Tuesday 23 October 2012

The man of three Avatars- Madhwacharya

Madhwacharya was sitting on his favourite seat at the Ananthaswara temple in Udupi. Before the establishment of the Sri Krishna Temple in 1278, the Anantheswara Temple was the centre of learning in Udupi. It was also one of the favourite temples of Madhwacharya.
It was the morning of Navami in 1317 and Madhwacharya  was giving a discouse on Upanishads to his disciples. When he finished the discourse,  a shower of flowers fell on him. The shower soon turned into a cascade and in a few minutes it had covered the Acharya completely.
A little later his disciples began removing the flowers and to their horror they found that the Acharya had disappeared. They then suddenly heard the voice of Madhwa telling them that he had left for Uttarabadari and that he would not come back. This is the day that is called as Madhwa Jayanthi.
Tomorrow is Madhwa Jayanthi, the day he was born, and all the 28 Madhwa mathas owing allegiance to Madhwacharya will be following it. Interestingly, while almost all the Madhwa saints have entered Brindavana, Madhwacharya who is the Bheeshma Pitah of Dwaitha philosophy, just vanished into thin air. It is for this reason that there is no Brindavanan for him.
The place from where he disappeared and the house he was born and other places that he is associated with can still be seen today in Udupi, Pajaka Kshetra and surrounding areas.
One of the earliest works that throw a lot of light on Madhwacharya, his life and times, is Madhwa Vijaya by Pandit Narayanacharya. He was the son of  Trivikrama Panditacharya, who was one of  the Acharya’s favourite disciple.
There is an interesting anecdote about the Acharya and Trivikrama Panditacharya. It was an usual day at Udupi when the Acharya would go into the sanctum sanctorum of the Krishna Temple and offer prayers to the diety.
As was his usual practice, the Acharya would close the door and perform pooja before offering Naivaidya to Krishna.  One day, a curious Trivikrama Panditacharya wanted to know what went on behind the closed doors. He then sneaked a look through a small window and to his amazement he saw Hanuma performing pooja to Rama, Bheema performing pooja to Krishna and Madhwacharya himself performing pooja to Veda Vyasa (Narayana).
Dumbstruck by what he had seen, Trivikrama Panditacharya composed Vayu Stuti or Hari Vayu Stuti. It contains  41 paragraphs and  Trivikrama Panditacharya presented it to Madhwacharya. The Acharya said the work should not be dedicated to him and added a two paragraph composition on Lord Narasimha.
Even to this day, the house of  Trivikrama Panditacharya and his son Narayana exists in Kasargod,Kerala. The building is called Kavu Math and the Brindavana of  Trivikrama Panditacharya is located here. The descendents of  Trivikrama Panditacharya still live there.         
Coming back to Madhwacharya,  the Madhwa Vijaya by Pandit Narayanacharya contains a lot of information on the Acharya, It is a book of 16 chapters and the last chapter gives an elaborate account of the miracles performed by the Acharya and several incidents that took place during the time of Madhwacharya. Some of these incidents are already contained in earlier chapters.
However, what is astonishing is that this book gives no information about the disappearance of the Acharya although there is the incident of showering of flowers upon Madhwacharya. A work by Hrishikesh Theertha, the first pontiff of  Palimaru matha, one of the eight mathas set up by Madhwacharya, too does not mention this incident.
Historical and contemporary records indicate that the Acharya spent the last few  years of his life on the banks of Kanva Theertha. It was also perhaps during this period that he initiated Shobana Bhatta into the Dwaitha order and gave him the name Padmanabha Theertha. Shobana Bhatta was from Orissa as was Madhwa’s second disciple Narahari Theertha (His earlier name was Shama Shastri), also from Orissa.
The Acharya also initiated swamijis into the Asta Mathas, including his own brother Vishnu Theertha who was the first pontiff of the Sode Matha or Vadiraja Matha. A little later, Vishnu Theertha founded the Subramanya Matha at Kukke Subramanya near Dharmasthala. He is thus the first pontiff of two Madhwa mathas.
The Acharya introduced the Paryaya system for the worship of Lord Krishna Temple at Udupi. This arrangement began from 1317 and continued till 1532. Under this arrangement, each of the eight maths were allowed to be in charge of the Udupi Temple for two months by turn. This system was called Paryaya and it meant that each Matha would come to Paryaya  once in 16 months.
In 1532, Vadiraja changed the tenure of the mathas to two years. So now each Matha  has to wait for 16 years for its Paryaya turn.
By the way it was the Acharya himself who first declared that he is an avatar of Hanuman and Bheema. This, he declared in Vishnu Tatya Vinirnaya.
Even to this day, though the Paryaya Seer performs pooje to the Krisha idol every day, he closes the door of the sanctum sanctorum during Naivaidya and come out. This is because of the belief that the Acharya himself comes every day and offers Nauvaidya t Krishna. There is an interesting story behind this.
The third of the four direct disciples of  Madhwacharya is Madhava Theertha (the first is Padmanabha Theertham second is Narahari Theertha and the fourth is Akshoba Theertha) was performing pooje to Krishna at the udupi temple when he suddenly stood up and reverentially folded his hands,  All the people assembled there were astonished,
They then saw Madhava Theertha extend his palms towards open air. Madhava Theertha then brought the hand towards his mouth and appeared to swallow something. He then folded his hands and performed Shastanga Namaskara.
When the assembled gathering wanted to know what had happened and why Madhava Theertha had interrupted his own pooje,  he replied that he saw Madhwacharya himself performing the pooje  of  Krishna. “The acharya gave me theertha and also blessed me. I did my namaskara to him and when I got up, he was gone,” said Madhava Theertha. 
Since that day, seers worshipping Krishna leave it to Madhwacharya to offer Naivaidhya.         

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