Chapter 17. The BrahmarAkshasA Episode
Several things happened which catapulted the young rAmAnujA into celebrity status.
It so happened that when rAmAnujA was a student of yAdavaprakAshA, the princess of Kanchipuram came to be possessed by an evil spirit (known as a BrahmarAakshasa, which is nothing but the form taken by fallen Brahmins in their next birth). Both the King and Queen were stricken with grief and worry and prayed fervently for a remedy. When the king consulted his ministers, they opined that the famous YAdavaprakAsA could be of assistance under the circumstances.
The king sent his messengers to the scholar who, puffed up as he was with unwarranted pride and a sense of mastery over the scriptures, replied that the spirit would leave the princess even if they were to merely mention his name in her presence. The royal messengers went back to the court and did as advised.
The brahmarAkshasA laughed eerily and replied that for all his self-assuredness yAdavA could leave the city. This message was conveyed to the scholar whose indignation knew no bounds. He traveled with his disciples to the court and decided to deal with the spirit himself.
Upon reaching the King’s court, he went up to the princess and spoke to the spirit which possessed her, ‘ I , YAdavaprakAsA command you to leave this poor girl’.
The spirit laughed derisively and replied ‘ hey BrAhmaNA, you are puffed up with arrogance and erroneously believe that you are a master of all sAstrAs. For your kind information, I was a BrAhmaNA in my earlier birth and I was far more learned than you are in this birth of yours. Stop being a pest or else I’ll inform you of your previous birth for the benefit of all and sundry.
YAdava challenged the spirit to make good on its threat.
The spirit replied , “Hey YAdava! you were a creature on the banks of the temple tank in MadurAnthakam. Some pilgrims from Srirangam who were making their way to Tirumala happened to sit on the steps of the temple tank while having their meal. You consumed the remnants of the food they ate and as a consequence were born as a BrAhmaNA in this birth. I was a Brahmin named Soma Sharma in my earlier birth. It was dereliction of duty which led me to this birth. Your words amuse me. I won’t leave the princess.’
Now yAdavA was in a tricky position. He had to help the king somehow, for his reputation and possibly liberty were at stake. In a voice that betrayed his inner apprehensions he asked, ‘ whose command will you obey?’
The brahmarAkshasA replied, ‘There is one man who is a Nithya Suri amongst your disciples. Ask him to put his foot on the princess’ head. I will attain Mukthi by his grace and leave this girl in peace”. After this it went ahead and identified ElaiAzhwar as the Nithya Suri.
YAdava PrakAsar ordered ElaiAzhwar to do as requested by the spirit. Immediately ElaiAzhwar sought the intervention of the LORD and proclaimed “Hey BrahmarAkshasA! Please go away from the princess’ body. Show us some sign of your departure so that we may rest assured that you have kept your word.’ Then he placed his foot on the head of the princess.
The spirit thanked him for having given him salvation, and left the princess. Prior to doing so, it informed the people in the court that it had been a resident of a tree in the royal garden, and that the tree would be rent asunder as a sign of its disappearance from this world.’
As if by magic, the tree in the garden was split in twain and the princess regained normal control of her body and mind. The king was overjoyed and the queen more so. RAmAnujA became extremely well known, and this added fuel to the fire of jealousy burning in yAdavA’s heart. RAmAnujA’s greatness was coming to be acknowledged by one and all.