Tiruvaimozhi Acharya Purusha,  Professor V T Tirunarayana Iyengar  (1903-1995).
Prof. VTT

Photograph taken at his residence on the occasion of  his  93rd and last birthday during Februray 1995,   (two months prior to attaining the feet of his Acharya)

Ramanujaguroh putram vatsalyadi gunarnavam |
Narayana gurum vande dravidamnaya desikam ||

The son of Ramanuja Guru, ocean of affection and other qualities,
I bow before my preceptor Narayana,  a foremost  scholar in the  Dravida Vedas.

Homage to Prof. V.T.Tirunarayana Iyengar
                                         .....      by his son V.T. Sampath Kumaran

V. T. Tirunarayana Iyengar (1903-1995), was a Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Mysore, a renowned scholar in Visishtadvaita - the Srivaishnava school of thought, and an acclaimed expert in Indian philosophy. He was popularly known as VTT among his colleagues and students in the academic world, to whom he was synonymous with knowledge and learning. Much of his life was spent in sharing his vast knowledge with the many eager students of all ages, sects, religions and nationalities, who sought him out. All those who came in contact with him remember him with fondness and reverence. He was easily accessible to everyone till he breathed his last. He was an embodiment of humility and culture. He lived practicing the philosophy he taught.

VTT was a rare combination of tradition and modernity. He lived the austere life required of the Tiruvaimozhi Acharya parampara to which he belonged, imbibing from his scholarly father the essence of the Vedas, the Nalayira Divya Prabandham (also known as the Tamil Vedam), and the Visishtadvaita philosophy of Bhagavad Ramanujacharya - the philosopher-saint who lived a hundred and twenty years (1017-1137). At the same time, VTT excelled in University education, going on to win four gold medals in B.A (1925), M A Sanskrit and M A Philosophy from the Mysore University (1927 & 1928).

VTT was born on February 9th, 1903 (Makara masa), under Ardra nakshatra - the same heavenly star under which Sri Ramanujacharya, the preceptor of Visishtadvaita was also born centuries ago. He was born at Belatur village, his maternal home near Mysore, in the family of ‘Tiruvaimozhi Acharya Purushas’ of Melkote in the Mandya district of Karnataka, as the eldest son of Tiruvengada Ramanujachar and Yadugiri Ammal. Tiru-Narayanan was named after Narayana, the presiding deity of Melkote who is inseparable from his consort Sri (Tiru), that is, Lakshmi.

Tiruvengada Ramanujachar, keen on making his son a Ubhaya Vedantin (a scholar in both the Sanskrit and Tamil Vedas), set him a strict schedule, with classes beginning at 4 am. By the time he was eight, VTT had mastered, in their original form, the Nalayira Divya Prabandham, Valmiki Ramayanam, Mahabharata, Bhagvad Gita, Sri Bhashyam and Bhagavad Vishayam. After performing VTT’s Upanayanam in his ninth year, Ramanujachar set him to study the Vedas, Vedangas, the Upanishads and other Sastric works and commentaries in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

This training in traditional knowledge took place side by side with modern education and the study of English. VTT did his schooling up to matriculation at RBNAM School in Bangalore. Thereafter, when his father migrated to Mysore, he joined the FA class at the famous Maharaja’s college, Mysore. As mentioned earlier, VTT distinguished himself both in B.A and M.A. He was a favourite student of the legendary scholar Prof. M.Hiriyanna, under whom he learnt Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy and of Prof. A.R.Wadia, who taught him Western philosophy. He also studied Tarka (Indian Logic System) under Mahamahopadhyaya Lakshmipuram Srinivasacharya.

VTT joined Central College, Bangalore in 1928 as a lecturer in the Sanskrit department, immediately after completing his double M.A. He continued to teach there till 1945 when he was posted to Maharaja’s college, Mysore, his alma mater, as Asst. Professor of Sanskrit. During this time he also learnt German in order to be able to read the works of German oriental scholars in their original. He was a very popular teacher, who was admired for his erudition, his oratory in English, Sanskrit, and other South Indian languages and was liked for his affection towards his students. Everyone called him ‘the silver tongued orator from Maharaja’s college’, at a time when the college was a famous seat of learning, and was proud of its eminent professors, who were all great scholars.

VTT had a pleasing personality; he was fair and handsome, of medium built and possessed a resonant voice. He believed in detached attachment and while he did his duty as a family man most conscientiously, and with utmost love and care, he never allowed family considerations to intervene in other matters. His recital of Sanskrit and Tamil hymns either individually, or in a Goshti (group / assembly) were not only pleasing to the ears for their musical quality, but also very soothing to the mind. He went about barefoot through out his life, holding his own in traditional attire, amidst even the most modern gathering.

After his retirement in 1958, he served at the National College Bangalore, as Professor of Sanskrit, till 1961. He was one of the first recipients of the Government of India’s ‘University Grants Commission Scholar’ recognition and worked on writing an English commentary at the University of Mysore, on Sudarshana Bhatta’s Srutaprakasika, itself a celebrated commentary on Sri Ramanuja’s ‘Sri Bhashya’.

While at college and particularly after his revered father passed away, VTT performed, with élan, the additional responsibility of carrying on his family tradition of being a Tiruvaimozhi Acharya Purusha - of propagating Tiruvaimozhi, the sacred verses which form a fourth of the Nalayira Divya Prabandham, composed by Saint Nammazhwar, who is regarded as the kulapati of Srivaishnavism.

VT Swami, as Professor V.T.Tirunarayana Iyengar was called by his disciples, attained the feet of his Acharya on April 22, 1995 (during Chaitra masa), after living a full and purposeful life of 92 years. Significantly, the thirteenth day of his demise, considered as per tradition the day when the departed Atman (Soul) attains Vaikunta, the abode of Narayana, coincided with Ramanuja Jayanti, the birth day of Sri Ramanuja, whose ardent devotee Tirunarayanan was all his life.