The last Brindavana

His was the last Brindavana to come up at the holy riverine island of Nava Brindavana on the banks of the Tungabhadra near Hampi in Bellary district of Karnataka.

(Nava Brindavana is home to nine Madhwa saints and the first Brindavana to come up there was of Padmanabha Theertha, one of the four direct disciples of Madhwacharya).  

Popularly remembered as the predecessor of Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru (1595-1671) who is one of the most well-known Madhwa saints, this seer was one of the most outstanding disciples of the redoubtable Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1447-1539).

As a disciple of  Vyasa Theertha who is one of the avatars of  Prahalada, he later became the Ashrama Guru of  Raghavendra Swamy, the next avatar of  Vyasa Raja. Thus, he was the link between two avatars of  Prahalada-Vyasa Raja and Raghavendra Swamy.

Though he took sanyasa at the instance of Surendra Theertha, the guru of Vijendra Theertha, he assumed office as the Peetadhipathi of the Sri Matha after Vijendra Theertha.

He was one of the handful of people of the age who knew the previous avatars of Raghavendra Swamy and he heeded to the voice of Vijendra Theertha to make Raghavendra Swamy the next pontiff of the Sri Matha.

This seer was none other than Sudheendra Theertha, the pontiff of the Sri Matha, now popularly known as the Sri Raghavendra Mantralaya Matha or more popularly as Raghavendra Swamy Matha.

Sudheendra Theertha reigned over the pontificate from 1614 to 1623 and his aradhana falls in March.

Initially under the tutelage of  Vyasa Theertha and subsequently with Surendra Theertha and Vijendra Theertha, this seer went on to become a renowned scholar and he has to his credit at least eighteen works of  high scholastic order.

He also had the rare privilege of learning for several years under Vijendra Theertha where he mastered all the shastras. Like Vijendra Theertha, he too was an expert in several subjects such as plays, proses, poems and even Alankara.

Fortunately, some of the works penned by Sudheendra Theertha are still available. They include Sadyukthi Rathnakara, which is also called Tarkathandava Vyakhya, Apastamba Shulbasootrapradepa, commentaries on second and eleventh Skandas of Bhagvath Geeta, plays such as Subhadra Parinaya, Vyasarajabhyudaya, Amruthaharana and several works on poetry including Dayalu Shathaka, Vairagyatharanga and Alankara Manjari.

Other works of his include Alankaranishaka and Sahitya Samrajya which is a commentary on Raghunatha Bhoopaleeya of Krishnadhwari.

A learned man, he was honored by several Kings and rulers. Sriranga (1571-1585), the Raja of  Vijayanagar, felicitated Sudheendra Theertha and gifted him the villages of  Bacchanahalu in Tamaragere: Khyada in Badami: Yadwala on the banks of the Malaprabha in Manvi: Chenchala near Sindhur and
Aralihalli near Tavudugundi.

Venkatapati Deva Raya, the second, (1585-1614), the ruler of Vijayanagar, became his disciple and showered him with gems at Penugonda (the capital of the dynasty after the fall of Hampi). Raghunatha Nayak (1600-1634) and other Nayaks of Thanjavur also honored the seer.

In 1620, Chenji Bhoopathi Vadiyaru gifted Deepanallur and Kodikala villages on the banks of the Nityapushkarini at Srimushnam to the seer.

Sudheendra Theertha visited Bijapur which then was the biggest city on the Deccan. Bijapur was under the powerful Adilshahis and they had led an alliance to defeat Vijayanagar in 1565. The City of Bijapur and the Kingdom was reeling under severe famine caused by drought for twelve years.

Ibrahim Adil Shah (1580-1627) was the ruler of  Bijapur when Sudheendra Theertha visited the city. A Smarta Brahmin was the   Dewan of the Adi Shahi. He wanted to insult the seer and instigated the Sultan to ask Sudheendra Theertha to bring forth rains.

The Sultan asked Sudheendra Theertha to bring rains to the parched city. Sudheendra Theertha prayed to Hari and saw that the city was deluged by rains. Not content with this miracle, the Dewan wanted to know whether he could convert day into night.

Sudhendra Theertha once again prayed to Hari and the day changed to night, leaving the Dewan dumbfounded and the Sultan astonished. The sultan then felicitated Sudheendra Theertha and gifted the village of Anehosur to the Sri matha.

The Sultan also conferred the title Jagadguru on Sudheendra Theertha.  The Dewan too converted to Madhwa fold with Sudheendra Theertha himself performing Mudhradharane.

Sudheendra Theertha performed many other miracles. He entered Brindavana in March 1623 after appointing Raghavendra Swamy as his successor. It was he who gave the name Raghavendra Swamy to Venkatanatha. Lord Rama himself appeared in the dream of Sudheendra Theertha and directed him to name Venkatanatha as Raghavendra Swamy.

Raghavendra Swamy, in turn, took personal interest in constructing the Brindavana of his guru in Nava Brindavana. This is the last Brindavana to come up at the island of Nava Brindavana.

Sudheendra Theertha had chosen the Nava Brindavana as his final resting place after his ashrama guru, Vijendra Theertha, informed him about the holiness of the place and its association with Shanku Karna.

Sudheendra Theertha also wanted to be as near to the Brindavana of Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha. Hence, he had requested Venkatanatha, the future Raghavendra Swamy, to make arrangements for the Brindavana Pravesha at Nava Brindavana.   

Thus, Raghavendra Swamy was directly involved in the construction of the Brindavana at Nava Brindavana. As Vyasa Theertha in his previous avatar, he had entered Brindavana at the very spot and apart from thousands of  people, his Brindavana Pravesha was witnessed by the then Vijayanagar Emperor, Achuta Deva Raya, and his star disciple Purandara Dasa.

Purandara Dasa has gone on to compose a poem when Vyasa Raja entered Brindavana. This composition gives us the exact day and date and even the time when Vyasa Raja entered Brindavana.

By comparison, the Brindavana Pravesh of Sudheendra Theertha was a somber and quiet affair. Hampi, by then, had fallen from grace and it was a city of ruins. Raghavendra Swamy, apart from the officials and disciples of the Sri Matha and a few locals, were all who witnessed the spectacle.

Raghavendra Swamy did stay back at Hampi-Nava Brindavana-Bellary area for some time after the Brindavana Pravesha of his guru before leaving for sanchara. He performed the pooje to all the yatis of the Nava Brindavana, including his previous avatar of Vyasa Raja, before leaving the place.

Raghavendra Swamy returned to Nava Brindavana a few times before finally settling down at Bichale, which is also on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Today, both Nava Brindavana and Bichale is in Karnataka, while Mantralaya where Rayaru entered Brindavana is in Andhra Pradesh. Mantralaya too is on the banks of Tungabhadra.              

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