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Dvaita, Advaita and Vishishtadvaita are the principal schools of Vedanta, each with its own community of followers, religious institutions and extensive philosophical literature in Sanskrut, and regional languages such as Kannada and Tamil.
Sri Madhvacharya, (1238—1317) also known as Ananda Tirtha and Poorn Pragnya, is the founder of the Dvaita school of philosophy. His doctrine (Tattvavada) asserts that this world is real and there is no need to deny the existence of the world to realize God. Propagating the Bhakti marga or the path of devotion for God realization, Sri Madhvacharya preached dualism—the infinitely perfect God is independent and the world of matter and spirit is dependent on God.
Madhvacharya’s Vaishnavism is called Sad Vaishnavism or Brahm Sampradaya as opposed to Sri Ramanujacharya’s Sri Vaishnavism. He is regarded as the third incarnation of Vayu deva (the wind God) having descended into the mortal world in three successive incarnations—as Hanuman, the follower of Lord Rama in Treta Yug, as Bhim, one of the Pandavas in Dwapar Yug and as Madhvacharya in Kali Yug.
He believed that God was the continuing cause of all activities of man and prescribed Bhakti as the supreme means to attain God. He advocated that one should study the Vedas, learn to control senses, be dispassionate and completely surrender to the Lord.


Madhvacharya’s Biography

The most authoritative book which enunciates Acharya’s life is ‘Sumadhva Vijaya’ authored by Narayanapandithacharya, the son of Trivikramapandithacharya who on being humbled in debate by Madhvacharya became his disciple. Therefore he must have written it from what he had seen.

To this day, historians and all those who wish to document Sri Madhvacharya’s life and times refer to this book, a scholarly treatise and a trend setter in its language and poetic meter. Set in 32 chapters (sargas), it is regarded as the most authentic work composed during Acharya’s own lifetime.


Childhood and Early life

Madhvacharya was born in 1238 of Tulu speaking Brahmins—Narayana Bhat(also called Madhyageha Bhat) and Vedavati in the village of Pajaka, about 20 kms from Udupi, in South Kanara district of Karnataka. His birth itself was anecdotal.

The parents had worshipped Lord Ananteshvar (Lord Narayan) for 12 long years to beget a worthy son and the Lord pleased with their prayers, took the form of a man and climbing the flag post in the village announced that Vayudev (Hanuman) would soon be born to revive Vedic dharma. There was an auspicious sound of the Dundhubi when Sri Madhva was born and the ecstatic parents named the child as Vasudev.

Even as a child, he was extraordinary in every respect, and repeatedly astounded his teachers, and performed several miracles. As a small child he had digested a basketful of cooked horse gram which his innocent sister had given him, unable to console him in the absence of their mother. While later the parents were worried about an infant being fed these grains, he was all cheerful and playing normally.

On yet another occasion he freed his father from the clutches of a loan shark, by giving him a handful of tamarind seeds which turned into gold when the creditor accepted the seeds.

He also killed the demon Mannimanta, who attacked him in the form of a snake, by crushing the snake’s head under his toe.

Towards the end of his stay in the Gurukul, Vasudev felt that he should become an ascetic and study the scriptures in search of their true meaning. After graduating from the gurukul, Vasudev’s thoughts centered around how he could give the innocent people a sound philosophy which glorified the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Narayan-Vishnu.


Early years of Sanyas

At the age of eight or so, he announced to his parents his intention to take up sanyâs, and on noting their distress at this pronouncement, promised to wait until another son was born to them. Finally, at the age of eleven, upon the birth of a younger brother (who many years later joined his order as Vishnu Tîrtha) he was ordained into sanyâs, and was given the name Poorna Pragnya by his guru Achyutapreksha Tîrtha.

Soon afterwards, when his guru attempted to educate him, young Poorna Pragnya astounded the former by his knowledge and erudition. It is said that when his guru tried to teach him the noted Advaita text Ishhta-Siddhi, he pointed out, to Achyutapreksha Tîrtha’s amazement, that there were 30 errors in the very first line of that work. He reasoned out the errors with such sharp logic that there was no resistance from the guru or other followers.

Once he was asked to repeat the prose-passages of the Fifth Skandha of Bhagavat—a crucial test to find out the depth of his knowledge—and to everyone’s surprise, Poorna Pragnya repeated the text, page after page with perfect accuracy. Achyutapreksha Tîrtha soon gave up trying to educate Poorna Pragnya, and himself became a disciple, under the name Purushottama Tîrtha. Poorna Pragnya was then made the head of the institution of Achyutapreksha and he continued his teachings. Well-trained pundits and laymen alike gathered in large numbers to listen to his interpretations of the scriptures.


Panch Bhedas

Five-fold differences
  •  Between God and living things
  •  Between God and non-living things
  •  Between living and non-living things
  •  Amongst living things themselves
  •  Amongst non-living things

Basic tenets of Dvaita Philosophy

The basic tenets of Dvaita philosophy can be enumerated as below:

  1. God (Brahman or Lord Vishnu) is the only independent and supreme being
  2. The Universe which we inhabit is real and not  a myth
  3. Neither is there a beginning nor an end for God and the living beings—both are eternal
  4. The Universe (Jada), living beings (jeeva) and God (Brahman) are real but are mutually different
  5. There exists no two identical objects (Jada) in this universe—all objects are mutually different.
  6. Two living beings (jeevas) are fundamentally different
  7. There is a hierarchy among different living beings
  8. Moksha or salvation is the realization of one’s own true nature and a state of permanent happiness.
  9. It is only through Bhakti or devotion to God can one attain Moksha

His southern tour lasted for about two to three years and he returned to Udupi. Soon after, he began his career as an author and started writing a commentary on the Bhagvad Gita. The Gita Bhashya is the first work of Madhvacharya. He made a dispassionate study of the prevailing conditions and came to the conclusion that it was his duty to redeem the Vedic scriptures from being misinterpreted. For which he needed the blessings from Lord Vedvyas (an incarnation of Vishnu). It was believed that Vedvyas resided in the Himalayan regions in a remote place, unreachable by normal human beings. Madhva decided to undertake a pilgrimage to Badrinath. Seven years after he took to holy orders Poorna Pragnya commenced a pilgrimage to the North where he touched Benares, Allahabad, Dwaraka, Delhi and other places and reached the famous Badrikshetra. After worshipping Lord Badri Narayan in the temple, Madhvacharya nursed a deep desire to go to Upper Badri, the abode of Lord Vedvyas and learn Vedanta from him. To achieve this mission, he undertook severe penance for 48 days without food and water and observed speechless meditation.

Ashta Mutts

Sri Madhvacharya established eight mutts (ashta mutts) in Udupi and nearby

villages to collectively manage the Sri Krushn Temple. He also appointed a disciple to head each mutt. The eight mutts and the disciples are:


Palimar Mutt: - Sri Hrishikesha Tirtha

Adamar Mutt: -  Sri Narasimha Tirtha

Krushnpur Mutt: - Sri Janardhana Tirtha

Puthige Mutt: -  Sri Upendra Tirtha

Shiruru Mutt: -  Sri Vamana Tirtha

Sodhe Mutt: - Sri Vishnu Tirtha

Kaniyoor Mutt: - Sri Rama Tirtha

Pejavar Mutt: - Sri Adhokshaja Tirtha


Each mutt is named after the village where it was originally located. The mutts have now relocated to Udupi in and around the main temple, but each mutt also maintains its original location. Many of these mutts have branches outside Udupi. Some even have branches outside India.

Works of Madhvacharya

Acharya’s versatility in writing books is inimitable. He got his magnum opus ‘Anuvyakhyana’ written by four of his disciples through an extraordinary act of dictating its four chapters simultaneously. All these books churn out in effect the grand manifestation of Lord Narayan, as envisioned by Acharya.

All of them are in Sanskrut and are not easily accessible to the general public. They have to be studied under the guidance of a guru.

The 37 Granthas composed by him include:

Commentaries on Brahma Sutras

  1. Brahmasutra Bhashya
  2. Anubhasya
  3. Anuvyakhyana
  4. Nyaya Vivarana

Commentaries on Bhagavad Gita

  1. 5.Gita Bhashya
  2. Gita Tatparyanirnaya


  1. 7.Vishnutattva Nirnaya
  2. Tattva Sankhyana
  3. Tattvodyota
  4. Tattva Viveka
  5. Pramana Lakshana
  6. Katha Lakshana
  7. Karma Nirnaya
  8. Upadhi Khandana
  9. Prapancha-Mithyatva Anumana Khandana
  10. Mayavada Khandana

Commentary on Rig Veda

  1. Rig Bhashya

Commentaries on Upanishads

  1. Ishavasya Upanishad Bhashya
  2. Kena Upanishad Bhashya
  3. Kathopanishad Upanishad Bhashya
  4. Mundaka Upanishad Bhashya
  5. Satprashna Upanishad Bhashya
  6. Mandukya Upanishad Bhashya
  7. Aitareya Upanishad Bhashya
  8. Taittireya Upanishad Bhashya
  9. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya
  10. Chandogya Upanishad Bhashya


  1. Dvadasha Stotra
  2. Narasimha Nakha Stuti


  1. Yamaka Bharatha
  2. Mahabharata Tatparyanirnaya
  3. Bhagavata Tatparyanirnaya
  4. Krushnmruta Maharnava
  5. Krushn Jayanti Nirnaya
  6. Sadachara Smriti
  7. Yati Pranava Kalpa
  8. Tantra Saara Sangraha

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