Renowned Indian Political Scientist, Meenakshi Jain has carried out extensive research on Ayodhya and has compiled it in her seminal work, “Rama & Ayodhya”.
Meenakshi Jain has given great details about the scriptural, sculptural and epigraphic evidences for Lord Rama. This was done to counter some absurd objections as part of the Rama Janmabhumi dispute where it was alleged that worship of Lord Rama as Vishnu’s avatara was an extremely recent phenomenon.
She has carried out extraordinary work tracing the evidences from thousands of years ago till the recent past. While studying there are collection of evidences which are hugely impressive, these evidences come from Madhva tradition of Dvaita Siddhanta.
This evidence is the literary work of Sri Vadiraja Tirtha of Sode mutt, one of the Ashta mutt of Udupi.
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha, who lived a long and glorious life of 120 years, is one of the most important saints in the Dvaita tradition. His time has been estimated as from 1480 A.D to 1600 A.D.
He is considered one of the greatest saints amongst the followers of Sri Madhvacharya, and has composed tens of works on Vedas, Dvaita Siddhanta and as also numerous commentaries on Sri Madhvacharya’s works.
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha was also a great logician and gifted poet. He has composed numerous stotras and poems in Sanskrit, Kannada and Tulu languages.
He studied under another of the great Dvaita saints Sri Vyasatirtha. He was also one of the patron saints of the great Vijayanagara King Krishnadevaraya and his successors. Sri Vyasatirtha, Sri Vadiraja Tirtha, Sri Purandara Dasa and Sri Kanaka Dasa were all contemporaries and were under the patronage of the Vijayanagara empire.
The interesting work of Shri Vadiraja teertharu is “Tirtha Prabandha”. It is essentially a religious travelogue — in which Sri Vadiraja has composed stotras to various dieties, rivers and kshetras that he visited as part of his “tirtha yatra”. The work has 4 prabandhas, paschima, uttara, purva and dakshina prabandhas, composed as he traveled the 4 regions of bharata.
Depending upon the nature of the place he composed shlokas either on the most significant diety of a tirtha kshetra , or a prayer to a river, or a shloka in praise of the greatness of a particular place.
Many of places, including Udupi, Badarinath, Tirupati, Kashi, Rameshwara, Dwaraka and Puri are covered in this work. And of course, Ayodhya,has also been visited and covered by him in Tirtha Prabhandha.
The interesting evidence regarding Ayodhya can be found in,
The original Tirtha Prabandha And a commentary on the Tirtha Prabandha called ‘Guru Bhava Prakshika’ written by Sri Narayanacharya , who was a direct disciple of Sri Vadiraja Tirtha. Since the author of this commentary had direct interaction with Sri Vadiraja, his work becomes important in this discussion.
As mentioned earlier, Sri Vadiraja was the student of Sri Vyasatirtha. As part of his yatra to compose this work, he has also visited Anegundi near Hampi. As of today, Anegundi houses 9 brundavanas of Madhva tradition and is famously known as Navavrundavana. One of the vrundavanas belongs to Sri Vyasatirtha who entered the same in 1539 A.D
The Tirtha Prabandha shloka by Sri Vadiraja, which extols navavrundavana, does not make any reference to Sri Vyasatirtha, the immediate Guru of the author. It refers to Sri Jayatirtha, another great Dvaita saint. This omission of Sri Vyasatirtha’s name is only possible if Sri Vadiraja visited Anegundi prior to 1539 A.D.
As part of the life history of Sri Vadiraja, many people have recorded an incident where Sri Vadiraja is requested by the Sulthan of Delhi to treat his ill son and in turn tries to offer him numerous jewels. Many dvaita scholars opine that this King was Humayun and the young son Akbar. This interaction therefore must have happened after 1530 A.D when Humayun reigned at Delhi for the first time.
Combining the above two factors, we can quite confidently conclude that the visit of Sri Vadiraja to various parts of India (for composing this work) happened somewhere between 1530 A.D and 1539 A.D. This is definitely true for at least North India region of the tirthayatra.
From the records available at the Sode Matha, Uttara Kannada, Sri Vadiraja Tirtha’s travels have been timelined to six main intervals in the 16th century. These have also been cross-checked with the 2-year paryaya duties that Sri Vadiraja had to perform at Udupi. The paryaya opportunity comes ones every 14 years (after end of previous paryaya).
Using all this data, it does appear that the interval between 1542–1547 A.D is the most likely time when Sri Vadiraja Tirtha performed the yatra that led to Uttara Prabandha in this work.
Two points stand out from this timing
Babar’s reign at Delhi had ended when the visit of Sri Vadiraja to North India happened
The visit happened not too distant from the end of Babar’s reign
The descriptio of Ayodhya:
The typical structure used by Sri Vadiraja upon visiting a place is to describe the chief diety of a place in the kshetra. If the place happens to be a religious kshetra or a river, then he praises the same and there is no direct praise of any diety or Murthi of the place.
For e.g. when he visits Kashi, he sings the glory of Bindu Madhava. When he visits Badari, he composes numerous shlokas on Badari Narayana. However when he visits a place like Naimisharanya, he praises the region itself instead of a particular Murti over there. Similarly he has praised Ganga, Yamuna, Tunga and other rivers at appropriate places in his work.
Let us see the actual description or praise of Ayodhya that Sri Vadiraja resorts to.
Sri Vadiraja devotes just one shloka for Ayodhya. The following is the actual shloka.
“Ayodhya naama nagari bhati saadhvi vadhuriva |
Vanam gatasyapi tasya paaduke yaskarot patim”
The literal translation of the shloka is,
The town of Ayodhya appears like a chaste wife (pativrata). That city which accepted the paduka as it’s Lord (rama) even when he had gone to the forest.
At the outset, it appears as if Sri Vadiraja has only praised Ayodhya and compared it to a chaste lady waiting on her husband just like how the citizens of Ayodhya during ramayana considered Rama as their King even when he was in the forest.
If Rama was there at Ayodhya that time,why did Theerataru did not sing or compose anything in his praise?! Does that mean when he visited Ayodhya, Rama had already left the place(temple destroyed)???
What is the need to compare Ayodhya to a wife?
One can question why Sri Vadiraja Tirtha chose to describe Ayodhya by referring to Ayodhya around a time when rama was actually not present in Ayodhya.
Out of the 11,000 years that Rama ruled Ayodhya, Sri Vadiraja chooses the only 14 year period when he actually was not at Ayodhya.
Why not a shloka about rama rajya?
Why not a shloka about the 11,000 period golden rule?
Why not a shloka about the ashwamedha and other yagas?
Why not a shloka about the times he spent happily with Sita mata?
This line of thinking gets even further strengthened by the commentary written by his shishya Sri Narayanacharya on this shloka.
Describing the first half of the shloka, he says
“The impression of this shloka is that the city (Ayodhya) was waiting just like a chaste pativrata wife who waits thinking of her husband looking at his clothes, ornaments and other remaining objects even when the husband is out of town”
The use of the word ‘bhati” in the present tense by Sri Vadiraja Tirtha clearly means that he is referring to the present condition of Ayodhya, there is no doubt he was not referring to the times of the ramayana.
Further, the usage of the word “pati” in this shloka. Sri Vadiraja is effectively saying that the city is waiting while the “Ayodhya Pati” is not present there.
Given the timing of the visit to Ayodhya- between 1530 A.D and 1539 A.D, and the strange and unique reference to the incident of paduka in ramayana when Lord Rama was out of Ayodhya ,and the direct comparison of the city to a wife whose husband (Ayodhya pati in this case) is not in town, It looks like a clear reference by Sri Vadiraja Tirtha that the Lord of Ayodhya was not in the city at that time, a direct reference to the bringing down of the Rama Temple and consequent absence.
Important thing to note here is Tirtha Prabandha was a religious work and therefore there was no chance of making any political or social statements. And Vadiraja theertharu is known for his social reforms and he had helped a Sulthan by curing his ill son. So he had no intention of manipulating anything. His encounter with Humayun is well recorded and the Udupi temple stands proof to these historical events.
Source: the medium- carrying excerpts from Meenakshi Jain’s work
Dr Sindhu Prashanth