Sri Narahari Tiirtha (1324-33)
Sri Narahari Tiirtha was the third in the line of Sri Madwa Charya and great scholar in Giirvana Bhasha. With his scholarly knowledge he preached and publicised Bhagavatha Dharma not only through the vedic knowledge and also through Hari Kiirthanas which he composed. This has great impact on the society at that time for social change. Sri Narahari Tiirtha was not only a great saint and also royal pontiff.
Sri Narahari Tiirtha was presumably from Andhra or Orissa. There is no reliable information about his early life and career. A short praise of 13 Sragdharas called Narahariyatistotra professes to give full details of his life. But this is legendary and late in date and hence unreliable for histocial purposes. Tradition has been persistent, however that he was, for sometime Minister in Kalinga. The Narahariyatistotra and some other works also allude to his ministry which is said to have lasted tweleve years. The fact of ministry is confirmed by the evidence of inscriptions from Srikurmam and Simhacalam temples.
The Narahariyatistotra makes out that he went to Kalinga at the orders of his Guru, Anandatirtha, to procure the idols of Mularama and Sita (which had a legendary history behind them and) which happened then to be in the state treasury of Kalinga. An opportunity presented itself when the Kalinga King died. His ministers, in time honoured fashion, sent out the state-elephant to pick up and bring them a proper regent. By some stroke of luck, the choice of the elephant fell on Narahari and he was placed on the throne. After 12 years when the Prince came of age, he relinquished his office. The King, in gratitude, bade him choose any presents he would like and the monk asked for the idols, for which he had come there and got them. These he presented to Madhva.
The Matsya rules of Oddavadi became independent of the Gangas and were converted to Vaisnavism by Narahari Tiirtha. Arjuna became Narasimha Vardhana, Annamaraja Gopalavardhana and Munjaditya Srirangavardhana. Sri Narahari Tiirtha was also responsible for the conversion of many princely and aristocratic families of Kalinga and Andhra regions to Madhva fold. The descedents of these families still flourish in the coastal Andhra and adjoining states.
Overview of his Literature
The earliest Dasa of whom we have definite information is Sri Narahari Tiirtha. He has already been mentioned as one of the direct disciples of Madhva. Madhva himself is believed by some to have left a few songs in Kannada. This is however, doubtful; though there is no doubt that he set the ball rolling by his stirring pieces of devotional lyrics such as the Dvadasa-stotra and other compositions.
Coming to Sri Narahari Tiirthas compositions only three songs of his
has been discovered so far. They are 'yanthu marulade nanenthu' meaning
How deluded have I become how deluded.... Seond one is 'hariye idu sariye..'
meaning Hari is this proper and 'tiliko ninnologe neene..' meaning
knowing within thyself. His ankita is "Narahari" or "Narahari Raghupathi".
Assuming that Narahari was fairly well-acquainted with Kannada to be able
to compose songs in that language, even though it was not his mother-tongue
(as he was either an Andhra or a native of Oriya) we have still to fill
the gap of over a hundred years between him and the next famous figure
in the history of the Dasa Koota : Sripadraja. Perhaps, the reference
to Sri Narahari Tiirtha in the Srikurmam inscription may lend weight
to the supposition that he was specially connected with the rise of some
kind of great devotional movement. Internal evidence of the songs of the
Dasas would however seem to give the credit of pioneering the Dasa
Movement to Sripadaraja. The problem has therefore to be left an open
question for the present.
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