Kooram Koorathazhwar Temple, Kanchipuram – Legends
Lord Rama took birth as Koorathaazhvan:
Koorathazhwar is the prime disciple of Ramanujar and lost his eyes in an act to protect Ramanujar from the fanatics. It is said that Ramar took birth as Koorathazhwar to serve Ramanujar who was nothing but Lakshmana as a gratitude to all the services rendered by Lakshmana to Rama. Koorathazhwar is an epitome of humbleness and person with unmatched guru bhakti. Although born into a rich family he gave away all his material wealth and became a Shishya of Sri Ramanuja. He helped Ramanuja towards the composition of Sri Bhashyam.
Koorathaazhvan Early Life:
Born in Kooram Village near Kanchipuram, Koorathaazhvan ruled the place, while at the same time devoting a lot of his time in the service of Bhagavathas and other Vishnu devotees. A little distance away, at Kanchipuram, Thiru Kachi Nambi was engaged in a direct one to one conversation with Varadaraja Perumal every night. One night, while they were involved in one such long conversation, they heard a huge bell sound. Lord Varadar enquired if this was the closing bell of the temple and as to why it was so late.
Nambi narrated to him the story of Koorathaazhvan and his dedicated service. Having served all the Bhagavathas till late in the night with Thathikarathanai (serving food to guests), it was the noise of the closing of the door at Koorathaazhvan’s house signaling the end of the service for the day. An inquisitive Varadar asked if Koorathaazhvan was a wealthy person and rich enough to serve so many people.
The next day Nambi met Koorathaazhvan and shared the details of his previous night’s conversation, leaving Koorathaazhvan disappointed. After all his service, did the Lord only see him as a rich and wealthy person and not his dedicated service? But quickly he realized the real intention of Lord Varadar and gave away his wealth that very minute.
Time had come for him to be with his Acharya Ramanuja and he along with his wife took the long route from Kooram to Srirangam. On the way through the forest, he found his wife showing signs of anxiety. On enquiry, he found his wife to be carrying a golden vattil (sacred bowl). Angered at her holding back a bit of his wealth, he immediately threw it away. Such was his commitment to renunciation.
At Srirangam, he dedicated his entire life to service assigned by his Acharya. During this period, Koorathaazhvan displayed immeasurable instances of unstinting service. On one occasion, he found a frog under the clutches of a big snake and immediately shouted if someone could save the small frog. Such was his tenderness. On another occasion, a pregnant woman was struggling to fill water on the Cauvery river banks and Koorathaazhvan immediately ran into help.
Once, he was assigned the task of cutting the plantain. A little later not finding him, Ramanuja searched out for him only to find his disciple in a fainted condition. On enquiry, he informed that he was shocked to see juice coming out of the plantain (when he pressed with a knife) and hence the reason for his fainting. Such was his softness.
Ramanuja was to write the Sri Bhashyam composition, the reference material for which was available only in Kashmir. Ramanuja and Koorathaazhvan collected the material but before they could start their journey back to Srirangam, they found the material had been stolen (while at Kashmir itself). While Ramanuja was completely shocked, Koorathaazhvan seemed less worried for he had gone through the material once through the night and had the special ability to absorb all that he had read. Such was his absorption power and knowledge, that a single read was enough for him to grasp the entire content of such an extensive document.
Highest form of Service:
On another occasion, angered by some action, Ramanuja asked Koorathaazhvan to leave the house. Obedient disciple that he was, Koorathaazhvan stayed outside the house leading to embarrassing questions from onlookers. Unmindful of the comments, Koorathaazhvan continue his service. Koorathaazhvan’s simple answer was he was a Shishya of Ramanuja and his duty was to follow everything as directed by his Acharya and hence there was no embarrassment in being outside. Stunned by this response, Ramanuja called him back. This was another instance of his outstanding commitment to service.
Koorathaazhvan plucks out his eyes:
Once a Chozha king, who was a Saivite devotee, directed his people to sign a document that Lord Siva was the greatest. A Vaishnavite devotee refused to sign and asked the king to get Ramanuja to sign, if he really believed that Siva was the greatest. Accordingly, the king ordered for Ramanuja to be brought to his court. Anxious at the anger of the king and worried as to what could happen to his Acharya; Koorathaazhvan disguised as Ramanuja and entered the court of the Chozha King. As expected he refused to sign.
Angered at his refusal to sign and having found out his disguised form, the king ordered the plucking of his eyes. Not wanting the king’s messenger to touch him, Koorathaazhvan did the unthinkable- he removed both his eyes with his own hands using his long sharp nails.
Shishya gets Moksham for his Acharya:
For a long time, he was without vision and away from his Acharya, who had left for Melkote. Later, Ramanuja came back and took Koorathaazhvan to Lord Varadan to help him regain his vision. When asked what he wanted, Koorathaazhvan asked for Moksham for Naaluran, the person who was the cause for his lost vision. Such was his greatness that he would not think ill even to those who did wrong to him. When pressed again, he said he would like to see his Acharya, another indication of his supreme service to his Acharya.
Periya Perumal of Srirangam gave the final Moksham- ‘To you and to your related/connected people I give moksham’. Koorathaazhvan had thus indirectly secured Moksham for his Acharya as well- A very unique occurrence indeed- that of an Acharya getting Moksham through his Shishya. When asked the reason for asking moksham before his Acharya, Koorathaazhvan revealed that he wanted to go and get ready the sacred water so he could serve the feet of his Acharya when he arrived there later. Even after Moksham, Koorathaazhvan wanted to serve his Acharya Ramanuja.
Koorathaazhvan was the ultimate symbol of Perfection – The Perfect disciple with the Perfect knowledge. He lived for 110 years, spending his final days in Srirangam before attaining Moksham.