A prolific writer, Sri Jnanananda Bharathi Swamigal, has many books and articles to his credit, written in English, Tamil and Sanskrit and they were published with the blessings of the Mahasannidhanams of Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham. The books were written with the sole aim of furthering and propagating the cause of Sanathana Dharma, Advaitha Philosophy, the Sringeri Sharada Peetham’s greatness and the teachings of Their Holiness, the Jagadgurus of Sringeri. The books have been written in lucid language so that they can be easily understood by one and all.
This book presents short life-sketches of Sri Jagadguru Sankaracharyas of Sringeri Sharada Peetham-Sri Sachidananda Bharati Mahaswamigal (25th Jagadguru), Sri Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal (32nd jagadugar), Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal (34th jagadguru) and Sri Abhinava vidyatirtha Mahaswamigal (35th Jagadguru), and of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral and Sri Tyagaraja Swamigal, from the pen of Sri Jnanananda Bharathi Swaminah, Besides Presenting wonderful biographical sketches, the author has also recorded a number of enlightening experiences of these saints.
The following books of Sri Jnananda Bharathi Swamigal have been re-published by Sri Gnanananda Bharathi Grantha Prakasana Samithi and are available with Sri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri:
The Sharada Peetham founded by the great Sri Sankara Bhagavatpadacharya for the Southern Region of this sacred land of Bharata Varsha has been graced ever since his time by such a galaxy of eminent scholarly saints that it is not possible to assess their relative greatness. One of them may be proficient in Tarka, another in Meemamsa, another in Vyakarana, another in Mantra Sastra and so on; or one may be a poet, another a devotee, another a yogi and so on; all these differences are only on a parallel with the variations in height, girth or colour of each individual and have no relevancy in a consideration of their spiritual greatness. They were all quite equal to one another in their realization of the glory of the Self and also in the respect which they commanded at the hands of prince and peasant alike.
There is ample material in the records of the Sri Sringeri Mutt from which the life histories of most of these Acharyas, at least since the time of Sri Vidyaranya, can be reconstructed. But that material is in the form of grants by the several Rulers of the land, accounts maintained by the Mutt, Srimukhams issued by the Mutt, an overwhelming mass of correspondence with Maharajas, Governments, Institutions and disciples. Further, they are in several languages - Sanskrit, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, English, etc. If a multi-linguist scholar, who has not only competency and interest but patience as well, will undertake the task of ransacking them and prepare a cogent history, it will be of great benefit to all.
In a palm-leaf manuscript in the Mutt, we have a Kavya which describes in detail the life of Sri Sachchidananda Bharati Swaminah, the 25th Acharya who presided over the Mutt from 1623 to 1663 A.D., one of the most troublous periods in the history of South India and who yet managed by his tact and his deep faith in God to steer safely through all the crises and to maintain the dignity and the prestige of the Mutt. The author has not disclosed his name but it is clear from the Kavya itself that he must have been in close contact with that Acharya even from his boyhood. A brief summary of the same is given here.
2. Early Life
In a village called Srikanteswarapuram in the interior of the Madura District of the Madras State, there lived about four centuries ago a family of veteran scholars who belonged to the Garga Gotra and were very proficient in Yajur Veda. Alakadri Bhatta was the third son of Ahobala Bhatta, the only son of Kalahasti Bhatta of that renowned family. He married Timmamba, the daughter of Tirumala Bhatta of Battalagunda, a village nearby. One night that worthy lady dreamt of a pure white conch being given to her. She considered it a very auspicious omen and soon after she became pregnant and at noon on Wednesday the s" of August 1607, she gave birth to a boy. The parents looked upon him as the gracious gift of their family Deity, Sri Narasimha, and gave him the name of Narasimha itself. About four years later another son was born and he was given the name of Brahma. As fate would have it, when Narasimha was barely five and Brahma one year of age, Timmamba passed away, lamented by the entire village and by all the castes inhabiting it. The father felt bound to send the children to his wife's brother Valla Avadhani who was then in the village called Virabhupalasamudram, a few miles off.
Alakadri Bhatta, overpowered by grief at the demise of his wife and also at the consequent separation from his children, went away on a pilgrimage to the North. Some time thereafter he returned, took the children back to his village and had the Upanayana of Narasimha performed. On the advice of his elder brother, he took as his second wife the daughter of Narasimha Bhatta. The elder boy was left in the custody of two Tamilian Vedic Scholars both named Rama, for the study of Vedas. In a very short time he mastered the Yajur Veda completely and earned the admiration of all scholars in that region. Alakadri left the boys again with his brothers-in-law and started on another pilgrimage to the North. The village in which they lived was plundered by robbers and the brothers-in-law decided upon migrating to Sringeri where the eldest of them already was living highly respected as a Vedic Scholar and as a strict observer of Vedic rites. Alakadri Bhatta also returned just about that time and took charge of the boys and was immensely pleased at the progress which Narasimha had made in his Vedic studies. On his way back from the North he seems to have visited Sringeri and while there Narasimha Bhatta, who was a younger brother of the then reigning Acharya, Sri Abhinava Narasimha Bharati, asked Alakadri whether his son Narasimha had any idea of taking Sannyasa, to which Alakadri gave an emphatic negative answer. When he recounted this incident to his son, the latter immediately replied, "Why, father, are you so afraid of Sannyasa as if it were a snake?" The father was taken aback by this answer but did not attach any serious value to it.
Circumstances necessitated Alakadri shifting his household to the town of Madura. This gave the boys the opportunity to see the palaces, bazaars, mansions and ramparts of that City and more so to visit the temple of Sri Meenakshi and Sri Sundareswara almost daily. Narasimha Bhatta, the father of Alakadri's second wife, was staying with them at Madura and used to expound the story of Srimad Ramayana to the young boys. The exposition so impressed Narasimha that like Sri Rama he ceased to look upon the second wife as his step-mother and served her with all devotion as a mother herself. While at Madura they started on a pilgrimage to Rameswaram and after baths in the Setu and other sacred places and visiting several temples on the way returned to Madura. Soon after, Alakadri performed the Upanayana of Bramha and put him also to Vedic studies.
While they were thus living comfortably enough at Madura, a terrible famine overpowered the land and the members of the family felt it necessary to separate and eke out a livelihood for themselves individually. Alakadri after roaming about through several villages and unable to get a permanent footing anywhere came to Somesa Madura (now Manamadura) which was the place of his birth and where his mother's relations lived. Thanks to their help and the support of the Tamil Brahmins there, who were both pious and rich, he managed to live there with his younger son and second wife. The elder son Narasimha went to Virabhupalasamudram where one of his maternal uncles still resides but as he did not like to inconvenience him in these hard times he stayed in the house of a distant relative Annapurni and appeased his hunger by resorting to the sastraic mode of getting Bhiksha from the villagers. It must be noted that even in such straits he did not neglect his Vedic studies but added to them the study of Amarakosa under one Kasi Bhatta. He thus stayed on there for a year. Incidentally he heard that his uncle casually observed to somebody that if Narasimha were in better circumstances he would give his daughter to him in marriage. This somewhat disturbed Narasimha as his mind was bent on the daughter of Venkatachala Yajva, his eldest maternal uncle, who was at Sringeri. Evidently, to avoid a delicate situation, he left the place immediately and returned to Madura.
When he found that his father was not there but had gone to Somesa Madura he went there. The joy of his younger brother, his father and step-mother at this unexpected return of Narasimha knew no bounds. All the people who happened to see him were struck with surprise at the great proficiency he had attained in the study of the Vedas and took great delight in listening to his silvery tones in reciting the Veda without the slightest blemish either in pronunciation or in intonation. Thus they lived at Manamadura quite happily for another year.
3. Trip To Sringeri
While there, two brothers, Appala Bhatta and Konda Bhatta, who were distant relatives of Alakadri, came there from Sringeri on their way to Rameswaram and other sacred places on pilgrimage. They brought with them a letter from Venkatachala Yajva of Sringeri that he had an idea of giving his daughter in marriage to Narasimha. Alakadri was very glad to have this welcome news but considering the difficulties of a long journey in those days he decided upon sending Narasimha to Sringeri along with these two brothers. But the Sringeri conversation referred to above created in him a lurking suspicion that his son might lean to Sannyasa once he is there. The suspicion was however set at rest by his brother's son-in-law Gangadhara Bhatta who assured him that other arrangements had been made for the succession to the Peetha at Sringeri. He accordingly permitted his boy to accompany the Sringeri brothers. This gave the boy another opportunity to visit the Setu along with them. Before they return to Manamadura, Alakadri changed his mind and himself started on a journey to Sringeri along with his wife and second boy. Narasimha's party easily overtook them and they all reached Tiruchirapalli. They visited the shrines at Tiruchirapalli and Srirangam and stayed comfortably on the banks of the Kaveri for nearly a month, cooking their meals at the foot of a tree and listening to Bhagavata being expounded by a Pandit there. They enjoyed the bath in the river and the holy atmosphere there so much that they stayed on for another two months. Tirumala Naik who had recently been crowned at Madura had come on a visit to Tiruchirapalli and was holding his Court in the palace there. Alakadri and Konda had an idea of seeing him in the hope of getting a handsome bounty. But Appala Bhatta, who was richer than they, had no such intension and so was in a hurry to return to Sringeri. Narasimha who apprehended that the marriage season would be over if there was further delay on the way decided upon accompanying Appala Bhatta to Sringeri. Alakadri agreed and gave Narasimha a very affectionate send off as he felt that athe boy was quite safe in the company of Appala Bhata.
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