Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertharu
Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertha took Ashrama from Sri Rama Theertha and is Seventeenth saint from Madhwacharya. Below is his brief introduction.
Period – 1612-1632
Ashrama guru – Sri Sripati Theertha
Ashrama Shishya – Sri Lakshmi Vallabha Theertha
Aradhana – Margashira Shudha Truteeya
Vrundavana Place – Rayavellore, TN.
It is a significant fact that of all the Swamiji’s of Sri Vyasaraja parampare, Sri 108 Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertha has a unique name which mentions both his place of origin and has also no appellation like Lakshmi, Vidya etc. as are there for others. He is the second disciple in succession to the famous Sri Lakshmikantha Theertha of Penugonda (who was the second and reputed to have been a student of the great Vyasaraja himself) and the fifth after Sri Vyasaraja. He succeeded Sri 108 Sripati Theertha in 1612 AD and his reign was for the period of 20 years till 1632 AD.
His contemporaries were the well-known Sri Vedavyasa Theertha of Uttaradi Matha (till 1619 AD) and Sri Vidyadheesha Theertha (till 1631 AD), who is considered as the sampradaya Pravarthaka of Uttaradi Matha. In the main parampare which came to be known later as Sri Raghavendra Matha, they were Sri Sudhindra Theertha (1595-1623 AD) and Sri Raghavendra Theertha (1623- 1671AD). The Sampradaya of the last named Matha was laid down at the time of Sri Manthralaya Prabhu. It is also significant that there appears to have been a “Agree to differ” policy even at that time, regarding such issues like observance of ekadashi etc. as all the three had Sampradaya pravarthakas, as known today, living almost at the same time.
As pointed out by Dr. B N K Sharma, in his magnum-opus :The History of Dvaita school of Vedanta”, there was a tendency amongst the Vyasaraja Matha pontiffs to follow the fortunes of the Kingdom of Vijayanagar empire even after it was destroyed as an effective political entity in the final war with the Bahmani kingdoms. The two successors of Sri Vyasaraja, – Sri Srinivasa Theertha, his immediate disciple and the next, Sri Rama Theertha who reigned till 1584 AD have their Vrundavanas in NB Gaddi near Hampi along with his, while Sri Lakshmikantha Theertha who came thereafter has his Vrundavana in Penugonda and Sri Sripati Theertha and Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertha have their Vrundavanas in Rayavellore (which was the capital of Rama Deva 2 (1616-1630 AD)). This would be understandable as they were the Royal preceptors of the Kings right from the time of King Narasimha at Chandragiri in 1486 AD and had also been honoured with worldwide fame during the time of the famous Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529 AD). Further, the action of Sri Surendra Theertha, an elder contemporary of Sri Vyasaraja in getting his successor Sri Vijayeendra Theertha, the Guru of Sri Sudhindra Theertha from the galaxy of great disciples studying with Sri Vyasaraja would have brought the two Mathas very close to each other. Sri Vijayeendra, an Aparoksha Jnani, a famous polemical writer of a large number of compositions and politically important personality has revered Sri Vyasaraja not only as his Vidya Guru, but also as a divine personality (note that the famous Sri Vyasaraja Stotra was composed by him stating this explicitly) and Sri Vyasaraja had been included in the exclusive list of the three ascetics – Munithraya, in such exalted company as Acharya Madhwa himself and Sri Jaya Theertha. Thus, the relationships with Sri SRS Matha would have been extremely cordial and there is no record of any adverse developments. Sri Ramachandra Theertha himself has extolled Sri Vijayeendra Theertha as his Vidyaguru in his Nyayasudha Vivruthi. When Sri Raghavendra was identified as an incarnation of Sri Vyasaraja himself a little later, by Dasa Parampare greats like Sri Vijaya dasaru, this should have further cemented the relationship.
As far as Sri Uttaradi Matha is concerned Dr. B N K Sharma remarks in his History of the Dvaita school of Vedanta (Part VI – Non-polemical literature – Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertha), “Apart from differences of opinion over the interpretation of certain texts between Ramachandra and Vidyadheesha, it would seem from these accounts, that the former had to face a good deal of opposition to his prestige and popularity in the South from those two pontiffs”. This assessment has been based on a document “Gurucharya” of UM which mentions clashes between the two in Sri Mushnam, Tanjore and other places.
Life and background:
As no authentic record of his life history exists, only some points have been gathered from records and widely prevalent stories about the great ascetic. Dr. B N K Sharma’s History of Dvaita Vedanta, covers a brief account of his history. It also mentions a copper plate grant received by Sri Ramachandra from Immadi Kempe Gowda in 1627 AD. His life period is assessed as 1575 -1635 AD by Dr. B N K Sharma, while the Matha records his Vrundavana pravesha in 1632 AD. The Kambaluru family is believed to have contributed Sri Vibhudendra Theertha (who was the famous ascetic of the SRS Matha branch originating after Sri Kavindra Theertha), as well as Sri Lakshmivallabha Theertha (a Poorvashrama brother who succeeded Sri Ramachandra Theertha). His ancestors were from Kavilippalayam village of Sathyamangala taluk of Coimbatore District. His father was Kuppachar and grandfather Mushtiparimitha-Svarnamalankritha Venkata narasimhacharya. He was the eldest son and descendants of his younger brother Narasimha have continued the lineage. The family was associated with the village Kambalu in Kovelakuntla taluk of Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh at the time of Sri Ramachandra Theertha. Apparently there were two villages called Chinna kambalu and Pedda kambalu also. As the grandfather’s name indicates, he must have been honoured by gift of a large golden chain earlier – for his accomplishments. Sri Vijayeendra Theertha seems to have noted Ramachandra’s talents in his Poorvashrama days and took him as His Disciple, as has been acknowledged in the sloka in Nyayasudha Tippani (Vivruthi):
vijayeendrakhyayatheen seve vidyaagurun mama”
Thus Sri Vijayeendra was returning the favour incurred when he was taught by Sri Vyasaraja – by giving a great ascetic back to the same parampare. Sri Ramachandra Theertha was well versed in Vedanta, Nyaya, Vyakarana and Smruthies dealing with the Sadaachara. Immediately after Sri Vyasaraja, (Vrundavana pravesha in 1539 AD), Madhusudana Saraswati made a spirited attempt in his Advaita siddhi to defend Advaita which had been subjected to a mortal blow by Sri Vyasaraja by his Vyasathraya, particularly Nyayamrutha. Dr. B N K Sharma dates him (for the period of ruling a Peeta) 1540-1600 AD. The task of defending Tatvavada was ably carried on by Sri Tarangini Ramacharya, and Ananda Bhattaraka, father of Sri Vidyadhisha Theertha of UM, (1619-1631). Thus, Nyayamrutha had been subjected to severe critical analysis, both for and against Tatvavada, and it was quite appropriate that Sri Ramachandra Theertha took up the major work Nyayasudha Vivruthi, dealing with the epic gloss of Sri Teekacharya on Acharya Madhwa’s Anuvyakhyana, which is a self-contained commentary on the Brahma sutras. He has also composed a parallel Vivruthi on Tatvavaprakashika of Sri Teekacharya, on the Brahma Sutra Bhashya of Madhwa, completing the commentaries on this Prasthana. Though Nyayasudha has as many as 24 Tippanis, each of the writers have added some special and new analysis and explanations to the condensed, cryptic but extremely appropriate texts of Sri Teekacharya, justifying the statement of Sri Manthralaya Prabhu –“Teekagambhiryamuddharthum vyasarajaadayo kshamaaah”. Sri Kambaluru Tippanis have been opined by scholars such as Dr. B N K Sharma, Gowdagere Gopalakrishnacharya etc. as learned, full of new interpretations, appropriate as an aid to easier understanding, answering legitimate doubts in the minds of the student, etc. He has also written similar Tippanis to Srimadacharya’s Rig Bhashya and Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya, Srimad Bhagavatha. One of his ascetic disciples Sri Rathnagarbha Odeyar has been credited with the glosses on the last two as well as on Geetha and Madhwa Vijaya and another Sri Vativala Narasimha, son of Upendra Bhatta has been credited with the gloss on Tatvaprakashika by Dr. B N K Sharma. The point to be noted is Sri Ramachandra Theertha has been responsible for furthering the great scholarly traditions of Sri Vyasaraja Matha and the work done by his team was complementary to the work done by other Mathas and not in conflict or repetitive. His style imitates the style of the great Vyasaraja, and uses a great deal of intricate explanations on grammatical rules in interpretation of crucial passages. Sri Ramachandra’s successor Sri Lakshmivallabha Theertha (His Poorvashrama brother) has not left behind any significant events of his brief reign of 8 years (1640 AD), while his second successor Sri Lakshminatha Theertha (1640-1663 AD) had obtained land grants from Tirumala Nayaka of Madurai in 1643 AD and Srirangaraya III – the last of the Vijayanagar emperors, ruling from Penugonda in 1663 AD. He has also composed a gloss on Nyayamrutha of Sri Vyasaraja, and mentions Sri Yadavendra (SRS Matha) – the earlier ascetic disciple of Sri Sudheendra, as His Vidya Guru. This shows the continued close association between the Vyasaraja and SRS Mathas during the period.
Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertha was also adept in Smruthies and gave clear directions about such matters as Ekadashi observance, Dashami vedha, Harivasara, Sadhana Dwadashi etc. The rules framed by him have been observed since then by all Vyasaraja Matha followers even after the advent of other great scholars like Sri Sheshachandrikacharya, Bhashya Deepikacharya etc. The differences in Ekadashi observance between UM, SVM and SRSM thus have their origin in the rules framed at that time and no unanimity has been possible subsequently amongst them in spite of sincere desire and efforts in this regard. In Smruthimukthavali of Sri Krishnacharya, disciple of Sri Raghavendra Theertha, Sri Ramachandra Theertha has been clearly labeled as sampradaya Pravarthaka.
Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertha was Telugu speaking and was a good organizer and effective speaker. He had conducted numerous disputations with rival schools and gained ascendancy or victory. One of his greatest achievements which is remembered even today is the mass conversion to Madhwa faith of a large number of Karnataka Brahmin families in his own native district. This took place in Pennattur, at some distance from Vellore, where the Pontiff was staying for Chaturmasa. The converts adopted the name of the village where the conversion took place and flourish in Coimbatore district. (Sri B N K Sharma belongs to one of those families as per his own observation). Members of the family are still active in upholding the prestige of the SVM and celebrating his Aradhana etc. It is believed that on this occasion 2000 persons became Madhwas and are known as Aravelus even today – who reside in Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra, with the mother tongue as Kannada. Sri Ramachandra Theertha is reputed to have had a disciple going ahead announcing during his travels – a pot of cow dung mixed water being carried by a disciple – The disputants who oppose Dvaita vada are lying under our feet defeated. All disputants are welcome for debate, and those who lose will get the reward carried in the pot! Such was his staunch faith in his own system and confidence in him. There is no doubt that during his time, a very large following was acquired by the Sri Matha in Andhra and Tamilnadu. It is also reported that he used to reduce the actual time taken for rituals like Puja etc. to the minimum and spend it on debates, compositions etc. He seems to have stated in reply to criticism in this regard – “Vagbommale bommalu” – Brahman of Upanishads is more in the study and mental assimilation than in simple rituals. He was universally respected for his scholarship, commitment to Tatvavada, his vast knowledge and authority in critical interpretations of earlier texts.
The same quality of unshakeable conviction had been displayed by him in his Poorvashrama days as shown in the following story: Once, he had gone to Tirupati for darshan of Lord Srinivasa. Due to big crowds as well as the visit of some privileged persons, he was unable to have his darshan even after waiting a long time and had to return disappointed. He composed a sloka “Aishwarya madamatthosi idaaneem maam upekshyase, vadeenaam kalahe praapthe ahameva gathisthava” and wrote it in a piece of paper and dropped it in front of the route being taken by the utsava Murthy. The sloka means that: Oh, Srinivasa, You are now conceited due to your wealth and hence ignore me. But when you become the object of discussion amongst disputants, only I have to defend you. The Lord immediately instructed the Mahanth to allow his special devotee in and gave him darshan. Such was his staunch faith in God!
Once during his travels, some people opposed to him and unable to defeat him in debate had arranged to kill him by dropping a big stone on his head as his entourage passed by. Though they made the attempt as planned, Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Theertha, who realised the attempt, ordered the stone: “Antharaale Thista” – Stay, where you are, in mid-air – The stone did not fall and hurt the great ascetic. Subsequently, he ordered the disciples to carry the stone with him and finally ordered that it should be placed on his Vrundavana, where it is even today. This incident showed that in addition to his great qualities as a learned scholar, he was also an Aparoksha Jnani and had the different siddhis attained by Yogic practices and Meditation on the Supreme Being.
It is sad that Sri Vidyapayonidhi Theertha (1965-1997 AD), the earlier pontiff decided to shift the original Vrundavana of this great pontiff and that of his Guru Sri Sripati Theertha from Rayavellore, as he had tried to do for Sri Lakshmikantha Theertha at Penugonda and Sri Lakshmivallabha Theertha from Belur. By the grace of God, his attempts did not succeed both in the case of the Rayavellore and Penugonda Vrundavanas, which were preserved almost miraculously by the efforts of local devotees who took the bold step of opposing their own pontiff and arranged for the regular worship of the original Vrundavanas by their own contributions. Local committees were formed which have also taken steps to prevent any such attempts in future by the Matha administration. The pontiff had to be satisfied by installing Mrittika Vrundavanas in Tirumakoodalu near Sri Sheshachandrikacharya. Perhaps the intention of Hari-Vayu was to give a rare and fine opportunity for real devotees located at these places – the Aradhana and regular Pujas are performed far more rigorously and with a large attendance from all over Karnataka and Tamilnadu/Andhra than was ever done by the Matha in recent times.
He handed over mahasamsthana to Sri Lakshmivallabha Theertha; he entered Vrundavana at Rayavellore, TN.
Source: Article from www.srivyasaraja.org and other sources.