One of Raghavendra Swamy’s most famous disciples was Appannacharya of Bichale or Bhikshalaya.
Raghavendra Swamy had come to Bichale from Adoni where he met Apppanacharya who was renowned in the area for taking classes on granthas, shastras and Vedas. Appannacharya had set up a Gurukula where several hundred students studied.
The Gurukula was at the spot where the Japada Katte is located today at Bhikshalaya. Students of the Gurukula went around the town and nearby villages seeking alms. Though Appannacharya was a rich Zamindar and he had plenty of lands, he wanted to imbibe Vedic qualities in his students and he taught them the Hindu or rather Vedic/Puranic way of life.
Students also practiced Bhiksha, which they brought back to Appanacharya.
Appanacharya collected all the rice his students had got as Bhiksha and tied them up in a clothe. He hung it up the Ashwath Vruksha tree and then started teaching his students. By the time he finished his lecture and this would just after noon, the rice would be cooked and Appannacharya would ask one of the students to clamber the tree and bring down the rice.
Appanancharya and his students would then eat the food. This was the daily routine of Appannacharya and his patashala. This is how Bichale also came to be known as Bikshalaya.
By the way, Appanacharya was born in Bichchali itself and his father Ramasubbanacharya was a scholar if repute apart from being a Jagirdar of twenty eight villages surrounding Bichale. He owned more than 300 acres of fertile land near the Tungabhadra. After the fall of the Vijayanagar dynasty, the Nizam of Hyderabad first and subsequently the British continued the Zamandari of Appanacharya family in the area.
Appanacharya was also a scholar and he had imbibed the Dwaitha principles of Madhwacharya. He decided to impart his knowledge to students and thus he came to set up the patashala.
When Raghavendra Swamy came to Bichale sometime in 1656, he came into contact with Appanacharya. He also saw the Japada Katte where Sripadaraja, Jitamitra Theertha, Vyasa Raja and other Madhwa saints has left their imprint. Soon, Raghavendra Swamy and Appanacharya became good friends and Appannacharya began cooking food for our beloved Rayaru.
Appanacharya himself ground Dal Chatni for Rayaru and even today the Varalu and Rubbu gundu (grinding stone and pestle) can still be seen at the Japada Katte. Appanacharya also prepared Appi Paayasa which Rayaru relished.
Rayaru stayed on at Bichale for several years in the house of Appanacharya which at that time was 60 years old. The house existed till the floods of 2009 washed it away. Today, it is rebuilt on the same lines.
This is the story of Bichale and how it also got the name of Bikshalaya. Today, Bikshakaya is gone and the village is better known as Bichale. Ironically, there is no Gurukula and even the small village school was washed away in the floods. The new Bikshalaya is now on an elevated ground but sadly, problems of connectivity from Mantralaya and Raichur to Bichale remains.
The roads to Bichale are bad and there are no proper sign boards. There are no accommodation and other facilities for visitors and pilgrims coming to Bichale.
Bichale can easily be developed into a pilgrim and tourist spot. The view of the Tungabhadra and the Sannidhana of the Japada Katte and the house where Rayaru lived can be major attractions. Unfortunately, there is no development worth the name in Bichale.
Autos and other modes of transport are available from Mantralaya and Raichur to Bichale, which is in Karnataka.