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Re: Vidyaranya and Desikar

From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan (
Date: Tue Apr 30 1996 - 06:08:56 PDT

> The Muttadipathis of Sringeri Sankara Math during that period were:
> Vidyathirtha: 1228-1333
> Bharatikrishna Tirtha: 1333-1380
> Vidyranya: 1380-1386
> Based on this, Vidyaranya did not take Sanyashrama during  Deshikar
> life time. In fact, according to the source mentioned above, in
> Vidyranya's 40th year, he became associated iwth the Vijayanagara
> empire and served as chief minister to three succesive kings.

Not true. The dates above represent the dates when the succeeding maThAdhipati
took over from the previous one. They do not represent dates of sannyAsa. For
example, the current Sankaracharya of Sringeri became a sannyAsi in 1972, but
became the maThAdhipati only in 1989. Sringeri accounts will show Sri
Bharati Tirtha as holding the post only from 1989, not from 1972. 

In an inscription dated 1346, Harihara I of Vijaynagar pays respects to the
sannyAsi named Vidyaranya. So as of 1346, Vidyaranya was already a sannyasi. 
Of course, the traditional story is that Vidyaranya was already a sannyasi
when Harihara first met him. As such, it is inconceivable that he would be the
"minister" of the first three kings of Vijaynagar.

The confusion in this regard arises because of Vidyaranya's pUrvASrama name,
which is supposed to be mAdhava. Now, Vijayanagar sources talk of at least
three mAdhavas who were closely connected with the kingdom in various capacities. It should be noted however that the confusion arises because people have
been neglecting the gotra information that is available for the three mAdhavas.
Since the gotra is one strong piece of information that can be trusted for
purposes of history, I think this should be taken into account very seriously. If this is done, the identification of Vidyaranya with mAdhava can be resolved
properly, I suppose. Obviously, the minister of three kings was a mAdhava. I
don't think it is possible that *this* mAdhava was the same as vidyAraNya. 

> Historical accuracy is important in the classroom, but is of
> questionable use in a religious discourse. My grandmother would be far more

Of course. There is no doubt that Vidyaranya and Vedanta Desika were 
contemporaries. Whether the story about Vidyaranya asking Vedanta Desika
to go to the Vijaynagar court is true or not, I don't know. The Sringeri
math does not have any traditions that would provide more information on this. 
Whether they were friends or not is also questionable, I suppose. The sarva-
darSana samgraha does not treat viSishTAdvaita very favorably. Nor does
Vedanta Desika spare advaita in the SatadUshanI. 


S. Vidyasankar