content detail


Post by: 08/05/2017 0 comments 698 views

Biography :

The biography of Madhvacharya is unclear. Many sources date him to 1238–1317 period,but some place him about the 1199-1278 period.

Madhvācārya was born in Pajaka near Udupi, a coastal Malabar region of south-west India in the state of Karnataka.Traditionally it is believed that Naddantillaya (Sanskrit: Madhyageha, Madhyamandira) was the name of his father and Vedavati was Madhvācārya’s mother. Born in a Vaishnavite Brahmin household, he was named Vāsudeva. Later he became famous by the names Purnaprajna, Anandatirtha and Madhvacarya (or just Madhva). Pūrnaprajña was the name given to him at the time of his initiation into sannyasa (renunciation), as a teenager. The name conferred on him when he became the head of his monastery was “Ānanda Tīrtha”. All three of his later names are found in his works. Madhvācārya or Madhva are names most commonly found in modern literature on him, or Dvaita Vedanta related literature.

Madhva began his school after his Upanayana at age seven, became a monk or Sannyasi in his teenage. He joined an Advaita Vedanta monastery in Dwarka (Gujarat), accepted his guru to be Achyutrapreksha, who is also referred to as Achyutraprajna in some sources. Madhva studied the Upanishads and the Advaita literature, but was unconvinced by its nondualism philosophy of oneness of human soul and god, had frequent disagreements with his guru, left the monastery, and began his own Dvaita movement based on dualism premises of Dvi – asserting that human soul and god (as Vishnu) are two different things. Madhva never acknowledged Achyutrapreksha as his guru or his monastic lineage in his writings.

According to Dehsen, perhaps there were two individuals named Madhvacharya in 13th century India, with Anandatirtha – the younger Madhva being the most important early disciple of the elder Madhvacharya, and their works and life overlapped in Udupi, Tattvavada being the name adopted for Dvaita Vedanta by Anandatirtha. Madhvacharya established a matha (monastery) dedicated to Dvaita philosophy, and this became the sanctuary for a series of Dvaita scholars such as Jayatirtha, Vyasatirtha, Vadiraja Tirtha and Raghavendra Tirtha who followed in footsteps of Madhva.

A number of semi-fictional hagiographies have been written by Madhva’s disciples and followers. Of these, the most referred to is the sixteen cantos Sanskrit biography Madhvavijaya by Nārāyana Panditācārya – son of Trivikrama Pandita, who himself was a disciple of Madhva.

Self proclamation as being avatar of Wind god

In several of his texts, state Sarma and other scholars, “Madhvacharya proclaims himself to be the third avatar or incarnation of Vayu, wind god, the son of Vishnu”. He, thus, asserted himself to be like Hanuman – the first avatar of Vayu, and Bhima – a Pandava in the Mahabharata and the second avatar of Vayu. In one of his bhasya on the Brahma Sutras, he asserts that the authority of the text is from his personal encounter with Vishnu. Madhva, states Sarma, believed himself to be an intermediary between Vishnu and Dvaita devotees, guiding the latter in their journey towards Vishnu.

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.

Even as a young boy of four years, Vasudev demonstrated his knowledge when he politely interrupted a Puranic discourse by correcting the narrator and offering his version which stunned listeners. His father discovered that anything taught to him was easily grasped and he had to teach him new concepts every day.

Soon it was time for Vasudev to begin his formal education. He was initiated into the sacred thread ceremony (upanayan) and sent to the gurukul of Totantillaya.

He was not only good at Vedic studies but also excelled in sports like swimming, wrestling, running race, and other physical activities. Although he was playful and not concentrating, he would flawlessly recite the hymns and lessons, including portions that the guru had not covered until then.

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.

According to his teachings, the world is real, the individual souls are different from Brahman, and Vishnu is the Highest Entity in the universe. Many scholars of other schools came to him for debate and went back defeated by his keen and irrefutable logic.

During one such occasion, he debated Pandit Vasudev, a famous Advaita scholar for 40 days and won the debate. That is when he got the name Ananda Tirtha. He later assumed the name Madhva by which he is most commonly known today. It is said the words Ananda Tirtha and Madhva are synonymous. Both mean, “one who creates shastras that bring happiness.”


Tour to South India

To spread his teachings and debate with scholars, Madhva toured South India covering many places such as Vishnumangalam (near Kasargod), Trivandrum, Kanyakumari, Rameshwaram, Srirangam and a few other sacred places. Everywhere he went, he humbled scholars from other schools of thought with his powerful logic and oratory.

Once in the assembly of scholars, a discussion on the topic “Ithareya Sooktartha” was being held in the Sriranga temple. Madhvacharya propounded that the Vedas had three meanings, Mahabharat, ten and Vishnu Sahasranam, 100. There were differing opinions about it and to quell doubts, he began narrating hundred meanings in his interpretation for the word ‘Vishwa’ (the first word of the famed Vishnu Sahasranam) backed by grammatical illustrations. Even the scholars in the audience found it impossible to refute and accepted his deep knowledge.

It was also during his tour of South India that he performed yet another miracle—he is supposed to have gone to a place called Srimushna and created a water pond with his wand, to quench the thirst of a pregnant woman.

He started propagating dualism, the essence of Dvaita philosophy. His teachings emphasized that Hari (Sri Vishnu) is sarvottam and jagat (the universe) is satya and not maya (illusion).

He stressed that Hari (Vishnu) is the only entity praised in the Shrutis and their adjuncts. He always identified the Brahman of the Upanishads with Vishnu and forcefully argued against the dichotomy of Shrutis as claimed by Sri Shankaracharya.

In simple terms, he espoused fivefold differences among God, living things and non-living things. These are the Panch Bhedas in Dvaita philosophy. He used three methods to prove his philosophy, namely personal experience (pratyaksha), scriptures (agamas) and inference (anumana).


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:

a.   God (Brahman or Lord Vishnu) is the only independent and supreme being

b.   The Universe which we inhabit is real and not  a myth

c.   Neither is there a beginning nor an end for God and the living beings—both are eternal

d.   The Universe (Jada), living beings (jeeva) and God (Brahman) are real but are mutually different

e.   There exists no two identical objects (Jada) in this universe—all objects are mutually different.

f.    Two living beings (jeevas) are fundamentally different

g.   There is a hierarchy among different living beings

h.   Moksha or salvation is the realization of one’s own true nature and a state of permanent happiness.

i.     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. One night Sri Vedvyas appeared before Madhva and invited him to visit his ashram in the upper reaches of Badri which is unapproachable to humans. Jumping from peak to peak like an expert mountaineer, Madhva reached the abode of Sri Vedvyas. That sacred place impenetrable to humans was splendid like Vaikunta. Madhvacharya prostrated before Lord Vedvyas and heartily extolled him. Vedvyas hugged him in great affection. Madhvacharya blissfully spent sometime enjoying the divine presence of the Lord.


Later with the permission of Lord Vedvyas he came to the shrine of Badrinarayan. Acharya had the orders of Vyasa to write a commentary on Brahma Sutras which would reflect their real views. He returned from Badri carrying their orders in all humility. Acharya, denouncing the earlier 21 commentaries on Brahma Sutras, wrote his own commentary. On his return, Acharya journeying through North and East India sowed the seeds of Vaishanava philosophy in Bengal. In the coming days it is that seed which sprouted, and grew into a tree nursed by Krushnchaitanya, popularly referred to as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534). Even today it is being widely practiced by the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) worldwide.


Later, in about A.D.1262, Madhvacharya came to Kalinga (present Orissa). During the reign of Rudrambe (A.D. 1261), daughter of Gajapathideva at Rajamahendri, the two great Advaita scholars Shobhana Bhatta and Shambu Shastri being humbled in debate by Madhvacharya became his disciples and took sanyasa. It is they who were the first to continue the tradition of Acharya and were renamed as Padmanabha Tirtha and Narahari Tirtha.


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.


The force of Madhvacharya’s personality, the clarity of his thought, his sonorous voice and attractive physique and the depth of his knowledge earned him many followers. As it was natural, he also had to face a lot of opposition due to his teachings which was quite the opposite of established norms and beliefs.


It is said that his commentaries on palm leaf books were stolen and destroyed. His religious and social reforms in the Udupi region, to avoid animal sacrifice and consumption of liquor, were criticized by people and won him many enemies. However, he was undeterred and continued his teachings with zeal.


Supernatural Powers

There are several references to his supernatural abilities. Crossing the flooded Ganges river without his clothes getting wet, eating 1000 bananas and drinking 30 liters of milk at one go, lifting a huge boulder with his little finger, staving off the attacks of a Muslim army single handedly, appearing like stone images when attacked by thieves, challenging 15 wrestlers at one stroke, producing flowers and fruits on the non-flower bearing areca nut and other plants…are some of the incidents that have been documented by historians and biographers.


Credit – wikipedia
redit – Indianscriptures

About author




Make sure you enter the(*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed

Theme Settings