Sri Ramanujacharya

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Vishista Advaita
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The traditional biographies of Ramanuja place his life in the period of 1017–1137, yielding a lifespan of 120 years. However, the unusual length and roundness of this lifetime has led scholars to propose that Ramanuja was born 20–60 years later, and died as many as 20 years earlier than the traditional dates. Any chronology depends crucially on the major historical event mentioned in the traditional biographies: the persecution of Vaishnavas under the Chola king Kulothunga and Ramanuja's subsequent 12-year exile in Melkote, in Karnataka.

In 1917, T. A. Gopinatha Rao proposed a chronology based on the traditional lifetime of 1017–1137. He identified the Chola king with Kulothunga Chola I (reigned 1070-1120), and dated the exile to Melkote from 1079 to 1126 CE (Rao 1923 cited in Carman 1974:45). However, this would extend the period of exile to 47 years, and in any case, Kulothunga I was not known for being an intolerate Shaivite.

A different chronology was proposed by T. N. Subramanian, an official in the Madras government. This chronology identifies the Chola King with Kulothunga Chola II, who reigned from 1133–50 and was known for his persecution of Vaisnavites. It puts Ramanuja's exile from c. 1137 to 1148. Subramanian's hypothesis is aided by a fragment from the late Tamil biography Rāmānujārya Divya Caritai, which states that Ramanuja completed his most important work, the Śrībhāshya, in 1155–56. Nevertheless, temple inscriptions in Karnataka indicate the presence of Ramanuja and his disciples before 1137. Carman (1974:45) hypothesizes that the traditional biographers conflated two different visits to Mysore into one. This later chronology has been accepted by several scholars, yielding a tentative lifetime of 1077–1157.

Whatever the precise dates of Ramanuja's lifetime, it seems clear that all three of the great Śrīvaiṣṇava ācāryas lived under the relatively stable and ecumenical climate of the Chola empire, before its decline in the late 12th and 13th centuries.



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