|The Beautiful Thungabadra River as seen in Bhikshalaya|
One cannot narrate the Ramayana without mention of Shri Hanuman. Similarly, the life history of Sri Raghavendra swamy cannot be narrated without mention of his beloved friend and disciple, Appanacharya. Today millions of people in the world, offer prayers to Sri Raghavendra by chanting
"Poojyaya Raghavendraya Satyadharma Rathayacha Bhajathaam
Kalpavrukshaya Namathaam Kamadhena ve"
This sloka has been rendered by Appanacharya as part of the Guru Raghavendra Stothram that explains the greatness of the Guru and the benefits that one can get by worshipping him and , what better way to end the slokham than Sri Raghavendra himself completing the last line - "sākṣī hayāsyo’tra hi |" from inside the Moola Brindavanam.
There are several versions being narrated about how Appanacharya and Sri Raghavendra met. Some say that they knew each other from the time Appana had come to Kumbakonam to pursue his studies and some others say that they met only when Sri Raghavendra Swamy came to Maanchaalam Village (the present day Mantralayam). But there is no denying the fact that he spent several months and years at Bhikshalaya in close company of his dear friend Appanacharya.
|A recent day addition - Statue of Sri Raghavendra Swamy with|
Appanacharya at Bhikshalaya
When Sri Raghavendra came to Maanchalam Village seeking his permanent abode there, he seems to have been drawn to Bhikshalaya for two reasons - One to worship the idols installed by his predecessors and the other, the true love and devotion of Appanacharya.
While Sri Raghavendra was in Bhikshalaya, he worshipped the Hanuman that had been installed by him in his previous birth - when he was Vyasaraja Theerthar, the Raja Guru of King Krishnadevaraya. The Hanuman still stands as part of the temple complex.
|The Hanuman installed by Sri Vyasaraja and|
worshipped by Sri Raghavendra Swamy
The Narasimha Idol is so realistic, with Hiranyakasipu on his lap.
|Narasimha Swamy at Bhikshalaya|
The Eka Shila Brindavana at Bhikshalaya now stands at the exact spot where Sri Raghavendra Swamy taught his students due to which the place was called Japadhakatte during his time.
|The beautiful Eka Shila Brindavana at Bhikshalaya|
When the news about his Guru attaining Jeeva Samadhi reached him, he was in a psychic state and ran on the banks of Tungabadra wanting to cross the river which was in spate at that time, chanting slokas in praise of his Master which is now known as the Guru Stothram. As he sang "śrīpūrṇabodhagurutīrthapayobdhipārā" weeping in devotion and love and desperate to be with his Master, the river Thungabadra parted giving way for Appanacharya to reach the other side.
He ran as fast as his legs could carry him across the river that had parted on either side and reached the site where his master was entering Jeeva Samadhi. As he reached, chanting the Guru Stothra, praising the glory of his master, he found that Sri Raghavendra had already sat inside the samadhi and the brindavana had been raised. In shock and grief, he stood frozen, the sloka stopping in mid-sentence. Sri Raghavendra Swamy completed the sloka from inside the Moola Brindavanam saying that "Lord Hayagreeva is witness for all that had been described in the Sloka".
The Guru asked Appanacharya not to feel sorry that His physical presence would no longer be available with him and asked him to continue his academic and spiritual contributions. Appanacharya built the Eka Shila Brindavana at the exact location where Sri Raghavendra taught the students and worshipped it for his life time. The Brindavana still stands there in open air, weathering the natural elements, testimony to the life and times of Sri Raghavendra and Appanacharya. The difference between this brindavana and the others in the world (probably with the exception of Thanjavur) is that usually brindavanas are constructed with the sacred sand (Mrithigai) from the Moola Brindavana placed inside them, so that they have the same divinity and sanctity.
However, the Brindavana at Bhikshalaya does not have any Mrithigai inside it. It was the first Brindavana to be constructed outside the Moola Brindavana at Mantralaya, and the mere fact that it was built at a place which was so close to Sri Raghavendra's heart gives it its divinity.
Sri Appanacharya's house is close to the temple complex. It was turned to rubble during the floods in 2009. In fact several buildings crumbled, and roads and trees were greatly damaged during the floods. The huge bridge over the Thungabadra lay scattered in pieces after the flood.
|Picture of the remains of Thungabadra Bridge taken by me few days after|
the flood in 2009. You can also partially see the temporary floor bridge
with sand bag bunks created for commute
|Remains of Appanacharya's house after the floods - Picture taken|
by me in 2009
|Inside Appanacharya's house - Watch carefully|
|Appanacharya's house now being reconstructed|
|The place where Raghavendra Swamy slept|
inside Appanacharya's house
When I had posted this picture in my facebook profile some time ago, one of my friends from another religion, made a comment that anyone who was fond of food could not have been a saint. I would like to record the answer I gave that person here, so that any others who are reading with similar thoughts in mind, are able to change their opinion.
Sri Raghavendra Swamy accepted the offering made by Appanacharya understanding his love and devotion, in the same way as he accepted the meat offered by the Nawab of Adoni by converting it to a form (flowers) acceptable to him. He does not have any aversions or favourites - he is beyond all that.
Sudhama took a humble offering of Poha (Aval) to Lord Krishna and He accepted it understanding the devotion and love that came with it. Similarly in the case of Appanacharya and Sri Raghavendra Swamy, the latter accepted the Dal chutney that Appana made so lovingly with his own hands understanding the emotions of his friend.
|Several Naga Patterns found all over Bhikshalaya|
In the middle of the rocks, I could see Sri Raghavendra Swamy sitting in saffron robes with his right hand raised, as if to bless me. I clicked a picture, and showed it to my dear friend and mentor, the person who first took me to Mantralaya, whom I call Chechi. She just froze in ecstasy with what she saw. Of course, when we downloaded the picture in its complete pixel size, it was a little difficult to get the complete image (probably it was a special moment with Him for just the two of us).
Nonetheless, I share the picture here with you. Please see the place where there is a triangle shaped rock is pointing towards the golden light. It was here, right here, that I had a vision of Sri Raghavendra Swamy. My eyes fill with tears of joy as I write this, and think of all his grace and the opportunity he has given me to share my experiences with all of you.
How to reach Bhikshalaya:
Bhikshalaya is about 20 kms from Mantralayam and can be reached by road or ferry from there. One can also reach Bhikshalaya from Raichur by road.
If you are going from Mantralayam, travel up the way to the railway station (Manthralayam Road). At the Madhavaram Junction, there are two roads one leading to Raichur and the other to Adoni. Take the road to Raichur. After crossing the Thungabadra Bridge (the new one) there will be another junction at Gile Sugur. Turning right will take you to Panchamukhi. Turn left and travel up the not-so-good road for 8 kms to reach Bhikshalaya. There are several share autos and private jeeps plying from Mantralayam to Bhikshalaya and one can easily reach there without spending a lot of money.
Sometimes, the road is cut off due to rains or floods and then the only way to reach Bhikshalaya or Bichale as it is commonly called in this part of the world, is by ferry. One has to walk for some distance after getting off the ferry at Bhikshalaya.
Bichale Post, Raichur Distict - 584140
Ph: 08532 - 204108
Mobile : 098858 53864 or 098857 61787
|The Eka Shila Brindavana with the Padukas|
of Sri Raghavendra Swamy in front of it
This post was chosen by Blogjunta as Editor's Choice :)