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Introduction Pujya BhaishriRameshbhai Oza, popularly known as Bhaishri, is the modern age spiritual leader who is based in Gujarat and has dedicated his life for…
Hindu Dharma has a glorious past of great Saints and Sages. Several Saints ascended to the state of Guru and showed the path of God realization to many. They also taught spirituality to the society through their conduct and actions. Their mission was not just limited to spirituality but they also did substantial work for the defense of nation whenever it was in difficulties. Some of the Saints traveled all over the world and disseminated the spiritual knowledge of Bharat there without any personal expectations. Millions of people abroad are getting the benefit of that. For last lakhs of years, the Sages took tremendous efforts to preserve the Vedic Knowledge which is the pride of Bharat. They also created many subjects connected with the human life and made it easy. The most important thing, however, is that the Saints of Bharat have donated the world the tradition of Guru-disciple.
The current scene, however, is different. The cricketers, movie heroes and heroines have become the ideals of Hindus. Also, the two vices of selfishness and narrow-mindedness have become dominant in Hindus which is causing a lot of harm to Hindu society. Under such circumstances, it has become essential to study and follow the life of Saints who have imparted the teaching of sacrifice, love. Devotion to righteousness, devotion to the nation, helping the society and kashtradharma( duty of a warrior). We are hereby publishing the matter related to them so that people should come to know about such great Saints. We pray at the feet of God that let Hindus get the inspiration to study and follow their biography and teachings.
Shri Guru Raghavendra Swami (1595–1671) is an influential 16th century Hindu saint who advocated Vaishnavism (worship of Vishnu as the supreme God) and Shri Madhvacharya’s Dvaitaphilosophy. He ascended Brindavana at Mantralayam in present day Andhra Pradesh in 1671.
His devotees’ faith regarding his continued presence at his Brindavan in Mantralayam, either in physical or metaphysical form makes it a very popular religious destination in India.
Shri Raghavendra Swami was born as Shri Venkanna Bhatta, the second son of Shri Thimanna Bhatta and Smt. Gopikamba on Thursday, Sukla Saptami of Phalguna month in 1595, when the moon was in Mrigashirisha Nakshatra, at Bhuvanagiri, near present-day Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. Shri Thimmanna Bhatta was the son of Shri Kanakachala Bhatta and the grandson of Shri Krishna Bhatta, a Veena scholar in the court of King Krishnadevaraya. Shri.Thimanna Bhatta and his wife, Smt. Gopikamba had a son, Gururajacharya and a daughter, Venkatamba.
Shri Venkanna Bhatta was also called Venkatanatha or Venkatacharya in honor of Shri Venkateshwara at Tirupati, with whose blessings he was considered to have been born, as a gift to his parents for their devotion and diligence towards the deity.
Venkatanatha proved to be a very brilliant scholar. This greatness was visible even he was a child. For example, he is supposed to have questioned his father as to how a small object like ‘Om’ could capture the infinite greatness of god. However, his father did not live long enough to see the greatness of his son. He passed away when Venkatanatha was still at a very young age.
Venkatanatha’s brother took care of his upbringing. The initial portion of his education was under his brother-in-law Lakshminarasimhacharya of Madurai.
Upon returning from Madurai, Venkatanatha was married to Saraswati, who was from a noble family. The Shastras say that for one who has control of his senses, wedded life does not hamper learning. For Venkatanatha, most of his learning occurred after marrying Saraswati, through the blessings of Goddess Saraswati. So Venkatanatha went to Kumbhakonam, the seat of learning at the time. There he studied dvaita Vedanta, advanced works on grammar and other Shastras under sudhindra tirtha. He used to stay awake past midnight to write his own comments and notes on the lessons that had been done. He engaged in debate and defeated several scholars of opposing doctrines; one of them was Venkatesvara dikshita, a famous scholar of the Tanjore court in 1620. Though his victory was not unexpected sudhindra tirtha was surprised at his scholarship in grammar, profound knowledge and rare debating skill, and called him “Mahabhashya Venkatanathacharya”. Similarly, he explained the significance of taptamudra Dharana quoting several Smriti’s that the opponents had to accept his arguments were irrefutable.
Once while he was touring Kumbakonam along with his wife, Shri Venkatanatha and his family were invited to attend a function. Unfortunately, the hosts did not treat him well and wanted him to earn his food by running a chore. So they asked him to make some sandalwood paste for all the invitees. Shri Venkatanatha per his habit was chanting stotras and mantras while preparing sandalwood for Tilaka. When the guests applied this paste, it induced a burning sensation all over their bodies. Surprised by this, the hosts sought a clarification from Venkatanatha. He replied that the burning sensation was due to the Agni Suktam (hymn for the worship as defined in the Esoteric Vedas) that he was chanting while preparing sandalwood and thus the eternal power of Vedic Mantras revealed itself. This happens only when chanted with absolute dedication and devotion. The power is enhanced since it was changed by someone as virtuous and devoted to Bhagwan Hari as himself. Upon realizing his devotion and power, the host apologized profusely to Shri Venkatanatha and sought his forgiveness.
Thus while his life was spent in the worship of God and service of humanity, his spiritual guru, Shri Sudheendra Theertharu, was looking for a successor to his math. He had a dream where the Lord indicated that Shri Venkatanatha would be the right person to succeed him as the pontiff. Shri Venkatanatha initially refused due to his responsibility towards his young wife and son but was soon blessed by the Goddess of Learning, where she in a dream indicated that he was to seek salvation as a Sanyasi. Shri Venkatanatha treated this as an omen and changed his mind. The sanyasa ordination took place in 1621 on the Phalguni Sukla Dwitiya at Tanjore.
On the day of Shri Venkatanatha’s ascension into Sanyasashrama, his wife, Smt. Saraswathi was seized by a sudden desire to see her husband’s face for the last time. She ran towards the Matha throwing caution to the winds and accidentally drowned in an old and unused well on the way.
Per the tenets of Hinduism, she became a ghost trapped mid-way between Heaven and Earth due to her untimely death. Since her last wish of seeing her husband was not fulfilled, her ghost went to the matha to witness the ordaining function. However, by the time she arrived, her husband had become a Sannyasi Shri Raghavendra Theertha. However, Shri Guru Raghavendra could immediately sense his wife’s presence with his spiritual powers. He sprinkled some holy water from His Kamandalu on her as a means of granting her last wish. This action granted her moksha or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths and was considered her reward for a lifetime of dedicated and selfless service to Shri Raghavendra Swami.
During Shri Raghavendra Swami’s time at Kumbakonam, the Tanjore district as a whole was reeling under the effects of a severe 12-year long drought. The Maharaja of Tanjore approached Swamiji for spiritual solace and was advised to perform some Yagnas. No sooner were these rites performed, was the region flush with rain and prosperity. As a mark of gratitude, the Maharaja gifted the Matha with a necklace embellished with precious stones.
Swamiji offered the necklace as a contribution to a yagna that he was performing then. The Maharaja took affront at this action. When Swamiji realized this, he immediately put his hand into the homa kunda and retrieved the necklace in a condition identical to which it was given to him by the King. Neither the necklace nor Swamiji’s hand showed any indication of having been in a raging fire. This incident only served to reaffirm the greatness of Swamiji and converted the Maharaja of Tanjore into an ardent Bhakta.
Shri Raghavendra Swami embarked on a tour of South India, spreading the Dvaita Philosophy and visiting famous pilgrimage centers such as those at Rameshwaram and Srirangam. At Rameshwaram, he clarified the origins of the Siva Linga as the one that was installed by Lord Rama himself before his journey to Lanka to fight Ravana. In this context, he also clarified that Ravana was a Rakshasa since he was born to a Rakshasi mother and Brahmin father. He rebuffed the claim made by some scholars that Lord Rama, as the Supreme One, is not bound by Brahma Hatya Dosha (or any other doshas) for eliminating Ravana.
He also traveled to Kanyakumari, Thiruvananthapuram, and Madurai where he met his Poorvashrama brother-in-law with whom he had spent a large part of his childhood. As part of his Yatra, he traveled to Vishnu Mangala, Kukke Subramanya and Udipi in Karnataka, amongst other such spiritual centers and impressed one and all with his mastery of Dvaita philosophy, won many admirers, gained many devotees and published stellar works of literature and philosophy some of which were carried around in processions of elephants as a mark of respect for its brilliance.
On a hot summer day, Shri Raghavendra Swami was on his way home from a pilgrimage. He decided to rest in the shade of a tree at Krishnapuram (near Hubli). While there, he saw the Nawab (Muslim king) walking towards him, with a sad demeanor. The Nawab had heard of his miracles and had come to him as a last resort. He stated that his young son had died from a poisonous snakebite and been buried in a tomb close by. After hearing this, contemplated silently for a few moments and then asked the king to take the body out of the tomb. When the puzzled Nawab did as he was asked, Swami sprinkled holy water from his kamandala and prayed to his Aradhya Murthy ( a favorite form of the Lord). Lo behold, the young boy woke up as though he was getting up from sleep. The Nawab was beside himself with joy.
Mantralayam is on the banks of Tungabhadra River, a major artery of the Krishna river that functions as a border between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, in this region.
The town is 16 km (9.9 mi) away from Mantralayam Road railway station on the Bombay-Madras and Bombay-Bangalore routes and around 30 miles from Raichur railway station. The Ashram is accessible by bus, taxis and other forms of private transport from both Mantralayam Road and Raichur railway stations, with Raichur offering more options, since it is a major regional hub.
The nearest airports are at Hyderabad about 240 km. away via Kurnool. From Kurnool to mantralayam is 90KMand at Puttaparthi about 237 km. away.
The Mutt provides accommodation for devotees. Once a day, free meals are provided at the Ashram on most days.For those wishing to stay in non-Mutt accommodation, there are numerous lodges at walking distance to the Mutt. The “circle” is the main entry point to the temple-town and is bustling with numerous restaurants, stores and brick-a-brack. Some popular eating joints are M.T.R. (Mantralayam Tiffin Room), Hotel Pannaga, Hotel Srinivasa Bhawan and Udipi Hotel
The Mutt accepts donations for Annadhanam and other sevas at the temple. Some of the sevas performed at the temple are (as of July 2012)\
1) One day Sampoorna Annadhana Seva INR 2,00,000
2) One day Sampoorna Seva INR 1,00,000 (All Sevas for 1 day)
3) Vastra Samarpana Seva for all the Brindavans and HH Sri Swamiji INR 50,000
4) Vastra Samarpana Seva for Sri Raghavendra Swami Brindavan and HH Sri Swamiji INR 25,000
5) Gold Pallaki Seva INR 8000 (Permits devotees to participate in daily ritual of carrying idols of the god in a gold palaquin (Pallaki) in a procession around the precincts of the sanctum sanctorum)
6) Suvarna Rathothsava (Gold Chariot) INR 6000 (Permits devotees to participate in daily ritual of pulling a gold chariot (Suvarna Ratha) with idols of the god in a procession around the precincts of the sanctum sanctorum)
7) Kanaka Kavacha Samarpana INR 3500
8) Rajatha Rathotsava (Silver Chariot) INR 2000 (Permits devotees to participate in daily ritual of pulling a silver chariot (Rajatha Ratha) with idols of the god, in a procession around the precincts of the sanctum sanctorum)
9) Rathothsava (Wooden Chariot) INR 1000 (Permits devotees to participate in daily ritual of pulling a wooden chariot with idols of the god in a procession around the precincts of the sanctum sanctorum)
10) Kanaka Maha Puja INR 750 (Allows devotees to witness puja performed to Sri Raghavendra Swami Brindavana with gold coins)
11) Poorna Seva INR 500
12) Maha Puja INR 350
13) Sarva Puja INR 250
14) Utsavaraya Padapuja INR 200 (Allows devotees to witness pooja performed to miniature idols of Sri Raghavendra Swamy)
15) Phala Panchamrutha INR 150 (Allows devotees to partake of abhisheka Prasada where abhisheka is performed with a mixture of fruits)
16) Panchamrutha INR 75 (Allows devotees to partake of abhisheka Prasada where abhisheka is performed with a mixture of milk)
17) Ksheerabhisheka INR 50
18) Prateek Puja INR 250
19) Archana Sahita Hastodaka INR 75
20) Unjal Seva (night) INR 350 (Allows devotees to rock the swing on which miniature idols of Sri Raghavendra Swamy are kept, at night and he is symbolically put to sleep)
21) Sri Vayustuti Punascharana (with honey, performed only on Saturdays) INR 500
22) Sri Vayustuti Punascharana (Sudhodhaka Sunday to Friday) INR 200
23) Sri Satyanarayana Swami Pooja (individual) INR 200
24) Sri Satyanarayana Swami Pooja (as a group) INR 50 (on Full Moon days only)
25) Grutha Nandana Deepa (1 month) INR 300 (Lighting of lamps in temple for 1 month, with ghee)
26) Taila Nandana Deepa (1 month) INR 150 (Lighting of lamps in temple for 1 month, with oil)
27) Godana Seva INR 5000 (Donation of cow to the Mutt)
28) Gograsa Seva INR 1000
29) Seva Sankalpa INR 25
30) Upanayana INR 2500 (Thread ceremony for Brahmins)
31) Nagapratista INR 1500
32) Javala INR 1000
33) Udyapana INR 1000
34) Namakarana INR 500 (Naming ceremony for newborns)
35) Annaprasna INR 500 (Feeding ceremony for newborns)
36) Sarva Siddhi Yantra INR 25
37) Santhana Yantra INR 25 (Blessed charm for couples to pray to, for child-bearing)
38) Bheethi Yantra INR 25 (Blessed charm to ward off fear)
39) Parimala Prasada Samarpana INR 20 (4 pieces)
All donations to the Mutt can be sent in the form of a cheque or a demand draft is drawn on State Bank of India at Mantralayam and sent to the above address.
Much after the above incident had occurred, Shri Raghavendra Swami got an opportunity meet the Nawab of Adoni face-to-face. The Nawab, instead of being respectful to him, decided to test his spiritual skills and placed before the Swamiji, a plate of non-vegetarian delicacies completely covered with a piece of cloth, in the guise of offering alms.
Per Hindu customs, alms are customarily offered to a visiting saint to seek his blessings. Swamiji took some water from his Kamandala, meditated and sprinkled it on the covered plate, as part of his regular practice of purifying any food before consumption. He then opened the plate. It contained fresh fruits. The Nawab immediately became remorseful and became an ardent devotee of Swamiji then on. As an apology, he offered to give the Swamiji any amount of land and wealth. While Swamiji refused any such gift for his personal gains, he asked that the land around Manchale (present day Mantralayam), which was part of the Nawab’s kingdom, to be handed over to his Matha.
Though the Nawab of Adoni offered to give him a more fertile region, Shri Raghavendra Swami insisted on the dry and barren region around Mantralayam, on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.
Many years later, he told a devotee that it was the region where King Prahalada had performed his yagnyas to Lord Rama during the Dwapara Yuga and was hence an extremely holy land. Thus the Matha moved to Mantralayam where Shri Raghavendra Swamy continued his spiritual journey. At Mantralayam, Shri Guru Raghavendra encouraged Annadhanam (donation of food) to all devotees. It is a practice that is followed by the Matha to this date and is heavily subsidized by donations.
It is said that the donation of food and water (i.e. Annadana (Anna: rice, Dana: donation)) is superior to all other forms of charity since it fulfills a basic need of all creatures unlike other forms of charity which are always only as efficacious as the recipient of the donation.
Hence Sri Guru Raghavendra relentlessly propagated Annadhanam and ensured that free food and water was made available to all visitors to the Mutt. It is a practice that continues to this date at the Moola Brindavana Matha at Mantralayam with approximately 11,000-21,000 people being fed here every day. While the Brindavana is open on all days of the year, no food is served on Ekadasi, Solar Eclipse, Lunar Eclipse and Krishna Janmashtami days.
Adi (Step by Step) Pradakshina (Circum-ambulation foot-by-foot) is a form of pradakshina of the Vrindavana at Mantralayam performed by many ardent devotees as a thanksgiving ritual for wishes fulfilled and prayers answered. The devotee starts the pradakshina by placing one foot exactly in front of the other in a single line, with no gap between the two feet (unlike regular walking motion) and repeats the process until he or she has finished circulating the Vrindavana and is back to the starting point. The goal is that two feet have covered every point along the circumference of the pradakshina-path around the Moola Vrindavan.
Hejje Namaskara is another form of thanksgiving, which is performed by devotees. This is done by doing a namaskaram for every step around the Vrindavana, until the starting point.
The Matha has built numerous guest houses and dormitories for visiting devotees. These can be availed of, by visiting the central office of the Matha at Mantralayam. Currently, there are no provisions to book these rooms online or in advance.
A huge flood occurred in October 2009, in northern Karnataka and bordering districts of Andhra Pradesh. Mantralaya, being in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh was the worst hit by this particular flood. The entire temple town was marooned with the Mutt being submerged in the Tungabhadra up to the top floor. The serving Swamiji of the Mutt and couple of his other aides sought refuge in the top floor till they were rescued by the Karnataka state government through an IAF helicopter.
The hotels/guest houses maintained by the temple and those privately owned were submerged up to the third floor leaving the inmates and residents of the entire town with no option but to seek refuge on terraces. All electric poles were uprooted and connection to the holy city by road, rail and telephone were completely cut-off. Routine rituals, practices, and offerings at the temple were resumed much more than a week after the floods. A thorough purification of the temple premises (not the entire temple town) preceded this resumption of regular worship. The Mutt took care of people of Mantaralaya and surrounding flood affected villages and provided them with free food and shelter for more than a month till normalcy was restored.The expenditure was taken care by Mutt itself even though the financial condition of Mutt was severely affected by floods.
Devotees of Shri Raghavendra Swamiji have built his Mathas all over the world. In these Mathas, religious rituals and ceremonies are carried out as per the tradition and customs followed at Mantralaya. These branches of the Matha is very useful, especially for those offering SRADDHAKARMA, according to the Vaidhika Dharma of the Hindu religion.
There are numerous publications about Sri Raghavendra Swami. One of the more recent ones is an 8-volume anthology titled “Sri Raghavendra Mahatmyam”. Originally brought out in Tamil, it has also been translated into English. It covers devotee experiences, etc. Each volume is around 400-500 pages.
On Dwitiya Day of Sravana Krishna Paksha in 1671, Raghavendra Swami gave a soul-stirring speech to hundreds of devotees who had gathered to watch the event. Some quotes from that speech are as follows –
Shri Raghavendra Swami attained Jeeva samadhi on Dwitiya Day of Sravana Krishna Paksha in 1671. This date is celebrated each year as Shri Raghavendra Swami Aradhana at Brindavan all over the world. The Raghavendra Matha in Mantralaya housing his Brindavan is visited by thousands of devotees every year.
A Kannada movie Mantralayam Mahatma starring Dr. Rajkumar in which Dr. Raj performed the role of Guru Raayaru and was highly successful in portraying rayaru. A Tamil movie Sri Raghavendra directed by S.P. Muthuraman was released in 1985. It starrer reigning Tamil superstar Rajinikanth as Sri Raghavendra, which was incidentally his 100th film. In the prolog speech of this film, Rajinikanth said once he visited Mantralayam, and the visit was the reason for his fame, popularity, and all the good things in his life. The film was a massive hit.