Shri Guru Raghavendra Swami

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Sri Thimmanna Bhatta was the grandson of Krishnabhatta, a Veena scholar, who had taught the Veena to King Krishnadevaraya. Initially, this couple had two children named Gururaja and Venkatamba. By the grace of Lord Venkateswara, a third child was born in 1595 A.D. at Bhuvanagiri in Tamil Nadu to Sri Thimanna Bhatta and Smt. Gopikamba. They named him Venkatanatha (some also say that he was called either Venkanna Bhatta or Venkatacharya).

Venkatanatha proved to be a very brilliant scholar at a very young age. Venkatanatha's brother Sri Gururaja Bhatta took care of his upbringing after their father's demise. The initial portion of his education was completed under his brother-in-law Lakshminarasimhacharya's guidance in Madurai. After his return from Madurai, Venkatanatha married Smt.Saraswathi. After his marriage, Venkatanatha went to Kumbakonam. There he studied the Dwaita vedantha, grammar and literary works under his guru, Sri Sudheendra Theertha. He was very well versed in bhashyas and debated with various scholars and prevailed over them. He was also a skilled musician and played the veena, which he had learned in his childhood from his father, very well. He used to teach children Sanskrit and the ancient Vedic texts. He never demanded any money for his services and he had to endure a life of poverty. Many a times, he, his wife and child had to go without food several times a week. But this never deterred the faith he had in the Lord.

Venkatanatha was in the habit of chanting stotras and mantras always in his mind. Once while he was touring Kumbakonam, Venkatanatha was invited to attend a function, with his wife and son. The hosts did not treat him well and wanted him to earn his food by running a chore. So they asked him to make some sandalwood paste, using a grinding slab. The paste was given to all the guests, who smeared it on their bodies. Immediately, the guests complained of a burning sensation all over their bodies on which they had rubbed the paste. Surprised by this, the hosts questioned Venkatanatha, who replied saying that he was chanting the Agni Suktam while grinding the sandalwood, which had resulted in the cool sandalwood create a burning sensation. Such, it is said, was the power of the mantra when chanted by Venkatanatha! Venkatanatha then recited the Varuna Mantra and succeeded in relieving the guests of their agony.

Ordination into Sanyasa as Guru Raghavendra
His gurugalu, Sri Sudheendra Theertharu, was looking for a successor to his math. Sri Sudheendra Theertha had a dream where he saw the Lord indicate that Venkatanatha was the right person to succeed him as the pontiff of the math. So Sri Sudheendra Theertha communicated his desire to Venkatanatha. Venkatanatha was devastated by the request of the guru as he could not take up this responsibility for he had a young wife and a son to care for.

But by divine intervention and after being blessed by the Goddess of Learning herself, Venkatanatha changed his mind. The sanyasa ordination was to take place on the second day of the bright half of Phalguna Masa in 1621 at Tanjore. On the day Venkatanatha was to ascend the peetha, Saraswathi was required to stay at home. However, at the last minute she was seized by a desire to see her husband's face for the last time. She ran towards the matha throwing caution to the winds. Unfortunately, deeply engrossed in the desire to see her husband, she did not see an old and unused well on the way, and fell into it. She drowned and died. Since her death was an untimely one, she became a ghost. Even as a ghost, her only desire was to see her husband and so she went to the matha. By the time she arrived, the function was over Venkatanatha had become a Sannyasi under the name of Sri Raghavendra Theertha. Sri Raghavendra sensed his wife's presence immediately and sprinkled some holy water from His Kamandalu on her, granting her moksha or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. This was her reward for a lifetime of dedicated and selfless service to Sri Raghavendra.



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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 

Shri Raghavendra: His life and works

by Raghavendra

(Unknown Binding)

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