If Vijendra Theertha was the first Madhwa seer to identify Venkatanatha-the future Raghavendra Swamy-as his guru Vyasa Raja (1447-1539) in his previous avatar, it was left to a Haridasa to give us more information on the other amshas or avatars of Raghavendra Swamy.
After identifying Venkatanatha, Vijendra Theertha (1517-1614) hands over the baton of the Sri Matha in Kumbakonam to Sudheendra Theertha who ruled over the Madhwa pontificate till 1623.
By then, Venkatanatha was attached to the Sri Matha of Kumbakonam and the more Sudheendra Theertha saw of Venkatanatha the more was his desire to ensure that Venkatanatha sat on the peetha of the Sri Matha. Besides, Sudheendra Theertha had promised his Guru, Vijendra Theertha, to make Venkatanatha, the pontiff of the matha.
In 1623, Sudheendra Theertha gives Sanyasa to Venkatanatha and names his Raghavendra Swamy. This initiation takes place in Thanjavur. In 1658, Rayaru or Raghavendra Swamy leaves Kumbakonam and travels to Manchale or Mantralaya where he enters Brindavana in August 1671.
Decades after he enters Brindavana, Raghavendra sparks the second revival of the Haridasa movement which was founded by him in his previous avatar as Vyasa Raja.
If Vyasa Raja commences the Haridasa or Dasa Koota in Hampi, Raghavendra does so from his Brindavana in Mantralaya the second time around. The man Raghavendra Swamy chooses to rekindle the Dasa Koota is Vijaya Dasa (1682-1755).
Vijaya Dasa visits Mantralaya and his first compositions on Rayaru act as a catalyst for the rest of the dasas to follow suit. Since Vijaya Dasa was an amsha of Brighu Muni (Brighu was one of the seven great sags or Sapta Rishis of ancient India and he was a contemporary of Manu), he immediately recognises Raghavendra Swamy as avatars of Shanku Karna, Prahalada. Bahlika Raja and Vyasa Raja.
Bhrigu is the Manasa putra of Bramha. He takes birth as Dasappa who becomes Vijaya Dasa. It is Narada himself in the form of Purandara Dasa who takes Dasappa to Vyasakashi and introduces him to Narayana or Veda Vyasa who writes the ankita Vittala on his tongue.
Since he was a divine personality, it was easy for Vijaya Dasa to identify the previous avatars of Raghavendra Swamy. He becomes the first Haridasa to identify the avatars and also too write about them.
” Prahalaadane Vyasamuni Raghavendraru
ahudendu bhajisiro vijayavittala oliva ”
Vijaya Dasa makes it clear that both Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swany are one and the same and that the differences, if any, are only in the periods in which they lived. He says both the Madhwa seers are one and the same. He also says that we can attain God by praying through Raghavendra Swamy.
Though a Rakshasa, Prahalada was a supreme devotee of Hari. He did not have even a single quality of a demon though his father, Hiranyakashipu, was an enfant terrible. As a demon, Hiranyakashipu was vain, proud and haughty. He feared none and declared himself to be the equal of Gods.
On the other hand, Prahalada, the son of a demon, was extremely religious and he always had the name of Hari on his lips. Even when he was in the womb of his mother, Leelavathi, he listened to the Puranas, Devarnamas and Shlokas of Narada Muni.
Narada thus becomes the first guru of Prahalada.
Even Madhwacharya acknowledges the divineness of Prahalada. He says Prahalada had Vayu avesha and, therefore, took avatara as Bahlika Raja during the Mahabharata period. Who else but Madhwacharya would know about this since it is he would grant a boon to Bahlika Raja to be reborn as a Brahmin.
It is Madhwa as Bheema who kills Bahlika Raja in a mace fight and this after he was hit 732 times by Bahlika Raja. This avatar too had Vayu avesha and Madhwacharya conforms this in his Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya.
When Bahlika Raja is on his death bed, he asks Bheema for pardon and also requests him to grant him the wish to be reborn as a Brahamana and also to ascend the Sri Peetha that he is going to establish on earth.
Bahlika Raja tells Bheema that he would want to worship all the idols he as Madhwa would do when he establishes the Madhwa Matha. Bahlika Raja realizes that Bheema would be reborn as a saint philosopher in the Kali Yuga and that he would found the Dwaitha order. He wants to be a part of this order. Bheema says “Tathastu” and Bahlika Raja leaves the mortal world to be reborn as Vyasa Raja.
However, there is no meeting of these two avatars in the Kali Yuga. Vyasa Raja was born in 1447 nearly two hundred and fifty years after Madhwacharya. However, both Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy come to Udupi and worship Krishna. Both have composed a song on Krishna. If it is Krishna Nee Begane Baro by Vyasa Raja, it is Indu Enage Govinda by Raghavendra Swamy.
Many such facts are brought out by Vijaya Dasa in his compositions on Rayaru. It is due to Vijaya Dasa that we know the secrets behind the avatars of Raghavendra Swamy, his life and times.