The Paramaguru of Rayaru

All credit to my brother’s blog :

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 favorite 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu (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, Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharuhis 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharuthe 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu. 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu 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.

Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu, 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 unrecognized. He has several beautiful compositions in Kannada. Vyasarajavijaya and Subhadra Dhananjaya are two beautiful dramatized 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, Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu 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, Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu, he recognizes 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 Shree Vijayeendra Theertharu 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.  

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by V. Gopal on July 9, 2021 at 9:42 am

    I have read a slightly different account. Kavindra theertharu founded the Dakshinadhi mutt. It branched into Uttaradhi mutt under Vidhyanaidhi theertha and Vidya mutt under Vibudendra theertha. Vidya mutt existed around Tirunelveli, though we have no clear evidence for the same, except that His Brindavana was found there. Vidya mutt later became Sri Raghavendraswamy mutt or SRS mutt. Poorvadhi mutt was founded by Rajendra theertharu. This later became Vyasaraja mutt. Can someone clarify the things.


  2. Posted by LAKSHMAN on July 7, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    Vijayeendra Theertharu had as an illustrious follower Sri Sudheendra Theertharu, after whom Sri Raghavendra Theertharu occupied the Peeta in that line of peetadhipatis.This fact cannot be missed in a narrative of the history of the Purvadhi Mutt that later came to be called Sri Raghavendra Mutt. It is to the credit of Sri Sudheendra Theertha that he could convince Sri Raghavendra of his taking to saintly way of life for the good of the world and thanks to that important role Sri Sudheendra had played at that point of time that we have even today the powerful spiritual influence of Sri Raghavendra radiating from the Moola Brindavana of the popularly known Sri Rayaru at Mantralaya that has spread now, even beyond the shores of Bharata Desha.


  3. Posted by LAKSHMAN on July 7, 2021 at 8:25 pm

    An illuminative and well-written article. K.LAKSHMAN.


  4. Posted by V Gopal on July 7, 2021 at 8:31 am

    I agree with the blog. It goes deeper. Partly, Vadirajaru did not have a successor who was as “popular” as he was. But, Vijayendra Theertha was immediately followed by Rayaru. That was like having two Suns at close proximity.


  5. Posted by V Gopal on July 7, 2021 at 8:30 am

    I agree with the blog. It goes deeper. Partly, Vadirajaru did not have a successor who was as “popular” as he was. But, Vijayendra Theertha was immediately followed by Rayaru. That was like having two Suns at close proximity.


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