By Swami Harshananda
Śrīvaiṣṇavism is a sect of Vaiṣṇavism. Vaiṣṇavism is the religion and philosophy of the Vaiṣṇavas or worshipers of Lord Viṣṇu mostly followed in South India, especially in the States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The twelve Ālvārs and the three Ācāryas laid the foundation for this sect.
Among the ācāryas, Nāthamuni also known as Raṅganātha Muni and Raṅga nāthācārya was the first. He was the son of īśvarabhaṭṭa and Tāmaraiyā. He was born in A. D. 823 at Kāṭṭumannār Koil or Vīranārāyaṇapura in the district of South Arcot near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. He was a contemporary of the two Ālvārs:
- Madhurakavi Ālvār
He is said to have been trained in yoga by the Nammālvār. He collected all the four thousand Tamil hymns of the Ālvārs now known as Divyaprabandham or Nālāyira prabandha. He set them to music and got them introduced in Vaiṣṇava temples as a part of the ritual system. He was ably assisted in this task by his two highly talented nephews, Melaiyāgattālvār and Maṇavālapperumāl Araiyar who were good musicians.
Nāthamuni traveled all over the country, especially the pilgrim centers devoted to Viṣṇu. He endeavored to spread Śrīvaiṣṇavism there. He was the first Ācārya of the Śrīvaiṣṇava sect. He was also in charge of the administration of the Raṅganātha Temple at Śrīraṅgam. He is said to have written three treatises. They are:
- Yoga rahasya
These works served as the guide-books for the later ācāryas. They were:
- Yāmuna - He lived in A. D. 912-1042
- Rāmānuja - He lived in A. D. 1017-1137
- Vedānta Deśika - He lived in A. D. 1268-1369
- Ācārya means pontiff.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore