The two avatars

The two avatars of  Prahalada in the Kali Yuga – Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy- go around the country, upholding the Dwaitha or Madhwa siddantha, taking on scholars and seers of other streams of philosophy and defeating them.

Vyasa Raja starts the Dasa Koota and Vyasa Koota-the first teaches people through songs and composition and the second is by way of philosophy and literature.

During the period of Vyasa Raja, Hampi becomes the centre of Haridasa literature. Purandara Dasa (1484-1564), Kanaka Dasa (1509-1609) and Vaikunta Dasa (1480-1550) embody the principles of  Dasa Sahitya and they take this form of composition to a new high. If Purandara Dasa beseeches Vittala of Panduranga, it is Adikeshava of Kaginale for Kanaka Dasa. It is the dancing Krishna for Vaikunta Dasa.

Vaikunta Dasa, of course was a Srivaishnava, and he was attracted to Vaishnava faith, thanks to the scholarly Vyasa Raja and he composed innumerable devara namas on Hari. He rarely, if ever, left Belur-the city of his domicile, and when he did do, he was to be found in Hampi with his friend Purandara.

As far as Vyasa Koota was concerned, apart from the redoubtable Vyasa Raya, there was a huge body of his disciples who carried forward the philosophy of Madhwa. They were Vijendra Theerta and Sudheendra Theertha of  Sri Matha, Srinivasa Theertha who succeeded Vyasa Raja to the Vyasa Raja matha, Vadiraja of Sode and many more.

When Vyasa enters Brindavana at Nava Brindavana in 1539-this is ten years after Krishna Deva Raya dies in 1529 and Achuta Deva Raya becomes Emperor-both the Dasa and Vyasa Koota are at its peak. Vaikunta Dasa died in 1550 and Purandara passes away in 1564. A forlone Kanaka Dasa wanders away from Hampi which falls to the Muslim states of Deccan in 1565 and the city is completely destroyed.        

Though the Vyasa Koota survives in mathas and centres of learning, the Dasa Koota vanishes from Hampi as it has no patron. It then disperses all over south India-reviving in small clusters in Mysore, Tanjore, Madurai, Bedanur, Tirumala. Purandara Dasa’s son, Madhwapathi Dasa, flees to Pune with his father’s large body of work.

The decades after 1565 see the eclipse of the Dasa Koota. The Dasa movement once again perks up when Vijaya Dasa comes of age and he starts composing on the Mahime and holiness of Raghavendra Swamy.

Raghavendra Swamy thus revives the Dasa Koota and it reaches the zenith after he enters Brindavana in Manchale or Mantralaya in 1671. More than two hundred Dasas, a majority of them hailing from Raichur, pour in their devotion to Rayaru in the form of poems.

Hari Dasas such as Vijaya Dasa (1682-1755), Jaganatha Dasa of Manvi (author of Sriharikathamrutsara) (1728-1809), Prasanna Venkata Dasa (1680-1752), Guru Shesha Vittala Dasa (1740-1846), Srida Vittala Dasa (1741-1820),  Abhinava Janardhana Vittala Dasa, Narasimha Vittala Dasa (1685-1765), Gopala dasa (1722-1762), Vyasa Vittala Dasa,  Jagannatha Dasa of Kosigi (1837-1918), Muddu Mohana Dasa (1830-1898), Krishna Avadootaru, Ibharampura Appa and more than hundred and fifty others make Manchale or Mantralaya the hub of the second Dasa Sahitya.

Thus, we see that both the subsequent avatars of Prahalada in the Kali Yuga are fountainheads of music and philosophy. Both Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy are expert musicians and both are masters of the 64 arts. Both have left behind a fairly large and comprehensive body of Madhwa literature that are considered to be gems of their genre.

Both have interpreted Madhwa and his teachings in a sublime manner. If Krishna was the Aradhya Devaru of Vyasa Raja, Lord Rama was the ideal of Raghavendra Swamy. However, both have composed one outstanding song on Krishna which are among the most popular songs even today. They are “Indu Enage Govinda” by Raghavendra Swamy and “Krishna Nee Begane Baro” by Vyasa Raja.

The fact that both the seers had a close bond with music and composition can be linked to the Prahalada avatara. When Prahalada was in the womb of his mother, Leelavathi, she frequently listened to the teachings and music of Narada.

Leelavathi had turned to spiritual relief as she felt mentally harassed and vulnerable due to her non-believing husband, Hiranyakashipu.

Narada sang the glory of Hari and blessed Leelavathi. Thus, we see Vyasa Theertha and Raghavendra Swamy becoming proficient in both music and literature, apart from philosophy and logic. It is the knowledge from Narada that continues to flow from Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy during their avatars.

The Kali Yuga also sees a strange reverse of the Guru-Shishya relationship. Vyasa Raja becomes the preceptor, teacher, philosopher, friend and guide to Purandara Dasa, who was an avatar of Narada. This is remarkable as Narada was the teacher and preceptor to Prahalada, his pupil.

Why did this happen. We can only surmise and marvel at this phenomenon.

Did Hari want to show that knowledge is supreme and that it has no barriers. Did he want to send out a message that a Shishya can outdo his Guru and knowledge is the true and only Guru and that it knows no boundaries and age.

Prahalada learnt his lessons on and of God or rather Hari in such a sincere and humble manner that Narada was forced to take rebirth to learn those tenets from him. Another such example is the Madhwacharya-Achutapreksha link.

Initially, Madhwacharya accepts Achutapreksha Theertha as his guru and learns under him. Subsequently, Achutapreksha Theertha accepts Madhwa siddantha and considers Madhwacharya as his guru.

We see the same replay of facts in the Vyasa Raja-Purandara Dasa timeline. The avatars play out their parts in the Kali Yuga and there is no further intermingling among them. The only time Raghavendra Swamy remembers his previous avatar is when he sees a poor man near a temple. He beckons him and gives him moksha. People around Raghavendra Swamy later come to know that the old and poor man was none other than Kanaka Dasa in his previous birth and Vyasa Raja had foretold Kanaka that he would have to be reborn again in order to attain Moksha.

Raghavendra Swamy had immediately recognised the poor man as Kanaka Dasa in his previous birth. He remembered his prophecy which he had delivered to Kanaka Dasa in Hampi and he helped the man attain Moksha.

Raghavendra Swamy did visit Nava Brindavana and Hampi after he took over as the Peetadhipathi of the Sri Matha at Kumbakonam. He personally oversaw the construction of the Brindavana for his guru, Sudhindra Theertha at Nava Brindavana. The Vijayanagar Empire had vanished by then and Raghavendra Swamy sat in meditation on the holy ground of  Nava Brindavana.

He worshipped his previous avatar of Vyasa Raja and also spoke to him. When some of his disciples and onlookers wanted to know why Vyasa Raja spoke to him alone and not to others, our Rayaru said he-Vyasa Raja- was his elder brother.

Raghavendra Swamy also visited  Chakratheertha in Hampi where Vyasa Raja had consecrated the first of his  732 Hanumans. He prays to Hanuman and recalls the song on the Hanuman here composed by Vyasa Raja.

Raghavendra Swamy also pays a visit to VirupakshaTemple in Hampi where he stays for some time. He looks at the magnificent temple and also at the stone slab here Krishna Deva Raya had declared Vyasa Raja as his Guru. The venerable Raghavendra Swamy apparently shows no emotion and he also makes no mention of the glory, pomp and pageantry of  Vijayanagar that he was a part of as Vyasa Raja.

Thus we see Raghavendra Swamy immersed wholeheartedly in the task of spreading the tenets of  Dwaitha philosophy and in teaching people the righteous way of life. He shows us in this avatar that devotion, sincerity and knowledge apart from worshipping Sri Hari is more important than merely remembering the past. So, we do not find anywhere Raghavendra Swamy bemoaning the fall of Vijayanagar or telling his disciples how he as Vyasa Raja sat on the Dharmic Durbar of Vijayanagar to which even the Emperors, Krishna Deva Raya and Achuta Deva Raya, were humble visitors. This parallel durbar of  Vyasa Raja finds mention in the accounts of Portueguese travellers Domingo Peas and Fernao Nuniz. Both of them saw Vyasa Raja and wrote about him and the respect that Vyasa Raja commanded from Kings and Emperors.

Another traveller, Duarte Barboosa (1480-1521), a cousin of Ferdinand Magellan, came to Vijayanagar sometime between 1504 and 1514. He calls Vijayanagar as Narsinga and he makes only a passing mention of this Madhwa seer.

Similarly, Raghavendra Swamy is seen seated in the Brindavana in Mantralaya by a Scott, Thomas Munroe (1761-1827), who was an official of the Ceded Provinces. He converses in English with Munroe. This happened in 1800 when he was the Collector of Bellary and Mantralaya came under his jurisdiction.

But the credit for first identifying Raghavendra Swamy as Vyasa Raja must go to Vijendra Theertha. This seer sees young Venkatanatha-who becomes the future Raghavendra-with his wife Saraswathi and their child (Lakshminarayana) at the Sri Matha in Kumbakonam. He immediately recognises Venkatanatha as Vyasa Raja and tells his Shishya, Sudheendra Theertha, about it. He also asks Sudheendra Theertha to hand over the reigns of the matha to Venkatanatha after his tenure. Sudheendra Theertha thus becomes the second person to understand the avatars of Rayaru.

After Sudheendra Theertthaenteres Brindavana in 1623-24, Raghavendra Swamy ascends the peetha and the Vijendra Theertha Matha comes to be known as Raghavendra Swamy or Mantralaya Matha. 

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