vyasula vari alayam right beside Chandra pushkarini in 4th prakaram (enclosure). That Alayam is where Vipra Narayana used to sit and make garlands to the Lord. Also there is a big Parakala Mandapam outside. That was Vipra Narayana’s house and the garden he grew.
When you go to Sri Rangam, please do see all these places. Also remember their life stories once whenever you go to such places. You would experience a wonderful feeling when you go to pilgrimages remembering the pastimes of Lord and His devotees connected to those places.