Sri Vruddha Nrisimha Bharati
Sri Nrisimha Bharati VIII
प्रह्लादवरदो देवो यो नृसिंहः परो हरिः ।
नृसिंहोपासकं नित्यं तं नृसिंहगुरुं भजे ॥
He is Hari who protected Prahlada The lion that quells the foes of faith and truth The worshipper of the Supreme Lord Nrisimha I offer my salutations to Sri Nrisimha Bharati!
Sri Nrisimha Bharati was born in 1798. Even as a boy, he had walked all the way to Kasi to learn the Sastras from learned Pandits. After assuming the headship of the Peetham, the Acharya strenuously applied himself to securing high proficiency in several branches of learning, besides mastering the details of the administration of the Mutt. He conquered hunger and sleep. When he was hardly fifty years of age, he gave up normal food and subsisted on a handful of boiled pagal (Momordica charantia). He spent practically the whole day in meditation and Puja. While he was in Bangalore in 1858, Commissioner Bowring, who had heard of the austere and godly life of Acharya, wished to see for himself the truth of the reports, and one day at one A.M he went incognito to the Acharya’s camp and slightly drew aside the curtain in front of the Puja hall. Oblivious at what was happening around and with his head bent down, the Acharya was offering flowers to Chandramoulishwara. The Commissioner contemplated on the spectacle with reverence and wonder. His letters to the Acharya are eloquent expressions of his esteem.
The Acharya’s will was indomitable and he never swerved from any decision he had taken. Never aggressive, never impatient, he gently set about working till his purpose was accomplished. From constant meditation on God Narasimha, his mind assumed a character of stern sublimity and struck awe and reverence in the minds of those who approached him. His heart was however very tender, and would easily melt at the sight of distress.
In 1838 the Acharya went on a tour to Rameshwaram and halted in the third corridor of the great temple of Ramanatha. Among several wells round the shrine, Koti-tirtha was considered to be the most important. When the Acharya went there for a bath, He instructed His personal attendants to draw the sacred water from the well for His bath, but the staff of the temple objected to it. They maintained that only they had the rights to draw the water from the well and offer it to others. They were very adamant and unyielding. Finding their behaviour disrespectful, and wanting to teach them a lesson, His Holiness went to another well to the south of the inner shrine, known as Sarva-tirtha and concluded his bath with the water from this well. He announced to the people assembled that hence forth it would be enough for pilgrims to conclude their baths with the water of Sarva-tirtha due to which the water of Koti-tirtha was forsaken by pilgrims and it became filthy and insanitary for want of use.
In 1872 in the course of the second tour in the southern districts the Acharya came to Madura. There the erring priests came to him and implored him to forgive them for their insolence. The Acharya being tender at heart again went to Ramesvaram in 1873, caused the Koti-tirtha to be drained and pouring sanctified water into the well from his pitcher declared that the Koti-tirtha had now become purified. The pilgrims could once again have their bath from the water of this well. The Koti-tirtha was restored once again to its lost glory. There are many such instances where the Acharya had gently but firmly corrected the wrong doings being committed at various places and led the devoted on the right path.
Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar III invited the Acharya to Mysore in 1822. The Maharaja issued several orders to exempt the articles brought to the Mutt from taxes and further confirmed the right of the Mutt to property of the disciples who passed away without heirs. When Mysore came under the British Administration, the Acharya went on a long tour of pilgrimage to the north. Collector Alexander Nisbet welcomed Acharya at Dharwar in 1842 and provided him with considerable escort during his pilgrimage to Nasik, Dwaraka, Kurukshetra, Kasi, Badarikasrama, Jagannath, etc. The Acharya’s progress through the North Indian states was marked by demonstrations of respect and devotion. The Gaekwad of Baroda issued an order to help the progress of Acharya’s party. Annual cash contributions and offerings to the Mutt were promised by a number of rulers including Jayaji Rao Sinde of Gwalior (1848 – 1849), Shaji Raja Bhosle of Akalkot, Narasinga Rao Sitole Deshmukh and Raja of Kutch. Meanwhile, the Maharaja of Mysore wrote several letters to the Acharya’s camps in the north requesting his return to Mysore. In 1854, the Acharya paid his second visit to Mysore and initiated the Maharaja into study of Shiva Gita.
The Acharya performed the Chaturmasya of 1855 at Bhavnagar. The subsequent visit to Hyderabad State extended over three years, and was marked by unprecedented manifestations of the Acharya’s high position and spiritual attainments. The first proclamation issued by the Nizam’s prime minister referred to the ‘auspicious tour’ (savari mubarak) “of the most holy personage who could dispense blessings from where he stayed, but in the fullness of his grace had condescended to tour the kingdom of Hyderabad.” The Government of the Nizam issued a series of proclamations containing orders to various officials of the Deccan to aid the entourage of the Acharya and ensure the Acharya’s smooth tour of the State.
When the Acharya returned to Sringeri after his northern tour, he was sixty years old and it occurred to him that he should nominate his successor and give him suitable training. Fixing his mind upon a promising boy, he came to Mysore. The boy, Shivaswami, was under guardianship of his brother Lakshmi Narasimha Sastri, a pandit at the court of Mysore. Young Shivaswami was ordained into Sanyasa Ashrama under the name of Sri Sacchidananda Shiva Abhinava Nrisimha Bharati Swami.
The Jagadguru and his successor-designate then started on another extended tour. Leaving Srirangapatnam, they visited Nanjangud, and Chamarajanagar and then toured the districts of Coimbatore, Salem, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, Thiruvananthapuram, Chingleput, Madras, North Arcot, Cuddapah and Kurnool. During this tour, which lasted twelve years, the Mysore, Madras and Indian Governments had made proper arrangements for the reception of the Acharyas and providing suitable escort. In a memorandum, Commissioner Bowring desired all officers to receive Him with becoming attention. In a letter to the Government of India, the Commissioner observed “The Sringeri Guru is the acknowledged spiritual director not only of the greater proportions of the Hindus of the southern India but also for leading Marathas, such as Holkar and the former Peshwas. It may be said that his influence is far greater than that of any spiritual guide in India, and I presume that it is for this reason that he is regarded with such unlimited respect. The Guru Nrisimha Bharati is a venerable man of 72, who has been a great traveler and has a considerable reputation for learning. He is deservedly respected, being very unassuming in manner and having a well established character for benevolence and wisdom.”
During these twelve years, the Jagadguru had made all arrangements for the suitable training of his successor. He returned to Sringeri in 1877 and entered Mahasamadhi in 1879.