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Life of Sree Raghavendra Guru
 

In the court of Sri Krishna Deva Raya , the Vijayanagar Emperor , patron of arts , poets and scholars was a scholar named "Krishna Bhattu". He had a son , named "Kanakachala Bhattu" , whose son was "Thimmana Bhattu".

Thimmanna Bhattu was not only famous as a scholar proficient in the Vedas and sastras but also as an accomplished player on the veena. His Wife was a pious lady named "Gopamba". The devout couple had a son and daughter. According to the popular proverb that "one eye is not an eye and one son is not a son", they desired to have another son, So, they went on a piligrimage to Tirupathi . They worshipped Sri Venkateswara with intense devotion and prayed for a son. Being gratified by the sincere devotion of the pious couple, Sri Srinivasa appeared to them in a dream and told them that he was pleased to grant them a son who would serve as a shining example of the virtues of divine knowledge devotion and detachement and would raise the world to heights of nobility. Thimmanna Bhattu and Gopamba praised the Lord for his infinite kindness and returned to their native village of Bhuvanagiri . After the laps of nine months, Gopamba gave birth to a son on an auspicious day. He was named "Venkatanatha" as he was born out of Venkateswara's grace. The child grew up into a gracefull boy , endowed with intelligence and smartness. He was put in school on attanining the age of five. A few days later, Thimmanna took ill and breathed his last.

The responsibility of educating Venkateswara felt on Gururaja, the elder son of Thimmanna. He found much difficulty in maintaining his family. At the age of eight he performed Venkatanatha's upanayanam (sacred thread cermany) with the help of donations received from rich people. Then he sent Venkatanatha to his brother-in-law, Sri Lakshminarasimhacharya for further education.

Sri Lakshminarasimhacharya felt it not only easy but a pleasure to teach his new ward as the latter was quick to learn. In a very short time, the boy acquired mastery over the Vedas, the six sastras and the eighteen paranas and became unrivelled in scholarship.

Venkatanatha was married to a young beautifull and virtuous girl named Saraswathi at the proper age. Generally education ends with marriage.But it was not so in the case of Venkatanatha. At that time , the pontific seat at Kumbakonam was adorned by Sri Sudhindra Thirtha, who was trained by the famous Sri Vijayendra Thirtha Swami. Sri Sudhindra was proficient in the traditional sixty-four arts and he taught many peoples, besides propagating the Dwaita ideals.Venkatanatha desired to go to him and receive lessons in philosophy. Accordingly taking his elder brothers permission he went to Sri Sudhindra prostrated before him and stood at a distance in great humility. The Swami asked him who he was.Venkatanatha replied that he was Venkanna , son of the Veena Scholar, Thimmanna and expressed a desire to receive instruction from the Swami in "Sri Sudha". Sri Sudhindra was pleased with him and he not only agreed to teach him but also permitted him to reside in the mutt and receive "Thirtha" and "Prasadams".

Venkanna studied the lessons on "the Sudha" with earnestness and learnt them by heart everyday. He would get difficult portions explained by his teacher. The teacher was deeply impressed by the pupils devotion and faith and began to look upon him with affection. This roused the jealousy of other pupils, who planned to bring forth the teacher's wrath on Venkatanatha.

One day the jealous classmates went to Sri Sudhindra without the knowledge of Venkanna. They said "O preceptor! The new-comer, Venkanna, is not studying his lessons well. He is always sleepy and indulging in unbecoming in actions. It is waste to feed and teach such a pupil. He is unfit to reside in the Mutt. So, we request you to drive him out". They uttered many lies to strengthen their argument. The Swami heard them and replied "Don't worry, I shall enquire about him and set him right, you had better go away". After a while, all the pupils came to learn their lessons. Sri Sudhindra commenced teaching. But having some doubt in explaining a portion. He told the pupils to come next day and said he would explain it then.

 
                 
 

Venkanna was in the habit of listening to the lessons on "Sri Sudha" with concentration, and noting the explanations in a note-book, at night, before going to sleep. As usual, he noted down correctly what he had learnt that day and went to sleep. After a short while Sri Sudhindra came to see him. Venkanna was in deep sleep.. There were some palmyrah leaves with writings on them. The teacher took them up and observed them. Venkanna was writing a regular annotation for "Sri Sudha" , entitled "Parimalam". He referred to the explanation for the statement about the meaning of which he had some doubt. Vekanna had explained it clearly and beyond any doubt. The teacher read it and his doubt was cleared fully. He felt happy to realise that vekantanatha's scholarship and ability were unrivalled. Just then Venkanna was shivering with cold as he had no blanket to cover himself with seeing this, Sri Sudhindra wrapped his own upper garment on the sleeping pupil, took the palmyrah leaves and went away.

 

Venkanna got up from sleep early in the morning. He was grieved at the disappearance of the manuscripts he had by his bed-side.. He was afraid of his teacher's wrath. He feared what punishment might befall him. He was at a loss to know how to convince his teacher of his innocence. Hoping for divine grace to get out of the trouble, he finished his bath and other activities, approached the Swami, prostrated himself before him and said, "O Guru! Someone covered my body with his cloth while I was asleep last night. My manuscripts are missing. I don't know who took them; I am not to blame.. Forgive me-"Sri Sudhindra replied, "Do not worry, it is time to begin the lessons, Let us go".

 

On seeing the other pupils the Swami said, Venkanna is not an ordinary person, He is a genius and a man of virtue. He is writing an annotation every night on what he has learnt during the day. Yesterday I had to dismiss the class as I could not find the correct explanation for a sentence. But last night Venkanna wrote the correct explanation for it in his book. You also had better listen to it." So saying he read out the explanation given by Venkanna in his book. All the peoples were astonished. Sri Sudhindra paid an encomium to the proficiency and skill of Venkanna and awarded him the title of "Parimalacharya", as he had written the commentary of "Parimala" on the teachings of "Sri Sudha". Ever since the other pupils showed Venkanna great respect and regard. The Swami's affection for him increased more than before.

 

After some days, Sri Sudhindra started on a pilgrimage, followed by his pupils. He visited various cities and villages and accepted the gifts and offerings given by the devotees and blessed them. In this manner, they reached Mathrai in the south. In that city was a Tamil sannyasi, who was well versed in grammer and was called a "Vaiyakarani". He was proud that no one could equal him in the knowledge of grammer. He wished to enter into a disputation on grammer with Sri Sudhindra . But the Swami said to him, "First you had better engage your self in a dispute with student, Venkatanatha . If you defeat him you can contest with me". The sanyasi agreed and commenced a disputation with Venkatanatha. On "Mahabhashya" venkatanatha was an adept in argumentation on all sastras. So he easily countered every one of the Sannyasi's arguments by his prowess and won over him finally. The Tamil sannyasi accepted defeat gracefully. Every one was struck with wonder on seeing the dexterity with which Venkatanatha had demolished. Everyone of the arguments proferred by the tamil sannyasi. Sri Sudhindra Swami was all admiration for his pupils excellence at argumentation. He at once blessed venkatanatha by conferring on him the title of "Mahabhashyacharya".

 
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