Sri Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (1559-1665), third student of Achyuta Pisharati, was a member of Madhava of Sangamagrama’s school of Astronomy and Mathematics. He was a mathematical linguist (vyakarana). His masterpiece is considered the Prkriya-sarvawom, which sets forth an axiomatic system elaborating on the classical system of Panini. He is most famous for his Narayaneeyam a devotional poem that is still sung at the temple where he worked, Guruvayoor.
Sri Bhattathri was a Namboodari Brahmana from Melpathur, on the north banks of Bharathapuzha, close to a holy town called Thirunava, famed as the theatre of the Mamankam festival. Bhattathri’s father was Mathrudattar, a pandit himself. Bhattathri studied from his father as a child. Learning Rig veda (adhyayanam) from Madhava, Tharka sastra (science of arguments in sanskrit) from Damodara, Vyakarana (sanskrit grammar) from Achyuta Pisharati, he became a pandit by the age of 16. He married Achuta Pisharati’s niece and settled in Thrikandiyur.
Birth of Narayaneeyam
Narayana’s dear vyakarana guru (Achyuta Pisharati) was struck with paralysis. Unable to see his pain, by yogic strength and by way of Gurudakshina, Bhattathri is said to have taken the disease upon himself and relieved his guru. As a result Pisharati is said to have been cured, but no medicine could cure Narayana. Sri Melpathur Narayana Bhattapathar is believed to have proceeded to Guruvayoor Temple, located in Kerala state, India, on 19th Chingam of circa 761 ME – Malayalam Era, Malayalam calendar.
Narayana went to the Lord of Guruvayur and requested Thunjat Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, a great devotee of Guruvayurappan, to suggest a remedy for his disease. To relieve Narayana of this disease, Ezhuthachan, a Malayalam poet and Sanskrit scholar hinted- “meen thottu koottuka” (start with the fish). Bhattathiri, understanding the hidden meaning, decided to present the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu starting with the fish, as narrated in the Bhagavatham in a series of Dasakas (Groups of ten slokas). Upon reaching Guruvayur, he started composing one dasaka a day in the presence of the Lord. The refrain in last sloka of every dasaka is a prayer to him to remove his ailments and sufferings. Everyday he sang 10 slokas on Sri Guruvayoorappan. Each set of 10 poems ends with a prayer for early cure. In 100 days he finished his compositions. On 28th Vrischikam, circa 762 ME, corresponding to 27 November 1586, he finished the last dashakam (”Ayyorarogya Sowghyam”) and he was cured. The 100th canto composed on that day gives a graphic description of this form of the Lord from the head to the foot. On that day he had a vision of the Lord in the form of Venugopalan. He was 27 then. He lived 106 years and was a propounder of purva mimamsa, uttara mimamsa and vyakarana.
The book of slokas written by Sri Melpathur Narayana Bhattapathar were namedNarayaneeyam. The day on which Narayana dedicated his Narayaneeyam to Sri Guruvayurappan is celebrated as “Narayaneeyam Dinam” every year at Guruvayur
Narayaneeyam is a devotional Sanskrit work, in the form of a poetical hymn, consisting of 1034 verses (called ’slokas’ in Sanskrit). It gives a summary of 14,000 verses of the Bhagavata Purana. This work details authentic Bhakti traditions of India in a short compass. It also portrays complete life of Lord Sri Krishna.