An earlier post had carried articles on Bichale, which is a small village near Mantralaya.
While Mantralaya is in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, Bichale is in Raichur district of Karnataka. Both are on the banks of the Tungabhadra and both are holy places.
If Mantralaya has the Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy, Bichale too has an Eka Shila Brindavana. But what many do not know is that apart from the Brindavana, the Japadakatte at Bichale is famous for several other things and this is one of the many reasons that Rayaru spent close to twelve years there.
Bichale has been one of the places where a large number of Madhwa saints have spent time and consecrated idols of Gods. There have also been score of Haridasas who have come to this Katte and sang praises of Hari and Raghavendra.
The holiness of Bichale stems from the fact that it has always seen a stream of Madhwa saints right from Sripadaraja come and meditate here. These saints also gave discourses on Hari and Dwaitha Tatwa here and almost all of them made the Katte their home for the duration of their stay.
The first prominent Madhwa saint to visit Bichale was Vibhudhendra Tirtha(1435-1490). He is the Vidya Guru of Sripadaraja of Mulabagal. A scholar of repute, the matha he headed was called Vibhudendra Matha before it came to be popularly called as Raghavendra Swamy Matha.
He is the eleventh in the line of seers who have occupied the pontificate of Raghavendra Swamy Matha. He mediated at the Japadakatte and spent several days here.
The next saint to visit Bichale was Sripadaraja, the bard of Mulabagal (1404-1502). He was the Rajaguru of the Vijayanagar Emperors and he visited Raichur on several occasions and on one such visit, he spent time at Bichale.
He is believed to have stayed on for several months, bathed at the Tungabhadra, meditated at the Japadakatte and even performed several homas apart from giving discourses.
He also installed an idol of Narasimha opposite the Japadakatte. The idol can still be seen and regular poojes are offered to it by the descendents of Appanacharya who guide pilgrims and tourists around the place and make them aware of Bichale’s importance. He also planted the Ashwathh Vruksha near the Japadakatte,
The immediate successor of Vibhudendra Theertha to the Matha, Jitamitra Teertha, came to Bichale and fond the Japadakatte to be a Nagaloka. He then installed an idol of Shesha at the Japadakatte itself.
One of the most famous disciples of Sripadaraja is Vyasaraja or Vyasa Theertha (1460-1539). H too visited Bichale and he has also consecrated an idol of Hanumantha here. This is one among the 732 idols of Hanuman he installed.
Vyasaraja, the previous avatar of Raghavendra Swamy, too was enthralled by the holiness and beauty of the place and meditated here. After him, comes Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671), who made Bichale famous.
Raghavendra Swamy stayed on in Bichale for twelve years. He stayed at the house of Appanacharya and walked to the Japadakatte where he and Appanacharya had discussion on all topics elate to spirituality, religion and philosophy.
He also installed the idol of Prana Devaru at the Japadakatte.
It is significant that Raghavendra Swamy commissioned the construction of the Brindavana from Bichale and that when he left Bichale for Mantralaya, he sanctified the house of Appanacharya and gave moksha to the Sapra or snake that was present in the snake bill in the house. The idol of the snake in the house too can be seen today.
Once Raghavendra Swamy entered Brindavana at Mantralaya in 1671, several others saints, scholars, poets and Haridasas came to Bichale and went back enraptured with its beauty and spiritual connect.
The first Dasa to have visited this place was Vijaya Dasa. He was followed by Jagganatha Dasa, Gopala Dasa and his three brothers who were all Dasas, and others Haridasas have visited the Japadakatte.
More than anything else, Japada Katte was the place where Appanacharya taught students of his patashala. It was here that Raghavendra Swamy composed his work on Parimala and came to be called Parimalacharya. It was also at this spot that Appanacharya commenced composing the inspiring Poornabodha stotra. It was also at the Japadakatte that Appanacharya constructed the first Eka Shila Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy.
It is for all these reasons that Bichale has become a holy town. Today, hundreds of pilgrims visit the village to have a darshan of the house where Rayaru or Raghavendra Swamy lived and they also see the scenic surroundings of the Japadakatte. But only a handful of them are aware of the long and hoary past of the Japadakatte.