Śrī Madhvācārya (Pūrṇaprajña Tīrtha or Ānanda Tīrtha)

An artistic depiction of Madhvacharya
Born 1238 CE
Pājaka, Uḍupi, India
Birth name Vāsudeva
Guru Bhagavān Śrī Veda Vyāsa, Acyuta Prajña(Acyuta Prekṣa)
Philosophy Tattvavāda
Part of a series on

Madhvacharya · Vadiraja · Raghavendra Swami · Padmanabha Tirtha · Jayatirtha · Vyasatirtha · Sripadaraya


Sarvamula Granthas · Sumadhvavijaya · Rukminishavijaya

Pejavara · Puttige · Palimaru · Adamaru · Sodhe · Kaniyooru · Shirur · Krishnapur

Other holy places
Mantralaya · Pajaka Kshetra · Udupi · Tirupati

Purandaradasa · Kanakadasa · Vijayadasa · Gopaladasa · Jagannatha Vittala

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Madhvācārya (Tulu: ಶ್ರೀ ಮಧ್ವಾಚಾರ್ಯರು Sanskrit: मद्वाचार्य) (1238–1317) was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda "Philosophy of Reality", popularly known as the Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedānta philosophies. Madhvācārya was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in many ways, going against standard conventions and norms. According to tradition, Madhvācārya is believed to be the third incarnation of Vāyu (Mukhyaprāṇa), after Hanumān and Bhīma.[1]


Birth and childhood

Madhvācārya (or Madhva) was born on the auspicious day of Vijaya-daśami (Dussehra) in 1238 CE (AD) at Pājaka, a tiny hamlet near Uḍupi. Nārāyaṇa Paṇḍitācārya who later wrote Madhvācārya's biography has recorded Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa (Naduilaya in Tulu) as name of the father and Vedavati as Madhvācārya's mother. They named him Vāsudeva at birth. Later he became famous by the names Pūrṇa-prajña, Ānanda-tīrtha and Madhvācārya.

Before the birth of Madhva, when his parents had gone for a purchase in the market, a beggar climbed a dhvaja stambha (flag-post in front of a temple) and announced: "Bhagavān (Lord) Vāyu deva is going to take birth for the revival of Vedic dharma in Pājaka kṣetra to a couple." The prediction made by the beggar was discussed by the parents of Madhva till they reached home.

Even as a child, Vāsudeva exhibited precocious talent for grasping all things spiritual. As an incarnation of Mukhyaprana this was not new for him. He was drawn to the path of renunciation and even as a young boy of eleven years, he chose initiation into the monastic order from Acyuta-Prajña (also called Acyuta Prekṣa), a reputed ascetic of the time, near Uḍupi, in the year Saumya (1249 CE). The preceptor Acyuta Prekṣa gave the boy Vāsudeva the name of Pūrṇaprajña at the time of his initiation into sannyāsa (renounced order).

A little over a month later, little Pūrṇaprajña is said to have defeated a group of expert scholars of Tarka (logic) headed by Vasudeva-paṇḍita. Overjoyed at his precocious talent, Acyuta Prekṣa consecrated him as the head of the empire of Vedānta and conferred upon him the title of Ānanda Tīrtha (saint of immaculate bliss).

Thus Pūrṇa-prajña is Madhva's name given to him at the time of sannyāsa (renunciation). The name conferred on him at the time of consecration as the Master of Vedanta is "Ānanda Tīrtha". Madhva, a name traceable to the Vedas (Balittha sūktam), was the nom-de-plume assumed by the Ācārya to author all his works. Madhvācārya showed that Vedas talk about him as "Madhva" and utilized that name for himself. However, he used Ānanda Tīrtha or Sukha Tīrtha also to author his works. Madhvācārya was the name by which he was to later be revered as the founders of Tattva-vāda or Dvaita-mata.

The country lying to the west of the Western Ghats from beyond Bombay to Cape Comorin comprised the ancient Kingdoms of Konkana, Canara, and Kerala. The Konkana abutted on Maharashtra country,~hose capital was Doulatabad. The language which the Konkan people speak even now is a dialect of Mahratti. Canara consisted of the modern North Canara and South Canara, the former being included in the present Bombay Pre~idency, and the latter in the Presidency of Madras. Kerala was the southernmost strip, including the modern British Malabar and the Native States of Cochin and Travancore. South Canara is the district with which we are most concerned as the native land of Sri Madhva. In this district, the taluq of Udupi is, for the same reason, a holy region for every person professing the Madhva faith. The province of Canara seems to have been under the sway of Vishu Vardhana, the great Vaishnava King who was converted by Sri Ramanuja. It is learnt that this King broke the power of Chalukyan rulers in this part of Southern India. The Bairasu Wodeyars of Mysore held sway in 1250 A D. and flourished 'till 1336 A.D., when their kingdom became merged in the rising Empire of Vijianagar, the State that Mr. Sewell refers to as 'a forgotten Empire' and Mr. Suryanarayana Rao as ' the never-tobe-forgotten Empire' of this peninsula. The Chandragiri river that runs between Bekal and Kasaragod in South Canara, was the southern boundary of the ancient Tuluva Kingdom. It is a magnificent stream in the rainy season. Tradition forbids Nair women of Kasaragod, crossing this river. Eight miles north of Kasaragod is the ancient town of Kumbla, now a Railway Station, situated close to the sea on a peninsula. It was a place of great importance at this time, though it is now much decayed. It was the Head Quarters of a Chieftain whose descendants are now in receipt of a smal1 Government pension under the titular name of 11 Kumbla Rajahs". Udupi and Mangalore were probably under the immediate rule of this Chieftain, Mangalore being only about 22 miles north of Kumbla. At the time of our history, one Jayasimha was the Kumbla Ruler. He came into contact with Sri Madhva in the latter part of the saints life and was evidently a great admirer of the Teacher. Among the communities that played a great part in the history of the times, the Jains seem to have been very prominent. Their Battis, Bettoos, and Stambbas, furnish eloquent testimony to the vast influence they wielded. The Karkal Statue of imposing height and weight, said to be 41 feet high and 50 tons in weight, is a striking item of proof. The Mudbdri temple of I ,coo pillars is a magnificent monument of their architectural skill. The pillar at Hale Angadi towering so feet high is a rem~rkable specimen of the kind, unsurpassed for delicacy of workmanship. Similar statues of colossal height and weight, speak volumes for the dominating influence that this community possessed in Sri Madhva's time and for some centuries later. The Brahmin communities of the West Coast are generally classed as Konkans, Saraswats, and Shivalli sects. The Shivallies are Tulu-speaking Brahmins, and it is with these that we are most concerned, in the present narrative. Shivalli is an alias for Udupi otherwise known as Rajata Peetapuram. These names are derived from the deities of the two ancient temples in this town. The temples of Chandra Mouleeswara and Ananteswara both face the east, one being in front of the other. These were the most prominent features of old Udupi,before Sri Krishna's temple came into existence in Sri Madhva's time. Udupi is a short designation for Chandra Mouleeswara, Udupa being the Sanskrit word for the Moon. In the temple of Ananteswara, the deity is seated on a pedestal of silver. Hence the town is known as Rajata Peetapura. Shivalli is a corrupt form of the Canarese expression Siva Belli, the silver of Siva, in allusion to the silver pedestal aforesaid.

Tour of South India

Still in his teens, Madhvacharya set out on a tour of South India. He visited several places of pilgrimage like Anantaśayana, Kanyākumāri, Rameśvara and Śrīraṅga. Wherever he went, he preached his Tattvavāda or religious truth to the people. He attacked superstitions and declared that they should not be mixed with spirituality. While his Tattva-vāda initiated frenzied discussion among scholars all over India, it also attracted severe criticism and attacks from the orthodoxy. But Madhvacharya remained unperturbed and soon after returning to Uḍupi, he proceeded to write his commentary (Bhāṣya) of the Bhagavad-gītā. The authentic records show that he wrote 37 works on Tattva-vāda and they are collectively called as Sarva-mūla granthas. He established his school of thought by giving concrete proofs using three platforms called pratyakṣa, anumāna and āgama (see, infer and also refer the vedic text).

Visit to Badri

In course of time, the urge to spread his philosophy far and wide took him north. In Badri, he bathed in the holy Gaṅgā and also observed a vow of silence of 48 days. From there, he traveled to Vyāsa-Badri where he met Vyāsa at his hermitage and presented him with his commentary of the Gītā. Veda Vyāsa changed the word that claimed "I have written with all His capacity" to "I have written with little of His capacity".

Upon his return from there, he authored his celebrated commentaries on the Brahma-sūtras. Though he authored several works, he never wrote any work with his own hands. Instead, his disciples transcribed his dictation onto palm leaves. Satya-tīrtha was one of the disciples who served as the scribe for most of his works.

In the meantime, his influence had spread far and wide throughout the country. Scholars all over India paid tribute to his unique analysis and commentaries of the scriptures. The circle of his disciples grew bigger and several got initiated into sannyāsa under him. Acyuta Prekṣa who had until then been skeptical about Ācārya's philosophy soon became a whole hearted adherent of Tattva-vāda.

Installation of Krishna (Kṛṣṇa) and return to Badri

After his return from Badri, Madhvācārya stayed in Uḍupi for some time and wrote his bhāṣyas or authoritative commentaries on all the ten Upaniṣads. He also composed glosses on forty hymns of the Rig Veda and wrote a treaties Bhāgavata-tātparya highlighting the essential teachings of the purāṇas. Apart from these, he authored several topical handbooks and a on devotional song.

It was also during this time that he installed the deity of Kṛṣṇa which he found in the western ocean near the Uḍupi sea-coast. After sometime, after appointing some disciples to take care of worshiping the deity of Kṛṣṇa that he had installed, he undertook his second tour to Badri.

On the way, he had to cross the River Gaṅgā. The other bank was then under the rule of a Muslim king. Unmindful of the threats of the Muslim soldiers against crossing the river, the Ācārya boldly crossed the river and reached the other bank. He was taken before the Muslim ruler who was taken aback at the boldness of the ascetic. The Ācārya said: 'I worship that Father who illumines the entire universe; and so do you. Why should I fear then either your soldiers or you?'.

Hearing such words, the Muslim king was greatly impressed. He was filled with reverence for this unique monk. He made offers of several gifts and riches which Madhvacharya politely declined and continued on his way to Badri. Once there, he met with Vyāsa and Nārāyaṇa yet again. On his way back to Uḍupi, he visited Kāshi where he defeated an elderly Advaita ascetic, Amarendra Purī in a philosophical debate.

Then came Kurukṣetra where a strange episode is said to have occurred. The Ācārya got a mound there excavated and demonstrated to his disciples the buried mace of (the epic hero) Bhīma therein; and once again had it buried under the ground. Later on he visited Goa on the way back to Uḍupi. Here he is said to have enthralled audiences with his music. His musical expertise is attested by contemporaneous writers.

Last days

After returning home from his second tour, the Acharya took to initiating social reforms in and around Udupi. A section of orthodoxy however, was still active and opposed to his views. Pundarika-Puri, an advaita ascetic was also humbled by the Acharya in a debate. It was around this time that Padmatirtha, a monk jealous of Madhvacharya's erudition and popularity, arranged to have his works stolen from the custody of Pejattaya Shankara Pandita in Kasaragod. Madhvacharya now traveled to Kasargod and defeated Padma-tirtha in a philosophical debate. The essence of this debate was reduced to writing by his disciples and published as the Vada or Tattvoddyota. The stolen works were eventually returned to Madhvacharya in a felicitation ceremony arranged by Jayasimha of Kumbla, the king of southern Tulu Nadu

The acharya also had an intense debate for about 15 days with Pejattaya Trivikrama Panditacharya, the royal preceptor of the time, and emerged victorious. Trivikrama Panditacharya eventually became a disciple[2] himself and went on to write a commentary called Tattva-dipika on the Acharya's Brahma-sutra-bhashya and thus paid his tribute to the guru.

The Acharya too was equally fond of Trivikrama pandita. In deference to the request of the devoted pupil, he wrote an extensive commentary in verse, viz, Anu-vyakhyana on the Brahma-sutras. The Acharya was dictating this work-to four disciples simultaneously, on each of the four chapters, without any break. At the same time, the composition of the work Nyayavivarana was also completed.

Nearing his seventies now, Madhvacharya initiated his brother into the monastic order. He was to be known as Sri Vishnutirtha,[3] the first pontiff of the present day Sodhe Matha and Subramanya Matha. About the same time, Sobhana-bhatta received initiation into sanyasa from the Acharya. He later came to be known as Padmanabha Tirtha.[4]

Both before and after the initiation of these two, several disciples form various regions of the country got their initiation into sanyasa from the Acharya. Among them, the names of eight disciples who chose to stay on in Udupi as pontiffs of different mathas are as under, in the order of their initiation":

1. Hrisikesa-tirtha (Palimaru matha) 2. Narasimha-tirtha (Adamaru-matha) 3. Janardana-tirtha (Krsnapura-matha) 4. Upendra-tirtha (Puttige-matha) 5. Vamana-tirtha (Sirur-matha) 6. Vishnu-tirtha (Sode-matha) 7. Srirama-tirtha (Kaniyuru-matha) 8. Adhoksaja-tirtha (Pejavara-matha)

The other two celebrated sanyasin-disciples of the Acharya are - 9. Padmanabha-tirtha 10. Narahari-tirtha

When Padmanabha-tirtha was initiated into sanyasa is not definitely known. There were several who had got initiation before him. It appears that he should have been initiated into the order some time between the dates when these eight pontiffs were initiated into the order.

After initiating several into the monastic order and installing pontiffs to the various mathas, he toured all over the district and engaged himself in educating the general public. He also composed the literary work "Krsnamrtamaharnava". His discourse to Brahmins at Ujire, where he delved upon the spiritual aspect of ritualism came to be published under the title of Khandartha-nimaya (Karmanimaya). Next he visited Panchalingesvara temple at Paranti, which he found in a dilapidated condition, without any worship or festivity. He made arrangements for the resumption of proper worship there according to the rituals prescribed by the ancient scriptures (agamas).

In the 79th year of his life, he decided to take leave of his disciples and proceeded to assign to them the responsibility of carrying on the tradition of his Tattvavada. Having done that, on the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Magha in the Kali year 4418(1317 CE), he betook himself to Badri, all alone. The day on which he thus proceeded to Badri is celebrated as Madhvanavami to this day.


The disciples of the Acharya, both pontifical and lay, continued his tradition with devout zeal. Hundreds of dialectical treatises came to be written. Among the writers belonging to this school we may roughly classify some outstanding ones in the following chronological order: Vishnu Tirtha, Padmanabha-tirtha, Narahari-tirtha, Trivikrama-panditacharya, Narayana Panditacharya, Vamana-Panditacharya, (Traivikramaryadasa), Jayatirtha (Tikacharya), Vijayadhvaja-tirtha, Visnudasacharya, Vyasatirtha, Vadiraja, Vijayindra-tirtha, Raghavendra Swami, Yadupati-acharya, etc.

His philosophy Tattva-vada also eventually inspired the Haridasa cult who heralded the Bhakti movement for centuries to come. Seminal contributions were also made by the Haridasas in fields of music and literature. Narahari Tirtha, one of the direct disciples is also responsible for the resurgence of Yakshagana[5] and other forms such as Kuchipudi. Raghavendra Swami of Mantralaya was a saint in this tradition who lived in the 16th CE and is revered and worshiped to this day. Several Dvaita mathas and Raghavendra mathas in particular, continue to be established all over India and also in some places in US, UK and other countries.[6] All these Madhva mathas continue to further the propagation of Vedic studies and are also involved in social and charitable activities.

Madhva, commenting on the Vedānta-sūtra (2.1.6), quotes the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa as follows: [7] "The Ṛg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda, Atharva Veda, Mahābhārata [which includes the Bhagavad-gītā], Pañcarātra, and the original Rāmāyaṇa are all considered Vedic literature.... The Vaiṣṇava supplements, the Purāṇas, are also Vedic literature." We may also include corollary literatures like the Saṁhitās, as well as the commentaries of the great teachers who have guided the course of Vedic thought for centuries.[8]

Religious establishments

The main icon (vigraha) in Udupi of Lord Krishna was established by Madhvacharya. The 8 monasteries (ashta mathas) of Udupi have been following his philosophy since then. The Eight monasteries (Ashta Mathas) are Krishnapura, Pejavara, Puttige, Sodhe (Sondhe), Kaniyooru, Adamaru, Shirur and Palimaru. He submitted some vigrahas to those mathas. They are as follows:

1.)Palimaru matha -Sri Rama

2.)Adamaru matha -Sri Krishna

3.)Krishnapura matha -Sri Krishna

4.)Puttige matha -Sri Vitthala

5.)Shirur matha -Sri Vitthala

6.)Sodhe matha -Sri Varaha

7.)Kaniyooru matha -Sri Narasimha

8.)Pejavara matha -Sri Vitthala


Madhvacharya declared, in his work "Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya:" that he was the one who took the avatars of Hanuman and Bhima. Significantly, the only other person who openly makes such a declaration about his original form is Sri Krishna, (in bhagavad-gita).

Works of Madhvacharya

The Works of Madhvacharya are many in number and include commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita and the Brahma Sutras. Sri Madhvacharya also composed many works on the philosophy of Tattvavada.

See also


  1. ^ PadmanabhAchAr, C.M.. "The Life and Teachings of Sri Madhvacharya". Retrieved 07/28/2011. 
  2. ^ Mukhya Prana.
  3. ^ Subramanya Kshetra.
  4. ^ Padmanabha Tirtha.
  5. ^ Yakshagana.
  6. ^ Raghavendra Mathas around the world.
  7. ^ ṛg-yajuḥ-sāmārtharvāś ca bhārataṁ pañcarātrakam mūla-rāmāyaṇaṁ caiva veda ity eva śabditaḥ purāṇāni ca yānīha vaiṣṇavāni vido viduḥ
  8. ^ Goswami, S.D. (1976). Readings in Vedic Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself. S.l.: Assoc Publishing Group. pp. 240 pages. ISBN 0912776889 

Other sources

  • Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
  • Acharya Madhva baduku bareha ( Kannada ) by Bannanje Govindacharya.

External links

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