Saturday, 3 March 2012

Sri Vidyaranya

Sri Vidyaranya - Sage and Empire Builder Sri Vidyaranya coming five centuries after Shankara Bhagavatpada, was the 12th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sharada matha from 1380 to 1386 A.D. and Sri Hampi Virupaksha Vidyaranya Mahasamsthanam He brought fame and glory to the both mathas by his dynamic leadership and unique contributions to spiritual and vedantic thought.Sringeri, a cluster of hermitages, became a spiritual imperium with state jurisdiction during his pontificate. To the Vyakhyana Simhasana in the Sharada matha was added secular

Sri Vidyaranya

authority over the newly created samsthanam which served to enthuse a courageous spirit of unity and self confidence among the people of South India.

Sri Vidyaranya was a great force in the regeneration of our spiritual, moral and cultural values. He built temples at Sringeri and Hampi and established mathas to propagate Vedanta. He was not only a sage and empire builder, but also a savant and a scholar. His works constituted the greatest treatises in post-Shankara advaitic literature in which he brought to bear a synthetic spirit. His marvellous interpretative skill reconciled many apparent differences in philosophic texts.

No other thinker and writer acquired a reputation close to that of Adi Shankara in spreading the truths of Advaita. Special importance has been given to two of Vidyaranya’s popular works on Vedanta – Panchadasi and Jivanmukti Viveka. As invaluable treatise to the sadhak and sannyasi, they are famous for their clarity of thought and abundance of quotations from well-known texts.

Sannyasa Diksha:

Tradition has it that Vidyaranya whose pre-ascetic name is not known for certain was the elder of two Brahmachari brothers belonging to a poor but learned Brahmin family of Ekasila Nagari (present-day Warangal). The younger of the two, wandering south in search of true knowledge, reached Sringeri when the great Vidyashankara Tirtha was the reigning pontiff. On seeing the innate greatness of young Brahmachari, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave him sannyasa diksha with a ascetic name of Bharati Krishna Tirtha in 1328 A.D. After Sri Vidyatirtha attained Nirvana by entering into Lambika Yoga samadhi, Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha succeeded him as the 11th Jagadguru on the Sringeri matha and reigned from 1333 to 1380 A.D.

In the meanwhile, the elder Brahmachari whom we may call Madhava, left home in search of his younger brother. After much wandering, he finally reached Sringeri where he found his brother Bharati Krishna Tirtha. At his request, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave Madhava sannyasa diksha in 1331 A.D under the ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya, in other words, verily a forest of knowledge. Sri Bharati Tirtha, though younger than Vidyaranya became his senior by virtue of his earlier ordainment into Sannyasa ashrama and came to be known as the senior Sripada and Vidyaranya the junior.

Sri Vidyaranya then started on a pilgrimage and reached Kashi. At the direction of Sri Vyasa, he went to Badrikashrama where the great sage himself initiated him into Sri Vidya. Returning south, he retired to Matanga hill, near Hampi, where he immersed himself in intense meditation. It was at this time that the two brothers, Madhava and Sayana, the sons of Mayana of Bharadwaja Gothra, approached Sri Vidyaranya and sought his blessings. Sri Vidyaranya graciously gave them his unfinished Veda bhashyas and some other works. He blessed them to complete the works in their own names. Later, both the brothers served as ministers to Bukkaraya and Harihara I and II. 

Birth of Vijayanagara:

It was while Sri Vidyaranya was doing tapas at Matanga hill that the two warrior brothers, Harihara and Bukka, sons of Sangama, approached him. Directed by a dream, they sought his blessings and guidance. Earlier, these two brothers had been taken prisoner and led to Delhi. It is believed they were under compulsion to embrace Islam. But the Delhi ruler recognising their valour sent them back to the south at the head of an army to contain the rebellions brewing in the Deccan. 

Seizing this opportunity, the two brothers asserted their independence. With the guidance and blessings of Sri Vidyaranya, they established their own independent kingdom with its capital on the left bank of Tungabhadra river. Following the sage’s counsel, they shifted their capital to the right bank, naming it Vidyanagara, as a mark of respect and gratitude to the sage, whom they regarded as their Guru, God and saviour. The city, which came to be popularly known as Vijayanagara or City of Victory was planned in accordance with the directions of sage Vidyaranya in the form of a Sri Chakra, with the Virupaksha temple in the middle and nine gates all around. 

A copper plate grant of 1336 A.D bearing the sign manual ‘Virupaksha’ recounts that “Harihara was seated on the throne as directed by Vidyaranya. He made the 16 great gifts resplendent in the city called Vidya, of vast dimensions…” The emperor placed at the feet of his master Sri Vidyaranya, all his imperial insignia. Sri Vidyaranya initiated him into Atmavidya and conferred on him the titles, Srimad Rajadhiraja Parameshwara, Aparimita Pratapavira and Narapatin. From then on, the Sringeri Jagadguru came to be addressed as “Karnataka Simhasana Pratishtapanacharya” which is part of their birudavali even to this day.

Sri Vidyaranya - Sage and Empire Builder

Sri Bharatitirtha was the senior Sripada(pontiff) and Sri Vidyaranya, the junior.

In the course of his pilgrimage, Sri Vidyaranya went to Kasi, where he had a vision of Vyasa. Returning to the south, he was practising meditation on the Matanga hill near the temple of Virupaksha in Hampi, when two brothers Madhava and Sayana, both ministers of Prataparudra, approached him and prayed
for the blessings of progeny. The sage told them that they were not destined to have children and consoled them by showing them a way of perpetuating their names. He gave them his commentaries on the Vedas and other works, which they could complete and propagate under their names as Madhaviyam and Sayaniyam. 

The political condition of the Deccan and South India at that time was turbulent. The Hindus never reconciled themselves to Muslim rule, to the break up of the old dynasties, to the destruction or desecration of temples and mathas and to the burden of ever increasing imposts. After Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s return to Delhi, leaving his generals behind, the Andhra Coast was freed by the Nayakas by 1331. The revolt spread westward, Tondaimandalam in the south was also freed. In the midst of all these risings, the brothers Harihara and Bukka, who had gathered a band of flowers, were worsted by Ballala III. Smarting under the blow, the brothers approached Sri Vidyaranya near the temple of Virupaksha. 

The sage took them under his spiritual protection and the next encounter gave them victory. Following the sage’s counsel, they established a kingdom, which they extended by further conquests. Directed by the sage, they founded a city on a site near the Tungabhadra, opposite to Anegundi, which they named Vidyanagara after the sage. It was populary called Vijayanagara. The foundation of the city is dated 1258 A.D-Dhatu year-Vaisakha Sukla (April 18, 1936), and it was laid out within nine gates in the form of the mystic Sri Chakra. It grew up in a few years into a magnificient city, and Sri Vidyaranya had the coronation of Harihara celebrated. From that time, the brothers marched from victory to victory, and their conquest ended from sea to sea. The emperor placed at his master’s feet all his imperial insignia, and henceforth the Sringeri Jagadguru came to be addressed as Karnataka Simhasana Sthapakacharya.

Sri Vidyaranya resumed his pilgrimage and retired to Kasi. In 1346, the victorious Harihara with all his brothers, his brother-in-law and generals visited Sringeri and made a grant of land to the senior Sripada, Sri Bharati Krishnatirtha. The Acharya had meanwhile raised the splendid temple of Sri Vidyashankara and at the consecration was present Madhava mantrin with gifts from Bukka who was sharing the responsibilities of the empire. Bukka communicated to Sri Vidyaranya at Kasi. The news of the consecration together with a Srimukha from the senior pontiff Sri Bharatitirtha desiring his return. Sri Vidyaranya returned to Hampi and from there accompanied by Bukka, went to Sringeri. To mark the event, Bukka granted an agrahara as a homage to the two gurus. In 1380, after placing the pitha in charge of Sri Vidyaranya, Sri Bharatitirtha attained Videha mukti. On the occasion of his coronation, Harihara II received the Acharya with royal honours and laid at his feet various insignia, including umbrellas, conch, disc, fly whisks, drums, bells, torches, banners and festoons of silk, palanquins, a golden throne and sandals inlaid with gems, all of which the latter dedicated to Sri Vidyashankara. 

The Acharya initiated the emperor into the mysteries Advaitic meditation, and in 1386 attained videha mukti. Shortly after this event, Harihara visited Sringeri and founded the agrahara of Vidyaranyapura in memory of the guru. The vritis granted on the occasion included, one each to the temple of Bharati Ramanatha raised over the Samadhi of Sri Bharatitirtha and Vidya-vishweshwara built in memory of Sri Vidyaranya.

Under Sri Vidyaranya’s direction, the emperors made endowments to Mathas founded by him or by Sri Bharatitirtha in different parts of South India, some of which rose to importance as branches of the Sringeri Sharada Peetha or as subordinate monastic establishments. Prince Chikka Raya (afterwards Virupaksha I) made a grant to Satyatirtha of Muniyur matha which marks the origin of the Sakatapuram or Bandigade matha.

Hariharapura, an agrahara about six miles from Sringeri was founded by Harihara II, and Sri Ramachandra Saraswathi was the first Acharya of the matha that was established there. The Tirthamuttur matha (Tirthahalli taluk) and the Kudali matha also came into existence some centuries later. Under the guidance and encouragement of the Sringeri Gurus and the emperors. The agraharas of Sringapura and Vidyaranyapura were laid out by Harihara II. 

A record from Kanchipuram dated 1378 relates to the grant of the village of Illuppaipattu to Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya Vedendra Sagara Sripada of Veda matha in the Vishnu temple there.

A vritti was allotted to the Sri Janardana temple. Of the new temples built during this period, the Vidyashankara temple is the grandest. Sri Vidyaranya substituted the present golden image of Sri Sharada for the one in sandalwood originally consecrated by Sri Shankara over a Sri Chakra on a rock and over which a small temple had been raised. The temple was enlarged. The Bharathi Ramanatha temple was built over the samadhi of Sri Bharatitirtha and the Vidyavishweswara temple in memory of Sri Vidyaranya. Sri Vidyaranya made grants for the worship of Gopinatha in Paschimavahini, a few furlongs from Sringeri on the westward bend of the Tunga, and consecrated lingas and Sri Chakras in several places.

A Samsthanam is born:
The first land grant(in 1346) to Sringeri mutt was that of Harihara I. His brother and other relations consisting of nine villages in Keanad. “The second, dated 1356 made by Bukka and inscribed on a stone to the north of the Ganapati Vagiswari temple, opens with a homage to Sri Vidyatirtha and records a gift of land of the revenue of three hundred gadyanas.

A subsequent land grant of Bukka was in Kikundanadu to which was added a grant by Chikka Raya(afterwards Harihara II) of land in Kikundanadu and Kodanadu.

In 1380, Harihara II consolidated all the previous grants and made an additional grant to Sri Vidyaranya. In 1387, after Sri Vidyaranya had attained Videha mukti, a further grant was made by Harihara. A supplemental grant of thirty vrittis was made in 1389-90, when the emperor again visited Sringeri. The temples that benefited by the vrittis were those of Sri Vidyashankara, Sri Janardana, Sri Bharati Ramanatha and Sri Vidya Vishweshwara in Sringeri and Chaturmurti Vidyeshwara in Simhagiri. 

The pontificate of Sri Bharati Krishnatirtha and Sri Vidyaranya witnessed the conversion of Sringeri, hitherto a cluster of hermitages, into an imperium et impera. To the Vyakhyana Simhasana in the Sharada Peetha, was subsequently added secular authority over the newly created Samsthanam. 

The creation of the Samsthanam marks the expression of the reverence and gratitude on the part of the early emperor of Vijayanagar who were deeply conscious of the debt they owed to the Jagadgurus whose spiritual benedictions and guidance helped them to found and consolidate one of the greatest empires known to Indian history.

The Vidyashankara – Bharatitirtha – Vidyaranya epoch marks the rise of the Sharada Peetha to the highest of eminence and influence hardly excelled by any other spiritual institution in the country. The passage of six centuries has added a bright halo around the memory of these matters.

A New epoch:
Vedic dharma, which had received a rude shock under Muslim rule in the North found a bulwark in the South. The defence was on all fronts. On the political front, Sri Vidyaranya’s grace helped in the formation of a Hindu empire. On the socio-religious front, to begin with, worship that had been suspended in several temples, including the famous temples of Srirangam and Madurai was restored. Mysore inscriptions speak of grants to temples under the direction or in honour of Sri Vidyranya. From now on, Vijayanagar emperors and their vassals carried out renovations, with extensions on a lavish scale of hundreds of temples. 

The new spirit, which, by quickening the Hindu conscience everywhere, withstood the shock and stress of the political and social convulsions that threatened to engulf the land, also succeeded in creating a commonwealth of letters and a reorganized socio-religious order, which though generally fostered by all the religious sects owed a great deal to the lead given by the Sharada Peetha. Thenceforward to imparting Brahmavidya to the elect, and training spiritual aspirants, the Jagadgurus added the work of prescribing proper modes of divine services, in temples and guiding the socio-religious activities of the millions of disciples so as to bring them under the discipline of religion. They also assumed the authority to enforce sanction on delinquents as a means of leading them to the path of repentance through the imposition of a strict course of penance or propitiatory acts.


KVS said...

Great post, Harikrishna.
But the flow is not so great. Please give references if you have used any other resources as source of this article.
Please check once the flow and consistency of the names of the kings and Acharya-s whose names you had mentioned in the article.

Truly great information and makes me once more feel proud of Sringeri Sharada Peetham.

Narendra Kovila said...

my guruparampara.....

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