Archive | December 2012

The Dwitheeya and Trutheeya Mantralaya

This small town in recent years had achieved fame as Dwithieya Mantralaya. The town has an interesting history. During the period of the Vijayanagar Emperors, this town was famous for selling gold and gold coins on its streets, Hence, its name Honalli.
Honalli today is a small town, 50 kms from Shimoga. It is located in Davangere district. The town has many religious institutions and maths but the most famous is the Raghavendra Swamy Matha.
The matha is set amongst picturesque surroundings on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Incidentally, Mantralaya too is on the banks of the Tungabhadra.
The matha has given Honalli the name Dwitheya Mantralaya as it is believed that Raghavendra Swamy himself came and did the pratisthapane of the Brindavana.
The Brindavana here is believed to be more than 300 years old.
The people who wanted to construct a Raghavendra Matha were coming in a procession from Mantralaya, carrying the Mrithike from the Moola Brindavana. The people saw an aged person in holy robes going into the matha and never returning. He is believed to be Raghavendra Swamy.
Even today, you can see the Thate (plate), Hanuman idol and other paraphernila that Rayaru himself brought to Honnali. All these things can be seen before 9 a.m., every morning.       
The contact mobile telephone number for Honnali matta  is 9880917328 (Sri Raghavendra). He is very helpful.
The matha has seven rooms and also a Kalyana Mantapa for performing functions. It is advisable to call up the matha if you want Theertha Prasada and accommodation. The matha will take care of all your pooja and seve arrangements.
Apart from the Raghavendra Swamy temple, Honnali has several religious structures. The Tuggalahalli Temple and Thirtha Rameshwar temple of Shiva are worth a visit.
The moola Brindavana of Bidarahalli Sreenivasa Theertha (1590-1640), a sanyasi of the Uttaradhi Matha, is also located here.  Bidarahalli Srinivasa Theertha was a contemporary of Rayaru and he was a noted Madhwa scholar. Raghavendra Swamy met Bidarahalli Srinivasacharya in Bidarahalli near here and appreciated his works. It is from the time of Srinivasacharya that the Rayaru Matha uses mustard during Chaturmasa. This story is too well-known to bear any repetition here.
It is believed that in his later avatar he became Jagannatha Dasaru, the author of  Sri Harikathaamrutasara.
Some of the important works of Srinivasacharya are Srimanyaayasudha, Tatvaprakashika,  Dashaprakaranateeka, Pramanapaddati, Bhagavatha and  Rugbhashya.
Honnali is noted for its holiness and its temples even before the establishment of the Rayaru temple. One of the Madhwa saints, Vadiraja Theertha, in his Theertha Prabanda says, “
Maa yaahi pushkara mahee mathavaa
Prayaagam Kaasheem Gayaam
Badharikaashramamapya saadhyam
Sethu cha Raaghavakrutham
vara Thunga Bhadhraa Theera
Sthapippaalaham harimehi sidhdhai”
What Vadiraja means is that instead of going with difficulty to places like Kashi, Gaya, Prayag (Ahallabad) and Badari, you can come to the Tungabhadra and it will give you the same sanctity and holiness.
The Tungabhadra flows right in front of the Matha. You can take bath there and perform seve or pooje at the matha. Kooldi is near Honnali. This is the place where the Tunga meets the Bhadra.  
By the way, the Udugani Sri Raghavendra Swami Mutt, which is considered to be the Trutheeya Mantralaya is near Shikaripura in Shimoga district. Shikarapura is near to Honalli.
People will tell you that after Rayaru disappeared into the Garba Gudi at the Honnali Rayara Matha, he came next to Udugani with the same set of articles and once again disappeared into the Garba Gudi, never to be seen again.    
Udugani is also the birthplace of Akka Mahadevi, the famous Vachana poetess and a woman saint. The temple town of Balligavi is nearby.
It is just seven kms from Shikaripura.
There are Rayara Muthas at Shimoga, Bhadravathi, Hosanagara, Teerthahalli and Davangere ofcourse.

Honnali is taluk headquarters and reaching the town is easy. If you are going by road, go first to Shimoga and from there Hobnnali is nearby.
You can also take the railway route.Peole from Bangalore and Mysor will have to get down at Harihar and take a bus from there to Hoinnali. The bus stand at Harihar is adjacent t the Railway station and there are plenty of buses leaving for Shimoga via Honnali.
The distance from Harihar to Honnali can be covered in 45 minutes. The Janashatabdi Express and several other trains stop at Harihar.


The saint who vanished into a tree

The aradhane of one of the most important seers of the Raghavendra Swamy Matha just concluded. The second seer to occupy the post of the Sri Matha after its founder Vibhudendra Theertha, he did not enter the Brindavana alive or dead. He vanished into thin air after the swirling waters of the Krishna covered him.
Known as Jitamitra, he was the head of the Sri Matha for a short time-from 1490 to 1493. However, this duration was enough to place the fledgling Sri Matha on a firm footing. 
The Aradhane of  Jitamitra Theertha was celebrated on December 24. It is believed that in his next avavtar Jitamitra Theertha became Sudhindra Theertha-the Guru of Raghavendra Theertha or Raghavendra Swamy, while his Guru-Vibhudendra Theertha took avatara as Vijendra Theertha.
Jitendra Theertha had visited Bichale during one of his visits and he planted the Gum tree or Gona (in Kannada Gone means Gum) which in later years Appancharya made use of to cook rice. Though the tree was destroyed by the floods of the Tungabhadra river in 2009, a sapling of the original tree still exists.
Once Jitamitra Theertha was teaching his students in December 1493 at a place now known as Jitamitra Gadde, 32 kms from Raichur Krishna-Bheema river basin in Shivapura of Shahapur Taluk in Gulbarga district.
The Krishna was then in floods and the water level suddenly rose, inundating several areas. The students and others ran away, leaving Jitamitra Theertha behind. Soon, the seer was engulfed by the flood waters and for a week the waters never receded.
On the seventh day, when the waters receded, the disciples, students and others were astounded to see Jitamitra Theertah still sitting under the tree. When they went near, they found the seer was not wet and that his body remained bone dry.   
He subsequently disappeared from the very place into the Gum tree and today there is a memorial at the spot denoting the place. There is, however, no brindavana for Jitamitra Theertha.
He is the fourth Madhwa saint after Madhwacharya and his brother Visnhu Theertha of Sode and Subramanya Matha and Brahamnye Theertha of Vyasaraja Matha to disappear.
Today the tree still stands and it is worshipped. The area around it is called Jitamitra Gadde, as small island which is approachable from Raichur and Gulbarga. 
Jitamitra Theertha’s Poorvashrama name was Ananthappa.
He had lost his father at a very young age and the responsibility of bringing him up fell on his sister who had become a widow. The upanayana of Ananthappa was conducted when he was eight.
He assisted his sister in grazing cattle, ploughing the fields and sowing seeds in Shivapura, a small village in Gulbarga district.
They both together worked in their fields to make ends meet.
Every morning, Anantappa performed  sandhyavandana and other poojas. He then joined his sister in the fields.  Since he had to work, he took out the sacred thread-Janavara- and hung it on a tree.
Once Vibhudendra Theertha happened to pass by and he noticed Ananthappa. When told the boy was a Brahmin, the seer asked Anantappa where his sacred thread was.
Ananthappa replied that he had hung the thread back home as he had to plough the field.  Vibudendra Theertha then taught the boy the importance of never removing the sacred thread.
He then visited the house of Ananthappa and spent time there. He performed the pooje of Moola Rama and gave daily discourses.
After some time, he gave a Narasimha saligrama to Ananthappa and asked him to worship it.
By then, Vibhudendra Theertha realised that Ananthappa was none other than an avatar of  Rudra. After Vibhudendra Theertha left his house, Ananthappa regularly performed Saligrama pooje.
When he performed the Saligrama pooje the first time, he offered Naivedya to the Saligrama. When the Saligrama did not take the Naivedya, an angry Ananthappa decided to hit himself with the Saligrama.
When there was no response, he began hitting his head with the Saligrama. The Saligrama then opened its mouth and ate the Naiveidya. Soon this became a regular routine.
Ananthappa first offered food to the Saligrama. Only then would Ananthappa and his sister eat  
Meanwhile, Vibudendra Theertha who had gone on sanchara to  north India came back to Shivapura. When the seer was told about the Saligrama accepting food, he decided that he had found the right disciple to hand over the ashrama.
Vibudendra Theertha then gave sanyasashrama and the Samstana box to Anantappa and named him as Jitamitra Theertha. He then entered Brindavana at Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu.
There are many miracles associated with Jitamitra Theertha.
If you are coming from Raichur, get down at the railway station and Jitamitra Gadde is 50 kms away. You can either take a bus or rail. The Intercity Express leaves Raichur at 7 a.m. Get down at Saidapur station (Narayanapet Road) and take an auto or vehicle from here. Take the Mungal – Sangwar -Kondapur -Joladagi barrage/ bridge – Gwanal –Shivapur route and you will stop at  Jitamitra Gadde. The distance from Saidapur station is  approximately 30 km.
For bus route from Raichur take the Gabbur- Googal Bridge / Barrage- Bendegambli- Shivapur route which ends at  Jitamitra Gadde. The distance is approximately 80 km.

The underground temple of Rayaru

There is only one underground temple dedicated to Raghavendra Swamy and that is more than eighty years old. This temple was built in the heartland of the Deccan and the capital of the Adil Shahis.
The temple is in Bijapur and this year it celebrated its 82nd year of Prathistapane. The Brindavana was conceived by Raghuprema Theertha  as per the shastras laid out by Madhwacharya.
Raghuprema Theertha belonged to the Kudli Akshoba Theertha Matha. He was born in Ayachoti village in Kadapa district to Tungabai and  Swamirayacharya in 1860 A.D. He entered Brindavana in 1943.
According to Pavamanachar, the priest of the Raghavendra Swamy Temple of Bijapur, Raghuprema Theertha, had decided to enter Brindavana at this very place. He, however, changed his mind after Rarayu came in his dreams. The then Tahsildar Gundu Rao decided to go ahead with the construction of the temple and consecrate the Brindavana of Rayaru here.
Some old timers and contemporaray texts on the life and times of Raghu Prema Theertha have a slightly different account of the events leading to the establishment of the temple.  They say two residents of Bijapur, Perur Gundu Rao and Dr. Govinda Rao along with others came to Adoni where Raghu Prema Theertha was staying and sought his help to tide over their problems.
The Seer decided to visit Bijapur and personally look into the problems of the people there. He suggested that all the families would benefit if a Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy were to be constructed.
Both Mr, Gundu Rao and Dr. Govinda Rao agreed to the suggestion and Raghu Prema Theertha himself suggested that the Brindavana be installed underground and steps be provided to reach it.
Raghu Prema Theertha himself designed the plan and structure of the temple as per Madhwacharya’s  Tantrasara Sangraha Grantha. This granta deals with aspects such as architecture of temple construction, the rituals to be performed and the steps needed to invest the place with holiness and sanctity.
The Brindavana came up in a record time of 6 months and it was inaugurated in 1930.
This temple is in a locality called Jorapur Peth which is on Bableshwar road. There are a flight of 23 steps that lead underground to the Brindavana dedicated to Rayaru. Almost all but the last step is one foot in height.
There is a small well behind the Brindavana. The wall of the Garba Gudi housing the Brindavana and the well share the same wall. Water for the Pooje, abhisheka is taken from the well. The well is at a lower level than the Brindavana too and it has never run dry despite Bijapur being one of the driest places in the country.
Mr. Pavamanachar says the Brindavana is at least 23 feet below ground level. He says only the pooje is performed underground. The hall for partaking Theertha Prasada, rest rooms and a small hall are built overground.
He says the underground chamber is so cool that flowers such as Mallige and rose will not wither for two to three days. He says the present owners of the matha, who are the descendents of Gundu Rao,  have undertaken several developmental works.
He says the owners even tried to get the roof of the underground chamber housing the Brindavana repaired. However, almost all the engineers who inspected the roof said nothing could be done as it is an engineering marvel and it is better not to tamper with it.
He says the Brindavana has been constructed in such a manner that it is completely visible from the top of the stairs.    
The temple here is known for many miracles. Mr. Pavamanachar has a list of almost all the miracles that Rayaru performed here from the Brindavana.
There are three other Rayara mathas in Bijapur but this is the oldest. However, the oldest Madhwa matha is at Mahipathi Galli which is about two kms from this place. It has the Samadhi or Brindavana of one of the seers belonging to the Uttaradhi Matha. There is also an Uttaradhi Matha here.              
 The other Rayara mathas in Bijapur are at Divatageri Galli near Station Road (Ph No: 08352-220300) and at the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Matha on Bagalkot Road (08352-277322). However, this Rayaru Matha at Jorapur Peth is the only underground matha in India.
Interestingly, this is among the two underground temples in Bijapur. The other underground temple is in Torvi and it is dedicated to Narasimha. This deity is called Torvi Narasimha. This is the exact place where Kumara Valmiki wrote the Torvi Ramayana.
Torvi is on the outskirts of Bijapur. It is near to Navaraspur, the city of music which was planned by Ibrahim Adil Shah and left unfinished. The 63 graves of the wives of the Bijaour General Afzal Khan are also near Torvi.
I have personally visited the Rayara Matha at Jorapur Peth and the Narasimha Temple in Torvi. I can vouch for the sanctity and holiness of both the temples.
Bijapur is a city with history. It is the home of Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rouza. You can take a train or bus from Bangalore. The Basava express leaves Bangalore in the evening and reaches Bijapur the next morning. Buses leave in the night and reach Bijaour in the morning. There are many lodges in Bijapur which offer a reasonable level of accommodation.
Stay back at Bijapur and Kolhapur (Maha Lakshmi Temple), Pandhrapur (Panduranga Vittala) and Tulzapur (Amba Bhavani) from here. Take in a visit to Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Banashankari-which has temples by the Chalukyas and Yelgur which has a beautiful temple of Anjeneya. The small town of Talikota is near Bijapur. It is here that the decisive battle between the Muslim kings and Vijayanagar was fought in 1565. Almatti dam is one of the biggest in Karnataka. Its twin town Seethimani is associated with Seetha and Ramayana.  

A day in the life of Raghavendra

There have been reams of  print and now television and video footage on the life, times and miracles of Raghavendra Swamy, the Bard of Mantralaya and the Kalpavriksha Kamadhenu of Kailyuga.
Much is known about the “Mahime” of Rayaru as he is affectionately called. His works are classics, his miracles all encompassing and his Brindavana a source of inspiration and devotion to one and all.
When I began reading books on Raghavendra Swamy and the contemporary accounts of this great seer, I slowly realised that apart from being a gentle and humane person, he was a true task master and he set himself high standards which he, however, easily breached.
Whether in private life or in public, Raghavendra always radiated calm and peace, scholastic demeanor and even temperament. I went  through the sayings of his cook who accompanied him on his many travels and also books such as Raghavendra Vijaya and family accounts and found out that he practiced what he preached.
Once he took up Sanyasa, the life of Raghavendra underwent a sea change. He devoted more and more time to training and teaching disciples, writing books and debating with scholars.
He kept up a punishing schedule which he followed even when he went on tour. Whether it was Kumbakonam where he spent his formative years as a Sanyasi under the guidance of Sudhindra Theertha or Bikshalaya or Bicchale where he spent 13 years, his schedule was almost the same.
I take this opportunity to write a few words on the daily life of our beloved Rararu in Kumbakonam. Please remember that there is perhaps no eyewitness account and the events have to be pierced together from different sources. The most authentic source continues to remain Raghavendra Vijaya. Another book is by Korti Sreenivasa Rao.
One indisputable aspect that we can reconstruct from the daily life is that Raghavendra Swamy was always at hand to help those in distress, teach his Shishyas, bless his devotes, write books and commentaries in his clear and lucid style and  spread the message of Dwaitha Siddhanta (philosophy).  
Raghavendra Swamy enjoyed a busy schedule and this part deals with his daily life in Kumbakonam. He had just been anointed the successor of the Sri Matha by Sudhindra Theertha and he had taken charge of the Matha and its affairs.
Sudhindra Theertha had entered Brindavana at Nava Brindavana in Hampi and Raghavendra had come back after personally overseeing the arrangements at Nava Brindavana. Sudhindra Thertha himself had asked Raghavendra to take charge of the arrangements for his final journey and Rayaru had done it.
At Kumbakonam Matha (now it is called the Vijendra Theertha Matha. It has several areas associated with Raghavendra Swamy and the priests and matha officials will be happy to tell you), Rayaru would get up much before dawn.
Hr would then commence his daily routine with a prayer to his Moola Rama and Hanuman. He would read the sacred texts and then come out of the room to see the devotees and matha officials who had already queued up for a darshan of  Rayaru.
He would meet the devotees and accept their offerings and bless them. While the devotees went back satisfied, Rayaru would head to the Tulasi Thota (Garden of Tulasi) in the matha. Here he would pray to Goddess Lakshmi and Prana Devaru.
Rayaru then got into the palanquin and set out to Cauvery river which is a short way from the Sri Matha. (Even today, some people of  Kumbakonam can guide you to the route that Rayaru to the Cauvery) All along the way, Rayaru would be reciting Gajendra Moksha Shloka.
( Gajendra Moksha is one of Shkolas in the Bhagavath Geetha. It is believed that if anyone recites this early morning, it can give us the same power as the Vishnu Sahasranama. This sloka deals with the episode of the crocodile and the elephent).
The palanquin with Rayaru and some of his followers would reach the banks of Cauvery. (This spot can still be seen in Kumbakonam).The palanquin would be gently lowered and the palanquin bearers would step back with respect. Rayaru would emerge with the sacred beads in his hands and a prayer on his lips.
He would then walk towards the Cauvery for his daily ritualistic bath. He would put mud on his hands and feet and wash it away in the Cauvery.
Then would begin the sacred bath. He would chant the name of Narayana thrice and sprinkle water over his head.He would also offer Argya to his beloved gods. He would chant Shadakshara and Dwadasha mantras. Rayaru would then step out of the Cauvery and wear a fresh set of clothes. These clothes would be washed a day earlier and hung out to dry.
Rayaru would sit down and anoint himself with the Gopichandana. Raghavendra Vijaya gives a beautiful account of the bathing scene, the Cauvery and Rayaru appearing from the water. It also speaks of how Rayaru looked after putting on the Gopichandana.
Now would come the Gayatri Mantra Japa and Pranava Mantra.He would then walk upto a small platform near the rover side where an idol of Narayan was placed. He would worship the idol with water and honey in the prescribed manner.
The next ritual was the pooje and Namaskara to the Brindavana of  Vijendra Theertha. This saint was the teacher of  Sudhindra Theertha. After spending some time at this Brindavana, Rayaru would walk to the Sri Matha,
On the way was the temple of Kumbeshwara, which is the presiding deity of  Kumbakonam, Rayaru would pray here and then move to the Sri Matha. His walk to the Sri Matha was heralded by the blowing of conch shell, beating of drums and playing of Nadaswara.
People lined up on both sides of the street to watch Rayaru walk with his wooden Padukes.The brisk walk of Rayaru elicited the admiration of one and all.
He would walk into the matha even as hundreds of people were waiting to see him. After meeting them, Rayaru would start the daily academic calendar with Bramasutra Bhashya. An expert on this subject, the audience listened spellbound to his commentary and interpretation of the Bhashya. (Pleas remember that in his earlier avatar as Vyasa Theertha, he was considered to be an expert on the Bhashya). He would also give a discourse on the Upanishads,
These discourses would go on till afternoon. Rayaru also took on scholars for a debate during this time. He would ask his disciples to reflect on what they had learnt from his discourse.
Next would be the afternoon rituals. Rayaru would now proceed to the tank adjoining the Sri Matha for the afternoon bath. He would then start performing the pooja to his favourite Moola Rama Devaru. This was an elaborate ritual and it included performing Abhisheka to the Saligramas and to Lord Rama and other deities of  the Matha.               
Rayaru would then take Theertha and do Mangalarthi to the deities. Naivaidya would be offered to the god and Rayaru would head to a small room in the matha for his frugal food.
Afternoons after lunch would be devoted to discourses and teaching his disciples grammar and logic.
The evening pooje commenced after a bath at the tank. Rayaru would perform Abhisheka to the Saligramas  He then offered milk and fruits to Moola Rama and other deities. He also lit the camphor for the deities himself.
It was now time for his Shishyas to lead Rayaru onto a small but decorated stage in the matha. There was a white umbrella placed to cover the elevated seat on which Rayaru sat. People would gather in large numbers to hear and listen to the words of Rayaru.
Once this was over, the people would disperse and Rayaru would retire to his room and continue with his reading. It was also around  this time that he wrote his works.             
Let me interpolate one aspect here After every bath, Raghavendra Swamy performed Sandhavandhana. Only after Sandhavandhana did he perform other poojes.
During his prayers to Rama, Raghavendra often lost himself in a trance and sang Indu Yenage Govinda. He was an  accomplished veena player as was his father and grandfather.
This routine of Raghavendra did not change when he was on tour or when he went on Sanchara. The only change was that when on tours, he would honour scholars who had impressed him in debates with cash prizes.
Though he toured extensively, Rayaru rarely ,if ever, deviated from his set schedule. This routine too remained unchanged when he settled down for 13 years at Bhikshalaya or Bichale near Mantralaya. The onloy difference was that Appanacharya personally cooked food for Rararu and prepared Naivaidya for Moola Rama Devaru and other gods.
If you happen to visit Kumbakonam, pleas edo not miss the Vijendra Theertha Matha, It is here that Ragjhavendra Swamy spent his early years as a Sanyas.
There are idols of Krishna and Hanuman which he worshipped. There is also a place near the Brindavana of  Vijendra Theertha from where he gave discourses on Brahmasutra Bhashya. The idol of Lakshmi Marayana was installed in the matha by Sripadaraja, another great saint of the Madhwa order.
Rayaru worshipped all these idols daily.   
                        Credit-Blog Samyuktha Harshitha     

Finding a needle in a haystack

Grandfather was a doctor in Mysore and he was one of the best during his time. He had a clinic which was called Lokamba pharmacy.
He was a devotee of Raghavendra Swamy and he always had a prayer or song on Rayaru on his lips. He had practically retired from the profession in the 1980s and he spent his time in reading and writing about Raghavendra Swamy.
He always hummed some lines about Raghavendra Swamy. A great sport, he played Chowka Bara with his grandchildren and his daughter-in-law.
He was fond of  good food and he himself took pains to grind Hittu for Idli and Dosa. In those times, there were no mixers and grinders and the batter (Hittu) had to be manually ground on a grind stone.
His house was always an open house and scores of relatives came, stayed and went. He was hospitable to all of them and always ordered dosas from the nearby Raju Hotel, which was one of the best hotels in Mysore.   
One day in 1982, grandfather was shaving in the morning when he uttered a loud cry.  When his family members rushed to him, he was in pain and he was not able to lift his hand.
He was rushed to hospital where he was diagnosed with bone cancer. The diagnosis was a shock to the family members as he had always been healthy and he had never shown any symptom of any disease.
Further diagnosis revealed another shock. The cancer had spread too far and cure was almost nill. The doctors, however, decided to do what bet they could to save a life.
One of the daughters-in-law of the doctor decided to do seve to Raghavendra Swamy. She did the seve with utmost devotion and madi. She prayed for her father-in-law to be cured of the dreaded disease.
On night, she had a dream in which Rayaru appeared and asked her to find out a needle which had fallen in a haystack. Get me the needle and I will cure the doctor, he said.
The daughter-in-law understood that the disease had spread beyond any cure and even Rayaru could not reverse the irreversible. She, however, continued the seve for the duration which she had promised Rayaru.
Days passed by and the doctor began sinking, No amount of medicine seems to help and he was admitted to KR Hospital. He spent the last few days of his life shuttling between his home and hospital. Although in deep pain, he never was depressed and took things as they came.
He had a deep love for his two brothers. While one of them was in Mysore, the other was in Bangalore. He held on to his life till his brother from Bangalore, also a doctor, came.
The moment his brother from Bangalore came, he was told about it. The doctor turned his head towards the door and tried to look at his brother. That was the last action as he slid into permanent slumber.