Friday 7 December 2012

The last days of Vyasa Theertha

He was one of the greatest Madhwa sages of his times and common men and Emperors alike acknowleged it. He was honored by several Emperors including Krishna Deve Raya, his successor Achurta Deva Raya, the Adil Shahi Emperor who was a biter foe of  the Vijayanagar.
A royal preceptor to six emperors of the Vijayanagar dynasty, Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha had made Hampi or Vijayanagar the home of Madhwa or Dwaitha philosophy. He had, by example,  set the tone for Dasa Sahitya.
Krishna Deve Raya honored Vyasa Raja by performing Ratnaabhisheka and placing the seer on the throne of Vijayanagar for a day. Vyasa’s power and prestige reached a peak during the period of Krishna Deve Raya.
Vijayanagar then had two durbars-the royal one in which Krishna Deve Raya presided and the Dharmic one in which the venerable Vyasa held fort. In this court, even the Emperor was only a mute spectator.
Vyasa’s durbar was attended among others by Vadiraja Theertha, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Belur Vaikunta Dasa (He did not stir out much from Belur and the only time he travelled was when he visited Hampi) and others such as Srinivasa Theertha and Rama Theertha, both followers of Vyasa Raja . Even the Portugese travelers Paes and Nuniz paid respect to Vyasa Raja in his durbar.   
Krishna Deve Raya died in 1529 and he was succeeded by Achuta Deve Raya. Achuta Deve Raya  showered Vyasa Raja with the same affection and respect as Krishna Deve Raya.
However, sometime during 1539, Vyasa Raja felt that his end was near. He recalled the curse of Brahma when he was Shanku Karna, Brahma had cursed him with being born a Brahmin and to live on earth.
Shanku Karna then had been plucking flowers for Brahma and he had stayed back awhile to admire the melody from the Veene of Saraswathi. Brahma had been angered by the delay of Shanku Karna in bringing him flowers for the worship of Narayana. He had then cursed Shanku karna.
Though born as Balmiki Raja, Shanku Karna had not been able to throw away the curse of Brahma. He had died at the hands of Bhima during the Kurukshetra War.
When he was reborn as Vyasa Raja, he realised that he would have to complete the curse of Nrahma. Hence, he had chosen to stay for long time in Hampi, particularly Nava Brindavana, which was the very place from where he had plucked flowers for Brahma.
Vyasa Raja visited Nava Brindavana frequently and paid his respect to Padmanabha Theertha, the first direct disciple of Madhwacharya. Apart from this seer, two others-Vageesha Theertha and Kavindra Theertha-had their brindavana at Nava Brindavana.
All these saints had left a place in the centre of the Nava Brindavana and Vyasa Raja had chosen this spot for his Bindavana Pravesha.
Vyasa Raja had made his intention to enter Brindavana clear to Achuta Deve Raya and his composer Dasa, Purandara. His two Shishyas, Srinivasa Theertha and Rama Theertha, too had been informed.
During the last few days of  his physical presence, the Emperor (Achuta Deve Raya) and the wandering ministrel (Purandara) were constantly on attendance to Vyasa Raja. They tried to fulfill each and every need of Vyasa Raja.
Even in those last few days, Vyasa Raja continued reading texts and teaching his pupils. When his eyelids drooped due to old age, he asked Pyurandara to hold them up so that he could continue reading uninterrupted.
On the day he was to enter Brindavan, the Emperor and Purandara were at his side. Vyasa Raja looked calm and composed though he knew his end was near. He began his pooje and slowly sang his favourite “Krishna Nee Negana Baro,” which he had composed some decades earlier. (This song is wrongly attributed to Purandara. By the way, this was one of Purandara’s all-time favourite and it was always on his lips.) 
Another song he remembered was, “Puttadhante madu srushteesa Sri Krishna Pattabhi Ramane Parama purushotthamane gettiyaagi ninna padhagala nambidhe.” He was continuously chanting the  name of  Krishna. He had worshipped Krishna uninterruptedly for more than eight decades. 
Looking at Vyasa Raja, Purandara  burst extempore into one of his songs. He likening the movement of Vyasa to the Brindavana to the movement of a jewel bedecked chariot. This, Purandara said, was the journey from Satyaloka to Devaloka.
All the while, Vyasa Raja was majestically sitting in Padmasana. He appeared oblivious of everyone near him who were in tears. The man who shed tears most was Puurandara. The Emperor  Achuta Deve Raya too was in tears.
Vyasa Raja was entombed in the Brindavana in the middle of Nava Brindavan. The day was Saturday and the date March 8, 1539. He had been born on April 22, 1447 in Bannur near Mysore and he was 90 years old or a little more at the time of leaving the mortal world.
Even as the large crowd watched, the last stone was placed on the Brindavana and the Emperor and Purandara among others walked back to Vijayanagar. Strangely, the lively city of Vijayanagar seemed to be enveloped in an eerie silence and all forms of gaiety had ceased on that day.
Purandara says he saw Vyasa Raja being taken in a special plane to Vaikunta.
During subsequent days, Achuta Deve Raya personally monitored the completion of the construction of the Brindavana. As far as Purandara was concerned, he seemed to be lost in thought and he began spending more and more time at the Puurandara Mantapa near Nava Brindavana. 
Much of the material for this article is taken from Vyasayogicharita, a wrok by Somanatha, a Smartha poet and contemporary of the seer, the biography of Vyasa Theertha by his immediate successor to the Vyasa Raja Matha, Sreenivasa Theertha and the poems of  Purandara. I have also referred to the chronicles of the foreign travelers who visited Vijayanagar during the time of Krishna Deve Raya and Achuta Deve Raya and also accounts of Vijayanagar Empire by historians of Adil Shahi court.


  1. The article is informative.However I note a conflict on the year of passing of Sri Vyasa Raya. Majority of the writings mention the year of his Brindavana entry as 1539 where as this article mentions this as 1536. Is it a typo? The author may pl. clarify.
    Krishnasamy Narayanan
    Stafford, TX, USA