Archive | June 2014

The Paramaguru of Rayaru

He was born to rule the spiritual world and he did so with his customary elan and finesse. A renowned scholar, author and the head of a powerful matha, he put several other scholars ad pandits on the backfoot with his deep knowledge of philosophy and extensive literary talent.

A man who had mastered all the arts, he was one of the favourite disciples of one of India’s best known philosopher-logician-composer and rajaguru-the indomitable Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1447-1539).

Vyasa Theertha had two disciples who excelled in all the arts and whose knowledge of religion and philosophy astounded every one. The two disciples were Vadiraja (1480-1600) and Vijendra Theertha (1517-1614). Both studied at Vijayanagar University and both of them have left their mark on Madhwa thought and philosophy.

Each of them were indebted to Vyasa Theertha who was the Raja Guru of six Vijayanagar Emperors, including Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1530), Achuta Deva Raya (1530-1542), who taught them everything he knew and readied them for taking on the future.

Since Vyasa Thertha was also the chancellor of the magnificent Vijayanagar University where he also taught, he ensured that both Vadiraja and Vijendra were taught everything or rather all the arts, including logic, theology, philosophy, fine arts, magic, painting, sculpting, composing and even dance.

If Vadiraja moved towards the coast (Udupi-Sode region) to spread Madhwa philosophy and made Udupi his base, Vijendra Theertha moved deep south towards Kumbakonam where he was once again schooled in the Sri Matha by its reigning pontiff, Surendra Theertha.

This post is about Vijendra Theertha whose aradhane is being celebrated. One of the most illustrious saints of the Madhwa fold, he has unfortunately not been given the due he deserves. One reason could be because he choose to enter Brindavana at Kumbakonam. Perhaps the distance of Kumbakonam from Mysore region where Madhwa religion and literature flourished contributed to vest an air of obscurity on the seer and his works.

Whatever the reason for not giving Vijendra Theertha his due, none can dispute his mastery over the arts, his superb works and his contribution in steering Madhwa faith and religion through troublesome times. So, here goes a small tribute to this great sage……..

Vyasa Theertha had decided to make Vijendra Theertha the mathadipathi after him but this could not be as Surendra Theertha asked for him during one of his visit to Hampi. Vijendra Theertha was born as Vittalacharya and he was named Vishnu Theertha by Vyasa Theertha.

When Vyasa Theertha reluctantly handed him over to Surendra Theertha, the later renamed him as Vijendra Theertha. When Vijendra Theertha ascended the peetha of the Sri matha, it was sometime in 1575. By then, the Vijayanagar Kingdom had been defeated by the combined Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan (1565) and Hampi was a ruined city.

The complete sack of Hampi and its ruins must have come as a shock to Vijendra Theertha as he had left it at the height of its prosperity. The Vijayanagar Emperor, Ramaraya (son-in-law of Krishna Deva Raya) had placed Vijendra Theertha on the throne and conducted Ratnabhisheka.

Vijendra Theertha had stayed on in Vijayanagar (Hampi) for a few months before leaving for sanchara (pilgrimage). He had foreseen the defeat of Vijayanagar and even warned Rama Raya about it.

As Vishnu Theertha, he had interacted regularly with Vyasa Theertha and his other disciples, including Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Vaikunta Dasa. While Purandara Dasa died in 1564, Kanaka Dasa in 1609 and Vaikunta Dasa in 1550, Vadiraja Thertha had moved to Sode as the head of the Sode Matha. As Vijendra Theertha, he interacted with Sudhindra Teertha, who later became his disciple and two other direct disciples of his Vyasa Theertha-Srinivasa Theertha and Rama Theertha. He also interacted with Madhwapathi Dasa, the son of Purandara Dasa who had fled Hampi after its sacking.

A prolific author, he has to his credit more than one hundred and eight works and they cover a range of topics from religion to literature, grammar to logic, philosophy to fine arts.

Unfortunately, his contribution to Dasa Sahitya and Dasara Padagalu remains unrecognised. He has several beautiful compositions in Kannada. Vyasarajavijaya

and Subhadra Dhananjaya are two beautiful dramatised poetic works. Two other works, Narasimhastuti and Papavimochanastotra are grantha stotras.

He was perhaps the first person to immediately recognise Venkatanatha as the avatar of Vyasa Theertha, his teacher. When Venkatanatha and his wife, Saraswathi, along with their young son, Lakshminarayana, came to the Sri Matha in Kumbakonam, both Vijendra Theertha and his disciple Sudheendra Theertha were seated in the matha.

On seeing Venkatanatha among a crowd of people, Vijendra Theertha recognised him as Vyasa Theertha. He pointed out Venkatanatha to Sudheendra Theertha and asked him to hand over the pontificate of the matha to him after him (Sudheendra Theertha).

Thus, Vijendra Theertha becomes the only seer to see both the avatars of Vyasa Theertha and Raghavendra Swamy. He is the disciple of one and the paramaguru of the other. As Vishnu Theertha, he was a devoted student of Vyasa Theertha and he lived for several years at Vijayanagar. As Vijendra Theertha, he recognises Venkatanatha as Vyasa Theertha and directs Sudheendra Theertha to handover the pontificate to Venkatanatha.

It is sometime in 1614 that Vijendra Theertha decided to enter Brindavana. He chooses Kumbakonam itself for Brindavana pravesha. However, it shpould be understood that there is still no unanimity on the time line of Vijendra Theertha. Different scholars assign different times for this seer. If BNK Sharma, the scholar, assigns him the period between 1517 and 1595, Dr. Vedavyasachar in his Gurucharitre, puts the period of Vijendra Theertha between 1575 and 1614. However, it is best that we go by the dates assigned by the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Matha.

Whatever his timeline, Madhwas and, indeed, all people should never forget the contribution of this saint.

Raghavendra Swamy himself has referred to the works of Vijendra Theertha on several occasions.  

This seer’s aradhana falls in June-July.

A beautiful composition

One of the readers, Mr.Naresh Kumar, had sought for lyrics of this beautiful composition by Gopala Dasaru on Raghavendra Swamy.
Gopala Dasaru is one of the important figures in Dasa Sahitya. He was an ardent admirer of Raghavendra Swamy and he visited Mantralaya several times. He has innumerable compositions on Rayaru to his credit.
Gopala Dasa (1722-1766) was a contemporary of Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi, Vijaya Dasa and Venugopala Dasa.
Gopala Dasa gave Haridasa Deeksha to Srinivasacharya who later came to be known as Jagannatha Dasa. He also took on the stomach ache of Jagannatha Dasa and till his end he suffered from severe stomach ache. He also donated 40 years of his life span to Jagannatha Dasa.
All his brothers took up Haridasa Deekshe and all of them composed deveranamas.
So here goes one of the compositions of Gopala Dasa.

ಗುರುರಾಘವೇ೦ದ್ರರ ಚರಣಕಮಲವನ್ನು

ಸ್ಮರಿಸುವ ಮನುಜರಿಗೆ | | ಪ ||

ಕರೆಕರೆಗೊಳಿಸುವ ದುರಿತ ದುಷ್ಕೃತವೆಲ್ಲ

ಕರಿಯು ಸಿ೦ಹನ ಕ೦ಡ ತೆರನಾಗುವುದಯ್ಯ | ಅ ||

ಗುರುಮಧ್ವಮತವೆ೦ಬ ವರಕ್ಷೀರಾ೦ಬುಧಿಯಲ್ಲಿ

ಹರಧರಿಸಿದ ಶಶಿಯ೦ತುದಿಸಿ

ಪರಮತತಿಮಿರಕ್ಕೆ ತರಣಿ ಕಿರಣವೆನಿಸಿ

ಪಿರಿದು ಮೆರೆದ ಸೀತಾರಾಮಾರ್ಚಕರಾದ || ೧ ||

ಹರಿಯೇ ಸರ್ವೊತ್ತಮ ಸಿರಿಯು ಆತನ ರಾಣಿ

ಪರಮೇಷ್ಟಿ ಮರುತರೆ ಗುರುಗಳೆ೦ದು

ಗರುಡ ಶೇಷ ರುದ್ರ ಸಮರೆ೦ದು ಸ್ಥಾಪಿಸಿ

ಸ್ಥಿರತರತಮ ಪ೦ಚಭೇದ ಸತ್ಯವೆ೦ಬ || ೨ ||

ರಾಯೆನ್ನೆ ರಾಶಿದೋಷಗಳೆಲ್ಲ ದಹಿಸುವ

ಘಯೆನ್ನೆ ಘನಜ್ಞಾನ ಭಕ್ತಿಯೀವಾ

ವೇ೦ ಎನೆ ವೇಗದಿ ಜನನ ಮರಣ ದೂರ

ದ್ರಯೆನ್ನೆ ದ್ರವಿಣಾರ್ಥ ಶೃತಿಪಾದ್ಯನ ಕಾ೦ಬ || ೩ ||

ಅ೦ಧಕರಿಗೆ ಚಕ್ಷು ವ೦ಧ್ಯೆಯರಿಗೆ ಸುತರು

ಬ೦ದಬ೦ದವರಿಗಭೀಷ್ಟವ ಕೊಡುತ

ಒ೦ದಾರುನೂರು ವತ್ಸರ ಬೃ೦ದಾವನದಲಿ

ಚ೦ದಾಗಿ ನಿ೦ದು ಮೆರೆವ ಕೃಪಾಸಿ೦ಧು || ೪ ||

ದೇವಾ೦ಶರಾಗಿ ತು೦ಗಾತೀರದಿ ನಿ೦ದು

ಸೇವೆ ಭೂಸುರರಿ೦ದ ಬಹುಕೊಳ್ಳುತ

ಭಾವಜನಯ್ಯ ಗೋಪಾಲವಿಠ್ಠಲನ್ನ

ಸೇವಿಸುತಿಹ ಯತಿಕುಲಶಿಖಾಮಣಿಯಾದ || ೫ ||

This seer is really special

A few days ago, I visited one of the prominent Raghavendra Swamy mathas in Bangalore. The matha had geared itself up to celebrate the aradhane of one of its pontiffs, Vadeendra Theertha.

I found several youngsters trying in vain to obtain more information about Vadeendra Theertha. Many were not even aware of who this great saint was an what was his contribution. All that they were aware of was that he was one of the successors of Raghavendra Swamy to occupy the post of the pontiff. This article is, therefore, only an small attempt to detail the contribution of this saint. So here it is….

He is the only seer of the holy Mantralaya Raghavendra Swamy Matha and perhaps the only one whose Brindavana or the final resting place was constructed several decades even before he was born.

He is also the only saint whose Brindavana was foretold by Raghavernda Swamy himself (1595-1671). Infact, Raghavendra Swamy himself declined to enter Brindavana on the structure already constructed and ordered a fresh one to be built. He prophesied that a worthy successor would have the right to enter the Brindavana first constructed by his ardent disciple Venkanna, the Dewan of Adoni.

Venkanna along with his master, Siddi Masud Khan, had built a beautiful Brindavana in Mantralaya as per the wishes of Raghavendra Swamy. However, when the seer saw the Brindavana, he wanted a simpler one and declared that the Brindavana would be occupied by a person who would in due course of time occupy the pontifical seat of the matha.

Raghavendra Swamy entered Brindavana in Mantralaya, which was then known as Manchale in August 1671 and it took 79 years for his successor to enter the Brindavana originally planned to be the resting place of Raghavendra Swamy. It was in June 1750 that Vadeendra Theertha, the then reigning pontiff of the Mantralaya Matha, entered the Brindavana.

It was Upendra Theertha (his brindavana is in Srirangam) who gave sanyasa to Vadeendra Theertha. He was the great grandson of Raghavendra Swamy himself. His father, Purushottamacharya, was the son of Laksminarayanacharya, the poorvashrama son of Rayaru or Raghavendra Swamy..

Vadeendra Theertha was earlier known as Srinivasacharya. It was Upendra Theertha who gave him the name Vadeendra Theertha. A great scholar, he was also an able hand at administering the matha. He guided the matha during the turbulent times of the 18th century when south India was seeing political upheavels.

Vadeendra Theertha managed to not only safeguard the lands and property of the matha but he was gifted lands and property in north Karnataka, particularly Hubli. Ranebennur, Savanur and Rattehalli in 1734-1735.

More importantly, Vadeendra Theertha got the lands at Mantralaya reconveyed to the Matha after he met the Mughal administrator of Adoni province, Muzaffarjung Bahadur. The Mughals had wrested control of Adoni after defeating Siddi Masud Khan and this was after the fall of the Adil Shahi kingdom in 1686. Siddi Masud Khan reigned independently for a few years before he was forced to surrender Adoni to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. He was later shifted to Delhi as one of the officers of the Mughal court. Since then, Adoni had been under the control of the Mughals. Mantralaya was part of the Adoni province.

When Vadeendra Theertha came to Mantralaya after his tour of north Karnataka in 1734, he found that the matha was on the verge of losing its lands in the holy town. He met the Mughal representative and got the documents of Manchale village reconveyed in favour of the Matha.        

Perhaps the most notworthy contribution of Vadeendra Theerta is his work, Gurugunastavana. Today, this work is hailed as one of the two most authentic works on Raghavendra Swamy. What is more Raghavendra Swamy himself stamped the seal of approval on this book when his Brindavana shook from side to side while Vadeendra Theertha was reading out the work.

Gurugunastavana mainly deals with the circumstances under which Rayaru wrote his works. It is a work of 36 slokas.

The other works by this great saint include Tattvodyota Tippani, Raghavendramathagatharchagathikrama, Bhoogola Khagola Vichara and Tattvaprakashika Tippani (Meemamsa Nayadarpana). These works were written when he was the pontiff of the matha. Another work, Navyadurakthishiksha, was written before he took sanyasa.

Two other works include Madhwarya and Vishnu Soubhagya Shikharini

Vadeendra Theertha is important for another reason. He was instrumental in energising the Haridasa movement. He himself wrote several poems of which only a few survive.  
He is believed to be an avatara of Dronacharya, the teacher of the Pandavas and Kauravas during the Mahabharata.

Vadeendra Theertha entered Brindavana in 1750 in Mantralaya after handing over the reigns of the ashrama to Vasudendra Theertha. Even today, Vadeendra Theerta appears in the dreams of devotees along with the venerable Raghavendra Swamy. On several occasions, Raghavendra Swamy himself has appeared in person as Raghappa and Vadeendra Theertha as Varadappa.

The aradhane of this saint is celebrated every year in June-July (Jyesta Shukla Navami). This time around the current Mantralaya seer himself led the aradhane celebrations of Vadeendra Theertha at Mantralaya on June 7. Vadeendra Theertha’s son, Dheenendra Theertha, earlier known as Jayaramacharya, too was an eminent pontiff of the Mantralaya matha.