Shri Raghavendra Teertharu
Shri Raghavendra Theertharu (1621-1671)
Sri Raghavendra thirtharu is known as kaliyuga kalpataru & Kamadhenu. He is the greatest contribution from Madhwa society to this whole world. He was Bhakta agrani(Humble & devoted to lord), un matched Gyanani (scholar of highest standard), Sadguna Sandra(personality of highest human values), Bhaktoddaraka (protect devotees & provide what one wants), Deena dayalu (protect suffering people), Tapasvi, Guru (Guides & teaches right path in life), writer par excellence. He has innumerable qualities that is impossible to record by the simple souls like us.
Sri Raghavendra Thirtharu is referred as the “Madhwa MatAmbOdhi Chandra” (Moon on the ocean called madhva shAstra). The whole world respectfully & affectionately call him “RAYARU” & worship him with great devotion & affection. Sri Raghavendra Theertha comes in the direct lineage of Sri Madhwacharya started by Sri Hamsa Namaka Paramatma, and he is 16th saint after Sri Madhwacharya.
Here is his brief introduction
Poorvasharama Name : Sri Venkatanatha Bhatta
Ashrama Gururagalu : Sri SudheendraTheertharu
Ashrama Sishyaru : Sri Yogeendra Theertharu
Aradana : Shravana Krishna Dwitiya, (Virodhikrut Samvatsara)
Vrundavana Place : Moola Mantralaya (Mruttika Vrundavana’s Whole over India)
Background of avatara
It is popular belief, based on testimonials from aparOxa gyAnis, that the Sri Raghavendra Theertharu is Shankukarna in his moola roopa & had many incarnations before as Sri PrahlAdaraja – Sri bAhlIkaraja – Sri vyAsaraja –Shri Raghavendra Theertharu (Gururajaru). Let us take a closer look at each person in the lineage
Sri Sankukarna was a karmaja dEvata assisting chaturmukha brahma in the pUja of the Lord. One day, he was a little late in bringing flowers for the pooja and brahma cursed him to be born on the earth to show the devotion of shankukarna on Lord
Sri PrahlAdaraja is very well known for his devotion to god. With his un-compromised devotion prahlada brought lord Sri Narayana incarnated as Sri Narasimha to earth to end the adharmic rule of his father Hiranyakahipu in Satya yuga.
Sri BAhlIkaraja was a very pious king in dvApara yuga. He was a great devotee of Lord Krishna, but due to circumstances beyond the control he ended up fighting against the pAnDavas. He fought against bhIma during kurukhetra war & end his avatara.
Sri vyAsateertha(Vyasaraja), referred as one of the top three great mAdhva saints. He was a revered rAjaguru who helped king krishnadEvarAya to establish sanatana dharma in vijayanagar kingdom & helped him through several major crisis in his life. He also strived hard to establish and bring Tattva vada (Dvaitha philosophy) to fore front in southern part of india. He was excellent writer & great debator with several great works to his credit, the chief ones being tAtparya chandrika, tarka tAnDava and nyAyamruta. He established one of the respected Vishwapavani university in vijayanagara kingdom to teach thousands of students in various vedic studies. Many great scholars were trained by him some of the great stalwarts were, Sri Vadirajaru, Sri Vijayeendra Theertharu & Sri Srinivasa theertharu etc. He also initiated Kannada dasasahitya parampare & who gave us precious gems like purandara dAsaru and kanakadAsaru etc, and composed hundreds of devotional songs by himself. Above all, he was a very great devotee of hari and vAyu. There is a saying “Vyasamuni Madwamatavannu uddarisida” by non other than Sri Purandara dasaru.
Brief sketch of rayara Avatara
The fall of the vijayanagar kingdom had an adverse effect on many scholars who depended on royal patronage. Most of the Hindu community moved south with their families, seeking ashraya with southern kings and chieftains. One such scholar was Thimmanna Bhatta, grandson of Veena Krishna bhatta. Thimmanna belonged to the renouned shastika vamsha of Goutama gotra, Beegamudra manetana(family). Along with Vedic scholarity they were Traditionally acquired mastery in playing veena. He was married to GopikAmba. Initially, this couple had 2 children – GururAja bhatta and VenkATamba. Later in 1595, by the grace of Lord Venkateshwara, a third son was born to this couple. They named him VenkaTanAtha bhatta.
VenkaTanAtha was a very brilliant from his childhood. This was visible even he was a child, he used to discuss & question his father on basic as well as very broad subjects like “how a small object like ‘Om’ could capture the infinite greatness of god” etc. However, his father did not live long enough to see the greatness of his son; he passed away when VenkaTanAtha was still at a very young age.
VenkaTanAtha’s brother Sri Gururaja took care of his upbringing. The initial portion of his education was under his brother-in-law LakshmInarasimhAchArya of Madurai.
Upon completion of his basic studies & returning from Madurai, VenkaTanAtha was married to Saraswati, who was from noble Chinnabandari manetana(family), Sri Vijayeendra thirthata’s poorvashrama family . The Shastras say that for one who has control of his senses, wedded life does not hamper learning. For VenkaTanAtha, most of his learning occurred after marrying Saraswati, through the blessings of Goddess Saraswati. VenkaTanAtha went to Kumbhakonam, the seat of learning at the time. There he studied dvaita vEdanta, advanced works on grammer and other sastras under Sri sudhIndra tIrtharu.There. He used to stay awake past midnight to write his own comments and notes on the lessons that had been done. He had a debate with Sri Venkatesvara dikshita, a famous scholar of the Tanjore court in 1620. Though his victory was not unexpected Sri sudhIndra tIrtha was surprised at his scholarship in grammar, profound knowledge and rare debating skill, and called him “MahAbhAshya VenkaTanAthAchArya”. Similarly he explained the significance of taptamudra dhAraNa quoting several smRiti-s that the opponents had to accept his arguments were irrefutable.
VenkaTanAtha was a skilled musician and a great scholar; the couple had a child & named him as Lakshminarayana. He continued his self-study, and free teachings in the town. During this period He had taken “Aparigraha Vrata” where in he never demanded any money or life needs from his services and accepted whatever was offered to him. As the time passed he faced many hardships to maintain day to day family needs. This phase of Venkatanatha’s life will melt anybody’s heart & it also shows his strict adherence to the vrata (Oath) & non-negotiable devotion to lord. This reminds the hardship faced during his Prahlada avatara period. He never lost his equanimity & continued his self-study, and free teachings, determined to live by whatever came to him unsought and unasked, facing the challenges with big smile.
During this period of life, he thought many lessons to the society by showing how not to degrade a person. Once he attended a function, the host disgracefully asked venkatanatha to grind sandalwood and generate the paste which would be used by the brahmans on their body during lunch. Venkatanatha readily agreed & out of habit, he started reciting vedic Agni sUkta mantra’s while grinding sandalwood. Soon, the task was done and the paste was handed over to the Brahmins attending the function. When they applied the paste to their bodies, they experienced a strong burning sensation. On further enquiry it was found that unknowingly VenkaTanAtha had recited agni sUkta while grinding the paste. The Brahmins immediately understood that the VenkaTanAtha was a divine personality and his recitation of agni sUkta had invoked the presence of agni in the paste. The host begged VenkaTanAtha for forgiveness and asked him for solution. Then Venkatanatha prepared some more paste while reciting varuna sukta. When this paste was applied, the burning subsided. Such was the mantrasiddhi of VenkaTanAtha.
To add on to this hardship, one day thieves took away the little things that Venkatanatha had in his house & that made him to seek blessings from his beloved guru Sri Sudheendra Theertharu who was camping at Kumbhakonam. Sri Sudheendra thirtha readily gave ashraya to Venkatanatha’s family & blessed him. He continued his profession to teach the students of Sri Madwacharya’s maha samstana.
shrI sudhIndra tIrtha was on lookout for a suitable successor to carry on the glorious tradition of Sri madwacharya’s moola samstana. The more he saw of VenkaTanAtha, the greater was his conviction that he was the right successor. One day, he received an indication in his dream that VenkaTanAtha would be the most ideal successor for the samstana. He was overjoyed and immediately communicated his desire to VenkaTanAtha. VenkaTanAtha was on the horns of a dilemma since he was torn between 2 powerful forces – his respect for Sri sudhIndra tIrtha’s words and his responsibilities as a householder. Finally, after great deliberation, he told Sri sudhIndra tIrtharu that he could not take up the responsibility as he had a young wife and a son who was yet to undergo upanayanam. Sri sudhIndra tIrtharu was disappointed but not disheartened as he knew ultimately divine will would prevail and VenkaTanAtha would accede to his request.
That night Vidya Lakshmi appeared in Venkatanatha’s dream and told him, “After feasting on the intellectual treats provided by ShrI MadhvAchArya, Sri jaya tIrtha, Sri vyAsa tIrtha, Sri Vijayeendra, and others. The light of tattvavAda created by your beloved shrImadAchArya has to be strengthened. Noble souls like you should shed their material bondage and dedicate themselves to the cause of Sri hari and vAyu. Vidya Lakshmi Instructed him to accept Sri sudhIndra tIrtha’s request and take up sanyAsa. VenkaTanAtha dilemmas were resolved and he was sure where his responsibilities lay.
He convinced his wife and communicated his assent to Sri Sudheendra tIrtharu. Within a short time, his son LakshmInArAyaNa’s upanayana was performed and everything was set for his entry into asceticism.
Venkatanatha ordined to Sanyasa by Sri Sudheendra Theertharu on the second day of the bright half of PhAlguNa mAsa of durmatinama samvatsara corresponding to the year 1621at Tanjore & named him as Sri Raghavendra Theertharu. Saraswathi was seized by a desire to see her husband’s face for the last time she ran towards the maTha unfortunately, she fell into an old well on the way & died instantly. Since her death was an untimely one, she became a preta. With preta atma she went to the place where sanyasa ritual was taking place, by that time Sri Venkatanatha had become sanyAsi.
With his divine perception, Sri rAyaru sensed saraswati’s presence, his heart full of mercy, he sprinkled holy water from his kamanDala on her. The power of his blessing she was immediately granted liberation from her sad state & got uttama loka. This was her reward for a lifetime of dedicated and selfless service to a noble soul & society.
Around 1623 sudhIndra tIrtharu shed his mortal coils at AnEgondi. His brindavan was consecrated there and Sri rAyaru became the successor of the Sri Madwacharya Moola Maha samstana. Sri RAyaru started his services by teaching all the works of shrImadAchArya to his disciples. He propagated right knowledge and win over the hearts of the different schools of thoughts. Apart from imparting knowledge and guiding his disciples, he composed works for the benefit of future generations.
Soon after becoming the pIThAdipati, he undertook series of touring & visited several places. Throughout his life, he kept visiting different centres of learning and religion. Some of the places he visited are Rameshvaram, Madurai, Srirangam, Kanchi, Vishnumangala (where Trivikrama PanditAchArya had debated MadhvAchArya for fifteen days),Nanjangud, Srirangapattana, Subramanya, Udupi, Pandarapura, Kolhapura, Bijapura,Gadag,Tirupathi, Srisailam, Kumbakonam.
Wherever he went, his agenda was simple – spreading the message of shrImadAchArya, blessing the deserving & suffering people, continuing to write commentaries and notes, teaching shAstras to enthusiastic students, and encouraging local scholars.
Sri Rayaru visited Rameshvaram and Madurai. Madurai was the seat of learning in those days, he was invited by the scholar Sri Neelakanta Dikshita who was from Appayya dikshita’s linage for a debate. After seeing the lucid yet powerful style with which Sri rAyaru debated, he was convinced that Sri rAyaru’s authority over the subjects. When Sri Neelakanta tried testing him on various sutras, Sri rAyaru showed him his work Bhatta sangraha, the work he had just finished. Sri Neelakanta was so thrilled by the depth of this work and propounded meanings, he surrendered his heart to Sri Rayaru.
He took a vow to write Tippanis for all the Tikas of shrI jayatIrtha & Srimadacharya. When he had completed tippanis for 16 of the 18 Tikas of ShrI JayatIrtha.
Sri rayara Mahime & Miracles
Sri Rayaru became siddapurusha post he became peetadipathi & shown Innumerable miracles during his life period, which are all definitely the lesson for society. He blessed thousands of suffering people all across the world beyond the mutt, matha, religion, caste, Region & political barriers by his divine blessings,.Thus he become the universal guru & people from all walks of life started following him where ever he go.
Sri RAyara’s literary works & Students
There is a hidden side to the moon that most humans never see or know about. We have a similar side to Sri rAyaru. Most of us know him only as the kind, merciful guru who is always forthcoming in our times of need. This is the side that is well known. However, there is another side known only to scholars – Sri Rayaru the writer par excellence who gave us literary gems that would dazzle with their scholastic brilliance. Sri rAyaru has made it possible, with his commentaries and notes, for ordinary people to taste the ambrosia called madhva shAstra. That is why knowledgeable people call him as the “madhva matAmbOdhi chandra” (Moon of the ocean called madhva shAstra).
Over 45 works have been attributed to Sri rAyaru. Most of these are commentaries on the works of shrI MadhvAchArya, Sri jayatIrtha and Sri vyAsatIrtha. The rest include a couple of original works and direct commentaries on the Veda & Upanisads and other works. Most of the works are available today, but some are not, and we know of them only through oral tradition i.e., some work or some stOtra mentions a work of Sri rAyaru.
ShrI Rayaru s works are characterized by remarkable clarity of thought, simplicity of expression and compactness. He has brought even very abstruse works of dvaita within the understanding of an average student of the shAstras. This is where the greatness of his success and fame and the universal popularity of his works lies.
The volume of his output is greater. And he brings to bear on the exposition of these texts a profound learning in different shAstras, a clear and simple style and a very lucid way of presenting even the most technical points. He is considered as the foremost among the major nonpolemical writers of the Post Sri vyAsa tIrtha period.
Sri Rayaru extensively thought many students and prepared them as high quality scholars during his time. some of them were Sri Venkannacharya (Sri Yogeendra Thirtha) Sri Vasudevacharya (Sri Soorendra Thirtha),Sri Muddu Krishnacharya (Sri Sumateendra Thirtha), Sri Vijayeendracharya (Sri Upendra Thirtha), Sri Garudavahana Lakshminarayanachayra (Sri Muneendra Thirtha),Sri Lakshminatha Thirtha, Sri Krishnacharya (Author of Smruthimuktavali), Sri Lakshminarayanacharya(Author of Rig bhasya teeka) Sri Appannacharya etc.
Thus the top class scholars continued Sri Rayara grantha paata & spread noble message of Sri Madacharya thorugh Sri Rayara grantha’s. Sri Sumateendra Theertharu become frontline leader to spread Sri Rayara grantha ratna & contributed significantly in the noble jnana yagna.
Sri Vadeendra Thirtharu composed “Sri Guruguna stavana” a stotra which gives the list of Sri Rayara grantha’s & also describes the richness of Sri Rayara grantha’s & its mahime. He says in his conclusion that the seed of jnana which Sri Vedavyasa muni initiated has become small plant by Sri Madwhacharya, it become big tree with many branches during Sri Jayatheertha, gave flowers during Sri Vyasatheertha, became seeds duing Sri Vijayeendra Theertha & finally gave fruit with Sri Raghavendra Theertha’s literary works.
Contemprory Kings and chiftons
Many Kings and cheftons have falicitated Sri Rayaru during his time and took his blessings & made their kingdom samrudha
- Doddadevaraja Wodeyar of Mysore State had honoured Sri Rayaru at mysore & gifted ‘Nallur’ or ‘Devarajapura’, a village at Sargur to the swamiji (Monday the 6th July, 1633) and also gifted diamond and other jewellery to Sri moolaramachandra
- Venkata Desai of Gadag honoured and gifted Kireetagiri village to Sri Rayaru
- Nawab of Savanur gifted Krishnapura to Sri Rayaru as token of reviving his died son due to snake bite.
- Shivaji got special blessing from Sri Rayaru at Kolhapur during his visit & won many battles to re-establish hindu rajya
- Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur gifted Shwetha chatra honour Sri Rayaru
- Siddhi Masoodkhan of Adoni who gifted Mantralaya grama
Sri Rayaru ordined Sri Venkannacharya to sanyasa ashrama, named him as Sri Yogeendra Thirtha. He appointed Sri Yogeendra Theertha as his successor to continue the parampare. Henceforth the parampare which was until known as Sri Dakshinadhi mutt or Sri Vidya mutt or Sri Vijayeendra mutt started to be recognized as Sri Raghavendra Swamy mutt.
Sri Rayara Vrundavana pravesha
After completing his grand service to the society & putting the sanatana dharma back on the track Sri RAyaru decided to end his physical presence on the earth. He summoned his closest disciples and announced his choice of entering vrundavan alive at manchAle (mantralaya) & explained the significance of that place. Sri Prahlada performed a large yagna, sanctifying this place forever. When Arjuna was on his victorious journey in connection with the rAjasUya yAga, he fought with a local king at this spot. Since the king’s chariot was positioned over place of yagnakunda, he was invincible. In panic, Arjuna prayed to Krishna for guidance. Krishna suggested him to move his chariot a little backwards. The local king also foolishly moved his chariot forward and lost the battle immediately. Such was the power of the place on which prahlAda had performed his yAga.
Venkanna had a built a beautiful brindAvana for Sri rAyaru. But Sri rAyaru did not want to use that and asked him to reserve it for a future personality. He then took Venkanna to a remote spot and showed a black/blue rock. That rock had Sri Rama devara sparsha while searching for sIta during treta yuga. Venkanna prepared the Vrundavana with that rock & made all arrangements for Sri Rayara Vrundavana.
Before entering the Vrundavana in manchAle, Sri RAyaru sought the permission of manchAlamma, the presiding deity of manchAle grama/village. She appeared before him, Sri RAyaru stated his desire & took permission from Manchallamma & also assured that the devotees should first visit manchalamma & then visit Sri rayara vrundavana for poorna phala. Thus he set an example how to respectfully behave in the society.
On the day of Virodhikruth Samvatsara Shravana krishna paksha dwitiya – 1671 A.D. Sri RAyaru gave a discourse on ShrIimadAchArya’s works to his fortunate disciples for the last time His disciples were grief stricken at the thought that this was going to be their master’s last discourse. That day’s discourse was the culmination of his life’s mission & message.
He blessed the entire gathering he went to the spot that was already chosen and sat in padmAsana. He had his japa mala in his right hand and began reciting the pranava mantra. In a very he reached the highest point in mediation. He was shining with a rare brilliance. Thousands of people gathered in manchAle witness this rare event of a person entering a vrundAvana alive. It had been done before only once – by Sri vAdirAja tIrtha.
After getting the indication from Sri Rayaru, Venkanna and other disciples closed the slabs around him. As per instructions they placed a copper box containing one thousand two hundred LakshmInArAyaNa shaligramas that had been specially brought from Gandaki River. Then they placed the covering slab over it and filled it with earth. They poured twelve thousand varahas (abhisheka) over the Vrundavana that they had built. A grand feast was hosted to commemorate this glorious event.
Post Vrundavana Pravesha
Disciples of Sri Rayaru could not stand the disappearing of their beloved guru, they came from distance to take darshana of Sri Rayaru. Many had the direct darshana of Sri Rayaru & used to have conversation etc. Many of the gnani’s got the divine instructions of Sri Rayaru & got the Mruttika from Sri Rayara sannidana from Sri Rayara parampara peetadipathi’s & established the Vrundavana sannidana in many places all across the country. Sri Rayaru continue to bless the people all around, ensuring the word given by his bhakta’s as “Karedallige baruva guru”
The effect and influence of Sri Rayaru on his bhakta’s & shishyaru didn’t stop even after he entered vrundavana. Even after 345 plus years Sri Rayaru continue his mahime & miracles to bless suffering people. Thousands of miracles are recorded in history. It is a common site in manchale and other mruttika vrundavana’s that people serve Sri Rayaru in many ways to get his blessings. Similarly Sri Rayara grantha’s continue to guide the students and jignasu’s to understand the complex technical siddantha prameya’s. It is widely accepted fact among the scholars that without Sri Rayara tippanis it is impossible to understand the messages of Sri Jayathirtharu & in turn Sri Madvacharyaru. His works on Veda & Upanishad inspire scholars outside dwaitha philosophy on how to interpret & understand Veda mantra’s as per Shastras.
Click here for Sri Rayara Mahime post Vrundavana pravesha
ಶ್ರೀ ರಾಘವೇ೦ದ್ರ ಗುರವೇ ನಮೋ ಅತ್ಯ೦ತ ದಯಾಲವೇ ||
ಪೂಜಾಯ ರಾಘವೇಂದ್ರಾಯ ಸತ್ಯಧರ್ಮ ವ್ರತಾಯಚ ।
ಭಜತಾಂ ಕಲ್ಪವೃಕ್ಷಾಯ ನಮತಾಂ ಕಾಮಧೇನುವೇ ।।
Source : Gururaghavendra.org , Guru charitre and others