Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The saint for whom Narasimha opened the door of his temple

All of us have either read or heard about the story of  how the Nawab of Adoni, Sidhi Masud Khan, tested the prowess of Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru by  placing a plate containing meat before the seer.
Rayaru accepted the offering and sprinkled holy water from the kamandala he was carrying. When the clothe covering the plate was removed, the meat had turned into fruits and flowers.
This incident is recorded in history and it finds mention in many books and songs on Raghavendra Swamy, the bard of Mantralaya.
Similarly, the story of Kanaka Dasa in Udupi and how the idol of Lord Krishna in the Sri Krishna Temple turned is also widely mentioned. The Kanakana Kindi in the temple is as famous as the idol of Krishna.
Several centuries earlier to the period of Raghavendra Swamy and Kanaka Dasa, a renown  Madhwa saint, Akshoba Theertha, had defeated Vidyaranya, the Advaitha scholar and Guru of the founders of Vijayanagar Empire Hakka and Bukka, in a debate on “Tatvam Asi”. After the debate, a pillar of victory had been constructed in Mulabagal.  
All these three incidents have been immortalised. But did you that there was one Madhwa Saint during whose life time all these incidents occurred. The doors of a Narasimha Temple opened on its own when this seer came calling at the temple: the meat, blood  and fish offered to him tuned into holy articles and a Vijaya Stambha was consecrated in his memory after he won a debate over a well-known Adwaitha scholar.
This seer was none other than Satyapriya Theertha, one of the most holy men of his times and the Peetadhipathi of Uttaradhi Matha from 1737 to 1774. He had taken over the reigns of the Matha from Satyapurna Theertha.
An ardent devotee of Moola Rama, he is credited with many miracles. During one of his sanchara, he came across the King of a Muslim kingdom. The King, who had heard about the seer’s miracles, wanted to test him.
The King offered three plates pooja, containing mutton, fish and blood. The seer sprinkled Theertha and Tulasi on the plates and when the clothes covering the plates were removed,  the mutton had transformed into sandalwood, fish into stone and blood into  arathi for Moola Rama.
Even as this was going on, the King began losing his eyesight. Unnerved by the miracle, the King feel at the feet of  the Seer and begged forgiveness.
The seer blessed him and the King regained his eyesight. The King then gave three villages, including Chandanoor, and another land grant of over 100 acres to the Uttaradhi Matha apart from other riches. A copper plate donating the land to the Matha can be seen even today.
He decided to visit Melkote, now in Mandya district. When he came to the Yoga Narasimha Temple, the priests had closed the temple doors and felt for the day. Deeply disappointed, the seer began praising the lord and began singing his glory.
The temple doors opened on its own and the temple bells began ringing on its own. The dumbfounded priests performed mangalarti and left the seer in front of the idol to meditate.     
On a tour of north India, he came across an Adwaitha Pandit and scholar called Ghanshyam in Kashi. This scholar had written more than 100 dramas in Sanskrit and was considered an authority on Advaitha literature and philosophy.
Gnan Shyam Kavi accepted Satyapriya Theertha as his Guru and became his follower. He also wrote a book, Prachanda Raahoodayam, a book in five chapters, in which he has made the seer as the hero of the work. This books discusses the Dwaitha. Adwaitha and other schools of philosophy.
The residents of Kashi and the seer’s devotes installed a tower in Kashi inscribing on it the seer’s glorious deed and the defeat of the Adwaitah scholar. (Here, I would like to draw a parallel to the victory of Akshoba Theertha, one of the four direct disciples of Madhwacharya over Vidyaranya).
He revived a boy who had died of snake bite by sprinkling holy water and reciting mantras.  
When the seer was visiting Rameshwaram along with his disciples, thieves attacked attacked them near Man Madurai (near Madurai) and went ahead with the jewel box, sacred bell and other articles of the matha. As the seer sang and prayed to Hanuman to rescue his master’s articles, a group of monkeys set upon the thieves and set about kicking and biting the thieves.
The thieves rushed back to the seer and gave back the articles. They also begged for forgiveness. The monkeys vanished as suddenly as they came and this place was named as Veera Vanara Madurai. This place exists even today near Madurai.
During his last days, the seer personally felt the presence of Rama after performing the pooje of Moola Rama and pother deities of the Matha. He realised his end was near and entered Brindavanana at Mana Madurai in Shivaganga district, Tamil Nadu, on Chaitra Shuda Traiodashi.
Please visit the Brindavana as it is very unique. By and large, all Brindavanas of Madhwa saints are constructed upon a tortoise or Koorma.
This Brindavana is unique as a Sarpa or spiral snake is on the Koorma. There is a beautiful poem in honour of this seer by one of his successors to the Uttaradhi Matha, Satyadharma Theertha.
Satyapriya Theertha has written several works, including commentaries on Upanishads.
  

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