Monday 10 December 2012

The Vidya Guru of Vijayanagar

Not any know that Vyasa Raja was not only a renown Madhwa seer but also an educationist. He was the Chancellor of  the Vidyapetha or University in Vijayanagar. He appointed his disciples to look after universities in other places such as Kashi, Kumbakonam, Mulabagal, Kashi and Tirupathi.  
He headed the Vijayanagar Vidyapeetha for several years and was its Chancellor during the period of Narasa Nayaka, Vira Narasimha Raya, Krishna Deve Raya (1509-1529) and Achuta Deve Raya (1529-1542).  
During his tenure, both Vijayanagar  and the Vidyapeetha was at its peak. There were more than 11,000 students from all over India studying at the Vidyapeetha.
The Vidyapeetha was one of the major attractions of  Hampi or Vijayanagar. The students there had the rare privilege of being exposed to the works of Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Vaikunta Dasa, Vadiraja Theertha, Srinivasa Theerha (He succeeded Vyasa Raja to the Vyasa Raja Matha), Vijendra Theertha and other scholars.
Vyasa Raja not only composed some of his works at the Vidyapeetha but also taught them to the students. On occasions, he invited Purandara Dasa to sing his compositions before the students.
Vyasa Raja knew the importance of Purandara Dasa’s contribution. He tried to ensure that even his students were aware of it. One day Vyasa Raja invited Purandara Dasa to come to the Vidyapeetha. He began a discourse in the form of a verse and then invited Purandara to complete it.
Purandara , without batting an eyelid, completed the verse and sang it to the astonishment of the students. Vyasa Raja rated Purandara and his works so highly that he called the singer’s works as Purandaropanishat.
Some of Vyasa’s students were not happy with the importance that Vyasa Raja gave Purandara and his compositions. They wanted to know how the epics, Vedas, Shastras, Upanishads could be inferior to the works of the Dasa.
Vyasa Raja came to know of the students’ thoughts. He asked them to carry all the religious and philosophical texts they had along with the compositions of Purandara and throw them into the Tungabhadra nearby.
The students did so but they found that of all the texts they had thrown into the river, only Purandara’s works came back floating. More importantly, none of the works of Purandara were soaked in water.
Vyasa Raja taught Nyayamrita, Chandrika, Tarka Tandava in the Vidyapeetha from the Saraswathi Peetha and during its time the institution earned such fame that it eclipsed all other centres of learning including Kanchi, Kashi and Tirupathi.              
The university or Vidyapeetha had several thousand books on Madhwa philosophy, religion, theology and other subjects. Vyasa Raja “prepared” scores of scholars and sent them from Vijayanagar after they completed their studies.
The reputation of the Vidyapeetha spread so far and wide that Vyasa Raja set down in writing the rules to be followed by the students and adhered to by the University. A detailed programme for the university was sat put by Vyasa Raja.
This aspect is alluded to in one of the compositions of Purandara Dasa. He sings……
“Eesu Munigaliddenu Maadidaru
Vyasa Muni Madhwa Matavanuddharisida
Kashi Gadaadharamishrananu
Soleesida Dasanna Maadikonda Dharaniyolage
Kashipakshadhara Vajapaya Narasimha Yogi Linganna Mishra Modalaada
Vidwamsara Noorentu Mandiya Jaiesi Jaya Patrikeyanu Vasudeva Gopalakrishnage
Bhooshana Maadi Haakisida Shreesha Purandara Vithala Brahma Eesha Indraadigaligella
Eeshanendu Dangurva Poyisi Merda Jagavariye”
He set Vijandra Theertha the task of teaching at Kumbokanam. To his own disciple and successor, Srinicasa Theertha he assigned the Vidyapeetha of Tirupathi.   
Vyasa Raja asked Satyanatha Theertha to go to Haridwar and take over the Peetha there. Hari Mishra was asked to run the Vidyapeetha at Gaya and Jayadeva the Kashi University. The university at Venga was handed over to Eshwara Soori.
Vadiraja Theertha was handed over the responsibility of  running the Vidyapeetha at Udupi.
Pragnyanidhi Theertha was given the responsibility of running the Vidyapeetha at Mulabagal. Incidentally, it was at this Vidyapeetha that Vyasa Raja had his earlier schooling.
Thus Vyasa Raja not only had ambitious plans for developing the Hampi University but also at several other places.    
He also saw to it that the dasas-Purandara, Kanaka and Vaikunta-spread the message of Hari by their singing. As afar as himself, Vyasa Raja not only continued as the Chancellor of the Vijayanagar University, he wrote several works on Madhwa religion and philosophy.
He travelled far and wide and consecrated 732  temples of Hanuman to make people aware of  Madhwamatha. While the Vijayanagar Kings held court in Hampi, Vyasa Rahja held court at the Dharmic University.
The university was burnt down by the Nizam Shahi sultan of Golconda as were other monuments. Almost all the books too were burnt down. However, some of the important and major books were saved by scholars after the Battle of  Talikote in 1565 and spirited away to places as afar as Penukonda, Chandragiri, Tirupathi and Vellore.

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