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I am currently visiting India, and I just went to the Adi Keshava Perumal Vishnu Temple in Sri Perumbudur, the birthplace of the famous Sri Vaishnava Acharya Ramanujacharya. On the walls of this temple are depicted the Divya Desams, the 108 sacred places of Vishnu which I discuss in my question here. Now two of the Divya Desams are not even on Earth! First there's Vishnu's ocean of milk or Thiruparkadal, and then there is Paramapadam, which Sri Vaishnavas believe is the abode of Para Vasudeva or the supreme Vishnu, and is the destination for those who have attained Moksha. (See my answer here for more information on Para Vasudeva.)

In any case, in the temple's depiction of Paramapadam, I saw the usual attendants of Vishnu, like Garuda and Vishvaksena (whom I discuss here), but I also saw two human figures, Uparichara Vasu and Uttanka. Uparichara Vasu was an ancient king who was the father of Shantanu's wife Satyavati. As I discuss in this answer, he was cursed by some sages to fall deep within the Earth, but then he ultimately attained Vishnu's abode of Paramapadam, as described in this chapter of the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata.

Uttanka and Indra  [Uttanka is on the left, Indra as Chandala on the right]

But my question is about the other figure shown, Uttanka. Uttanka is most famous for his grand quest to obtain the earrings of a queen for his guru's wife. But after that, he became a sage who lived in the Maru desert. (This desert was created by Rama's Brahmastra, as I discuss in this answer.) Uttanka was a great devotee of Krishna (while Krishna was on Earth), so Krishna showed him his Vishwarupa form and granted him a boon that he would always be able to quench his thirst in the desert. Krishna then asked Indra to give Amrita to Uttanka, but Indra decided to test Uttanka by taking the form of a Chandala untouchable urinating into a pot. The Chandala offered the pot to Uttanka, but Uttanka refused and thus did not receive Amrita! But as a consolation prize, Krishna granted Uttanka the boon that rainclouds would come whenever he was thirsty, as described in this chapter of the Ashwamedha Parva of the Mahabharata:

"On those days, O regenerate one, in which thou wilt feel a desire for water, clouds well-charged with water will rise over this desert. Those clouds, O son of Bhrigu's race, will give thee savoury water to drink. Verily, those clouds will become known in the world as Utanka-clouds." Thus addressed by Krishna, Utanka became filled with gladness, and to this day, O Bharata, Utanka-clouds (appear and) shower rain on and deserts.

But my question is, if Uttanka didn't drink Amrita and Krishna only gave him a boon for rainclouds, why is Uttanka depicted in Paramapadam? When and how did he achieve Moksha?

Are there any scriptures which describe Uttanka attaining Moksha?

  • The picture doesn't do justice to Indra as described at the link (surrounded by a pack of dogs. Extremely fierce-looking, he carried a sword and was armed with bow and arrows.) – sv. Dec 29 '15 at 8:17
  • @sv. Yeah, I suppose he would look more like this: belurmath.org/kids_section/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/… (This is a picture depicting a similar story where Shiva appears before Adi Shankaracharya in the form of a Chandala, and Adi Shankaracharya doesn't recognize him and refuses to touch him.) – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 29 '15 at 9:05
  • Yes, that one looks better. BTW, what was the reason for untouchability those days? – sv. Dec 29 '15 at 19:17
  • @sv. The reason for untouchability is that people who do certain occupations, like handling dead bodies in the case of Chandalas, have the capacity to make others impure by touching them. Untouchables are lower than all four of the four standard Varnas. You would have to do something really bad in your previous birth to be born as one. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 29 '15 at 19:37
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    @Keshav But at the same time it is not our place to form opinions based on their karma, but to treat them the same which IMO is what the story of Uttanka illustrates. – Surya Jan 11 '16 at 14:45

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