Archive | November 7, 2013

The Parampare of the Rayaru Matha

All the mathas, whether they are Madhwa mathas or any other, have their own and distinct Guru parampare or seers who have occupied the matha pontificate.

However, the Madhwa mathas have a unique Parampare which is generally not found in any other religious order and if they are found, it is not in such a manner.

All the Madhwa maths trace their lineage to Madhwacharya (1199-1287). Apart from founding the Asta Mathas and giving Deekshe to eight seers who became the first seers to ascend the peetha of the eight mathas, Madhwacharya appointed Padmanabha Theertha as his successor. After him came three other direct disciples of Madhwacharya-Narahari Theertha, Madhava Theertha and Akshobya Theertha in that order.   

Since then, the mathas have split and evolved into different branches. All the mathas have common Guru Parampare till Madhwacharya and then the division begins.

The Sripadaraja Matha traces its origin to Padmanabha Theertha (1317-1325) who gave deekshe to Lakshmidhara Theertha (1324-1330) of Mulabagal.

After this matha comes the division of other mathas. The Rayaru matha agrees on the Guru parampare till Ramachandra Theertha (1406-1435) after which it says Vibhudendra Theertha (1435-1490) ascended the peetha.

The Matha was known as Vibhudendra Theertha matha till the tome of Vijendra Theertha after which it came to known as Vijendra Theertha Matha. Once Rayaru ascended the peetha, it came to be known as Rayaru or Raghavendra Swamy Matha or Mantralaya Matha.

The Matha parampare is as follows.


Shri Hamsanamaka Paramatma

Shri Chaturmukha Brahma

Shri Sanaka Theertha

Shri Sanandana Theertha

Shri Sanatkumara Theertha

Shri Sanatana Theertha

Shri Doorvasa Theertha

Shri Jnananidhi Theertha

Shri Garuda Vahana Theertha

Shri Kaivalya Theertha

Shri Jnanesha Theertha

Shri Para Theertha

Shri Satyaprajna Theertha

Shri Prajna Theertha.

Shri Achyutaprekshacharya

Shri Madhwacharya

Shri Padmanabha Theertha

Shri Narahari Theertha

Shri Madhava Theertha

Shri Akshobhya Theertha

Shri Jayatheertha

Shri Vidyadhiraja Theertha

Shri Kaveendra Theertha

Shri Vaageesha Theertha

Shri Ramachandra Theertha

Shri Vibhudeendra Theertha   (1435-1490)

Shri Jitamitra Theertha            (1490-1492)

Shri Raghunandana Theertha  (1492-1504)

Shri Surendra Theertha            (1504-1575)

Shri Vijayeendra Theertha       (1575-1614)

Shri Sudheendra Theertha        (1614-1636)

Shri Raghavendra Theertha      (1636-1671)

Shri Yogeendra Theertha          (1671-1688)

Shri Sooreendra Theertha          (1688-1692)

Shri Sumateendra Theertha       (1692-1725)

Shri Upendra Theertha              (1725-1728)

Shri Vadeendra Theertha           (1728-1750)

Shri Vasudendra Theertha         (1750-1761)

Shri Varadendra Theertha          (1761-1785)

Shri Dheerendra Theertha          (1785-1785)

 Shri Bhuvanendra Theertha       (1785-1799)

 Shri Subhodendra Theerha         (1799-1805)

Shri Sujanendra Theertha            (1807-1836)

Shri Sugjnandra Theertha            (1836-1861)

Shri Sudharmendra Theertha       (1861-1872)

Shri Sugunendra Theertha            (1872-1884)

Shri Suprajnendra Theertha          (1884-1903)

Shri Sukrutheendra Theerth          (1903-1912)

Shri Susheelendra Theertha          (1912-1926)

Shri Survateendra Theertha           (1926-1933)

Shri Suyamendra Theertha            (1933-1967)

Shri Sujayeendra Theertha             (1963-1986)

Shri Sushameendra Theertha          (1986-2009)

Shri Suyateendra Theertha –         Present Pontiff


The story of the Brindavana

Generally, we find Madhwa seers entering Brindavana near the Brindavana of their ashrama Gurugalu.

This parampare was initiated by none other than the redoubtable Jayatheertha or Teekacharya (1365-1388). Jayatheertha had been given the pontificate of the Sri Matha (founded by Madhwacharya) by Akshobya Theertha (1350-1365), who happened to be the last of the four direct disciples of Madhwacharya.

Akshobya Theertha defeats Vidyaranya in a debate at Mulabagal on the subject of Tattvamasi. He later tours all over Karnataka and ends up at Malkheda which then was under the BahamaniKingdom. He enters Brindavan in Malkheda in 1365 and he is followed by Jayatheertha in 1388.

The next Guru-Shishya combination to enter Brindavana at the same place is Vageesha Theertha (1398-1406), the immediate disciple and successor of  Kaveendra Theertha (1392-1398). Both belonged to the Sri Matha founded by Madhwacharya.

Vageesha Theertha ensured that his Guru entered Brindavana at Nava Brindavana in Hampi. Kaveendra Theertha was thus the second seer after Padmanabha Theertha to enter Brindavana at Nava Brindavana.

Hampi then was just emerging as the magnificent city that we would come to know of decades later. The Vijayanagar dynasty held sway and it afforded protection to Hindu dharma and siddantha.

When Vageesha Theertha decided to enter Brindavana near the final resting place of his guru-at Nava Brindavana- he handed over the reign of the matha to Ramachandra Theertha.

Interestingly, Narahari Theertha, the second to rule over the Sri Matha or Dwaitha Matha after Padmanabha Theertha, choose Chakra Theertha, a holy place a little away from Nava Brindavana as his final resting place. 

The pontiffs of several Madhwa mathas follow this concept across centuries. However, one exception to this is the parampare we see during the time of Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru.    

Vijendra Theertha (1571-1614), was the paramaguru of  Raghavendra Swamy. He was the Peetadhipathi of  the Sri Matha at Kumbakonam from 1575. His immediate disciple, Sudhindra Theertha, took over the pontificate in 1614 and he entered Brindavana sometime in 1623-24.  He makes Raghavendra Swamy (1624-1671-this is his tenure at the matha) his successor.

All the three-Vijendra Theertha, Sudheendra Theertha and Raghavendra Swamy-enter Brindavana in three different places and in three different states.

If the Brindavana of Vijendra Theertha is in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, Sudheendra Theertha entered Brindavana in Nava Brindavana near Hampi in Karnataka. Rayaru, of course, entered Brindavana in Mantralaya in Andhra Pradesh.

Interestingly, Rayaru has a strong bond with all these three places.

The Brindavana of Vijendra Theertha is located in what is known as the Vijendra Theertha Matha and this is where Raghavendra Swamy spent time, reading scriptures, writing books on religion and philosophy, giving discourses. All these places can still be found in the matha.

The Nava Brindavana is the exact place where Shanku Karna used to pluck flowers for Brahma to conduct his daily pooje. It was here that Shanku Karna stood transfixed on hearing Saraswathi, the wife of  Brahma, singing and playing the veena. He falls in love with the music and delays getting flowers to Brahma. He then gets cursed to be reborn as a human being.

Vyasa Raja, the avatar of  Shanku Karna, has his Brindavana in Nava Brindavana. Rayaru visits this place and fulfils the desire of his Ashrama Gurugal, Sudheendra Theertha, to enter Brindavan here. Rayaru meditates here and also interacts with Vyasa Raja, whom he calls his brother.

Rayaru realises that Sudheendra Theertha will be the last person to enter Brindavana at Nava Brindavana and there will be nobody else. He then goes back to Kumbakonam and stays there till 1658.

In 1658, he decides to leave Kumbakonam permanently and settles down at Bichale or Bikshalaya in Karnataka. He spends 13 years here before entering Brindavana in Mantralaya.

As Raghavendra Swamy, he goes back to his first avatar as Prahalada and points out a particular spot in Manchale village to Nawab Siddi Masud Khan and Dewan Venkanna. He says this is the exact spot where Prahalada did yagna and he picks up a fistful of ash from the spot.

Raghavendra Swamy then requests the duo of Siddi Masud and Venkanna to ensure that the Brindavana comes up at the exact spot he had pointed out. Thus, we see that Rayaru spent 13 years in Bichale.             

In his earlier avatar as Vyasa Raja, it was Brahmanye Theertha of Abbur who was his first Guru. Brahmanye Theertha entered Brindavana at Abbur near Chennapatna. The place where he entered Brindavana exists to this day and it is called Abbur or Kundapura Vyasaraja Matha.

The paramaguru of Vyasa Raja would be Purushottama Theertha, the ashrama guru of Brahmanye Theertha. Unlike others, Purushottama Theertha does not enter Brindavana but disappears into a cave near Abbur called Purushottama Guhe. The cave can be seen even today a little away from Abbur.

The vidya Guru of Vyasa Raja was Sripadaraja of Mulabagal. Sripadaraja entered Brindavana at Narasimha Theertha near Mulabagal. Vyasa Raja’s immediate successor and Shishya, Srinivasa Theertha, entered Brindavana at Nava Brindavan itself.

So, we see that Vyasa Raja, his Gurugalu-both ashrama and vidya gurugalu and his shishyas entered Brindavana in Karnataka. 

Vyasa Raja was born in Bannur near Mysore and he had his education in Abbur and Mulabagal and he entered Brindavana in Nava Brindavana. All these places are in Karnataka.

Rayaru was born in Bhuvanagiri in Tamil Nadu. This is a small town near Chidambaram, which is 70 kms away from Pondicherry. He had his early schooling in Kumbakonam, again in Tamil Nadu,  and he entered Brindavana in Manchale in present day Andhra Pradesh.

Both Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy spent twelve years or more outside their place of domicile. Vyasa Raja was at Tirumala for twelve years sometime between 1480 and 1492 conducting daily pooje and streamlining the rituals at the SrinivasaTemple. Similarly, Raghavendra Swamy was at the house of Appanacharya in Bichale in Karnataka for twelve years and more before entering Brindavana in Manchale in Augsut 1671. When at Bichale, he frequently came to Gandhal where the temple of Panchamukhi Hanuman is located. He meditated in a cave here for several years-not at a stretch though. The cave still can be seen in the Panchamukhi temple.

When Rayaru came to Manchale, he stayed at the very place where the LakshmiVenkateshwaraTemple exists today. He consecrated the idol here. Vyasa Raja too consecrated an idol of Srinivasa or Venkateshwara in Chennapatna. Thus, we see a lot of similarities in the life and times of both these great Madhwa seers.

Though they were avatars of  Prahalada, we find that each lead a distinct and unique life. Though there were a lot of similarities between the two, the difference or period between the two avatars was barely six decades.

Vyasa Raja enters Brindavana in 1539 and Raghavendra Swamy is born in 1595. Or to put it the other way around, Vyasa Raja enters Brindavana nearly three decades before the fall of Vijayanagar (1565), while Raghavendra Swamy is born three decades after the destruction of Vijayanagar.