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This stotram was composed by SrI vedAta desika when he worshipped
the Lord in the daSAvatAra sannidhi in SrIrangam.    The first Slokam is
introductory in nature, and SrI deSika offers obeisance to Lord ranganAtha
and Mother ranganAyAki whose ten divine incarnations he is going to cover
in the stotram.  The next ten Slokams are devoted to the ten incarnations,
one for each incarnation.  The twelfth Slokam summarizes all the ten
incarnations in one Slokam, and the thirteenth and last Slokam is a

The most striking aspect of this stotra for me was the poetic side
of SrI deSika that comes out  so vividly in this composition.   When this
statement is made, it is not to diminish  the importance of the devotional
fervor in the stotra in any way.  In praising the poetic gift of Sri
deSika,  one writer has remarked that SrI deSika could compose a thousand
pASurams in praise of SrI RanganAtha's pAduka-s with ease in one night,
whereas no other poet would have found it easy to compose more than a
handful of Sloka-s on the topic of  'sandals'.  This is the poet that is
revealed to us when we go through the daSAvatAra stotram.  Especially in
the description of the first few incarnations, this poetic expression is

In his description of the matsya incarnation, the poet describes
the beauty of the eyes of the Lord thus - wherever He goes as a fish in
the waters looking for the lost veda-s, His eyes look like a traveling
lotus garden.  The huge waves that He creates as He travels collide with
each other and this looks like a swing in the waters.  And Our Lord is
having fun enjoying this ride in this swing as He is looking for the

In the kUrma avatara, SrI deSikan imagines the Lord in the form of
a tortoise enjoying the massage by the mandAra mountain as it is used in
churning the ocean while supported on His back.  This massage makes the
Lord feel so comforted that He falls asleep.  His deep breathing results
in the huge waves which again serve the Lord as the water-bed on which He
is present with His Consort, blessing all of us.

The poet describes the sound emanating from the nose of the Lord
in the varAha incarnation (ghur-ghuraih) as reverberating across the
worlds and purifying them.  The Lord takes this incarnation to retrieve
the lost Earth from the ocean, and once He has retrieved Mother Earth, He
has Her firmly seated on His canine teeth as He is rising out of the
Ocean.  She is enjoying the firm seating on His canine teeth and creating
all the forms from brahma all the way down to the grass and all other
beings as She is enjoying the ride.

When the Lord appeared as nr*simha in the pillar in
hiranyakaSipu's palace, the pillar became the 'mother' of the Lord, who
Himself is the Father of brahma.  Thus the pillar managed to lose its
sterility, and now became the grandmother of brahma! Given that brahma
himself is called the pitAmahan (grandfather), now the pillar became the
grandmother for the grandfather also.   (How lucky is the pillar that had
the good fortune to give birth to the Lord!).  Since the Lord did not know
He had to appear in the pillar (until prahlAda so wished), He did not have
His weapons for the slaying of hiraNyakaSipu.  This is just as well,
because His nails obviously are more powerful than His other weapons!

As the foot of the Lord in His vAmana incarnation keeps growing,
SrI deSika imagines that His feet are carrying mahAbali's fame (for
fulfilling His words to the Lord happily) like the soldier announcing a
victorious king's arrival.  The Ganges river that resulted from brahma's
washing of the Lord's Holy feet as it flowed down to earth looked like a
white victory flag for the Lord.  

The second aspect of the stotra that is noticeable is the
description of the incarnations of the Lord using strikingly extreme
aspects of the avatAra as if to illustrate that the Lord is all extremes
at the same time.   In the description of the parasurAma and rAma
incarnations, SrI deSika first points out the extreme capability or
actions that they either did or are capable of, and then takes us down to
the other extreme of their actions as if to contrast the two extremes.
Thus he first points out that ParSurAma destroyed 21 generations of
kshatriya-s as a revenge for the slaying of his father, and captured the
whole world for himself.  At the other extreme,  He sacrificed all his
possessions in one swoop to Sage KaSyapa.  In rAma incarnation, SrI rAma
was capable of draining the whole ocean with the heat of His arrows.  The
power of His arrows is far more, and is many times more tortuous than the
agni that devours the world mercilessly at the time of pralaya.  This same
Lord rAma has as His vow the protection of those who surrender to Him just

The above are some instances in the daSAvatAra stotram where SrI
deSika has lost himself intensely in the bhagavad-anubhava as he is
describing the different incarnations.   In addition to the descriptions
of the above incarnations, the stotram also has one Sloka each that is
devoted to the balarAma, kr*shNa and kalki incarnations.   

Originally when I had the desire to go through each of the deSika
stotra-s and share a high-level summary of each, I had planned not to
include the samskr*t version of any Sloka or present detailed meanings.
However, in the twelfth Sloka in this stotram svAmi deSikan summarizes all
the ten incarnations in one Sloka.  So I am including this Sloka and its
meaning briefly.

"IcchA-mIna vihAra-kacchapa mahA-potrin yadr*cchA-hare         
rakshA-vAmana rosha-rAma karuNA-kAkutstha helA-harin         |
krIDA-vallava kalka-vAhana-daSA-kalkin iti pratyaham
jalpantah purushAh punanti bhuvanam puNyaugha paNyApaNAh  ||

"Oh Lord! Those who speak your name daily as the One who took the form of
a fish by your own free will, incarnated as a tortoise for the purposes of
having fun, took the form of a big boar, appeared as Lord nr*simha when no
one (including you) expected it, took the incarnation of vAmana just for
protecting everyone (through the contact with your feet), presented
yourself as the angry paraSurAma and also as rAma - the personification of
kindness and mercy, had the sport with the plough in the balarAma avatAra
and as the cowherd in your kr*shNa incarnation, and will ride the white
horse in your kalki incarnation, make this world pure by the store-house
of puNya that they have accumulated, and are like the store where we can
get all the puNya we need (i.e., by merely associating with them)".

SrI deSika again gives vent to his poetic sentiments in describing
these noble souls as shop-keepers from whom we can get all the puNya that
we want by associating with them.   In the concluding Sloka, Sri deSika
points out that even the desire to chant this stotram will lead to
sarasvati-katAksham, in addition  to the spiritual development, purity of
thought, and all kinds fame.  
As in the case of the previous write-up on SrI hayagrIva stotram,
it is hoped that this high level description of the daSAvatAra stotram
gives the desire to look at the detailed meanings of the stotram, chant it
regularly,  and be blessed by our Lord and our AcArya. 

-dAsan kr*shNamAcAryan       





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