Background to Shriiman naaraayaNiiyam ( http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/series/naaraayaNiiyam/naaraayaNiiyam_top.htm )


Guruvayuur is a famous temple town in Kerala (close to Coimbatore which is in Tamilnadu). Legend has it that Lord KR^shhNa told his devotee and minister Uddhava that an image would come floating in the sea which would engulf  Dwarakaa soon after His incarnation was over. Uddhava was asked to request Brihaspati the guru of the devas to install the image at a suitable place. Accordingly, Brihaspati took the image and along with Vaayu went all over the world and finally selected this spot and installed the image there. As the place was selected by Guru and Vaayu, it is called Guru-vaayuur ,or guru-vaata-pura. (uur means pura in malayaalam and tamil). People have unshakable faith that sincere prayers offered to the Lord of guruvaayuur (affectionately called guru-vayuur-appan) can solve all their problems.

Melpathur NaaraayaNa Bhattatiri was born into a family of scholars in a village in Kerala in 1560 A.D. At a very young age he had mastered the vedas and vedangas. He learnt miimaamsaa and other shaastras from his father, tarka (the science of logic) from his elder brother, and vyaakaraNa (grammar) from one Achyuta Pishharoti. He wrote a monumental work on sanskrit grammar called prakriyaa-sarvasva, which is similar to siddhaanta-kaumudii which was written much later by Bhattoji Diikshhita. He composed the NaaraayaNiiyam when he was only 27.

At the age of 27, he was afflicted with a crippling disease and asked to be carried to the Guruvayuur temple. There he started composing a hymn recounting all the incarnations of Lord NaaraayaNa. In this hymn he summarised the Bhaagavatam, which consists of about 18000 verses and condensed it to 1034 verses. These are divided into 100 dashakams (cantos) with about ten verses in each. He composed at the rate of one dashakam every day. All through the work he does not adopt a third person narrative style; but addresses the Lord directly and praises Him , saying "you did this, you did that" referring to His exploits in his various avataaras, implying that Bhattatiri had a direct vision of all His leelaas! The last line of the last shloka in every dashaka, implores the lord of guruvayuur to cure him of his disease.

Finally on the 100th day, he had a vision of Lord VeNugopaala. The 100th dashakam composed on that day gives a graphic description of this vision from head to toe. On that day, he was cured of his disease. From the last word used by Bhattatiri in the last shlokam, scholars have calculated that this happened on 27th November 1587. He called his work NaaraayaNeeyam - because it deals with the glory of Lord NaaraayaNa and because the author's name is also NaaraayaNa.

Stotrams describing in detail the various limbs of the form of a God or Goddess can be either paada-adi kesha-antam (from foot to head), or kesha-adi paada-antam (from head to foot). This particular description is of the former type.

I started with the 100th dashakam because this dashakam is considered to be very effective for meditation, yielding mental peace. I posted the first shlokam of this dashakam yesterday. With the kind words of encouragement given by many scholars on this list, I am emboldened to continue with the rest of the 100th dashakam.

Sarve bhadraaNi pashyantu.-- May everyone see auspiciousness