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Raghavendra Tirtha

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Raghavendra Tirtha
Venkata Natha

1595 or 1598
SpouseSarasvati Bai
OrderVedantha Raghavendra Math
PhilosophyDvaita Vedanta
Religious career
GuruSudheendra Tirtha
SuccessorSri Yogendra Tirtha
Literary worksBhatta Sangraha, Nyaya Sudha Parimala, Tantradipika

Raghavendra Tirtha (Śrī Rāghavēndra Tīrtha) (c.1595 – c.1671) was a Hindu scholar, theologian and saint. He was also known as Sudha Parimalacharya (Sudhā Parimaḷācārya). His diverse oeuvre include commentaries on the works of Madhva, Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha, interpretation of the Principal Upanishads from the standpoint of Dvaita and a treatise on Purva Mimamsa. He served as the pontiff of matha at Kumbakonam from 1624 to 1671.[1] Sri Raghavendra swamy was also an accomplished player of the Veena and he composed several songs under the name of Venu Gopala.[2] His shrine at Mantralayam attracts lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of visitors every year.


Early life[edit]

Sri Raghavendra Swami was born as Venkatanatha in the town of Bhuvanagiri, Tamil Nadu into a Deshastha Madhva Brahmin family of Gautama Gotra of musicians and scholars [3][4] after blessings from Lord Venkateshwara. His great-grandfather Krishna Bhatta was a tutor to the Vijayanagara king Krishnadeva Raya, his grandfather was Kanakachala Bhatta[5] and his father Thimmanna Bhatta (also known as Thimmannacharya) was an accomplished scholar and musician.[6] After the fall of the Vijayanagara empire, Thimmanacharya migrated to Kanchi with his wife Gopikamba. Venkatanatha had two siblings—Gururaja and Venkatamba. Venkatanatha's education was undertaken by his brother-in-law Lakshmi-narasimhacharya at Madurai, after the early demise of his father, and he was subsequently married.[7]


Sri Raghavendra Swami, born Venkatanatha, and many honorific titles such as Parimalacharya in recognition of his immense depth of knowledge of Shaastras, Vedas and other complex philosophical concepts, remained with the then pontiff of Sri Mutt, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha for a year at Kumbakonam, which was then the headquarters of the Sri Mutt, before returning to Bhuvanigiri to take care of his wife Saraswathi Bai and son Lakshmi-narayana. [8][9]

He was leading a very simple life with his wife, teaching Vedas to students, and taking as remuneration only that which was given voluntarily by students on the grounds that it would tantamount to pricing Goddess Saraswathi were he to put a price on his teachings.

This put the family of three in tough circumstances materially, warranting that Sri Venkatanatha make trips to Kumbakonam to the Mutt. On one such trip, he took a break at a village where a feast was underway. Not seeing beyond his penurious appearance, a guest there told him to make some sandalwood paste for the assembly in lieu of food. Sri Venkatanatha began doing so and when the sandalwood paste was given to all, it caused a burning sensation in everybody instead of its organic quality of cooling down the body on consumption. When Venkatanatha was asked about this, he profusely apologized that he mistakenly chanted Agni Suktam (prayer to the god of fire, Agni) while grinding the sandalwood paste and offered to prepare it again, this time chanting Varuna Suktam (prayer to god of the waters) while doing so, as water is an antidote to fire. This worked and everyone assembled prostrated in forgiveness to Sri Venkatanatha. [10][11]

The penury of the Venkatanatha family was such that each one had just one garment to wear, which they would wash in parts, let it dry, wear it, wash the remaining portion of the garment and then drape it. The son almost always never had any clothes to wear. Virtually, every day was fasting with all members skipping at least one meal, if not more. The worries of Saraswathi Bai centering around fending for their child Lakshmi-narayana, the family moved to Kumbakonam to serve Sri Mutt and improve their lot.[12][13]

Sri Venkatanatha's mastery and expertise was well known and he was very renowned wherever he went. The aging pontiff of the Sri Mutt, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha wished to anoint Sri Venkatanatha to perform Sri Moola Rama pooja but Sri Venkatanatha was hesitant to give up his responsibilities to his wife and son.

Hence, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha appointed another disciple, Sri Yadavendra to perform the Sri Moola Rama pooja, and gave him permission to tour the country, once his own health started improving. This meant that though Sri Yadavendra Tirtha was anointed to perform the Sri Moola Rama Puja, he never did so, during the time of Sri Sudheendra Tirtha.[14][15]

But as soon as Sri Yadavendra departed for his yatra, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha's health began worsening and with no sign of the return of Sri Yadavendra Tirtha, he again turned to Sri Venkatanatha to take over the rituals of performing Sri Moola Rama pooja. Again Sri Venkatanatha was reluctant, but decided to pore over the suggestion after Sri Sudheendra Tirtha apprised him of a vision of Lord Sri Rama himself gracing his choice of Sri Venkatanatha as the right person to perform the Sri Moola Rama pooja.[16][17]

In these circumstances, Sri Venkatanatha returned home with a heavy heart which did not go un-noticed by Saraswathi Bai who expressed concern at this conflux. Promising to discuss the rumors around town of Sri Venkatanatha's impending progression into sanyasa in the morning, they went to sleep. But Sri Venkatanatha was not visited by the sleep fairy and instead had a vision of Goddess Saraswathi herself who convinced him to take up Sanyasa dharma extolling his virtues, his suitability for the same and the virtues of doing public service through being the pontiff of the Sri Mutt. After being convinced thus, while his wife lay asleep all this while, beside him, he was blessed by Lord Sri Rama, Sri Narasimha, Sri Krishna and Sri Veda Vyasa. Thus Sri Venkatanatha woke up convinced to accept his guru Sri Sudheendra Tirtha's suggestion of occupying the post of the pontiff of Sri Mutt by embracing sanyasa and moving forward from his mundane life of Saraswathi Bai and Lakshmi-narayana.[18][19]

On informing Sri Sudheendra Tirtha of the same, he advised that the upanayanam of Sri Venkatanatha's son be completed first and then pre-empting the trauma Sri Venkatanatha's decision would have on his wife, decided that Sri Venkatanatha should don the ochre (saffron) robes in Thanjavur instead of in Kumbakonam. In the midst of Vedic chanting, mantropadeshas, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha anointed Sri Venkatanatha as 'Sri Raghavendra Tirtha', as ordained to him in his dream by Lord Moola Rama.

On hearing of the goings on in Thanjavur, Saraswathi Bai who was the model wife, an exemplar of attachment to her husband and family swooned, before taking her life by jumping into a well. Young Lakshmi-narayana was too small to comprehend the goings-on and was later taken away by his older uncle, Sri Gururaja.[20][21]

Saraswathi Bai became a ghost and started haunting Sri Raghavendra Tirtha to draw his attention. To give her liberation from the cycle of birth and death, he sprinkled water on the ghost and relieved his wife of her miseries and granted her Moksha. Saraswathi Bai was a standing example of an ideal wife. She stood by him at the most precarious situation in Bhuvanagiri and Sri Raghavendra Tirtha wanted her devotion to be a beacon for others to emulate. In keeping with her steadfast devotion to her husband even when each of them had one cloth each to wear, he ordained that anyone born in Gautama Gotra gift clothes to others during celebrations or festivities in the household. This is a practice which is followed to this date, as a mark of respect to a great wife of a great saint.[22][23]


In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, "Among the family members of the demons (daityas), I am Prahlada, the staunch devotee of Lord Narayana." Later, when Sri Raghavendra Swami chose the rocky terrain of Mantralayam for his Moola-Brindavana-Pravesha, over many other fertile tracts of land that were offered to him by Diwan Venkanna, he said that Mantralayam is the place that he did multiple yagnyas in his avatara as Prahlada. His former birth is considered to be that of Sri Vyasaraja Tirtha, who was the Royal Priest for the Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara Empire and has composed many songs in praise of Lord Krishna, the most popular being Krishna Nee Begane. It is even said that Prahlada himself is an incarnation of Shanku-Karna, one of the messengers of Lord Brahma who was cursed with a series of mundane existences due to being late in getting flowers for the pooja of Lord Narayana. [24][25]

Spread of Dvaita[edit]

In 1624, Raghavendra Tirtha became peetadhipathi of Kumbhakona Matha, which is now known by the name of Raghavendra Matha. After a small stay at Kumbakonam, he have gone on a pilgrimage tour visiting Rameshwaram, Ramnad, Srirangam, and Mathura then he moved westwards to Udupi and Subramanya, and then to Pandharpur, Kolhapur and Bijapur. At Kolhapur, he is said to have made long stay and at Bijapur, he made many converts.[26] After that he returned Ultimately to Kumbakonam. By 1663 he left to Mysore where he got grant from Dodda Devaraya Odeyar. Finally he settled in Mantralayam.[27]


Raghavendra Swami took Samadhi in 1671 on the bank of a sacred river in Mantralayam, a village on bank of river Tungabhadra in Adoni taluk in Andhra Pradesh.[27]

Rayaru, as he is fondly called, began his Brindavana Pravesha by playing "Indu Enage" on the veena in response to which the idol of Sri Santhanagopala Krishna that he used to worship began dancing in presence of all the devotees gathered there. He declared that after his entry into the Brindavana, which occurred in the 17th century, he will be alive for 700 years.[28][29]


Forty works have been attributed to Sri Raghavendra swamy.[2][30] Sharma notes that his works are characterised by their compactness, simplicity and their ability to explain the abstruse metaphysical concepts of Dvaita in understandable terms.[31][2][30] His Tantradipika is an interpretation of the Brahma Sutra from the standpoint of Dvaita incorporating elements from Jayatirtha's Nyaya Sudha, Vyasatirtha's Tatparya Chandrika and the glosses by Vijayendra Tirtha. [31] Bhavadipa is a commentary on Jayatirtha's Tattva Prakasika which, apart from elucidating the concepts of the source text, criticises the allegations against Madhva raised by Appaya Dikshita and grammarian Bhattoji Dikshita. Sri Raghavendra swamy's expertise in Purva Mimamsa and Vyakarana is evident from his works on Vyasatirtha's Tatparya Chandrika, which runs up to 18,000 stanzas. He wrote a commentary on Nyaya Sudha titled Nyaya Sudha Parimala.[32] Apart from these works, he has authored commentaries on the Upanishads, first three chapters of Rig Veda (called Mantramanjari) and Bhagvad Gita. As an independent treatise, he has authored a commentary on Jaimini Sutras called Bhatta Sangraha which seeks to interpret the Purva Mimamsa doctrines from a Dvaita perspective.[33]

Conversation with Sir Thomas Munroe in 19th century[edit]

While Rayaru had his Brindavana Pravesha around 1:30 pm in the 17th century, it is recorded in the Gazette of then Madras Presidency that he gave darshan and spoke to Sir Thomas Munroe, a civil servant of British Government and discussed with him the restitution of the Inam Lands to the government which was being proposed then, meaning that Mantralaya would have become part of the restituted lands. After such a conversation, which Sir Thomas Munroe dutifully transcribed, the restitution was withdrawn.[34][35]

In culture[edit]

Raghavendra Tirtha has been eulogised by Narayanacharya in his contemporaneous biography Raghavendra Vijaya and a hymn Raghavendra Stotra by Appannacharya. Outside the confines of Dvaita, he is regarded as a saint known for preaching the worship of Vishnu regardless of caste or creed.[36] Hebbar notes "By virtue of his spiritual charisma, coupled with the innumerable miracles associated with him, the pontiff saint may very well be said to possess an independent and cosmopolitan cult of his own with his devotees hailing not only from all walks of life but from all castes, sects and even creeds as well".[37] His humanitarianism is evident in the devotional poems composed in his honour by Vijaya Dasa, Gopala Dasa and Jagannatha Dasa.[38] Raghavendra has also seen representation in the popular culture through Indian Cinema.

Year Film Title role Director Language Notes
1966 Mantralaya Mahatme Dr. Rajkumar T. V. Singh Thakur Kannada The song from the film titled "Indu Enage Govinda" was written by Raghavendra himself
1980 Sri Raghavendra Vaibhava Srinath Babu Krishnamurthy Kannada Srinath won Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor for the film
1981 Mantralaya Sri Raghavendra Vaibhavam Rama Krishna M. R. Nag Telugu Ramakrishna's last film as a Hero in Telugu
1985 Sri Raghavendrar Rajnikanth SP. Muthuraman Tamil The film was Rajnikanth's 100th


  1. ^ Sharma 1961, p. 278.
  2. ^ a b c Rao 1966, p. 85.
  3. ^ Hebbar 2005, p. 229.
  4. ^ Callewaert 1994, p. 187.
  5. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 482.
  6. ^ Aiyangar 1919, p. 252.
  7. ^ Sharma 1961, p. 279.
  8. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  9. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  10. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  11. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  12. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  13. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  14. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  15. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  16. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  17. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  18. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  19. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  20. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  21. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  22. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  23. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  24. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1)-Chapters 5,6; Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  25. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  26. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 483.
  27. ^ a b Sharma 2000, p. 484.
  28. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1); Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  29. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  30. ^ a b Rao 2015, p. 325.
  31. ^ a b Sharma 1961, p. 282.
  32. ^ Sharma 1961, p. 285.
  33. ^ Pandurangi 2004.
  34. ^ Saint of Mantralaya-Ten Volume series (Vol 1); Original in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan; translated by K Lakshmanan
  35. ^ Raghavendra Mahimai (Tamil)-10 volume series (Vol 1)
  36. ^ Rao 2015, p. 85.
  37. ^ Hebbar 2004, p. 230.
  38. ^ Sharma 1961, p. 281.


  • Sharma, B.N.K (1961). History of Dvaita school of Vedanta and its Literature, Vol 2 (3rd ed.). Bombay: Motilal Banarasidass. ISBN 81-208-1575-0.
  • Hebbar, B.N (2005). The Sri-Krsna Temple at Udupi: The History and Spiritual Center of the Madhvite Sect of Hinduism. Bharatiya Granth Nikethan. ISBN 81-89211-04-8.
  • Callewaert, Winand M. (1994). According to Tradition: Hagiographical Writing in India. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3447035248.
  • Rao, Krishna, M.V (1966). Purandara and the Haridasa Movement. Dharwad: Karnatak University.
  • Pandurangi, K.T (2004). Bhatta Sangraha. Bengaluru: Dvaita Vedanta Studies and Research Foundation.
  • Aiyangar, Krishnaswami (1919). Sources of Vijayanagar History. Chennai: University of Madras.
  • Shah, Giriraj (1999). Saints, gurus and mystics of India. 2. Cosmo Publications. p. 473. ISBN 978-81-7020-856-3.
  • Rao, Raghavendra (2015). The Proceedings Of The Indian History Congress 8th Session. The General Secretary Indian History Congress Allahabad.
  • Hebbar, B.N (2004). The Sri Krsna Temple at Udupi. Nataraj Books. ISBN 978-1881338505.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]