Role of Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra tirtha in Tatvavada

Role of Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra tirtha in Tatvavada:

    It is a significant fact that of all the Swamijis of Sri Vyasaraja parampare, Sri 108 Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha has a unique name which mentions both his place of origin and has also no appellation like Lakshmi, Vidya etc as are there for others. He is the second disciple in succession to the famous Sri Lakshmikantha Tirtha of Penukonda (who was the second and reputed to have been a student of the great Vyasaraja himself) and the fifth after Sri Vyasaraja. He succeeded Sri 108 Sripathi tirtha in 1612 AD and his reign was for the period of 20 years till 1632 AD.

    His contemporaries were the well known Sri Vedavyasa tirtha of Uttaradi Matha (till 1619 AD) and Sri Vidyadhisha tirtha (till 1631 AD), who is considered as the sampradaya Pravarthaka of Sri Uttaradi matha. In the parampare which came to be known later as Sri Raghavendra Matha, they were Sri Sudhindra Tirtha (1596-1623 AD) and Sri Raghavendra (1623- 1671AD). The Sampradaya of the last named matha was laid down at the time of Sri Manthralaya Prabhu. It is also significant that there appears to have been a “Agree to differ” policy even at that time, regarding such issues like observance of Yekadashi etc. as all the three had Sampradaya pravarthakas, as known today, living almost at the same time.

As pointed out by Dr. B N K Sharma, in his magnum-opus :The History of Dvaita school of Vedanta”, there was a tendency amongst the Vyasaraja Matha pontiffs to follow the fortunes of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara empire even after it was destroyed as an effective political entity in the final war with the Bahamani kingdoms. The two successors of Sri Vyasaraja, - Sri Srinivasa tirtha, his immediate disciple and the next, Sri Rama Tirtha who reigned till 1584 AD have their Vrindavanas in Hampi along with his, while Sri Laskhmikantha who came thereafter has his Vrindavana in Penukonda and Sri Sripathi tirtha and Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha have their vrindavanas in Royavellore (which was the capital of Rama Deva 2 (1616-1630 AD)). This would be understandable as they were the Royal preceptors of the Kings right from the time of King Narasimha at Chandragiri in 1486 AD and had also been honoured with worldwide fame during the time of the famous Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529 AD). Further, the action of Sri Surendra tirtha, an elder contemporary of Sri Vyasaraja in getting his successor Sri Vijayindra, the Guru of Sri Sudhindra from the galaxy of great disciples studying with Sri Vyasaraja would have brought the two mathas very close to each other. Sri Vijayindra, an Aparoksha Jnani, a famous polemical writer of a large number of compositions and politically important personality has revered Sri Vyasaraja not only as his Vidya Guru, but also as a divine personality (note that the famous Sri Vyasaraja Stotra was composed by him stating this explicitly) and Sri Vyasaraja had been included in the exclusive list of the three ascetics – Munithraya, in such exalted company as Acharya Madhva himself and Sri Jayatirtha. Thus, the relationships with Sri SRS Matha would have been extremely cordial and there is no record of any adverse developments. Sri Ramachandra Tirtha himself has extolled Sri Vijayindra Tirtha as his Vidyaguru in his Nyayasudha Vivruthi. When Sri Raghavendra was identified as an incarnation of Sri Vyasaraja himself a little later, by Dasa Parampare greats like Sri Vijaya dasaru, this should have further cemented the relationship.
As far as Sri Uttaradi matha is concerned Dr. B N K Sharma remarks in his History of the Dvaita school of Vedanta (Part VI – Non-polemical literature – Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha), “Apart from differences of opinion over the interpretation of certain texts between Ramachandra and Vidyadhisha, it would seem from these accounts, that the former had to face a good deal of opposition to his prestige and popularity in the South from those two pontiffs”. This assessment has been based on a document “Gurucharya” of UM which mentions clashes between the two in Sri Mushnam, Tanjore and other places.

The booklet brought out on Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra tirtha in 2005, by Sri K Ramachandra Vyasapeetha prathishtana containing articles written on him by eminent persons of SVM such as Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha, Gaudagere Gopala krishnacharya etc how ever, have opined that there were mutual respect and good relationships between the two mathas, as is evidenced by four Vrindavanas of Uttaradi Matha also being located in Royavellore.  Perhaps, the reality was one of interaction with two famous and strong personalities of the scholars, who were both great debaters and proselytes for Tatvavada. Sri Vidyadhisha who has also criticized Sri Vijayindra  for some of his points taken in Madhvaadhvakantakoddhara but has simultaneously shown great respect for Sri Vyasaraja and quotes often from his Chandrika in his gloss on Srimannayasudha. He was also the son of Sri Anandabhattaraka, who had composed Nyayamrutha-kantakoddhara, defending the great composition Nyayamrutha of Sri Vyasaraja. The disagreement of great scholars on some issues pertaining to their own school is also not unusual and is seen in other compositions. How ever it appears that many such stories of serious disputes being mentioned in UM documents such as the one above and the Vijaya kavyas, may historically would be of little significance – for example, the denigration of Sri Rajendra tirtha to justify Sri Kavindra tirtha’s ascending the Peetha earlier. (See our booklet on Sri Rajendra Tirtha).  One should take such stories usually composed by smaller minds with a pinch a salt. There is no doubt that both were great champions of Tatvavada, great scholars and made immense efforts to add to the strength of the Madhva Sampradaya.

Life and background:
As no authentic record of his life history exists, only some points have been gathered from records and widely prevalent stories about the great ascetic. Dr. B N K Sharma’s History of Dvaita Vedanta, covers a brief account of his history. It also mentions a copper plate grant received by Sri Ramachandra from Immadi Kempe Gowda in 1627 AD. His life period is assessed as 1575 -1635 AD by Dr. B N K Sharma, while the Matha records his Vrindavana pravesha in 1632 AD. The Kambaluru family is believed to have contributed Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha (who was the first ascetic of the SRS Matha branch originating after Sri Kavindra Tirtha), as well as Sri Lakshmivallabha Tirtha (a poorvashrama brother who succeeded Sri Ramachandra tirtha). His ancestors were from Kavilippalayam village of Sathyamangala taluk of Coimbatore District. His father was Kuppachar and grandfather Mushtiparimitha-Svarnamalankritha Venkata narasimhacharya. He was the eldest son and descendents of his younger brother Narasimha have continued the lineage. The family was associated with the village Kambalu in Kovalakunta taluk of Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh at the time of Sri Ramachandra Tirtha. Apparently there were two villages called Chinna kambalu and Pedda kambalu also. As the grandfather’s name indicates, he must have been honoured by gift of a large golden chain earlier – for his accomplishments. Sri Vijayindra Tirtha seems to have noted Ramachandra’s talents in his Poorvashrama days and took him as His Disciple, as has been acknowledged in the shloka in Nyayasudha Tippani (Vivruthi):

“Padavakyapramanajnan sausheelyadyupashobhithan
 vijayeendrakhyayatheen seve vidyaagurun mama”

Thus Sri Vijayindra was returning the favour incurred when he was taught by Sri Vyasaraja – by giving a great ascetic back to the same parampare. Sri Ramachandra tirtha was well versed in Vedanta, Nyaya, Vyakarana and Smrithies dealing with the Sadachara. Immediately after Sri Vyasaraja, (Vrindavana pravesha in 1539 AD), Madhusudana Saraswati made a spirited attempt in his Advaita siddhi to defend Advaita which had been subjected to a mortal blow by Sri Vyasaraja by his Vyasathraya, particularly Nyayamrutha. Dr. B N K Sharma dates him (for the period of ruling a Peetha) 1540-1600 AD. The task of defending Tatvavada was ably carried on by Sri Tarangini Ramacharya, a disciple of the revered Sri Raghuttama tirtha of Uttaradi matha, (1557-1595) and Ananda Bhattaraka, father of Sri Vidyadhisha tirtha of UM, (1619-1631). Thus, Nyayamrutha had been subjected to severe critical analysis, both for and against Tatvavada, and it was quite appropriate that Sri Ramachandra Tirtha took up the major work Nyayasudha Vivruthi, dealing with the epic gloss of Sri Teekacharya on Acharya Madhva’s Anuvyakhyana, which is a self contained commentary on the Brahma suthras. He has also composed a parallel Vivruthi on Tatvavaprakashika of Sri Teekacharya, on the  Brahma Suthra Bhashya of Madhva, completing the commentaries on this Prasthana. Though Nyayasudha has as many as 24 Tippanis, each of the writers have added some special and new analysis and explanations to the condensed, cryptic but extremely appropriate texts of Sri Teekacharya,  justifying the statement of Sri Manthralaya Prabhu – “Teekagambhiryamuddharthum vyasarajaadayo kshamaaah”. Sri Kambaluru Tippanis have been opined by scholars such as Dr. B N K sharma, Gowdagere Gopalakrishnacharya etc as learned, full of new interpretations, appropriate as an aid to easier understanding, answering legitimate doubts in the minds of the student, etc.  He has also written similar Tippanis to Srimadacharya’s Rig Bhashya and Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya, Srimad Bhagavatha. One of his ascetic disciples Sri Rathnagarbha Odeyar has been credited with the glosses on the last two as well as on Geetha and Madhva Vijaya and another Sri Vativala Narasimha, son of Upendra Bhatta has been credited with the gloss on Tatvaprakashika by Dr. B N K Sharma.  The point to be noted is Sri Ramachandra Tirtha has been responsible for furthering the great scholarly traditions of Sri Vyasaraja matha and the work done by his team was complementary to the work done by other Mathas and not in conflict or repetitive. His style imitates the style of the great Vyasaraja, and uses a great deal of intricate explanations on grammatical rules in interpretation of crucial passages. There is a belief that Sri Raghavendra had studied under Sri Ramachandra tirtha in his poorvashrama days and he has also shown the same specialty in his famous Parimala and other compositions. Sri Ramachandra’s successor Sri Lakshmivallabha Tirtha (His poorvashrama brother) has not left behind any significant events of his brief reign of 8 years (1640 AD), while his second successor Sri Lakshminatha Tirtha (1640-1663 AD) had obtained land grants from Tirumala Nayaka of Madurai in 1643 AD and Srirangaraya III – the last of the Vijayanagara emperors, ruling from Penukonda in 1663 AD. He has also composed a gloss on Nyayamrutha of Sri Vyasaraja, and mentions Sri Yadavendra (SRS Matha) - the earlier ascetic disciple of Sri Sudheendra, as His Vidya Guru. This shows the continued close association between the Vyasaraja and SRS Mathas during the period.  
Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha was also adept in Smrithies and gave clear directions about such matters as Yekadashi observance, Dashami vedha, Harivasara, Sadhana Dvadashi etc. The rules framed by him have been observed since then by all Vyasaraja matha followers even after the advent of other great scholars like Sri Sheshachandrikacharya, Bhashya Dipikacharya etc. The differences in Yekadashi observance between UM, SVM and SRSM thus have their origin in the rules framed at that time and no unanimity has been possible subsequently amongst them in spite of sincere desire and efforts in this regard. In Smrithimukthavali of Sri Krishnacharya, disciple of Sri Raghavendra tirtha, Sri Ramachandra tirtha has been clearly labeled as sampradaya pravarthaka.    

Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra tirtha was Telugu speaking and was a good organizer and effective speaker. He had conducted numerous disputations with rival schools and gained ascendancy or victory. One of his greatest achievements which is remembered even today is the mass conversion to Madhva faith of a large number of Karnataka Brahmin families in his own native district. This took place in Pennattur, at some distance from Vellore, where the Pontiff was staying for Chathurmasya. The converts adopted the name of the village where the conversion took place and flourish in Coimbatore district. (Sri B N K Sharma belongs to one of those families as per his own observation). Members of the family are still active in upholding the prestige of the SVM and celebrating his Aradhane etc. It is believed that on this occasion 2000 persons became Madhvas and are known as Aravelus even today – who reside in Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra, with the mother tongue as Kannada. Sri Ramachandra Tirtha is reputed to have had a disciple going ahead announcing during his travels – a pot of cow dung mixed water being carried by a disciple – The disputants who oppose Dvaita vada are lying under our feet defeated. All disputants are welcome for debate, and those who lose will get the reward carried in the pot! Such was his staunch faith in his own system and confidence in himself. There is no doubt that during his time, a very large following was acquired by the Sri Matha in Andhra and Tamilnadu. It is also reported that he used to reduce the actual time taken for rituals like Puja etc to the minimum and spend it on debates, compositions etc. He seems to have stated in reply to criticism in this regard – “Vagbommale bommalu” – Brahman of Upanishads is more in the study and mental assimilation than in simple rituals. He was universally respected for his scholarship, commitment to Tatvavada, his vast knowledge and authority in critical interpretations of earlier texts.

The same quality of unshakeable conviction had been displayed by him in his Poorvashrama days as shown in the following story: Once, he had gone to Tirupati for darshan of Lord Srinivasa. Due to big crowds as well as the visit of some privileged persons, he was unable to have his darshan even after waiting a long time and had to return disappointed. He composed a shloka “Aishwarya madamatthosi idaaneem maam upekshyase, vadeenaam kalahe praapthe ahameva gathisthava” and wrote it in a piece of paper and dropped it in front of the route being taken by the Uthsava Murthy. The shloka means that: Oh, Srinivasa, You are now conceited due to your wealth and hence ignore me. But when you become the object of discussion amongst disputants, only I have to defend you. The Lord immediately instructed the Mahanth to allow his special devotee in and gave him darshan. Such was his staunch faith in God!

Once during his travels, some people opposed to him and unable to defeat him in debate had arranged to kill him by dropping a big stone on his head as his entourage passed by. Though they made the attempt as planned, Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra tirtha, who realised the attempt, ordered the stone: “Antharaale Thista” – Stay, where you are, in mid-air - The stone did not fall and hurt the great ascetic. Subsequently, he ordered the disciples to carry the stone with him and finally ordered that it should be placed on his Vrindavana, where it is even today. This incident showed that in addition to his great qualities as a learned scholar, he was also an Aparoksha Jnani and had the different siddhis attained by Yogic practices and Meditation on the Supreme Being.

It is sad that Sri Vidyapayonidhi tirtha (1965-1997 AD), the previous pontiff decided to shift the original Vrindavana of this great pontiff and that of his Guru Sri Sripathi Tirtha from Royavellore, as he had tried to do for Sri Lakshmikantha Tirtha at Penukonda and Sri Lakshmivallabha Tirtha from Belur. By the grace of God, his attempts did not succeed both in the case of the Royavellore and Penukonda Vrindavanas, which were preserved almost miraculously by the efforts of local devotees who took the bold step of opposing their own pontiff and arranged for the regular worship of the original Vrindavanas by their own contributions. Local committees were formed which have also taken steps to prevent any such attempts in future by the Matha administration. The pontiff had to be satisfied by installing Mritthika Vrindavanas in Tirumakoodalu near Sri Sheshachandrikacharya’s. Perhaps the intention of Hari-Vayu was to give a rare and fine opportunity for real devotees located at these places – the Aradhane and regular Pujas are performed far more rigorously and with a large attendance from all over Karnataka and Tamilnadu/Andhra than was ever done by the Matha in recent times. The succeeding Pontiff has also done nothing to correct the situation to take back the land sold away and making arrangements of regular Puja/Aradhana etc. Similar efforts were made to shift the Vrindavanas of Sri Jagannatha Tirtha (Bhashya Dipikacharya), Sri Vidyanatha Tirtha and Sri Vidyapathi Tirtha from their present location in Kumbhakonam and selling the land off for commercial reasons, Luckily, the local devotees, mostly non-brahmins brought a court stay order and stopped the process, though a large patch of land was sold away for a pittance. See for details under “Sri Bhashya Dipikacharya. The tragic farce was continued by shifting the Vrindavanas of Sri Vidyavallabha Tirtha and Sri Srinatha Tirtha which were already in Tirumakoodalu to near Sri Shesha-chandrikacharya’s Vrindavana. There was virtually no reason for doing this job of “House keeping” with Vrindavanas –as they should not be treated as furniture to be shifted about unless it is for unavoidable reasons like Flooding, etc. Perhaps no other Matha has treated its previous Pontiff vrindavanas as Sri Vyasaraja matha, during the period from 1969 onwards, when Sri Vidyaprasanna tirtha passed away. It is the glory of U Matha, that they have not only taken care of their Vrindavanas much better, but even today, they serve as local centers of Madhvas for religious and Jnana Karya purposes, with the Swamijis personally visiting the locations frequently specially for Aradhanas and preserving local data in the form of Life histories and events during the time of the pontiffs.

Of late, during 2008/9 some attempts were made by the Matha to arbitrarily change the dates of Yekadashi etc without any analytical study or appreciation of the Pramanas involved based on shallow reasoning like Sri Vyasaraja and Sri Raghavendra were both incarnations of Sri Prahlada and hence we should follow the SRS Matha determination. What a fall from the standards of Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha! The samithi Panchanga which has been issued since 2006 regularly was with the main purpose that our precious heritage and tradition of great scholars should not be lost by ignorance and callousness.