H.H SHRIMATH RAGHAVENDRA THIRTHA SWAMIJI

4
SRI RAGHAVENDRA THIRTHA
ragh
SRI RAGHAVENDRA THIRTHA, the Shishya of
Shrimath Upendra Thirtha (third Mathadhipati),
became the fifth Swamiji of Shree Kashi Math
Samsthan. He had founded Shri Lakshmi
Narasimha temple in the Moola Math at
Vanarasi.
His Guru Sri Upendra Thirtha had told Him with
pleasing words, “I am old in body and
everything I have belongs to you. Protect the
honour of the Math and protect the disciples.
You must always be calm and honest. I have a
great thirst to go to Kashi and stay there
permanently. I will wander from place to place,
thinking how to progress our Dharma. I will
certainly meet You again”. Sri Raghavendra
Thirtha cried and prostrated when He heard
Guru’s words. Sri Upendra Thirtha gave Abhaya
(assurance of protection) to all devotees and
left for Kashi.
Raghavendra Thirtha was motionless when the
news came that Upendra Thirtha had attained
Mukti on Saturday October 24, 1674 A.D. He was
greatly distressed, “Now, I have become an
orphan. Who is there to look after me? I will
fulfill my obligations to Guru and I will pray
with devotion for His guidance to protect the
Math. I also prostrate to all my Gurus with
devotion”.
Raghavendra Thirtha was a great ascetic,
intelligent, a brilliant personality, a knower of
truth who practiced penance. He was free from
all attachments and was a great devotee of the
Lord. He had the Darshan of the Lord in
waking, dream and deep sleep state.
Raghavendra Thirtha spent all His time in
worshipping and meditating on Lord.
Once there was an ascetic from Kumbakonam
Matha called Swami Yogendra Thirtha, who was
the disciple successor of Swami Raghavendra
Thirtha of Mantralaya. Until the time of Swami
Raghavendra Thirtha of Kumbhakonam
(Mantralaya) Matha and Swami Yadavendra (II)
Thirtha of Shree Kashi Math Samsthan the
relationship of two Mathas with each other was
verv friendly and cordial. The trouble began
only after Swami Yogendra Thirtha ascended the
Kumbhakonam Peetha. Due to constant
pampering of the narrow minded Pandits
around him made Swami Yogendra Thirtha to
set his greedy – eyes on the rich Cochin
Thirumala Temple, the Shrimath Ananteshwar
Narasimha Temple of Manjeshwar, the
Venkatramana temple of Mulki and other
temples owned by the Goud Saraswath
Brahmins. Swami Yogendra Thirtha had the
audacity to try to take over GSB institutions by
force and with that view in mind he began to
address the various institutions of the GSBs
posing himself as the Pontiff of the Kashi Math
vide Appendix Page IV Serial No. 5 of “Sthala
Purana of Manjeswar” in kannada by Sri M.
Ganapathy Aigal (1924).
As no response came from those institutions to
the spurious Pontiff of Kashi Math, Swami
Yogendra Thirtha of Kumbhakonam Matha
became enraged with the GSBs. He therefore
made his sudden appearance at Cochin.
At that time Swami Raghavendra Thirtha of
Shree Kashi Math Samsthan was camping at
Cochin. The Goud Saraswath Brahmins were
adviced by the genuine Pontiff of Kashi Math to
honour the yati, Swami Yogendra Thirtha with
due respects befitting a Mathadhipathi of
Mantralaya and not as the Pontiff of Kashi
Math.
When the representatives of the temple went to
receive him with a garland in hand the Swami
Yogendra Thirtha, tore and threw away the
garland with his Danda and in an angry tone and
said, “Who gave your Swami the name
Raghavendra Thirtha? He cannot use it. It is our
Guru’s name. I am withdrawing the recognition
of your Math given by our Matha today. Tell
your Swami He is not entitled to any titles or
name used by Kumbhakonam Matha hereafter.”
This attitude of Swami Yogendra Thirtha was
resented by the Goud Saraswath Brahmins
present to receive him. So they all dispersed at
once and the prominant among them went to
the Math to report the matter to the Pontiff of
Kashi Math Swami Sri Raghavendra Thirtha.
When after this incident, there was no one left
to receive him (Yogendra Thirtha), the yati’s
anger knew no bounds. He began to blabber so
many things repeating every now and then “You
are the betrayer of Guru, you are the lowest
Brahmins and you have not honoured me. I will
teach you Goud Saraswath Brahmins a lesson. If
I do not my name is not Yogendra Thirtha” and
so on and so forth. He then proceeded to the
Cochin Ruler’s palace with his complaint! The
Sagacious Ruler of Cochin after giving him a
patient hearing said, “Well, your Holiness, we
are very Sorry we are unable to do anything in
this matter. My predecessors have recognized
the Pontiffs of Shree Kashi Math Samsthan for
the past several centuries. They have been in
touch with us and we know them. We cannot
therefore withdraw recognition of that Pontiff
just to please your Holiness. We therefore
suggest that if the Goud Saraswath Brahmins do
not recognise your holiness authority, your
Holiness should leave them alone to avoid
further deterioration of the strained feelings
they have developed for your Holiness since
that incident at the temple. If Your Holiness
want a safe conduct we most provide your
Holiness with armed escorts, upto boundary
limits,” and turning to his personal assistant the
ruler gave instructions to provide the Swami
with escorts upto the limits of Cochin.”
There are even Government records in existence
to show how badly our Mathadhipathis had to
face trouble from the Dravida Brahmans in the
south. The Kumbakonam Matha dishonored Shree
Kashi Math Samsthan. The Goud Saraswath
Brahmins went to the courts of law and won the
case. The hatred and jealousy between the Maths
increased and during this time of friction,
Satyabhinava Thirtha Swami from Uttaradi Math
who was honest, truthful and a lover of Goud
Saraswaths honoured and respected Shree Kashi
Math Samsthan. He recorded that Kashi Math was
self-dependent.
A few years after this, Swami Raghavendra
Thirtha of the Kashi Math sent a personal
messenger to the Pontiff Swami Sathyapoorna
Thirtha desciple of Swami Sathyabhinava
Thirtha of the Uttaradi Matha (an ally of the
Kashi Math Pontiff) to post him with the latest
development. In order to stall away any,
possible obstructions in his country wide travel,
the Uttaradi Matha Pontiff issued a copper plate
inscription recognising Shree Kashi Math
Samsthan as follows :
श्री
ामचन्द्रदेवरदिव्यश्रीपादपद्मरादक श्रीमद् सत्यभिनव थीर्थ श्रीपादवोडेयर
करकमल संजातरादा श्रीमद् सत्यपूर्ण थीर्थ श्रिपादन्गलवरु
“Sri Ramachandra Devara Divya Sripada
Padmaradaka Shrimath Sathyabhinava Thirtha.
Sripada Wodeyar
Kara Kamala Sanjatarada Shrimath
Sathyapoorna Thirtha Sri Padangalavaru”
“ What the tenor of the Copper Plate Shasana
granted to Sri Raghavendra Thirtha, Shishya of
Upendra Thirtha of Shree Kashi Math Samsthan
on Sh. Sh 1603, Karthika Bahula Panchami of
Durmati Samvatsara, is as following :
In olden times, since the time of Sri Vijayendra
Thirtha Swami, you have been associating with
Kumbhakonam Matha. What all honour and
respect was shown towards your elders by Sri
Vijayendra, Sudhindra and Raghavendra Thirtha
was not shown towards you by Yogendra
Thirtha when he came to Cochin. This was the
cause of strained relations between you two. At
that very time, you, having heard of the arrival
of our Swami on pilgrimage to Ananthasayanam
dispatched one Karkal Ananta Bhat to our
Swami’s place to convey your mind to him. To
this, our Swami, having known your mind,
despatched a Rayasa with Venkata Bhatta to the
effect that our Swami would fulfill your desire.
Afterwards you visited our Swami at
Thiruanamale a long with a pathram of the
entire Mahajana of Konkana Varga and told that
you had snapped ties with Yogindra Thirtha. As
you are the original “Samsthana Adhipathi”, we
have come to seek your association so you
should extend your grace towards the entire
Brahmins of Konkani Varga and conduct
“Mantra Mudradharana”.
Now we have been sent here by our Guru to
perform mudradharana, and instructing mantras
to Konkan Brahmanas, residents of Sasashti,
Anthroji, Bhatkal, Basrur, Cochin etc., as per
your wishes. We did so in all these places as
ordered by our Guru, who had presented to you
pallakki, chhatra, surepan, chamara etc.,
(paraphernalia, similar to the ones used in the
Uttaradi Matha Samsthan).
In the future also we shall continue to act in the
same manner and with close association you
shall perpetually perform “Mantra
Mudradharana”’ in the same manner as you
were doing in olden times, When ourselves and
yourselves come jointly, we should conduct
“Mudradharana’” to the entire community after
doing it to you. In case the one among us has
observed lesser Chaturmasa. On the other hand,
if the one happens to be senior, Mudradharana
should be done to us along with the community.
Honours given to you by our Guru shall be
respected by us perpetually. Whenever any
dispute arises, it will be get solved by us.
Likewise let our heirs and your heirs follow this
tradition”.
With Remembrance to Lord Narayana.
(Sd)
This copper plate of 1681 conclusively proves
that Shrimath Raghavendra Thirtha was the
Shishya-Swami of Shrimath Upendra Thirtha. It
also proves that since about the same time (or
some time earlier) the Swamijis of the Kashi
Matha Samsthan and the Uttaradi Matha
Samsthan had the joint authority over the
Vaishnava Goud Saraswath Brahmanas residing
in the region from Sasashti in Goa to Cochin.
This authority was to be exercised by way of
imprinting mudras on the body of the followers
and instructing them sacred mantras.
A few years later Sri Raghavendra Thirtha sent a
Rayasa Patra to all the people, “We want to go
to Kashi for my next Chaturmas. It will be very
difficult to walk the distance. But we will earn
great spiritual wealth with Satsang. We can
have a discussion about God. First, we will take
a holy bath in the Ganga Thirtha. Then we will
get the Darshan of the Lord and offer donation
to a virtuous person according to one’s ability.
Be merciful to all and do not talk any harsh
words to anyone. Neither too much food nor
too much sleep is good. Be calm and meditate
always. Let our pilgrimage will be a happy one”.
Countless pilgrims, young and old, joined the
party for the pilgrimage and to serve Sri
Raghavendra Thirtha. The devotees carried the
palanquin (with the idols of Vyasa and
Raghupati decorated beautifully) in the front of
the procession. There were devotees and
ascetics. Some walked. Every day they prayed,
meditated and did penance and Sandhya
Vandhan. Every day they recited Aditya
Hradaya. Some did Surya Namaskar while
chanting Pranava (OM), Ashtakshari and
Gayatri. Some took care of the sick; some
organized markets. Whatever they did, they
offered it to Guru Deva. There was a sumptuous
community meal every day prior to which Guru
performed regular worship and prayed
Raghupati to take care of the devotees.
The pilgrims reached Kashi and had the Darshan
of Lord Sri Kashi Vishwanath. They worshipped
Him and were charitable according to one’s
ability. Then they entered Shree Kashi Math
Samsthan with the idols of Vyasa and
Raghupati. Everyday there was homa and
havan , Japa and Purashacharan and recitation
of the scriptures.
Legend has it that as per the custom, the Sri
Raghavendra Thirtha Swamiji, thinking of His
Parama Guru Keshavendra Thirtha(2nd
Mathadhipathi) was once bathing in the Pancha
Ganga in Vanarasi along with the idol of Veda
Vyasa. That night he had a dream, in which Lord
Narasimha also expressed a desire of such a
bathing (like Veda Vyasa) in the Pancha Ganga.
The Swamiji got up early in the next morning
and entered the Pancha Ganga along with the
idol of Lord Narasimha. Now it was the turn of
the Swamiji to express his desire and He prayed
God to favour him with his Darshana, while he
was awake. And the Lord did favour him with
His Darshana on one Narasimha Chaturdashi
while the Swamiji was performing the evening
puja of Lord Narasimha. The Swamiji expressed
his gratitude.
He meditated on Lord Narasimha during the
waking state, dream state and deep sleep state.
On the day of Narasimha Jayanti, he installed
the idol of Lord Shri Lakshmi Narasimha in the
Math while Vaidiks chanted Mantras and
devotees took part in the ceremonies. Swami
distributed donations to Brahmins. Everyone
was happy. Raghavendra Thirtha prayed, “Oh
Narasimha, You saved Prahlada, Lakshmi Pathi!
You killed Hiranyakashipu. We do not know
your greatness. Narasimha, Narayana, protect
us. Bhakta Vatsala! Even the Sages cannot
comprehend your divine incarnations and
Leelas. Both Lord Parashuram and Sri Rama are
Supreme beings. Lord Narasimha is the form of
truth. Oh Vedavyasa! Remove our sufferings
and always give us the opportunity to serve
your holy feet”. After prayers, everyone went to
sleep.
But one old widow, who was very weak, was
worried about her health and concerned that
she would die. She was also worried that she
would not be able to see the installation of the
image of Lord Narasimha or see the worship by
Swami Raghavendra. She cried, “My pilgrimage
is worthless, I am a great sinner. My life would
be useless if I do not see the worship of the
Lord. I wish I could watch it before my
impending death”. She praised Him thus,
“Narasimha, Sri Hare! You are everywhere and
You are in everyone. You appeared from the
pillar for the sake of Your devotee Prahlad. You
killed Hiranyakashipu and other Rakshasas. I
beg you to show me your worship. I do not
have any knowledge; I do not know how to
meditate or repeat your name. Give me your
darshan before I die. Save me, I am a sinner. I
have only one desire; that is, to die in Kashi”.
Lord Narasimha heard her prayers and was
pleased. He appeared and she saw Him clearly.
At that time all the lights burned brightly, all the
bells rang automatically. She heard the chanting
of verses and the worship with offerings of
flowers. She also heard the sounds of drums and
kettledrums. She saw the bright light of the
Aarati and a plate full of fruits. It was a great
miracle for her. She saw the ferocious face of
the Lord and His eyes were shining. The Lord
was adorned with lots of jewels which looked
very beautiful on His body. The old woman
happily bowed down, having had the blessings
from the Lord, said, “I have no more desire to
live, so take me to your holy feet”.
Sri Raghavendra Thirtha heard the sound of the
drums and musical instruments. He was
surprised, got up from his meditation and found
the old woman praising Lord Narasimha. She
forgot herself. She did prostrations to Swami
and said, “I am blessed and have accomplished
the reward of Satsang”. As soon as she kept her
head on the holy feet of Guru, she attained
salvation. Swami Raghavendra Thirtha said that
the old woman was really a realised one. He
also said that one who has the grace of God
would attain salvation.
Swami Raghavendra Thirtha prayed to Lord
Narasimha, “That old woman saw your worship,
had your darshan and she got redemption. So,
give me your darshan as you had appeared to
my Paramacharya Shrimath Vijayendra Thirtha
Swamiji. We are the Soul and you are the
Supreme Soul. You witness whatever we do”. At
that time Raghavendra heard a frightening
sound like a bomb and He saw a reflection of a
form.
It was the form of Lord Narasimha with a loud
roar and laughter which spread from the earth
to the sky. It was very powerful like a
destructive fire. The Lord thus appeared before
Raghavendra Thirtha. Then Raghavendra
Thirtha who was still absorbed in meditation
requested with devotion, “I always worship You
along with Lord Vyasa and Raghupati and You
are the protector of all disciples. One will get
rid of their difficulties and poverty with your
devotion and they will become pure. You are
the Lord for Bramha and Lord Rudra”. He
prayed thus and remembered Madhwacharya.
He prayed to spread the fame of the Math.
Raghavendra thirtha spent most of the time in
the sanctuary of the temple and enjoyed doing
worship. He did not know anything about the
outside world. He practiced austerities alone.
He stopped taking food, milk, ghee and salt.
Sometimes he took only fruits. Sometimes he
took only water and sometimes only air. His bed
was the earth. He restrained his breath and
everyday he experienced the state of samadhi.
His senses became weak, yet he would meditate
on the feet of lord Narasimha and reflect on him
all the time. His sleep was like meditation and
rolling at the feet of the lord. He had no interest
in anything except taking the name of
Narasimha when breathing, contemplating on
him and remembering only him.
Raghavendra Thirtha spent time on the bank of
Pancha Ganga, where Sri Keshavendra Thirtha
found the idol of Sri Vedavyasa. He kept that
idol on His head while taking a bath in Pancha
Ganga and praising the Lord with sthothras and
divine love. That night He had a dream, in
which Lord Narasimha too expressed a desire
for such a bath in Pancha Ganga. Next morning,
Swami Raghavendra entered the Ganges with
the idols of both Lord Narasimha and
Vedavyasa and got thrilled. While taking a bath
with the idols, He praised Them with sthothras,,
forgot Himself and was speechless.
Document Nos. 2 and 7 describe a plot of land
with structures in the Brahma Ghat in Banaras
(Fig.9) as follows:
04-yadavendra1
Fig. 9 Plot donated by Raghavendra Thirtha to
Vaman Bhat res (Document Nos. 2 and 7)
This was bought by Shrimath Upendra Thirtha
(as per Document No.8, referred to earlier)
from Jagadisha Rawat for Rs. 515. There was an
old structure., which was demolished and a new
one was erected by the Swamiji. After his death,
his nephew Narayana Bhat alias Raghavendra
Thirtha appeared before the court of
Mohammadabad (Banaras) presided over by
Mohammad Murad Badshah, Kazi Inayatulla and
others on 28th Rajab, 1087 A.H. (Tuesday, 26th
September 1676) and declared that he was in the
sole possession of the said plot and the
structures thereon. This was confirmed under
oath by two witnesses – Narasinga Bhat (son of
Bishan Bhat, son of Kishan Bhat) of the Durga
Ghat and Kesar Bhat (son of Keshava Bhat, son
of Ananta Bhat) of Brahma Ghat. Rama Bhat, the
donor’s nephew was also present in the court
and he too confirmed that Upendra Thirtha had
given possession of the said plot with structures
thereon to Raghavendra Thirtha.
The documents go on to say that Raghavendra
Thirtha referred to Vamana Bhat, son of
Bhagirathi and Rama Krishna Bhat (Bhagirathi
was the sister of Raghavendra Thirtha’s father,
Kishan Bhat) and solemnly declared that he was
donating the said plot with structures thereon
to the said Vamana Bhat and handed over the
relevant documents to him. Vamana Bhat
confirmed having received the documents and
took possession of the plot with the structures
thereon.
Raghavendra Thirtha is described in the
documents as one of 35 years, with a wheat
complexion, wide eyes and wide eyebrows and
wearing black moustaches and black beard. He
had a scar on the side of right cheek and had
black moles on the face. His ears were punched
(for wearing ear rings).
Document No.5, dated 25th Jilhaz 1091 A.H.
(Thursday, 6th January 1681) gives the same
information as in Document Nos. 2 and 7 except
that the former was issued about five years
earlier and that Bhagirathi’s husband’s name is
given as Vallabha Bhat instead of Billyeth Bhat.
Vallabha Bhat seems to be correct and the other
name might be a mistake of translators (Persian
to Kannada).
Document No. 29 is dated 22ml Rajab, 11/6 A.H.
corresponding to Thursday, 9th November 1704,
when Raghavendra Thirtha with an estimated
age of 55 years appears before the Banaras court
of Kazi Shaikh Asadulla and Sayyad Fajiulla. The
Swamiji is described as of wheat complexion,
with ears punched and wide brows and eyes,
wide forehead, with white moustaches and
beard. He solemnly declared that he was
donating the following articles to his brother’s
son, Narayana Bhat (brother being Ananta Bhat)
(1) 70 utensils including thalis, lotas, etc.
(2) A white woollen shawl.
(3) A yellow woollen shawl. (5 x 3 ‘Mola’ units;
each Mola unit being equal to the length
between his elbow joint to the tip of the small
finger)
(4) Two bound books (400 and 300 pages).
This document throws some light in deciding the
exact year of birth of Raghavendra Thirtha in
view of the difference of about 5 years in the
age of the Swamiji mentioned in Document Nos.
2 and 7 on the one hand and Document No.5 on
the other (both give the age as 35 years though
the dates of the documents are 1087 A.H. and
1091 A.H. respectively). Assuming that the age
of 35 years is correct in Document Nos. 2 and 7
(1676 A.D.), the Swamiji would be 63 years in
1704, when his age was estimated to be about
55. If on the other hand, the age of 35 years is
correct in Document No. 5 (1681) the Swamiji
would be 58 years in 1704. It is more likely that
the age of a man of 58 years was estimated to be
55 than of 63 years. From these facts it may be
concluded that the age (35 years) given in
Document NO.5 is more authentic than that in
Document Nos. 2 and 7. Thus the year of birth
of Raghavendra Thirtha may be fixed at 1646.
Considering the year of Samadhi (1725),
Raghavendra Thirtha’s life span is estimated to
be 79 years.
The Swamiji was a great tapasvi (the Darshana
he had of Lord Narasimha was itself a great
proof of this). In addition, he had achieved vak
siddhi (whatever he said used to happen as he
predicted). It is reported that many sick people
were cured by the Thirtha (sacred water) the
Swamiji had given.
Sri Raghavendra Thirtha had initiated one
Narayana Bhat into sanyasa, called him Shrimath
Devendra Thirtha and accepted him as his Patta
Shishya. Narayana Bhat was the nephew of
Shrimath Yadavendra (II) Thirtha. Raghavendra
Thirtha then spent His time in a solitary place.
He gave everything to His sishya Sri Devendra
Thirtha as He had trust in Him.
The Swamiji attained Maha Samadhi on
Phalguna Shuddha Chaturdashi of Krodhi
Samvatsara, Sh. Sh. 1646 corresponding
Monday, 12th February 1725 in Varanasi.