Sri Ratnakar has been writing about the great Vijayanagara Empire. I thought of writing the prequel to the birth of Vijayanagara Empire. This is from the perspective of the founding Saint of Vijayanagara Empire Sri Vidyaranya Mahaswami. But before we get there we need to cover a few bases..
Brief History of Sringeri Peetam
Jagadguru Sri Adi Shankaracharya established the first of the four Amnaya Peethams at Sringeri more than twelve centuries ago. It is at this place that the famous Saint Sri Rishyashringa had His ashram during Ramayana’s time.
Tradition has it that after the Acharya had dispersed all the non-Vedic creeds prevailing in the country, He was on the look-out for a convenient and holy place where He could establish an institution to spread the truths of Advaita Vedanta. When the Acharya came to Sringeri, he saw an unusual sight on the banks of the Tunga. A cobra was seen spreading out its hood over a frog in labour pains, to give it shadow from the scorching mid-day sun. The Acharya chose this very location to establish His first Math.He then invoked the Divinity of Knowledge, Goddess Sharada and consecrated an icon of the Goddess. Thus the Peetham He founded at Sringeri in South India for fostering the Vedas and the sacred tradition of Sanatana Dharma came to be known as the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham.
The Acharya appointed his prime disciple, Sri Sureshwaracharya as the first Acharya of the Peetham. Since then, the Peetham has been blessed with an unbroken Guru Parampara, a garland of spiritual masters and Jivanmuktas representing Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The succeeding Acharyas have led a life of such austere penance that it has led disciples to adore in them the radiance of Sri Adi Shankara Himself.
Biography of Sri Vidyaranya
Madhava (the pre-ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya) 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, reached Sringeri when the great Vidyashankara Tirtha was the reigning pontiff. On seeing the innate greatness of the young Brahmachari, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave him sanyasa diksha with the ascetic name of Bharati Krishna Tirtha in 1328 A.D.
In the meanwhile, Madhava left home in search of his younger brother. After much wandering, he finally reached Sringeri where he found his brother as the junior pontiff Bharati Krishna Tirtha. At the junior pontiff’s request, Sri Vidyatirtha readily gave Madhava sanyasa diksha in 1331 A.D under the ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya. Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha, though younger than Vidyaranya became his senior.
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 Gotra, 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 as Madhaviyam and Sayaniyam.
Later, both the brothers served as ministers in the Vijayanagara empire under Bukkaraya and Harihara I and II. At Sringeri, Sri Vidyatirtha attained Mahasamadhi by entering into Lambika Yoga Samadhi and Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha succeeded him as the 11th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Mutt and reigned from 1333 to 1380 A.D.
Building of Vidyashankara Temple
Sri Vidyatirtha after His long reign [1229 to 1333 AD] felt that He had served the Peetham and wanted to take Samadhi. He instructed His shishays that He would be going into Lambika Yoga Samadhi – which is rolling up the tongue to obstruct flow of air – and mentioned that in 7 years there would be a Shiva Lingam at the place He was sitting. After He entered into Samadhi His shishya Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha assumed the role of Jagadguru of Sharada Peetam.
A couple of years later one of the shishyas felt that Sri Vidyatirtha probably doesnt have enough air [since He was in Samadhi in a room] and opened the door to find partially converted Shiva Lingam. At the same time Sri Vidyatirtha appeared to Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya and told them about this incident. The two Acharyas came back to Sringeri and decided to build a magnificient temple where their Guru took Samadhi.
The Vidyashankara Temple stands on this place and is a testimony to the understanding and dedication of the two Acharyas to honor their Guru. To read more about the greatness of the temple’s architecture please see this link.
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. They were forcibly converted to Islam by Mohummad-bin-Tuglaq. Sri Vidyaranya blessed them and converted them back to Hinduism.
Prior to the “muhurtham” for establishing the Vijayanagara Empire, Sri Vidyaranya prayed to Sharadamba to shower Her grace on the kingdom and to let the Empire reign for 2000 years. He asked Harihara Raya and Bukka Raya to be at a place and on His signal [blow of conch] they should lay the foundation for the kingdom. Sri Vidyaranya then went from there to just beyond a hill to do tapas and signal. The brothers were waiting for their Guru’s signal and they heard a conch blow and laid the foundation just as He had ordained. A minute later they heard another conch blow and were confused. When Sri Vidyaranya approached they said that they had laid the foundation to the sound of the first conch whereas Sri Vidyaranya had blown the conch second. Sri Vidyaranya then prayed to Goddess Sharadamba and legend has it that Saradamba pacified Sri Vidyaranya that it was at her instance that the first conch was blown and that the time was not yet ripe for establishing a 2000 year Hindu empire. She told Vidyaranya that the Vijayanagara Empire would live gloriously for ~250 years and that His desire for 2000 year Hindu empire would get fulfilled ~500 years after the fall of Vijayanagara.
After laying the foundation for Vijayanagar and with the guidance and blessings of Sri Vidyaranya, the brothers 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 , as per directions of sage Vidyaranya in the form of a Sri Chakra, with the Virupaksha temple in the middle and nine gates all around.
Greatness of Sri Vidyaranya Mahaswami
Vidyaranya was Royal Guru, Minister & Mentor in Vijaya Nagara Kingdom. Once there was a draught in the empire. King Harihara approached Vidyaranya. Vidyaranya told the king that he would pray Goddess Lakshmi to shower gold in the kingdom. The king collected the gold that fell in his fort. What ever gold that fell in citizen’s houses / farms was taken by the citizens. He worshipped Mahalaksmi using Kanakadhara Sthavam of Shankaracharya. In past 1400 years, there was a rain of gold only twice in India – first as requested by Adi Shankara & second being this incident of Sri Vidyaranya Tirtha.
A copper plate grant of 1336 A.D bearing the sign manual ‘Virupaksha’ recounts, ‘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.
Works of Sri Vidyaranya
The name Vidyaranya means forest of education. He had done justice to the name given to Him. He is the greatest among all scholars in Adwaitha philosophy in post Shankara period. Jagadguru has written more than 1800 works. When Vijayanagara kingdom collapsed, His disciples had hidden all His works in caves and underground storage. Now only 80 works are available. Important works among them are Bhashyam (commentary) for 4 Vedas, Madhaviya Shankara Vijayam, Sarva Siddantha Sangraham, Vedantha Panchadashi and many others. He has given pointers on usage of various matra’s on various ocassion. We see lot of self declared guru’s using Veda Mantra’s with out any knowledge in the present world.
He has given us the biography of Adi Shankara – Madhaviya Shankara Vijayam. There are many Shankara Vijayam’s available to us in the literature. But most widely accepted biograpgy is Madhaviya Shankara Vijayam. Sarva Siddantha Sangraha compares Adwaitha philosophy with 16 other major schools of thought like Charvaka, Jaina & Bhauddha etc. It is not at all a criticism of those traditions.
The period of Sri Vidyashankara Tirtha – Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha – Sri Vidyaranya Tirtha has very few, if any, parallels in the annals of any Peetam not just Sringeri. It was during their reign that Sri Sarada Peetham rose to prominence in all of South India and Sanatana Dharma was ressurrected for all times to come.
Homage to this serene Vidyaranya who holds aloft the torch of discrimination, Knowledge of the Real form unreal and helps the devoted across the sea of birth!
3. History of Sringeri Mutt – Sringeri Publications.