Wednesday 9 January 2013

The first Madhwa seer to use Kannada

He was a teacher par excellence. His ambition was to teach, preach, sing and even compose in Kannada and he did so with utmost success.
The preceptor to several Emperors of the Vijayanagar dynasty, he was instrumental in fashioning a young Vyasa Theertha into the foremost scholar of the day. It was also he who advised and sent Vyasa Theertha to Vijayanagar around 1485-86 to guide the royal family, he himself declining the offer.
Among the first of the Madhwa saints to be bestowed with royal honors, he lived like a regal king, so much so that the then Uttaradhi Matha pontiff Raghunatha Theertha was forced to remark in an assembly of saints, “ Navy Ellaaru Sripadangalu, Neevu Sripadararu”  (When roughly translated it means we are all only holy men, you are the chosen one of  Hari).
Sripadaraja settled down in Mulabagal which is today in Kolar district of Karnataka and enroute to Tirupathi from Bangalore. His ambition was to set up a Veda and Shastra Patashala in Mulabagal and he strived hard to achieve this goal.
Achieve he did and what an amazing centre of learning Mulabagal turned out to be. Sripadaraja’s cousin, Bramanye Theertha had picked up a young Yathiraja (Poorvashrama name of Vyasa Theertha) from Bannur. Bramanye Theertha, the saint of Abbur (now in Chennapatna taluk) and the disciple of Purushottama Theertha, decided to send Vyasa Theertha to Mulabagal for further studies sometime in 1478.
It was here that Sripadaraja took personal care of  Vyasa Theertha. The relationship between the two was similar to what the relationship was almost a century ago between Akshobya Theertha and Jaya Theertha (Teekechar). If Akshobya had spared no effort to make Jaya Theertha the master of Shastras, Sripadaraj too did the same.
Even today there is a small cave in the Sripadaraja Matha at Narasimha Theertha where Vyasa Theertha was taught. Local folklore has it that it is at this very cave that Sripadaraja give some of his finest discourses on Sarvamoola Grantha to Vyasa Theertha and others.
Sripadaraja Theertha was a teacher with extraordinary ability. What set him out from other Dwaitha saints of the time, was his ability to interpret religious texts, including the Sarvamoola Grantha in Kannada.
Till then, all Madhwa saints and even teachers generally spoke and interpreted the works of Madhwacharya, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Gita, Puranas and other religious texts in Sanskrit. They rarely used the local language.
It is here that we have to recognise Sripadaraja’s contribution in the field of education. Apart from Sanskrit, Kannada also became the language of communication and even education at his Gurukula or Patashala.
A master of almost all religious texts, Sripadaraja had an extraordinary grasp of the Sarvamoola Grantha, the collected works of Madhwacharya. During his lifetime, he taught Sarvamoola Granthas forty times along with the teekas or commentaries.
Everytime he started a class about the Grantas, students flocked to the classes. He just wrote one work in Sanskrit-Vagvajra- the rest of all being in Kannada so that the local people could understand them.
Apart from teaching in Kannada, he also sang in Kannada during Pooje and other religious functions at the matha in Mulabagal and the patashala. 
Sripadaraja asked  Vyasa Raja to study “Tathparyanirnaya” of Madhwacharya and give him a critical analysis. Vyasa Theertha did so to the pleasure of Sripadaraja who remarked,
“Nirnayam sarva shastranam
Bharathaartha nirnaya”.
Apart from Vyasa Theertha, the bard of Mulabagal had several other scholars and saints as his disciples. Apart from teaching, he also inculcated the love of  Carnactic music and Haridasa sahitya to Vyasa Theertha and others, including Vadiraja Theertha.
The life and times of Sripadaraja Theertha can be mainly found in the works and songs of Vyasa Theertha like his Sanskrit composition “Pancharatnamala Stuti”, suladis of  Vijayadasa, the Sripadarajastakam of Shrinidhi Theertha and Bhimacharya's Shri Purnabhoda Guruvamsha Kalpataru.
The best grurdakshine we can give a teacher is if we can excel him in scholarship or at least reach his level, Vyasa Theertha was a apt disciple of Sripadaraja and he can be said to have excelled his teacher. No wonder, if today one talks of Vyasa Theertha, you cannot do so without taking the name of his teacher-Sripadaraja.   

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