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Sri Narahari Tirtha & Inscriptions of Srikurmam Temple

 

12th January 2015 (Pushya Krishna Sapthami) was the Madhyaradhana of the great ascetic/Administrator/Ruler of Orissa (then called Kalinga) – Sri Narahari Tirtha.

 

Due to the narrow considerations of both Madhva community and the rest of the society, his historical records are simply ignored, even when they have been brought out into the limelight several decades earlier, by such well known personalities as Sri C M Padmanabhacharya, Dr. B.N.K Sharma etc.

 

The present day scholars keep on repeating fancy stories secure in their ignorance and closed minds. I had compiled à study entirely based on published data from Karnataka and Orissan sources, as well as what could be secured by Internet. I am summing up essential points from this study, as I feel that the adherents to religious dogmatic beliefs and Matha politics are being extremely unfair to one of the greatest Madhvas of all time, with an allround personality and achievements which have been rivaled only by the great Sri Vyasaraja.

 

The Shasanas in Sri Kurmam and Simhachalam temples are well known and their contents fully clarified and determined. The Shasanas can be subdivided into the following types:

1. Where Sri Narahari Tirtha is himself a donor.

 2. Where someone else gave a gift to the Temple for the specific purpose in his presence.

3. Where the lineage of Sri Narahari from Acharya Madhva is clearly mentioned. Based on the data and views expressed in the book “Madhvamathagala shasanagalu

 

Samputa 2, the following analysis can be noted:

1. Dates and main contents:

1248 AD written in Kannada script, but consisting of a Sanskrit text and found in SriKurma. The date is now totally illegible, though earlier records indicated this period. Its identification with Sri Narahari Tirtha is also based on the use of the word Nruhari to indicate a person but without any qualifying adjectives like Sripada etc. It is very brief consisting of the renewal of a gift to Sri Kurma temple for offering Naivedya three times a day and for Brahmanas.

This Shasana is à recent find considered as UNPROVEN in its authenticity.


(1) 1264 AD: (Dated 19–9–1264 AD).Located on the 48th Pillar of Thiruchithra Mandira of SriKurma temple. This is the earliest verified Shasana written in Kannada script, but consisting of a Sanskrit text, also referred to in HDSV. Sri Narahari Tirtha is referred to as Nruhari Muni. The date is given as Bhadrapada Krishna thrayodashi – and is intended for feeding Srivaishnava Brahmins in perpetuity on Sri Krishna Janmashatami dayfalling in Shravana Krishna Ashtami. The wealth gift seems to be small three gold coins but could be part of a larger corpus already there and thus could be an additional amount for the specific purpose.

 

(2) 1264 AD: (Dated 19–91264 AD) Located on the same pillar in the same place as the previous one. Written in Kannada script and consist of Telugu words. Identical dates as the previous one. The Gift is also the same (3 Golden coins), but the changes are Sri Narahari Tirtha Sripada used here and the purpose is the feeding of SriVaishnava Brahmins on Sri Krishna Jayanthi day.

 

The two Shasanas prove (as stated by HDSV) that Sri Narahari Tirtha was already an ascetic bearing the  same nam(not Poorvashrama names).  The relatively smaller value gifts show that he was perhaps still in lower authoritative positions, but also show that he had some administrative responsibility for the Sri Kurma temple, which has continued in the next Shasana also. The separate gift for SriVaishnavas shows that they were perhaps traditionally worshipping in the temple of Kurmanatha at thatime, and accommodating their requirementwas also necessaryThe purpose of the gift shows the importance attached to Krishna.worship and fasting on Janmashtami day, as emphasised by Acharya Madhva (even at that time when he would be only around 26 years of age, based on 1238 AD birth date). There is a long time gap between these two and the next one in 1271 AD followed by another after an even longer time gap of 10 years in 1981 AD, which throws a great deal of illumination on the relationship of Sri NaraharTirtha with Kalinga and the Sri Kurmam temple.. These need to be explained. It is also necessary to confirm by active search that no new Shasaanas are waiting to be discovered.

 

From Orissan recorded history, we note that the king Narasimha Idied in 1264 AD and was succeded by Bhanudeva I. He ruled for 15 years without any major events. In 1279 AD, when he died, the infant son Narasimha II was protected and looked after by Sri Narahari Tirtha till 1390 AD, when he handed over the reins. Narasimha II ruled for another 16 years till 1306 AD and was succeeded by his son Bhanudeva II in that year. Bhanudeva II fought with Ulugh Khan under Ghiyasuddin Khalji and forced him to withdraw from Orissa and ruled successfully till 1328 AD, when he was succeeded by his son Narasimha III. Then the decline  of the Orissan kingdom started.

 

One would be tempted to guess that Acharya Madhva would have been invited to visit the Temple being looked after by Sri Narahari Tirtha and would have done so onthe return visit from Badari kshethra on the first occasion (around 1260/61 AD) which may perhaps have been combined with a visit to the famous Vaishnava Kshethra of Lord Jagannatha at Puri, which was under the control of Sri Vaishnavas from the time of the visit of Sri Ramanujacharya, a century earlier.

(3) 1271 AD: (Dated 10–101271 AD) Located on the 42nd pillar in the same place as the previous oneWritten in Kannada script and consist oSanskrit words. Sri Narahari Tirtha is describeas Narahari Sricharana  and Muniswara and the order of Bhanudeva 1, based on which Sri Narahari Tirtha was giving the gift is also mentioned. This shows that he was perhaps in the position of an advisor to the King, on SriKurmam Temple administration. 15

Vaishnavas and 30 other Brahmanas were given gifts of Land in a village called Konnagrama in the traditional manner along with a golden coin and Thambula. Some of thnames othe Brahmins is  listed, and seems to include a couple of womenThe persons include a Purana reciter, administrator and army commander. Sri Narahari Tirtha is also credited with retrieving on behalf of the Sri Kurmam temple an expired donation of a village in Kudupi

 

This Shasana shows that by this time, Sri Narahari Tirtha was fully in administrative control of the SriKurmam temple and was directly reporting to King Bhanudeva I. Bhanudeva is called here as a Sachiva (Minister), though he had succeeded to the throne in 1264 AD 7 years earlier as per historical record. Sri Narahari Tirthas next Shasana in 1281 AD, was after he had become a regent in 1278. It is likely that he was staying in SriKurmam till then and was personally supervising the affairs of the temple.

 

(4) 1281 AD (Dated 13-3-1281) Located on the 9 th pillar in the same place as the previous ones. This is the most informative and definitive historically, clearly relating Sri Narahari Tirtha to the Madhva lineage records maintained elsewhere. This Shasana has the following special points: -

 

i.     It mentions Acharya Madhva by name clearly as AnandTirtha Muni, the master who was being served by groups of ascetics (Munivrathaissevya padaravindayugala) also saying clearly that his great Bhashya which brings back those misled by others of inferior intellects into the path of well defined Bheda (The fivefold differences) extols the greatness of the Lord of Kamala and will confer attainment of His Lotus feet. It mentions specifically  that the writer (of the shasana) was assigned by his Guru, the duty of protecting the people and thereby continues his inherited duties of looking after the people born in the land of Kalinga as per Dharma (Righteousness).


ii.         It mentions Purushotthama Tirtha as the first Guru of the lineage who had also composed a great sacred Bhashya which was capable of defeating other Bhashyas like an Ankusha to elephants. (Though no other record exists of any Bhashya composed by Sri Acchyutha preksha Purushotthama Tirtha, the element of great devotion shown here for the Paramparis an  indication  of the  regarwhich  prevailed  in Acharya Madhvas time to his own Guru).

 

iii.        The actions of Sri AnandaTirtha are stated in the present implying his continuance among the living at the time of the Shasana (128AD).

 

Here, one can also see clearly that Sri Narahari Tirtha could never have worded his Shasana in the way it is now seen to be written for posterity, if he had already seen Acharya Madhva completely disappear from all human contact three years earlier in 1278. There would have been some indication of the event, which should have been calamitous for the ardent devotee, Sri Narahari tirtha.

 

iv.    Sri Narahari Tirtha was entrusted by AnandaTirthathe excellent protector of the world himself, with the task of protecting the people of Kalinga and committed to the great duty of security of the temple of Sri Kurmam, as his chief hereditary duty, protected them with his sword from Shabaras as ordained.

 

v.   This new Praasada was constructed by him in front of the SriKurmam temple where the deity Yogananda Nrusimha was duly installed for worship. (This Praasada exists even today, but the Idol is missing. There is a story that the Idol may have been dropped into temple pond to save it from Muslim invaders).

 History records that Sri Narahari Tirtha had already become a regent of the Kingdom with the death of Bhanudeva I, in 1278 AD, and the infant king Narasimha II was being protected by him. Thus the reference in this Shasana of 1281 AD to the ordained duty of protecting the people of Kalinga and ensuring the security of the SriKurmam temple (as his old hereditary duty which  appears to have  been  there  even in 1271  AD) with the express direction ohis Guru is significant. It is also significant that unlike other Shasanas, there is NO mention of any other royal personality in this Shasana at all which supports the view that he did not have to take the approval of any other superior agency for the work.

If his Guru Ananda Tirtha had just vanished from human eyes, a couple of years earlier in 1278 AD, the language of the Shasana would have reflectethis major event in Sri Narahari tirtha’s life. On the other hand, the events as described appear to be those which were continuing at that time.

 

(5) This Shasana in Telugu and scripted in Kannada is dated December 128AD (3-12-1282). A gift of Meghanada Dharma contents unknown was given to SriKurmatemple (not specified) by a Vassal chief called Narasimha, son of Yerunatuva in the presence of Sri Narahari Tirtha. The year is mentioned as the seventh year of the nominal reign of Narasimha II (the boy king). The latter nominally came to power only in 1278 AD (with Sri Narahari Tirtha as regent), and hence the year works out to the fifth year. The error may be a case of misreading

The next set of Shasanas till the ones in 1293 and 1294 AD pertain to Simhachalam. One more SriKurmam Shasana is available dated 1294 AD. It is thus likely that his duties for the governance of the state may have taken Sri Narahari Tirtha away from SriKurmam till it became possible for him to leave Orissa and come back to Udupi to his Guru. .

 

(6) This shasana scripted in Kannada and in Sanskrit and Telugu languages is dated November 1289 AD (12-11-1289). The Shasana is found in Simhachala Narasimha temple on the inner wall of the open verandah.

 

A donatioo2gold  coinwagivebGangadevi,  wifof Ranganathabhattopadhyaya for ensuring burning of Ghee lights in front of the deity every day, in the presence of Sri Narahari tirtha. (Narahari Tirtha mahamuni).

(7) This shasana scripted in Kannada and in Sanskrit and Telugu languages is dated November 1292 AD (20/21-1-1292). The Shasana is found in the open verandah of the shrine of Lord Narasimha at Simhachalam temple. Sri Narahari Tirtha himself is the donor of 25 gold coins and 150 sheep to the temple. The purpose is stated to be the maintenance of lamps of ghee for the deity by which the life, health and merit of the donor is ensured. The special occasion was Pushyabahula shravana nakshathra and solar eclipse on the next day. There is no mention of any king etc His name is mentioned as Sri Narahari Tirtha munindra simha girindra an indication of the great status and regard in public mind that he must have reached.

 

In another Shasana of the same year, in the same location, the donor is thKing which will be discussed separately.

(8) This shasana scripted in Kannada and in Sanskrit and Telugu languages is dated November 1292 AD (26-7-1292). The Shasana is found in the openverandah of the shrine of Lord Narasimha at Simhachalam temple. The donor is an official called Dohatthamalla serving the son of King Narasimha II, called Jayantha, who gave a  Garden for the  service of the deity. In the  same shasana, the king Jayantha also gave a flower garden to the temple with the inspiration of Sri Narahari Tirtha Sripadaru.

 

Simhachalam comes in the Telugu area later ruled by the Reddis and was also occupied by Vijayanagara a century later. The local chieftain may have been named Jayantha as the son of Narasmiha II was named Bhanudeva II. The name of the ruler is not material for the purpose of this note.

 

(9) This shasana scripted in Kannada and in Sanskrit and Telugu languages is dated October 1292 AD (25-10-1292). The Shasana is found in the open verandah of the shrine of Lord Narasimha at Simhachalam temple. The donor is Arjunadeva Maharaja also known as Narasimha Vardhana, who donated a garden with 300 trees for lighting a perpetual lamp in memory of his brother Gopala Vardhana in the presence of Sri Narahari Tirtha (Nruhari Muni).

 

(10This shasana scripted in Kannada and is in Telugu language and is dated April 1293 AD (22-4-1293). The Shasana is found on the 49 th pillar. Of the Thirchithra Mantapa of Sri Kurmanatha temple. This is stated to be on the 18 th year of the reign of Narasimha II of Kalinga. The donor is Sri Narahari Tirtha who gave 5 golden coins (Gandamada) for the sake of the annual Shuddhikarana (Thirumanjana) of the main and Uthsava Murthies and Panchamrutha Abhisheka along with some other associated sevas and offerings on Vaishakha Paurnami, Jyeshta Nakshathra perpetually. It is possible that this day and Muhurtha correspond to the Birth date and time of Sri Narahari Tirtha. Here also as in the case of (5) above, there is an error in the figure of number of years of kingship of the ruling Naarsinha II, as he came to power even nominally only in 1978 and thus only 15 years had passed. Perhaps the difference can be explained by a nominal coronation done for him three years earlier, even when his father was alive (1275 AD).

 

(11This shasana scripted in Kannada and is in Sanskrit and Telugu language and is dated April 1293 AD (22-4-1293). The Shasana is found on the 9th pillar. Of the Thiruchithra Mantapa of Sri Kurmanatha temple. The donor is Sri Narahari Tirtha himself, described in the Shasana as Sri Nruharimuni Gunanidhi and also mentions that he is a shishyof Srimdanandatirtha Pujyapadacharya (the only other Shasana which mentions it apart from the1281 shasana). It records the consecration of the Idols of Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha in the Kurmanatha temple by him and for establishing perpetual seva thereafter, he gifted 51 Golden coins along with silken robes, utensils

etc. It is also recorded that the Tirupathi srivaishnavas who were archakas in this temple should maintain proper worship in future. Even now, these idols are receiving regular worship in SriKurmam temple.

 

There is one interesting conjecture possible about the role of SriVaishnavas during Sri Narahari Tirthas time in the Vishnu temples in the area. Right from the time of Anantavarman Chodaganga (death 1150 AD) who had become a Parama Vaishnava and had accepted Ramanujacharya as his spiritual Guru, during his visit, the Archakas in all important temples were SriVaishnavas even in the SriKurmam temple. Sri Narahari Tirtha had to make a separate donation for them even when he was the local administrator (on a hereditary basis inherited from his father see Shasana of 1281 AD).

Acharya Madhva had directed Sri Narahari Tirtha who earlier been  an Advaiita follower, to continue in his hereditary role  even  after he was initiated as a Madhva Sannyasi and his immediate disciple, which was completely against the normal course for an ascetic who had renounced the world and would be eager to accompany and stay with his Guru to learn the philosophical doctrines which had impressed him so deeply.. Thus he directed the performance of even martial duties against those who threatened his domain which he had sworn to protect.

Though he had a rapid rise in his position and responsibility as Madhva had foreseen – from SriKurmam temple in charge to local administrator and then to Governor of a province and on to become Rajaguru and Regent of the State, and he was respected both by the rulers as well as by the people for his selfless service and capable administrative abilities, he did not interfere with the hereditary rights of worship in the Vishnu temples and allowed SriVaishnavas to continue as the priests (one is reminded of Sri Vyasaraja in Tirupathi). Even in that time, the control of all such Puja related matters was from Tirupathi, which must have been a major concentration of Sri Vaishnava priests.

This perhaps answers the question whether Madhva visited Tirupathi with the obvious answer that he did but did not try to usurp control or establish any parallel center of administrative authority. Eulogistic references in the Shasanas referring to Sri Narahari Tirtha, even when he was no longer in power, as well as the verdict of historians has established that he was widely respected even by SriVaishnavas and was responsible for the rapid spread of Vaishnavism in Orissa. It is this quality that allowed him to take the Moola Rama and Seetha Ikons from the Royal treasury of Gajapathis without any protest or conflict.

One would visualize the continued interest and regard of Sri Narahari Tirtha in his erstwhile area of work, even after he came back to Karnataka and stayed with his Guru for further studies and eventually for succeeding to the August Peetha. One could also easily conclude that the wise Acharya Madhva had  taken the  more significant task of sustaining a traditional Hindu-Vaishnava statagainst the inevitable forces of disintegration for a longer period as the basis for his decision to keep Sri Narahari Tirtha in Orissa, rather than just bringing in of the Moola Rama Idols.


(12This recently discovered shasana scripted in Kannada in Telugu language is dated 1303 AD. The Shasana is found in the inner verandah of the shrine of Lord Narasimha at simhachalam temple. The donor is Sri Narahari Tirtha, who has offered a lamp along with an Idol to be in perpetual use, along with some donation of money, land and cows by some others. The name used is Narahari Padamgaru of Bharadwaja gothra. The date was apparently read earlier as 1325+78=1403 AD, which seems to be wrong. It is assessed as to be 1235+78=1313 AD (wrongly printed as 1303 AD) in the book Madhvamathagala shasanagalu Vol 2 page 29.

 

There is some guess work in the date as the last two numbers are unreadable today and were originally guessed as 25. The second letter was originally guessed as 2, based on which it corresponds to 1303 AD. But the compilers of the book have also suggested the last two letters as 35, but in the Arithmetic of conversion to modern calendar kept the figures as 25 only. The date is thus uncertain and indeterminate. But as the second numeral is either 2 or 3, and so is the third, the date of the Shasana must be after 1300 AD.and makes it the last shasana known.

As this Shasana comes after nearly a decade from the earlier last known one of 1294 AD, it does not have much significance with regard to the continued stay of Sri Narahari Tirtha in the area, as it could just be a stray one, donated on a visit to the temple.

(13)   This recently discovered shasana scripted in Kannada in Sanskrit and Telugu languages is dated 1373 AD (25-11-1373 AD). The Shasana is found in the open verandah of the shrine of Lord Narasimhat simhachalam temple. The donor is Sri Jagannatha Tirtha (Yathi thilaka Jagannatha Tirtha Agrapada) of Narahari Matha. The gift is 12 gold coins for offering 2 bowls of curds and 2 apoopas everyday to the temple deity.

 

The significance of this Shasana is the existence of the Narahari Matha at that time which did not continue or got absorbed into some other lineage or renamed later on. The date corresponds to the time of Sri Teekacharya (1365-1388 AD) and there would have been at least one shishya in the second generation in between Sri Narahari Tirtha and Jagannatha Tirtha. There is a likelihood of the first disciple of Sri Vidyadhiraja – Rajendra Tirtha who went to North India around 1390 AD must have visited Jagannatha Puri in his travels and might have been in touch with the Narahari matha mentioned here, as local base. The story of Sri Rajendra Tirtha itself needs to be properly explored as he is the man link in the chain of great scholars starting from Sri Padmanabha – Narahari - Akshobhya JayaTirtha Rajendra Vishnudasacharya - Vibhudendra – Raghuttama Sripadaraja Vyasaraja Vijayindra Raghavendra and others.

 

(To be continued)

 

 

Comments   

Raghavendra Puranik
+2 #1 Raghavendra Puranik 2015-01-14 16:26
A very useful and informative & excellent write-up.
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