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(The controversy between UM and SRSM)


  • Introduction & Objectives
  • Summary of the UM presentation
  • Summary of SRS Mutt presentation
  • Overall Summary
  • Conclusions

I. Introduction & Objectives
The object of this note is to place available data on the subject so that interested persons could understand the evidence adduced by either side - without bias, fear or favour.

There are many similar issues between UM and others, all based on their claiming a unique status as the "Moola matha", while the others are by implication, Shakha mathas - (branches). An important element in this claim is the possession and regular worship of the Moola Rama and Seetha Idols, traditionally believed to be first worshipped by Acharya Madhva himself, when brought from the treasury of Gajapathiraja, the king of Kalinga kingdom, by Sri Narahari Tirtha. SRS Matha has also a traditional belief dating back to the times of Sri Raghunandana Tirtha (Vrindavana pravesha - 1504 AD) that the Idol worshipped by them as Moola Rama is the original mentioned above and by implication that of UM could not be so. We need not go into the main question of the Moola matha claim as it is not acceptable to any other Matha except UM - including SPR, SRS, SVR Matha etc. Those who are interested may read the well written booklet by Dr. B N K Sharma in 1984 - called "Satyam eva jayathe - A refutation of the sky-high claims to primacy of the Uttaradi Mutt".

There could be only two kinds of "proofs" for deciding such issues.

  1. Traditional faith or belief, where there is no serious dispute amongst devotees - for example - the belief that the Moola Rama and Seetha idols were brought by Sri Narahari Tirtha and were first worshipped by Acharya Madhva and his direct disciples, before being handed down over his lineage.
  2. Specific authoritative statements in accepted authoritative sources lke vashishta Rmayana or by Apthas - persons of known integrity and learning. The statements of well known Aparoksha jnanis are particularly important as they have direct knowledge of past and future events due to their spiritual attainments. To determine the issues involved, we have no option but to accept All such statements, not selectively but prima-facie, as valid. If we find that there are conflicts even among such statements, which can not be reconciled, we have to accept that the position as stated in a large number of such authenticated records, specially by those who are not directly concerned in the issues, is likely to be correct, while the conflicting ones are perhaps corrupted or manipulated by interested persons later on. It is important that we do not cast aspersions on the integrity of our Yathi Parampare or attribute our obviously lower standards of morality to them even remotely.

Based on these general premises. Let us look at a brief presentation of the evidence:

II. Summary of the UM presentation:

  1. The Idols of Rama and Seetha at present being worshipped by UM have some unique characteristics, which are defined by Pramanas as applicable to these Idols. Hence, they must be the original Idols.

    The composition Vasishta Ramayana attributed to Sage Vasishta's teaching to Shathananda is considered as an authority on the Moola Rama and Seetha iissue. A shloka in the 11 th chapter says as follows: "The Moola rama idol has all perfect attributes and is an accurate image of myself. It is made of Copper (Thamra) and its foot is decorated with a beautiful Kadaga and Gejje. There is also a Devaranama attributed to Sri Sripadaraja eulogizing Sri Raghunatha Tirtha of UM describing the two features of Gejje and Kadaga, which confirms that he also saw the UM Idol as the same at his time.

  1. The Vasishta Ramayana also describes the Idol as "Moola Raghupungava" in 11 th chapter. A Devaranama attributed to Sri Purandara dasa extolling Sri Narahari Tirtha also describes the Idol as Moola Rama. Another Devaranama describing the Puja of Sri Raghunatha Tirtha of UM, also refers to the Idol as Moola-Raghupathi. Sri Sripadaraja's Devaranama referred earlier also describes the Idol as Moola Rama. Sri Gurupurandara Vittala's Devaranama published by Gorabalu Hanumanatha Rao, describes that 2 Idols of Peelige Ramachandra, Prasanna Vittala, added later on, were worshipped along with the three original Idols - Sri Moola Rama, Sri Moola Seetha, Sri Digvijaya Rama of UM (a total of 5) during the time of Sri Vyasarajaru.

  2. The conclusion sought to be drawn is that the Idol presently in UM was always called Moola Rama and was being continuously worshipped even after the time of Sri Raghunandana Tirtha of SRS Matha, who is claimed to have secured the Moola Rama Idol for that matha.

  1. Various Tippanis are cited to show that the following ascetics of UM had worshipped Moola Rama only, they include : Sri Sathyavratha Tirtha and Sri Sathyanatha Tirtha

  2. The Biographies of earlier ascetics of UM also mention the worship of Moola Rama by them. These are:

    1. Sri Vidyadhisha Tirtha Vijaya (written by Sri Janardana Suri

    2. Sri Sathyanidhi vilasa (written by Srinivasacharya

    3. Sri Sathyanathabhyudaya (by Chalari samkarshanacharaya)

    4. Sri Sathyanathamahathmyarathnakara ( do )

    5. Sri Sathyabhinava sathya sakshee

    6. Sri Sathyabodha Vijaya ( by Kanchi Krishnacharya)

    7. Guruvamshavalee ( do )

    8. Guruvamshakathakalpatharu (by D Bheemacharya)

    9. Sri Sathyadharma guruchandrakalodaya ( by K Ramachandracharya)

    10. Sri Sathyasandhavijaya kavya (by Y. Anandatirthacharya)

    We will look at the special points brought out to prove the identity of the Idols of Moola Rama - as existing in UM now and as described by records earlier later.

5. In addition, the UM document lists several Krithis by well known Haridasas where not only the word Moola Rama worship in UM is mentioned specifically, but also its identity with the original is also stated. The list of Haridasas is impressive and includes the following:

1. Prasanna Venkatadasaru

2. Sri Vyasavittalankitha Kalluru Subbannna Dasaru

3. Mohana Dasaru

4. Honnali venkata Vittalaru

5. Sreeda Vittala Dasaru

6. In addition the book also contains a description of the greatness and Moola Matha feature of the UM due to its unbroken tradition by quoting Mahipathidasaru, Prasanna venkatadasaru and the great Vijaya dasaru, Galagali Avvanavaru, Hayavadana Vittala (brother of Sri Vijaya dasaru), Jagannatha dasaru.

I have no wish to comment on all the Krithies of these great names in our Dasa parampare, which perhaps are as worthy of our trust and respect as out yathi parampare in the Mutts. But we need to check up the following issues:

I. Are they genuine Krithies appearing in published works compiled by sincere devotees in the past or they have been "found" recently by parties who have an interest in the matter.

II. Are there any indications of different versions of the Krithies?

III. Is it possible that what is being referred to is basically adulatory in nature - praising the great ascetic performing Puja etc where the use of words like Moola Rama is without special significance, specially if the same word has been used by the same person in another similar Krithi for an ascetic belonging to SRS Mutt.

7. There are also extracts of Bombay Gazetteer, Karnataka, and some prints of pages from compositions of some Haridasas. The disputed Krithi of Sri Sripadaraja, "found" in Chippagiri is also included as a print of the original.

III. Summary of SRS Mutt presentation:

1. Sri SRS Mutt tradition accepts that the Moola Rama and Seetha idols were originally worshipped by Chathurmukha Brahma. Unlike UM which holds that they were Svayamvyaktha (appeared without any act of creation from any one else), SRS Mutt holds that the Idol was prepared by the divine architect, Vishvakarma as per the direction of Brahma (recorded in Sri Vadindra's Srimadraghavendramatha gatharchagathikramah". The idols were worshipped by Sri Jabali Muni, Shiva, Parvathi, Dakshaprajapathi, Saubhari Rishi (as described in a Suladi of Sri Vijaya dasaru (who thus seems to accept the origin version of SRS Matha. Then it was again given by Brahma to Ikshvaku to be worshipped by his dynasty till the time of kshemaka and finally reached the treasury of Gajapathiraja. Though there would appear to be some variation in the route taken by the idols to reach the hands of Acharya Madhva, this issue is peripheral to the present question of the identity of Moola Rama.

2. The lineage which worshipped the Idols after Sri Madhva till sri Ramachandra tirtha is acceptable to both sides, as they had a common lineage. But, after Sri Ramachandra Tirtha, when the split took place, SRS Mutt has been holding that what was rightfully Sri Vibhudendra's position as a successot was usurped by force by another Taulava Sanyasi (belonging to Shirur Mutt) called Sri Vidyanidhi tirtha, who managed to get the support of 64 local Matha staff. Sri Vibhudendra and his disciple Sri Jithamitra's efforts to get back Moola Rama and Seetha idols having failed, their next successor Sri Raghunandana Tirtha got back the Moola Rama's Idol (without the Seetha idol) through a devotee called Ramachandra Bhatta of Badha. The latter was suitably protected against harm from the other Matha for his action and was also rewarded with increased compensation in the SRS Matha. There is a Thamra pathra shasana which records this incident (photo copied in the book). After this incident, Moola Rama idol has been constantly in SRS Mutt and has been worshipped by its ascetics without any break. The charama shloka of sri Raghunandana Tirtha composed by his successor records this clearly. It can be hardly argued that all this has been a make believe, when the Moola Rama, Idol was still continuing in UM nor could it be argued that the SRS Matha went to such great lengths as to create even Thamrapathras of fictitious persons to justify a false story..

3. The list of authorities and Aparoksha Jnanis who have specifically described the worship of Moola Rama in SRS Matha is very long, continuous after Sri Raghunandana Tirtha and impressive. Sri Raghavendra Swamin himself has been described as worshipping Moola Rama by many Haridasas including Sri Gopala Vittala, Jagannatha Vittala etc. A publication of Devara Namas on Sri Raghavendra about 60 years back by Gorabalu Hanumantha Rao called "Sri Raghavendra Guru Sarvabhauma" - Publication No 6 of Sri Varadendra Haridasa sahithya mandali, which can be expected to be unbiased on the issue of matha claims, shows that almost all Haridasas including Sri Vijaya Raya have called Sri Raghavendra as worshipping Sree Rama, Moola Rama etc. The specific word Moola Rama is also used on many occasions by many Haridasas including Sri Jagannatha Vittala.

In addition, the ascetic lineage of SRS Matha right from the time of Sri Surendra Tirtha (who succeeded Sri Raghunandana Tirtha till Sri Bhuvanendra Tirtha have all been described as worshipping Moola Rama/Rama etc. The action of Sri Raghunandana tirtha has been described by many successors with approval and praise, while the action of Sri Vidyanidhi Tirtha of UM has been considered improper. Without going into merits of these actions, it is almost impossible to accept that SRS matha never got the Original Idol back as claimed by them with one voice and have just created the whole fanciful story. UM have not produced any evidence to justify this, as the hue and cry that should have arisen by such a false claim by another Matha would have left its traces in literature and compositions even at that time.

4. An important contribution which may help in this regard is the information on Prathima lakshanas discussed by the SRS Matha book. It has been shown that other Rama Idols given by Acharya Madhva to Sri Sathya tirtha (Bhimasethumunivrinda), Palimaru Matha, Bhandarakere Matha, seem to have a different proportion of heights between the Idols of Sri Rama and Sri Seetha, as compared to the proportion of the present Idols of UM. In all these cases as well as other such idols in Balagaru and Koodli Akshobhya Tirtha mathas, and Pejawara matha, the top of the Sri Seetha idol comes up to the shoulder of the Idol of Rama, without the crowns and up to the ear level, when they have the crowns also. We see similar proportions in the Idols of Sri Srinivasa and Lakshmi/Padmavathi idols also. The U M seethe Idol, is much shorter in height and matches better with the Rama Idol of SRS matha in this regard - supporting the theory that they were a pair once.

Further there are some discrepancies in the construction of the Idols also. Both the Sri Rama Idols of the two mathas have been made of copper (Thamramaya). There are some clear distinctions as stated in the books between the Rama Idols of the two Mathas. Each matha has argued that the pramanas quoted by them show that these features are uniquely present in their Idol only. Briefly:

UM Moola Rama Idol : It has a kadaga on (one?) foot (Pade dviradasamyutha) as described by Vashishta Ramayana (11 th Chapter), (This pramana is acceptable as valid to both mathas)

The Krithi by Sri Sripadaraja quoted by UM describes : "Kalalli Kirigejje myale ponnandige" and that by Sri Mudduvittala says "yedada kalinalli svarnadandigigejjeghalivarandhige dharisi Moola Rama". The UM book interprets all these pramanas as corresponding to their Idol which has a beautiful Kadaga on the foot.(The same Pramana of Vashishta Ramayana is interpreted as having the mark of an elephant on its base by the SRS Matha, quoting numerous authorities for the meaning of the word "Dvirada". As UM has not quoted any pramana for their translating it as Kadaga in their book, no final opinion can be formed on this issue - but it is advantage SRS Matha). SRS Matha claims that their Rama Idol has a mark of an elephant on its base, which accords with the pramanas.

There is also some doubt as to how a "Ponnanduge" - golden anklet - could be inrrinsic to a purely copper Idol. Many other doubts have also been raised by SRS Matha about the anklet on the right foot (made of copper only) not mentioned by UM booklet.

5. An important discrepancy is the doubt about the periods of Sri Raghunatha tirtha of UM and Sri Sripadaraja. Dr. B N K Sharma in his booklet "Sathyameva jayathe" has mentioned that with the authenticity of the charama sholka of Sri Vidyanidhi tirtha accepted. as valid, he should have ruled 68 years and would thus make Sri Raghunatha Tirtha ascend the Peetha 25 years after Sri Vyasaraja's demise. The period of Sri Vidyanidhi has also been taken as three different values ranging from 8 years to 68 years from different sources of UM histories. The point relevant here is that the stories of Sri Vyasaraja receiving the approval of Sri Raghunatha Tirtha for his compositions and Sri Sripadaraja receiving his name from him are seriously in doubt and in any case, not fully established. SPR matha pontiff also states emphatically that as Sri Sripadaraja ascended his Peetha in 1420 AD and could not have admired and composed the adulatory description of Sri Raghunatha Tirtha who ascended in 1444 AD (24 years later). The Devranama also does not appear in the compilation on Sripadaraja by Kannada Sahithya Parishath in 1973 (Dr. G Varadaraja Rao). Similar doubts have also been expressed about the Devaranama of Sri Purandara dasa, the shishya of Sri Vyasaraja who received his Deeksha from him in 1514 AD and could not have witnessed the Puja by Sri Raghunatah Tirtha (Demise 1503 AD) as per Sathkatha of UM. Incidentally there is another Devaranama of Sri Purandara dasaru describing the Puja of Sri Surendra tirtha, a senior contemporary of Sri Vyasaraja who gave him his successor, the famous Sri Vijayeendra Tirtha, the foremost of his disciples. The Devaranamas quoted therefore are some what doubtful, specially as they are recent discoveries and have to be authenticated properly. For the limited purpose of this note, all the Devaranamas are not being quoted and analysed here. But, it would prima facie seem that none of them is sufficiently authenticated to hold the descriptions of Sri Moola Rama mentioned there can be ascribed to the purported authors.

Even regarding Moola Seetha claimed by UM, its originality can be inferred more by the circumstantial evidence that SRS Matha has claimed only the Moola Rama with them as the original as per their own records of its recovery by Sri Raghunandana tirtha and by a process of inference, the original must have continued in the UM only, where it was originally secured by Sri Vidyanidhi, from the common Parampare.

IV. Summary
Purely as aid for understanding, a summary of all the main issues is given below.

  1. The Moola Rama and Seetha idols brought by Sri Narahari Tirtha were worshipped by Acharya Madhva for about 80 days before he went away to Moola Badari (1317 AD). The divine origin of the Idols is defined by Vashishta Ramayana, which also defines some unique characteristics of the Rama Idol. The characteristics are considered as applicable to their own Idols by both Mathas. The UM case appears to need many clarifications in the light of the criticism by SRS Mtha.

  2. The Guru pararmpare of both the mathas has a common element till Sri Ramachandra Tirtha (and clearly excludes the SPR and SVM branches which have their own other Moola Idols). The absence of Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha at the time of demise of Sri Ramachandra Tirtha (1430 AD) and the forceful taking over of the idols (buried in the ground on the orders of Sri Ramachandra Tirtha till Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha's return) by the Taulava ascetic Sri Vidyanidhi Tirtha with the help of some resident staff of the matha, created a break in their worship - for some period (3 Years?) and also created a split in the one Matha which was in existence till then - which have now transformed themselves into the present Uttharadi matha and Raghvendra matha.

  3. The failure of Sri Vidyanidhi Tirtha (1430-1444 AD) and other persons entrusted by Sri Ramachandra Tirtha (for what ever reasons) to hand over the idols to Sri Vibhudendra led to a state of tension between the mathas, which continued till the succession of Sri Raghunandana Tirtha, as the second successor of Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha in 1475 AD.(for about 50 years). In his time, the Moola Rama Idol was brought back by a matha staff, perhaps UM, who was suitably rewarded and there after, the Matha which came to be known as Sri Vijayeendra matha and then as Sri Raghavendra Matha has continuously been worshipping what they sincerely believe is the original Moola Rama Idol only, possibly with a Seetha idol added locally by them. The records of the SRS Matha and numerous references by the successors of Sri Raghunandana Tirtha as well as a large number of Dasa krithis. (specially eulogsing Sri Raghavendra Swamiji) are clear on this issue. There is no basis to disregard all the circumstantial evidence adduced for this event by SRS Matha

  4. UM ascetics have also referred to their worship of Moola Rrama and Moola Seetha only, but the earliest such reference quoted by UM book is that of Sri Sathyavratha and Sathyanatha (1635-1673 AD) - that is after 150 years of the event of the transfer of Moola Rama Idol (para 3 above). There is no mention of any statements made by the famous Sri Raghuttama Swamiji on the issue. The references of Sri Moola Rrama being worshipped in SRS Matha however date 1504 onwards - the time of Sri Surendra tirtha (his disciple) and show no break. The event itself should have happened during 1475-1504), the period of Sri Raghunandana Tirtha, while the demise of Sri Ramachandra Tirtha was in 1430 AD. Thus the actual period when it was in UM without any dispute from either side would be between 1430 - 1480 AD) for about 50 years. All the Devara namas quoted to support the worshipof Moola Rama by Sri Raghunatha Tirtha, the immediate successor of Sri Vidyanidhi Tirtha except that of Sripadaraja (Vrindavana pravesha in 1487AD), such as Sri Prasanna Venkata dasa (1655-1730), etc also come much later and we have to rely entirely on their Aparoksha Jnana to hold that they saw the idol of Moola Rama (originally worshipped by Acharya Madhva) only, even if the Krithies are genuine. It is very likely that with the lapse of time of more than a century, both the Mathas started to claim that they were still worshipping Moola Rama only and the word Moola became an usage having lost its original significance ( as only one could be true).
  5. Out of the profusion of Pramanas quoted by both booklets, one point stands out. The words of Pontiffs of respective mathas support their own genuine belief as is only to be expected. As they are in conflict with each other, both can not be accepted on the strength of their own Apthathva, except by the Matha followers, with their devotion or faith as final test for validity. The Dasa krithis seems to favour SRS Matha, specially as Sri Raghavendra tirtha, who has been profusely eulogized by almost all Haridasas starting from Sri Vijaya Vittala, has been depicted as worshipping Moola Rama only. Some krithis attributed to Sri Jagannatha dasa etc eulogizing UM ascetics worshipping Moola Rama could be subject to distortion, as there are many more supporting SRS Matha, specially Sri Raghavendra Swamin.

  6. The Devaranama attributed to Sri Sripadaraja eulogising Sri Raghunatha Tirtha's worship of Moola Rama is thus essential to UM arguments, if it could be proved to be genuine. But, its credibility is uncertain by its recent "discovery" and admitted absence in earlier compilations and the views clearly expressed by the Swamiji of SPR Matha that it is artificially created. There are some uncertainties due to the relative time periods. In Dr. BNK Sharma's book "history of Dvaita school of Vedanta" Sri Sripadaraja is shown as in the pontifical seat from 1420-87, while Sri Raghunatha is shown as being in position during 1444-1502. Thus the latter is a younger contemporary in Ashrama by 24 years (which could partly be explained by Sri Sripadaraja taking Sanyasa as a young boy, while Sri Raghunatha might have taken it as a married person and also lived longer than him by a substantial 15 years. Thus whether, the story about the name of Sripadaraja being conferred as a title by the latter is itself true is open to serious doubt. There are similar doubts about the eulogy by Sri Purandara dasaru, who came much late. The dates shown here are based on Dr. BNK Sharma's figures and are only mentioned to show possible genuine doubts in the genealogy. This question also has to be resolved fully before accepting Sri Sripadaraja's authorship of the krithi.

  7. But, there is another circumstantial issue to be kept in mind. Sri Sripadaraja was well known as the Vidya Shishya of Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha ( Vrindavana pravesha in 1470 AD), who was deprived in 1430 AD) of what was considered as his rightful position as successor to Sri Ramachandra Tirtha by Sri Raghunatha Yathi's own immediate Guru Sri Vidyanidhi Tirtha (demise 1444 AD, by unorthodox methods. The fact that the Idols had been buried at the instance of Sri Ramachandra Tirtha, who was the Pontiff before the split clearly shows that his desire was that Sri Vibhudendra and not Sri Vidyanidhi should succeed him. Sri Sripadaraja who had taken position in 1420 AD and studied in the initial period with his Vidyaguru Sri Vibhudendra just around this time, and would have been directly aware of his Guru's mental condition. Even if one considers that the Krithi was composed much later, when both were decades older towards the end of Sri Sripadaraja's term (a few years before 1487 AD) the fact that even his successor Sri Jithamithra (demise 1475 AD) failed to get the Idols back, would be known to him. Is it likely that he would have elulogised Sri Raghunatha's worship of Moola Rama, the self-same idols for which there was such a serious contention amongst the two Mathas? On the other hand, the compilation by Kannada sahithya parishath in 1973 gives a Krithi attributed to Sripadaraja eulogizing Sri Jithamithra Tirtha, which seems to have been composed after the latter's Vrindavana pravesha in 1475 AD (referring to his Aradhane in Margashira Krishna -Amavasya). Though this Krithi has been called in the book wrongly as eulogizing Sri Raghunatha Tirtha, there is a clear mention of the name Jithamithra, the disciple of Sri Vibhudendra and his Aradhana falling in margashira Krishna amavasya (the actual date of Sri Jithamithra aradhane). Even in this Krithi when Sri Raghunandana Tirtha had already ascended the Peetha, there is a mention of Raghukulavaraputhra Rama, as the aradhya diety of Sri Jithamithra. The ascription of the Krithi newly discovered to Sri Sripadaraja eulogizing the worship of Moola Rama by Sri Raghunatha Turtha thus seems to be questionable.

  8. There is also a well recorded tradition in UM that the matha administration had been handed over to the Shanubhog's families in Sri Vidyanidhi's time, which continued for a long time till the time of Sri Sathydhyana Tirtha (1940s) when the system was terminated and the Swamji's unfettered rule restored by paying off the claimants heavily. There were court cases also on the issue. This unique arrangement which lasted several centuries was the price paid by the Matha to the accomplices of the unorthodox take over by Sri Vidyanidhi Tirtha. The story of recovery of the Idol of Sri Moola Rama by SRS Matha also seems to be supported by this unique disability of UM of yester years.

    V. Conclusions:

    The above is a simplified, brief and fair representation of evidence of the ownership of Sri Moola Rama Idol. For lay people like us, Saints of the caliber of Sri Ragutthama Tirtha of uttharadi matha and Sri Raghvendra tirtha both worshipped Rama, the supreme Being in their own unique ways and were devotees who were far higher than us in yogyatha and Sadhana. One should be careful in raising such issues so that Svotthama Ninda or Droha is not done to such great divine souls. Why did the kind of dramatic events happen at all - only Hari-Vayu would know. There is also no harm in thinking that the Supreme Being, Moola Rama is worshipped in both Mathas every day - till some gifted soul comes along and explains the whys and hows. We, the simple lay devotees feel that trying to argue over events of the distant and unclear past to establish some measure of so called superiority is at the root of the problem. We also feel that Moola Gopala Krishna, Moola Pattabhirama, Moola Gopinatha etc also handed over to the other Mathas by their parampara from Acharya Madhva are equally sacrosanct and gradation amongst the Idols should not be attempted by us.