I was reading the history of Sri Ramanuja, the Vaishnava saint. Apparently, he was in hiding in fear of a Chola King. The Chola king was a worshiper of Shiva as opposed to Ramanuja who is a Vishnu devotee. The king forces Ramanuja to convert as a Shiva worshiper. Ramanuja refuses!

Here is what I don't understand:

  • Why did he refuse to hail Shiva? After all he is also a god.
  • What is the need here for Ramanuja to prove that Vishnu is the one true God?
  • 7
    Actually according to Ramanuja's Vishistadvaita, Hari is Supreme and all other Gods are separate from Him, although they are a part of Him. According to Advaita Hari and Parameshwara are One. But even according to Advaita, why should He bend to the will of the dictator king? Ramanuja is an elightened saint. He has no fear of the King or anyone else. Why should one change His Ishta Deva just because someone said so. Although all Gods are One, still one has an inclination for the Ishta Devata, and God assumes that form for the sake His beloved and takes Him/Her to God. All the best sir
    – Sai
    Sep 10, 2015 at 16:37
  • 11
    You are right that Shiva and vishnu are the same parabrahma. As for why ramanuja refused to acknowledge this, we can only speculate. However, It is true that these sects came into being to allow people to shake away confusion and repose their faith in one form. Such focused worship will lead to further enlightenment. Ultimately though, one who sees a difference between Shiva and vishnu cannot attain mukti
    – user1195
    Sep 11, 2015 at 2:42
  • 5
    In Vedas, it is clearly Proclaimed Narayana is paratatvam. While He is present in all things and in everyone, we can only know Him through the worship of a Sattvik Deity. In Vedas, Tamo gunam is identified with Siva, Rajo gunam with Devi, and Sattwa gunam with Vishnu. Hence, Vishnu is the tutelary deity of all Acharyas, including Sankara. Jun 3, 2017 at 1:37
  • 3
    @M_Raghavan There is no such construct in the Vedas. This is a Vaishanava concept.
    – user1195
    Jun 4, 2017 at 3:18
  • 1
    See the Narayana Upanishad. It clearly lists several examples from the Vedas in which this is made clear. Mar 4, 2018 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


Ramanujacharya was not being asked to worship Shiva. Now if he had been asked to do that, he might well have refused; as discussed in this answer Sri Vaishnavas who have performed Sharanagati often do not worship other gods. That's not out of hatred towards other gods, but because after performing Sharanagati you're basically "married" to Sriman Narayana, and so worshiping other gods would be like cheating on your spouse. (This doesn't apply to Sandhyavandhanam and the like.)

But Ramanujacharya was not asked to say a prayer to Shiva. Instead what the Shaivite Chola king wanted him to do was to become a Shaivite, i.e. to declare that no one is superior to Shiva. Here is Alkandavilli Govindacharya, a descendant of one of Ramanujacharya's disciples, says in this excerpt from his book "The Life of Ramanujacharya":

The Chola-king, for the time being, happened to be a most bigoted Saiva. He was bent upon destroying Vishnu temples, and otherwise prosecuting Vaishnavas, though his son (Vikrama Chola. 1113—1128A.C), wisely hinted that he bad set to him self an impossible task, inasmuch as he could never destroy the two strong props of the Vaishnavas, the Tiruvdymozhi of St. Nammazhvar and Ramayana of Valmiki. The Saiva system is anti-Vedic, and Vaishnavas condemn it as un-Aryan and erroneous. The king, then resident at Chidambaram (or Gangaikonda Cholapuram) was so bigotted an adherent of this system that he adopted coercive measures to bring men of all other faiths into its fold. For this purpose, he had a proclamation issued in which was written: "There is no (God) greater than Siva;" and every one, especially every learned man, was commanded to affix his signature to the document in proof of his assent to this proposition. Many obeyed either for fear of being punished, in case of refusal ; or on grounds of conscience, or enticed by hopes of rewards of land and money from the king ; and others deserted the country and hid themselves. Naluran, a disciple of Kuresa, happened to be the king's minister. " What is the use, your Majesty !" said he "of your obtain ing signatures from all men indiscriminately. No good purpose is served thereby. If you can obtain the signature of the two veterans of the Vaishnava faith, Kuresa and Ramanuja, living in Srirangam, that will be a capital stroke of policy, and your declaration about Siva's pre-eminency will only then have received irrefutable testimony." Chola immediately directed messengers to go to Srirangam and bring Ramanuja. They arrived and standing before the gate of the monastery, declared their errand, and said that Ramanuja must go with them to the King's Court forthwith. The door-keepers rushed inside and whispered the news softly to Kuresa, 1 who was then engaged in serving bath-water to Ramanuja. Kuresa foresaw the dangers of persecution that threatened; and without tell ing Ramanuja what he meant doing, he donned the colored robes of Ramanuja, and taking up his tridanda, emerged from the monastery; and saying: "I am Ramanuja, proceed," to the King's men, stepped on. Mahapurna, observing this, followed Kuresa on this ominous expedition.

But to declare that there is no one superior to Shiva would violate Ramanujacharya's most fundamental beliefs. For the Pancharatra Agamas state that there is someone superior to Shiva; Shiva is a Jiva who is the son of Brahma, and the being who dwells in Shiva's heart is Vishnu's Vyuha form Sankarshana, who emerges from Vyuha Vasudeva who lies down in the ocean of milk, who emerges from Para Vasudeva, the supreme Vishnu. (See my answer here for more information.)

And Ramanujacharya's guru's guru Yamunacharya gave a detailed scripture-based argument on the subject of Vishnu's supremacy and Shiva being a Jiva in this excerpt and this excerpt from his Agama Pramanya. Also, here is what Ramanujacharya says about the practices of Shaivism in this section of his Sri Bhashya:

So far it has been shown that the doctrines of Kapila, Kanâda, Sugata, and the Arhat must be disregarded by men desirous of final beatitude; for those doctrines are all alike untenable and foreign to the Veda. The Sûtras now declare that, for the same reasons, the doctrine of Pasupati also has to be disregarded. The adherents of this view belong to four different classes--Kâpâlas, Kâlâmukhas, Pâsupatas, and Saivas.... With regard to these views the Sûtra says 'of pati, on account of inappropriateness.' A 'not' has here to be supplied from Sûtra 32. The system of Pasupati has to be disregarded because it is inappropriate, i.e. because the different views and practices referred to are opposed to one another and in conflict with the Veda. The different practices enumerated above, the wearing of the six mudrâs and so on, are opposed to each other; and moreover the theoretical assumptions of those people, their forms of devotion and their practices, are in conflict with the Veda. For the Veda declares that Nârâyana who is the highest Brahman is alone the operative and the substantial cause of the world, 'Nârâyana is the highest Brahman, Nârâyana is the highest Reality, Nârâyana is the highest light, Nârâyana is the highest Self'; 'That thought, may I be many, may I grow forth' (Kh. Up. VI, 2, 3); 'He desired, may I be many, may I grow forth' (Taitt. Up. II, 6, 1), and so on. In the same way the texts declare meditation on the Supreme Person, who is the highest Brahman, to be the only meditation which effects final release; cp. 'I know that great Person of sunlike lustre beyond the darkness. A man who knows him passes over death; there is no other path to go' (Svet. Up. III, 8). And in the same way all texts agree in declaring that the works subserving the knowledge of Brahman are only those sacrificial and other works which the Veda enjoins on men in the different castes and stages of life: 'Him Brâhmanas seek to know by the study of the Veda, by sacrifice, by gifts, by penance, by fasting. Wishing for that world only, mendicants wander forth from their homes' (Bri. Up. XI, 4, 22). In some texts enjoining devout meditation, and so on, we indeed meet with terms such as Pragâpati, Siva, Indra, Âkâsa, Prâna, &c., but that these all refer to the supreme Reality established by the texts concerning Nârâyana--the aim of which texts it is to set forth the highest Reality in its purity--, we have already proved under I, 1, 30. In the same way we have proved under Sû. I, 1, 2 that in texts treating of the creation of the world, such as 'Being only this was in the beginning,' and the like, the words Being, Brahman, and so on, denote nobody else but Nârâyana, who is set forth as the universal creator in the account of creation given in the text, 'Alone indeed there was Nârâyana, not Brahmâ, not Isâna--he being alone did not rejoice' (Mahopanishad I).--As the Pasupati theory thus teaches principles, meditations and acts conflicting with the Veda, it must be disregarded.

And indeed, when Ramanujacharya's shishya Kurathalwan and his guru Periya Nambi (Kuresha and Mahapurna in Sanskrit), they also gave detailed scripture-based arguments for why they could not possibly accept the proposition that there is nothing higher than Shiva. This got them their eyes plucked out, as described in another excerpt from Alkandavilli Govindacharya's "Life of Ramanujacharya":

[T]he two good men, as you are aware, were taken to Chola's presence, and Chola commanded them to set their signatures to the written declaration .- "No higher being than Siva exists." But Kuresa poured out before him voluminous authorities from the Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas, proving that Narayana was the Highest God, being the Cause of the cosmos, as also its Author for creation, sustention, and dissolution, and therefore the only Object of worship and contemplation ; and that Chaturmukha Brahma and Rudra were respectively His son and grandson ; and cited other verses to demonstrate his position. But Chola after all said in angry tones :—"Look here, thou art indeed a very clever person, and therefore capable of interpreting authoritative texts to suit thy own preconceived prejudices. I will not hear all this. Here is my circular containing the statement : "There is no higher than Siva." I command thee to sign it without another word of protest". Kuresa took the paper, but before attaching his signature thereto, wrote :— ' Dronam asti tatahparam' and then signed his name under it. The meaning of this passage is : " But drona is higher than that." This, and " Sivat parataram, nasti," meaning : 'there is no higher than Siva,' together make a couplet in Sanskrit verse. Taken together, they read :—" There is no higher than Siva; but Drona is higher than that (Siva)." By this Kuresa implicated a pun on the terms Siva and Drona ; Siva meaning a small measure, and Drona, a greater measure. This play on words was taken as a slight and affront which necessarily threw the king into a rage, who exclaimed : "Pull out the eyes of this daring jester." "But" exclaimed Kuresa in return, thou needest not take that trouble, tyrant ; I will do that act with my own hands, for my eyes ought not to remain after seeing a sinner like thyself." A martyr to the cause of Vaishnavism, Kuresa, so saying, gouged out his eyes, striking terror into all who witnessed this blood-curdling scene. The cruel king now turned to the venerable old acharya Mahapurna, and cried :—" Now, Sir, will you sign this circular or no?" Purna said he could not, supporting his refusal by citations from various scriptures. On this, the king commanded his myrmidons to catch the dissenter and pluck out his eyes. This cruelty having been inflicted the king drove the two martyrs out of his palace.

On a side note, unlike the Chola king Ramanujacharya never forced anyone to become a Sri Vaishnava. Ramanujacharya's cousin Govinda Bhatta was voluntarily persuaded, not forced, to rejoin the Sri Vaishnava Sampradayam.

  • 12
    Without any cause there is no effect. " The Saiva system is anti-Vedic, and Vaishnavas condemn it as un-Aryan and erroneous". These kind of statements irk any Shiva devotee and not just that chola king. Also, the verses are just cherry picked to prove Supremacy of Vishnu. Why is there no single verse from Sri Rudram, which is from Samhita portion of Vedas ? To know Pasupati System properly, one must read Chapter 34 of Linga Purana where Shiva Himself explains in details. So, it's clear, mistake was on both sides. Those sectarian people demeaned each other and faced their karma.
    – The Destroyer
    Dec 3, 2016 at 8:27
  • 8
    First of all, note that what is criticized is not Shiva but Shaivism. In any case, it's not just a case of cherry-picking; there are Sri Vaishnava works which discuss in great detail the Sri Rudram and other scriptural passages discussing Shiva. As to the Pashupata system, it's not just Ramanujacharya who criticizes it, it's the Brahma Sutras itself. Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, etc. all agree that the Pashupata system is criticized by the Brahma Sutras. But we're not likely to resolve this disagreement here. Dec 3, 2016 at 9:24
  • 5
    Ok. I haven't read what Brahmasutras say about Shaivism or i don't know whether they reject certain portions of Shaivism or complete Shaivism. In any case putting aside Shaivism, my opinion is they shouldn't cherry pick only those verses which talk about Supremacy of Narayana. There are verses which say Rudra as Brahman, Brahma as Brhaman and Indra too as Brahman. Again interpretations differ from School to school. But my concern is cherrypicking of verses putting aside interpretation.
    – The Destroyer
    Dec 3, 2016 at 9:38
  • 4
    @TheDestroyer Then I suggest you read the Patya Adhikarana of the Brahma Sutras along with one or more commentaries and decide for yourself. In any case, Sri Vaishnava works don't just cherry pick verses. Just the particular passages I gave happen to discuss verses concerning Vishnu. But there are lots of passages in Sri Vaishnava works that discuss the sort of verses you're describing. Dec 3, 2016 at 9:44
  • 2
    @sv. Yes, given what I know about Kurathalwan's extraordinary faith and character, I find it fully credible that he would gouge out his own eyes. Dec 4, 2016 at 5:21

The basic six daily duties of a Brahmin are described in many Shastras and i quote from the Parashara Smriti here:

Sandhyam Snanam Japo Homo Devata Atithi Pujanam Atithyam VaiswaDevam Cha Shat Karmani Dine Dine

. Ablution and prayer, inaudible recitation (of sacred words), burnt- offerings, the worship of gods, hospitality to guests unexpectedly come, and offerings made in the name of the Visvadevam, — these are the six duties to be performed every day,

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So,Devata Puja is one of the 6 mandatory duties.

Now, what constitutes a Deva Puja is recorded in the following verse:

The procedure of Deva Puja:

Madhyaane tarpanaanantaram gandha kusumaakshatai Harihara, Hiranya garbha prabhritinaam anyatamayamyathaavaasanam, Rigyajyurssaama mantraih svanaama bhirvaa tatprakaaraihi, Chaturdhanyair namaskaara yuktairaadhayet/Aarogyam Bhasaraadicchet shriyamicchet moksha micchejjanardanaat

(After performing mid-day tarpanas, a Brahmana should invoke Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwaraadi Devas with gandha-pushpa-akshatas reciting Rik-Yajur-Saama Veda mantras or so endi ng with chaturthi vibhakti naamaas like Haraye namah om, Vishnave namah om or Brahmane namah om etc

So,it can not be that any Brahmin can be hostile to any of the Trinities(Brahma,Vishnu and Mahesh) irrespective of which Veda Shaka he belongs to.That is just out question.

Narada further states that devotion to both Hari and Hara are a must for all Dwijas:

Vedovaa Hari bhaktirvaa bhaktirvaapi Maheshware, Svaachaaraatpatitam mudham na punaati dvijottamam/ Punya khsetraabhigamanam punya tirtha nishevanam, Yagjnovaa vividho Brahman tyaktaachaaram na rakshati/Aachaaraat praapyate swargah aachaaraat praapyate sukham, Aachaaraatpraapyate mokshah, Aacharaat kim na siddhati/

Maharshi Narada emphasises that those ‘dvijas’- or twice born are who undergo the Sacred Thread Ceremony and obeserve the concomitant principles there of- and those who are devoid of Vedaadhyana or recitation of Vedas, devotion to Hari, devotion of Shiva, visits of ‘Punya Kshetras’ and ‘Tirthas’and execution of sacrifices like yagjnas are disqualified to be dvijas and as such deserve to be declared against!

Now,coming to your questions about Ramanuja.He was a devotee of Vishnu(a Vaishnava) and a Brahmin.So,he can not be hostile to Shiva and for that matter to any other Gods.

Why did he refuse to hail Shiva? After all he is also a god.

I don't know what actually happened then.If the question was that by only hailing Shiva once the King would let him go,then he probably should have hailed.

Because essentially Shiva & Vishnu are one entity.And by virtue of being a Hindu acharya and philosopher he must be knowing that too.

For example,from the Skanda Purana:

While describing the worship of Siva Linga, Sage Lomesha emphasised that there was no difference of Bhagavan Siva and Lord Vishnu:

Yo Vishnuh sah Sivo Jneyo yah Sivo Vishnureva sah, Peethika Vishnu Rup amsyallinga ruupee Maheswarah / Thasmallinga- arch anam sreshtham Sarveyshaamapi vai Dwijah

(He who i s Vishnu is Siva and Siva be known as Vishnu Himself; the base is Vishnu and the ‘Linga’ is Maheswar a and thus worship of Siva Linga is idyllic)

or, from the Kurma Purana:

Surely Narayana bhaktaas should be able to attain excellent Places of Mukti, but who ever think of Maheshwara with dislike would never ever reach any where! Those who keep hatred against and find fault with Shiva would be instantly be negated of their endeavours for Vishnu and their dhyaana, homa, Tapas and Yagnaadi Karyaas would be wasted in futility. What is worse, those who possess negative feelings for Mahadeva should be punished for thousand years of Naraka experiences(These are Sri Krishna's words)


Ayam Narayano yohameeshwaro naatra samshayah, Naantaram ye prapashyanti teshaam Devamidam param/ Mamaushaa Paramaa Murtirnaaraayana samaahvayaa, Sarva Bhutaatmabhutasthaa Shantaa chaakshara sangjnitaa/

That Narayana is Ishwara that is me undoubtedly. There is indeed no difference between us and he too is to be worshipped. Narayana is ‘Shaanti-Akshara’ imprinted in every body’s heart. Some imagine otherwise that we are figured other wise and they continue to get into the cycle of birth and death and could never ever attain Mukti. Those who visualise me and Narayana as just the same would have no rebirth(these are Parama Shiva's words)

So,i can assume that Ramanuja also knew that(the oneness of Hari and Hara).

But ,i think the king might have tried to convert him to Shaivism(whatever that means,because i find such conversion-ideas out of the realms of Hinduism only).

In that case,Ramanuja had every right to protest because it was the question of changing one's Ishta Devata forcefully which is never acceptable.

What is the need here for Ramanuja to prove that Vishnu is the one true God?

I don't think that Ramanuja was even trying to prove that.Because those who are well versed in the Vedas know that the number of Gods or true Gods are more than one.

He simply asserted to the king that he has every right to choose his own Ishata himself.It is none of the businesses of the Chola King to interfere and dictate terms to him on such issues.

So,what Ramanuja did was right in that sense.

But having said that,he himself might have committed the same offence of forcing a deity upon his brother when the later converted to Shaivaism.

  • 5
    According to Vishishtadvaita, Vishnu is supreme. Lord Vishnu created every deity for every task. He resides in every deity and makes this universe function. According to Ramanujacharya, worshipping supreme is better than worshipping all the other deities. Krishna says that worshipping only Him will attain liberation. So Ramanujacharya followed that. He made tours along dravida desam to preach this philosophy. This philosophy did not start with Him. There were many who preached this. But this philosophy got the name "Vishishtadvaita" (some say Vaishnavism) after Him. Nov 30, 2016 at 8:42
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    @SreeCharan Krishna says that worshipping only Him will attain liberation ..IT is not only Krishna who said so..all main Deities of Hinduism have said so..And Vishitaadvaita is just a philosophy..Philosopies r less important than Shastras themselves in Hinduism..that is exactly why the Philosophies are based on Scrictures and not the other way round..And more importantly i don't know which Darsanas or Scriptures teach us to speak ill of Gods..These attributes are only being shown by Asuras till date..only other person i know of,who was not an asura,but was hostile towards God was
    – Rickross
    Nov 30, 2016 at 9:06
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    These vedas,brahmasutras we are talking about and BG we listen and read often were not understandable to many until Adi shankara wrote bhashyas for them. He preached a philosophy called advaita and wrote bhashyas supporting that philosophy. The translators who translated those verses you have quoted in the answer might be more or less influenced by works of Adi shankara. Those works support advaita which is a philosophy. Later Ramanujacharya did not agree with interpretation and wrote bhashyas to vedas, brahmasutras, BhagwatGita supporting Vishnu as the supreme lord.1/2 Nov 30, 2016 at 17:04
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    Whether you agree or disagree, knowingly or unknowingly, we all follow some philosophy. They are not only philosophers, They are called acharyas who guide us to the supreme lord. Vishishtadwaita preached by Ramanujacharya does not speak ill of any hindu god or deity. It is who misinterpret vishishtadwaita. Devatarchana means worship of god. It need not to be plural. 2/2 Nov 30, 2016 at 17:08
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    Rickross, in your reply you were relying on the scriptural quotes that talk about oneness between Shiva and Vishnu. But it's important to note that Ramanuja actually emphasized the difference between them. And there are many verses in the scriptures that depict god Rudra also known as Shiva as a God who is a jiva soul (jivatma) and thus inferior to Lord Vishnu and different from Lord Vishnu. In my comment, see above below the Parasu raman's question, I quoted one such verse from the Padma Purana: yas tu nārāyaṇaṁ devaṁ ... Dec 1, 2016 at 0:45

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