Sri Raghavendra Tirtha
1595 or 1598
|Successor||Sri Yogendra Tirtha|
|Literary works||Bhatta Sangraha, Nyaya Sudha Parimala, Tantradipika|
Sri Raghavendra Tirtha (IAST: ?r? R?ghav?ndra T?rtha) (c.1595 - c.1671) was a Hindu scholar, theologian and saint. He was also known as Sudha Parimalacharya (IAST: Sudh? Parimac?rya). His diverse oeuvre include commentaries on the works of Madhva, Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha, interpretation of the Principal Upanishads from the standpoint of Dvaita and a treatise on Purva Mimamsa. He served as the pontiff of matha at Kumbakonam from 1624 to 1671. Sri Raghavendra swamy was also an accomplished player of the Veena and he composed several songs under the name of Venu Gopala. His shrine at Mantralayam attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Sri Raghavendra Swami was born as Venkatanatha in the town of Bhuvanagiri, Tamil Nadu into a Deshastha Madhva Brahmin family of Gautama Gotra of musicians and scholars. after blessings from Lord Venkateshwara. His great-grandfather Krishna Bhatta was a tutor to the Vijayanagara king Krishnadeva Raya, his grandfather was Kanakachala Bhatta and his father Thimmanna Bhatta (also known as Thimmannacharya) was an accomplished scholar and musician. After the fall of the Vijayanagara empire, Thimmanacharya migrated to Kanchi with his wife Gopikamba. Venkatanatha had two siblings--Gururaja and Venkatamba. Venkatanatha's education was undertaken by his brother-in-law Lakshmi-narasimhacharya at Madurai, after the early demise of his father, and he was subsequently married.
Sri Raghavendra Swami, born Venkatanatha, and many honorific titles such as Parimalacharya in recognition of his immense depth of knowledge of Shaastras, Vedas and other complex philosophical concepts, remained with the then pontiff of Sri Mutt, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha for a year at Kumbakonam, which was then the headquarters of the Sri Mutt, before returning to Bhuvanigiri to take care of his wife Saraswathi Bai and son Lakshmi-narayana. 
He was leading a very simple life with his wife, teaching Vedas to students, and taking as remuneration only that which was given voluntarily by students on the grounds that it would tantamount to pricing Goddess Saraswathi were he to put a price on his teachings.
This put the family of three in tough circumstances materially, warranting that Sri Venkatanatha make trips to Kumbakonam to the Mutt. On one such trip, he took a break at a village where a feast was underway. Not seeing beyond his penurious appearance, a guest there told him to make some sandalwood paste for the assembly in lieu of food. Sri Venkatanatha began doing so and when the sandalwood paste was given to all, it caused a burning sensation in everybody instead of its organic quality of cooling down the body on consumption. When Venkatanatha was asked about this, he profusely apologized that he mistakenly chanted Agni Suktam (prayer to the god of fire, Agni) while grinding the sandalwood paste and offered to prepare it again, this time chanting Varuna Suktam (prayer to god of the waters) while doing so, as water is an antidote to fire. This worked and everyone assembled prostrated in forgiveness to Sri Venkatanatha. 
The penury of the Venkatanatha family was such that each one had just one garment to wear, which they would wash in parts, let it dry, wear it, wash the remaining portion of the garment and then drape it. The son almost always never had any clothes to wear. Virtually, every day was fasting with all members skipping at least one meal, if not more. The worries of Saraswathi Bai centering around fending for their child Lakshmi-narayana, the family moved to Kumbakonam to serve Sri Mutt and improve their lot.
Sri Venkatanatha's mastery and expertise was well known and he was very renowned wherever he went. The aging pontiff of the Sri Mutt, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha wished to anoint Sri Venkatanatha to perform Sri Moola Rama pooja but Sri Venkatanatha was hesitant to give up his responsibilities to his wife and son.
Hence, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha appointed another disciple, Sri Yadavendra to perform the Sri Moola Rama pooja, and gave him permission to tour the country, once his own health started improving. This meant that though Sri Yadavendra Tirtha was anointed to perform the Sri Moola Rama Puja, he never did so, during the time of Sri Sudheendra Tirtha.
But as soon as Sri Yadavendra departed for his yatra, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha's health began worsening and with no sign of the return of Sri Yadavendra Tirtha, he again turned to Sri Venkatanatha to take over the rituals of performing Sri Moola Rama pooja. Again Sri Venkatanatha was reluctant, but decided to pore over the suggestion after Sri Sudheendra Tirtha apprised him of a vision of Lord Sri Rama himself gracing his choice of Sri Venkatanatha as the right person to perform the Sri Moola Rama pooja.
In these circumstances, Sri Venkatanatha returned home with a heavy heart which did not go un-noticed by Saraswathi Bai who expressed concern at this conflux. Promising to discuss the rumors around town of Sri Venkatanatha's impending progression into sanyasa in the morning, they went to sleep. But Sri Venkatanatha was not visited by the sleep fairy and instead had a vision of Goddess Saraswathi herself who convinced him to take up Sanyasa dharma extolling his virtues, his suitability for the same and the virtues of doing public service through being the pontiff of the Sri Mutt. After being convinced thus, while his wife lay asleep all this while, beside him, he was blessed by Lord Sri Rama, Sri Narasimha, Sri Krishna and Sri Veda Vyasa. Thus Sri Venkatanatha woke up convinced to accept his guru Sri Sudheendra Tirtha's suggestion of occupying the post of the pontiff of Sri Mutt by embracing sanyasa and moving forward from his mundane life of Saraswathi Bai and Lakshmi-narayana.
On informing Sri Sudheendra Tirtha of the same, he advised that the upanayanam of Sri Venkatanatha's son be completed first and then pre-empting the trauma Sri Venkatanatha's decision would have on his wife, decided that Sri Venkatanatha should don the ochre (saffron) robes in Thanjavur instead of in Kumbakonam. In the midst of Vedic chanting, mantropadeshas, Sri Sudheendra Tirtha anointed Sri Venkatanatha as 'Sri Raghavendra Tirtha', as ordained to him in his dream by Lord Rama.
On hearing of the goings on in Thanjavur, Saraswathi Bai who was the model wife, an exemplar of attachment to her husband and family swooned, before taking her life by jumping into a well. Young Lakshmi-narayana was too small to comprehend the goings-on and was later taken away by his older uncle, Sri Gururaja.
Saraswathi Bai became a ghost and started haunting Sri Raghavendra Tirtha to draw his attention. To give her liberation from the cycle of birth and death, he sprinkled water on the ghost and relieved his wife of her miseries and granted her Moksha. Saraswathi Bai was a standing example of an ideal wife. She stood by him at the most precarious situation in Bhuvanagiri and Sri Raghavendra Tirtha wanted her devotion to be a beacon for others to emulate. In keeping with her steadfast devotion to her husband even when each of them had one cloth each to wear, he ordained that anyone born in Gautama Gotra gift clothes to others during celebrations or festivities in the household. This is a practice which is followed to this date, as a mark of respect to a great wife of a great saint.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, "Among the family members of the demons (daityas), I am Prahlada, the staunch devotee of Lord Narayana." Later, when Sri Raghavendra Swami chose the rocky terrain of Mantralayam for his Moola-Brindavana-Pravesha, over many other fertile tracts of land that were offered to him by Diwan Venkanna, he said that Mantralayam is the place that he did multiple yagnyas in his avatara as Prahlada. His former birth is considered to be that of Sri Vyasaraja Tirtha, who was the Royal Priest for the Krishnadevaraya Empire and has composed many songs in praise of Lord Krishna, the most popular being Krishna Nee Begane. It is even said that Prahlada himself is an incarnation of Shanku-Karna, one of the messengers of Lord Brahma who was cursed with a series of mundane existences due to being late in getting flowers for the pooja of Lord Narayana. 
In Bannur village, along the Cauvery river, one Ramanachar and his wife Seethamma lived a peaceful life until Ramanachar died. With no desire to live, and in keeping with the practice of Sati as was prevalent then, Seethamma proceeded to join her husband on the pyre. On her way, she came across Sri Brahmanya Tirtha who immediately offered her blessings of a long, happy married life only to realize that she had lost her husband. As a mark of compassion, he accompanied her to her house, sprinkled water while chanting the Dhanvantari mantra on Ramanachar only to have Ramanachar wake up as if from a deep slumber. As a token of gratitude, the couple offered to give their next born (which would be their first born too) to Sri Brahmanya Teertha as his disciple. Thus Sri Vyasaraja was born on 22 April 1437, Shukla Saptami, was precocious from a young age, and appropriately was conferred with the title 'Sri Vyasaraja Tirtha' after his upanayanam (investiture ceremony), performed by Sri Brahmanya Tirtha in his fifth year. After spending many years under the tutelage of Sri Sripadaraja, he became peethadhi-pati (pontiff) of the Sri Mutt upon the attainment of mukti (liberation) by Sri Brahmanya Tirtha. 
Much like Prahlada who consumed poison as if it were nectar, taking the Lord's name, Sri Vyasaraja too once consumed poison and survived due to his implicit faith in Lord Narayana.
During one of the customary poojas of the Sri Mutt, that Sri Vyasaraja was performing along with his Guru Sri Sripadaraja, he found the idol of Sri Venugopala Swami dancing in ecstasy to his songs, praising Lord Krishna. Just as Sri Sripadaraja stepped in to see the source of the music and dance, the idol stopped dancing and even to date, can be seen in the Sri Mutt, with the right foot resting on the left foot. This is contrary to all depictions of Lord Krishna who is shown with his left foot resting on the right foot.
Sri Vyasaraja Tirtha has composed numerous songs in praise of Lord Krishna, the most memorable among them, being Krishna Nee Begane Baro. Some of the popular disciples of Sri Vyasaraja include Sri Purandaradasa and Sri Kanaka Dasa, famous Harikatha exponents whose songs on Lord Sri Krishna and Lord Sri Rama run into the hundreds of thousands each and are still being sung to this date. 
Sri Vyasaraja was one of the principal priests of the Sri Venkateshwara Temple at Tirupati for over 12 years.
Sri Vyasaraja installed 732 idols of Sri Anjaneya along the Tungabhadra and surrounding regions and attained mukti at age 92 on 08 March 1529 at Hampi. His Brindavana is thronged to date by devotees, known as 'Nava Brindavana', is located along the banks of the Tungabhadra.
Sri Moola Rama is the primordial deity to whom Nithyopasanas are performed within the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Mutt, Mantralayam.
It is a creation of the divine craftsman, Vishwakarma, worshipped by Lord Brahma and after changing hands, found its way in the Gajapathi dynasty. When a minor became heir apparent to the throne, due to unfortunate circumstances, the royal elephant chose Sri Narahari Teertha, one of the direct disciples of Sri Madhwacharya as the ruler till the minor son comes of age. In return for ruling the kingdom efficiently, Sri Narahari Tirtha asked for the idol of Sri Moola Rama and thus the Sri Moola Rama came into the possession of Sri Mutt and has been continuously worshipped by the pontiffs of the same, to this date. Devotees witnessing the Sri Moola Rama Pooja at Sri Raghavendra Swamy Mutt can see the idol in all its pristine glory.
Once when Sri Madhwacharya rescued a ship from choppy waters, its captain happily offered two blocks of sandalwood (gopichandana) for his guidance in steering his ship and goods safely to the shore. Breaking open one of the blocks of sandalwood revealed the intricately carved idol of Lord Krishna, now worshipped in the precincts of the Udupi Temple, along with an intricately carved silver throne. The other block of sandalwood contained an idol of Sri Balarama, younger brother of Lord Krishna in the Tretha Yuga. This idol of Lord Balarama is consecrated by Sri Madhwacharya at Malpe along the coast of Karnataka. 
Sri Madhwacharya had crafted a silver idol of Sri Digvijaya Rama to be seated on the silver throne and this idol is worshipped daily along with Sri Moola Rama at the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Mutt, along with two Saligramas (representations of Lord Vishnu) that Sri Veda Vyasa gave Sri Madhwacharya. It is the greatness of Sri Raghavendra Swamy that the mutt which was originally called Sri Mutt is called Sri Raghavendra Swamy Mutt since the advent and Jeeva Samadhi of Sri Raghavendra Swami
Rayaru, as he is fondly called, began his Brindavana Pravesha by playing "Indu Enage" on the veena in response to which the idol of Sri Santhanagopala Krishna that he used to worship began dancing in presence of all the devotees gathered there. He declared that after his entry into the Brindavana, which occurred in the 17th century, he will be alive for 700 years. 
While Rayaru had his Brindavana Pravesha around 1:30 pm in 17th century, it is recorded in the Gazette of then Madras Presidency that he gave darshan and spoke to Sir Thomas Munroe, a civil servant of British Government and discussed with him the restitution of the Inam Lands to the government which was being proposed then, meaning that Mantralaya would have become part of the restituted lands. After such a conversation, which Sir Thomas Munroe dutifully transcribed, the restitution was withdrawn.
Forty works have been attributed to Sri Raghavendra swamy. Sharma notes that his works are characterised by their compactness, simplicity and their ability to explain the abstruse metaphysical concepts of Dvaita in understandable terms. His Tantradipika is an interpretation of the Brahma Sutra from the standpoint of Dvaita incorporating elements from Jayatirtha's Nyaya Sudha, Vyasatirtha's Tatparya Chandrika and the glosses by Vijayendra Tirtha.  Bhavadipa is a commentary on Jayatirtha's Tattva Prakasika which, apart from elucidating the concepts of the source text, criticises the allegations against Madhva raised by Appaya Dikshita and grammarian Bhattoji Dikshita. Sri Raghavendra swamy's expertise in Purva Mimamsa and Vyakarana is evident from his works on Vyasatirtha's Tatparya Chandrika, which runs up to 18,000 stanzas. He wrote a commentary on Nyaya Sudha titled Nyaya Sudha Parimala. Apart from these works, he has authored commentaries on the Upanishads, first three chapters of Rig Veda (called Mantramanjari) and Bhagvad Gita. As an independent treatise, he has authored a commentary on Jaimini Sutras called Bhatta Sangraha which seeks to interpret the Purva Mimamsa doctrines from a Dvaita perspective.
Raghavendra Tirtha has been eulogised by Narayanacharya in his contemporaneous biography Raghavendra Vijaya and a hymn Raghavendra Stotra by Appannacharya. Outside the confines of Dvaita, he is regarded as a saint known for preaching the worship of Vishnu regardless of caste or creed. Hebbar notes "By virtue of his spiritual charisma, coupled with the innumerable miracles associated with him, the pontiff saint may very well be said to possess an independent and cosmopolitan cult of his own with his devotees hailing not only from all walks of life but from all castes, sects and even creeds as well". His humanitarianism is evident in the devotional poems composed in his honour by Vijaya Dasa, Gopala Dasa and Jagannatha Dasa. Raghavendra has also seen representation in the popular culture through Indian Cinema.
|1966||Mantralaya Mahatme||Dr. Rajkumar||T. V. Singh Thakur||Kannada||The song from the film titled "Indu Enage Govinda" was written by Raghavendra himself|
|1980||Sri Raghavendra Vaibhava||Srinath||Babu Krishnamurthy||Kannada||Srinath won Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor for the film|
|1981||Mantralaya Sri Raghavendra Vaibhavam||Rama Krishna||M. R. Nag||Telugu||Ramakrishna's last film as a Hero in Telugu|
|1985||Sri Raghavendrar||Rajnikanth||SP. Muthuraman||Tamil||The film was Rajnikanth's 100th|