Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Trip to Sondha and Malkhed: Glory of Shri Madhvacharya and His Highness Nrupatunga Amoghavarsha

Welcome to 2016! I transitioned from 2015 to 2016 with series of soul searching trips. I started with my 3rd pilgrimage to Sabarimala (I had blogged my 1st time experience here), one place that reinforces humanity and teaches basic human virtues. Sirsi visit was my last trip of 2015 followed by new year 2016 trip to Malkhed. In this travelogue, you would visit with me only to Sode a.k.a Sondha (since I have already written about Sirsi earlier here) and Gulbarga.

Sondha is a small village where Shri Vaadiraja Swamiji, a great 15th century Saint in Madhwa tradition, set up his tapovana and ended his incarnation by entering Brindavana while being alive. This is the moola (root) mutt of Sode mutt, one of the eight mutts that worship the Lord at Krishna mutt in Udupi. Once you enter, you are greeted with old Rama Thrivikrama temple, where the deity is sitting on the stone chariot carried all the way from Badri by Bhoota raja. Bhoota raja is friend and disciple of Shiri Vaadiraja, and is the protector and local deity at Sondha to whom everyone who visits Sondha has to roll coconuts at his temple. Ritual is to take 7 rounds around the premises consisting of various small temples set up by Shri Vadiraja (including the holy dip at “Dhavala Ganga” pushkarani or lake). Center of devotion is pancha vrindavans with the vrindavan of Sri Vadiraja Teertha situated in the centre surrounded by four more vrindavans forming a perfect square. In front of the vrindavans is the temple for Sri Vedavyasa. Lifestory of Shri Vadiraja is really fascinating. His compositions are recited by millions everyday and he enjoys huge following that also included great Vijayanagara Emperor from Hampi, Shri Krishnadevaraya.
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Some coincidences are sweet. One of the places I missed while visiting Hampi was Navabrandavana where some historians claim has remains of Sri Jayatheertharu. There is even stronger voice that it is at Malkhed. Oh by the way, Sri Jayatheertharu is the sixth pontiff of Sri Madhvacharya Peetha who lived during 13th century. He is the one who elucidated Sri Madhvacharya’s philosophy clearly and simply so as to be understood by the common man which helped much to spread the Madhva philosophy. He is known for “Nyayasudha” which is the exhaustive and detailed commentary (Teeka is Sanskrit for commentary, hence he also known as Teekacharya) of Sri Madhvacharya’s Anuvyakhyana which in turn itself is a commentary on Brahma Sutras by Veda Vyasa. Clearly, one of the most revered gurus and me hailing from Udupi, land of Madhvacharya, was cursing my Hampi travel itinerary to have missed visiting Navabrandavana.

Fast forward three weeks, I am standing at Sri Jayatheertharu’s Brindavan at Uttaraadi Matha, Malkhed, after an early morning shivering bath at River Kagina! We had got down at Malkhed Road railway station in Bidar Express and took a shared auto rickshaw to reach the Uttaraadi Matha by 6am. A staff welcomed us and helped us basic amenities. We finished our morning chores in Matha’s very well maintained guest house and took the holy bath in the river. We got the darshan of Brindavana in the kindi (small window), explored the matha and were amazed with the divinity of the place.

With the magical start for the day, I felt there was more to come. And no surprises. I was standing at the Manyakheta fort and remains of palace, where the Great Nrupatunga Amoghavarsha wrote Kavirajamarga, the first classical Kannada work! This place is incredibly photogenic and for me, it overcame poor maintenance by today’s govt. with it’s sheer elegance. Manyakheta was the capital of Rashtrakutas in 8th century and subsequently ruled by Kalyani Chalukyas to Nizam of Hyderabad till 19th century. You will be amazed to know that Nrupatunga Amoghavarsha offered patronage to numerous well-known scholars and intellectuals, of which, mathematician Mahaveeracharya was the one who asserted that the square root of a negative number did not exist! Do read more on him in the wiki!
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I also visited the 9th century temple of Neminath, a Jain Bhattaraka Math inside the fortified area, but it was unfortunately closed. We were the only visitors in the fort and there were carefree kids playing cricket. My thoughts were lost in the history being at Manyakheta or modern Malkhed on the banks of Kagina River in Sedam Taluk of Gulbarga district, Karnataka state and was wondering how the time flies to force us to forget such historically and culturally important place. 

From there, we took bus to Mudhol via Sedam crossing some biggest cement factories of India owned by the Aditya Birla Group. Mudhol is the last town in Karnataka that lies in Sedam-Hyderabad highway. I was here to attend my dear friend, Ambarish’s wedding to Nikita, at their residence(it would take another blog to describe how beautiful it is)! Wishing them happy married life and God bless!

[I visited Sode with my Parents, thank you Appa and Amma for everything! Thanks to my Sabrimala group for yet another joyful pilgrimage. Special thanks to Vinod, Kiran E, Ikku, Ashwin for the Gulbarga trip]