Sumadhwa Vijaya - Historical Exploration


Regarding the Periods of the first five great Madhva saints

Sri Padmanabha, Narahari, Madhava, Akshobhya and Jaya Tirthas


The last two decades of Acharya Madhva 1238-1318 AD, followed by the five ascetics in his Peetha (till 1388 AD) were known for some of the epoch making developments in History, specially on the Deccan plateau.

The old order of Hindu kingdoms was replaced by an unstoppable and often violent Islamic sultanate originating form Delhi, which caused general hardship to the people, specially the Vaishnava Hindus and Brahmins in particular and instead of royal patronage or at least neutrality, there was severe persecution. The features of the Kali age developed rapidly with a vengeance.

How these divine Lords of the Philosophical empire of Madhva dealt with the situation on the ground is a topic of abiding interest to all Madhvas. But, for their patience, perseverance, fortitude in adversity and conviction of doctrines preached by them, the nascent Vedanta school could well have died out completely or be confined to the immediate surroundings of Madhva’s area around Udupi.

The existing traditional literature built around them in the Mathas has many temporal errors as well as undue ornamentation of the stories – some times even of quasi-historic events like the reign of Sri Narahari Tirtha in Kalinga and the famous disputation between Sri Akshobya and Vidyaranya. Part of the confusion was due to imprecise statements about the periods of their stay in the Peetha and physical locations of the events.

To the extent that these are cleared by detailed study of recorded history and major events like wars, invasions, change of lineages of rulers, specific mention of these saints themselves in prevailing records, one gets a truer picture and a correct appreciation of the odds that they faced when carrying the Torch of Tatvavada forward.

There are some amongst us who would like to revel in their ignorance, preferring the comfortable feeling of suspending all analysis and judgments by the blind acceptance of the selected written word chosen by them without any intellectual effort – usually with glaring errors and physical incongruities.This effort is not meant for such persons.  On the other hand, making such an effort as this will always carry a risk of being wrong in a specific analysis due to possible errors and inconsistencies. New information and contradiction by future analysis is always to be faced – but one would hope that the important and interesting conclusions will be sustained even after future critical reviews.

As a fundamental basis of analysis of the Time factor, the following table is considered, based on the latest accepted figures by the Mathas. The dates of Vrindavana pravesha mentioned are based on Matha records as accepted presently.

The dates and places of Vrindavana pravesha of the most well known ascetics starting from Sri Padmanabha Tirtha (excluding the eight mathas of Udupi and the Acchyutha preksha/Sathyatirtha matha, are as under



Saint Name Year of Brindavana Pravesha Location Historical Event
1 Sri 1008 Padmanabha 1324 AD  HAMPI/NAVAVRINDAVANA Kampili/Anegondi state
2 Sri 1008 Narahari 1333 AD HAMPI Kampili/Anegondi state
3 Sri 1008 Madhava 1350 AD HAMPI (shifted)   Vijayanagara state                    founded in 1336 AD
4 Sri 1008 Akshobhya 1365 AD MANYAKHETA (shifted to river) Bahamani state founded in 1347 AD
5 Sri 1008 Jaya Tirtha 1388 AD HAMPI ? / Malkheda river bank ** See below
6 Sri 1008 Vidyadhiraja 1402 AD UNKNOWN (SVM Tradition shows Yeragola)  
7 Sri Rajendra  Tirtha 1440 AD UNKNOWN -  SVM Tradition shows Yeragola  
8 Sri Kavindra  Tirtha 1399 AD HAMPI  - Vijayanagara –(SRS&UM)  
9 Sri Vageesha  Tirtha 1408 AD HAMPI – Vijayanagara – (SRS & UM)  
10 Sri Ramachandra Tirtha 1435 AD YERAGOLA (SRS & UM)  
11 Sri Jayadhwaja Tirtha 1448 AD UNKNOWN – SVM Tradition Yeragola  
12 Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha 1470 AD ??        (Tamilnadu) (SRS) ** See below
13 Sri Vidyanidhi  Tirtha 1479 AD YERAGOLA? (UM) ** See below
14 Sri Jithamithra Tirtha 1475 AD ???   (SRS) ** See below
15 Sri Raghunandana Tirtha 1504 AD HAMPI (SRS)  
16 Sri Raghunatha Tirtha 1527 AD Malkheda riverbank (UM)  
17 Sri Purushotthama Tirtha 1460 AD Cave near Abbur(SVM)  
18 Sri Brahmanya Tirtha 1467 AD Abbur(SVM)  
19 Sri Sripadaraja 1502 AD Mulabagilu (SPR)  
20 Sri Vyasaraja 1539 AD Hampi/Navavrindavana (SVM)  
21 Sri Raghuvarya Tirtha 1557 AD Hampi?/(conflict with item 5). (UM)  
22 Sri Srinivasa Tirtha 1564 AD Hampi/Navavrindavana (SVM)  
23 Sri Rama Tirtha 1584 AD Hampi/Navavrindavana (SVM)  
24 Sri Sudhindra Tirtha 1623 AD Hampi/Navavrindavana (SVM)  
Sl.No. Name of the Saint Year of Brindavana Pravesha Location Historical Event
25 Sri Vijayindra Tirtha           AD Kumbhakonam(SRS)  
26 Sri Raghuttama Tirtha 1595 AD Tirukoiluru (UM)  
27 Sri Lakshmikantha Tirtha 1594 AD Penukonda(SVM)  
28 Sri Vadiraja Tirtha 1600 AD Sode  
29 Sri Sripathi Tirtha 1612 AD Vellore(SVM)  
30 Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha 1632 AD Vellore(SVM)  
31 Sri Lakshmivallabha Tirtha 1642 AD Belur(SVM)  
32 Sri Lakshminatha Tirtha 1660 AD SriRangam (SVM)  

The case of the Vrindavana of Sri JayaTirtha also attributed to Sri Raghuvarya by UM needs separate discussion.

12 of the first 24 instances considered here are in Hampi area, which predominated the list of locations till the 16 th century, right from the time of Acharya Madhva.

It is also known that there are some more Vrindavanas “discovered” in the area, claimed by Udupi Mathas.  The likelihood of more Vrindavanas being discovered in the general location of Hampi such as Kampili etc cannot also be ruled out, as a few well known ascetics vrindavanas during the period 1400 – 1450 AD are untraced yet. This feature needs further analysis, from the historical perspective.

The feature of the headquarters of the Matha ascetics following the fortunes of kingdoms like Vijayanagara, such as shifting of their capital etc remarked by Dr. B. N. K. Sharma in HDSV is also clearly visible in the above chart. (Refce: p. 468 of Third revised Edition). This would be applicable in PRINCIPLE for all Mathas, with honourable exceptions like the present day Manthralaya kshethra

At the first instance, the period of Acharya Madhva in the last two decades (1298 – 1318 AD) will also be studied in the context of the invasions of the Sultanate of Delhi on the Deccan plateau.

During Acharya Madhva’s stay on earth, for 79 years (1238-1318 AD), described in Sumadh Vavijaya, his first Badari visit can be dated with some precision (based on the first of Sri Narahari Tirtha’s Orissa shasanas in 1264 AD) as being a couple of years before (when Madhva would be only 26 years of age).

The date of the second Badari trip can also be inferred based on his completion of some activities like installation of Krishna Ikon in Udupi and composition of major Sarva Moola works excluding those which clearly came after the visit, though no specific clue seems to be available about the year when it took place.

But, there are some indirect references in Sumadhvavijaya such as his asking 15 of his disciples together in Varanashi for a test of strength (Chapter 10, shlokas 37-40) where they are called as Young (Yuvah) as compared to him and their being arrogant about their strength – by which one could deduce that Madhva was at least a generation older than them and possibly in his middle age at that time.

Similar tests of strength and endurance are also mentioned in the last chapter – presumably towards the end of his stay as a visible entity in Udupi surroundings – when to the ignorant on looker, he might have manifested apparent old age. The mention of King Iswara Deva, whom he met, accompanied by a large following of Shishyas is also a pointer. Thus, the second visit to North India must also have been completed in his early middle age in his forties (well before the first Muslim invasion of South India by Allauddin Khalji in 1294 AD).

Subsequently, he seems to have confined his physical presence to Kerala and South Canara, which were free of internecine conflict between rulers and threats of invasions from empire building outsiders. Thus the neighbouring kingdoms where he might have had to move about outside his normal area would be mainly the Hoysala kingdom with the capital at Dvarasamudra (Halebidu), the Kingdom of Kerala and the Pandya Kingdoms in South Tamilnadu – ruled from Madurai and containing important Vaishnava centers of Sri Rangam, Rameswaram etc which he had visited in his very first south Indian tour.

History records enormous upheavals in the adjacent areas with destruction of temples and mass killing of Hindus by invading Muslim hordes. A brief description of the political events in Deccan area as given in two authoritative books “The Hoysalas” by Duncan M Derrett and “The Early Muslim expansion in South India” by K. A. Nilakanta Shastri is compiled here. For purposes of arriving at a global perspective, the series of books “The History and Culture of the Indian people” by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has also been consulted.

It is hoped that while some differences of opinion between events as assessed to have taken place in the historic past may persist and some personalized views may have crept in, by and large, a fair presentation, particularly of the sequence of events and personalities would be maintained with the required degree of accuracy to enable forming true conclusions.

An important observation which could be made in this regard is the relevance of the shloka 3/4 of Chapter 4 of Sumadhvavijaya – summarised below:

Madhva is contemplating taking Sannyasa -

.3. Use of force (Danda) and punishment against the haters of my master, Vishnu is the only option available to me, as I have the necessary capacity. But, as goddess Durga, the sister of Krishna is shortly incarnating for destruction of the wicked, I will not take up this work.

Note: There is reference to the forthcoming incarnation of Goddess Durga for the destruction of evil in Mahabharatha Tatparya Nirnaya 32/164.

.4.                    Thinking thus, Vasudeva (the future Madhva) who contemplated Hari, with the infinite names always, decided to renounce all worldly objects such as the house etc. He started to prostrate again and again before all such objects towards the immanent Hari to seek permission for becoming an ascetic.

Being aware of the forthcoming triumph of destructive forces which almost annihilated Hindu society, as per pre-ordained will of the Supreme Being known to him, the justification of adopting the role of an ascetic by Madhva can be well understood. A Madhva in other Ashramas like Brahmacharya or Grihastha would well have reversed the course of events with his unmatched powers.

Let us now look at the historical perspective:

Delhi Sultanate and Successors:

The  period 1296 - 1388 (including the last two decades of Madhva till the Vrindavana pravesha of Sri JayaTirtha) was full of political events. Delhi Sultans of Khilji and Tughlaq dynasties led many campaigns of war against South India and destroyed the then existing and flourishing south Indian Hindu Kingdoms as a policy. In fact, it was the period in which the ruling Muslim kings at Delhi and their governors followed a policy of conversion, repression, murder, mayhem, rape, destruction of Hindu temples, holy places, scriptures and persecution of Hindus in India. Particularly in the period of Ghaiyasuddin (1320 - 1325 AD)  the Deccan area was subject to repeated massive invasions from Delhi Muslim forces – 1318, 1322 and 1324 AD. Even Sri Padmanabha Tirtha’s area in Northern Andhra (Rajahmundry etc – there is a suggestion that he was in the court of Warangal) was severely disturbed in the continuous fighting.

The invasion of the Southern part of India by Delhi based Muslim rulers first started in the time of Alauddin Khalji (1296 – 1316 AD). His earliest campaign was against Gujarat’s Hindu kingdom ruled by Karna, in 1298 AD. The famous Somnatha temple in Saurashtra was captured, plundered and its deity destroyed at this time. The well known capitulation of Ranthambor fort with the Jauhar of the ladies and final suicidal battle which killed all the defenders took place in 1301 AD. Allauddin attempted to subjugate the Kakatiya ruled kingdom of Telingana, with its capital at Warangal for the first time in early 1303 AD and failed, Next came the battle for Chitttor in Rajasthan and its destruction. Alauddin had also to fight and repel repeated Mongol invasions during this period – the last being in 1306 AD.

Alauddin next sent his army to Warangal (which he had failed to subdue in 1303 AD), in 1309 AD. He reached Devagiri and got the assistance of is King and even some forces and attacked Telingana. His army reached Warangal in 1310 AD, looting and killing on the way, and besieged it with a smaller force than the defenders. King Prathaparudra however failed to defend his city-fort perhaps due to undue defensive approach and finally sued for peace. The peace deal included huge tributes of Gold, Jewellery as well elephants and horses (possibly even the Kohinoor Diamond). With the gates to the South wide open, in November 1310 AD, Alauddin’s army turned its attention to Ma’bar (called as such by Muslim historians) in the deep south (capital Madurai).

This invasion in 1311 AD took the western route through Rajaputana and reahed Devagiri, where the reigning king Ramachandra gave all help and support to go further south to Dvarasamudra, ruled by Ballala III, the Hoysala king. Unfortunately for the latter, he was himself in Ma”bar area (South Tamilnadu) intervening in a civil war between two Pandya brothers – Sundara and Veera pandya, trying to recover some areas from them. When he heard of the attack on Dvarasamudra, he hurried back with his army also taking the help from the Pandyas. But, he soon lost confidence in his ability to challenge the invading army and accepted submission paying tributes and gave away a great deal of wealth to them. The Muslim army went down further south to Ma”bar. But, here the Pandya princes did not shut themselves up in forts but harassed the invaders in hit and run tactics. In this trip the Muslims sacked and destroyed the Temple towns at Chidambaram, SriRangam, Madurai and went possibly even up to Rameswaram. The invaders captured a large booty of Gold as well as elephants, horses etc. They took a son of Ballala III to Delhi, who was later returned. Though this trip was primararily for loot of wealth rather than territory, it paved the way,due to loss of morale in the rulers of the Hindu kingdoms, for subsequent Muslim invasions from the North followed by establishment of Muslim ruled states such as the Bahamani, Ma’bar sultanate etc. It also exposed a weakness in the political leadership of Hindus who would not unite against an external aggressor and frittered away large resources in wealth, military strength, individual heroism as well popular support by allowing the enemy to adopt a strategy of Offense, surprise and fast action. It is also astonishing that even when ancient temples of the Hindu tradition were being sacked and looted along with destruction of the emblems and Ikons, the Hindu kings who had supported the aggressor did not wake up to the reality that they had let loose a monster of total destruction of their own culture by their own actions.

There was a second expedition of Allauddin’s army in 1313 AD, when Devagiri, Dvarasamudra and Telingana were subjugated. But the entire yadava Devagiri kingdom could not be subjugated as the small Hindu kingdom of Kampili (Bellary, Raichur and Dharwar) asserted its independence. Devagiri re-asserted its independence again in 1315 AD. In 1318 AD, Mubarak Shah invaded Deccan again defeating Warangal and trying to occupy Ma’bar. His son Khusrav was defeated in the battle for Delhi by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in 1320 AD. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq ruled only for 5 years – 1320 – 1325 AD. In 1322 AD, the Muslim army attacked Devagiri and Warangal again, but the expedition failed to conquer Warangal. Next year, one more expedition was sent and was only partly successful, as Prathaparudra continued in Warangal. But, there are indications that the Delhi army continued south to conquer the Pandya kingdom based on Madurai. Rajahmundry was won by the Sultan in 1324 AD, but Bhanudeva II of Kalinga (Orissa) repelled their further progress there. The son of Ghiayasuddin was the famous/notorious Muhammed Bin Tughlaq, who ruled for 27 years – 1325 – 1351 AD.

The period following Madhva’s disappearance 1318 – 1336 AD (till Vijayanagara kingdom was founded) under Mohammed Bin Thughlaq would have been extremely difficult for Hindus all over south India except the west Canara coast, where Madhva stayed.  Certainly the area above the Krishna river, ruled from Devagiri renamed Daulatabad by him, would be totally hostile. This corresponds to the periods of Padmanabha Tirtha and Narahari Tirtha (1318 – 1333). The last important king of Warangal, Prathaparudra was ruling during the same period.  The calamitous invasion by Tughlaq took place when Narahari Tirtha was in the pontifical seat, when the kingdoms of Warangal and Devagiri were destroyed and virtually taken over by Muslims from the Delhi Sultanate. Sri Narahari Tirtha’s who had held an important political position/ruled Kalinga (Orissa) 1264 – 1293 AD, and perhaps rejoined Madhva after that period, may have confined his activity to Orissa and South Karnataka after his return, till he also attained the Feet of the Lord in 1333 AD.


The Kingdom that was an important barrier to the ravages of invasion from the North by Muslims was Devagiri. As appropriately named, Devagiri (Daulatabad of the later period), the capital, 11 kms north-west of Aurangabad, was famous for its formidable hill fort.  The fort is situated on an isolated cone-shaped hill rising abruptly from the plain to the height of about 190 metres.  The fortification constituted of three concentric lines of defensive walls with large number of bastions.  The noteworthy features of the fort are the moat, the scarp and the sub-terranean passage, all hewn of solid rock.  The upper outlet of the passage was filled with an iron grating, on which a large fire could be used to prevent the progress of the enemy.  The Chand Minar, the Chini Mahal and the Baradari are the important structures within the fort. In the days when Guns were not in use, the fort was considered totally impregnable.

The name Iswaradeva mentioned in Sumadhvavijaya as the King who was compelling all travellers to contribute free labour for public works such as digging canals etc has been identified by some as Mahadeva, a King in Devagiri during 1261-1271 AD. There was another Mahadeva Kakatiya in Warangal in 1199 AD also. Madhva would be 23-33 years of age during the Yadava Mahadeva’s period, and not yet born in the Kakathiya Mahadeva’s period. The incident as narrated by Sumadhvavijaya may not also be related to either, as it is not very likely that a king of a large kingdom would be personally supervising the digging of a tank – it may refer to a vassal ruler with the name Iswaradeva also, but the use of the name deva is suggestive of the Devagiri kingdom. The Heyday of the Yadava dynasty represented by their most powerful rulers – Jayatugi and Singhana (1190 – 1230 AD) and which saw illustrious persons like Bhaskaracharya, Sarngadeva, Amalananda etc in the fields of Mathematics, Music and Philosophy was over by the time Madhva was born in 1238 AD. Allauddin’s general, a slave called Mallick Kafur invaded the kingdom during the time of Ramachandra during the period 1294 – 1309 AD and took away huge booty and left the king at the mercy of the Sultan. The son of Ramachandra, Shankara was also killed in battle in 1312 AD and his son in law Harapala, who also tried to resist, was brutally killed in 1318 AD, ending the dynasty and the Kingdom itself. Thus the Yadava kingdom was completely destroyed and Muslim rule enforced by the time Acharya Madhva disappeared from sight. In fact, King Ramachandra by his complete submission to Allauddin and his misplaced priorities of settling old scores with neighboring Hindu kingdoms even with Allauddin breathing down his neck, was also indirectly responsible for the destruction of the famous temples in SriRangam, Madurai, Chidamabaram etc in the Pandya territory in these invasions. The blame of this desecration should also be shared by Hoysala Ballala III in the south with the capital at Dvarasamudra.


The Kakateeya Kingdom flourished in Andhra Pradesh at Warangal (Orugallu – in Telugu and Yekashilapuram in Sanskrit) in 12 th to 14 th centuries, named as such as it was located on a massive rock. The city finds mention by Marcopolo, the framous explorer and had famous rulers like Ganapathi Deva (1197 – 1260 AD), Queen Rudramba (1261 – 1295 AD), and Prathapa Rudra (1295 – 1323 AD). Ganapathi deva had a long rule of 62 years when he successfully fought against the Cholas, Yadavas, Kalinga and Hoysalas and extended his kingdom to cover Kanchi in the south and converted the Andhra and Karnatka rulers as vassals for some time. He named Rudramba, his daughter, as his successor. She was initially not accepted by all, but successfully prevailed against all opponents and also fought with Cholas and Yadavas to defend her kingdom. She nominated her grandson, Prathaprudra as her successor. Noting the date of accession of Rudramba in 1261, and the Kalinga Shasana of 1264 AD of Narahari Tirtha, which helps fixing the probable date of the first visit of Madhva to Godavari river bank indicates that Rudramba must have been ruling the Warangal state during Madhva’s visit to the area on the return trip from his first visit to Badari. The city was finally destroyed in 1323 AD by Mohammed Bin Tughlaq (known as Juna Khan before acceeding to the throne) (1325-1355) after repeated raids and bitter fights in which the valiant Pratapa Rudra lost the war and was captured. Prataparudra committed suicide by jumping into river Narmada (some say Godavari) while being taken away to Delhi to ward off dishonor. There are also another story and some existing ballads indicating that he was rescued by his clever minister Yougandharayana and brought back to his state. However the kingdom could not be revived and soon the State disintegrated. Considering the initiation of Sri Padmanabha Tirtha around 1262 AD on the bank of the Godavari river, and references to a great assembly of scholars held there, where he met Acharya Madhva, there is an indication of migration of scholars from there to South Karnataka under the Hoysala King Ballala III after 1323 AD.

Dvarasamudra (Halebidu):

The Hoysala Kingdom with its capital in Dvarasamudra (Halebidu) was the most significant political entity for the emerging Madhva lineage. Unfortunately, the once vast empire which had dominated almost the whole of south India except Kerala was slowly disintegrating in the period. The raid of Malik Kafur, the deputy of Allauddin Khalji, the Sultan of Delhi commenced in Jan 1311 AD, when he first invaded Devagiri being ruled by Yadava Sevuni king Ramachandra. Though the King died soon after, his successor gave all assistance to the invaders to come stealthily to Dvarasamudra by forced marches in just 22 days. King Ballala III was on his way to Kannanur to support one of the Pandya princes ruling the Tamil country at the time. He rushed back to his capital as fast as possible, but was still caught unprepared to resist the vastly superior invading force. After a futile resistance for just 2 weeks, he had to accept an agreement by which he agreed to give all assistance to the Delhi forces to go to Madurai, where the two Pandya princes Sundara and Veera were fighting. He had also given vast treasures and agreed to pay tribute to the Delhi Sultan. Inspite of complete surprise being achieved by the invading forces, and capture of the Pandyan territory, they were not able to capture the main leaders – the two princes. But Ballala secured his immediate objective – Kannanur. After the return of the Delhi general, Ballala sent his son to meet Allauddin and was well treated by the Sultan. Unfortunately, during this invasion, many major temples at Chidambaram, SriRangam etc were destroyed and looted and a large number of priests and devotees were killed trying to prevent the sacrilege.  A Mosque was also built in Rameswaram. Thus, the internecine quarrels between Devagiri, Warangal and Hoysala kingdoms and the preoccupation of Ballala to capture some Tamil territory had cost a great deal – weakening of all the major kingdoms defending the south, destruction of major temples and capture of vast wealth by the Delhi sultanate.


+2 #2 IVNS Raju 2014-12-17 09:04
As per the books of Dr. BNK the Acharya's period is 1238-1317
0 #1 guruprasad 2014-12-16 11:58
Please change Acharya's period from 1298-1318 to 1238-1318 which is written in the beginning.

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