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For Madhvacharya, the proponent of Dvaita philosophy, see Madhvacharya.
Sri Vidyaranya Mahaswamiji
Nationality Vijayanagara empire
Senior posting
Title Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetham
Period in office 1331–1386
Predecessor Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha
Successor Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati I

Vidyāraṇya also known as Mādhava Vidyāranya is variously known as being a kingmaker, patron saint and high priest to Harihara Raya I and Bukka Raya I, the founders of the Vijayanagar Empire. He was the 12th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham from 1380 to 1386 A.D.[1] He was born to Māyaṇācārya and Śrīmatīdevī in Pampakṣetra (modern-day Hampi) in 1268 CE. Another account has it that he was born in Ekasila nagari (modern Warangal). He helped the brothers establish the empire sometime in 1336 AD. He later served as a mentor and guide to three generations of kings who ruled over the Vijayanagar empire. Vijayanagara or Hampi, the capital of the empire, has a temple dedicated to Mādhavācārya. He is the author of the Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha (सर्वदर्शनसंग्रह), a compendium of different philosophical schools of Hindu thought and Pañcadaśī, an important text in the Advaita Vedanta tradition.

As Vidyaranya[edit]

Vidyaranya was an exponent of the Advaita school of philosophy in Hinduism. He is said to be the brother of Sāyaṇācārya who wrote a commentary on the four Vedas. He was a Hindu statesman and philosopher who lived at the court of Vijayanagara, the Southern Hindu kingdom. He is believed to have served as a minister under King Bukka of the Vijayanagara empire. His younger brother, Shyapa, was associated with him in the administration and was a famous commentator on the Rigveda. Shyapa's commentaries were influenced by and dedicated to Mādhava.


Vidyaranya's most famous works are Pārāśara-Mādhavīya and the Sarva-darśana-saṅ̇graha (Compendium of Speculations), a compendium of all the known Indian schools of philosophy. To quote Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha “sketches sixteen systems of thought so as to exhibit a gradually ascending series, culminating in the Advaita Vedanta (or non-dualism).” The sixteen systems of philosophy expounded by him are:[2]

  1. Cārvāka
  2. Buddhism
  3. Arhata or Jaina
  4. Purna-Prajna
  5. Nakulisa-Pasupata
  6. Saivaism
  7. Pratyabhijña
  8. Raseśvara
  9. Vaiseshika or Aulukya
  10. Akshapada or Nyaya
  11. Jaimini
  12. Paniniya
  13. Sankhya
  14. Patanjala or Yoga
  15. Vedanta or Adi Shankara

The Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha itself doesn’t contain the 16th chapter (Advaita Vedanta, or the system of Sankara), the absence of which is explained by a paragraph at the end of the 15th chapter, (the Patanjali-Darsana). It says: “The system of Sankara, which comes next in succession, and which is the crest-gem of all systems, has been explained by us elsewhere, it is therefore left untouched here”.[3]

Vidyaranya tries to refute, chapter by chapter, the other systems of thought prominent in his day. Other than Buddhist and Jaina philosophies Vidyaranya draws quotes directly from the works of their founders or leading exponents[4] and it also has to be added that in this work, with remarkable mental detachment, he places himself in the position of an adherent of sixteen distinct philosophical systems.

Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha is one of the few available sources of information about lokayata, the materialist system of philosophy in ancient India. In the very first chapter, "The Cārvāka System", he critiques the arguments of lokayatikas. While doing so he quotes extensively from Cārvāka works. It is possible that some of these arguments put forward as the lokayata point of view may be a mere caricature of lokayata philosophy. Yet in the absence of any original work of lokayatikas, it is one of the very few sources of information available today on materialist philosophy in ancient India.


Vidyaranya's Pañcadaśī is a standard text on the philosophy of the Advaita Vedanta tradition. It consists of fifteen chapters which are divided into three sections of five chapters each, which are designated as Viveka(Discrimination), Dipa(Illumination) and Ananda(Bliss). The text elucidates many Vedantic concepts such as, the five sheaths of an individuality, the relation between Isvara(God), Jagat(world) and Jiva(individual), the indistinguishability of cause and effect etc.[5]

Vidyaranya also wrote a commentary on the Mimalps Sutras. He attained Siddhi after a six year stint as an acharya of the monastery of Sringeri.

Founding of Vijayanagara empire[edit]

According to one narrative, Harihara Raya I and Bukka Raya I were two brothers in the service of the Kampili chief. After Kampili fell to the Muslim invasion, they were taken to Delhi and converted to Islam. They were sent back to Kampili as the Delhi Sultan's vassals. After gaining power in the region, they approached Vidyaranya, who converted them back to the Hindu faith.[6][7] The historical authenticity of this narrative is doubtful. The contemporary documents, including the inscriptions issued by the earliest rulers of Vijayanagara, do not mention this account. The contemporary Muslim records refer to Harihara (as "Harip" or "Haryab"), but do not mention anything about his conversion to Islam, although they contain details of other converts from Deccan. The first works to mention this narrative were written over 200 years after the establishment of Vijayanagara.[8]

A local legend goes like this: Once, during a hunt, Harihara saw a big rabbit and sent his hunting dog after it. However, the rabbit bit the dog and escaped. While returning from the hunt, Harihara saw a holy man, and narrated the strange incident to him. The holy man was Vidyaranya. The two men went to the place where the rabbit had escaped. Vidyaranya told him that the place was sacred, and advised him to establish the capital of his new kingdom there.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Mādhava Āchārya". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Cowell and Gough, p. 22.
  3. ^ Cowell and Gough, p. 273.
  4. ^ Cowell and Gough, p. vii.
  5. ^ Krishnananda, p. 4,5.
  6. ^ Jaywant Joglekar (2006). Decisive Battles India Lost (326 B. C. to 1803 A. D.). p. 69. ISBN 978-1-84728-302-3. 
  7. ^ R. Blake Michael (1992). The Origins of Vīraśaiva Sects: A Typological Analysis of Ritual and Associational Patterns in the Śūnyasaṃpādane. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 26–. ISBN 978-81-208-0776-1. 
  8. ^ Phillip B Wagoner (2000). David Gilmartin and Bruce B. Lawrence, ed. Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia. University Press of Florida. pp. 300–301. ISBN 978-0-8130-3099-9. 
  9. ^ B. R. Modak (1995). Sayana. Sahitya Akademi. p. 6. ISBN 978-81-7201-940-2. 


  • Cowell, E.B.; Gough, A.E. (1882). Sarva-Darsana Sangraha of Madhava Acharya: Review of Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy. New Delhi: Indian Books Centre/Sri Satguru Publications. ISBN 81-703-0875-5. 
  • Indian Philosophy - a Popular Introduction: Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, People's Publishing House, New Delhi, 7th edition 1993
  • Krishnananda, (Swami). The Philosophy of the Panchadasi. Rishikesh: The Divine Life Society Sivananda Ashram. 
  • Radhakrishnan, S (1929). Indian Philosophy, Volume 1. Muirhead library of philosophy (2nd edition ed.). London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd. 
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Mādhava Āchārya". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha
Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetham
Succeeded by
Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati I