His Holiness Srimad Andavan Srivaraha Mahadesikan is the current, and twelfth pontiff of the Srirangam Srimad Andavan Ashramam.
His Holiness holds a doctoral-equivalent traditional degree in the Vedic sciences of nyaya and tarka (the Vedic schools of epistemology, ontology and logic), and the philosophy of vishistadvaita-vedanta from Bharathidasan University.
His Holiness was born in the year 1968 to Sri Varahachariar Swami (who later became the illustrious eleventh pontiff of the Andavan Ashramam and was known as His Holiness Rangaramanuja Mahadesikan Srimad Srimushnam Andavan) in Madhurantakam, coinciding with Tamil year of Plavanga in the month of Thai under the uthiradam star. He was awarded the name Yamunacharya during his sacramental naming ceremony known as nama-karana samskaram.
The illustrious family of His Holiness belongs to a lineage of swayamacharya purushas (preceptors whose families trace back to one of the original 74 successors personally appointed by Bhagavad Ramanuja) through the eminent Nadunattu Narayanachar Swami who was the prime disciple of Annarya Maha Desikan.
From a young age, His Holiness was trained in Srivaishnava doctrines, practices and precepts, and grew up in an atmosphere filled with jnanam and vairagyam (cultivation of spiritual knowledge and detachment).
His Holiness had his bhara-samarpanam (the sacrament of ritual surrender) done at the divine feet of His Holiness Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan Srimad Thirukudanthai Andavan, under whose shelter he also undertook kalakshepams (personal tutelage) to learn the Rahasya-traya-saram, Bhagavad-vishayam and Sri-bhashya. Under the divine orders of Srimad Thirukudanthai Andavan, His Holiness was personally taught the Gita Bhashyam by His Holiness Srinivasa Ramanuja Mahadesikan Srimad Mysore Andavan. His Holiness also spent considerable amount of time learning sri-suktis (verses of praise written by Sri Vaishnava acharyas) under the tutelage of stalwart seniors of the Sri Vaishnava tradition such as Melpakam Swami, Sengurichi Swami and Uttaramerur Vasudevachariar Swami.
After qualifying as Vyakarana Siromani, His Holiness completed his MA(Sanskrit) and M. Phil from Bharthidasan University. Subsequently, His Holiness pursued and completed a doctorate degree at Thiruvayaru College, affiliated to Bharathidasan University. His Ph.D thesis on the works of Sri Tiruputkuzhi Swami on Sri Kumarila Bhattar’s mimamsa shastra was supervised by two eminent scholars: Sri U.Ve. V. S. Karunakarachariar Swami and Sri U. Ve. NS Ramanuja Tatachirar Swami (Retired Vice Chancellor of the Sanskrit Vidya Peetam at Tirupati. Both his PH.D supervisors are recipients of the President’s Award for Sanskrit.
Before his departure from the world, the previous pontiff His Holiness Rangaramanuja Mahadesikan had awarded the preksha mantra (a pre-condition for accepting sannyasa – the renounced order) to a few of his closest disciples, one of whom was Srimad Yamunacharya Swami.
His Holiness Rangaramanuja Mahadesikan Srimad Srimushnam Andavan had confided to his close disciples that if the Ashramam ever slipped into a calamitous situation, Srimad Yamunacharya Swami should be asked to take the lead in rescuing the institution and guide the millions of followers.
In accordance with the instructions and divine commands of the previous acharya, Srimad Yamunacharya Swami accepted the sannyasa order in October 2018 in the sacred brindavanam-shrine of Srimad Peraindavan in Srirangam, and was installed as the twelfth pontiff of the Andavan Ashramam by accepting the name ‘Srivaraha Mahadesikan’.
Under the divine guidance and spiritual vision of His Holiness Srivaraha Mahadesikan Srimad Srimushnam Chinna Andavan, the Andavan Ashramam has grown and established itself on a firm footing.
Everyday in the morning, hundreds of disciples congregate at the place where His Holiness is camping, to participate in the rituals of paduka-aradhanai, teertham, shatari and satrumurai, while also joining the daily recitations of Gadya-trayam, Paduka-sahasram and Desika-stotrams.
Thousands of new shishyas and abhimanis (disciples and well-wishers) have been awarded samashrayanam and bharanyasam almost on a daily basis, to connect them back to the illustrious tradition of Bhagavad Ramanuja and Srimad Vedanta Desikan, and provide them refuge under the divine shelter of the divya-dampatis.
One of the first tasks His Holiness undertook after his installation was the completion of the brindavanam-shrine of the previous acharya His Holiness Rangaramanuja Mahadesikan Srimushnam Andavan. The shrine had a grand opening on 22nd March 2019, which coincided with the first kainkaryam or anniversary of Srimad Srimushnam Peria Andavan’s departure ceremonies.
He also completed the construction of the Ashramam’s branch at Thiruvidanthai, after which he conducted his first chaturmasya sankalpam (ritual vow to reside in one place and abstain from travelling during the rainy season) at the Thiruvidanthai Ashramam in the year 2019. Thousands of disciples gathered at Thiruvidanthai every day in large numbers to receive the divine grace of the Lord through the acharya’s divya-kataksham (compassionate glance).
His Holiness has visited over fifty divya-deshams and abhimana-sthalam temples in the last eighteen months and offered mangalasasanams (ritual prayers to glorify the Lord) at these holy places.
His Holiness routinely visits sevarthi-grihams (the houses of disciples and well-wishers) to shower his blessings in a ceremony called ponnadi-sarral. Many sevarthis often invite His Holiness to conduct perumal-dholai festivals at their houses, where His Holiness blesses the households while accompanied by the presiding Deities of the Ashramam Sri Rukmini Satyabhama Sameta Sri Venugopala Swamy.
He lectures and speaks far and wide on the precepts of Sri Vaishnavism, attracting thousands of people with his divine words. He has spoken at many prestigious venues including Shastra University, Tanjore and the Department of Vaishnavism at the University of Chennai.
His Holiness gifted a svarna-thiruvadi (golden armour for the Lord’s lotus feet) to the main deity – the mulavar – of Lord Varadaraja Perumal, and a svarna-pitambaram (a golden garment) to the festival deity – the utsavar – of Dipaprakashar Perumal at Kanchipuram on 28th September 2019. The gifts weighed over 31 kilogrammes in gold, donated by many shishyas and abhimanis from around the world.
Recently, His Holiness delivered thirty lectures as part of a series on Thiruppavai to coincide with the holy month of Dhanur Masam (December 16 2019 to January 14 2020), which was broadcast and heard all over the world by many disciples and well-wishers.
His Holiness continues to travel, speak and inspire millions of disciples all over the world and will be undertaking a Bharata vijaya-yatra (a tour of India) in 2020. During the Corona lock-down period in April 2020, His Holiness launched the ‘Vande Raghvam Vibhum’ online celebration for Sri Rama Navami. Thousands of disciples and well-wishers from all over the world participated in the online competitions for ten days while staying at home, to receive special spiritual benedictions and blessings.
It is only with the divine blessings of the divya-dampati, Sriman Narayana and Sri Mahalakshmi Thayar, and with the compassionate grace of our purva-acharyas, that the Andavan Ashramam has been blessed with such an illustrious preceptor. His Holiness Srimad Andavan Srivaraha Mahadesikan continues to uphold the glorious flag of Sri Vaishnavism to inspire millions of souls, and take them back to the divine shelter of Sriman Narayana, in the footsteps of our purva-acharyas.