Who is the Udupi Shankaracharya?

Madhvacharya is the Udupi Shankaracharya. His Holiness Shree Shree Madhvacharya had presented his incarnation from Vayu on the Vijayadashami day in 1238 AD, at Pajaka in Udupi district of Karnataka in India as the first son to Smt. Vedavati and Sri Narayana Bhatta. Since the house of Narayana Batta was in the middle of a colony, he was also famous by his house name, in local Tulu dialect, as Naddanthillaya, which makes a sense of owner of the house in the middle of the colony. His holy life was amalgamated with the lotus feet of Maha Vishnu on 1317 CE.

13th century portrait of the pontiff, Shri Madhvacharya
13th century portrait of Shri Madhvacharya

The initial name of Madhvacharya, prior to bestowing him as the Holy Swamiji of Udupi, was generally referred by the assigned name of Purnaprajna being officially granted by his Guru. During the Purvashrama, his name was Vasudeva but later he was delighted as a holy pontiff of Udupi. The disciples of His Holiness assigned him the honorable name of Madhvacharya. Usually, his family followed Vaishnavite theologies and was following practical and social performances of the school of Shankara philosophy.

The common Indian word for the cultural rituals or the lively routine activities is called the Dharmic Achara or simply as Achara. Acharya means a person like a priest who performs and preaches, along with highlighting ancient and ever-lasting theologies or acharas of Sanathana Dharma, the naturally evolved, scientific social customs. 

What was the specialty of Madhvacharya ?

Until Madhvacharya became a pontiff, his previous traditional teachers were following what the great Indian seer Shankaracharya had renovated.  But gradually, Madhvacharya developed many social outlooks of Sanathana Dharma within the lessons of his own experiences. He felt that, in the later periods, debates would become more prominent and hence rituals should be based on scientific proofs and such plain protective approach that was originally faced by Jagadguru Shankaracharya also.

Similar to a military disciplined corporal, he first obeyed the instructions of his Guru with keen interest but after the finishing of his performances, he started questioning his teacher and colleagues on various connected aspects of Acharas. Originally, Shankaracharya had strongly opposed blind believes and taught his own disciples to question any doubtful rituals to get a scientific, reasonable basic reply.

Madhvacharya discovered, due to elapsing of many years after Shankaracharya, the acharas were diluted, in addition to the inclusions of whims and fancies, copied from other religions but he himself rectified them, then and there, and these debates are termed as tatvavada. It had been termed as Dvaitha philosophy later, being his specialty, a new school of thinking of his time.       

His early life and education were under the monitoring of his father and local teacher, known as Achutha Preksha at Pajaka of Udupi District. The present Chandramouleeshvar temple existed even then in his early childhood; and he as Vasudeva was devotedly participating in various activities of this temple, during the festivals. He possessed good health and never visited any doctor in his entire life period. He always consumed vegetarian food only.

Building at Pajaka, the birthplace of Madhvacharya
Pajaka, the birthplace of Madhvacharya

Upanayana was a ritual in his life and it was a changing phase into Sanathana education, then he secretly pleaded with his mother to make him a Sanyasi, which would bar him later to enter into a married life. However, his mother convinced him, assuring permission with a condition that in case he had another younger brother, he may be allowed to accept sanyasa. Then he proceeded to Thanjavur and Kumbhakonam and persuaded higher education, learning all essential branches of Vedas in Sanskrit. 

He initially mastered Advaitha philosophy and started debates with many scholars and found during those arguments, the dualism of God and human life can be easily understood than the principle of his teacher which emphasized the soul of human life and the cosmic energy of God are one and the same. 

अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्त मध्यानि भारत ।
अव्यक्त निधनान्येव तत्र का परिवेदना ॥ 

Meaning: Krishna  addressing Arjuna, as O Bharatha, told him, in the different forms of matters, within soil or earth, in water, air, and fire or in the eternal external horizon, God might be present everywhere but his presence could not be perceived by the ordinary human knowledge. He explained, life is invisible, prior to taking his birth as a living being whereas in between that period of birth and  death, in that living being, it could be clearly sensible, the existence of life within that physical body. Again after the demise also, the status of the life, could not be sensed, so what is the necessity of worrying? 

Kanakadasa was a Kannada poet and a contemporary of Madhvacharya and a sincere devotee of Krishna. He composed many devotional songs on Krishna with an end salutation, addressing Krishna, as Adi Keshava Raya. Then, Madhvacharya made up his mind to see Krishna with his own knowledge and also wished to show Krishna to Kanakadasa as a genuine witness for his vision and as a proof to this undeniable incident. Later Madhvacharya had consecrated an idol of Krishna in Udupi, which can be see even today, being available for Darshan, duly observing the temple rules. All these incidences are weaving various histories and stories.

Madhacharya had made a deep study of Shankara philosophy and started writing the Bhasyas in Sanskrit to Prasthanatraya volumes, in support of his Dvaitha thinking methods. He strongly felt the necessity of vocal or verbal debates with the dignitaries of his contemporaries, in order to preserve the comforts of human life under the Sanathana Dharma.

He discovered the great prowess in the Veda mantras. He experimented and found in the moola -mantras as there are always powers and they not only provide the abilities for self-sustaining to the practices and believers, but also treat at par provide good life to non-followers of the same Veda mantras. In other words, in the society of Sanathana Dharma, for the followers, nothing is compulsory, anybody can become a non-believer of God or an atheist at any time, and any non-follower is free to live as their likings, with absolute freedom of life.

The code of conduct never compels anybody in Sanathana Dharma, one need not even believe on his paternal or family God, and he had written a book on the happiness and grievances of human beings based on his previous actions or works, that book being named as Karmavipaka. Most of the astrologers of India refer the shlokas from Karmavipaka, quoting references from that book, analyzing reasons for the sorrows and the methods of tackling the problematic periods of suffering days, with remedies being result-oriented and reliable, at all times.  

What is the Tirtha Sampradaya in Indian Society?

Udupi Swamijis have a surname called Tirtha at the end of their holy names and it creates a feeling of holiness in the minds of their disciples. It is called an appreciated custom in Dvaitha school of thoughts. 

How Madhvacharya implemented a suitable solution to uplift the declining Sanathana Dharma of this scientific world? 

Madhvacharya had mastered all the Shruthi, Smrithi, Puranas, Upavedas, Vedangas, Darshanas, and travelled throughout the various holy places of India. He felt a declination in the status of Sanathana Dharma by its followers in India. He found out the reasons for the same were discouragement or fear to express the truth in public boldly, and he used to engage in debates using his Tatvavada.

His reasonable thinking struck him with many permanent solutions. For uplifting the declining status of Sanathana Dharma and to ensure happy life to live steadily forward and permanently continue with its existence, also to automatically promote a self-sustaining style of life in this world, he strived with his Yoga Danda. He thought if the eight persons can continue to exist in this world forever, irrespective of the time limitations, it may be better to map the identity of Sanathana Dharma with these eight persons, Chiranjivis, so that the Sanathana Dharma can also exist on this world forever. So he highlighted the seven Chiranjivis’ immortal nature, and then added the eighth one with the special privileges.   

Who are the Seven Chiranjeevis and why the next, eighth one, Markandeya is not in that list?
अश्वत्थामा बलिर्व्यासो हनूमांश्च विभीषणः ।

कृपः परशुरामश्च सप्तैते चिरजीविनः ॥​

सप्तैतान् सम्स्मरेन्नित्यम् मार्काण्डेयमथाष्टमम् ।

जीवेद्वर्शशतम् साग्रमपमृत्युविवर्जितः​​

Meaning: Ashwathama, Bali, Vyasa, Hanuman, Vibhishana, Kripa, and  Parashumara are the seven Chiranjivis , meaning ever-living of this world. One must be memorizing all these seven personalities every day as well as the name of Markandeya as the next eighth one, so one would be blessed with a good life, the living period may be more than hundred years, without meeting misfortunes.

In the later story, the credit goes to Markandeya as told by Narada Rishi. Narada proposed to Mahavishnu to add the name of Markandeya in the list of Chiranjeevis and to provide the special seat in the row of those seven people, in the presence of Markandeya, he being a sincere devotee of God Vishnu also.  But immediately Markandeya objected to that proposal, with the explanations for his objections.

Markandeya wished to remain as a sincere devotee of Vishnu always, and forever, but not to have a seat with Chiranjeevi on a special row lest if granted, it may cause in his mind an undesired ego. So in order to avoid such ego and to exist on this world always with devotion to God with a normal name as Daiva-Bhakta, he is satisfied and condoned politely that proposal. Vishnu excluded his name from the list limiting it to seven Chiranjivis. Markandeya is a sincere devotee of Krishna and regarding the same praising shlokas are available in Srimadbhagavatham. 

These guiding ideas of Vyasa had caused Madhvacharya, to evolve the new ideas, later to establish the eight Mathas mapping the entire eighth having separate seats; His Management was called as Paryaya Peetha system. For the period of two years alternatively, but successively, the Paryaya Swamiji would be worshipping Sri Krishna in Udupi and the same practice is still prevailing, continuing even today. It would be continuing always in this world, as well as, the Sanathana Dharma.  

How Madhvacharya initially occupied the seat of a pontiff?    

Exactly on completion of his education at Thanjavur, Madhvacharya got a call from his native place Udupi, with the happy news that he got a younger brother, and then he had completed 18 years. He had returned home, and got the permission to become a sanyasi. He had been assigned as the chief of Udupi Math, and then he had started the life of sanyasa or a pontiff.

He used to teach young Brahmacharis for his lively hood. He was leading a pious life. He wanted to see God in Krishna. After a few period of worshipping Krishna, the senior Guru blessed Madhvacharya, and disappeared into the feet of Mahavishnu.  Madhvacharya had understood about the seven Chiranjivis, who are ever living in this world, but only invisible from the human sight, as they are always living as angels and agents of God, but appear in the form of seven branches of human principles.

He also perceived the presence of Markandeya worshipping God Krishna as a sincere devotee, near the water tank in Udupi. He understood Sanathana Dharma will be an everlasting item in this world but he felt, it was his responsibility towards that Sanathana Dharma with its ritualistic science that should be properly arranged in Udupi to sustain in the later forthcoming years, or always. 

Shree Madhvacharya had established Krishna temple near the Matha at Udupi and named it as Krishna Matha. The Sanskrit writings say creation completed there and he desired to have more disciples for his Matha for the propagation of Dvaitha Siddhantha. Time and again, Shree Madhvacharya conducted journeys with a decision to establish more Mathas at different places of India. He wished to post his disciples there. During this journey, he got many disciples and posted them at different Mathas.

The different branches of Veda are preserved in different Mathas or places of India, for the future followers of Sanathana dharma in life. Madhvacharya determined and preached for leading a happy and peaceful life, it is possible with Krishna Bhakti. It is a better way of life and preached the Rama Bhakti is also similar in style but it required more kindness of Vishnu within Sanatana Dharma.

Why Madhvacharya rejected the Gifts from Mughal Sultan king?

On one Friday, Madhvacharya was offering water arghya to Suryanarayana after his routine bath on the southern bank of Yamuna. He was alone there. He possessed good physical outlook wearing minimal clothes. Being Friday, the Mughal Sultan king appeared there, for taking a bath and washing clothes, but his servants were following far behind to him. The water was cold but the pontiff was not bothered, and used to standing with his legs dipped inside water.

There was a flat granite stone used for washing clothes but it was immersed fully under the flowing water then. The Mughal Sultan king called his four servants to bring the big granite stone outside the water, for arranging washing on the river bank. Madhvacharya finished his morning prayers and enquired with him as he could be of any help to him since the servants were very far behind of him. The Sultan told him his desire for the granite stone, but it was very heavy and at least four servants could move it.

To the surprise of the Sultan king, Madhvacharya alone lifted the heavy granite stone and placed near the Sultan king, at his hand, to his convenience. The attractive body of the pontiff pleased the king and meanwhile his servants arrived there, and reported to him as the pontiff belonged to South India and a sanyasi, and he got an invitation to the court of Sultan in that evening.

Madhvacharya attended the court session in his royal Sultanate hall and after usual talks, Madhvacharya started debate with the scholars of the palace of Sultan king. During  the arguments, the scholars of the king failed with their philosophies and the Sultan king being pleased, offered many precious gifts to Madhvacharya.  But Madhvacharya rejected all his precious gifts politely. He wished for a milk-giving cow with a calf and the same to be sent to Udupi Kishna Math for the purpose of offering milk daily to Krishna. Later, Madhvacharya was allowed to move anywhere freely as he desired, and he had crossed many rivers and reached Assam with the message of peace and debating about Sanathana Dharma principles.

When he returned from Assam to Udupi, Madhvacharya accepted the cow offered by the Sultan king and offered milk daily to Krishna but eve though he had rejected all the gifts, a cart full of precious stones and jewels were waiting in Udupi with the royal security. He instructed his disciples not to accept them but to concentrate on their self-study materials. The pontiff had no desire for gold, silver or precious jewels or stones.

How Madhvacharya established the Eight Mathas?

There are eight Mattas in Udupi, and the eight Mattas of Udupi are as follows:

  • Adamaru
  • Krishnapura
  • Kaniyuru
  • Pejavara
  • Puthige
  • Palimaru
  • Shiruru
  • Sodhe.

Different Mattas posses land properties at various villages but for the convenience of Paryaya and Krishna Puja within the premises of Chandramouleeshvara temple, the eight different Mattas are seen in the Udupi town. He achieved the establishment of all Udupi Mathas with the help of his disciples.  

In addition to the above mentioned eight Mattas, there are some more mattas also. 

Other mattas are at Mantralya, Thiruvaiyar, Thirupathi, Varanasi, Subrahmanya etc. It is told, as similar to the twenty four letters, present in the Gayathri Mantra, there are totally twenty four important Madhva Mattas, situated at different places, and spread all over India, then personally monitored by him. Each Matta is being mapped to a letter in Gayatri mantra in Sanskrit. All these Mattas are always functioning and continuing to teach different Vedas, and it’s allied, associated branches of sciences. 

How Rabindranath Tagore accepted the reminiscences of Madhvacharya ? 

After considering Karnataka, the major influence of Dvaitha Siddhantha can be seen in Bengal. Saint Shree Chaitanya Prabhu, Hare Rama Hare Krishna society founder Shree Prabhu Pada are some of the very famous Dvaitha followers. Rabindranath Tagore was influenced by Vishnu Bhakti. Rabindranath Tagore liked to have a separate University, being influenced by his teachings and ultimately his Geetanjali book was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Who is the first Acharya saint to visit the famous Majuli Island in Assam?

Madhvacharya had visited Assam similar to Shankaracharya. Shankaracharya renovated Shiva temple in Shivsagar but Madhvacharya visited Majuli Island and many Vishnu temples are still present even now, in this famous, largest Island of Assam, within the Brahmaputra River, as the proof for his travelogue. There are many Sanskrit scholars and his followers living in Assam, and most of them are in Tinsukia district, and most of them are still followers of Sanatana Dharma.

In most of the Panchayat Community halls of Assam, Bhagavatha books are available for the public, for peaceful reading. Madhvacharya had encouraged, during his period, this Bhagavatha public reading system, and then allowed for any type of followers.  

Why Madhvacharya accepted the Gift from the merchant sailors?

On one Ekadashi day, Madhvacharya was observing fast but he was chanting Narayana Narayana and praying to Suryanarayana after his routine morning bath, standing on the western side of the highest and largest stone boulder in Udupi. He was drying his dress by hoisting it in the winds.

Simultaneously there was a sudden storm on the western Arabian Sea and some merchant sailors in a ship moving to the south feared of toppling of their ship, since in those days, ships were being made of wood. Madhvacharya possessed good physical outlook wearing minimal clothes. The pontiff being under fast but the merchant sailors requiring help were shouting as save our souls, and it made that situation a tragedy in sea for the unlucky merchants.

Due to the cloth of the Holy pontiff flying in the high winds freely, the merchant sailors took cognizance of safety at Udupi thinking land, but their ship was about to hurling under the sea however reached the beach by the grace of God safely. Later all the sailors came to the place of Madhvacharya at Udupi and thanked him. Since their life and assets were confirmed to be under safety, they felt very happy and desired to offer some gift to Madhvacharya and requested him to visit their ship and take whatever he desired in the ship. 

Due to obligations, Madhvacharya visited the ship. It was a merchant ship full of valuable commodities. In order to balance the weight, they had placed a soil block in the corner of the ship and Madhvacharya desired the same, and when it was handed over to him, the ship found its automatic level balance and everybody felt happy. The sailors later moved away happily.

Madhvacharya used the soil paste as Gopi Chandan, but in due course of time, he found inside that soil block a good idol of Krishna and the merchants had told him, they had come from Dwaraka, brought the ship with them. Later Madhvacharya had consecrated the Krishna idol, and through the western window of the temple, Kanakadasa was observing the rituals of the Swamiji doing every day.  

Why a village, Kudlu in Kasaragod, linked with Madhvacharya?

Madhvacharya reached a village called Kudlu in Kasaragod District, in south India, and then there was a great scholar. His name was Trivikrama Pandit and he was a close follower of Shankaracharya and Advaitha philosophy. Today, Gopalakrishna Temple is present in this Kudlu village. The local ruling king, with his many palace scholars received Shree Madhvacharya and a debate had been arranged in Kudlu. The debate had continued during the day time, for many days, but neither of the two scholars were found failing in their arguments. The success of Dvaitha is in the ongoing of the debate as at least two persons are required for any kind of debate. aFinally, Madhvacharya was declared as successful in it and later he travelled many places of India and thus Kudlu was linked with the pontiff Madhvacharya.   

Where is the Brindavana of Madhvacharya? 

The Brindavana of Madhvacharya is in Udupi. 

The main preachings of Madhvacharya was Vishnu Bhakti.  Devotion to Vishnu is performed, and all incarnations of Vishnu are also honored by him. It may be specially observed, in Kukke Subrahmanya, in the temple premises, Narisimha devotion and prayers are offered, side by side, in a separate temple, with the main Subrahmanya idol.

The devotees in the same premises of this temple are the followers and disciples of both principles, Dvaitha and Advaitha daily with good understating of Madhva Siddhantha.  Madhvacharya had taught, Rama, Krishna or Varaha can be worshipped at different places by different monks or say, seers and worship favoring separate idols. Devotion to Vishnu or his different forms of incarnations, give raise of virtues for human life. Krishna Bhakti, or devotion is also known as Bhagavatha sampradaya. It is upholding the result oriented beliefs, and voluntary performances of services towards God Narayana, like his wife Lakshmi.

Statue of Madhvacharya at Kunjarugiri, near Udupi
Statue of Madhvacharya at Kunjarugiri, near Udupi
When Dvaitha, Advaitha  and Vishishtadvaita merged in Sanathata Dharma?

After 1970CE, when His Holiness Late Shree Keshavananda Bharathi Swamiji under the lien of Shankara school of Advaitha Siddhantha  had to involve in jurisprudence in the apex court, His Holiness firmly upheld the Bhagavatha Sampradaya within the Tatvavada, similar to Krishna Bhakti of Madvacharya.  Madvacharya was winning in debates due to his Krishna Bhakti and Keshavananda Bharathi adopted the basic doctrines as his life message, as the Sanathana Dharma has the basic structure doctrine, and it could not be void from this world. Keshavananda Bharathi was frequently visiting Udupi and nearby locations directing the Yakshagana cultural troops and then, people were happy to see Advaitha, Dvaitha or Vishishtadvaitha being merged, within Sanathana Dharma without conflicts but found as complementary to each other for human life. The far reaching result was the 25th amendment of the Constitution of India, then.

What is meant by Vyasa Sahitya and Dasa Sahitya ?  

Veda Vyasa Rishi had written many books in Sanskrit. He had also written his own books, like Bhagavatha and Mahabharata. His father, Parashara Rishi had written Vishnu Purana and he had also written it again. These books written by Vyasa are considered under Vyasa Sahitya, most of them being available in written forms. 

Recently, in Indian languages, the translations of Vyasa creations were also written for the easy understanding of the general public. Most of these are simple poems used as praising bhajan songs. The system of oral order is continuing in India, the poems are recited from the mouth of the elders, and then heard by the ears of their children or disciples, and thus repeated. Tulasidasa or Kanakadasa are such examples to the Dasa Sahitya authors. In every Indian language, Dasa Sahitya creations are available in oral form as poems, but at present, these are available in various web sites in audio visual forms also. 

Madhvacharya was a great writer of his time and had written many books and at present, more than thirty seven such books are available in Sanskrit. Madhvacharya had proved, the language of Sanskrit has a close link with the nature. For example, in the book Krishnarnrithamaharnava, the words used are very simple, easy to pronounce and repeat, effective to memorize under routine human habits.

What is the Importance of Health, that was preferred by Madhvacharya?

Madhvacharya possessed good health. He observed all Ekadashi day fast and taught the importance of balanced food and health. He was walking throughout India without any body guards and gained no enemy at all. He used to swim and cross the seven great Indian Rivers. He was a peace lover and advised everybody to preserve good health. 

What is the Difference in Patanjali Yoga and Sanyasa Yoga?

Madhvacharya followed Sanyasa yoga. Patanjali Yoga was optional to him. A person following Patanjali yoga may live his life, remaining away from the general society. Patanjali teaches many wonderful actions using the physical human body but Sanyasa yoga observe some of the Patanjali’s teachings for the benefit of good health. Madhvacharya was moving amidst the Indian society and he had an aim to experiment with the rituals of Sanatana Dharma and desired to remove its defects like the blind beliefs, implementing the scientific platforms. 

उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानम् नात्मानमवसादयेत् ।
आत्मैव हि आत्मनो बन्धुः आत्मैव रिपुरात्मनः ॥

Madhvacharya modified many evil practices of the society. He decided never to use weapons, except his Yogadanda. He started to travel in India by walking. He used to teach and distributed his books to his disciples for learning and preserving. He renovated the Shiva temple, called Chandramauleeshvara. He renovated many other temples also, out of which Udupi temple had become more famous. The first one is Udupi Krishna temple and the next one is told as Dharmasthala Manjunatha temple.

One day, Goddess appeared before Madhvacharya and he requested her to bless him. Goddess agreed under condition that he will always worship her along with Siva. Thus, as a result, near Thalapady, a village near Mangalore, one Ardhanareeshvar temple now exists. Madhvacharya moved from Udupi, to north Kashmir to south Pathanapuram, from Swamy Narayana Temple in the west, up to Majuli Island in the east, steadily and frequently participating in debates and worshipping the God as Vishnu.   

What is rebirth and life cycle, and how Madhvacharya supported it?

Madhvacharya, like his Guru, agreed with the rebirth cycles of life, deserving according to the sins or virtues gained in the present life. A holy human life may be entering the feet of Vishnu after death, declared as Moksha, but Madvacharya supported to take birth again and again, as a human being and as a devotee of Krishna or Rama to live with works of virtues, so to be supported always. 

ममैवाम्शोजीवलोके जीवभूतः सनातनः ।
मनः शष्ठाणीन्द्रियाणि प्रकृतिस्थानी कर्षति ॥

Meaning: Krishna told to Arjuna, each and every Life is a part and portion of my cosmic universal energy. The sensing heart, including the other five senses, totaling six senses, tie up the life, in placing the soul, the living life, in this nature. Madhvacharya used to explain the life on earth as a part and parcel of God Vishnu.

There are many achievements, to his life, during the living period of Shree Madhvacharya. He had worshipped Krishna during his span of 79 years (1238 to 1317) of life. This article is not a systematically composed history of the great pontiff Madhvacharya but a small tribute to His Holiness as memorized from the different stories heard from different people at various occasions.

What is the common Madhva mantra?
हरि सर्वोत्तम । वायु जीवोत्तम ॥

Meaning: Hari means, the supreme lord of this universe, known by the name Vishnu. Vayu means the breathing air, and Hanuman is usually worshipped, with a name, as Mukhyaprana, the main breathing air, the cause for living human beings.

Hari sarvothama, Vayu jeevottama is chanted as the Madhva mantra.

A few more articles about the Sanathana Dharma would be published on this website in the later days. Readers are kindly requested to browse this site frequently.

It is humbly prayed for the blessings of God Vishnu upon us. 

Readers may share this story with children, friends and family.

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