Hundreds of Haridasas have composed songs and written books on Raghavendra Swamy, who is also called as Rayaru. One of the first to write or rather compose on Rayaru was Vijaya Dasa (1682-1755).
Vijaya Dasa also heralded the rebirth of the Haridasa tradition that had fallen on hard times after the sack of the Vijayanagar Empire by Muslim states in 1565. Vijaya Dasa was a great devotee of Rayaru and he popularized the concept of composing bhajans in praise of Rayaru.
Several Haridasas followed Vijaya Dasa and all of them were inspired by the deeds and works of Raghavendra Swamy.All of them came to Mantralaya and composed lyrics on Rayaru, his mahime and Gnana.
One such Haridasa is Swaminarayanacharya. Born in Kosigi, now in Adoni taluk of Andhra Pradesh, he later came to be known as Guru Jagannatha Dasa (1836-1918). This dasa is not be confused with the Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi who wrote Sri Harikathamrutasara.
He is perhaps the only Dasa who was so blessed by Rayaru that he immediately gained knowledge of all the scriptures and religious texts. Rayaru placed his hand on his head and all knowledge passed into him. No wonder, he was an ardent devotee of Rayaru.
Swamynarayanacharya was born in 1836 to Venkatagiriyacharya and Seetamma. He was born due to the grace of Rayaru and all his life was spent in the service of the Mantralaya Mahatma.
The story of his birth is interesting and it illustrates the adage that faith can reap rich dividends.
Venkatagiriacharya and Seetamma lived in Kosagi but they did not have children. Venkatagiriacharya was a Sanskrit scholar and a Pandit. He went to Ibharamapura, a small village near Mantralaya, and approached Krishnacharya who is today known as Ibharamapura Appa.
When Venkatagiriacharya met Appa, he was opening the pooja box to commence the day’s pooja.When Venkatagiriacharya told Appa about the reason for his visit, Appa asked him to select a pearl from the box. You will get a son just like this pearl, he said.
Appa’s words came true and a few months later Seetamma gave birth to a male child. The overjoyed couple named the child as Swamiraya or Swaminarayana in honor of Narayana or Hari. Unfortunately, Swamiraya did not study well and he was always involved in playing and indulging in pranks on villagers. One day, a villager got so enraged at a prank that he told the youth that if he had a son like him who wasted life in playing and engaging in pranks, he would have killed him.
Swamiraya suddenly realized that he had been wasting his time and that he had better things to do in life. He decided to study and went to Kallur in Raichur district where his maternal uncle lived.
When he found that his uncle was not there, he left Kallur and went to Budamaladoddi near Kosigi.
Here, Swamiraya meditated before Anjaneye He also did seve with devotion and sincerity. Anjaneya or Maruti, as he is called today, appeared in the night and wrote the Beejakshara on his tongue. Maruti then asked Swamiraya to go back home.
Maruti said once he went home, Rayaru could come from Mantralaya and teach him. Swamiraya went home and at night, Rayaru came in his dream and stood before him. An overwhelmed Swamiraya touched the feet of Rayaru and sought his blessings. Rayaru also touched his head and blessed Swamiraya who gained knowledge.
Rayaru’s blessings were more than enough for Swamiraya to obtain knowledge of Vedas, Shastras, Upanishads, Dwaitha philosophy.
Since then, Swamiraya began composing on Raghavendra whom he considered as his Guru, guide and teacher.
As far as the parents were concerned, they were stunned by the sudden transformation of their son and they realised that Appa’s prediction had come true.
Swamiraya soon became Sri Guru Jagannatha Dasaru. His ankita was Guru Jagannatha vithala which was given to him by Gopala Dasa (1722-1762). He is also know as Kosigi Dasa or Kosigi Acharya.
One of his most popular songs on Rayaru is “Nambi Kettavarillavo Ee Gurugala Nambadae Keduvarunto.”
Guru Jagannatha Dasa has written the largest number of compositions on Rayaru and almost all of them are popular even to this day. He also to his credit 30 books on philosophy like Brahmasutra Bashya Adhyatmikartha, Para Para tatwa dipika. He also wrote 40 stotras in Sanskrit and a number of songs in kannada.
He was also perhaps the first to write commentaries on Sri Harikathamruthasara in both Kannada and Sanskrit. He is better known as Jagannatha Vittala Dasa and this is to distinguish him from Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi. .
He passed away at Kowtalam in Adoni taluk on Ashwija bahula Paadya.
Some of his famous disciples include Varadesha Vittala Dasa (1885-1918), Varadendra Vittala Dasa (1886-1960), Sundara Vittala Dasa (1893-1969). All these three Dasas are from Lingasuguru. A few other disciples include Varada Vittala Dasa (1872-1935) of Kavithal and Ananda Vittala Dasa (1869-1918) of Lingasaguru.
Kowthalam today is a popular pilgrimage centre. It is about 30 kms from Mantralaya and it is located on Adoni road. The SriRaghavendraSwamyTemple here was constructed during the period of Guru Jagannatha Dasa himself. This Eka Shila Brindavana was constructed as per the wish of Raghavendra Swamy himself.