He was the pontiff of the Sri Mantralaya Matha or the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Matha a hundred years after Raghavendra Swamy.
He is even today acknowledged as one of the finest and most scholarly pandits to occupy the high seat. A scholar par excellence, he is credited with putting Mantralaya back again on track.
He was honored by several Kings and gifted lands. The Peshwa too was a devotee. He was known for his pooje to Moola Rama Devaru.
He got several record of the Matha and its land regranted. He also introduced a seam with a sloka which is used by the Matha even today.
He had a deep and abiding desire to see Raghavendra Swamy in person. This desire became all the more strong when he was told that Rayaru was giving darshana to a humble villager and that he was also speaking to him regularly.
The pontiff asked the villager to interceded on his behalf with Rayaru and ensure that he too was given darshan. Try as he might and intercede as much, Rayaru refused to agree too the pleas of the villager to give darshan to the pontiff. When Rayaru finally relented, the pontiff could not control his sleep and he dozed off, only to wake up and see the orange ochre robes of Rayaru as he reentered the Brindavana at Mantralaya.
This is the story of Bhuvenandra Theertha, the successor to the Sri Raghavendra Matha after the redoubtable Dheerendra Theertha.
Bhuvanendra Theertha was the pontiff of the Sri Matha from 1785 to 1799.
The Mantralaya Matha itself acknowledges that Bhuvanendra Theertha was a seer of great intellect. He acquired the administrative acumen from his guru Varadendra Theertha and scholarship from Dheerendra Theertha.
Besides he was also known as a patron of Haridasa literature. The Peshwas of Pune respected him as did many other Kings.
The ruler of Gadhwal, Seetharam Bhoopala, the Nawab of Hiremoraba, Mir Mohammed Shah Jung, the King of Surpur and the Desai of Nagaladinni, Khiravala Nayaka and Somashekara Nayaka of Benkapura gifted him lands and several villages.
One day, the pontiff was told by the matha officials and some disciples about how Rayaru was giving darshana in person to a villager from Matmari or Matamari.
Matmari is a small village near Mantralaya. It is on the Raichur-Guntakal railway line and it is located in Raichur taluk of Raichur district in Karnataka.
There was a devotee of Rayaru in the village called Benagappa or Benkappa. He used to visit Mantralaya regularly and sit in meditation before the Brindavana. He made it a point to visit Mantralaya every Thursday without fail.
Several years passed and the youth grew old. Yet, he continued visiting Mantralaya every Thursday without fail. Rayaru was pleased with Benkappa’s devotion and one Thursday he rewarded Benkappa by appearing in person.
Benkappa was speechless when he saw Rayaru emerging from the Brindavana. The speechlessness turned to awe and wonder when he saw Rayaru speaking to him in a loving manner.
Slowly and over a period of time, the Thursday interaction between Rayaru and Benkappa turned into a question and answer session. Benkappabegan telling Rayaru about the problems and Rayaru set about advising him about the best course of action.
Neighbours, friends and relatives soon realised that Rayaru was speaking to Benkappa and they came to him with their problems. Tell our problems to Rayaru. We will follow whatever he says,” they said.
Rayaru, in turn, answered each query patiently. He seemed to have answers to all the problems that Benkappa placed before him. Soon, Benkappa’s fame spread far and wide and even the matha officials came to know about it.
The then pontiff of the Sri Matha, Bhuvanendra Theertha, was told about the interaction between Benkappa and Rayaru. The pontiff then summoned Benkappa and asked him about the interactions. Benkappa admitted to the pontiff that he saw Rayaru every Thursday and spoke to him about people’s problems. He said Rayaru solved people’s woes and also suggested solutions.
The pontiff further questioned Benkappa and he was satisfied that the villager indeed was talking to Rayaru. He then asked Benkappa for a favour. “Please request Rayaru to give me darshana too, I would like to see him”, he said.
Benkappa was flabbergasted. He could not believe his ears that the pontiff of the Raghavendra Swamy Matha himself had sought his help to see Rayaru. He, however, promised to do the needful.
The next Thursday, when Rayaru appeared before Benkappa, he placed the pontiff’s request before Rayaru.
Rayaru appeared a little disconcerted. He told Benkappa that till now he had come with people’s problems. Now, he wanted another person to be given Darshana. He said it was not possible and asked him to tell Bhuvanendra Theertha that he could not give darshana to him and that there was no necessity for such a Darshana at present.
When Benkappa conveyed the message to the pontiff, Bhuvanandra Theertha was sorely disappointed. The next week, he once again requested Benkappa to intercede on his behalf with Rayaru.
When Benkappa saw Rayaru, he once again requested him to give darshana to the pontiff. Rayaru agreed but he put a condition. He said Benkappa should not speak to the pontiff when they sit besides each other. “On no condition should you speak to the pontiff. If you do so, I shall stop talking to you”, Rayaru said.
Benkappa agreed and conveyed the happy news to the pontiff. The next Thursday, both the pontiff and Benkappa sat before the Brindavana and waited eagerly for Rayaru to appear.
Even as the night progressed, both the pontiff and Benkappa sat facing the Brindavana. After some time, the pontiff began dozing and soon he fell asleep. Benkappa, on the other hand, was gazing at the Brindavana with devotion.
It was around 3-30 a,m., and soon a flash of light appeared from the Brindavan. Rayaru slowly emerged from the Brindavana
And began walking towards the Tungabhadra for his ritual bath and Pooje. When Benkappa turned towards the pontiff, he saw that the seer had dozed off and he had not seen Rayaru. He thought of waking the pontiff but remembered Rayaru’s warning.
Rayaru then finished his bath and then began walking back to the Brindavana. Benkappa then tried to wake the pontiff but to no avail. He then shook the pontiff but he did not wake up. When he saw Rayaru step onto the platform on which the Brindavana was constructed. Benkappa could not control himself and he spoke to the pontiff. “Swamy, get up and look, Rayaru is getting back into his Brindavana”, he said.
The pontiff was jolted awake and he only managed to see the orange robes vanish into the Brindavana. The pontiff was speechless and turning to Benkappa acknowledged his devotion. “You are truly blessed to have darshana and interaction with Rayaru”, he said. The pontiff also profusely thanked Benkappa for having helped him see Rayaru, even if it was only his robes.
Benkappa was initially happy that he had managed to help the pontiff realise his wish. He, however, became pensive when he remembered Rayaru’s warning.
The next Thursday and scores of Thursdays after that, Benkappa visited Mantralaya and tried to interact with Rayaru. Alas, he realised that he had forfeited a rare honor by displeasing and disobeying Rayaru.
Benkappa continued to regret having disregarded Rayaru’s words. As far as the pontiff was concerned, he headed the matha for a few more years before entering Brindavana in Rajouli.
To this day, Rayaru goes to the Tungabhadra for his daily bath. There have been scores of devotees who have either seen or heard of an old man going to the Tungabhadra.
Another point here is that it is from this incident that Thursdays gained currency as a particular holy day for Rayaru. The seer of Mantralaya entered Brindavana on a Thursday and it was August 8, 1671.
Therefore, we see a rush of devotees to Rayara Mathas on Thursdays.