Sri Vibudhendra Theertha (Tirunelveli)
The name Sri Vibudhendra Theertha gives un paralleled positive vibes in the minds and souls of scholars across india. He is reffered as the Commander in chief of Dwaitha philosophy in proptecting,nourishing, devloping & spreading far and wide across indian sub continent. Sri Vibhudendra theertha was 11th Peetadhipathi of Sriman Madhwacharya Moola Mahasamsthana Dakshinaadhi Kavindra mutt.
Poorvashrama Name – Sri Raghunatha Bhatta
Ashrama Guru – Sri RamachandraTheertha
Ashrama Shishya — Sri Jitamitra Theertha
Aradhana – Margashira Shudha Dashami
Vrundavana Place – Tirunelvel
Period — 1435 -1490
Poorvashrama name & Fame:
There are two different versions about his Poorvashrama. It is said that Sri Raghunatha Bhatta belongs to shastika sadvamsha either Kambaluru family or Chinnabandari family, to be researched.
He was the greatest of greatest students of Sri Rajendra Theertharu of Poorvadi mutt. He acquired the supreme knowledge of Veda, Shastra & Dwaitha Philosophy and became authoritative in every aspect. Sri Rajendra Theertharu, taken on a challenge to establish madhwa Siddhanta in the eastern part of Indian subcontinent around Navadweepa (Present Bengal/Orissa) which was a great learning centre as like kashi. Hence he developed a bunch of scholars who could help him in his herculean task. Along with Raghunatha Bhatta, Sri Rajendra Theertharu groomed gems like Sri Vishnudasacharya, Sri Jayadhwaja and many more highly reputed scholars to take on the challenge. Raghunatha Bhatta toured extensively in eastern part of Indian subcontinent and was leading the team on high level scholaritic debate in the process of tatva shastra Siddhanta pratistapana.
Why Sri Ramachandra Theertharu Selected Raghunatha Bhatta as his successor:
Once it happens Sri Ramachandra Theertharu met Sri Raghunatha Bhatta at Srirangapattana during his tour, it did not take much time for Sri Ramachandra Theertharu to recognize Raghunatha Bhatt’s knowledge, ability & sheer deeksha in Madhwa Siddhanta. Raghunatha Bhatta was also poorvasrama relative of Sri Ramachandra Theertha. With no second thought Sri Ramachandra Theertharu decided that he is the right person to protect, progress & glorify Madhwa Siddhanta as the head of the Moola Samsthana of Sri Madhwacharya Dakshinaadi Sri Kavindra theertha mutt. Indeed the Madhwa Siddhanta needed a sheer able person like Raghunatha Bhatta to protect the on slot from various schools of siddanthas, namely Advaitha, Shaiva, Jaina, Bouddha which were already well established in large part of the Indian Subcontinent. Dwaitha philosophy was a very new thought to the contemporary scholars / People. Considering all these facts Sri Ramachandra Theertharu had a long discussion with Sri Raghunatha Bhatta, explained his ambition, prepared & initiated him to sanyasa ashrama. He named him Sri Vibudhendra Theertha (“The Leader of the Learned”). He announced Sri Vibudhendra Theertha as the next pontiff of Dakshinaadi Sri Kaveendra Mutt in presence of elderly & wise men of the place.
First Phase of his Sanyasa Ashrama:
With renewed energy Sri Ramachandra Theertha together with his beloved Shishya moved all over the places around Vijayanagara during which Sri Vibudhendra Theertha took on many debate with scholars of many schools & showed his ability to establish Madhwa philosophy in the region. During this time Sri Ramachandra Theertharu passed on Samsthana rituals, sampradaya’s & duties as the head of the institution. He further developed Sri Vibudhendra Theertha as a great saint along with a philosophical scholar to a great height. Satisfied with the siddi that Sri Vibudhendra attained in very short time & to realize Sri Ramachandra theertha’s mission to consolidate & stabilize Madhwa society around Vijayanagara Kingdom.
Sri Vibudhendra Theertha, who had been part of Sri Rajendra theertha’s mission to spread acharya’s tattvashastra to all learning centers across bharatavarsha in his Poorvashrama, expressed his wish to take a tour to “kashi” which was the Centre of philosophical knowledge filled with learned people. Both Sri Ramachandra Theertha & Sri Vibudhendra Theertha knew that, if Madhwa philosophy has to prevail there must be win over the most learned scholars in philosophy in India who were present in Kashi. Sri Ramachandra Theertha over joyed with his successor’s ambition, readily agreed to his proposal. He also knew the difficulties of travelling all the way to kashi due to his age factor & also knew that the Poorvadhi Sri Rajendra theertha’s linage is also fully engaged in similar task in eastern part of the Bharatavarsha. He felt it is wise to stay back in Vijayanagara to continue & maintain the establishment in southern part of bharatavarsha with limited resources.
The name Poorvaadhi mutt & Dakshinaadi mutt came to existance after Sri Rajendra theertha & Sri Kavindra Theertha choosen to focus in those directions. Since Sri Ramachandra theertha was the head of Dakshinaadi Sri Kavindra mutt & Sri Rajendra Theertha was the head of Poorvadhi mutt.
Sri Ramachandra theertha prepared his beloved Shishya to take up the tour which no other sanyasi from south took that kind of challenge after Sri Adi Shankaracharya, i.e to engage in philosophical debate in kashi & other knowledge centers near kashi to establish a new Philosophy initiated by Sri Madhwacharya.
Sri Ramachandra Theertha being a learned & wise person knew the importance & need of such hurculine task immediately appointed Sri Vibudhendra Theertha as his successor with proper procedures of pattabhisheka. He handed over all the rights that was passed on to him by Sri Vageesha Theertha which was originated all along from Sri Padmanabha theertha, that include Titles, property, library (containing books/granta’s written from Vedavyasa, Srimadacharya, Sri Jayatheertha & others), Royal recognitions / signs & learned scholars & followers. Along with Authorised symbols of peetadhipathi & scholarary status, Sri Ramachandra theertha also gave him the main deities/idols of Samsthana i.e Sri Digvijaya rama, Sri Jayarama & other idols worshiped by Srimadacharya & Sri Jayatheertha etc & kept only Sri Moola Rama & Seeta idol with some minimal pooja accessories for his daily worship. He kept only some working class people to manage day to day administration of the mutt with him. Sri Ramachandra theertha blessed Sri Vibudhendra theertha whole heartedly & sent him to one of the greatest task that any one took in Madhwa parampare.
Sri Vibudhendra Theertha was over whelmed by the opportunity that his guru granted on him to establish Madhwa Philosophy, he started his tour towards Northren direction. Sri Vibudhendra who was well aware of his responsibility bestowed to him to fulfill the dreams of his Vidya guru (Sri Rajendra theertha) and Ashrama guru (Sri Ramachandra Theertha). Started his tour presenting Dwaitha philosophy to scholars, debating with challengers & wining them through out his tour. Knowing Raghunatha Bhatta became the head of Dakshinaadhi Moola Samsthana & his ambitious tour to eastablish dwaitha philosophy at Kashi, his Poorvashrama fellow students and Disciples of Sri Rajendra Theertha, Sri Jayadhwaja theertha, Vishnudasacharya were very happy & joined hands with Sri Vibudhendra Theertharu in his noble cause, which was started by Sri Rajendra theertha. This Cleary shows the main learned force of dwaitha philosophy was focusing on spreading dwaitha philosophy in northern & eastren part of India, around Kashi & other holy places. Obviously Southern part of the country which was already had quite a number of dwaitha followers left with only Sri Ramachandra Theertharu as the head of dwaitha sect, with very limited resources (Mita Parivara) & limited movements.
Sri Vibudhendra theertha with his ability & sheer knowledge started to win over the stalwarts of different philosophical schools & made them to accept defeat in high quality philosophical debates. He made a shapata that without convincing supremacy of Dwaitha philosophy and win over opponent scholar’s in debate he never used to accept the bhiksha (Bhiksha is the food which sanyasi has to seek from grihasta (Family man) once per day). It shows how sincere Sri Vibudhendra Theertha in his job and responsibility bestowed by his guru. Within short time Sri Vibudhendra Theertha’s name & fame started to grow in multiple folds in northern part of India, soon many learned scholars humbled to have a philosophycal debate with him, it was a feast for the scholars around kashi as they cherished the new philosphical concept being presented to them. This magnanimous effort of Sri Vibudhendra theertha gave a new dimension to dwaitha philosophy & it started recognised among the scholars across northern part of India.
During such time Sri Rajendra Theertha attained brindavana after appointing Sri Jayadhwaja Theertha as the head of Poorvadi Mutt. Sri Jayadhwaja Theertha composed the charama sloka of his guru summarizing the achievements of Sri Rajendra theertha highilighting that Sri Rajendraru “He developed scholars like Sri Vibudhendraru”
Sri Rajendra theertha’s Charama shloka :
Vibudhendramukhan sishyadin navakrutvahsudham sudhih I
YoopAthayat sa rajendratirtho bhuyadabhishtadah II
It’s the only instance that a shisya’s name has been taken in the charama sloka of any guru available in madhwa parampare.This heigest honour Sri Vibudhendra Theertha’s personality which was given by his Poorvashrama Co-student and the head of the Poorvadi Mutt when he is referring his guru’s achievement.
Second Phase of Sanyasa Ashrama:
Sri Ramachandra theertha continued with his lean team & camped around Vijayanagara to manage day to day activities to spread tattvavada. As time passed on he started getting the news of his beloved Shishya Sri Vibudhendra Theertha’s success in establishing dwaitha philosophy & got recognized by scholars around kashi. Sri Vibudhendra Theertha with the blessings of Sri Ramachandra Theertha took the glory of Sri Madhwacharya’s philosophy to a height that no other’s achieved in history of madhwa parampare. This was the best gift any guru can get from his disciple, what more he can ask. Sri Ramachandra Theertha overwhelmed by his successor’s achievement & offered it to Sri Madhwacharya & Lord Sri Moola Rama & Seetadevi.
During this glorious period, when he was passing through a place called Yaragola (a village near current Yadgir) Sri Ramachandra theertha started losing his health conditions seriously & he understood that it would be his last days. Immediately he sent messenger to trace his beloved Shishya & successor Sri Vibudhendra theertha, who was touring in north india, to comeback & take complete charge of the mutt. Within few days his health deteriorated further & Sri Ramachandra theertha understood that it is time to protect the remaining property which was with him is to be handed over to his only successor Sri Vibudhendra theertha. He remembered his guru’s instruction avoid further breaking the community by appointing other successor, He called upon prominent people, chief of the village namely Dharmanna & Basappa etc & explained the extraordinary situation which is in front of them. With the consent he arranged to burry (Bhoogata) all the deities/idols in ground, which include Patta devaru Sri Moola Rama & Seeta idol along with some idols that he kept with him to do daily upasana, Sri Ramachandra Theertha knew that Sri Vibudhendra Theertha already has all the main and important moola Samsthana symbols, idols & documents which Srimadacharya handed over to his disciples. Sri Ramachandra theertha instructed & took the promise from villagers & chief Dharmanna & Basappa that those properties including idols should be handed over to his Shishya & successor Sri Vibudhendra Theertha whenever he returns back from his tour. He asked the head of the village to be custodian of the property which was belonged to mutt.
Sri Ramachandra Theertha instructed his remaining working class people (Karma charakaru like Balaseve, Paricharaka, Cook, watchmen etc.) to protect the place daily and to safeguard it.
With this arrangement made Sri Ramachandra Theertha felt peace in mind that the material will reach Sri Vibudhendra theertha & left this world with a very unique circumstance on the sixth day of Vaishaka Shudha in Nala Samvatsara at Yaragola village.
Upon listening to his guru’s health condition Sri Vibudhendra theertha immediately started to rush back to his guru’s seva, but he had to come down all the way from kashi to south of India, which took him several months.
One has to understand and analyze the events carefully with the time frame and the facilities which were available during 14th ~15th Century, where in people used to travel by walk or raiding horse or Bullock carts & may maximum can travel 15~20 Miles per day and the distance between Yaragola to the places around Kashi is Appx. 1300 Miles and would generally take more than few months to travel one way for a free (person without any luggage with him). With Maha Samsthana & with the constraints of daily rituals & sanyasi nitya anustana travelling, will take easily more than 6 months to reach Yaragola from Kashi one way. Sri Ramachandra Theertha definitely knows this constrain and made the arrangement of safeguarding the mutt properties and it clearly indicates the mental preparedness of Sri Ramachandra Theertha that the remaining Mutt property must & must reach only to his Successor (Uttaradhikari) Sri Vibudhendra Theertha and no one else. There can be no alternate arrangement that he might have suggested in those scenario’s.
Emergence of new Mutt :
While Sri Vibudhendra theertha was on his way from kashi many folds of events happened at Yaragola which further created a big crisis in madhwa society which give rise to a new section in Madhwas in later days.
Days were passing after Sri Ramachandra theertha left to holy feet, the mutt people who were passing time without any work started loitering. Suring such occasion a Tuluva Brahmana by name Krishnacharya (belong to Udupi Shiroor Mutt) was passing through the vicinity of Yaragola, caught the eyes of the workless mutt staff. Immediately they plot an idea to exploit situation & approached the Tuluva Krishnacharya, explained him about the current situation of the Moola Samsthana’s idols & wealth, they asked him to act as Sri Vibudhendra Theertha and get wealth along with boxes which contain Main deities Sri Moolarama & seetha idols which were buried under the ground. The workers (Karmacharakaru) of the mutt will support Krishnacharya in getting it from the villagers. This proposal attracted Krishnacharya very much and he thought for a while that this is his life time opportunity to get the Moola Rama & Seetha idol with huge wealth belong to moola Mahasamsthana. He agreed for the plot, and they entered into a formal agreement to run a separate mutt with the material hence acquired. The revenue which is generated will be shared among all 63 mutt staff (Karmachara’s) and 64th share will be for Tuluva Krishnacharya. Krishnacharya further just act as the priest (Archaka). All required spiritual & administration decision to run the mutt was kept with the karmacharaka’s of mutt & sanyasi has to act according to the decision of 63 people.
They prepared them self into the plot & one fine day the Krishnacharya appeared as Sanyasi in front of the villagers and claimed himself as successor of Sri Ramachandra Theertha. As decided the workless mutt staff seconded his claim and they succeeded in winning belief of the chiefs of the village and took Sri Moola Rama, Seeta & other idols which is buried underground and pretend to be the successor of the Sri Ramachandra Theertha went away from Yaragola village. They travelled day and night and crossed Vijayanagara kingdom and reached into Adilshahi kingdom (Old Bombay Presidency) towards northern part of Karnataka. Sometime later krishnacharya took sanyasa & done pattabhisheka himself & named as Sri Vidyanidhi Theertha. they started to claim themselves as the uttaradhikari of Sri Ramachandra Theertha and travelled extensively so that they may not be reached by the authorities of Vijayanagara. Most of their time they spent in that region and could not be even identify them as Samsthana because there were no signs and certificates (Birudu Bavali etc) nor they had the correct knowledge on Madhwa philosophy. The one point agenda was to convience & get the followers for their newly started unnamed association and earn wealth & to equally divide it into 64 shares including swamiji. As they claim as Uttaradhikari, uttaradhikari whereever they went, gradually people started recognizing them as Uttaradhi Mutt centuries post its existence. During the period of Sri Satyabhodha Theertha formally used Uttaradhi mutt for the association created out of the situation and continued with the identity which people used to recognize them with.
Return of Sri Vibudhendra theertha & prospering of moola Samsthana :
By the time Sri Vibudhendra Theertha return back to Yaragola, Sri Ramachandra Theertha has already attained to holy feet. Being a learned man Sri Vibudhendra theertha made the Vrindavana of his beloved guru & performed rituals as per the shastra. He enquired villagers about the chain of events happened during his absence & missing of maha Samsthana idols & wealth, he console himself & thought its Sir Hari chitta & continued the duty as directed by his guru Sri Ramachandra theertha i.e to flourish Madhwa philosophy in all directions.
He continued his sanchara went to Ahobila (Narasimha Kshetra), stayed there for some time, performed Austerity (tapsya) & Sri Narasimha upasana, as a result he got an instinct in his dream from which he got a magnanomus Shodasha Bahu Narasimha idol (Sri Narasimha idol with 16 shoulders) in the river. Sri Vibudhendra theertha worshipped the idol along with other Mahasamsthana idols which he had i.e Sri Digvijaya Rama & Sri Jayarama idols. Even now there is a special worship of this idols on Narasimha jayanthi day in SRS Mutt.
With the renewed energy Sri Vibudhendra Theertha extensively travelled, all across India, visited many learning centres like, Gouda desha, Navadweepa, Avantika, Vindya, Kalinga, Kashi, Gaya, Kanchi, Kumbakonam, Rameshwaram, Kerala, Vijayanagara etc. All kings & kingdoms offered Sri Vibudhendra Theertha with high respect and given huge assets, lands & Jewelleries etc. Kings offered him to stay in their kingdom & guide them as their Raja guru, but he instructed his vidya shishya Sri Lakshminarayana muni to be the guru for vijayanara kingdom. Thus for the first time Sri Vibhudendra theertha got the royal recognition to Madhwa society (Which was followed by Sri Vyasaraja, Vadiraja & Vijayeendra etc). Being focused on his beloved guru’s dreams to establish Madhwa philosophy, Sri Vibudhendra theertha kept moving all over Indian sub-continent. He acquired vijaya Patras form many eminent scholars from different schools all across India. He made 108 vijaya patra’s in a form of golden garland & offered to Lord Sri Venkateshwara at Thirupathi. Thus the Dakshinaadi Moola Mahasamsthana of Sri Madhwacharya started to flourish with knowledge, wealth, scholars & well known to the world as Vidya mutta. Scholars from all direction came to learn at Sri Vibudhendra theertha feet.
Seeing Sri Vibudhendra Theertha’s vast knowledge & his sheer commitment to Sri dwaith philosophy,Sri Swarnawarna Theertharu of Sri Padmanabha theerhta Mutt (Later Sripadaraja mutt) asked his junior pontiff Sri Lakshmi Narayana Theertha to seek vidya /knowledge from Sri Vibudhendra Theertha. Agreed to this request Sri Vibudhendra Theertharu took Lashminarayana muni along & thought him Veda, shastra’s & sidhantha for 12 years. Later groomed him to be the highest quality scholar of the time. Sri Lakshminarayana Muni with his elegance, intelligence & knowledge, went on to became the Raja Guru of Vijayanagara Kings. On an occasion when Sreepadarajaru presented his proud work “Vagvajra” in the presence of many eminent scholars, Vijayanagara king etc, his vidya guru Sri Vibudhendra Theertha bestowed him with a title of “Sreepadaraja“. Henceforth Sri Lakshminarayana muni popularly became known as Sreepadarajaru. Thus was the blessing of Sri Vibudhendra theertha to his student.
Similar to Sri LakshmiNarayan muni, Sri Vibudhendra theertha recognised swaroopa of another great personality Sri Ananthappa on his visit to Shivapura. Took along with him & made him a high quality scholar & later initiated him to sanyasa and named as Sri Jitamitra Theertha.
Later part of his life he stayed down south in the place called Thirunalveli, a shaivait center to establish vaishnava siddantha. He started first ever Vidyalaya (University) for learning Dwaitha philosophy & Vedanta. He Devised & set up a system of graduating for students in Dwaitha philosophy.This became the baseline which was followed by Sreepadaraja in Mulbagalu Unversity & Sri Vysaraja in Anegondi, and had aptly laid foundation for developing eminent personalities like Sri Vyasaraja, Sri Vijayeendra Theertharu, Sri Vadirajaru, Sri Sudhendra theertharu, Sri Kambalur Ramachandra theeirtharu, Sri Raghavendra Theertharu etc. Thus the saying “Madhwa siddantha is the ucchista (Left over) of Sri Vibudhendra theertha” is clearly demonstrated.
During his times, he became the center & important link for all for Madhwa mutts & He had developed healthy relations with many other important institution. It is said that he had a very long philosophical discussion with many advaitha, shaiva, Jaina, Buddha sect scholars. Sri Girvanendra saraswathi & others who flourished during Rajaraja verman in Kerala were his contemprories.
He must have composed many works during his time, unfortunately none of them is available for public now. But some of his works are said to be available in global university libraries which further needs to be researched. Some of his works are
- Adhikarana Sangraha
- Sastrasaara sangraha (Sharirika Mimamsa) on Badarayana’s Brahmasutras
After taken on the task single handedly to establish & spread Dwaitha Philosophy in far places in Indian sub-continent, Sri Vibudhendra Theertha handed over the maha Samsthana to Sri Jitamitra theertha & appointed as the successor for Dakshinaadi Kavindra mutt. He attained haripada in Tirunelveli on the banks of river Tamraparani during 1490 AD (Margashira Shudha Dashami). But the knowledge created by him flourished through his students for generations and living till day in sub-continent.
आकॆरलं तथासॆतु मागंगं च हिमालयं
निराकृताद्वैतशैवं विबुधॆंद्र गुरुं भजॆ
ఆకేరలం తథాసేతు మాగంగం చ హిమాలయం
నిరాకృతాద్వైతశైవం విబుధేంద్ర గురుం భజే
ಆಕೇರಲಂ ತಥಾಸೇತು ಮಾಗಂಗಂ ಚ ಹಿಮಾಲಯಂ
ನಿರಾಕೃತಾದ್ವೈತಶೈವಂ ವಿಬುಧೇಂದ್ರ ಗುರುಂ ಭಜೇ
AkEralaM tathAsEtu mAgaMgaMcA himaalayaM
niraakRutAdwaitashaivaM vibudhEMdra guruM bhajE
References: Satkatha Ist Edition 1896, IInd Edition 1931
Gurucharithe by HK Vedavyasacharya,
Ajjeya Vijayeendraru – Raja S Gururaja Charya
Kaliuga Kalpataru – Raja S Gururaja Charya
Official Website – Sreepadaraja Mutt
Official Website – Sri Vyasaraja mutt
Official Website- Sri Uttaradhi mutt