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Vyasaraja or Vyasa Thirtha (Kannada: ವ್ಯಾಸತೀರ್ಥ) (1447–1548), also called Vyasaraya or Vyasaraja Swami or Chandrikacharya or Pratyarthi Gajakesari, was acclaimed as one of the three spiritual lights or munitrayam of dvaita Vedanta, i.e., Sri Madhvacharya, Sri Jayatirtha and Sri Vyasaraja. He was a scholar of very high order with a judicious defence of the Dvaita Vedanta against all rival schools of thought. He also brought the Haridasa cult, historically believed to be propagated by Sri Narahari Tirtha, into limelight. He belonged to the Dvaita school of Madhvacharya. He, along with Jayatirtha, helped systematize Dvaita into an established school of Vedic thought. Vyasaraja's genius lay in his clear understanding and exposition of all his opposing schools of thought, for which even his opponents admired him. He was a master at debate and dialogue in logic and philosophy. Till the publication of the Vyasayogicharita of the poet Somanatha, the world had no idea of the part played by Vyasaraja in the history of the Vijayanagara empire.
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He was born in Bannur in and about 1447 in the Mysore District in what is now the modern Karnataka state. He was one of the foremost dialecticians in the history of Indian philosophy. His father Ballanna Sumati, of kashyapa gotra, was the youngest of the six sons of Ramacharya. By blessings of Brahmanya Tirtha of Channapatna Ballanna Sumati had three children born to him- a girl and two boys. The youngest was Yatiraja the future Vyasaraja swamin. the traditional thread ceremony or upanayana at age of seven, for four years afterwards, he was at his gurukula(school) whence he home at eleven. There he went through the complete course of studies in kAvya, nATaka, alaMkAra and grammar, which must have covered at least a period of five years. As per the promise made by Ballanna, he himself took his son to Channapatna and presented him to Brahmanya Tirtha and returned home. Very much impressed with the superior attainment of his ward, Brahmanya Tirtha ordained his ward Yatiraja a monk and gave him the name Vyasaraja. Assuming that he was sixteen years old at the time of demise of his Guru (some time after the great famine of 1475-76), we may easily fix the date of birth of Vyasaraja in or about 1460. Vyasaraja did not had any time studying much under his Guru Brahmanya. He was obliged, soon after his succession to the head of the maTHa (or Pitha), to go to Kanchi, the center of the vedic studies in South India, in those days, where he is said to have stayed for many years studying six systems of philosophy, under the most eminent pandits there. It was probably here that Vyasaraja acquired his deep erudition in the systems of Sankara, Ramanuja, Bhatta and others. After the completion of his studies at Kanchi, he went over to the seat of Shripadaraja at Mulbhagal. There he spent many years in study and meditation. Vyasaraja is believed to have studied for several years under Shripadaraja.
Vyasaraja was extremely influential in the Vijayanagar Empire. He initially came to limelight in the court of Saluva Narasimha in Chandragiri where he defeated many scholars with his masterly debates. He headed the Tirupati Temple during the time 1486-1498. At the pressing and repeated invitations of ministers of Saluva Narasimha, he moved to Vijayanagara and spent the rest of his life there. The accession of Shri Krishnadevaraya in 1509 opened up a new chapter of the glory in the life of Vyasaraja. It was during the time of Krishnadevaraya that Vyasaraja saw the peak of his influence over the empire. The king had the greatest regard and respect for Vyasaraja and regarded him as nothing less than his kuladevata. This is very beautifully narrated by Somanatha in his biography on Vyasaraja. The evidence of a clear statement to the effect that King regarded Vyasaraja as his Guru is still saved as a palm leaf fragment (preserved in G.O. Mss. Library), Madras. The two foreign travellers Paes and Nuniz who travelled along the Vijayanagara empire give accounts of how the King Krishnadevaraya regarded his Guru. Nuniz in his catalog says that King of Bisnaga (vijayanagar) listened everyday to the preachings of "a learned Brahmin who never married nor touched a woman". The description points unmistakably to Vyasaraja. Nuniz's remarks are fully corroborated by Somanatha's biography. Somanatha writes that, before starting on his Raichur expedition, Krishnadevaraya performed a ritual ceremony "ratnabhisheka" to his Guru Vyasaraja in year 1520 and gave him many villages. Somanatha goes on to say that after the death of Krishnadevaraya in year 1530, Achutaraya continued to honor Vyasaraja for some years. It was in Achutaraya's reign that the image of Yogavarada Narasimha was set up by Vyasaraja in the courtyard of the Vittalaswami temple at Hampi (Vijayanagara) in 1532. Seven years later, Vyasaraja died at Vijayanagara on the fourth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna, in Vilambi, corresponding to Saturday, 8 March 1539. The data is given by Shri Puranadadasa in one of his songs. His mortal remains are entombed at Nava Brundavana, an island on Tungabhadra river, about half a mile east of Anegondi. Vyasaraja was almost the second Founder of the system of Madhva. The learned Appayya Diksita is reported to have observed that the great Vyasaraja "saved the melon of Madhvaism from bursting, by securing it with three bands" in the form of his three great works - the Nyayamrutha, Chandrika and Tarka-Tandava. There is a tradition that when the North Indian Logician Pakshadhara Mishra visited Mulbhagal, he had spoken most appreciatively of Vyasaraja. Shri Vyasaraja was a thinker of high order. He was essentially warm-hearted and felt himself as at home on the naked peaks of intellect and in the unfathomed depths of mystic consciousness and devotion to God. The biography of Vyasaraja gives several accounts of his kind-heartedness. He was also honoured by Delhi Sultan Bahlul Khan Lodi and Adil Shah of Bijapur with green umbrellas and other symbols of their respective kingdom.He treated Basavabhatta whom he vanquished in debate with exemplary kindness and regards. He allowed his preachings to take their gentle course of persuasion and disliked proselytization for the sake of numbers. He did not misuse his influence with Kings to make his faith the state religion. This attitude deserves to be contrasted with that of the Shrivaishnava's, reported in the prappannamruta. Vyasathirta installed 732 Hanuman(Anjaneya or Mukhya Prana Devaru) idols all over India. Few of them to be named are:
- Yantrodharaka Hanuman of Hampi
- Kasapur Nettikal Hanuman,
- Sri Gali Anjaneya Temple, Bengaluru
- Sri Nuggikeri Balabheema temple,Dharwad
- Sri Pairayya Anjaneya temple, Budumuladoddi Village, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh
- Veera Prathapa Anjaneya, Belagur Village, Hosdurga Taluk, Chitradurga District, KA, IND
- Sri Jayamangala Anjaneyar Koil, Idugampalayam Village, Mettupalayam, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
- Arulmigu Kadu Hanumantharaya swamy temple, Hunumandapuram, Dharapuram, Tirupur District, Tamil Nadu 638656
- Kakkalur Sri Veera Anjaneyar Temple, Poonga Nagar, Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu 602003
- Sri Veera Mangala Anjaneyar Temple, Nallatore village, Tiruttani taluk, Thiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu
Vyasaraja was a Psalmist in Kannada and had composed many beautiful songs in his mother tongue Kannada. More than even for his own compositions, his name will have to be invested with special significance as that of a person who gave to India, both Purandaradasa, the father of Carnatic music, and Kanakadasa, disciples of Vyasaraya. Those who know anything about the history of great haridasa's and their literature will have no difficulty in realizing service rendered by Vyasaraja to the cause of popular religion and cultural revival. The influence of Vyasaraja was felt far beyond the limits of Karnataka, in the heart of distant Bengal. It is now fairly well known that the Bhakti movement of Chaitanya who flourished wholly within the lifetime of Vyasaraja, owed a great deal of its inspiration to philosophy of Madhva and its exposition by Vyasaraja. If properly viewed, the influence of Vyasaraja would be seen to have brought about a glorious religious renaissance in the 16th century, simultaneously in the north and in the south India.
There was a huge family of students to Vyasa Tirtha.To name a few are Purandaradasa,Kanakadasa, Vadiraja Tirtha,Sreenivasa Thirtha, Vijayendra Thirtha,Somanatha Kavi (author of Sri Vyasa Yogi Charitam), Govinda Wodeyar.
The Contemporaries of Vyasaraja were:
- Surendra Tirtha of Rayara Mutt.
- Vijayendra Tirtha of Rayara Mutt.
- Raghunatha Tirtha of Uttaradhi Mutt.
- Raghuvarya Tirtha of Uttaradhi Mutt.
- Sripadarajaru (Vidya guru of Vyasathirtha and nephew of Brahmanya Tirtharu) .
- Brahmanya Tirtha(Guru who ordained Vyasa Tirtha to sanyasa ashrama).
- Salva Narasimha Bhupala.
- Chamaraja Wodeyar III.
- Pakshadhara Mishra(who got defeated by Vyasaraja in Philosophical debate).
- Somanatha Kavi(Author of Vyasayogicharitam)
His famous works include -
- Nyayamritam (The nectar of Logic)
In his magnum opus, Vyasaraja has undertaken a complete vindication of the philosophical power and prestige of the realistic metaphysics of Madhva, together with a discussion of its concomitant problems. He goes through a long and arduous process of thought-dissection, to show that the thesis of Monism cannot be proved and that there is no philosophical justification for rejecting the reality of the world and its experiences established by all known means of proof and knowledge.
- Tarkatandava (The Dance of Logic)
In his own inimitable way, Vyasaraja has undertaken thorough and up to date examination of his school and Nyaya-Vaishesika.
- Tatparya Chandrika (The Moonbeams of commentary)
This is more familiar by name Chandrika, is a discursive commentary on Jayatirtha's Tatva-prkakAshika and pertains to the Sutra Prasthana of the Dvaita Vedanta.Vyasaraja also became famous as Chandrikacharya as he authored the famous work Tatparya Chandrika.
- Mayavada Khandana Mandaramanjari
- Upadhi Khandana Mandaramanjari
- Prapancha Mithyatvanumana Khandana Mandaramanjari
- Tattvaviveka Mandaramanjari
This is a short work in 275 grantha's and as the name itself suggests, is intended to resuscitate Bheda or difference that has been sought to be stifled by monists.
Sattarkavilasa is a book known to us only through cross reference.
- Vyasaraja was also an inspirational and driving force behind the Haridasa sahitya (Kannada Dasa Sahitya). He composed songs in Kannada like "Krishna nee begane baro" and "Dasarendare Purandara Dasaraiya" to name a few with "SRI KRISHA" as his ankita or pen name.
The place of Vyasaraja in the Dvaita philosophy and Dvaita system
As Shri BNK Sharma says, Vyasaraja is the prince of the Dialecticians of the Dvaita systems. He carried forward the work of his distinguished predecessors: Madhva, Jayatirtha and Vishnudasa and explored and exhausted all the technical and Shastric possibilities of making the doctrines and interpretations of his school, impregnable and invulnerable to attacks from any quarter. Dr Dasagupta pays him the highest tribute the modern historian of Indian philosophy could pay when he says that "the logical skill and depth of acute dialectical thinking shown by Vyasaraja, stands almost unrivaled in the whole of Indian thought" (p. viii, preface to vol. IV op. cit). He also follows the example of great dialecticians like Udayana, Shriharhsa and Chitsuka in summing up the discussion of the topic at the end of the sections in pithy samgrahashloka's. Vyasaraja has thus enlarged the scope and vision of Madhva shastra and its commentaries (tIkA's) with the exegetical apparatus of nyAya, vyAkaraNa and mImAMsa shAstrAs and expanded the significance of the original texts of his school in light of their methodology. His Tatparya-chandrika is a commentary, only in name; in effect, it is a scintillating critical and comparative study of the interpretation of the Brahmasutras according to the Bhashyas of the three main schools of Vedanta (together with their important commentaries). Its powerful flow of arguments and breathtaking points of criticism are such as to leave the modern scholar and critic, grappling with the Sutras and their commentaries, dumb with astonishment at the masterly way in which Vyasaraja has successfully probed the problem of the interpretation of Sutras. The tradition rightly regards him, with Madhva and Jayatirtha as constituting the 'trinity of authorities on Madhva siddhanta'. He showed to the philosophical world that the system of Madhva was not just an effervescence of Puranic Hinduism or merely revival of Bhakti cult but a mighty philosophical movement of thought and a well laid metaphysical structure that could hold its own against other speculative systems in the field, for richness and depth of thought and fineness of the speculative content. The age of Vyasaraja was, thus, the most glorious epoch in the history if Dvaita school and its literature and philosophy and has not been rivaled, either before or after him for so much all-round distinction, progress and development. The political influence of the Madhva school also rose to its highest level under Vyasaraja. He enjoyed the closest affection, and commanded the highest esteem of the great Hindu emperor of South India, Krishnadevaraya.
- From the writings of Somanatha and songs by Purandaradasa and inscriptional evidence (Sharma 1961, p286)