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Re: Who is Guru Raghavendra Swamy?

From: Shobha Srinivasan (
Date: Sat Mar 20 1999 - 06:30:25 PST

Sri Raghavendra Tiirtha (1595-1671) 

Sri Guru Raghavendra Swami or Tiirtha of Mantralayam (in Andra Pradesh) is
undoubtedly the most well known amongst all Madhwa saints. He has been
called the "Moon in the ocean of Madhwa religion", because of his
universal appeal. He is respected and worshipped by people of different
castes, regions and religions. There are millions who have benefited from
his merciful nature and rely on him for succor. 

Millions pray to him and depend on him for help. Even today one hears
first-hand accounts of miracles from people who have benefited from his
benevolence. It is indeed very rare to find someone who
has returned empty-handed from him. 

He is affectionately known by several names - Raghavendra swamigalu,
Gururaja (gururaya), Gurusarvabhouma, Rayaru, ParimalAchAryaru, MantrAlaya
Prabhugalu etc. 

He has been worshipped by every haridAsa who was born after him. Hundreds
of devaranamas have been composed in his honor. Thousands of books have
been written about him, films in different
languages have been made about him. 

Lineage and life-history 

He is believed to be the reincarnation of Prahlada, Bahleeka and Vyasaraya. 

There are very few who do not know his life-history. Still, for the benefit
of those who might not be familiar with his story, a thumb-nail sketch is
herewith provided. 

Venkanna (Later Raghavendra Swami) was born around 1595 at Bhuvanagiri, a
small town near Kanchipuram in South India (now Tamil Nadu). His
fore-fathers were all renowned musicians and he
too became a good player of the veena. 

He married a gentle, good-natured woman called Saraswathi and had a son
called Lakshminarayan. He spent his life in utter and dire poverty, but
kept his mind focused on the Lord. Later,
circumstances forced him to seek refuge with Sri Sudheendra tiirtha, the
pontiff of what was then called as the Vijayeendra muTa (now known as
Raghavendra swamy muTa). When Sudheendra tiirtha
wanted him to become the next pontiff he refused because his wife was young
and his son's upanayana had not yet been performed. Later, when the goddess
of learning appeared in a dream and urged
him to take up the responsibility, he agreed. When his ascension to the
pontificate was being celebrated his wife accidentally fell into a well and
died, becoming a ghost. His first act after becoming the
pontiff was to provide salvation to his wife. 


His life-history is replete with hundreds of miracles he performed to help
his devotees. For the sake of brevity, only the most significant ones are
listed here: 

He restored the life of a young boy (the son of the village chieftain) who
died after falling into a vessel in which PanchAmruta was stored. 

By his grace Venkanna, a total illiterate, was able to read a message given
to the Nawab of Adoni, eventually rise to the position of Diwan. 

He threw the pearl necklace gifted by the king of Tanjore into the fire
(for purification) and restored it back intact. 

The Nawab of Adoni offered meat in a plate covered by a cloth, as Naivedya
to the Lord. Raghavendra Swamy knew what was going on and quietly converted
the meat into different types of fruits.
The Nawab was scared that his effrontery would be punished, so he begged
the forgiveness of Swamy, which was readily accorded. In return, Swamy
asked him to gift the village of Mantralaya. 

Enters Brundavana alive 

On Shravana Bahula Bidige (the second day in the dark fortnight of the
moon, in the month of Shravana) in 1671, he entered the Brindavana alive.
Only one person had done it before - Sri Vadiraja

Appanacharya, his favorite disciple, lived in a village across the river,
very close to Mantralaya. When Appanacharya heard the news that his guru
was about to enter the brindavana, he immediately
rushed towards Mantralaya. He was so overcome by devotion and sorrow that
he did not notice that the river was in spate. His heart full of devotion
for his beloved guru, he composed a stotra in his
honor. This is the famous stotra which starts "Sri Poornabodha..". By
guruji's grace he was able to walk across the river in full spate, but
could not make it in time. Just as he entered the location, the final
stone was lowered over the Brindavana. He was overcome with emotion and
broke down, unable to complete the stotra. Then, from the Brindavana,
Raghavendra Swamy uttered the words "Sakshi
Haya stotraHi" and completed the stotra composed by Appancharya. 

This stotra is recited by devotees everyday. Its recitation brings about
various beneficial effects. 

Literary Works 

Almost all of his literary output was in the form of commentaries on other
Dvaita works. His most famous work is "Parimala" which is a commentary on
"Sriman nyAya suDha" by Jayatiirtha. Even
though he is believed to have composed several songs in kannada ankita of
'Dheera Venu Gopala', only one is available to us. This is the famous 'Indu
Yenage Govinda'. There are different theories
regarding the circumstances under which this song was composed. One of them
goes as follows: 

Once he was passing through a dense forest in a palanquin. It was
robber-infested and very few dared to cross the forest in the small hours
of the night. When the palanquin entered a thick grove of
trees, robbers pounced upon the bearers. When the palanquin-bearers ran for
their lives, the robbers seized all the costly ornaments of the idols, dug
a pit and buried the Swami. The robbers were
curious to know what would happen next, so they watched from behind some
trees. The Swami prayed to Lord Krishna and started singing 'Indu Yenage'.
The thieves saw a hand lifting the Swami and
the man, who they thought was dead coming out safely from the pit. The
thieves were fear-stricken and fearing divine retribution, ran towards the
Swami, seeking his pardon. The compassionate monk
naturally forgave them. They became faithful servants of the Swami. 

If one wants to know more on Sri Madhva philosophy, they can go to the web
listed below.

Shobha Srinivasan