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Rayaru and his devotee


One of the most well-known and perhaps the most famous disciples of Raghavendra Swamy is Appannacharya.
Appannacharya was to Raghavendra what Purandara was to Vyasa Raja in his earlier avatar.
It was Appannacharya who drew upon Rayaru’s vast knowledge and taught the many hundreds of students who thronged his Gurukula at Bichale.
The Gurukula had no building but it was an open place at the Japada Katte. The students went around the small village of  Bichale and collected alms.
During his lifetime, Appannacharya composed many slokas in praise of Raghavendra Swamy. All these slokas were originally in Sanskrit.
Not many know that most of the Sanskrit hymns that we chant today in honor of Rayaru such as the Raghavendra stotra, mangalashtaka, dandaka are all compositions by Appannacharya.
The most famous composition of all is Poojaya Raghavendraiah Satyadharma……. Which is a part of the Poornabodha Sloka that Appanacharya composed when he waded across the raging Tungabhadra on hearing that Rayaru was about to enter Brindavana.
Though Rayaru wanted to give Sanyasa to Appannacharya and make him the next head of the Matha, Appannacharya refused. There was a simple reason for this. Appannacharya was addicted to chewing tobacco and he could never get out of this habit. Though Rayaru had advised him many times to give up this habit, Appannacharya always laughingly told him he had become a slave to this. He thus did not become the next head of the Matha.
However, his devotion to Rayaru was unquestionable. Though he was two years older to Rayaru, he gave himself up totally to ensure that Rayaru did not face any problem during his stay in Bichale.
When Rayaru first set foot in the house of  Appannacharya, he realised that Appannacharya and his first wife did not have any children.
Rayaru himself forced Appannacharya to marry a second time and this time the couple had children. The descendents of this lineage continues till today and one of them looks after the Japada Katte while the other looks after the house that is in ruins.
Today nothing remains of the old Bichale village. The entire village was swept away in the flash floods that drowned Mantralaya and other surrounding areas in October 2009. A new Bichale has come up atop a small hillock. Even today, we can see broken down homes and destroyed temples in the old village.
Miraculously, there was no harm to the Eka shila Brindavana on the Japada Katte. However, the main branch of the Gum tree where Appannacharya used to keep rice tied to a branch of the tree was washed away by the flood waters. Today, only a small tree of the old behemoth remains.
The river water even now inundates the Brindavana every year but only for a few days. The flash floods of  2009 are only a memory but they are a painful reminder of  Nature’s fury.  
There is however, not much damage to the Japada Katte. Apart from the Brindavana, the other structures too exists. Thus the legend of Appannacharya and Raghavendra Swamy lives on.  

The sloka that moved Rayaru to complete it


Millions of people across the globe, irrespective of their caste, country, religion or sex, burst into a two-lined stanza almost everyday. The two lines are perhaps the most popular hymn and there is a crescendo of this every Thursday when people gather in large numbers in temples of Raghavendra Swamy.
The two line which encapsulate the place that Raghavendra Swamy holds in our life are so simple that even a child can utter it.
These lines are,
“Poojyaaya Raghavendraiah, Satyadharma Rathayacha
Bhajatam Kalpavrukshaiah Namatham Kamadhenuve.”
These are the lines from the famous Poornabodha Stotra that Appanchacrya composed in honor of Raghavendra Swamy.
The entire stotra came out extempore from Appanacharya as he frantically swam across the Tunghabhadra to Mantralaya from Bichele. That day was August 8, 1761 and it was well past noon. Thus this beautiful sloka can be dated to a particular day and even date. 
Raghavendra Swamy and Appancharya had spent 12 years in Bichele. When the tome for entering Brindavana, drew near, Raghavendra Swamy knew that he would not be able to so if Appanacharya was near him.
Appanacharya had become totally devoted to Raghavendra Swamy. Though he was elder to Raghavendra Swamy by two years, he was totally involved in looking after the needs of Rayaru.
He prepared food for Rayaru, spoke and discussed philosophy and religion, listened to the scholastic discourse of Rayaru and even pressed his feet when Rayaru slept.
Rayaru sent Appanacharya on sanchara. He then decided to enter Brindavana at Mantralaya, just 14 kms away and on the other banks of the Tungabhadra.  
When Appanacharya returned to Bichale, he was told about how Raghavendra Swamy had decided to enter Brindavana. A grief-struck Appanacharya plunged into the raging Tungabhadra which was in floods then.
The Tungabhadra
Appanacharya had no concern about his safety. He had a prayer to Raghavendra on his lips and he decided to swim to the other bank of the Tungabhadra.
He then composed the 32-stanza Poornabodha Stotra of which these two lines are a part. The entire stotra was composed as Appanacharya battled the surge of water to be near his beloved Rayaru.
The commencement of the stotra is from the very Japada Katte which can still be seen in Bichele. The final wording of the stotra was in front of the Brindavana of Ragjhavendra in Mantralaya.
When Appanacharya completed the last but one line, the final slab was placed on the Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy. A tearful Appanacharya was unable to complete the stotra and he fell onto the Brindavan, weeping inconsolably and calling out to his dear friend, philosopher and Guru.
The Poornabodha Sloka or Stotra had not been completed as Appanacharya had stopped singing after saying,
“Yobhaktya Gururaghavendra charanadwandam smaran
yaha pathaet
Stotram divyamidamsada nahi bhavaettasya asukham kinchan
kimtvishtartha samruddhireva kamalanatha prasadodayaat
kirti digvidita vibhutiratula”.
Raghavendra Swamy is believed to have shown himself to Appancharya and completed the stotra saying “Sakshee Hayastotra Hee”.
Raghavendra Swamy was so moved by the devotion of Appanacharya that he is believed to have helped Appanacharya navigate the Tungabhadra without drowning. This was his first miracle even as he was sitting in the Brindavana and his devotees were placing the stones to close the structure.    
Thus the sloka, also called the Raghavendra Sloka or Guru Sloka, which began at Bichele, ended at the Brindavana of Rayaru in Mantralaya. The commencement of the sloka was at the favourite Japada katte in Bichele and it ended with Rayaru himself signaling the comnpletion of the Sloka.  
The Japada Katte has suffered little damage during the October 2009 floods that ravaged Bichele, Mantralaya and several villages and towns of Kurnool.
If you happen to visit Bichele, you can meet one of the descendents of Appanacharya who will show you the place from where Appanacharya plunged into the raging Tungabhadra. This was the very place of the Skola.
The Sloka is so full of devotion and respect that it has become the most popular lines of all times. You can see it  everywhere-in almost all the Raghavendra Swamy temples, in books on Raghavendra Swamy and most of all on the lips of million and million of people.

The image of Rayaru

Thus this sloka is important for several things. First and foremost, it helped Appanacharya cross the river. Second, it showed that devotion could move even those who could not be seen. Thirdly, it was completed by Rayaru even when he was not physically not present. The voice from the Brindavana which completed the sloka shows us that devotion can move anybody.