Acharyas who adorned the Peetham between 1380 and 1560
After the great seer, Sri Vidyaranya, a period of approximately two centuries was marked by the reign of eight Acharyas, who ascended the Throne of Transcendental Wisdom, through whose benign blessings and guidance the Vijayanagara empire flourished for nearly a quarter millenia. Characterised by the close connection of the monarchy of Vijayanagara Empire, the math saw expansion in many areas, through the various grants in the form of land, gold and other kind from various Monarchs and Kings.
Unlike the period of Sri Vidyaranya, not much historical information is available today regarding these great Acharyas who graced the throne. Whatever reliable source is available has been carefully analysed and a short history of the Math and its Preceptors in this timeframe has thus been presented.
Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati I (1386 – 1389)
संश्रये सततं भूत्यै चन्द्रशेखरचन्द्रिकाम् ॥
Led astray and caught in the forest fire of ignorance, I suffered dismal wounds; The moon that soothed me with divine rays, I hail that great Chandrasekhara!
When Sri Vidyaranya was far advanced in age, he nominated Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati I as his successor. Some time after the nomination, with the permission of his Guru, the disciple went on a pilgrimage to several sacred places. In the meantime, King Harihara of Vijayanagar visited Sringeri and pressingly invited Sri Vidyaranya to his capital. As the Mutt required constant attention, the Acharya entrusted the management to a later disciple, Sri Nrisimha Bharati and then left for Vijayanagar. He stayed there for sometime as the honoured guest of the king, and passed away at a ripe old age.
Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati heard of Sri Vidyaranya’s videha mukti, and hastened to Vijayanagar. The king took him to Sringeri and had him installed on the seat. Sri Nrisimha Bharati, who was temporarily in charge of the Mutt with the permission of his senior, went to live at a village called Haladi. He consecrated a Sri Chakra there and spent his time in worshipping the Divine Mother and did tapasya. When in course of time Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati passed away, Sri Nrisimha Bharati was called from Haladi and installed as the next Acharya.
The Acharya received Harihara II at Sringeri where the emperor erected a temple in memory of Sri Vidyaranya and founded the agrahara of Vidyaranyapura, which is the home of many Sringeri priests even today.
Sri Nrisimha Bharati I (1389 – 1408)
अविद्याख्यद्विपद्वैधीभावे दक्षं समाश्रये ।
नृसिंहभारतीशाख्यहरिं श्रुतिगुहाश्रयम् ॥
He has the lion-like strength and great courage to tackle the wild tusker of ignorance; He sheds light on the secrets of the Veda, I adore the sage Nrisimha Bharati!
Sri Nrisimha Bharati had, in addition to his own intrinsic merit, the advantage of having acted as the deputy of Sri Vidyaranya. He so impressed all by his spiritual greatness and universal love that he came to be looked upon as an incarnation of God Nrisimha himself in a benign form.
King Harihara of Vijayanagar felt that the Acharya would be a great spiritual bulwark to his kingdom and invited him to the capital and arranged for his stay there for sometime. During that period, the Acharya not only initiated the king into appropriate mantras, but also gave him valuable guidance in political affairs and inspired him to carry out many works beneficial to the subjects.
After the Acharya returned to Sringeri following a second visit to Vijayanagar, Harihara founded a town in an attractive place at the junction of two rivers in the Tulu region and arranged a Dharmashala for the stay of a large number of sanyasins and other disciples. He also endowed extensive lands. Subsequently, when the Acharya visited the town, which had been named Nrisimhapura, he had a temple built for God Nrisimha and after its consecration, returned to Sringeri.
The Acharya gave spiritual initiation to Devaraya I, who ruled Vijayanagar after Virupaksha, the son of Harihara II. He stayed in Sringeri till 1406 and then at the request of Devaraya went to Hampi where he attained Siddhi. A shrine was erected over his Samadhi and a Linga installed.
Sri Puroshottama Bharati I (1408 – 1448)
पुरुषोत्तमतां यान्ति यमाश्रित्य जनाः श्रये ।
क्षराक्षरमतीतं तं पुरुषोत्तमयोगिनम् ॥
They who sought His feet rose to glory, He is the fleeting world and the ever-lasting soul; Beyond them both, He indeed is the transcendent, Homage to the great Yogi, Purushottama!
Sri Puroshottama Bharati blessed the emperor Devaraya and his feudatories and went to Sringeri to take over the management of the Mutt. In 1446 the Acharya received a grant of the village of Harihalli by Mangarasa, a governor under the viceroy of Tulu and Konkan provinces.
Devaraya granted (1432) a village to Puroshottama Aranya, a disciple of the Acharya.
Sri Shankarananda Bharati (1448 – 1455)
किंकरीकृतभूपालं पङ्केरुहसमाननम् ।
तं कारुण्यपयोराशिं शंकराख्यं गुरुं श्रये ॥
Kings of earth are His humble servants, His smiling face is like the lotus flower, His heart is an ocean of compassion, I take refuge in the divine Master, Shankara (Bharati)!
After his accession to the Peetham, Sri Shankarananda Bharati visited Vijayanagar, invited by Mallikarjuna and prince Bukka Raya when the emperor gave him lands of the revenue value of one thousand six hundred and ninety seven ‘gadayanas’, and Bhanappa, presumably governor of the Barakur, the village of Kanguvalli in his province.
A label bearing the Acharya’s name on a pillar of the sandhyamandapa of the Sringanatheshwara temple in Kanikatte (Arisikere taluk) is shown as a place to which Sri Shankarananda Bharati often resorted for meditation.
Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati II (1455 – 1464)
इन्द्रियैर्दुर्जयं नौमि चन्द्रशेखरभारतीम् ॥
Like silver moonlight shines His sacred ash, Great poets sing His spotless fame! He who has conquered the senses, Salutations to Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati!
After the videha mukti of Sri Shankarananda Bharati, the Peetham was adorned by Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati II who had taken Sanyasa in 1449.
Sri Nrisimha Bharati II (1464 – 1479)
प्रसिद्धविद्यानिलयं लसमानगुणोत्कटम् ।
बिसजाक्षार्चकं भक्त्या नृसिंहं तीर्थमाश्रये ॥
He is the famous seat of Knowledge, Supreme Master full of sacred virtues, The ardent devotee of Sri Krishna; I pay homage to Nrisimha Tirtha!
Sri Shankarananda Bharati’s successor was Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati II, who was succeeded by Sri Nrisimha Bharati II. A record from Pampapura (Yadatore) relates to a grant by the residents of the village Hiriyur to Chikka Dikshita, a disciple of Sri Nrisimha Bharati II, to conduct Annadana on the banks of the Cauvery in the name of the Acharya.
Sri Purushottama Bharati II (1479 – 1517)
पुरुषार्थप्रदं नौमि पुरुषोत्तमयोगिनम् ॥
Indra followed by all celestials adore this sage of all manly virtues, He fulfils the four ideals of life; I hail the yogi Purushottama!
During the pontificate of Sri Purushottama Bharati II Vijayanagar witnessed two usurpations, by Saluva Nrisimha in 1486 and by Narasa Nayaka of the Tulu dynasty in 1491. Before his hazardous expedition (1515 – 1516) against Vira Rudra Gajapati of Kalinga, the Vijayanagar emperor Krishnadeva Raya sought the blessings of Sri Purushottama Bharati. The Guru conveyed his blessings through one of his disciples, Vidyaranya. The emperor granted to the Sringeri Mutt a village called Huyyaru in Barakur rajya and the attached hamlets, and also ordered the immediate restoration to Sringeri of Gavaturu, Gajanuru, Mandali, Harakera, Shimoga and Sollebyle, formerly enjoyed by the Mutt but had later gone out of its hands. The object of the grant was stated “to secure to the king a three-fold benefit, the destruction of his foes, unswerving attachment of his supporters and allies, and extension of his own life, health and prosperity.” The emperor prayed for the Guru’s blessings to secure him victory in his campaigns. The Acharya’s blessings had a marvellous effect; Krishnadeva Raya conquered Kalinga, recaptured Raichur and routed the forces of the Bijapur, Ahmednagar and Golkonda. During his sojourn in Hampi, Vidyaranya organised the Mutt there. The emperor issued orders to village heads to obey the Sringeri Gurus as their masters.
Sri Ramachandra Bharati (1517 – 1560)
सोमोपमाननं श्रीमद्रामचन्द्रगुरुं भजे ॥
The lion that kills the elephant of lust, The holy shrine of pleasing qualities, His smiling face is bright like the full moon; Hail holy master Srimad Ramananda!
In 1545 Honnappa Nayaka, a representative of the emperor Sadasiva Raya of Vijayanagara, granted to the Mutt, Bastihalli in Aragarajya.
During his visit to Karkala, the Acharya responded to the invitation of the local Jains and visited their temple, where to the astonishment of the assembled worshippers, the idol appeared as Anantha Padmanabha.
The Kudali Mutt was founded by Nrisimha Bharati, a disciple of the Sringeri Guru.