Saturday 24 November 2012

Madhwa seers and their hobbies

The seers and saints of Madhwa Parampare, apart from being scholars and eminent writers, have excelled in several arts. Unfortunately, their mastery over the other arts, including theior interest in some hobbies, have been overshadowed by their religious activities and mysticism.
I cannot write about the hobbies and talents of all the seers as this place would be insufficient. I would like to deal with only important Madhwa seers and a handful of Haridasas and their hobbies.
The pioneer of the Dwaitha movement and the fountainhead of  Madhwa sect, Madhwacharya, was a superb gymnast. He along with Narahari Theertha laid the foundations of Yakshagana, the unique form of song and dance of north and south Kanara and Kasargod.
Madhwacharya gave as much importance to physical exercise as to the mental faculties. There are many stories told about his prowess and his ability to hold himself against the strongest. He was a good swimmer and he could brave the rough seas with ease. His mastery over Yogasana was something to be seen to be believed. He was also very well-versed in music and many of his contemporaries have testified to this talent.
Madhwacharya can also be termed as a wandering archaeologist. During his Theertha Yatre to north and south India, he pointed out many spots relating to the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. He showed his disciples the mace he had used during the Kurukshetra war when he visited holy places near Thaneshwar or Thanesar which today is in Haryana. He dug up the mace which had been buried for several thousands of years and exhibited them. He also showed them the place where Arjuna had buried his bow and arrows.
He knew these places as he was Hanuman during the Ramayana and Bheema during the Mahabharata
When he and his disciples visited Indraprastha near Delhi, he showed them the places associated with the Pandavas. He was also a mathematician and an expert in Ayurveda. Our Acharya (Madhwacharya) was also a master architect. In his book, Tantra Sara Sangraha, he speaks about the manner in which to offer poojas, homas and their specifications and temple architecture.
The Sangraha speaks of  the manner in which the right spot should be chosen for constructing a temple and also the precise measurement of the structure. The book had 40 verses and it is divided into four parts.
Once in Varanasi, Acharya decided to teach a lesson to 15 disciples of his as they had become arrogant. He asked them to simultaneously attack him with full strength. He warned his disciples that they would be disobeying their Guru if they attacked him  half-heartedly. As was expected, the Shishyas could barley move his finger and sought his pardon. 
One of his direct disciples, Narahari Theertha, laid the foundations of Yakshagana in Karnataka and Kuchipudi in Kerala. The Acharya’s first disciple, Padmanabha Theertha, was not only an erudite scholar but also the first monk to write Dasa Sahitya. Unfortunately, none of  his works on Dasa Sahitya have survived.
Akshoba Theertha, the fourth direct disciple of Madhwacharya, was an expert jeweller. As he came from an aristocratic background, he was a good horse rider too. His disciple,  Jaya Theertha or Teekacharya was an expert swordsman and horse rider.
Sripadaraja Theertha is known as the bard of Mulabagal. He was the pioneer of Dasa Sahitya and also a great educationist. It was he who first started the Vedic University in Mulabagal.
His Vidya Shishya, Vyasa Theertha, was a noted educationist. He was the Chancellor of the Vidyapeetha in Hampi which had 11.000 students. He encouraged Purandara Dasa, Vaikunta Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and others to compose songs and sing the glory of Hari. He  consecrated 732 temples to Hanuman and he did it with single minded devotion. He also guided six Vijayanagar emperors in statecraft. He had a good physique and he once ran holding his breath for miles in Srirangam to delineate the border between Dwaitha and Adwaitha temples.
His favourite disciple, Vijendra Theertha, was a master of  all the 64 arts. A prolific writer, he has 104 works, including plays and poems to his credit. He was also a master hypnotist. He was also a musician. He could make idols in a jiffy and they were an artiste’s delight.
Another of Vyasa’s  disciple, Vadiraja Theertha, was a chronicler of his times. His Theertha Prabhanda gives us a beautiful description of  the pilgrim places he visited during his Theertha Yatre. The description of the places and temples in the book gives us an insight of the times. Of course, Vadiraja is also a composer of merit.  
Raghavendra Swamy, the disciple of  Sudhindra Theertha, was a veena player par excellence. People forgot their sorrows and lost themselves when he sang Indu Yanage Govinda stringing the Veena.   
Purandara Dasa was a master of the tambouri. The instrument went wherever he went. He could forget food but never his Tambouri. I write about Purandara here as he accepted Sanyas in his final days before he breathed his last at Hampi in 1564. He was the pioneer of Carnatic music and the Guru of  Haridas, Tansen’s teacher. It is to him that the credit for formalising Carnatic music goes.
Kanaka Dasa had a melodious voice and even Purandara Dasa, his friend and contemporary, has testified to this rare talent. Kanaka was also a composer of extraordinary talent.
Several pontiffs of the Sripadaraja Matha were experts in ayurveda and alchemy. Lakshmipathy Theertha of Sripadaraja Matha was an expert Ayurvedic. He used Thonde Kai for curing diseases.
Sathyasanthustha Theertha of Uttradhi Matha was an expert in Ontology and epistemology. He defeated many scholars in the court of the Wodeyars of Mysore. He was fond of  debates and lectures on philosophy and Dwaitha literature. He led a Vidhwat Sabha at the Royal court of Mysore. His Brindavana is in Mysore .
The seventh pontiff of Palimar Matha, one of the Asta mathas of Udupi, Rajaraajeshwara Teertha, was an accomplished poet and his work  “Raama Sandesha” is well known. The Mangalaasha Taka is recited even today in the matha at Palimaru village every morning.
Coming to the modern times, we have Vidya Bhushana Theertha of Subramanya Matha who was a good singer. After he gave up Sanyasa, he has made a name for himself as a singer of Devaranamas. He is now known only as Vidya Bhushana.
Almost all the Madhwa saints could predict events in the lives of people and even incidents. They were all scholars in Sanskrit, grammar, ayurveda, astronomy  and logic. 
Another article will deal with the hobbies and pastimes of other Madhwa saints.

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