Srimad Vazhuthur Andavan Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan was born in the Tamil month of Avani with purattathi as his birth-star in the sashti-samvatsara year of Rudrotkari in 1744 AD to U. Ve. Srinivasachar Swami in the village of Vazhuthur.
Lord Ranganatha directed Srimad Vazhuthur Swami, and two others, Srimad Vatthirayiruppu Swami, and Srimad Seyyanam Swami, to go to Srimad Gopalarya Mahadesikan, also known as Thirukudanthai Desikan, and learn the sampradaya-granthas or the traditional literature and esoteric mysteries of Srivaishnavism, and to spread it far and wide.
Srimad Thirukkudanthai Desikan too had a dream that he should teach the divine mysteries of Sri Vaishnavism to these three great souls. Thus the tradition was given the name ‘Munitraya’, or the tradition of the three great munis or saints, because of two reasons: first because of the three early founders of the tradition: Sriman Natha Muni, Srimad Yamuna Muni and Srimad Ramanuja Muni; and second because of the three great saintly disciples of Srimad Thirukkudanthai Desikan: Srimad Vazhuthur Swami, Srimad Vatthirayiruppu Swami and Srimad Seyyanam Swami, who were considered to be amsha-avataras or partial incarnations of the original three munis.
After learning the scriptures at the feet of Thirukudanthai Desikan, Srimad Vazhuthur Swami accepted the ascetic order of sannyasa, and came to be known as Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan. When He was in Vazhuthur for more than 30 years, he performed mangalasasanam prayers every day at the temple of Sri Jagathrakshaka Perumal. It is well known to many that when the curtain was drawn in front of the Deities of the temple, Vazhuthur Swami used to have a direct dialogue with the Deity.
Later he moved to teach in Srirangam, where he lived in a small hut on the banks of the river Coleroon. He used to award the sacraments of samashrayanam and bharanyasam to thousands of disciples at the shrine of Sri Ranganayaki in the temple. At that time, he was also known as ‘Srirangam Swami’.
Once, Srimad Vazhuthur Swami Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan, went to meet his acharya Srimad Thirukudanthai Desikan to seek his blessings.
Remembering the causeless compassion and grace of his preceptor, and the unpayable debts to the acharya, Vazhuthur Swami offered his prostrations at the feet of Srimad Thirukudanthai Desikan and sang one of the verses of Nammalvar from the Thiruvaimozhi which had been written in praise of Sri Aravamudan.
The verse had the sentence: theera vinaigal theera ennai andaai – thirukudanthai oora (Oh, resident of Thirukudanthai, you rule over me – andaai – by removing all those faults which cannot be erased!). Srirangam Swami used this verse as a reference to Srimad Thiukudanthai Desikan and repeated this verse over and over again, with tears brimming from his eyes.
At that time, Srimad Thirukdudanthai Desikan immediately picked up his worthy disciple and uttered the words: ‘Neere emmai andavan! Neere nam sampradayathai aala vantha Andavan!” (You are the person who rules over me. Indeed, you are the person who has come to rule and guard over our sampradayam).
Later, Srimad Vazhuthur Swami Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan returned to Srirangam and proceeded to the temple to serve the Lord. As soon as he arrived, the Deity of Lord Ranganatha Himself came to the flag-pillar or the dvija-stambha at the temple to receive Vazhuthoor Swami. Lord Ranganatha embraced him by calling out: “Emmai anadavane, varuga’, which translates as, “Welcome to He who rules over me as andavan’.
Vazhutoor Swami’s acharya and the Divine Lord, had both addressed him with the title of ‘Andavan’. Since then the acharyas of the tradition are known as ‘Andavan’, which is considered to be a title directly awarded by the Supreme Lord Sri Ranganatha Himself. Thus Vazhutur Swami became famous by the name Srimad Vazhuthur Andavan.
Many illustrious people became sishyas or disciples of Srimad Vazhuthur Andavan Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan. Prominent among them are: