The enchanting Bichale

What can one say about Bichale or Bikshalaya. After Mantralaya, it is perhaps the second most important place for devotees of Raghavendra Swamy.
While Mantralaya is in Andhra Pradesh, the small village of Bichale is in Karnataka and both are on the banks of the mighty Tungabhadra. You can visit Bichale first if your are coming to Mantralaya from the Raichur side. If you are travelling to Mantralaya by the Penugonda-Anantapur-Adnoi route, you touch Mantralaya first and then can visit Bichale.
During the floods that ravaged large parts of north Karnataka in 2009, most of the town of Bichale was devastated. The swirling waters of the Tungabhadra angrily consumed almost all houses and inundated the Japada Katte-the place where Rayaru conversed with Appanacharya on Vedas, Puranas and a variety of religious texts.
Unfortunately, the house in which Rayaru stayed in Bichale for close to twelve years-and this belonged to Appanacharya-was also destroyed by the flood waters. Today, the house has been rebuilt and a descendent of Appanacharya guides you around the history, passionately narrating the events and incidents of the life and times then.
As far as the Japada Katte is concerned, you can see the Ekashila Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy so lovingly consecrated by Appanacharya himself. There is also a place where Rayaru and Appanacharya sat and conversed.
The Japada Katte also has many other spots which are important religiously. Unfortunately, though Bichale is just 20 kms from Mantralaya, connectivity still poses a problem. There are plenty autos, shared and single, tempos and other forms of transport from Mantralaya but the roads are pathetic after the bridge.
The signages too need to be improved and there are no rest and stay facilities in Bichale. Infact, the old Bichale is only a memory and a new township has sprung up on an elevated ground. The ruins of the old village can still be seen and Appanacharya’s house stands like a beacon amid the ruins.
Tourists and pilgrims can enjoy the sight of the Tungabhadra and take in Nature’s delight at Bichale but there are no facilities. The railway bridge that spans the Tungabhadra can be seen from the Japada Katte and it is a sight for sore eyes.
The Japada Katte is one of the most underrated holy spots and it does not find a prominent place in many texts and discourses.
What many people forget is that almost all leading Madhwa saints and seers right from Sripadaraja of Mulabagal have visited Bichale and Japada Katte and almost each of them have left behind a relic for posterity. He consecrated the idol of Narasimha which can be seen to this day.
Madhwacharya, the fountainhead of Madhwa or Dwaitha philosophy, visited Bichale several centuries ago and consecrated the Urga Narasimha idol. His visit and his teachings led Bichale to become the Dwaitha centre of learning and scholarship in that part.
After Madhwacharya, one of the earliest Madhwa saints to come and stay at Bichale was Sripadaraja. He constructed the Ashwatha Katte. Then his disciple and the earlier avatar of Raghavendra Swamy-Vyasaraja-visits Bichale and Japada Katte and installs the idol of Anjeneya with angara.
Vibhudeendra Theertha (1435-1490) of the Raghavendra Swamy Matha also visited this place. Jitamitra Thertha, the direct successor of Vibhudeendra Theerta and who adorned the Raghavendra Swamy Matha from 1490- to 1492 planted a gum tree which at the Japada Katte which was destroyed by the floods. Today, a sapling of the original gum tree is growing at the very spot.
Several Haridasas, including Vijaya Dasa, Jaganatha Dasa, Gopala dasa have come here and sung peans to Raghavendra Swamy and to Sri Hari.
Bichale is also the place where Rayaru spoke to Appannacharya asking him if he would take on the mantle (Uttaraadhikari to the Math) of the Sri Matha after him. However, Appanacharya told Rayari that it could not be so as he (Appanacharya) was a slave to tobacco. Rayaru silently agreed with him and decide to nominate Yogindra Theertha as his successor.
Bichale is also the place where Rayaru decided on the day and date to enter Brindavana. He then sent Appanacharya on a mission to propagate Madhwa philosophy and himself proceeded to Mantralaya.
Another important aspect of Bichale is that it is the place where Rayaru composed his Parimala and this gave him the name Parimalacharya. On his Appanacharya too composed several works on Raghavendra Swamy and only some survive such as Sri Raghavendra Mangalastaka, Sri Raghavendrta Stotra, Sri Raghavendra Gadhya, Sri Raghavendra Kavacha, Sri Raghavendra Japakrama and Sri Raghavendra Astothara Shatanamavali.
Many suladis and other compositions of Appanacharya appear to have been lost.
As far as Appanacharya was concerned, he visited Mantralaya daily. He swam across to Mantralaya every day from the Japada katte to be near his beloved Rayaru. One day, Rayaru came in his dream and instructed him to install a Brindavana at the Japada Katte itself. Since then, for centuries, the Japada Katte too hosts Aradhane celebrations of Rayaru.
Appanacharya lived for three years after Raghavendra Swamy entered Brindavana. He died sometime in 1674. One of the best books on Appanacharya is called Bichale Sri Appanacharya and it is written by Jayasimha.
The book details the life and times of Appanacharya and the gives a beautiful sketch of the importance of the small village of Bichale and how it transformed into a centre of learning.
Bichale it is where for the first time Appancharya sang “Poojyaya
Raghavendraiah Satyadharma….”

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