[Udupi Krishna]


Dvâdasha Stotra: an introduction

Commentaries upon the Dvâdasha Stotra

Occasions for the Dvâdasha Stotras' recitation

The circumstances of the Stotras' creation

Some relevant quotes from the Madhva-vijaya

The story of the circumstances, re-stated

Notes of interest, and final conclusion

In addition to the above, please see the section on Udupi.

Dvâdasha Stotra: an introduction

The Dvâdasha Stotra is a collection of twelve stotras in praise of Vishnu, composed by Srimad Ananda Tîrtha. This collection is collectively counted as one of his 37 works, and is said to encapsulate the doctrine of Tattvavâda to a great deal of depth. Popular tradition has it that the Dvâdasha Stotra was composed at the time of the installation by him of the Krishna icon at Udupi (image shown above); thus, some effort is made here to describe that event as well.

The Dvâdasha Stotra, in particular among the works of Srimad Ananda Tîrtha, seems to have a depth of its own, more so as it is not confined to one topic or composition but is wide ranging. The third stotra kurubhunkshva cha karma nijam niyatam ... -- is a summary of Sriman Madhvâchârya's teachings. Each word can be interpreted in several ways, in accordance with recognised rules of grammar; each verse is also evocative of many works by Srimad Âchârya when studied with care and analysed. In expressing such thoughts in English or other colloquial language, the limitations of the language sought to be used may also be barriers, to overcome which needs one to have patience and perseverance.

Sriman Madhvâchârya's texts are extremely brief, terse, and usually associated with a number of meanings which do not conflict with each other, but are all separately supportive to his philosophy of Tattvavâda. An attempt at direct translation, if carried out with an open mind and some competence, usually yields the main gist of the text. But the depth and width of the material usually escapes one, until he is aided by the extremely detailed and powerful commentaries on Srimad Âchârya's works. There are texts where up to 8 different and valid meanings have been given, all within the rules of textual interpretation and grammar. The above nature of his compositions is very well expressed by the well-known quote: "baalasanghamapi bodhayadbhrsham durnirUpavachanam cha panditaiH" -- understood even by children, but not easily explained in its entirety by learned scholars.

Commentaries upon the Dvâdasha Stotra

The Dvâdasha have not, somewhat surprisingly, been commented upon by the leading lights of the Mâdhva tradition who came after Srimad Âchârya: no commentary upon them is found, or even said to have been written, by Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, Sri Padmanâbha Tîrtha, Sri Vyâsa Tîrtha, or Sri Raghavendra Tîrtha, to name but a few of the renowned saints in the lineage who have commented upon Srimad Âchârya's works directly or indirectly.

There are eight known commentaries upon the Dvâdasha Stotra, by

Gûdhakartrka (anonymous)
Chalari Narasimhacharya
Channapattana Thimmannacharya
Umarji Tirumalacharya
C M Padmanabhacharya
Punyashravana Bhikshu
Sri Vishwapati Tîrtha

Occasions for the Dvâdasha Stotras' recitation

The Dvâdasha Stotra is sung in a musical way during the event of 'naivedya' or ceremonial offering of food to Lord Vishnu; not only so in Udupi, but in practically all Mâdhva temples and homes.

According to some, this occasion is chosen because the composition of the stotras is linked to the the story that when Indra -- who in the form of a bull was carrying the vast and heavy library of Sriman Madhvâchârya -- was cursed to die of a snake bite, Srimad Achârya recited these stotra-s to revive him.

Extracts from the Dvâdasha, containing the highly condensed and encapsulated philosophy of Tattvavâda, are also recited on other occasions for Hari-Kathâ discussions.

The circumstances of the Dvâdasha Stotra's creation

The exact circumstances under which the stotra was created are not known to a certainty, and various conflicting accounts exist. Another popular account is that once, when Srimad Ânanda Târtha was meditating at what is now called the Malpe beach (near Udupi), a ship in distress in the sea came to his attention; he waved his cloth garment, causing the fearsome winds and the angry seas that imperiled the ship to subside, enabling it to reach shore safely with its cargo and crew intact. The grateful captain of the ship, realizing the debt of gratitude he owed to Srimad Âchârya, offered the latter a gift; however, Sriman Madhvâchârya refused gifts of wealth, but accepted a large mound of gopi-chandana mud that had served as part of the ship's ballast; the mound contained the long-concealed icon of Krishna which had in the Dvâpara Yuga been worshipped by His own consort Rukmini; this icon was, the story goes, carried into Udupi and installed there by Srimad Âchârya, and the Dvâdasha stotra was composed by him on this occasion.

There are other, somewhat less common, variants of this account of the circumstances of the stotra-s' composition (such as one according to which the first seven stotras had already been composed before the saving of the ship, and the rest were composed later), most of which involve the finding of the Krishna icon by Srimad Ânanda Tîrtha. The source of the conflict, or at least a contributory cause of it, seems to be the fact that the events of the Dvâdasha stotra's composition, and the finding of the Krishna icon, have not been directly narrated in the Sumadhva-Vijaya, which is the authoritative hagiography of Sriman Madhvâchârya's life composed by Nârâyana Pandita, the son of his contemporary and close disciple Trivikrama Pandita. That work assumes the fact of discovery, and proceeds to state the events of the installation of the icon.

The version involving the saving of the ship and the finding of the icon in the ballast-mound seems to have been accepted by Sri Vâdirâja Tiirtha, and thus is considered the most authoritative by some. However, the account where the stotra-s were composed at the occasion of the saving of the bull also has some acceptance, and seems to have been regarded favorably by some, including a piiThaadhipati (head) of the Palimar MaTha (one of eight Udupi MaThas) in the 18th century.

Some relevant quotes from the Sumadhva-vijaya

The shlokas from the Sumadhva-Vijaya which deal with the installation of Krishna at Udupi, are as follows:

  nanvananyasharaNAtmAnaM sataM sid.hdhivighnamukhadoshabheshhajam.h  |
  aichchhat.h achchalAdayodayadayaM raupyatIrthapuragaH kadAchana  ||

Once, when [Sriman Madhvaachaarya] was in Udupi, he, out of great and selfless kindness towards all the good people of the world who had no refuge, wished to provide them with the only means of escaping the bondage of samsaara (i.e., to help them attain mukti).

  gopikApraNayinaH shriyaHpateH AkR^itiM dashamatiM shilAmayIm.h |
  shishhyakaiH trichaturaiH jalAshaye shodhayanniha tato vyagAhayat.h ||

He then got the stone icon of the Beloved of the Gopis, the Lord of Shrii (Krishna) washed in the lake (Madhva-sarovara) by three or four disciples, and had it immersed in the lake.

  sparshanAt.h bhagavato atipAvanAt.h sannidhAnapadataM gataM hareH |
  tri.nshat.h udyatanaraiH sudurdharaM lIlayA AnayAt.h imAmasau matam.h ||

The icon, which had been touched by Sriman Madhvâchârya, thereupon had the sannidhaana (Divine presence) of Hari, making it difficult even for thirty strong men to carry; Srimad Âchârya carried it alone with ease.

[The following verse describes the icon; or rather, the Deity therein.]

  ma.ndahAsamR^idusu.ndarAnanaM na.ndana.ndanaM atIndriyAkR^itim.h |
  su.ndaraM sa iha sa.nnyadhApayat.h va.ndyaM AkR^itishuchipratishhThayA ||

He has a beautiful smile on His face, and a grace and beauty that are most pleasing; His form cannot be grasped by the senses. He is extolled by the gods from Brahma onwards; the presence of the Son of Nanda-gopa (Krishna) was established [by Srimad Ananda Tiirtha] by the proper procedures of worship.

It is of note that the finding of the icon is not described; it is taken for granted, and only the installation is described. There is a reference to "shodhayan" -- washing -- which indicates that the icon came from some source which created such a requirement. The text also seems to indicate that there was a conscious decision in advance of the event by Srimad Âchârya to install Krishna at Udupi (and thus save the mumukshu-s from the ceaseless cycle of transmigration), and that thus the installation was not based upon some serendipitous finding of some icon.

The story of the circumstances, re-stated

With this in mind, we may now re-state the story that does not wholly appear in the Sumadhva-vijaya, but which does not contradict anything said in it and has been accepted by Udupi tradition, including such great saints as Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, as follows. The connection of this story as the setting for the composition of the Dvâdasha Stotra is still one of surmise rather than recorded fact, but it is at least widely popular and plausible:

Notes of interest, and final conclusion

It is worth noting that Nârâyana Pandita, the author of the Sumadhva-vijaya and the son of Trivikrama Pandita, must have seen Sri Madhvâchârya in person at a later stage in the latter's stay in the world, as may be seen from many of his descriptions of personal and intimate details of Srimad Achaarya's daily routine. The installation of Sri Krishna's icon seems to have been in an earlier phase, as a very detailed description of this major event is not attempted by the author. But it is intriguing that he has even failed to mention the origin of Sri Krishna's icon, which is often associated with fairly dramatic circumstances appearing to extol Srimad Ânanda Tîrtha's greatness. But it is worth noting some facts in this regard:

Passages in the 10th and 12th Sargas of the Sumadhva-vijaya consist of indirect reciting of events in Sriman Madhvâchârya's life, mentioning the sources of information as other disciples rather than the author's own experience.

Sri Nârâyana Pandita has taken a lot of trouble to mention place-names and events as correctly as possible -- except for some poetic imagery and imaginative description of Srimad Ananda Tiirtha's meetings with Sri Veda Vyâsa and Sriman-Nârâyana, in the sacred abode of Badarikâshrama which is not accessible to mortals, where none except Srimad Âchârya could have described what really happened; thus, there is no reason to doubt the veracity of what has been described as factual.

Unlike many other biographies of saints and scholars which are often written long after the events sought to be described therein, this text is almost contemporary with Sriman Madhvâchârya's life, and appears to based on authentic sources of information such as actual eyewitness accounts.

There is no inherent contradiction between the account of the Sri Krishna icon's installation and the story of the special circumstances of its discovery.

The people of the disciplic lineage of Sriman Madhvaachaarya have always respected and maintained the sanctity and integrity of texts such as the Vâyu-stuti and the Sumadhva-vijaya, which pertain to him. For instance, the Târatamya Stotra attributed to Kalyanî Devî (possibly a sister of Trivikrama Pandita), which was composed during Sriman Madhvâchârya's time, is unaltered and unreplaced through the centuries. It is virtually impossible for new stories involving Srimad Âchârya's life and work to be created, without support of long tradition, especially in view of the pre-eminent position of the Sumadhva Vijaya as the accepted narrative.

On the balance, therefore, it would appear that the story of the appearance of the icon of Lord Krishna in a ship on the sea, accepted by a long tradition, is true though not specifically mentioned by the Sumadhva Vijaya.

Download the Dvâdasha Stotra.

This downloadable file is in PDF format.   See dvaita.net and our Mahâbhârata-Tâtparya-Nirnaya page for general tips.

(This piece is due to N. A. P. S. Rao and D. Prahladachar ; web placement and some editing by Shrisha Rao.)

Created on February 23, 1996; last modified November 18, 2004.