(Last Updated on : 23/07/2014)
The 16th Century influential saint in Hinduism, Raghavendra Swami was the advocater of Vaishnavism and the Dvaita philosophy preached by Madhvacharya
. He is regarded to be a reincarnation of 'Prahlada' by his devotees. Shanku Karna was damned to be born, into the world as Prahlada, son of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada had ardently devoted to Sri Vishnu and was saved by Vishnu
in his avatar as Narashima
. who took the form of the Narasimha Avatar to kill Hiranyakashipu.
Following the philosophy of Sri Madhwacharya in his next birth he was Vyasaraja. As Venkatanatha or Veene Venkanna Bhatta he was born again. On being initiated into sannyasa, Venkatanatha was named Guru Raghavendra and is regarded as one of the greatest of madhwa saints.Swami Raghavendra, an ardent devotee of Sri Moola Rama and Sri Panchamukha Anjaneya (the five-faced form of Hanuman
) has performed self-mortification at a place called Panchamukhi, where in the form of Sri Panchamukha Anjaneya He received darshan of Hanuman.
To Thimmanna Bhatta and Gopikamba in 1595, a third child was born in Kaveripattana, Tamil Nadu
. This child was named Venkatanatha, as he was born by the grace of Lord Venkateshwara. Swami Raghavendra in his childhood has proved to be a very brilliant scholar. His brother-in-law Lakshminarasimhacharya guided the initial educational portion (yajur veda, manimanjari, and anumadhvavijaya) of his in Madurai. He became known as Veena Venkata Bhatta as he also highly-developed skillfulness in playing the Veena. On returning home Swami Raghavendra married Saraswathi and went to Kumbakonam to join guru, Sri Sudheendra Theertha. Here he studied the Dwaita vedanta. He had a son, Lakshminarayana.
Overjoyed with his expertise, Sri Sudheendra Theertha asked him to take sanyasa. Swami Raghavendra was in a grievous dilemma, as he did not want to take control of the Matha. But after paying attention to Vidya Lakshmi's word he was convinced to take sanyasa. Vidya Lakshmi convinced him by saying that in order to spread the right philosophy that of Sri Madhvacharya, and to save the Matha from being fallen into ruin. The light of Tattvavada would otherwise be eliminated by the darkness of Mayavada. The sannyasa arrangement was to take place on the second day of the bright half of Phalguna Masa in 1621 at Tanjore.
By teaching all the works of Srimadacharya, Sri Raghavendra Tiirta started his services to his disciples. He composed works for the benefit of future generations, apart from conducting knowledge and guiding his disciples. After becoming the 'pithadipati', he started with a series of pilgrimages while visiting several places. He has visited Dyupuri, Paripurnadevanagara, Manishrunga, Rameshvaram, Madurai, Srirangam, Vishnumangala, Subramanya, Udupi (here he started giving discourse on Sarvamula Granta), Bidarahalli, Pandarapur, Kohlapur, Bijapur
etc. Swami Raghavendra during his pilgrimages covered a vast area geographically in the days when road conditions were poor and travel was arduous. He also wrote several works covering a vast area of the Tattvavada philosophy.
He wrote a direct commentary on Anubhashya, called Tattva Manjari. He wrote glossaries on the Ishaavaasya, Talavakaara, Kataka, Shatprashna, Mdaka, Mandukya, TittarIya, Bihadarunyaka, and Candogya Upanishads. He wrote a glossary for the Vyasaraya Tattparya Chandrika, called Chandrika Prakasha. He convincingly overpowered many Advaitin pandits, through the grace of Bharati Ramana Mukhyapranantargata Srilaxminarayana.
During the course of his pilgrimages He continued to bless and cure his devotees of ills and troubles wherever he went. Various miracles performed by Swami Raghavendra lies in the vast literature he left behind. While performing miracles Swami Raghavendra, clearly stated that what he did was not magic or sorcery or witchcraft. It was simply the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita
. The main aim of his miracles was to move out the suffering of those who seek sanctuary in him and thus draw them towards God and religion.
Some of these examples are:
At that time, the Tanjavore district was under a great drought. The ruler of that district under the guidance of Raghavendra Swami performs appropriate rituals and ceremonies. Soon afterwards, rain once again fell upon the lands.
During his visit to Bijapur, Swami Raghavendra experienced that the burning heat was intolerable. One Brahmin because of this unbearable heat fell down and was unable to get up. The Brahmin got back his life after Raghavendra Swami recited a mantra, and water sprung up from the scorching sands. In another instance, a child was traveling with a retinue, through a desert. The child started to cry as the heat was so unbearable at that time. Raghavendra Swami towards the child threw his upper cloth. It gave shade to the child flying through the air, for the rest of the journey.
Swami Raghavendra gave a soul-stirring speech before entering Brindavana in 1671, to hundreds of devotees who had gathered to watch the event. His speeches in short are as follows: "Without right living, right thinking will never come.", "Social work done for the good of worthy people should also be considered as the Lord's worship.", "Always keep away from people who merely perform miracles without following the shastras", "Have devotion to the Lord.
This devotion should never be blind faith. Accepting the Lord's supremacy wholeheartedly is true devotion. Blind faith is not devotion.". After this Sri Raghavendra started reciting the pranava mantra and slid into mystifying samadhi. The japamala in his hand at one stage became still. His disciples on understanding this sign started arranging the slabs around him. They placed a copper box containing 1200 Lakshminarayana saligramas particularly brought from Gandaki river. Then they placed the covering slab over it and filled it with earth. All over the world devotees of Shri Raghavendra Swamiji have built his 'Mathas'. Religious rituals and ceremonies in these Mathas, are carried out as per the tradition and customs followed at Mantralaya.