Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Founder Of Vijayanagar

Now that the Hampi [ also Called Vijayanagara ] Utsav is very much in the news on account of the grand celebrations recently held in

Hampi, it may be appropriate to turn the pages of Indian History and study the life of the founder of the Vijayanagara Empire,

Swami Vidyaranya.

Best Wishes

B.M.N.Murthy, 6th Nov 2008

The history of medieval India has traditionally been called the Muslim Period in all Indian History textbooks. Not only did this period see the steady growth of Muslim kings and chieftains, but it also saw the spread of Islam among masses and the flowering of Islamic art, architecture, literature, culture etc. A notable exception to this trend was the establishment of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara in South India and one name that is inextricably linked with its foundation is that of Madhavacharya who became famous as Vidyaranya. Vidyaranya was a true Rajarshi who combined the qualities of both a Raja [king] and those of a Rishi [saint]. He could be called a Raja since he was a far-sighted statesman and was the bulwark of the Vijayanagara Empire in its early days of its establishment; he could be called a Rishi since he gave up mundane life in later days, took up Sanyasa and became a pontiff of the Sri Shankara Math, Sringeri.

Historians recognize Vidyaranya more as the founder of Vijayanagara, the City of Victory. In his time practically the entire country north of the Tungabhadra river and large territories of the south of the river had passed under Muslim rule. The Muslim armies had been razing down the Hindu temples and sacred shrines and Vidyaranya was anxious to stave off further penetration of the Muslims. It is with this objective that he founded the Vijayanagara Empire. It was while Vidyaranya was doing Tapas at the Matanga Hill that the two warrior brothers, Harihara and Bukka [more popular as Hakka and Bukka], sons of Sangama, approached him seeking his blessings and guidance, having been so directed by a dream.

Earlier, these two brothers were in the service of the Kakatiya King Prataparudra of Warangal. When the forces of Mohamed Bin Tughlak defeated the Kakatiya king in 1333A.D. the two brothers were taken as captives to Delhi as prisoners of war. It is believed that the brothers were forced to embrace Islam under compulsion. The Delhi ruler, recognizing their courage and valour, sent them back to the South as the head of an army to contain the rebellion brewing in the Deccan. Seizing this opportunity, the two brothers asserted their independence and with the guidance and blessings of Vidyaranya established their own independent kingdom with its capital named Vidyanagara, as a mark of respect and gratitude to sage Vidyaranya whom they regarded as their Guru, God and Savior. This city subsequently became popular as ‘Vijayanagara’ or ‘The City of Victory’. The city was planned in the form of a mystical diagram, The Sri Chakra, in accordance with the directions of sage Vidyaranya. The Virupaksha temple was kept in the middle of the city with nine gates all around the city.

One student of Vedanta by name Bharathikrishna Tirtha and Vidyaranya were both students of the 10th Pontiff of Sringeri Math, H.H.Sri Vidyashankara Tirtha. When the Pontiff attained Samadhi, Bharathikrishana Tirtha succeeded him to the Sringeri Math as the 11th Pontiff, as Vidyaranya was not interested in the same, even though he had been initiated into Sanyasa as early as 1331 A.D. However, when Bharathitirtha also left his mortal coil in
1380 A.D, the mantle of responsibility of heading the Sringeri Math fell on Vidyaranya who adorned the Pontifical throne of Sringeri for a period of six years from 1380 to 1386 A.D. as the 12th Pontiff.

Vidyaranya’s devotion and dedication to his Guru was unsurpassed. On the mortal remains of his Guru Vidyashankar, he built a beautiful temple, the Vidyashankar Temple, in Dravidian and Hoysala styles of Architecture on the banks of the Tunga River .The beauty of the temple is that not even an ounce of lime has been used as a cementing material in the construction o the temple. Another remarkable feature is that the huge Assembly Hall contains 12 pillars named after the houses of the zodiac. The sun in the morning strikes for the duration of each month that particular pillar which is named after the corresponding house of the zodiac. This has been an engineering marvel and appears to have no parallel in the world. During his period, Vidyaranya ordered that the seals of documents should bear the insignia of his Guru’s name. Thus, even today the Sringeri Acharya’s seal has the legend of Sri Vidyashankar.

Vidyaranya was a versatile scholar and has written treatises on many branches of learning as Advaita Vedanta, Poorvamimamsa, Mantashastra, Astronomy, and Music. After Acharya Shankara, Vidyaranya has been ranked as the most illustrious preceptors of Advaita. Some of his well-known works are Panchadashi, Jeevanmukthi Viveka, and Shankara Digvijaya.
For the last several years of his long life of 90 years, Vidyaranya himself presided as the Acharya at Sringeri Math. In guiding the course of the Vijayanagara Empire as the minister to the first two kings, in setting the trend for the Dharma of the people as Raja Kula Guru and in leaving an indelible impression on the Indian philosophical tradition with his erudite writings, Vidyaranya had accomplished more than what any one could hope to achieve in one’s life. His fame stands as second only to that of the great Acharya Shankara


HAMPI UTSAV---Vidyaranya Swami and Vijayanagara Empire
Created: Thursday, November 6, 2008 3:12 AM


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