Who is Avaidika Vidyaranya?

Brief Story of Jayasthambha

For those readers who are new to this subject, I wish to give them the gist of the story.

Sri Akshobhya Tirtha, the 4th successor of Acharya Madhva has ascended the Dvaita Vedanta Peetha in the year c.1350. He has succeeded Sri Mādhava Tirtha (Ascendance:1333 Brindavana: 1349/50) and prevailed over the Peetha till c.1365.

The fables of Mādhva community say that there ensued a great debate between Akshobhya and Vidyāranya, the two stalwarts of Dvaita and Advaita schools, at a place called Hunchadakallu Gudda, a small hillock in Mulbagal (Purva Kavatapuri). Kumara Kampana, the then Governor of Mulbagal and many other royal dignitaries have gathered to witness this grand fiesta of polemic dispute. Vedanta Deshikan of Srivaishnava School has been chosen as the “referee” but he was not physically present at the venue and was staying at Srirangam. The 40 days of close contest between the two saints has touched upon every book of Vedanta and finally Akshobhya came out victorious while discussing Upanishad statement of “tattvamasi” and a ‘pillar of victory’ (image shown below) has been erected at the very spot where the arguments took place.



Riposte from Advaitins

The story of Vidyāranya’s alleged defeat started spreading its wings it was the turn of Advaitins to make a ‘quick return thrust’ to stop the onslaught of Mādhvas and this has resulted in publishing a book titled 'Akshobhya Vijaya Vibhrama’ (AVV) by Mr. G.R. Patil which has been followed up with another booklet by the same author, rebutting the objections raised by few Mādhvas on AVV.

In this article I will not be discussing about AVV or the objections raised by the Mādhvas and not even about the subsequent rejoinder written by Mr. Patil. Instead this book shall make an independent inquiry on the said topic with a fresh mind and new perspective.

On the other hand, there are sufficient direct references in several Maadhva narratives that point towards a particular "Avadika Vidyaranya" or "Avaidika Aranya" with whom Akshobhya Tirtha debated and subsequently emerged as a victor. This article is an attempt to understand who is that "Avaidika [Vidya]Aranya"



Religious Distinctions in Early Vijayanagara Empire & Confounded Identities

Before I present the case study of particular religions that are internal to Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), it will be appropriate to give a brief synopsis of religious environment during Sangama dynastic rule of Vijayanagara.

Krishnaswamy Aiyangar in his work Some Contributions of South India writes…

“During the age of Vijayanagara the Lingayats certainly existed and flourished. We know of contemporaries of Vidyāranya belonging to this sect occupying high positions in the service of the state. Several sovereigns of the first dynasty of Vijayanagara seem to have patronized this particular creed. But it does not appear to have been exactly what might be called the state religion.” Page 205

From the above statement, we can understand that the family members of Sangama dynasty at personal level were followers of Veerashaiva cult of Lingayats but were secular in their approach towards other religious denominations that are either sacrosanct or not and either conforming to Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) or not.

In his introduction to “The Elements of Hindu Iconography” Mr. T.A. Gopinatha Rao introduces the Saivite sects as under:


The above narrative by a renowned historian and epigraphist of Mr. Gopinatha Rao’s stature causes us to take a closer look at the various denominations of Veerashaivism in Vijayanagara that flourished during Sangama dynasty. A detailed study of these sects shall definitely lead us to understand as to with whom Akshobhya Tirtha might have argued and won subsequently.

Krishnaswamy Aiyangar writes in Page 309 of Some Contributions of South India  about a certain Kriyāshakti Panditawho guided Harihara I. This reference of Kriyāshakti Pandita comes in connection with a certain minister called Mādhava Mantrin who was a minister-cum-general working under Harihara II and a contemporary to Mādhava Vidyāranya.

This Mādhava Mantrin was a Brahmin and a disciple of Kriyāshakti Pandita, a Saivācharya, heading Kriyāshakti Peetha that was belonging to a Veerashaiva sect called Kālamukha.  As per Krishnaswamy Aiyangar, this Mādhava Mantrin might have passed away in c.1384. Probably the following inscription could have been one of the last inscriptions issued by Mādhava Mantri.


(Page 192 of Epigraphia Carnatica Vol 8 – Inscriptions of Shimoga Dist (Vol. 2); 1904)

Thus we get two Mādhavas i.e. Mādhava Mantrin and Mādhava Vidyāranya existing at almost same time and both were contemporaries to Akshobhya T. at one point of time, presumably between c.1350-65. Readers must keep this crucial aspect in mind all along the reading of this article.

Now getting along with the history, Advaitin accounts say that Mādhava Vidyāranya acted as Rāja Guru and guided Harihara and Bukkarāya. That means Mādhava Vidyāranya must have replaced Kriyāshakti Pandita as Rāja Guru and thence guided Harihara-I and Bukka-I while his brother Sāyanāchārya mentored Kumāra Kampana who was the governor of Udayagiri at that time. The authenticity of this version shall be discussed in ensuing paragraphs.

As for now, readers have been introduced to the two powerful Mādhavās of early Vijayanagara period. At this juncture, it appears that there prevailed a thorough confusion for sometime in the past in distinguishing Mādhava Vidyāranya and Mādhava Mantrin and the present disputed victory of Akshobhya is a result of such confounded identity. Here, it is worthwhile to quote Krishnaswamy Aiyangar’s narration from his “Sources of Vijayanagara Empire.” In Page 3, he offers a solution to distinguish two Mādhavās who lived at the same time and in same place. Read the following excerpt:


Thus “The two Mādhavās were of different gotras and sutras as is clear from the extracts.[…] The designation “establisher of the path of the Upanishads’, as applied to the second Mādhava, seems deliberately intended to distinguish him from the other.[…]”

From this narration it can be safely concluded that there is a perfect demarcation between those two Mādhavas i.e. Mādhava Mantri was hailed as “Upanishan mārgapratisthāpanāchārya” and Mādhava Vidyāranya was credited with title of “Vedamārga-pratishthapanāchārya.

Krishmaswami Aiyangar, in Page 51 of Sources of Vijayanagara, gives further details of Tātparya Dipika, a commentary written by Mādhava Mantrin and offers further clues to distinguish both the Mādhavās.

Thus those two Mādhavachāryās who almost co-existed at same time and in same place have been perfectly distinguished by their works and titles. According to Krishnaswamy Aiyangar one was representing ‘rigid Saivism’ and another was from ‘Advaitha’ school. In other words Mādhava Mantrin was from rigid Saivism and Mādhava Vidyāranya was an Advaita scholar. This distinction is crucial and serves as the perfect differentiator in understanding the phrase used in Maadhva literature i.e. “ಅವೈದಿಕಾಗ್ರ್ಯಂ ಮುನಿರೇಷ ವಿದ್ಯಾರಣ್ಯಂ.” [avaidikAgryaM munirESha vidyAraNyaM]

Getting back to the history, in his book “A History of Vijayanagara – The Never to be forgotten Empire” Bangalore Suryanarayana Row writes about Mādhava Mantri as below:

Further to the above observation, Mr. Row offers another support for establishing Mādhava Mantri as a learned Upanishad expert. In Page 234 of his book, Mr. Row writes as below:

Most important lines that the readers must read are:

“[…]and we see that Mādhava Mantri is the author of [Suta Samhimta]“Tatparya Dipika” and not Mādhavāchārya. The commentator commences with hailing his Guru as “Kāsivilāsa Kriyāsakti Parama Bhakta Pādābja Sevaka,” adjectives which are totally absent in all the accredited works of Vidyāranya.”

Thus the observations made by Krishnaswamy Aiyangar proved to be correct with the above statement of B. Suryanarayana Row. Also, all the above sources successfully establish the connection between Kriyashakti Pandita of Kālamukha sect and Mādhava Mantri. Thus, I have concluded that one of these two Mādhavācharyas must be the “ಅವೈದಿಕ ವಿದ್ಯಾರಣ್ಯ” stated in Sri Rāghavendra Vijaya.

I must draw the reader’s attention to the carefully written phrases of Krishnaswamy Aiyangar while describing these two Mādhavāchāryās. I once again reproduce the text such that the reader can redeem the second reading:

I wish to draw the reader’s attention for a careful study of the last sentence. The phrase ‘rigid Saivism’ is the key that can unlock the mystery of “ಅವೈದಿಕಾಗ್ರ್ಯಂ” [avadikAgryaM] used in Sri Rāghavendra Vijaya.

From the above narration of Krishnaswamy Aiyangar it becomes very clear that Mādhava Mantrin who was also called as ‘Mādhavacharya’ had attempted to elevate his ‘rigid Saivism’ in conformity with the path of Upanishads. In other words, it becomes apparently clear that the said ‘rigid Saivism’ practicised by Mādhava Mantrin appears to be non-Upanishadic in nature.

Therefore it can be understood that the Kālamukha sect headed by a certain Kriyāshakti Pandita who was the Guru of Mādhava Mantrin must be a non-Vedic sect and so gets qualified to be called as “ಅವೈದಿಕ”.

Based on these facts, I presume that at Mulbagal, Akshobhya Tirtha might have got engaged into an argument with Mādhava Mantri and not with Mādhava-Vidyāranya.

Another fact behind this assertion is that the sentence “tat tvam asi” or “tattvamasi” from Chandogya Upanishad has been quoted as the crucial debate between Sri Akshobhya and ‘Avaidika’ Vidyāranya. As Mādhava Mantrin being hailed as the ‘Establisher of Upanishad Path’, I am in no doubt to conclude that this Mādhava Mantrin must be the “ಅವೈದಿಕ ವಿದ್ಯಾರಣ್ಯ” and not Mādhava Vidyāranya of Advaita school.

Is Mādhava Mantrin the Avadikottama or Avaidikagryam?

Now the moot point to be addressed here is – Why was Mādhava Mantri referred to as Avaidikottama or Avaidika Vidyāranya?

For finding an answer for the above question, I have drawn some insight from a highly resourceful book called “The Kāpālikas and Kālamukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects” by David N. Lorenzen wherein in Page 173, the author establishes the link between Pāshupata sect and Kālamukha:


Pāshupata is the oldest school of ‘rigid Saivism’ aka ‘Veerasaivism.’ It is but natural for any organized religion to break into many sub-sects even this rigid Pāshupata Saivism also branched out by giving a birth to Kālamukha sect. Readers must remember this parent-child relationship between Pāshupata and Kālamukha through-out the reading of this article. This becomes highly crucial for understanding the ‘Avaidika’ status of Kālamukha sect which will be discussed subsequently in the following chapters.

Now, returning to David Lorenzen and his narrative of Kāpālikās and Kālāmukas, in page 162 he describes the Kriyāshaktis of Vijayanagara and their elevated status in the then religious environment. Read the following excerpt:

Such was the importance of Kriyāshaktis in early Vijayanagara history. Also, the above narrative confirms that Mādhava Mantri was a disciple of Kriyāshakti and was wielding lot of power in emperor’s court.

As the Sanātana Dharma is known for its intra-religious disputes and polemical war of words, these Pāshupata, Kālamukha and Kāpālika sects have come under heavy criticism by the Vedic cults such as Vishista Advaita and Dvaita.

David Lorenzen says that Rāmānujachārya and his preceptor Yāmunāchārya were highly critical of Kālamukhas that they were adherents of non-Vedic teachings. Kalamukhas have been accused of being practitioners of vicious Tāntric practices. Though Lorenzen differs with this presentation of Kālamukhas by Ramanuja, he agrees to a fact that the Kālamukha followers were widely adhering to their own doctrine called Lakula-Siddhānta instead of Vedas and were having some Buddhist Tāntric influences as well. This detour of Kālamukhas from Vaidika practice could have caused Rāmānuja to relegate them as Avaidika.

T.A. Gopinatha Rao gives a very interesting account of why and how the later date Saivites tried to emulate their cults as Vedic cults. First he narrates how these rigid Saivite sects have been grouped as Shudras.

Subsequently Gopinatha Rao narrates the efforts made by the Saivites to add some Vedic relevance to their cults:

In the present context, it is interesting to note that Mādhava Mantri, though being an Sāraswat Brāhman, was actually a practicising Kālāmukhi. Owing to his original roots as an Sāraswath Brahman he was well versed with the Upanishads and also wrote a commentary on Suta Samhita. Given his strength of Upanishadic knowledge, Mādhava Mantri had tried to promote Kālamukha practice as a practice that is in agreement with Vedas.

One may question that a stand-alone case of Mādhava Mantrin’s attempt to promote Kālamukha as Vedic cult is being blown out of proportion only to suit my argument of calling him as “Avaidika Vidyaranya.” To clear such doubt, I present the following statement of T.A. Gopinatha Rao:

There was one Srikāntha Sivācharya who wrote Bhāshya on Brahmasutras in accordance with rigid Saivism (Agamanta Saivism) with claim that Saivagamas are also as authoritative as Vedas. Thus we can see that Mādhava Mantrin was not alone in elevating his rigid Saiva cult as a Vedic one.

Here I wish to present the following excerpts from Epigraphia Carnatica Vol VIII – Inscriptions of Shimoga Dist (Part 2) edited by B.L. Rice and published in 1904. The first excerpt is from the Page 12 of the introduction written by B.L. Rice in which an important reference to Mādhava Mantri was made by him.


Following is an edited version of inscription from the same volume of Epigrahia Carnatica that shows the original content of inscription no. 375 found at Sorab Taluq.


Here the name of Kriyāshakti appears as the Guru of ‘Mantri Mahan’ Mādhava and it also gives the name of ‘Saivāgama Sāra Sangraha’ as being written after reviewing three Vedas, Puranās and Samhitās (trayam samAlOkya purANa saMhitA). Thus the authorship of Mādhava Mantrin of writing a book that tried to elevate Kālamukha sect as an Upanishadic sect can be easily established and the Kālamukhas had a specific plan of employing a learned Brahmin for accomplishing their task.

From the above, it can be understood that in 1347 AD Mādhava Mantri was actually at Chandragutti province and was assisting Mārapa, brother of Harihara and Bukka. Both Mārapa and Mādhava have compiled a book called ‘Saivāgama Sāra Sangraha’ by reviewing three Vedas and probably all 18 Puranas.

Most importantly, here Mādhava has been identified as a disciple of Kriyāshakti. Subsequently the inscription of c.1384 (cited at the beginning of the article) shows this Mādhava Mantri as the great minister of Harihara-II who became the emperor of Vijayanagara in c.1379. From this epigraph it can also be concluded that Mādhava Mantri must have got a promotion during Bukkraya – I’s regime i.e. sometime between c.1350 to c.1365 i.e. during the period of Akshobya Tritha sitting on the throne of Dvaita Siddhanta.

With these epigraphic evidences I have deduced an inference that Mādhava Mantri was an important minister at Vijayagara court and he followed an Avaidic sect called Kālamukha and he was well versed with Vedic scriptures which he tried to use in elevating his Avaidic cult to the status of Vedic cult.

Further to this, I understood that many of ‘rigid’ Saivite sects were readily initiating non-Brahmins as ascetics. As these sects were not strictly adhering to the teachings of Vedas and Upanishads but to their own Likula-Agama, they had the liberty to recruit non-Brahmins as well. At one point of time, Kālamukhas might have thought of qualifying their sect at par with the rapidly growing Vedic communities of Advaita, Vishishta Advaita and Dvaita. In order to do this, they needed the help of someone who can bring-in the vast knowledge of Vedas into Kālamukha fold and I presume that Mādhava Mantrin was their champion to accomplish this daunting task.

I am, once again, calling-in the remarks made by Krishnaswami Aiyangar in Sources of VijayanagaraHe states that the purpose for which Mādhava Mantri gained mastery over Upanishads is to make the rigid Saivism (here it is Kālamukha Saivism) to correspond with the Vedic Upanishads. Read the following excerpt from ‘Sources of Vijayanagara’.


The last sentence sums it all that Mādhava Mantri tried to elevate his belief system (Kālamukha) by writing “Saivāgama Sāra Sangraha”. Kālamukhas might have hoped that such a clever work by a qualified Brahmana Kālāmukhi can erase the stigmas created on their cult by Rāmānuja and Yāmuna in the preceding centuries. Also they might have wished that the ministerial power of Mādhava Mantri might earn many followers for them.

I am of the belief that these revival efforts of Kālamukhas to project themselves as a Vedic cult must have taken severe blow from the Dvaita preachers who were also challenging the other Vedic schools of Advaita and Vishishta Advaita. Thus Dvaitins of that time too must have considered Mādhava Mantri as “Avaidika” and hence Nārāyanachārya in his Sri Rāghavendra Vijaya aptly called him as “Avaidikagryam.”

In addition to this, the following shloka from the commentary by Chalāri Sankarshanāchārya on his own work of Jayatirtha’s biography should be read with utmost care:

ಅಸಿನಾ ತತ್ತ್ವಮಸಿನಾ ಪರಜೀವ ಪ್ರಭೇದಿನಾ| ಅವೈದಿಕೋತ್ತಮಾರಣ್ಯಮಕ್ಷೋಭ್ಯ ಮುನಿರಚ್ಛಿನತ್”

“asinA tattvamasinA parajIva prabhEdinA | avaidikOttamAraNya makshObhya munirachChinat”

In the above shloka it is interesting to note that the word Vidya is missing and only ‘Aranya’ has been mentioned. This gives rise to an extrapolation of the meaning and articulation of the word ‘Aranya’ in Saiva and/or Advaita sects.

Dashanāmi Sanyāsa (System of Ten names) has been established by Adi Shankarāchārya and till date the same system is being followed by Saiva and Advaita sects for initiating new incumbents into asceticism.  Mr. A.L. Ahuja in his “Eminent Indians: Saints and Sages” gives the 10 names of this system as under:

Thus ‘Aranya’ is one of the 10 names that a Saiva or Advaita ascetic can choose from. In accordance to this the usage ‘ಅವೈದಿಕೋತ್ತಮಾರಣ್ಯ’ [avadikOttamAraNya] in Chalāri Acharya’s shloka must be interpreted as a [Vira]Shaiva sanyasi who took initiation under ‘Aranya’ order and not a Advaita ‘Aranya’ sanyasi. Therefore, between the two Mādhavacharyas Mādhava Mantrin comes closer to be identified as Avaidika Aranya. As there are no concrete details available as to whether this Mādhava Mantrin was married or not, I have taken a benefit of doubt that he is unmarried and got initiated into ‘Aranya’ order of Dasanami system of asceticism by Kriyāshakti Pandita.

Even with all these suppositions my argument may still fall short while interpreting the usage of “ಅವೈದಿಕಾಗ್ರ್ಯಂ ಮುನಿರೇಷ ವಿದ್ಯಾರಣ್ಯಂ” wherein the word “Vidyāranya” appears to be having a direct reference to the famous Mādhava Vidyāranya. But I trust that my argument is not suffering from total disintegration as the other key word “Avaidika” is still prefixed to Vidyāranya. It must be recalled here by the reader that Krishnaswamy Aiyangar has specified that Mādhava Vidyāranya has “Vedamarga pratishtapanacharya’ title to his credit. Hence, a person who established a ‘Vedamarga’ can never be called as ‘Avaidika.’

If this argument can be accommodated in lieu of the other vital leads furnished hitherto that Mādhava Mantri is the Avaidik Kālāmukhi, readers can make their own assessment that Nārāyanachārya, the biographer of Sri Rāghavendra and Chalāri Achārya were referring to Mādhava Mantrin only.

On contrary to this, David Lorenzen informs that Kālamukhas were following ‘Dualist’ theory which is in direct confrontation with the ‘Monist’ theory adhered to by Advaitins.


(Page 162 – The Kāpālikas and Kālamukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects By David N. Lorenzen)

Now the above narrative throws up a highly interesting aspect that a staunch Advaitha Saivite such as Vidyāranya has rejected ‘rigid Saivites’ of Kālamukha sect. In other words, Vidyāranya too not considered Kālāmukhis as ‘Vaidikas.’

On the other hand Dvaita preached ‘Dualism’ but found to be confronting another ‘Dualist’ philosophy i.e. Kālamukha albeit was a Saivism cult. If Acharya Madhva declared ‘Dualism’ as the essence of Vedas, why did Dvaitins not only challenge ‘Dualist’ Kālāmukhis but also mercilessly brand them as ‘Avaikdikas”?


Kālamukha as an Avaidika doctrine

After giving the initial fall-out between Dualist Kālamukha and Monist Advaita, David Lorenzen explains further in the same paragraph as below:

Thus the dualist Kālamukhas and monist Advaitins were not as hostile to each other as they were with Dvaita or Visishta Advaita schools. Having resolved the first conflicting statement of Lorenzen, now it is time to deal with the other i.e. “Why dualist Dvaitins considered dualist Kālamukhas as Avadikas?”

T.A. Gopinatha Rao in his “Elements of Hindu Iconography” makes following important statement on how to distinguish Vadika Advaitins and Avadika Saivites:

(Page 6 & 7 – The Elements of Hindu Iconography by T.G. Gopinatha Rao, 1904)

It is for the view of treating Vedas as inferior to Agamas the rigid Saivites have been classified as “Avadikas” by Vedic scholars.

Though Gopinatha Rao says that Kumarila Bhatta rejected rigid Saivites as “Avaidik” but according to David Lorenzen, the first rejection of Kālamukha and brainding them as a non-Vedic sect has come from Yāmunāchārya and his disciple Rāmānujachārya. Hereunder is what Lorenzen records in “The Kāpālikas and Kālamukhas: 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 included human sacrifice. Though the human sacrifice by these sects has so far not been proven but it appears that this stigma had loomed large on them during medieval periods. Hereunder is the screen grab of Britannica’s online encyclopedia that serves the much needed clarification on Kālamukha sect:

Britannica also informs that these extreme sects have been termed as “Atimārgika” (Away from the path).

An article published in Shodhganga website has the following description for Kālāmukhas and their practices:


If the above statement is true then the reasons for the extinction of Kālamukha sect along with Kāpālika can be easily understood. This also strengthens my argument that Mādhava Mantrin had intentionally tried to qualify such a horrendous Saiva cult as a Vedic cult.

I wish to present an extract from a Telugu book titled “Sri Virupaksha – Sri Rama Tamra Sasanamulu” (Sri Virupaksha – Sri Rama Copperplate Inscriptions), by Dr. Vadlamudi Gopalakrishnaiah (VG), published in 1973 by Andhra Pradesh Govt. Oriental Manuscript Library and Research Institute, Hyderabad.

In his introduction to Aravidu dynasty, Dr. Gopalakrishnaiah talks about a particular Somanatharaju who is an ancestor of famous Aliya Ramaraya of Vijayanagara. This Somanatharaju was an independent king during early Vijayanagara time but his successors have been subdued and were brought under the fold of Vijayanagara. In his introduction to Aravidu dynasty, in Page No. LXI, GV quotes an interesting poem from a 16th century Telugu book called “Dwipada Bala Bhagavatamu


Hereunder I give the Kannada translation of the underlined prose text:

[ಸೋಮನಾಥರಾಜು] ಒಂದಾನೊಂದು ಶತ್ರುವಿನ ಶಿರಸ್ಸನ್ನು ಭೈರವದೇವರ ಮುಂದೆ ಖಂಡಿಸಿ ಬಲಿಯನ್ನು ಕೊಟ್ಟಂಥ ವಿವರ ದ್ವಿಪದ ಬಾಲ ಭಾಗವತದಲ್ಲಿ ವರ್ಣಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ.

An incident in which [Somanatha Raju] beheaded an enemy before the statue of Bhairava has been described in Dwipada Bala Bhagavata.

The above narrated incident may not amount to human sacrifice as that killing was a politically motivated execution of an enemy. But the striking aspect is the existence of Bhairava worship during Somanatharaju’s time i.e. between c.1358 to 1375.

This Bhairava is a central theme of Pāshupata and Kāpalikās’ rituals with variants such as Ugra Bhairava, Ananda Bhairava etc. Therefore, it must be understood here that in line with North India where Veerashaiva sects have a sway till to this day, even in South India there was a bustling activity of these sects during medieval times.

A noted historian from Andhra Pradesh, Mr. B.S.L. Hanumantha Rao in his article “Kālamukhas in Andhradesha” written for the Oriental Journal Volume XXVIII published in the year 1985 by Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati states that Pāshupata sect had some practices that were socially boycotted as ‘immoral’.

But Mr. Hanumantha Rao supports David Lorenzen’s view that Kālamukhas were not as bad as Pāshupatas or Kāpalikās but were quite pious in nature and highly learned in studies. But the irrefutable fact remains that they have followed a book called ‘Lakulisa Agama’ which was an independent work of Saivite saint called Lakulisa who prevailed in Western India during 2nd century AD.


But there is a vital clue available in Mr. Hanumantha Rao’s article that must be studied carefully. Hereunder is that very important hint as to what could have become of Kālamukha sect during medieval periods:

Mr. Hanumatha Rao quotes from David Lorenzen’s book that both Rāmānuja and his preceptor Yāmunāchārya have ‘purposely’ superimposed the immoral practices of Pāshupata sect over Kālamukha sect and have caused a great distortion about the latter sect.


So, by and large Kālamukhas have been branded as ‘Avaidikas’ though they appear to be not practicising the extreme rituals adopted by Pāshupatas. In my opinion, the mere absence of heinous rituals such as making amorous gestures to ladies etc. can’t qualify Kālamukha sect on par with Advaita, Vishishtadvaita or Dvaita for a simple reason that this Kālamukha sect has been built around Lakulisa Agama which is an independent work of a human being called Lakulisa lived sometime in 2nd century AD and was not based on Apaurusheya scriptures such as Vedas.

Following narrative from the Introduction to Gangadevi’s Madhura Vijaya, it can be understood beyond any doubt that Madhva Mantrin has been hailed as the Establisher of Upanishad Path as he tried to set right the ‘deranged’ Upanishadic lore which unmistakably points towards the Kalamukha’s tenet that Vedas are inferior to Saiva Agamas. It also confirms that Madhava Mantrin wrote a commentary to this effect.


(Page 8 & 9 – Introduction – Madhura Vijaya by Gangadevi – Edited by G. Harihara Sastri & V. Srinivasa Sastri – Pub in 1924)

The above inputs hint that Kālamukha had been branded as “Avadika” for being “Atimārgika” which is actually not as per Lorenzen and Hanumatha Rao but certainly for its adherence to a non-Vedic and non-Upanishadic Agama called Lakulisa Agama.

Mādhava Mantri though being a Vedic Sāraswat Brahman had tried to uphold an Atimārgika and Avaidic cult as a cult that conforms to Upanishads. Thus I wish to identify “Avaidika Vidyāranya” as Mādhava Mantrin and not Mādhava-Vidyāranya who is indeed a Vaidika Vidyāranya as he commented upon Vedas.

Vedanta Deshika’s Judgment – A Myth of Confounded Identity?

Another important personality in this episode is Sri Vedanta Deshika of Shrivaishnava school of Vedanta. An impartial assessment of his life history, epigraphy and archeological evidences can lead us to know whether he was really involved in the disputation of Akshobhya and Vidaranya as judge. This chapter shall briefly discuss the important and critical anecdotes of Vedanta Deshika.

 It is quite striking to note that majority of the ancient Madhva authors be it Vyasatirtha [not to be confused with famous Vyasarajatirtha], direct disciple of Jayatirtha or Chalari Sankarshanacharya or Narayanacharya of Sri Raghavendra Vijaya did not give out the name of Vedanta Desika as the Judge. This reference comes only in Vedanta Desika Vaibhava Prakashika written by Srinivasa Mahasuri alias Doddayyachar who hailed from Sholingar (Ghatikachala) and lived during 16th century. This sole reference is making it as a one-sided story. It must be noted that this story has been picked up by the Madhva writers of our time only. This selection of Srinivasa Mahasuri’s narration is in contrast with the earlier Maadhva writers. This difference in approach towards Vedanta Desika should not be taken lightly.

 As far as the books and articles that I have read in good numbers about Vedanta Desika quote “Vedanta Desika Vaibhava Prakashika” as the only earliest source for his purported role of Judge in the said disputation. In my opinion an incident of the stature of Akshobhya-Vidyaranya debate can’t be decided by citing a lone reference such as Srinivasa Mahasuri’s work.

On the other hand, the consistency maintained in several Maadhva narratives that a particular “Avadika Vidyaranya” has been defeated by Akshobhya Tirtha is not being found in the account of Vedanta Deshika as the Judge. Many other Shrivaishnava texts are silent on this achievement of Vedanta Deshika. Hence the validity of “Vedanta Deshika Vaibhava Prakashika” becomes doubtful and I believe that a separate study is needed to trace the source material of Srinivasa Mahasuri based on which he told that story.

I have gleaned through the famous disputes of Maadhva scholars with their opponents in pre-Akshobhya and post-Akshobhya periods and found that none of them had a referee from some other Vedantic school to give out judgment on the victory/loss. This uniformity of polemical disputes of Maadhvas puts a question mark on Vedanta Deshika’s role as a judge.

In addition to these facts, the entire Haridasa Sahitya is silent about the whole incident let alone taking the name of Vedanta Deshika as the Judge. Hence I am of the opinion that the claim made by Srinivasa Surin in his “Vedanta Deshika Vaibhava Prakashika” has something to do with his personal aberration with Advaitins and particularly with the successors of Vidyaranya at Hampi Virupaksha Matha. An in-depth study in this angle can shed light on this doubtful narration.

With this, I wish to conclude here that the story of Vedanta Deshika is doubtful and its exclusion from this study shall not alter or hamper the central theme.


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