Monday 22 October 2012

Guru Raghavendra's visit to Srirangapatna and Hampi

I have always been fascinated by Srirangapatna. Since Mysore was my native place and I stay in Bangalore, I had to pass through this small island every time I visited Mysore.
The story of Hyder and Tipu and their fight against the British give Srirangapatna a heroic swathe. The beautiful temple of Ranganatha commanded respect, devotion and awe. The spire of the temple dominates the town and it can be seen for miles around.
The beautiful Cauvery encircling the city and the several temples dotting the town make Srirangapatna a traveller’s delight.
When I dug through some old records at Mysore University and Oriental Research Library, I found that Raghavendra Swamy had visited Srirangapatna enroute to Chitradurga, Hampi, Navabrindavana and other places during his tour of South India .
Srirangapatna was then ruled by the Wodeyars and they were the feudatories of the Vijayanagar Kings. The Vijayanagar kingdom suffered a massive setback in the battle of Talikota on January 23, 1565  (Talikota is 85 kms from Bijapur and the Vijayanagar army and the combined Muslim armies of the Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Bidar and Golconda clashed at two small villages nearby Rakasa and Tangadi. Therefore, this is also known as  the battle of Rakasa Tangadi). After the fall of the Vijayanagar Kingdom, smaller provinces, including Mysore, began declaring their independence. 
The then King of Srirangapatna was Dodda Deva Raja of the Wodeyar dynasty. He was pious king and the credit for building the stone steps at Chamundi Hills go to him. During his time, Srirangapatna and not Mysore was the capital of the Wodeyars.
Raghavendra Swamy spent some time in Srirangapatna and he also visited the Ranganatha temple. He also stayed for in Srirangapatna for the Chaturmasa period and gave discourses.
The then Wodeyar king was struck by the benevolence of the seer and gifted him two villages-Nallur and Deverajapura. Raghavendra Swamy completed the Chaturmasa Vrata and then proceeded northwards towards Chitradurga and from there to Hampi, which then was in ruins.
While in Hampi, he performed prayers at several temples there. Incidentally, in his earlier avatar as Vyasaraja, he had spent several years at Hampi and had also consecrated the Yantrodharaka Hanuman temple at Chakratheertha, Hampi. As Vyasaraja, he had entered Brindavana in 1539 and as Raghavendra he is supposed to have taken birth in 1595. However, this time around he did not get any royal patronage in Hampi as the entire city was in ruins. The combined armies of the Muslim Kings, after the battle of Talikota, had plundered, devastated and ravaged Hampi, killing people, looting palaces, raping women, enslaving men and burning everything in sight.
We will never know what went through the mind of Raghavendra when he saw Hampi in ruins. As Vyasaraja, he had even ruled from Hampi for a day. He was the Kula guru for six Vijayanagar Emperors, including Krishnadeva Raya. He had presided over the fortunes of the empire when it was at its zenith. He was also the Chancellor of the Vijayanagar University where he had taught. (There was no trace of the university now as it had been completely obliterated.)  Please remember, Krishnadeva Raya performed Ratnaabhisheka to Vyasaraja and a vivid account of this magnificent spectacle is contained in the biography of Vyasaraja by a Smartha Brahmin poet called Somanatha.
Vyasaraja had also sat alongside Krishnadeva Raya and presided over the Dasssara celebrations from the Ramanavami Dibba. (Today it is a ruined structure) He had also long walks in Hampi with his close friend Purandara Dasa. They had also been together teaching students at the University.
All that glory had gone after Vyasaraja entered Brindavana. The Hampi that Raghavendra Swamy saw was bereft of  its grandeur. All around him, Raghavendra Swamy saw desolation and ruins. Did he make any remark on these issues. Let me check and get back to you.          
Coming back to the topic, Raghavendra Swamy also visited the Brindavana of Sudhindra Theertha, his guru, at Nava Brindavana. He had a few years ago overseen the construction of the Brindavana and this was the last Brindavana to come up here. The Brindavana of Vyasaraja is also in Nava Brindavana and Raghavendra Swamy offered prayers here and then proceeded towards Bellary and from there to Bichale-Mantralaya.

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