Sri Narahari Tiirtha

Sri Narahari Tiirtha

Sri Narahari Tiirtha -- a short sketch

Sri Narahari Tiirtha was a direct disciple of Srimad Ananda Tiirtha, and was an Advaiti until he was defeated in a debate with the latter in (or before) 1264. He is regarded as the forerunner of the Hari-Daasa movement. Although hard information about his life is rather scant, a short stotra (thirteen sragdharas) called Narahariyatistotra, claims to be his biography. He is said to have been the minister of Kalinga (in present-day Orissa) before he became Madhva's disciple. His name then was Shyaama Shastri (or Swami Shastri).

In one instance, he went to Kalinga at the order of Srimad Ananda Tiirtha, to procure the legendary pratima of Muula-Rama from the state treasury of Kalinga. This pratima has an interesting history, which can be briefly given as follows. During Lord Raama's rule, there was a devotee of His, who had a personal custom, that he would not eat or drink anything on any day, until he had seen Him, in person. This rule he observed without fail for many years. Finally, he started getting decrepit, and the daily trip to see the Lord started to get difficult. Raama, knowing His devotee's distress, gave the latter a pratima of Himself, and told him that if he would only see the pratima every day, he would be considered as having observed his vrata, and therefore, it was no longer necessary for him to make a strenuous trip to see Him daily. The devotee gratefully received the gift, which stayed with him for years more. Finally, the devotee got really old and realized he did not have much time ahead of him, and decided that he would have to pass on the pratima to another devotee of the Lord; but who? Finally, after some thought, he called Hanumaan, and gave him the pratima, which the latter accepted joyously.

Ages later, the same pratima was in the treasury of the Kalinga kingdom, where it lay unrecognized for what it really was. Srimad Ananda Tiirtha knew of its being there, and sent Sri Narahari Tiirtha to get it. At this time, Kalinga was without a leader owing to the death of the king. As the prince was still very young, the regent was to be chosen by an elephant. It so happened that Sri Narahari Tiirtha was picked, and he thus ruled Kalinga for twelve years after which the prince came of age. After this time, the royal family made him many offers of great gifts, which he spurned, and took only the pratima with him, though his hosts did not think that was a worthwhile gift for his immense service to them. Sri Narahari Tiirtha returned with the deity which was gifted to him by the newly crowned king.

In 1324 he succeeded Padmanaabha Tiirtha as the head of the Matha and was the pontiff for nine years. Sri Narahari Tiirtha was responsible for the conversion of many princely and aristocratic families of Kalinga and Andhra regions into the Maadhva fold, including the Matsya rulers of Oddavadi. He gave up his physical body in Srimukha, 1333; his Brndaavana is at Chakratiirtha, near Hampi, and quite close to Nava-Vrndaavana.

(This piece is the result of joint work, being partly due to Narahari S. Pujar, with some additions and editing by Shrisha Rao).

Works by Sri Narahari Tiirtha

Commentaries on the ten Prakaranas

Commentary on Srimad Ananda Tiirtha's Gita Bhaashya

YamakaBhaarata Tiikaa

Devotional songs
He is known to have composed many, and to have started the tradition of composing devotional songs in Kannada to extol Tatvavaada, but only three of his songs survive: