The Hand and the Hair

Of Appaya Dikshitar and Vedanta Desikar's Yatiraja Saptati (based on PBA Swami's article)

In Sri Vedanta Desikar's Yatiraja Saptati, part of the 38th shloka runs as follows:

kudrushTi kuhanAmukhE nipatata: parabrahmaNa:
karagrahavicakshaNo jayati lakshmaNOyam muni:

In the second line, it is said "kara graha"; that is, Ramanuja lifted by the hand those who were submerged in the arguments of the mAyAvAdis.

At one time when Sri Appaya Dikshitar was living in the agrahAram of Thumbai Vanam near Kanchipuram, he happened to hear a Srivaishnava person walking in the street for unjavrutti reciting this shloka. He stopped the person and told him "Swamin, come over here. It is normal in this world to see a drowning person being lifted by their hair and not by their hand. Therefore, Vedanta Desikar must not have said kara graha. Instead he would have said kaca graha. So please recite it like that from now on". The Srivaishnava Swami agreed to this as it was coming from the great Appaya Diskhitar and from that time onward started reciting the Yatiraja Saptati with this modification.

One day as he was reciting this work, some Srivaishnava scholars heard him and asked him "Swamin! This sounds new. Why are you using kaca instead of kara in this verse?". The Swami told them the incident with Appaya Diskhitar. Upon hearing it, the scholars told him "Appaya Dikshitar is no doubt a great scholar, but he should not lose the interesting meaning by trying to fit it to some event. It may be true that a drowning man's hair might be pulled to save him. But if the man is fully submerged, he would throw his hands up trying to get some help. At that time the hands would be the only part of the body that is accessible to the rescuer. After all, it was said that the person was drowning and not drowned. It is therefore correct to say kara graha and that is what Vedanta Desikar wrote."

It is said that, later when Appaya Diskhitar heard about this, he claimed that only Srivaishnavas are truly qualified to gather the inner meanings of acharya works.