The Childhood of Sri Madhwacharya

Sri Madhwacharya, the great vedanta acharya, who propagated the siddanta of tattvavada, was born in the 13th Century at Pajaka, near Udupi, Karnataka. There are two dates — 1199 C.E and 1238 C.E — that is proposed by scholars as his date of birth. But 1238 C.E is the more widely accepted date. There is, however, no confusion over the fact that he was born on the day of vijayadashami when Guru was in uccha sthana in karkataka.

The penance of the Madhyageha couple

Sri Madhyageha Bhatta and Vedavathi were a happy and content couple living in their small home at Pajaka, near Udupi, or Shivalli as it was then known. Their kuladevata was anantasana who was worshipped in the ancient temple located in the middle of the Shivalli town. Sri Bhatta was a well known scholar in that region and used to engage in teaching and also pravachana of various scriptures.

On one occasion, when the annual festival of Anantasana was underway, a man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and created a huge commotion in front of the temple. He climbed the dhwajasthambha and announced to all present over there that a great personality would be born very soon and he would provide sadgati to all sajjanas. The people assembled there were overjoyed at this prediction.

Meanwhile the penance like worship of Anantasana that the Madhyageha couple were performing had lasted 12 years. They had accumulated enough punya to obtain a (second) child now. Soon, Vedavathi conceived and in due course, a handsome boy was born to them. mukhyaprana had taken avatara as their child. The couple, who were like rishi kashyapa and aditi, were immensely happy at the birth of their son who was looking resplendent just like vamana.

Sri Madhwacharya’s home at Pajaka

Infant protects the family

In a few days, all the necessary jata-karma-sanskaras were performed for the young child.

The child was named “vasudeva”.

Soon, in order to perform the nishkramana sanskara, the family left for Shivalli from their village Pajaka. After placing the child at the feet of Anantasana and participating in all the temple ceremonies that day, the family headed back towards their home in the evening.

Just as darkness set in, they entered a forest which had to be crossed in order to reach Pajaka. Close to midnight, one of the family members was seized by a bhuta. He started shivering like a man possessed and was also bleeding in the mouth. The Bhattas became very concerned about the safety of their relative, and even more so worried about their toddler son.

However, the bhuta began to speak through the man it possessed.

“You have all entered my territory at midnight, which is the time allocated to us. If not for this child, who is a lokeshwara, I would have killed all of you”.

The entire family was stunned realising that the kid they wanted to protect was actually the one who was protecting them!

Vayu displays his capacity

Once, when Vasudeva was just a few months old, his mother had to go out for some work and she left the infant with his elder sister. Even though the child was well fed, it started crying incessantly. The young girl, in charge of taking care, tried everything to pacify him but to no avail. Finally when she placed a big bowl of boiled horse gram in front of him, he calmed down and started putting the dish into his mouth.

Relieved at this, the girl let the bowl remain there. Within a short time, Vasudeva had gobbled up the entire bowl of horse gram, which would have been a heavy dish even for an adult. The girl panicked upon seeing this and reported the matter to her mother. Both of them were scared that the child would suffer severe indigestion and could also lead to other complications.

But even as the hours rolled by, they noticed that the kid did not show even a minor symptom of discomfort. By the next day, they were sure the kid was perfectly normal. Once again, they realized something was very different with their son.

Little did they know Vayu himself had taken birth. Who else can match vrikodara’s apetite!

Deva-vrushabha goes behind vrushabha

Vasudeva had turned a year old recently. One morning, both the parents were busy with household work and did not realise their son was missing. Once they got to know, panic set in and they started searching all over Pajaka for their dear son. After a while, a cowherd who returned from the nearby fields reported seeing a young kid holding the tail of a bullock and playing in the nearby forest.

The news shocked the couple and the relatives who had gathered by then. They continued their frantic search for Vasudeva, but with no success. After a long time, when they had almost given up hope, they saw their bullock returning home after grazing. Little Vasudeva was still holding on to its tail and playfully guiding it.

The elders who had gathered there spoke of how it was the sign of a great scholar. After all, vrushabha meant “dharma” and here was young Vasudeva steering the vrushabha. They knew a dharmajna had been born as their child.

Vasudeva repays his father’s debt

Vasudeva had turned about 3 or 4 years old. One day, a rich lender came to their house seeking to meet Madhyageha Bhatta. When he realized that his loan would not be repayed even that day, he sat down there in protest and rudely remarked to Madhyageha Bhatta that he should not eat food till the loan was repaid.

When it was time for lunch, the young Vasudeva approached his father and started pestering him to join him for lunch. The sobbing father told him that he would not be able to eat till the money lender’s loan was repaid. He asked Vasudeva to go ahead and have his food.

Young Vasudeva immediately proceeded towards the nearby tamarind tree that belonged to their family. He plucked a few tamarind pods and extracted the seeds from them. Handing over the seeds to the money lender he said “Please consider this as the money which my father has to repay”

This gesture of the three year old Vasudeva greatly moved the lender and he left the place, carefully preserving the seeds.

Tamarind tree at Pajaka

(Many years later, when Madhyageha Bhatta went to the lender to repay the loan, he refused to take it saying “Your son has already repaid my loan”.

Even today the tree from which Sri Madhwacharya plucked those pods exists in Pajaka. Devotees carry back seeds from that tree and place it in their deva-gruha. It is considered as auspicious and wealth-giving)

ekapATi Vasudeva

On a suitable muhurtha, Madhyageha Bhatta performed the aksharabhyasa ceremony of the young Vasudeva. It was performed near the tulasi brundavana in their house.

(The tulasi brundavana exists even today. It is a practice amongst madhwas to perform their child’s aksharabhyasa at this very place)

After the ceremonies, the eager father started teaching the divine letters to his son. Within a few minutes the young child asked “O father! why do you repeat the aksharas? I already know them”

The father was awestruck. He realised his son was a prodigy. He was something special. Little did he know his son was the Jagadguru of this Universe.

Madhyageha Bhatta prayed to Anantasana to keep his son free from any drushtidOsha which may occur when other people realise what an extraordinary genius he was.

Place where Aksharabhyasa of Sri Madhwacharya was performed

The first pravachana by bhavi-brahma

Once, when Vasudeva had not yet turned five, he and his parents visited a village called Neyampalli. There, a famous pandita known as a Shiva Puranika was giving a pravachana about a purana. After listening to the sermon for a while, the kid interrupted the scholar and said

“O Puranika! What you are saying is not in accordance with the understanding of elders”

Many in the audience were stunned by this statement. At the same time, they acknowledged the fact that the kid was right and felt ashamed that they had kept quiet so far. Out of curiosity, they asked the kid to explain the right meaning, which Vasudeva did so immediately. The entire audience was left amazed.

On their way back, Vasudeva asked his father if he was right or Shiva Puranika. Being a great puranika himself, Madhyageha Bhatta said “There was nothing wrong in what you said, or did, son!”

Son teaches his father

Madhyageha Bhatta was well known in the region for being a great teacher. Once he was conducting a class in his house. Numerous students had gathered, along with their parents and other folk. Madhyageha Bhatta was explaining a sanskrit shloka in which the names of numerous trees were mentioned.

As the teacher finished explanation of the shloka and was about to move on to the next one, the five-year old Vasudeva interrupted him and asked

“You explained the names of all trees. Why did you leave out the name of likucha?”

Madhyageha Bhatta was left ashamed. He had purposely avoided that name because he did not know the translation for the word. Now his own son had caught him. The people around got extremely curious and asked the kid if he knew the meaning. Little Vasudeva replied “likucha is nothing but hebbalasu”.

Upanayana and gurukula vasa

When Vasudeva completed five years, his father performed the Upanayana sanksara. Realising that his son was a born genius, he decided that Vasudeva deserved a better Guru. He left him at the gurukula of Sri Totantillaya, a famous pandita in that region.

Vasudeva began studying under his new Guru. Noticing that the kid was always engaged in playing and rarely sat down for studies, Totantillaya scolded Vasudeva once. The child replied “I already know the subjects. Hence I don’t need to revise them”. Furious at this response, the teacher sought to punish him and asked him to repeat the contents of what would actually be taught in the subsequent year.

Young Vasudeva, without hestitation, started recitation of the Vedas which left Totantillaya and others completely amazed.

A few months down the line, during a class on aitareya upanishad, the kid Vasudeva ended up giving a sermon on the same to his own Guru. Totantillaya humbly received the entire instruction and considered it as his dakshina.

The shishya had become a guru for his own teacher!

Vasudeva decides to accept Sanyasa

The young Vasudeva decided the time had come for him to begin the process of accepting Sanyasa. He had to fulfill the purpose of his avatara for which paramatma had commanded him.

He left his home and reached Shivalli. He approached Sri Achyutapreksha, a great sanyasi from the bhagavata sampradaya and asked him to initiate him into sanyasa. Sri Achyutapreksha asked the child to stay there for a while. Meanwhile the news of their son desiring sanyasa reached the ears of the Madhyageha couple. They rushed to the abode of Sri Achyutapreksha and tried to convince their son.

Seeing that the kid was not relenting, the couple got desperate. They folded their hands and did a pradakshina of their son and prostrated before him — requesting him not to give up samsara.

Vasudeva replied — “O what a divine message! Elders can bow to youngsters only if they are a sanyasi. By doing so, you have revealed that paramatma has already given me permission through you”

The couple did not give up on their son. They followed Sri Achyutapreksha and their son where ever they went. On another day, Madhyageha Bhatta got into an argument again with his son and threatened to become a sanyasi himself if the son went ahead with his decision.

Vasudeva immediately tore his uttareya, made a koupeena out of it and wore the same. He said

“Here you go. I accept your challenge. Now you too can become a sanyasi”

The parents realized that they cannot force their son into submission. They turned to pleading with him once again. Vasudeva comforted them and said

“The only qualification for becoming a sanyasi is true vairagya. Whenever a person gets true vairagya, that is the appropriate time to accept ashrama. However, in order to comfort you, I shall accept the same only after you get a second son to take care of you”

Madhyageha agreed to this but placed a second condition. “You must personally convince your mother and get her permission” — he said.

Sri Purnaprajna — Sri Anandatirtha — Sri Madhwacharya

Very soon, Vedavathi conceived and in nine months a boy was born to the couple. Within a few days, Vasudeva approached his mother and requested permission. Seeing his mother still hesitate, he said

“O mother! If you desire to see me around, grant me permission. Else I shall be compelled to leave this region and never be seen again”

Vedavathi relented and granted her son permission.

Young Vasudeva approached Sri Achyutapreksha and declared his readiness for sanyasa. The senior yati’s joy knew no bounds. He had, after all, found a worthy successor.

An auspicious muhurtha was chosen and Vasudeva was initiated into Sanyasa.

Sri Purnaprajna was born.

Soon, the yati Sri Purnaprajna was also made head of the sampradaya which Sri Achyutapreksha headed. At the time of coronation as head of the peetha, he was given the name of Sri Anandatirtha.

Subsequently, Sri Anandatirtha took on the additional pen-name of “Madhwa” which was a vedic word for mukhyaprana.

Sri Madhwacharya had arrived.

Sri Madhwacharya’s statue at Pajaka

brahmaantaa guravaH sAkShAt iShTaM daivaM shriyaH patiH |
AchAryAH shrImadAchAryAH santu me janma janmani ||

sri krishnarpanamastu

References:

Sumadhwavijaya by Sri Narayana Panditacharya

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