One of the most unique events connected with our beloved Rayaru or Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671) is that several seers who sat as Peetadhipathis of the Sri Matha before him were connected to him in more ways than one.
Vibhudendra Theertha (1435-1490), a pioneer of the Madhwa Siddantha, was reborn as Vijendra Theertha and Jitamitra Theertha (1490-1492) his disciple became Sudhindra Theertha.
Vibhudendra Theertha was an unmatched scholar and he was a disciple of Ramachandra Theertha. He visited Ahobala where he worshipped Narasimha. He then came in possession of an idol of Narasimha with sixteen hands. The idol had been submerged for centuries in a river and even now it is being worshipped in the Matha once an year.
The seer came to Manchale or Mantralaya village from Ahobala. It was at Manchale that he had a dream that Prahlada had performed yagna in that village. Since the village was under the rule of Vijayanagar kings, he got the village as a gift.
He then came down to Bichale where he stayed on for some time and meditated.
Vibhudendra Theertha then came down to Mysore where several estates were gifted to him by Kings and Nayakas. He entered Brindavana at Tirunelvelli, a town on the banks of river Tamraparni in Tamil Nadu.
His successor was the redoubtable Jitamitra Theertha. He consecrated the Sesha Devaru at the Japada katte in Bichale. He is believed to be an amsha of Rudra Devaru. He vanished into a gum tree and asked hi disciples not to construct a Brindavana but instead worship the tree.
Raghunandana Theertha (1492-1504), who succeeded to the Sri Matha after Jitamitra Theertha, came to Hampi where he was welcomed by none other than Vyasaraja or Vyasaraya (1460-1539), the Rajaguru of Vijayanagar and the previous avatar of Raghavendra Swamy.
It was under him that the idol of Moola Rama Devaru was got from the Uttaradhi Matha. The Guru Parampare of the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Matha itself has the story about this idol in its web history on Raghunandana Theertha.
The Vijayanagar Emperor too honored Raghunandana Theertha who then entered Brindavana there.
His successor, Soorendra Theertha (1504-1575), was also welcomed by Vyasa Raja and the Vijayanagar Emperor Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529). It was Vyasaraja who gave Vishnu Theertha his disciple to Soorendra Theertha. He (Vishnu Theertha) later came to be known as Vijendra Theertha (1575-1614), the paramaguru of Raghavendra Swamiji.
Vishnu Theertha was a favourite disciple of Vyasa Raja and he studied Vedas, shastras and other texts from him. It was also Vijendra Theertha who instructed Sudhindra Theertha to give Deekshe to Rayaru.
Sudhindra Theertha (1614-1621) was the ashrama guru of Raghavendra Swamy who reigned from the Sri Matha for fifty years till he entered Brindavana in Mantralaya in 1671.
So we know for sure that Vijendra Theertha and his successor, Sudhindra Theertha were disciples of Vyasaraja. Both later became gurus of Raghavendra Swamy. Thus, we have the Shishyas of one avatar becoming the guru in the next avatar, Strangely, the entire episode of the Vyasaraja-Raghavendra Theertha avatar was played out in less than two centuries
Moreover, Soorendra Theertha and Raghunandana Theertha were contemporaries of Vyasaraja and had met him at Hampi. Vyasaraja, as Rajguru of Vijayanagar, had accorded a royal welcome to both these seers of the Sri Matha.
As Raghavendra Swamy, we see him coming to Nava Brindavana and consecrating the Brindavana of Sudhindra Theertha there. He also entered Brindavana there in his previous avatar as Vyasaraja.
Rayaru then stayed at Bichale for more than 12 years where he worships the Sesha Devaru consecrated by Jitamitra Theertha, the Hanuman consecrated by Vyasaraja and the Narasimha by Sripadaraja.
He also gets the stone for his Brindavana from Madhwarama near Mantralaya and this is the very place that Vibhudendra Theertha had dreamt about when he visited Manchale. Interestingly, Manchale during the times of Raghavendra Swamy passes from the hands of the Vijayanagar to the Adil Shahs who are Muslims. It is the Muslim Governor or Viceroy of Adoni, under which Manchale comes, who hands over Manchale to Rayaru. The Governor, Siddi Masud Khan, later became the Prime Minister of the Adil Shah Kingdom of Bijapur under Sikander Adil Shah (1672-1686). He later becomes an independent ruler of Adoni till it is conquered by the Mughals who give him a high position in their army.
If Vyasa Raja had pioneered the Dasa Koota and Vyasa Koota and laid the foundation for the Hari Bhakti movement from Hampi or Vijayanagar, it was Raghavendra Swamy who was solely responsible for the revival of the Haridasa movement and this time it was Mantralaya and Raichur which became the nucleus of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement.
Thus, we see a unique Guru Shishya parampare in the Rayaru lineage, which perhaps is unparalleled in Madhwa mathas.