In an earlier post, I had briefly mentioned about collating a list of scriptural and sculptural evidences in the Dvaita tradition of Sri Madhvacharya, in order to complement the exhaustive list of evidences compiled by Ms Meenakshi Jain, in her book “Rama and Ayodhya”. The present post is an attempt at the same.
In the book, a lot of positive emphasis has been provided for the traditional scriptures and sculptures associated with various traditions throughout the country. This post is in line with the same spirit. It is definitely not an attempt to project any sort of exclusive affinity of the Dvaita tradition (while it is true that Sri Rama occupies an exalted place in Dvaita) in Bharata. In other words, the only purpose is to supplement the evidences using Dvaita as an identity mark and nothing more.
Evidences already mentioned
In the book, Ms Jain has already covered 3 evidences from the Dvaita tradition. In Chapter II — “Antiquity and Popularity of Rama Cult: The Literary Evidence”, in page 27, Ms Jain has quoted Kane Vol I and talked about the 7 chapters of the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya written by Sri Madhvacharya where the entire Ramayana is described and commented upon.
Ms Jain next refers to the idol of ‘Digvijaya Rama’ brought from Badari by Sri Madhvacharya. Finally, in pages 27 and 34, reference is made to Sri Narahari Tirtha having brought images of Rama and Sita to Orissa.
Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya
Sri Madhvacharya’s time period is dated between the 13th and early 14th century A.D. While there is some debate about whether the exact dates are A.D 1199–1278 or A.D 1238–1317, none of them go beyond A.D 1317.
The Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya, or MBTN, is one of the important works of Sri Madhvacharya. Spanning more than 5500 shlokas, it is a commentary on the Mahabharata and the Ramayana while also using references from the Harivamsha and the Bhagavatha Purana. The narration in the various granthas have been harmonised and presented together. Further, Sri Madhvacharya has given his ‘nirnaya’ or ‘conclusive interpretation’ for many difficult-to-interpret scenarios in the Mahabharata. Hence the name ‘Tatparya Nirnaya’.
MBTN contains 32 chapters. Out of these, 7 chapters, from 3 to 9, are dedicated to the Ramayana. The entire story of Ramayana, including the Bala and Uttara Kanda, have been covered. The Ramayana section of MBTN spans 696 shlokas — thus rendering it a very comprehensive critical commentary and is around 750 years old.
Sri Madhvacharya describes in great detail, in the MBTN, about the sources of his work and the procedure followed in researching for the work. He mentions about collating various manuscripts from different parts of the country and having harmonised them.
In more than one grantha of his, Sri Madhvacharya quotes a work called the ‘Moola Ramayana’ — which predates even the Valmiki Ramayana. He grants an exalted position to this Moola Ramayana as a ‘pramana’ — or valid proof (along with the 4 Vedas, Mahabharata and the Pancharatra). It is said that the Valmiki Ramayana is actually a condensed version of the Moola Ramayana.
Since this version of Ramayana is not extant today, some questions have been raised about the authenticity of this work. However, there are clear references to the existence of such a Ramayana in more than one extant works.
In the Matsya Purana, for e.g., there is a mention of such an ‘original’ Ramayana spanning four crore shlokas, from which Valmiki derived his work. An extract of chapter 3 showing this shloka (70 and 71) is given below
Similarly, in the Adbhuta Ramayana, in chapter 1 of the first sarga, there are multiple references to such a pre-Valmiki era Ramayana.
Sri Vyasanakere Prabhanjanacharya, a well known Dvaita Scholar, has opined that the Vayu and Padma Puranas too contain similar mentions.
Even in the very first sarga of Bala Kanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana, there is a reference about the story of Ramayana having come down from Brahma first.
One question that may come up is with regard to this work — Moola Ramayana — containing 4 crore verses as stated in the above Puranas. However, one must remember that the number mentioned in many works also refer to the number of syllables in a given grantha. A massive work containing 4 crore aksharas is therefore very much possible.
Sangraha Ramayana is a work composed by Sri Narayana Panditacharya, in the early part of the 14th Century. Sri Narayana Panditacharya was the son of Sri Trivikrama Panditacharya, who was one of the main shishyas of Sri Madhvacharya. He was therefore a contemporary of Sri Madhvacharya.
Sri Narayana Panditacharya’s magnum opus is the ‘Sumadhva Vijaya’ — the biography of Sri Madhvacharya. He has also written numerous other works in the Dvaita Tradition.
The Sangraha Ramayana follows the exact same sequence, with 7 Kandas, like the Valmiki Ramayana and contains 3190 shlokas in Sanskrit. It is completely in line with the explanations given by Sri Madhvacharya in the MBTN on many crucial incidents such as the Sita Agnipareeksha. The author in the beginning quotes both the Moola Ramayana and the Valmiki Ramayana (by virtue of a salutation to Sage Valmiki).
In the Dvaita tradition, the ‘Hari Vayu Stuti’ is one of the most important stotras composed in praise (and prayer) of Lord Vishnu and, more specifically, Lord Mukhyaprana (the original form of Hanuman, Bhima and Sri Madhvacharya himself).
The Vayu Stuti contains 41 shlokas and was composed by Sri Trivikrama Panditacharya, one of the direct disciples of Sri Madhvacharya. In this work, there are 5 shlokas that describe almost the entire Sundara Kanda of Ramayana. The incidents of Hanumanta bringing the Sanjeevani mountain twice is specifically highlighted, as is the blessings of Sri Rama on Hanumanta and granting him the position of Brahma in the next Kalpa.
It is customary practice in every traditional Maadhva household for the Vayu Stuti to be chanted daily.
Tirtha Prabandha — Description of Ayodhya
In between the years A.D 1530 and 1547 A.D, Sri Vadiraja Tirtha, one of the important saints in the Dvaita tradition visited Ayodhya and composed a shloka in praise of the City. As I have detailed in another post, Sri Vadiraja gives a clear indication of the destruction of the Rama Mandira at Ayodhya and the idol of Rama being moved out of the city. Given the temporal proximity of Babar’s destruction of the Janmasthan temple and the visit of Sri Vadiraja, this shloka is an important literary evidence.
Sundara Kanda Pada
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha has also composed a song, known more popularly as Dasara Pada in Kannada, on the Sundara Kanda. The ‘Yeshtu Sahasavanta Neene Balavanta’ song — contains 21 shlokas in addition to the pa-anupa — and describes the entire Sundara Kanda of Ramayana.
Sri Rama Charitra Manjari
The divine saint Sri Raghavendra Tirtha Swamiji, whose period is between A.D 1595 — A.D 1671 — has composed a work known as the Sri Rama Charitra Manjari. This short work, containing 12 shlokas, describes the entire Ramayana from the Bala Kanda up to the Uttara Kanda.
Idols granted by Sri Madhvacharya
Like noted earlier, Sri Madhvacharya obtained the idol of Sri Digvijaya Rama while returning from Badari. This idol is still being worshipped today in the Raghavendra Matha, one of the main mathas of the Dvaita tradition.
One of the direct disciples of Sri Madhvacharya was Sri Narahari Tirtha. He visited the Gajapati Kingdom of Odisha region, and was a raja-guru in their Kingdom for 12 years (or more). He was extremely revered by the Gajapati Kings and is believed to have resolved several issues for the Kings. There are numerous inscriptions, most prominent among them at Srikurmam, which talk about the large number of grants given by the Odisha Kings to Sri Narahari Tirtha, and the high esteem they held him in.
Finally, after staying in Odisha for 12 years, when Sri Narahari Tirtha returned, he brought back with him — idols of Lord Rama and Sita — which were present in the treasury of the Gajapati Kings. This idol of Rama — known as Moola Rama — is worshiped even today and is the most revered idol of Lord Rama in the Dvaita tradition.
While those of us from the Dvaita tradition firmly believe that the Moola Rama idol is the original family diety of the Ikshvaku lineage to which Rama himself belonged, even historians with a non-Dvaita background readily concede that the idol predates the time of Sri Narahari Tirtha. It was a very precious idol kept with the Gajapati Kings, which is why it was specifically obtained by Sri Narahari Tirtha.
Sri Madhvacharya gave sanyasa to 8 young followers, and made them in charge of the worship of Lord Krishna at Udupi. In addition to the worship of Lord Krishna taking turns of 2 months each, each Sanyasi got in addition a ‘Samsthana Pratima’ — or idol for the lineage — which they had to worship daily.
One among the 8 sanyasis — Sri Hrishikesha Tirtha — got the idols of Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. The lineage of this sanyasi is today known as the Palimaru Matha. The idols, which are at least 700 years old, are still being worshipped in the matha.
Sri Madhvacharya himself got ordained as a Sanyasi at the hands of Sri Achyutapreksha Tirtha. Sri Achyutapreksha was in charge of a matha which subsequently got passed on to the hands of Sri Satya Tirtha, who was a shishya of Sri Madhvacharya. This matha is today known as the Bhandarakere Matha and has idols of Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana as the main deities, worshipped daily.
Again, these idols too are at least 700 years old, if not more
Carvings and other idols in the tradition
Sri Vyasatirtha, again a stalwart yati in the tradition, entered his brundavana in the year A.D 1539 at Navabrundavana, Anegondi — near Hampi. His brundavana contains a beautiful carving of ‘Pattabhi Rama’ — along with Sita and Lakshmana.
Sri Vyasatirtha also installed at least 732 idols of Hanuman throughout South India. Each of these idols had a unique pattern — that of a bell tied to the tail of Hanuman. Even today, hundreds of these idols are being worshipped. The first amongst such installations was at Chakratirtha, Hampi — where Sri Vyasatirtha carved out an image of Hanumanta. The same is today known as the ‘Yantroddharaka Hanuman’. It is an important pilgrimage place for followers of the Madhva tradition.
In Mantralaya, Andhra Pradesh, where the brundavana of Sri Raghavendra Swamiji exists, an idol of Hanuman was also carved from the same rock that was used for the brundavana. This huge idol of Hanuman exists exactly opposite the brundavana of Sri Raghavendra Swamiji and is worshipped daily.
Within the precincts of the Udupi Krishna temple, there is an idol of Hanuman. This idol was consecrated by Sri Vadiraja Tirtha, and is believed to have been brought to Udupi by him from Ayodhya.
Each of the sculptural evidences given here are in active worship since their establishment. Even the samsthana idols are worshipped twice daily, and are equivalent to full fledged temples, in terms of the rituals and procedures followed.
Needless to say, there are hundreds of other scriptural evidences and many tens of sculptural evidences in the tradition, which is simply impossible for me to collate and document in a single post. The attempt here is only to highlight some of the older evidences in order to highlight the importance of Rama worship in Dvaita tradition, and their existence since many centuries.
Note: The pictures have been sourced mostly from the websites of the mathas. I have mentioned the credits along with the images. However, if any of the owners have issues with the images being shown here, I shall readily remove them. The usage of these photos is only to show them to a larger audience, and no other self, especially commercial, interest is intended.