He was a native of Uttara-Karnataka which in those days stretched to the area known as Andhra Pradesh. (This is confirmed by Hrsikesa Tirtha in his book Sampradaya Paddhati and Guru-acarya, where he states that Padmanabha Tirtha came from Uttara-Karnataka of the Telegu speaking people around the area where the Godavari River flows.) His previous name was Sobhanabhatta, but his change of name came upon meeting Madhva when Madhva returned to Udupi from his northern tour. He was a renowned and distinguished scholar of the day, but his proficie
1. Padmanabha Tirtha
He was a native of Uttara-Karnataka which in those days stretched to the area known asAndhra Pradesh. (This is confirmed by Hrsikesa Tirtha in his book Sampradaya Paddhati and Guru-acarya, where he states that Padmanabha Tirtha came from Uttara-Karnataka of the Telegu speaking people around the area where the Godavari River flows.) His previous name was Sobhanabhatta, but his change of name came upon meeting Madhva when Madhva returned to Udupi from his northern tour. He was a renowned and distinguished scholar of the day, but his proficiency in fourteen branches of learning were silenced in fourteen seconds by Acarya Madhva in 1265 AD. Soon he became one of the most trusted disciples of Madhva. Madhva always praised him, being the senior-most disciple among those outside the Tulu area, and his learning, preaching and seniority enabled Madhva to make him the first to sit on the Pitha after Madhva's disappearance pastime.
Padmanabha Tirtha left this world at Navavrindavanas, near Hampi, on the sacred Tungabhadra River in 1324 AD. His samadhi tomb remains there to this day.
2. Nrhari (Narahari) Tirtha
Narahari was a leading minister in Kalinga, Orissa, and was performing this task for around thirty years. The story follows that during his spell in office, the King of Kalinga died. The King's ministers, from time immemorial, had a tradition that the State send out the "State elephant" to find the Prince Regent. At that time the royal elephant walked out of the palace and through the city to the place where Narahari was. The elephant placed the coronation garland around his neck to the surprise of the accompanying state ministers. By the Lord's arrangement the elephant came across Narahari, and in due course he was placed on the throne. However, when the King's infant son and heir to the throne came of age after twelve years, Narahari gave it up. Out of gratitude, the new King wanted to bestow some gifts on Narahari. Narahari asked for the Deity of Mula Rama that had been kept by the descendants of the Gajapati Kings and Who was originally worshiped by Maharaja Iksvaku, then given to Maharaja Dasaratha, the father of Lord Rama. This Deity of Rama was then passed down to Laksmana and from him to Hanuman, who used to hang Him around his neck. Hanuman gave Him to Bhima during the time of Krsna's advent on this earth, and Bhima gave Him to the Gajapati King. This Deity of Mula Rama was then placed in the Uttaradi Mutt, secured in his day by Kavindra Tirtha, but now resides at the Raghavendra Tirtha Swami Mutt at Mantralayam.
At the time of dividing the Mutts at Kanya Tirtha, Madhvacarya gave Narahari the Deity of Kaliyamardana Krsna with four arms. This Deity of Krsna is dancing on the head of the Kaliya serpent, with one leg lifted up dancing, one hand in a balancing, dancing pose, and the other holding his tail up. Two other hands hold a conch and cakra.
Narahari Tirtha was initiated before 1264 AD. B.N.K. Sharma suggests that he was probably about 22 years of age when Narahari and Madhva first met, Madhva being 19 years of age. There are local inscriptions of the time preserved in the Srikurma and Simhacala areas of Orissa which glorify Narahari for many great feats, statesmanship and swordsmanship, but even whilst performing these kingly tasks, he preached Vaisnavism and made many devotees from the princes and aristocratic nobility in general at the time in the areas of Orissa and Andhra.
Sometimes it is suggested that he was the disciple of Padmanabha Tirtha but this is not supported anywhere in the mutt listings, instead what is pointed out is that due to the seniority of Padmanabha Tirtha, Narahari Tirtha was more than willing to serve him as the representative of his spiritual master Sripada Madhvacarya, and so was considered like a siksa disciple of the Pitha Adi Patya Padmanabha Tirtha Swami.
Once whilst Narahari Tirtha was on a preaching tour, he dreamt that a Deity of Lord Visnu was at the bottom of the town pond (tank). The very next day, by his influence, he made arrangements for the tank to be dredged, and there He was! A Deity was taken out and installed at that place. The town is now called by the name of the pastime, Narayanadevarkere (the tank of Lord Narayana). This is near Hospet Taluk of Bellary District, Karnataka.
Narahari wrote fifteen books, but his Gita Bhasya and Bhavaprakasika are the only two of which any trace is kept.
3. Madhava Tirtha
Previously known as Visnu Sastri, Madhava Tirtha was the third acarya to reside on the Pitha after Madhvacarya. Madhava Tirtha was quite often confused with, or known as Madhvacarya or Madhva, due to the similarity in name. He was the son of Mayana and Srimati and the elder brother of Sayana and at one time a minister of King Bukka of Vijayanagar.
There is a story in this connection how Madhava Tirtha founded the city of Vijayanagar after the discovery of a huge amount of hidden treasure. Before this, however, Madhava Tirtha lived an austere life as an ascetic in the mountains of Karnataka, who once found himself being frequented by a shepherd of the name Bukka. This poor shepherd had heard that Madhava Tirtha, the great sannyasi, was there absorbed in thoughts of Lord Narayana, and so he decided to daily bring him some simple foodstuffs. Madhava Tirtha blessed him saying, "One day you shall be the King of all Industan." By this blessing, immediately all the local shepherds made him their head, and he became known as the King of that local country which governed five groups of communities - Canara, Taligas, Canguivaro, Negapatao and Badagas. In this kingdom he became known as Bukka Rao and reigned for thirty seven years by the blessings of the great Madhava Tirtha. Bukka conquered many kingdoms from the time he came to rule in 1343 AD.
Madhava Tirtha was in office at the Vedanta Pitha from 1333 AD until 1350 AD, when he passed away. He made a commentary on the Parasara Smrti called Parasara Madhva-vijaya, and some other books have also been accredited to him, but as little is known of him there is much confusion misidentifying him with others. It is said that his bodily remains were entombed at Hampi, but have since been moved to Manur on the Bhima River of Bijapur District.
4. Aksobhya Tirtha
Aksobhya Tirtha was the last of Madhva's direct disciples to sit on the Pitha. He did so from 1350 AD - 1365 AD. Previously his name was Govinda Sastri and he came from Uttara-Karnataka. Madhvacarya gave him the Deity of Aja-Vitthal. (Krsna standing with His hands of His hips, accompanied by Sri Devi and Bhudevi, though some say this is Krsna with Rukmini and Satyabhama.)
His main "claim to fame" was the way he refuted the philosophy of "tat tvam asi" - "you are the same as". There is an historic incident which is understood to have taken place at Mulbagal near Kolar. His victim was Vidyaranya, the big, big scholar and guru descendant of the Advaita line of Sankara. Aksobhya Tirtha smashed Vidyaranya so badly that in history this was considered the turning point in the new Madhva faith of Dvaitavada. To this day the philosophy of Dvaita (dualism) has not been defeated; even the Advaita Mayavadis, knowing they are wrong, with stubborn determination they have yearly been coming back to get smashed.
Aksobhya Tirtha moved after this a little north to Pandharapur on the banks of the Bhima-rathi River, which is where he met his future disciple Jayatirtha. In the years to follow Aksobhya spent his time training Jayatirtha in Dvaita philosophy. The relationship was so nice that Aksobhya gave his every breath to make Jayatirtha the most proficient and dynamic preacher since Madhva, hence Jayatirtha was called the Tikacarya. Aksobhya Tirtha taught him how to search out hidden significances in the words of Madhva which others missed, and how to write books on those points called tikas (short commentaries), which further demolished the hostile Advaita monism. He even pointed out the differences in the basic understandings of Advaita philosophy of their own leading Sankarites like Vacaspati, Vivarankara, Amalananda, Citsukha and Vijnanasana, giving further strength to the Vaisnava truths and making the Mayavadis all look foolish.
5. Jaya Tirtha
Jayatirtha renounced the world and took sannyasa at twenty years of age. By this time no one could philosophically touch him. He was a genius, seeing through the foolishness of Mayavada, and even making commentaries on Ramanuja's works. He wrote about twenty books, eclipsing those of his forerunners like Trivikrama Panditacarya, Padmanabha Tirtha and Narahari Tirtha, but he was always humble, giving all credit to Aksobhya Tirtha, the servant of Madhvacarya.
"Critique of Mithyatva" or "The Falsity Of The World" was one of his main works, where he describes how this world is temporary, not false, and the Mayavadi way as being really false. He points out the differences between real, unreal, temporary and permanent, concluding, "...The co-existing of both their negations, at the same time and with reference to the same locus is, therefore, most illogical and can never be accepted by sane men." I.e. the positive being this world is temporary though genuinely existing, the elements are real, and the action is real but done in connection with material nature causing reaction, which is also real but not permanent. Thus soundly defeating the Mayavadi philosophy around "brahma satyam jagan mithya", various works on subjects of Vaisnava studies and logic were written by Jayatirtha. Later a descendant in the parampara of the name Vyasatirtha wrote down Jayatirtha's life story, whereby we have found this information.
Jayatirtha's previous name was Dhondo Pantraya Raghunatha (Dhonduraya, Raghunatha was his father's name) of either Visvamitra gotra or Bharadvaja gotra. He was the son of a high ranking military man and had two wives. Dhondo Pant, being like a local prince, was seen often dressed in full armour, breast plate, helmet and all, riding his mighty war horse around the area. He was a great horseman and would ride sometimes on journeys all over the district, accompanied by his men. On one such occasion, a hot summers day at noon, he stopped at a stream for fresh water, but his drinking of water was not an ordinary sight. Unlike most persons taking water, Dhondo Pant would enter into the river fully dressed (with armour, sword, shield, helmet, plume, etc), then, whilst still mounted upon his horse, he would drink water at water level directly into his mouth, being up to his neck in the water as an animal would.
On this day an incredible meeting took place. On the other side of the stream was Aksobhya Tirtha, watching this extraordinary sight. Aksobhya called to the horseman, "Hey, you drink water just like a bullock," and these few words put the horseman into a strange, deep, all-revealing state. Suddenly philosophical questions, which made the young horseman's mind spin into thoughts of his previous births, came to mind. Dhondo Pant could now remember his time spent with Acarya Madhva, but he had been covered for so many years thinking that he was the son of a nobleman. Now he could remember all kinds of incidences that made his hair stand upon end. He gained some intense realizations which enabled him to see quite clearly how previously he was actually the bullock who was used to pull around Acarya Madhva's books as Madhva traveled and preached all over. He could actually remember Madhva, his commanding but sweet voice elaborating upon the various kinds of Vedic literature.
There is an interesting story in this connection. Madhva would quite often glorify this bullock by saying to the assembly that actually this bullock listened better and assimilated the philosophy quicker than any of Madhva's students. Wherever Madhva would preach the bullock would turn up, ears pricked up and forward in an attentive mood; his faithfulness and loyalty knew no bounds. Madhva could sometimes be heard saying that simply by his attentive hearing this bullock was making great advancement. These kind of statements made some of Madhva's sannyasa disciples quite envious, so much so that they cursed the bullock to die from snake bite. Madhva heard about the curse and blessed the bullock that he would not be harmed. As per the curse, the snake came and bit the bullock, and amazingly the snake died! Everyone was awe struck, but could at once appreciate the motive and kindness of Madhva. He was protecting his dear devotee who had surrendered his life to the service of Madhva's preaching mission. After some years the bullock passed away of natural causes - old age.
Tradition has it that in actuality this was no ordinary bullock in the first place. He was reputed to be a partial incarnation and joint expansion of both Indra, the King of the demigods and Lord Ananta Sesa. So again it was no ordinary thing what had happened - the bullock taking his birth in a family of greatly pious ksatriya kings in Karnataka and being further brought up to know the Vedic literature according to the teachings of Madhva. Obviously the Lord deemed it now the right time for his real self realization to again be invoked.
Anyway back to the river, Dhondo Pant, standing in the water, addressed the humble and aged mendicant Aksobhya Tirtha as follows, "My dear sir, who are you, from where did you come, and how do you know me? Simply by the words emanating from your mouth my life has changed. You must be my guru; you have opened my eyes which were blinded for so long. O my guide, you have shed my ignorance of my real self. Please tell me more. Please instruct me so my life can become perfect. O Gurudeva, please save me from the clutches of repeated birth and death." He was so amazed and became so agitated from gratitude by this meeting that he asked to become Aksobhya Tirtha's formal disciple. The other horsemen joined Dhondo Pant in crossing the river and spent some time in discussion with him. Then they returned to the estate of his father without Dhondo. News soon reached the boy's father who personally went to reclaim his son and took him home. To save any further quarrel, Dhondo followed his father without any protest, but even though the enraged father came to collect him, Dhondo had his plan, on his return home, to start with he had his marriage consumed.
An amusing story is revealed of the night that he returned to his wives. When Dhondo Pant's beautiful young wife entered the bed chamber to be with her husband, to her surprise there was an incredibly magnificent cobra sitting coiled up on the bed. The snake swayed mystically as though one absorbed in transcendental trance. Enchanted by the sight, she out of respect for the wondrous sight paid her prostrated obeisances before the serpent, but soon fear overcame her and she fled the room screaming and fainted on the floor just outside. Raghunatharaya, the father of Dhondo, feared that something would happen and so was close by. After also seeing the captivating sight and seeing the snake revert back to the form of his son, Raghunatharaya reluctantly allowed Dhondo to return to the aged mendicant Aksobhya Tirtha, knowing this not to be an ordinary situation. In due course, Dhondo Pant was initiated and given the order of sannyasa and the new name Jaya Tirtha. This happened in the year 1368 AD.
Some do not agree with this story, saying that it would not have been allowed in the strict Brahmana society of the 14th century. But whether one accepts the story as explained by Srila Vyasatirtha or not, the link was there and soon he came back to Aksobhya Tirtha who accepted him as his sannyasa disciple and gave him the name Jaya Tirtha. He then started to study sastra from Aksobhya Tirtha intensively until Aksobhya Tirtha finally passed away, his mission completed.
Jayatirtha toured several times all over India, destroying the philosophy of the impersonalistic rascals. He was undefeated and became well known as the pure Vaisnava acarya that he was.
He spent his closing years at Malkhed (or Manyakheta), once the capital of the Rastrakuta kings of Karnataka, in the Gulbarga district, Mysore state. This is said by some to be the place where Jayatirtha passed away on the Pancami (fifth day) of the dark fortnight in the month of Asadha (June-July) 1388 AD. However, there is also a samadhi tomb of his in northern Karnataka. On this samadhi tomb at Anagoendi (Hampi) on the Tungabhadra river, next to the samadhi of Padmanabha Tirtha, there are carvings of him as a ksatriya prince, and next to that as a sannyasi mendicant.
6. Vidyadhiraja (Vidyanidhi) Tirtha
The Guru-acarya listings assign Vidyanidhi Tirtha a period of seven years, nine months and thirteen days as the next pontiff on the Vedanta Pitha. The only written work accredited to him was a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita.
In the Madhva Mutts there is an air of vagueness and uncertainty of dates and even the lineage. Kavikarnapura's Sri Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika, Text 22 mentions "...Aksobhya's disciple was Jayatirtha. Jayatirtha's disciple was Jnanasindhu. Jnanasindhu's disciple was Mahanidhi. Mahanidhi's disciple was Vidyanidhi. Vidyanidhi's disciple was Rajendra..." However, in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's "Guru Parampara" he says, "...Madhava Tirtha accepted the great paramahamsa Aksobhya Tirtha as his disciple. The principle disciple of Aksobhya Tirtha was known as Jayatirtha. Jayatirtha's service was for his disciple Jnanasindhu. Dayanidhi received the science of devotional service from Jnanasindhu and the servant of Dayanidhi was Vidyanidhi (Vidyadhiraja Tirtha). Rajendra became the disciple of Vidyadhiraja Tirtha."
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura accepts the version of Kavikarnapura's Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika and they both say that Madhava Tirtha has taken Aksobhya Tirtha as his disciple. However, the Madhvas say that Aksobhya Tirtha was the direct disciple of Madhvacarya - this is stated in the Guru-acarya listings. In the Madhva Vijaya this is also recorded, that is, the incident of Madhvacarya calling eight of his sannyasa disciples around him at Kanya Tirtha during the Caturmasya. In Narayana Panditacarya's commentary on his own book, Madhva Vijaya, entitled "Bhava Prakasika," he also says how Madhva called his disciples in pairs and the fourth pair was Rama Tirtha of Kaniyur Mutt and Aksobhya Tirtha of Pejawara Mutt. These incidents are included in the "Sampradaya Paddhati" of Hrsikesa Tirtha, the foremost dear disciple of Madhvacarya.
The descendants of Madhva are more strictly followers of a diksa line, whereas both Kavikarnapura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati lean more towards siksa lines, though still accepting both on their own validity. Seeing that Madhava Tirtha (Dvija) was a forerunner of Aksobhya Tirtha to the Vedanta Pitha, certainly he may have given some instruction. In the same way, Jayatirtha certainly had many disciples, and because his direct disciple Vidyadhiraja was the next to accept office at the Pitha, it doesn't necessarily mean other disciples of Jayatirtha, such as Jnanasindhu Tirtha and Daya(Maha)nidhi Tirtha didn't also give their worthy assistance.
Actually, Vaisnavas are always grateful for their many siksa gurus. For myself certainly, as I have collected this information, everyone has stressed Madhvacarya's disciples and this parampara. In the humble attempt to compile this work I have accepted many as my instructing gurus and I am very grateful to them for their advice, otherwise how could the sampradaya be revealed. I do not, of my own accord, know anything about Vaisnavism or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, but by the mercy of the Vaisnavas and of my diksa and siksa gurus, we are making an attempt at shedding some light on this subject.
As we just stated, Vidyadhiraja Tirtha was the immediate disciple of Jayatirtha. Being of seniority in his learning and devotional understandings, he also became the successor on the Pitha. Previously his name was Krsnabhatta (though the Guru-acarya gives him the name Nrsimha Sastri). It is understood that he was a brahmacari, but his time on the Vedanta Pitha is not clearly established. The times of office range from three years, nine months and thirteen days, to four years, and lastly sixty four years, but the Mutt itself is silent on this matter.
7. Rajendra Tirtha
Rajendra was his first disciple and their relationship was always very close. There is one story which tells of how the guru parampara divided at that time. Vidyadhiraja Tirtha was extremely sick so he sent word to Rajendra to come immediately, but he did not arrive in time. The Guru, feeling his life passing, ordained another disciple to guarantee that he would have a successor. This devotee's name was Kavindra Tirtha. Some say he called Kavindra due to a need for the preaching to spread, but one cannot guess the reasons why - a pure Vaisnava acts only to satisfy the Lord, that much we can ascertain. The line coming from Rajendra Tirtha is now represented by Vyasatirtha and Gosale Mutts and that line still continues.
The other line (that from Kavindra Tirtha) continued on to Vagisa and Ramacandra Tirtha, but at the time of Ramacandra there again was some heavy disagreement that apparently nearly stopped the line at that time. Inevitably it caused a split and now those lines come down via his two disciples, Vibudhendra Tirtha of Raghavendra Swami Mutt and Vidyanidhi Tirtha of Uttaradi Mutt.
Vidyadhiraja Tirtha passed away at Ergola near Malked. The old town of Ergola now lies in ruins and this is believed to be where the tombs of both Vidyadhiraja and Rajendra Tirtha are.