There are some scholars who consider that the murthi was not declared as that of Vishnu at the time of Ramanuja, but it was so even before him. Such scholars consider that the Venkatachala Itihas Mala is a book of fables. Our interest in this book is limited to show the acts done by Ramanuja in Tirumalai and Tirupati.
Is it a book of fables?
T.K.T.Veer Ragavachary is one of those who consider so. He observes:
"The other book of some facts and more fables and untruths is the Itihas Mala on which Dr. S. Krishna Swami Aiyangar based some reliance, but soon found that it defied facts and historical dates. This book relates mainly to the activities of Shri Ramanuja. Palm leaf books have been more successfully tampered with than would be possible with printed books." [Raghavacharya: I,39]
Every palm leaf text is not to be discarded
Just because it is a palm leaf book, it need not be discarded. The best course would be to see if there is any additional evidence to corroborate the palm leaf text and base the judgment on it.
Scheme of Venkatachala Itihas Mala
S.Krishna Swami Aiyangar had to say:
"Of the seven divisions of the work, Sri Venkatachala Itihas Mala, the first three sections or Stabakas, as they are called, are concerned with the discussion as to the Vaishnava character of the image. The remaining four stabakas are taken up with what Ramanuja did for the temple, and, after him, his disciple Anantraya. Since the inscriptions of the next following century do mention the gardens and other features named after Ramanuja and Anantraya, we may take it that Ramanuja's doings there and Anantaraya's presence are matters which need not be regarded as historically doubtful..." [Aiyangar: I,150]
Activities of Ramanuja as mentioned in VIM.
The following are some of the important actions done by Ramanuja, as given in the Itihas Mala. [Aiyangar: I,150]
He published the Yadavaraja's award that the shrine was a Vishnu shrine, performed the initial purificatory rite of the great ablution of the temple and restored the rituals of worship as per Vaikhanasa Agama, repaired the tower over the temple, according to Vaikhanasa Agama, put around the neck of the God, a necklet of image of Padmavati, arranged weekly ablutions, and face mark Urdhwa Pundra.
He performed purificatory cermony of Vaishnava initiation to descendants of early Vaikhanasa priest Bhimbhadra and entrusted them the work of worship. He installed images of Alvaras at the foot of the hill in shrine of Govindaraja. He built temple of Govindaraja at the foot of the hill, got made from Yadavraja an Agrahara round this temple and Tirupati. Nambi and Anantraya were invited to reside at lower Tirupati.
He installed image of Goda, and started two new festivals, restored two wells and got divine sanction for use of this water. He arranged for gold Naga jewels on both hands of Lord and made Narashimha shrine within the walls of temple.
He arranged for footmarks of the Lord, halfway up the hill, and made ita place of worship as even the chandalas were allowed to go there and offer worship after bath in a tank called Chandala Tirtha. He installed images of Rama and Sita, enforced the worship of Varaha to thake place before that of Venkatesa and arranged for garlands to Vishvakshena.
After Tirumalai Nambi passed away, Ramanuja instituted a festival in his honour, made regulations about stay at Tirupati, appointed a bachelor superintendent and during his last visit, he gave 2 or 3 assistants to the Superintendent from disciples of Anantraya, advised Yadavraja to see to the affairs of the temple according to the advice of Anantraya and left finally for Srirangam.
Time of Ramanuja's visit
S.Krishnaswami Aiyangar observes:
"...the Venkatachala Itihas Mala states that while Ramanuja was still in Tirupati, news of removal of images of Govindaraja in the Govindaraja shrine in Chidambaram reached Tirupati. ...For this event a precise dating is possible... So about 1135 A.D.ought to be the time ...(from three separated works of the poet Ottakhuttar.)" [Aiyangar: I,144]
Yadavaraya, who heard Vaishnava's case was Ghattideva
"...we may take it safely that it was this Ghattideva, the feudatory of both Vikrama Chola and Kulottunga II,that was actually the Yadavaraya who called in the assistance of Ramanuja to settle the dispute in the Tirupati temple. ..." [Aiyangar: I,146]
Fear of Saivite Chola monarchs claimed to be cause of absence of inscriptions
Though all these works were done by Yadavaraya in consulatation with Ramanuja, he did not put any inscriptions. Why? We are told:
"...as he might have felt such a thing might have been displeasing to the sovereign, who showed himself to be an enthusiastic follower of Saivism personally, and what is really more, what he did to the Vishnu temple both at Tirupati on the hill, and the town below, were acts which might have been regarded as going against some of the acts of suzerain...the Yadavaraya felt shy that these acts of his may not be actively approved at the headquarters. ..." [Aiyangar: I,147]
Account in VIM.is well corroborated by inscriptions
That Dr.S.Krishna Aiyangar observes:
"...the details given in the Sri Venkatachala Itihas Mala, which though compiled laterseems more or less to reflect the actual existing institutions in the temple since then. That Ramanuja was there as well as Anandalvar, and that the principal flower garden made by Anandalvar was given the name Ramanuja, appear in evidence in inscriptions just a few generations, two or three, after Ramanuja in inscriptional just a few generations, two or three, after Ramanuja in inscriptional records. Full provision was made for the recitation of the Prabhandhas, and the celebration given of an Adhyayana Utsava as in Srirangam. Some of the details of it such as the Tiruppavai utsava on the hill shrine, and the shrine to Goda in the Govindaraja shrine appear in inscriptional records of the Yadavaraya and others. ...? [Aiyangar: I, 200]
Murthi was without weapons before Ramanuja is a historical fact
Not withstanding the miracles, the account of Venkatachala Itihas Mala is thus corroborated in the inscriptional records of the period which followed by a few generations.
Dr.S.Krishna Swami Aiyangar observes:
"...Even where they are miracles, the institutions based on them remain...in less than a century of time, some of these institutions get to be in inscriptional records in parts of the Tirupati temple which may not be altogether late structures, ...The Venkatachala Itihas mala seems to be a work composed at a period much later than Ramanuja, it may be;but even so, it records the traditions comming down to the time, and, at the very best, it would be a mere effort at explaining the institutions that actually existed in the temple. So the institutions were there, whether the origin of these had anything miraculous to support it or not..." [Aiyangar: I, 159 ff.]
Thus it could be noted well that the fact of Lord accepting the weapons of Vishnu, may be considered by devotees as a miracle, but the fact that the image was without weapons before Ramanuja and the weapons are present since his times is a historical fact.