Shri. N. Annantharama Ayyar was an erudite scholar who read widely, the Hindu scriptures and explained them in simple language to reach out to large audience. His mission in life was to relive the Indian culture and scriptures in the hearts of the people. For this he strived tirelessly throughout out his life, more so after hisl retirement from government service.
He was born into an illustrious Brahmin family in Moncombu, Kerala. He received his early education in Kerala and then went to Chennai to do his honours and masters in Political science from Loyala College. Soon after, he joined the Income Tax department and served the government in various capacities finally retiring as Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai. After retirement, he was appointed as the Director at Rajendra Prasad Institute of Management Studies and Research, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai.
A self made man, he was simple in living and believed in total honesty and straight forwardness in life. All his actions and speech lived his beliefs. He had keen interest in Hindu philosophy and management precepts which he extrapolated throughout his life. He was well versed in the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita and rendered many lectures on them. He delivered a series of lectures on the Ramayana, which lasted for over three years! He has authored several books on Hindu scriptures where he has given explanations and interpretation of the works of the great Adi Sankara. To name a few, “Sivanandalahari”, “Ananda lahari”, “Bhaja Govindam”. His other works included “The essence behind Rudraekadashi”. “Importance of Sandhyavandandam”, prayers that young ones could recite daily. His language is simple and lucid and his analysis, thought provoking and practical. All his works are in simple English Languages.
All this would not have been possible but for the silent, strong support of his wife, Srimati Ambujam Anantharaman. She stood by him in all his endeavours. Shri. Anantharama Ayyar passed away in June 2009. But He is alive through his works, which will give peace to all those who read them.
A few years ago when I had the rare privilege of having the darshan of the Senior Sankaracharya of Kanchi Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swaminah, one of the suggestions made by him for the proper observance of Sankara Jayanti, the birthday of Adi Sankaracharya, and for honouring Adi Sankara was to take up for study the life and teachings of the great saint-and philosopher. There was also a suggestion that I may do something in this direction.
In accordance with this, some booklets have. been brought out by me during the past eight years relating to the life and works of Adi Sankara. The works taken up have been mainly small compositions in the nature of devotional hymns, like Kanakadharastotra, Anandalahari etc.
One of the most important devotional works of Adi Sankara, rich in philosophical content, is Sivananda Lahari. A composition of 100 Slokas of incomparable beauty, this work is the subject matter of this book. The Slokas in Sanskrit, phrase by phrase meaning in English, the general purport and explanatory notes both in English have been given to help the devout have a fuller appreciation of this devotional masterpiece from Adi Sankara.
At some places, where I had difficulty in getting at the true meaning of some of the words, the translation and commentary in Tamil by Brahma Sri 'Anna' Subramania Iyer, published by the Ramakrishna Mutt, Mylapore, Madras, have been very helpful. My grateful pranams to him.
Shri S. Y. Raman of Matunga, Bombay, did the laborious job of typing the manuscript in a spirit of 'dedication and devotion, being himself deeply interested in the works of Adi Sankara. I am very much indebted to him.
This is the second and revised edition. The first edition was brought out by the Datta Lakshmi Trust, Pune, which has to its credit the publication of several devotional book- lets. I am grateful to the Datta Lakshmi Trust for under- taking the printing of the first edition of the book.
The Associated Advertisers and Printers, Tardeo, Bombay, which is the publishing Deptt, of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan deserve my special thanks for printing this Second edition in an attractive format and within a short time of three months. Shri K. V. Gopalakrishnan, General Manager and Shri S. Shankar, Assistant Works Manager, of the above press took keen and personal interest in the matter for which I am indebted to them. I am also thankful to Shri S. B. Navrange of the "Bhavan's Journal" Department of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for getting prepared the colour block of the Nataraja picture appearing as the frontispiece.
The Bhagavad Pada Sabha, Nagpur, named after Adi Sankaracharya, which is doing yeoman service in the cause of promoting Dharma and with which I have been associated for the past fifteen years, recently celebrated its diamond jubilee in the gracious presence of H. H. Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swaminah, the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha, This second edition is being brought out by me on behalf of and at the request of the Bhagavad Pada Sabha to mark its diamond jubilee, after receiving the blessings of the Kanchi Sankaracharya before whom the first edition was reverentially placed during his camp at Triambak near Nasik in October 1985.
It was a chance meeting I had with Sri. N. Anantharaman at Bangalore through one of my friends Sri. Lakshminarayanan and Sri. V.S. Kalyanraman. During the discussion he told me that his explanatory notes on various Sankaracharya stotras have been published by various trusts at various places,when he was working as Income tax commissionerat Bombay and they have become out of print for a very long time. When I suggested that we will be very happy to bring to print all these commentaries of the stotras in a series, he gladly agreed to revise those early editions. The explanations and commentaries have been totally revised and the result is the present series.
Considering the importance of these books, we decided to bring these books in a series titled Intellectual Resources India Series and I am happy to place them before the enlightened readers.
Sri Anantharaman left this world, for heavenly abode before he could see the series in print in May 2009.
We are thankful to His sons Sri Neelakantan, and Sri Balachandran for having met a part of the expenses in the production of this series of books.
I consider this as a God given opportunity to bring to light the profound heritage of Sri. Anantharaman through these comamentaries.
Adi Sankaracharya, possibly the greatest philosopher and thinker India has produced, achieved in a short span of life 01 barely 32 years a synthesis of Indian culture, an intellectual and emotional integration of this vast subcontinent; and eradicating superstitious beliefs and practices, established the supremacy c; radical rationalism which was at the same time theistic in content. The terse and difficult philosophy of the upanishads was explained and expounded by him for the benefit of those who were needlessly and futilely getting entangled in verbal polemics. Travelling the length and breadth of India many times, he convinced his opponents not by the sword or threats or by enticements but by cogent and persuasive arguments about the true nature of the teachings of the Vedas and particularly the Upanishads. His great achievements in such a short span of life have therefore rightly given him, in the minds of millions of his countrymen, the status of an Avatar of God Shiva Himself in His manifestation as Dakshinamoorthy, the personification of supreme spiritual knowledge. The beauty of the teachings of Sankara lies in that they are applicable to all human beings irrespective of religion or race, caste or creed, for he wrote and taught for humanity as a whole, indeed as a real Jagadguru.
In spite of the lucid exposition of Sankara and in spite of the commentaries by a series of commentators on those expositions however, the average human mind, however lofty it might be in certain other spheres of knowledge, is not always-able to grasp fully the loftiness of thoughts of the Upanishads, the brevity of words of the Bras.ma Sutras and the inimitable style of exposition of the great Acharya. The difficulty lies not merely in our intellectual inadequacy but in our actualising what the intellect has understood and following it up further in practice.
The Upanishads and Bhagavat Gila are not written in any cumbersome style. It is also not the difficulty posed by a difficult language that is responsible for our imperfect understanding but it is the very imperfectness of the development and the environment in which the intellect functions for most of us.
The great Acharya understood these limitations and hence he considered that a gradual progress through Bhakti or devotion is more congenial and practicable and easier of accomplishment for the average person. Further there is nothing wrong with the fundamental and basic structure of Bhakti as such. What is wrong is only the gaudy and flimsy superstructure of ritualism and showiness which is being erected on the basic structure. The Acharya's attempt is therefore directed towards the demolition of the false and superficial super-structures and the building up of proper and well constructed mansions of Bhakti so that Bhakti will endure and withstand the ravages of time and onslaughts of irreligion on the one hand and superstition on the other.
Hence the Acharya directed his attention to the composition of several devotional poems or stotras on the deities which were commonly worshipped. These pieces were inspired poetical outpourings and not mere literary versifications. Such devotional pieces have sprung from him while visiting hallowed places of worship and places where God's presence could be felt very strongly. Small compositions of five verses, called Panchratnas (literally five gems), of eight verses called Ashtakams, of 10 verses, 20 and more and even 100 verse compositions were composed by him. Among the hundred verse compositions, Soundarya Lahari on Goddess Shakti, inseparable consort of Lord Siva and Sivananda Lahari on Lord Siva Himself are the most wellknown, profound and soul-suring. Sivananda Lahari begins with an invocation.
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