Narayana Bhatta and his wife Vedavathi were a childless couple belonging to a village named Prajaka Kshetra, eight miles away from Udupi. Bhatta was an ardent devotee of the Lord Anantheshwara and used to travel every day from his village to Udupi to pray for a child to continue his lineage. This had been going on for twelve years.
One day, a devotee who seemed to be possessed and in a trance climbed up the flag post at the Anantheshwara temple and announced that an incarnation of Lord Vayu (Wind) would be soon born to guide the humanity along the path of right principles. Bhatta who was a witness to this oracle, somehow felt intuitively that the divine child would be his own.
In due course, Vedavathi gave birth to this divine child in 1238 A.D., whom they named Vasudeva. Vasudeva was a very bright child as well as being extraordinarily strong. He enjoyed a long life of robust health. He engaged in various forms of sport and physical exercise in his youth, such as wrestling, swimming and even mountaineering, which he kept up to the very end. He had very handsome features with a strong muscular frame, tall and strong-limbed with graceful carriage, dignified bearing and beauty. He also possessed an extraordinary intellect. Vasudeva was initiated into the Vedic learnings at the age of five.
Soon after upanayana, child Vasudeva used to take bath everyday in four teerthas, Parashuteertha, Dhanushteertha, Baanateertha and Gadaateertha. But his mother was worried as her son went alone to these distant teerthas. To quell his mother’s anxiety, Vasudeva created a new pond called Vasudevateertha, at the rear side of his home. It is believed that taking bath in this pond has the same effect as taking bath in all the four teerthas.
Vasudeva’s father Madhyageha was unable to pay for the bullock that he had borrowed from a wealthy man. One day, the rich man stood infront of Madhyageha’s front door and didn’t allow him to enter his own house as he had not settled the debt. Vasudeva went to the rich man and got to know the details of the debt. He took the man aside and gave him tamarind seeds equal to the number of coins that was owed to him. After some time when Madhyageha went to settle the debt, the rich man said that he had already been paid by Vasudeva. Vasudeva settled this debt at a place to the north of Vasudevateertha where a tamarind tree is seen.
Once when Vasudeva was returning home, a giant serpent named Manimantha appeared before him. Vaudeva fought with this demon and killed him with his big toe. The Manimantha Gopura was built at this place which has the footprints of Sri Madhvacharya and also has the statues of Lord Hanuman and Bhima, who are also hailed as the sons of Vayu.
He was very good in his studies and therefore at the age of eleven, he left to seek higher knowledge from a saintly teacher at Udupi by the name of Achyutapreksha. Achyutapreksha was very happy to have such a bright student and taught him all that was there to be taught.
After a year of staying with Achyutapreksha, Vasudeva wanted to be initiated into “Sannyasa” and renounce the world. Though his parents were not for it, Vasudeva became a monk and his teacher named him “Purnaprajna”.
Purnaprajna gained mastery over the Vedantas and travelled far and wide, mostly in the South of India, participating in vedantic debates with learned scholars and always claimed victory at the end. By then people had started to call him “Madhva” or “Madhvacharya”. His philosophy was called “Dvaita” as against Shankara’s “Advaita”. Madhva then travelled to the Himalayas and Badrinath and is said to have met the sage Vyasa and learnt more intricate portions of the Vedantas and returned to Udupi. He wrote the commentary for the Bhagavad Gita and also many books and composed many hymns. These commentaries gave brilliant dualistic interpretations to the same works that Sri Shankara had seen as stressing on Advaita (non dualism). He wrote various texts that detailed his philosophy which he called Tattvavada, or as it is more popularly known, Dvaita. Some of his works were the Gita Bhashya, Brahma Sutra Bhashya, Anuvyakhyana (a philosophical supplementto his bhasya on the brahma sutas composed with a poetic structure), Karma Nirnaya, and Vishnu Tattva Nirnaya.
Sri Madhvacharya was born in the Udupi region and he was educated in the Mutt associated with the Ananteshwara Temple and used to give lectures there. One day, Madhvacharya was on the seashore performing his daily rituals, when he spotted a ship in trouble. He guided the ship safely to harbour and the grateful ship captain thanked him and requested him to take anything he wanted from the ship. Sri Madhvacharya chose the Gopichandana mound and found the deity of the most charming Krishna that he established and worshipped in the Krishna Matha. Madhvacharya also established eight mathas called the Ashta mathas to enable regular worship of Lord Krishna. The ashta mathas are named after the villages in which they were originally located, Palimaru, Adamaur, Krishnapura, Puttige, Shirur, Sode, Kaniyoor and Pejawar. Today, the mathas are situated in the temple town of Udupi. These mathas work to propagate the Dvaita philosophy. They also administer the Udupi Krishna Temple by way of a formal rotation scheme called Paryaya.
After completing many commentaries and original erudite works, establishing prominent Maths and sending out well-chosen veterans to preach and propagate his siddhanta all over the country, while seated during a shower of flowers, Madhvacarya disappeared from vision and transferred himself to Badarikasrama. There he still remains.
Manimantha Gopura, Udupi
Image Courtesy Shyama Mohanty