Sri Vadiraja Tirtha is one of the foremost of the Vaishnava acaryas in our Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya. He lived for 120 years. Took sannyasa at 8 years old and established many temples throughout Karnataka, South India.
He wrote many powerful commentaries on Madhva’s books and preached vigorously against the mayavadis. He revised the paryaya system in Udupi to bring it to a two-year term, instead of two months. He used to feed Lord Hayagriva every night by placing a bowl of oats mixed with molasses and almonds (picture attached).
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha
Shri Vadiraja tIrtha occupies a very exalted place in the galaxy of saints in Madhva parampare. Some accord to him a lofty status along with Sri Jaya tIrtha, Sri VyAsa tIrtha and Sri Raghavendra tIrtha, whereas others consider him second only to AchArya Madhva.
In any case, he is universally acknowledged as a great saint with immense spiritual powers in addition to being an outstanding poet, philosopher, social organizer, reformer, debater and prolific writer.
There are many aspects about him that are truly outstanding. He lived for 120 years, (1480-1600 AD) out of which 112 years as a sanyAsi, and entered brindAvana alive! No other saint, irrespective of doctrinal affiliations, can claim this distinction. He saw 5 paryAyas and entered his Brindavana alive in 1600. He went around India twice and captured his experience in a travelogue.
He has left his unique imprint on many institutions. The present paryAya system in Udupi, the mini Udupi he has created in Sode, the Manjunatha temple in Dharmasthala, the multitude of devaranAmas and stotras that he has left behind are some aspects that come to mind immediately
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha is the second highest saint in the Mâdhva hierarchy, being next only to Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself, in the târatamya. He is widely regarded as being the incarnation of Lâtavya, a rju-tâtvika-yogi and the successor to Mukhya PrâNa. Therefore, even though he nominally had Sri Vyâsa Tîrtha as a guru, he acknowledges only Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself, as his preceptor. He is an outstanding poet, a very pugnacious opponent, and a most ardent devotee. He is also responsible for creating the paryâya system of rotation, according to which each of the eight Udupi ashhTa-MaTha-s has a two-year spell “in office” at the Krishna temple in Udupi, with each getting a turn sometime during a sixteen-year cycle. By instituting this system, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha changed the previous one of each MaTha getting a two-month term of administration, which had been started by Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself, and that had started to degenerate. It is without a doubt that of all the saints in the Mâdhva hierarchy, only Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha had the stature to explicitly recast a system that had been formulated by Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself.
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s criticisms of countervailing philosophies and schools are carried out with a poet’s flair, and always have a raw appeal even to the unschooled, because of their commonsense disguise — he often uses very simple worldly concepts and experiences to make profound points, which is in sharp contrast to the usual style of presentation that generally tends to make all metaphysics look rather otherworldly and disjointed from everyday experience and understanding. While his poetry and prose writings in Sanskrit mark him to be an extraordinarily luminescent intellect, even in a paramparâ that boasts of many brilliant scholars, he does not make a highbrow rejection of the needs of the less scholarly, and has made significant contributions to the Hari-dâsa tradition, the vehicle to take Tattvavâda to the non-Sanskrit-literate masses, and has translated Srimad Ananda Tîrtha’s Mahâbhârata-tâtparya-nirNaya into Kannada. Dr. B.N.K. Sharma writes: “In this respect, his work marks a new and necessary phase in the history of Dvaita Literature and breathes the spirit of a new age which produced other popular exponents of Madhva-Siddhânta, both in Sanskrit and in Kannada” (Emphasis as given by author). Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha is also well-known as the creator of many stotras, quite a few of them distinctly hortatory, that explain sophisticated concepts in relatively easy terms, and encourage the seeker to give up the bondage of material desire and seek the shelter of Vishnu.
It is said that in a previous birth, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha served Krishna in a very special way, by acting as RukmiNî’s messenger to Him, just before she eloped with Him as per her own request.
Biographies on Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha include the Vâdirâja-guruvara-charitâmrta, and the autobiographical work Svapna-vrndâvana-âkhyâna. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha lived a long life of 120 years, all but eight or so of them as a sanyâsî. He is said to have, in his early days, been a native of the village of Huuvinakere, Kundâpur Taluk, in modern Karnataka state, but as in the cases of many other saints, a detailed account of his childhood seems to be unavailable, perhaps because it is considered of secondary importance as compared to his achievements as a grown-up.
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha wrote many works, not all of which have survived, unfortunately; and of those that have, not all are in print. Among the ones that are in print, the best known and most often read and cited is the Yukti-Mallikâ, which is a humongous treatise that conducts a threadbare logical analysis of different philosophical systems, with the author professing to proceed on the basis of strict rationality, with no fond or hateful preconceptions, and finding, at the end, that Madhva’s view is the right one:
Notice the definitive usage “ante siddhastu siddhânto,” and the use of ‘Tattvavâda,’ rather than anything else, to name the doctrine which he finds right. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha uses his unique blend of wit, sarcasm, and poetic aptitude, to underscore many of the points made by Srimad Ananda Tîrtha and other scholars before him; he communicates with his audience very effectively, by using pithy language peppered with down-to-Earth metaphors. In the Yukti-Mallikâ, we find detailed expositions of Mâdhva positions, as enshrined in the Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya and other works, on the futility of atheism, the bheda interpretation of the so-called Mahâ-vâkyas, etc. He also refutes the Brahma-Suutra-bhâshya of Shankara, and gives quotes and interpretations not previously employed by Mâdhva scholars.
Other works by Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha include the Mahâbhârata-Prasthâna, an independent detailed commentary on the Mahâbhârata of Veda Vyâsa. This, in fact, is the only authoritative detailed commentary on the Mahâbhârata by a Mâdhva scholar, as Srimad Ananda Tîrtha’s Mahâbhârata-tâtparya-Nirnaya does not offer a line-by-line commentary on the epic. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha also wrote a commentary on the Mahâbhârata-tâtparya-Nirnaya, and a translation of that work into Kannada (which has already been alluded to).
Among the other extant works of Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, two stand out: the RukmiNîsha-Vijaya and the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna. The former is considered to be the greatest work of poetry ever written, and was written in response to a work called “Shishupâla-vadha,” which described the encounter between Krishna and Shishupâla, and its background. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha objected for several reasons, among them the one that the work, whose title literally means “Shishupâla’s killing,” is inauspiciously named and does nothing to signify Krishna’s greatness. He then promised that he would obtain a new grantha within nineteen days, one that would cover the same subject the way it ought to be. He then authored the RukmiNîsha-Vijaya within that period.
The Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna was authored in a very special way. There was a deaf-mute and illiterate brâhmaNa, who served Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha in menial ways. Years after Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s Brndâvana-pravesha, he appeared in the deaf-mute man’s dreams over a period of several weeks, and gave him the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna. Every next day, the deaf-mute man would go to the pontiff of the Matha, and recite whatever he had heard in his dream encounter with Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha the previous night. All that was written down, but could not be made sense of. Finally, many years later, the same man was reborn, and became a sanyâsi in Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s own line and came to head his Matha, and he then himself wrote an exposition on the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna that he had received previously. A fragment of the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna called the Anu-Vrndâvanâkhyâna is regularly recited by devotees of Srî Vâdirâja.
In addition, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha composed many devotional songs in Kannada; unfortunately, few of these have survived to the present. We are luckier with respect to his stotras: manuscripts of a few dozen of those have made it to our day, the better known of them being the Dashâvatâra-stuti, the Shrî-Krishna stuti, the Hayagrîva-sampadâ-stotra, the Haryashtakam, the Nava-graha stotra, etc. (see the complete list).
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s MaTha is one of the eight Udupi MaTha-s, and is headquartered at Sode, on the banks of the Shâlmali, and very near the Trivikrama temple that Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha himself installed in the year 1582. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s Brndâvana is there also, and he will stay there for the rest of Kali Yuga, protecting devotees who would otherwise be annihilated by evil.
More about Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha
The disciples of Srimad Ananda Tiritha originally stayed together in Sri Krishna Mutt. They shared the daily worship amongst themselves. As time went by, the daily worship was divided up so that each of the disciples performed the worship for a period of two months. This inevitably created friction because when certain festivals, etc., came around, it could possibly be years before they each had a chance to personally conduct these ceremonies.
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha established the system of worship for a period of two years. In this way, each of the Swamijis could perform all the festivals, etc., and the worship of Sri Krishna could have continuity for a reasonable length of time, unimpeded by the constant changes of administration which occurred under the old system.
It was around this time that the eight MaThas known as “Udupi ashhTa MaTha-s” were established in the vicinity of Krishna Mutt. (More information about these matters can be obtained here.)
This two year system also allows each of the swamijis to conduct the important daily duties concerning the welfare of their disciples and the worship in their own Mutts. It also allows them the time necessary to accumulate the enormous amount of money needed to perform the worship in the Krishna Mutt.
Sri Hayavadana a.k.a Sri Hayagrîva was the form of the Lord Vishnu that Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha worshipped, and the Lord Himself used to appear in the form of a white horse to please His devotee. It so happened that a goldsmith was trying to make a gold statue of Ganapati. To his surprise, the idol kept taking the shape of Lord Hayavadana. The goldsmith many times, and each time, the cast was took the shape of Lord Hayavadana. The goldsmith got tired and frustrated, and started hitting the idol with a hammer. To his surprise, however hard he hit, no damage was happening to the statue. Then, one day the goldsmith had a dream. In the dream, he saw the Sri Hayavadana Himself telling him to give the statue to the saint who would be approaching him the next day. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha then went to the goldsmith, as directed by Sri Hayagrîva, and asked for the promised icon. The goldsmith prostrated at the feet of Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha and offered the icon of Lord Hayavadana, which the saint then consecrated and used for worship.
On another instance, when Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha was in Pandharapura serving Lord Vitthala, there was a corn field near the temple and the owner of the corn field used to see a white horse coming to his field and graze the corn. The white horse used to eat the dal (lentils) growing in the field, and used to get into the MaTha where Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha used to reside. The owner got angry, and approached Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha with a complaint that a horse belonging to the latter was coming to his field and eating his crop. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha assured him that he did not own such a horse, and that in fact, there was no horse of any description in the MaTha. The complainant however was not satisfied, since he was positive seeing the horse enter the MaTha; he did a full search of its premises, but could not locate the horse he expected to see. Meanwhile, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, knowing that the horse was the Lord Hayavadana Himself, told the landowner that he was very lucky, and asked him to see the places in his field where the “horse” ate. To his great surprise, the latter saw golden corn at all the places where the Lord ate. He surrendered at the feet of Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, and offered his land to the MaTha.
Every day, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha would offer a sweet dish called Hayagrîva (a preparation consisting of jaggery, almonds, ghee and kaDale (lentil) by keeping it in a tray and holding it on his head while seated (as shown in the image on the cover page). The Sri Hayavadana used to take a form of a white horse, as indicated, and would put his feet at the shoulders of Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, eat the sweet, play for some time like a horse, and disappear into the Hayavadana icon. It is said that Sri Vâdiraja Tîrtha would sing the ‘Dashâvatâra-stuti’, set to an ‘ashvaghâTi’ (literally, a horse’s trot) beat, to please the Lord, and the latter Himself would appear and dance when His devotee sang to Him.
mAtA rAja matpitA vAdirAjo bhrAtA rAjA matsakhA vAdirAjaH |
sarvasvaM me vAdirAjo dayALuH nA.anyad.hdaivaM naiva jAne na jAne ||
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha is my mother, father, brother and friend; he, the compassionate, is everything to me, I know no other deity but he! The translation of “nA.anyad.h daivam naiva jAne na jAne” is a little crude — what is actually meant is that “anya” deities — any entities of worship other than that in the târatamya of which Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha is a part, are not taken notice of. Thus, this is a pledge we make — that we swear by Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s (and his lineage’s) iconicity in representing the Lord, and reject other deities as not worthy of respect.
Some information about Sode, and assorted sub-topics
Sode, the mini-Udupi:
When Sri Vâdirâja changed the Krishna Mutt’s administration from 2 months to 2 years, some critics belived that he was engaged in some conspiracy. At that time Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha said Lord Krishna is everywhere, and had a mini-Udupi constructed in Sode with the following:
- DhavaLa Gangâ (to replicate the Madhva Sarovara of Udupi)
- Gopâlakrishna temple (to replicate the Krishna temple)
- DhavaLa Gangâdhara (to replicate Chandramoulîshwara)
- Sri MukhayaprâNa temple (to replicate the respective temple)
He did not go back to Udupi paryâya later, preferring instead to let a disciple of his worship Krishna. The disciple had been sad because he was getting old, and would not get the chance to worship by the time the next turn came for their MaTha in sixteen years!
Sode is also called Sonda (by local community) and as Swadi. There is a “Tapovana” where Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha used to meditate, about 5 kilometers from the MaTha. It is a beautiful place with a thick forest, river and mountains. It is known for the notorious leeches it harbors during the rainy seasons.
In Sode, along with Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s brndâvana, there are four others forming a square, with Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s, the largest of the five, at its geometric center. The five brndâvana-s are described by Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha himself in the Svapna-vrndâvana-âkhyâna thus:
ahaM brahmA cha vAyushcha vishhNo rudrashcha pa.nchamaH |
I (Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha), chatur-mukha-Brahma, Vâyu, Vishnu, and Shiva; these reside there, as in Shweta-dvîpa. So, the latter four are the ones who inhabit the other four brndâvana-s.
However, somewhere else in the Svapna-vrndâvana-âkhyâna, it is also said that all 33,000 Crore (3.3 * 10^11) devatâs have been ordered by Lord Hayagrîva to reside in Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s own brndâvana; that is one more reason why one who worships him does not need worship anyone else (nA.anyad.hdaivam naiva jAne na jAne — refer previous page, “More on Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha”).
There is a big jackfruit tree in Sode, under which Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha used to teach his disciples. Once, a severe bolt of lightning struck this tree. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, the Bhâvi Samîra, gave life to this tree. This tree is still alive in Swadi; the MaTha uses its fruit for Sri Hayagrîva naivedya.
On the way to Sode from Sirsi there is a small village called Huleka, which has a brindâvana of Sri Vyâsa Tîrtha. This is the only place where one can find Sri Vyâsa Tîrtha’s brndâvana other than the original one in Nava Vrindâvana.
He was a bhakta of Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha and belonged to a lower caste community. He donated acres of lands to Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha’s Sode MaTha. Arasappa had one intersting request to his Guru. He wanted the Sode Mutt to use his community’s ganTe (bell — used during mangaLârati) during the pooja of Lord Hayagrîva. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, who had shown the path to Arasappa Nâyaka’s community, accepted his offer. Therefore, even today the ganTe used in Sode Mutt has a Basava (bull) icon on the top of its stem instead of Sri Hanuman, as commonly found in all other ganTe-s used in Mâdhva temples, houses and MaThas.
In the first chapter of the Kannada work “Hari-kathA-amR^ita-sAra,” Sri Jagannatha Dâsa says:
kR^itti-vAsane hinde nI nAlvattu kalpa samIranali
shishhyattva vahisi akhiLAgamArthagaLOdi jaladhiyoLu |
hattu kalpadi tapava gaidAdityaroLaguttamanenisi
purushhOttamana pariya.nka padavaidideyO mahAdEva || 8 ||
Rudra, you served Vâyu as his shishhya for forty Brahma-kalpas in the past, and learned a great number of meanings of âgama-s; then, having performed penance for ten kalpa-s, you became the foremost of the Aditya-s (deva-s) and earned the title of `Purushhottama’, O Mahadeva!
When Vâyu “graduates” to become Brahma, Rudra similarly graduates to become Adi-shesha.
Sri Bhûta-râja is the “bhâvî” Rudra, or the future Rudra, just as Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha is the “bhâvî” Samîra. He is a deity called `Ugra-tapa’, for “the one of ferocious austerities.” He, Bhûta-râja a.k.a Ugra-tapa, is worshipped in a manner similar to Shiva, but is not considered Shiva himself.
Sri Bhûta-râja is said to serve Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha as a watchman, among other things; he guards a corner of the DhavaLa-Ganga tank at Sode. This corner is known as “Bhûtarâjara-koNe” or “Bhûta-râja’s corner” and one is not to venture into it. Doing so is punishable by death, as many have discovered to their cost over hundreds of years. While the water is seemingly calm, anyone who swims there is pulled down by Bhûta-râja and drowns. However, only a purposeful miscreant can get there in the first place, since the steps lead from the opposite side, and one can get to that side only by diving from a height or swimming from the opposite side.
Once, when Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha was travelling, he happened to stay in a forest on the banks of the river Netrâvati, at a place which is now called Dharmasthala in Karnataka. The people who lived in that area of the forest were always troubled by some devils, demons, etc. These people requested Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha to help them; the latter performed the pratishhThâpana of Sri Manjunâtha (Shiva) and appointed some Mâdhva brahmins to perform the pooja regularly. Today, Dharmasthala is one of the important piligrimage places in South India. It seems it is the only temple in the world where Shiva is worshipped by the Mâdhva community. However, the temple is maintained by the Hegde family, who are influential in that part of the country.
Sri Trivikrama Temple:
The garbhagudi of this temple is actually a chariot made of stone. Sri Bhûta Raja carried this temple for Sri Vâdiraja Tîrtha from Badarikâshrama, the abode of Veda Vyâsa. When he was flying south with the temple in his hand, he had to fight some demons. He used one of the wheels on the chariot to kill a demon. That’s why the Sri Trivikrama temple’s garbhagudi still has only 3 wheels with a fourth missing.
His robe and pâduka-s:
After the covering stones of Sri Vâdirâja’s Brindavana were placed, some of his disciples started crying for being unable to physically see their Guru. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, who had entered the brndâvana wearing his robe and pâdukas (wooden sandals), threw off the same from “Pushpaka Vimâna” (flying vehicle) for his sad desciples. Even today, on the Âradhana day Sri Vâdirâja’s robe and pâduka-s are displayed for devotees
A condensed version of this Purana has been presented by Saint Vadiraja in his “Rukmineesa Vijaya” in 1240 verses spread over 19 chapters. Vadiraja took to monastic order when he was hardly eight years old and continued as a Sannyasi for 112 years (1480-1600). He headed the Sode Math, one of the eight founded by Sri Madhvacharya. The most significant change that he brought about was to increase the “Paryaya” period (administration) of the famous Udupi Krishna temple by each pontiff of the eight maths, from two months duration in earlier years to two years each, a practice that is being followed even now.
The saint relinquished one Paryaya period to which he was entitled (once in 16 years) in favour of his disciple who was getting old and so would not get the chance to conduct Paryaya puja to Sri Krishna. Vadiraja built the Trivikrama temple at Sode in north Kanara. A prolific writer, his works include 10 Teekas and five Tippanis (commentaries), four poems, 53 Stotras and 24 texts.
A travelogue “Theertha Prabhanda” is one of the masterpieces describing various shrines all over India. Vadiraja completed his poem Rukmineesa Vijaya in a record time and was honoured by the then ruler of Poona by arranging a procession, seating him on an elephant. This was in reply and as a challenge to another work on Krishnavatara written by another scholar previously, which was not found satisfactory.
In his lecture on the saint’s Aradhana day, Sri K. Raghupathi Rao referred to an incident in his life. When he was about to start from Udupi to collect funds for his ensuing Paryaya, some disciples approached him to teach them “Nyaya Sudha” and he obliged. The funds he required was collected in Udupi itself without his taking a trip. In one verse, in Madhvashtaka extolling Bhima, he points out that the core of Madhwa’s teachings is the conquering of the six vices enshrined in one’s heart lust, anger, greed, delusion, haughtiness and jealousy. They should be curbed so that the heart can be made a temple to install the Lord therein.
Up until the time of Sri Vâdirâja, the period of paryaaya was for a duration of two months. In this way, each Swamiji had a term of worshipping in Krishna Mutt each sixteen months. Sri Vâdirâja celebrated his first two-year paryaaya at the age of 52 in the years 1532-33. It is believed that he did not change the tradition from his own paryaaya but started it from the 1522-23 paryaaya of Sri Palimar Mutt
Works by Srî Vâdirâja Tîrtha
Granthas — longer treatises and commentaries
Gurvarthadiipikaa (name given to separate commentaries on
Nyâya-Sudhâ and Tattva-Prakâshikâ)
Îshâvâsyopanishad Bhâshya Tîkâ Prakâshikâ
Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna (of which the Anu-Vrndâvanâkhyâna is a part)
Stotras — shorter metrical compositions
Dashâvatâra-stuti — (*)
It is also possible to download the entire set of stotra-s in one file.
(*) — Dr. Sharma, on page 431 (2d. ed.) of his book referred to below, wrongly says the Dashaavataara-stotra is an ashvadhaaTi composition running to 41 verses; it is the D’avataara-stuti listed above, not the former, that is so. The error would have been minor, but for the fact that there is indeed a Dashaavataara-stotra that is different from its similarly-named sibling, which runs to a shorter length than 41 and is not in the ashvadhaaTi style.
References: “History of the Dvaita School of Vedanta and its Literature”, B. N. K. Sharma, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 3d ed., January 2000