Well, this incident happened in Hampi or Vijayanagar sometime in the early years of the 16th Century.
Hampi was one of the greats cities of its time and its fame had spread far and wide. Foreign travelers and historians made a beeline to Hampi and went into raptures describing the beauty of the city.
The glory of Hampi was not only due to the deeds of the Vijayanagar Emperors but also due to the unmatched growth in art, literature, religion and philosophy.
One of the shining lights of the Vijayanagar period Was Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha. Almost all the foreign travelers such as Nuniz, Domingo Peas and even Razak have spoken glowingly of this seer and his achievements.
Vyasa Raja had gathered a galaxy of shishyas each outdoing the other. Some of the Shiashyas were Vijendra Theertha, Sudhindra Theertha, Vadiraja Theertha, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Vaikunta Dasa and many others.
If Purandara was the master of Carnatic music, Vadiraja Theertha was God personified. Vijendra Theertha was an embodiment of the 64 arts.
Many of the disciples, including the above mentioned greats met Vyasa Theertha, also called Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Raya at Hampi.
On one particular occasion, Vysaa Raja asked all his disciples to get together. The meeting took place at the Vijayanagar Vishwa Vidyalaya, of which Vyasa Raja was the Chancellor.
Even as the gathering watched, Vyasa Raja called all the three-Vadiraja Theertha, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa- and discussed some aspects of the shastras and Vedas with them. The gathering was spell bound as they realized that they had in their midst four persons who had seen Sri Hari with their own eyes.
It was then Vyasa Raja revealed a side he had never before shown anybody. Turning to Vadiraja Theertha, he said you will continue to live for many more years. (Vadiraja Theetha outlived Vyasa Raja and entered Brindavana only in 1600. By the way, Vyasa Raja entered Brindavana in 1536).
He then spoke lovingly to Purandara his favourite disciple. He said, Purandara you shall live longer than me but you have sic more births to go before attaining Moksha.
Vyasa Raja then astonished the gathering by telling Kanaka Dasa that he would meet him in the next birth. Vyasa Raja had given the Ankita Nama Kanaka to Thimappa Nayaka.
This was the first indication that Vyasa Raja gave to his devotees about his coming avatar as Raghavendra Swamy.
Vyasa Raja passed away in 1536 and took rebirth as Raghavendra Swamy in 1571.
By then, Purandara had died (in 1564 in Hampi) and Vadiraja Theertha was staying at Sode near Sirsi. Kanaka Dasa was wandering around Karnataka and other places singing the glory of Hari. He died in 1609.
Raghavendra Swamy once came to Bellary and stayed at a Hanuman Temple on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Rayarui went to the river and had a bath. He then was about to enter the temple for performing the Moola Rama pooje when he noticed a person belonging to a lower caste standing nearby..
Rayaru looked at the person and spoke as if he had known him all his life.
“What, Kanaka. How are you. What are you doing here”, asked Rayaru.
The person called Kanaka relied. “I am as you see me. We meet again. I do not want to live anymore. I should be allowed to leave.”
Rayaru smiled at the answer and retorted, “If so what will you offer to my lord”.
The person said he would bring something and vanished from the place. He came back and gave a packet to Rayaru. The packet has mustard seeds, he said.
Rayaru did not say anything but handed over the packet to the cook and asked him to use it for the day’s cooking. This astonished everybody present there as it was Chaturmasa (October to January) and mustard seeds were Nishida or banned.
All the while, the person sat outside the temple watching the proceedings. When Rayaru finished the Moola Rama Pooje, he turned towards the person who then burst into a melodious song praising Moola Rama.
The moment the song ended. The person gave up his life and fell down dead. Even as the other devotees stood around the body anxiously, Rayaru did not show any emotion. Instead, he smiled and said, “You have attained salvation or Moksha. Peace be with you.”
The perplexed devotes did not understand. It was then some persons in the matha where Rayaru was staying confirmed that Rayaru was Vyasa Theertha in his previous birth and he had just met Kanaka Dasa as a low caste person and helped him attain Moksha.
One of the eye witnesses to this entire episode was Krishna Swamy, a businessman.
Vyasa Raja had ruled over the Dharmic kingdom of Vijayanagar. However, Vijayanagar was shattered after the battle of Talikota in 1565. When Raghavendra Swamy visited Hampi, Nava Brindavana and Hospet, the Vijayanagar empire had practically vanished from the scene and all he saw was utter ruin and desolation.
Yet, not for a moment or even a day did Raghavendra Swamy allude to his glories during his past incarnation as Vyasa Raja. The only physical evidence he gave to his disciples was when he sat and meditated in front of the Brindavana of Vyasa Raja in Nava Brindavana.
The devotees could not contain their curiosity and some among them wanted to know why the venerable Vyasa was visible only to their Guru. It was then Raghavendra revealed that he was born as Vyasa Raja in his previous incarnation and he was only speaking to him.