Shri Raghavendra Swami : A Great Devotee of Shri Vishnu

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Shravan Shuddha Ekadashi, Kaliyug Varsha 5112

Index


Introduction

Hindu Dharma has a glorious past of great Saints and Sages. Several Saints ascended to the state of Guru and showed the path of God realisation to many. They also taught spirituality to the society through their conduct and actions. Their mission was not just limited to spirituality but they also did substantial work for the defence of nation whenever it was in difficulties. Some of the Saints travelled all over the world and disseminated the spiritual knowledge of Bharat there without any personal expectations. Millions of people abroad are getting benefit of that. For last lakhs of years, the Sages took tremendous efforts to preserve the Vedic Knowledge which is the pride of Bharat. They also created many subjects connected with the human life and made it easy. The most important thing however is that the Saints of Bharat have donated the world the tradition of Guru-disciple.

The current scene however is different. The cricketers, movie heroes and heroines have become the ideals of Hindus. Also the two vices of selfishness and narrow mindedness have become dominant in Hindus which is causing lot of harm to Hindu society. Under such circumstances it has become essential to study and follow the life of Saints who have imparted the teaching of sacrifice, love. Devotion to righteousness, devotion to nation, helping the society and kashtradharma( duty of a warrior). We are hereby publishing the matter related to them so that people should come to know about such great Saints. We pray at the feet of God that let Hindus get the inspiration to study and follow their biography and teachings.

Shri Raghavendra Swami

Shri Raghavendra Swami, Karnataka

Shri Raghavendra Swami, Karnataka

Shri Guru Raghavendra Swami (1595–1671) is an influential 16th century Hindu saint who advocated Vaishnavism (worship of Vishnu as the supreme God) and Shri Madhvacharya’s Dvaitaphilosophy. He ascended Brindavana at Mantralayam in present day Andhra Pradesh in 1671.

His devotees’ faith regarding his continued presence at his Brindavan in Mantralayam, either in physical or metaphysical form makes it a very popular religious destination in India.

Birth

Shri Raghavendra Swami was born as Shri Venkanna Bhatta, the second son of Shri Thimanna Bhatta and Smt. Gopikamba on Thursday, Sukla Saptami of Phalguna month in 1595, when the moon was in Mrigashirisha Nakshatra, at Bhuvanagiri, near present-day Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. Shri Thimmanna Bhatta was the son of Shri Kanakachala Bhatta and the grandson of Shri Krishna bhatta, a Veena scholar in the court of King Krishnadevaraya. Shri.Thimanna Bhatta and his wife, Smt. Gopikamba had a son, Gururajacharya and a daughter, Venkatamba.

Shri Venkanna Bhatta was also called Venkatanatha or Venkatacharya in honor of Shri Venkateshwara at Tirupati, with whose blessings he was considered to have been born, as a gift to his parents for their devotion and diligence towards the deity.

Education

Venkatanatha proved to be a very brilliant scholar. This greatness was visible even he was a child. For example, he is supposed to have questioned his father as to how a small object like ‘Om’ could capture the infinite greatness of god. However, his father did not live long enough to see the greatness of his son. He passed away when Venkatanatha was still at a very young age.
Venkatanatha’s brother took care of his upbringing. The initial portion of his education was under his brother-in-law Lakshminarasimhacharya of Madurai.

Married life along with continued education

Upon returning from Madurai, Venkatanatha was married to Saraswati, who was from a noble family. The Shastras say that for one who has control of his senses, wedded life does not hamper learning. For Venkatanatha, most of his learning occurred after marrying Saraswati, through the blessings of Goddess Saraswati. So Venkatanatha went to Kumbhakonam, the seat of learning at the time. There he studied dvaita vedanta, advanced works on grammar and other shastras under sudhindra tirtha. He used to stay awake past midnight to write his own comments and notes on the lessons that had been done. He engaged in debate and defeated several scholars of opposing doctrines; one of them was Venkatesvara dikshita, a famous scholar of the Tanjore court in 1620. Though his victory was not unexpected sudhindra tirtha was surprised at his scholarship in grammar, profound knowledge and rare debating skill, and called him "Mahabhashya Venkatanathacharya". Similarly he explained the significance of taptamudra dharana quoting several smritis that the opponents had to accept his arguments were irrefutable. 

Poorvashrama miracles

Once while he was touring Kumbakonam along with his wife, Shri Venkatanatha and his family were invited to attend a function. Unfortunately, the hosts did not treat him well and wanted him to earn his food by running a chore. So they asked him to make some sandalwood paste for all the invitees. Shri Venkatanatha per his habit was chanting stotras and mantras while preparing sandalwood for Tilaka. When the guests applied this paste, it induced a burning sensation all over their bodies. Surprised by this, the hosts sought a clarification from Venkatanatha. He replied that the burning sensation was due to the Agni Suktam (hymn for the worship as defined in the Esoteric Vedas) that he was chanting while preparing sandalwood and thus eternal power of Vedic Mantras revealed itself. This happens only when chanted with absolute dedication and devotion. The power is enhanced since it was chanted by someone as virtuous and devoted to Bhagwaan Hari as himself. Upon realizing his devotion and power, the host apologized profusely to Shri Venkatanatha and sought his forgiveness.

Becomes sanyasi after Vidya Lakshmi requests him

Thus while his life was spent in the worship of God and service of humanity, his spiritual guru, Shri Sudheendra Theertharu, was looking for a successor to his math. He had a dream where the Lord indicated that Shri Venkatanatha would be the right person to succeed him as the pontiff. Shri Venkatanatha initially refused due to his responsibility towards his young wife and son but was soon blessed by the Goddess of Learning, where she in a dream indicated that he was to seek salvation as a Sanyasi. Shri Venkatanatha treated this as an omen and changed his mind. The sanyasa ordination took place in 1621 on the Phalguni Sukla Dwitiya at Tanjore.

Wife becomes ghost, obtains liberation

On the day of Shri Venkatanatha’s ascension into Sanyasashrama, his wife, Smt. Saraswathi was seized by a sudden desire to see her husband’s face for the last time. She ran towards the Matha throwing caution to the winds and accidentally drowned in an old and unused well on the way.

Per the tenets of Hinduism, she became a ghost trapped mid-way between Heaven and Earth due to her untimely death. Since her last wish of seeing her husband was not fulfilled, her ghost went to the matha to witness the ordaining function. However, by the time she arrived, her husband had become a Sannyasi Shri Raghavendra Theertha. However, Shri Guru Raghavendra could immediately sense his wife’s presence with his spiritual powers. He sprinkled some holy water from His Kamandalu on her as a means of granting her last wish. This action granted her moksha or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths and was considered her reward for a lifetime of dedicated and selfless service to Shri Raghavendra Swami.  

Kumbakonam drought

During Shri Raghavendra Swami’s time at Kumbakonam, the Tanjore district as a whole was reeling under the effects of a severe 12 year long drought. The Maharaja of Tanjore approached Swamiji for spiritual solace and was advised to perform some Yagnas. No sooner were these rites performed, was the region flush with rain and prosperity. As a mark of gratitude, the Maharaja gifted the Matha with a necklace embellished with precious stones.

Swamiji offered the necklace as a contribution to a yagna that he was performing then. The Maharaja took affront at this action. When Swamiji realized this, he immediately put his hand into the homa kunda and retrived the necklace in a condition identical to which it was given to him by the King. Neither the necklace nor Swamiji’s hand showed any indication of having been in a raging fire. This incident only served to reaffirm the greatness of Swamiji and converted the Maharaja of Tanjore into an ardent Bhakta.

Pilgrimages

Shri Raghavendra Swami embarked on a tour of South India, spreading the Dvaita Philosophy and visiting famous pilgrimage centers such as those at Rameshwaram and Srirangam. At Rameshwaram, he clarified the origins of the Siva Linga as the one that was installed by Lord Rama himself before his journey to Lanka to fight Ravana. In this context, he also clarified that Ravana was a Rakshasa since he was born to a Rakshasi mother and Brahmin father. He rebuffed the claim made by some scholars that Lord Rama, as the Supreme One, is not bound by Brahma Hatya Dosha (or any other doshas) for eliminating Ravana.

He also traveled to Kanyakumari, Thiruvananthapuram and Madurai where he met his Poorvashrama brother-in-law with whom he had spent a large part of his childhood. As part of his Yatras, he traveled to Vishnu Mangala, Kukke Subramanya and Udipi in Karnataka, amongst other such spiritual centers and impressed one and all with his mastery of Dvaita philosophy, won many admirers, gained many devotees and published stellar works of literature and philosophy some of which were carried around in processions of elephants as a mark of respect for its brilliance.

Power to revive the dead

On a hot summer day, Shri Raghavendra Swami  was on his way home from a pilgrimage. He decided to rest in the shade of a tree at Krishnapuram (near Hubli). While there, he saw the Nawab (Muslim king) walking towards him, with a sad demeanor. The Nawab had heard of his miracles and had come to him as a last resort. He stated that his young son had died from a poisonous snakebite and been buried in a tomb close by. After hearing this,   contemplated silently for a few moments and then asked the king to take the body out of the tomb. When the puzzled Nawab did as he was asked, Swami sprinkled holy water from his kamandala and prayed to his Aradhya murthy (favorite form of the Lord). Lo behold, the young boy woke up as though he was getting up from sleep. The Nawab was beside himself with joy.

Nawab of Adoni and Mantralaya

Much after the above incident had occurred, Shri Raghavendra Swami got an opportunity meet the Nawab of Adoni face-to-face. The Nawab, instead of being respectful to him, decided to test his spiritual skills and placed before the Swamiji, a plate of non vegetarian delicacies completely covered with a piece of cloth, in the guise of offering alms.

Per Hindu customs, alms are customarily offered to a visiting saint to seek his blessings. Swamiji took some water from his Kamandala, meditated and sprinkled it on the covered plate, as part of his regular practice of purifying any food before consumption. He then opened the plate. It contained fresh fruits. The Nawab immediately became remorseful and became an ardent devotee of Swamiji then on. As an apology, he offered to give the Swamiji any amount of land and wealth. While Swamiji refused any such gift for his personal gains, he asked that the land around Manchale (present day Mantralayam), which was part of the Nawab’s kingdom, to be handed over to his Matha.

Though the Nawab of Adoni offered to give him a more fertile region, Shri Raghavendra Swami insisted on the dry and barren region around Mantralayam, on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.

Many years later, he told a devotee that it was the region where King Prahalada had performed his yagnyas to Lord Rama during the Dwapara Yuga and was hence an extremely holy land. Thus the Matha moved to Mantralayam where Shri Raghavendra Swamy continued his spiritual journey. At Mantralayam, Shri Guru Raghavendra encouraged Annadhanam (donation of food) to all devotees. It is a practice that is followed by the Matha to this date and is heavily subsidized by donations.

Last speech

On Dwitiya Day of Sravana Krishna Paksha in 1671, Raghavendra Swami gave a soul-stirring speech to hundreds of devotees who had gathered to watch the event. Some quotes from that speech are as follows –
1. "Without right living, right thinking will never come.
2. "Social work done for the good of worthy people should also be considered as the Lord’s worship.
3. "Always keep away from people who merely perform miracles. 
4. "Right knowledge is greater than any miracle.
5. "Have devotion to the Lord. This devotion should never be blind faith.

Shri Raghavendra Swami attained Jeeva samadhi on Dwitiya Day of Sravana Krishna Paksha in 1671. This date is celebrated each year as Shri Raghavendra Swami Aradhana at Brindavans all over the world. The Raghavendra Matha in Mantralaya housing his Brindavan is visited by thousands of devotees every year.

Image Courtesy : 1) Moviegallery.Net

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