There is a huge mass of literature on Raghavendra Swamy, the bard of Mantralaya. He is perhaps one of the handful of Madhwa saints who is worshipped, revered and respected by people of other communities and even of other countries.
Every day brings forth new books, poems, compositions and miracles of Raghavendra Swamy. Apart from this mass of literature, there are thousands of blogs and websites dedicated to Rayaru.
There are innumerable religious texts and Haridasa Sahitya on Rayaru also constitute a valuable source of material on the seer which detail his contribution to religion, philosophy and theology.
Just as Raghavendra Swamy is for all people and for all ages, so also his works are read by people of all classes.
However, even among these mass of literature, there are only two works which can be described as authentic and each of them are gems of literature.
If one work gives us an overview of the life and times of Raghavendra Swamy, the other gives us information on the works of the seer and the context in which he wrote them. Coincidentally, both the works were written by relatives of Rayaru and today both are considered a classic in their field.
While one of the works is Raghavendra Vijaya by Narayanacharya, the other is Gurugunastava by Vadendra Theertha. Both the authors were related to Rayaru.
Let us take the Raghavendra Vijaya first.
As written earlier, this one of the two most authentic work on the seer of Mantralaya.
The Raghavendra Vijaya was penned by Narayanacharya, who was the son of Rayaru’s own sister Venkatamba and her husband Lakshminarayanacharya. Incidentally, Rayaru studied for some time under Lakshminarayanacharya. He learnt Vedas and Shastra from him at Madurai as Lakshminarayanacharya had lived in Madurai before marrying Venkatamba and he had earned name for himself as a scholar. He had mastered all the six forms of philosophy.
Lakshminarayanacharya taught young Venkatanatha, the poorvashrama name of Rayaru, Yajurveda, Anumadhwavijaya and Manimanjari among others.
It was his son, Narayanacharya, who too was a scholar of repute and an ardent devotee of Hari, who decided to write about his uncle, Raghavendra Swamy.
Narayanacharya too belonged to the Kashyapa Gotra.
The Raghavendra Vijaya is a long poem and it is narrative in style. Many scholars compare Narayanacharya and his poem to Narayarayana Panditacharya’s Madhwa Vijaya, which is a beautiful poem in honor of Madhwacharya.
The Raghavendra Vijaya has a beautiful description of the life and times of Raghavendra Swamy, his scholastic ability, his works and devotion to God.
Narayanacharya realises the onerous task that he has set himself and commences the work with and begins the poem by seeking the blessing of Hari.
He then goes on to trace the lineage of the Sri Matha and mentions the long line of Madhwa seers who occupied the pontifical post,
It comprises of fourteen sections or chapters sections but unfortunately, it does not cover the last few years that Rayaru spent. Nor does it have any information about the last day that Rayaru spent and the day he entered Brindavana.
It, however, gives us details of the life and times of Raghavendra Swamy, the places he visited such as Kumbakonam, Tirupathi, Kanchi, Srimusham, Vrudhalachalam. It also gives us details of his visit and welcome that the seer was given when he visited Srirangam, Madurai, Banavara. Vishnumangala, Ramanathapuam, Udupi and the discourses he gave such as the Brahma Bhasya Sutra, the manner in which he bathed in Cauvery.
It also gives us the first account of the daily life of Raghavendra Swamy, the manner in which Sudheendra Theertha thought of giving sanyas to Rayaru.
This book is in Sanskrit and it has been translate into almost all Indian languages, including English.
It is commonly believed that Narayanacharya, after completing the Raghavendra Vijaya, came to the Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy in Mantralaya and reverentially placed it below it.
Rayaru took the book in his palms and without reading it, handed it back to Narayanacharya and blessed it.
The Raghavendra Vijaya, therefore, remains the only biographical work of the Mantralaya seer, endorsed by Raghavendra Swamy himself. Next on the post is the work by Vadeendra Theertha, which is an equally authentic text but it mainly deals with the works of Raghavendra Swamy.