The devotional epic, Narayaneeyam, was composed by Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri,in the ninth decade of the 16th century A.D. Bhattathiri was born circa 1560 A.D. in a Namboothiri Brahmin family of Kerala, at a place close to the famous temple at Tirunavayi, on the banks of river Bharatpuzha. His father taught him the Mimamsa and the various Sastras. he is said to have mastered the ancient Hindu scriptures, Vedas, Vedangas, etc and studied Mimamsa, Vyakarana (grammar), Tarka (logic), and other subjects, all by the age of sixteen years.He married at the age of 18-20,the niece of Achuta Pisharadi, a celebrated grammarian.
Sri. Bhattathiri after marriage became very lazy and ignored even his Nithya Anushtana etc. It was really surprising to his wife’s uncle Sri. Pisharodi- who was a good Sanskrit -Vyakarana /Grammar teacher. Sri. Bhattathiri would be sleeping when Sri. Pisharodi’s classes were going on . One day Sri. Pisharodi out of compassion and sadness told Sri. Bhattathiri thus “ EVEN AFTER GETTING A GOOD MAASUSHA/BRAHMANA JANMA AND HAVING LEARNT VEDAS YOU ARE WAISTING YOUR TIME ONLY IN WORLDLY PLEASURES. WHY DON’T YOU REALISE THAT.” These words uttered by Sri. Pisharodi before his students had a telling effect on him. The great Achyuta Pisharadi scolded him in the presence of his students for his irreligious life .It touched his heart very much and as a result,he then and there accepted Achyuta Pisharadi as his Guru.He learnt from him Sanskrit Grammar.This was a turning point in Bhattatiri's life.His outlook in life changed completely and he became a serious student.
During this time Achyuta Pisharadi fell a victim to a severe attack of paralysis and suffered unbearable pain.Bhattatiri, the devoted disciple could not breathe suffering of his Guru.He, therefore, fervently prayed that the disease may be transferred to him and his Guru freed of suffering. Bhattatiri accepted the "Karmavipaka Dana"by which the sins of his Guru were transferred to him.It happened as he wantedand soon while Pisharadi recovered,the disease made Bhattatiri a cripple.A "Bhajanam" in the temple of Guruvayoorwas considered as a sure cure for paralysis and so Bhattatiri went to Guruvayoor for 100 days of "Bhajanam"along with his younger brother, Mathrudatta.Before he went the famous Malayalam writerTunchat Ezhuthachan advised him "to start with the fish".Bhattathiri understood the inner meaning of this advice.He wrote the famous hymn "Narayaneeyam"describing the Avatars of Vishnu starting with "fish",i.e. Matsya Avatar.
He chose to write poetry eulogizing the Glory of the Lord Narayana. His Sankalpam was to write in brief the entire Vyasa’s Sri mad Bhagavatham which contained 18000 slokas. As he was a scholar in Rig Veda he chose to write his poetry with different chandas/swara / meters and with each block containing 10 slokas in general.Though with enthusiasm he completed the first two dasakams, his crippling disease prevented him from continuing. It is reported that his young brother- Sri. Matru Dattan Namboodiri who was nursing him, helped him in writing/copying the slokas. From the third Dasakam onwards in each of the Dasakam Sri. Bhattathiri’s prayer to God to cure his disease can be seen. As per his sankalpam in first 36 dasakams he covered the first IXth chapters of the Srimad Bhagavatham. From 37 onwards up to 90 Dasakams he covered the Dasama Skandam ( Krishna Avatara Katha). From the 91 Dasakams he covered XIth Skandam of the epic which contain Uddava Tatwa Upadesa, Jnana/Bakthi/Karma Yogas/Vaishnava Mahatwam/ Brahmopasanam etc etc. In fact he has covered the entire XI th chapter so nicely, precisely in a condensed form without omitting any of the important explanations, this Chapter XI of Bhagavatham and the last 10 dasakams of the Narayaneeyam are worth reading and emulating in once life as far as possible.
Sri. Bhattathiri, completed condensed version of the Srimad Bhagavatham in 100 days in 1034 slokas. As soon as he completed this beautiful Sanskrit literary work with all the ingredients such as Sthoola/Sooshma meanings, Roopa, Bhava, different Chandas and Sabdha Silpams etc. and submitted to the Lord of Guruvayur -- During the hundred days of his Bhajanam at the temple of Guruvayoor he summarized the entire Bhagavata Purana in 1034 versesat the rate of one Dasaka consisting generally of ten verses everyday.Each Dasaka ended with a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayoor to cure him of his illness.Sri. Guruvayurappan- it is reported that Sri. Narayana Bhattathiri had a vision of the Lord. On the hundredth day he had a vision of the Lord in the form of Venugopala.The 100th canto composed on that day gives a graphic description of this form of the Lordf rom the head to the foot.Seeing the Lord before him he chanted the last 10 slokas glorifying His each and every part of body which is called KESADI PAADA VARNANA.
We understand that he got cured of his disease after completion of this Kavya. He named this as Naarayaneeyam as it was written by him and second as it is about the Lord Narayana. This Great Kavya of Naarayaneeyam was completed by him in 100 days at the age of 27, in the year 1587. That day was 27th day of Vruchikam month corresponding to ( Karthika Masa) . On that day he became completely cured of his disease.This immortal composition, Narayaneeyam,is so named for two reasons as mentioned by the poet himself in the 100th canto.It is about Lord Narayana and secondlybecause it was composed by Narayana Bhattatiri.These episodes are now being presented again by yet another Narayana!
Sri. Bhattathiri’s end came in the year 1646 at the age of 86. while praying at Mukkola Bagavathi Temple.
The ‘Parayana' of Narayaneeyam is believed to possess the wonderful power of healing afflictions, both mental and physical, of the devotees. The personal experiences of the poet himself have proved this beyond doubt. The "Nithyaparayana” of Narayaneeyam will enable the devotees to attain " Ayurarogyasoukhyam”.