Archive | October 20, 2013

Repaying debt to a Guru

Vijendra Theertha was a disciple of  Vyasa Raja (1447-1539), the previous avatar of Raghavendra Swamy. He was a favourite student of Vyasa Raja and he studied under him in the VijayanagarUniversity.

When Vijendra Theertha was a student of the VijayanagarUniversity, it was one of the greatest educational institutions in India and at its peak it held 10,000 students.

The Vijayanagar Emperor, Krishna Deva Raya had appointed Vyasa Raja to head the University. Vyasa Raja is believed to have taught several subjects in the University and Vijendra Theertha studied for years under him.

Apart from Vyasa Raja, Purandara Dasa also taught at the University as did Vadiraja Theertha. Both were disciples of  Vijendra Theertha. On several occasions, while Vyasa Raja expounded the tenets of Madhwa Siddantha, Purandara composed and sang, giving the students the unique opportunity to learn from music and philosophy. There is no doubt that Vijendra Theertha imbibed music from both Vyasa Raja and Purandara.

The role of Vyasa Raja in making young Vijendra Theertha the master of 64 arts is immeasurable.

Interestingly, when Vyasa Raja handed over Vijendra Theertha to Surendra Theertha (1504-1575), the pontiff of the Sri Matha of Kumbakonam, he gave advice to his favourite Shishya which is nothing but pearls of wisdom. A century later, he gives another speech when he enters Brindavana in 1671 as Raghavendra Swamy in Mantralaya, now in Andhra Pradesh.

We had several contemporary sources that tell us how Vyasa Raja parted ways with his favourite disciple. Here goes one such source.

Vyasa Raja was the Raja Guru of Emperor Krishna Deva Raya who reigned over the VijayanagarKingdom from 1509 to 1529. He held Vyasa Raja in high esteem and the Vyasa Raja matha was near the main palace. (Today, this place is generally termed as nobleman’s quarters).

Vyasa Raja also had his matha there. One day, Surendra Theertha came to Hampi and camped on its outskirts. When Vyasa Raja head about it, he went there and invited him to come to his matha.

Surendra Theertha accepted the offer and came to the Vyasa Raja matha in Hampi.

A grand function was organised and Vyasa Raja then stunned everyone by beckoning young Vishnu Theertha (this was the name of Vijendra Theertha) took him towards Surendra Theertha. He then held his hands and poured a little holy water and said Krishnarpanansthu. He then haded over Vishnu Theertha to Surendra Theertha.

Even as the entire gathering looked on with puzzlement, Vyasa Raja explained to Surendra Theertha that he had given him an apt pupil to succeed him on the throne of the Sri Matha. A grateful Surendra Theertha realised what a priceless gift he had been given.

As far as Vishnu Theertha was concerned, initially he was deeply pained that he had to part with his Guru. But when he realized why he had been asked to leave and the role he would have to play, he calmed down and was ever grateful to Vyasa Guru, as he called Vyasa Theertha.

It is the same Vishnu Theertha, who when he sees Venkatanatha in Kumbakonam, recognises him as Vyasa Guru. He is overwhelmed with emotion and he instructs his Shishya, Sudhindra Theertha, that he should hand over the reigns of the Sri Matha to Venkatanatha.

Vijendra Theertha explains in detail to Sudhindra Theertha about his earlier life in Hampi, his proximity to Vyasa Guru, his life and times in HampiUniversity and all other details. He fondly remembers his Guru and realises that he is the first person to see the two avatars of Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy.

Thus, we see that an event that occurred almost a century ago in Hampi is replayed in reverse at Kumbakonam. Vijendra Theertha repays his debt to his guru by ensuing that his avatar occupies the Sri Matha. Sudhindra Theertha promises his Guru that he would do as he says.

Vyasa Guru had picked Vishnu Theertha from the vast assembly of students and advised Surendra Theertha to take him on as his Shishya. Similarly, almost a century later, Vijendra Theertha picks up Venkatanatha from a fairly bif group of Brahmins and pandits and points to him as the successor after Sudhindra Theertha.    

As far as Sudhindra Theertha is concerned, he kept the promise he made to Vijendra Theertha. He had a hand in persuading Venkatanatha to accept the pontificate and become the redoubtable Raghavendra Swamy.