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The Life and Times of
Sri Raghavendra Swamy, Mantralaya
|by G. Venkatesh|
In the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh is located the shrine of the Madhava saint Sri Raghavendra Swamy. The river Tungabhadra flows close to the river. The saint attained “moksha” in the Brindavan in Mantralayam. It is believed that he walked into the Samadhi alive and is still seated in the ‘yoga nidra’ pose to bless the millions of devotees who throng his shrine.
The hymn of Sri Raghavendra Swamy is as below :
Rajinikanth and Raghavendra Swamy
The South superstar attained a total transformation in his personality after he became a devotee of Sri Raghavendra Swamy and Ramana Maharishi of Tiruvannamalai. Once Rajnikant was a hot-tempered superstar who did not flinch before slapping a still photographer. With advancing age, the superstar mellowed and attained equanimity. Rajinikanth produced and acted in the movie on ‘Sree Raghavendra Swamy’ in the 80’s. However, the crass and callow Tamil audience is known to favour more of sex and sleaze in Tamil movies and ogle at the buxom heroines from Mumbai. Not surprisingly, the movie on Sri Raghavendra Swamy bombed at the box office. Of course, this is no reflection on the glory of the holy saint.
How to Reach Mantralayam
The temple is located close to the bus station and amenities for the pilgrims are remarkable. The Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh Governments have built decent lodging facilities for pilgrims but please do not expect satellite TV connection or internet cafes at every nook and corner. Devotees are well advised to remember that Mantralayam is a holy place and not a tourist spot. Infosys founder Narayanamurthy and his wife Smt. Sudha Murthy have also contributed funds for building washroom facilities in Mantralayam at strategic points. A noble gesture indeed.
Raghavendra Swamy mutts in Mumbai
These are located in Jogeshwari (West) near Oshiwara and in Mulund West very close to the Mulund railway station.These temples have been built and modeled in exactly the same way in which the main temple at Mantralayam is designed.
The Samadhi of Sri Raghavendra Swamy is more popularly called as the Brindavan. There is a walkway that leads to the temple. Alongside the walkway, you can see guest houses for special guests or VVIPs. Entry to the temple is free. Near the entrance of the temple is located a small temple dedicated to “Manchalamma” – another form of Goddess Parvati. After a darshan of “Manchalamma”, you enter the sanctum sanctorum to have a splendid darshan of the Samadhi of Sri Raghavendra Swamy.
In front of Brindavan lies a temple devoted to Lord Hanuman. It appears that Raghavendra Swamy was an ardent devotee of both Lord Venkateswara of Tirumala and Lord Hanuman. A few yards away from the Hanuman temple is located the deity of Lord Shiva called as “Sree Mrutyenjaswara Mahalingam”. Lord Shiva destroys evil and all else that needs to be destroyed ; Lord Vishnu protects all that that needs to be protected. Brahma is the creator. This explains the significance of “Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh” in our Hindu mythology.
There is a classroom for teaching Sanskrit to young scholars, close to the Brindavanam. There is a library next door that is stocked with a plethora of religious books – some of the books are very old scriptures that stand testimony to the roots of our centuries old Hindu culture. The first floor houses a meditation hall. Then there is a dining hall where you are expected to have the ‘maha prasad’ seated on the floor. It is a simple and spartan “sattvik” meal that tastes divine like all ‘maha prasads’. Gents have to compulsorily wear a dhoti while partaking the Prasad.
The Mantralayam town also boasts of a temple of Lord Venkateswara where the idol was consecrated by Sri Raghavendra Swamy himself. The crowning glory of the shrine is the pristine Tungabhadra river. Sadly, the river is polluted. When miscreants have not spared the Ganga, what can we say about other Indian rivers?
Who is Sri Raghavendra Swamy
Born to Thimmanna and Gopambika, Venkadanathan was fondly called as “Venkanna”. He was born in a village called “Bhuvanagiri” after his parents prayed for a third child to Lord Balaji of Tirumala. Venkanna began learning the scriptures right from a young age from a guru called Acharya Lakshmi Narasimha. At the appropriate time, Venkanna was married to a pious woman called Saraswathi. Even after his marriage, Venkanna continued to learn. The Madhava scholar Sree Susheendra Teertha took Venkanna under his tutelage.
Transformation of Venkanna was dramatic mainly because of his diligence and sincerity of purpose. He surpassed the expectations of his guru who consistently encouraged him. But like the religious scholars of those times, Venkanna lived in dire poverty. He moved to the Ashram of Sree Susheendra Teertha swamy along with his son and Saraswathi.
Once Saraswathi goaded Venkanna to attend a religious ceremony organized by a wealthy man in the village. After entering the mansion, Venkanna occupied a corner of the mansion and began his meditation and chanting of the hymns. One of the priests, through his ignorance, gave Venkanna the task of grinding Sandalwood paste for all the Brahmins who were attending the ceremony. As soon as the Brahmins smeared the sandal paste, they started complaining of a burning sensation and irritation. When the merchant questioned Venkanna, the latter replied that he was chanting the “agnisooktham” while grinding the paste and so this could have caused the burning sensation. He started reciting the “karunasooktam” and offered fresh sandal paste to the Brahmins. This provided a cooling effect and Venkanna received lot of praise for his knowledge of the Vedas.
After his guru passed away, Venkanna was anointed his successor and rechristened “Sri Raghavendra Swamy”. Unable to bear the fact that her husband had acquired sanyas, Saraswati jumped into a well. It is said that Saraswathi’s spirit came to meet Sri Raghavendra swamy to seek salvation and the latter sprinkled water and fulfilled her wish. To this day, the Madhavas commence all their religious ceremonies by carrying out a Saraswati pooja first.
In the subsequent years, Sri Raghavendra Swamy became immensely popular and his healing powers cured many people of their ailments. Then, one auspicious day, the Swami attained Samadhi.
So, friends, do visit this holy shrine at least once in your life and experience the transformation Sri Raghavendra Swamy’s grace brings in your lives. This is not one of those shrines in South India where the avaricious priests hanker after you to burn a hole in your pocket. Rather, this is the shrine of a simple man who renounced all desires to become a saint and spread the message of divinity and peace to the world. In the process, he became a tool of the Almighty to perform miracles to cure the miseries of mankind. Millions of devotees (including this writer) have benefited after they visited Mantralayam. So, what are you waiting for ?
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