In response to my article on Akshobhya-Vidyaranya debate & its disputation there were two responses in Sumadhwa Seva Group and those responses have made me to write this intermediary article before publishing the analysis of Mr. G.R. Patil’s book “Akshobhya Vijaya Vibhrama.” I am sure that this article can become a useful prologue to the upcoming article.
Vidyaranya – Confusions & Mystifications
After reading considerable amount of literature on Vidyaranya, I have been given to an understanding that there are certain confusions among the public about the history of Sri Vidyaranya. And the Smarta community too is not an exception to this bewilderment of their Guru who is considered as the second greatest seer after the Adi Shankara himself.
Following are the common puzzles that dazzle the common readers:
- Vidyāranya and Mādhavacharya are different persons.
- Vidyāranya and Mādhavacharya are one and the same person.
- Sāyana & Mādhava are the brothers who have been jointly ordered by Bharati Tirtha & Vidyāranya to write Veda Bhashyas.
- Mādhava was a minister in the court of Vijayanagara emperor and later became Vidyāranya.
I found these riddles in an online discussion that was held almost 20 years ago. Interested readers can read the complete discussions by clicking the following links:
From the above it becomes evident that Advaitins too are confused with regard to the life history of Vidyaranya. There is certain amount confusion as to whether a scholar named Mādhava became Vidyāranya and whether this Mādhava was a minister at Vijayanagara court? It also becomes evident that the various Advaita Mathas have had different versions.
From 1996 to 2015 i.e. in the last 19 years I hardly see any greater clarity prevailing over the obscurities of Vidyaranya’s life and his ‘royal preceptor’ status.
I shall be discussing these questions under a separate chapter but for now, let me shed a little more light on Kālamukha cult.
Kālamukha as an Avaidika doctrine:
According to David Lorenzen, the first rejection of Kālamukha as a non-Vedic sect has come from Yāmunacharya and his disciple Rāmānujacharya. Hereunder is what Lorenzen records in his much acclaimed book “The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects”
Other sources such as Tamil Arts Academy say that Rāmānuja had a contemporary Kālamukha scholar by name Chaturānana Pandita who wielded greater influence on the then Chola monarch Rajendra. With this we can understand that Rāmānuja must have had the first hand information on the doctrines and practices of Kālamukhas and then only rejected them as Avaidiks.
Encyclopedia Britannica says that the Kālamukha and Pāshupata sects have fallen from their reputation due to extreme forms of worship that includes human sacrifice. Though the human sacrifice by these sects has not been proven but the stigma has loomed large on them. Hereunder is the screen grab of Britannica’s online encyclopedia:
Britannica also informs that these extreme sects have been termed as “Atimārgika” (Away from the path).
The above inputs may hint that Kālamukha has been branded as “Avadika” for being “Atimārgika.” Mādhava Mantri being a Sāraswat Brahman i.e. Vedic follower had tried to uphold an Atimārgika cult as a cult that conforms to Vedas. Thus I wish to identify “Avaidika Vidyaranya” as Mādhava Mantrin and not Mādhava-Vidyaranya who is indeed a Vaidika Vidyaranya.
Evidences for the influence wielded by Kālamukhas in Vijayanagara Empire:
David Lorenzen informs that the existence of Kālamukhas in South India goes back to 9th century AD and many inscriptions have been indentified to this effect. These inscriptions have been found from Belagavi, Mysore and up to Mulbagal. Few inscriptions have been found in Kolar district as well.
From the sheer geographical stretch of these inscriptions we can understand the spread of Kālamukhas throughout Karnataka. According to an inscription belonging to 810AD, certain Kālamukha practitioners were operating from Nandi Hills (famous hill station & a most frequented tourist destination in Kolar dist.)
A clinching evidence for the active Kālamukha sect being flourished in Mulbagal region can be found from the below shown Kannada inscription of Immadi Bukka Raya, son of Harihara II. This inscription has been erected in the year 1390AD and found on the southern wall of a ruined temple near Lakshmi Narayana temple located on the banks of Shankara Tirtha (south-east of Mulbagal town)
Lorenzen has mentioned this inscription in Page 162 of his book and commented as under:
Who were the royal preceptors during Sangama Dynasty?
I wish to present one more inscription from Sangama dynasty that has been erected in the year 1378AD in Chennarayaattana:
The last but one sentence carries the name of Kriyashakty-acharya as the family guru of Harihara II.
This inscription confirms that Kriyāshakthi was at the post of royal preceptor and was enjoying the patronage of the then royal family. Also, in the 1390AD inscription of Mulbagal, Kriyāshakthi has been hailed as “Preceptor of Preceptors”
The below mentioned excerpts from the Annual Archeological Report of Mysore District, 1941 establish the fact that it was (were) Kriyashakti(s) that was (were) revered as Rajaguru(s).
All these inscriptions, salutations and appellations can pose a serious question as to “who, in reality, was (were) the royal preceptor(s) for Sangama dynasty?” Was it Vidyāranya as Advaitins claim through their legends or Kriyāshakti(s) whose direct references are overwhelmingly available in inscriptions & literature that are contemporaneous to the Sangama dynasty?
Some Advaitins argue that Vidyāranya became Rājaguru after the death of Kriyāshakthi Pandita who mentored Sangama dynasty and Mādhava Mantri. But according the 1390AD inscription of Immadi Bukka Raya, it becomes evident that a specific Kriyāshakthi Pandita had died in 1389AD. Read the following narration of David Lorenzen on this inscription:
It is accepted by all the stakeholders that Vidyāranya attained videha mukti in the year 1387AD. If Kriyāshakthi Pandita, the then Rajaguru of Sangama dynasty, had passed away in 1389AD, then Vidyāranya does not stand to become Rājaguru as he himself left the world two years before Kriyāshakthi in 1387AD.
If that Kriyāshakthi Pandita mentioned in 1390AD inscription of Mulbagal has also been the mentor of Mādhava Mantri then it becomes clear that Vidyāranya had never been a royal preceptor as claimed by the Advaitins.
Also, the 1378AD inscription of Chennarayapattana clearly shows that Kriyāshakthi was still being hailed as Rājaguru even while Vidyāranya was alive and seated in his hermitage at Hampi. This also points towards a supposition that Vidyāranya had never been a full time Rājaguru of Sangama dynasty!
With these epigraphic and archeological evidences I have arrived at a conclusion that Kriyāshakthis have been the royal preceptors for Sangama dynasty at least up to the time of Harihara II and Vidyāranya could have been honoured by the royal dynasty as a great intellect but not as their royal preceptor or guardian saint.
This understanding gives rise to my earlier observation that the purported “tattvamasi” debate must have occurred between Akshobhya and Mādhava Mantri as the latter had been hailed as the “Establisher of the path of Upanishads” and also tried to elevate Kālamukhis to a Vedic cult. Mādhava Mantri must have bee the “Avaidikottama” or “Avaidika Vidyāranya” as his cult had been labeled as “Atimārgika” i.e. Away from the [accepted] path.
This supposition gains more weight for the irrefutable fact that the pontiffs of Kālamukha cult were the actual royal preceptors of the then Vijayanagara royal family.
The said defeat of an Avaidika scholar (Madhava Mantri) must be treated as the defeat of the cult’s head himself! Thus the grandeur of Akshobhya’s win over a Rājaguru of that time would never get diminished or demeaned.