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Sri Madhvacharya

Madhvacharya painting
Date of Birth 1238 CE
Place of birth Pajaka, Udupi, India
Birth Vasudeva Naduilya
Date of death 1317 CE[1]
Place of death Adi Udupi,Udupi,India
Philosophy Dvaita Vedanta
Part of a series on

Madhvacharya · Vadiraja · Raghavendra Swami · Padmanabha Tirtha · Jayatirtha · Vyasatirtha · Sripadaraya


Sarvamula Granthas · Sumadhvavijaya · Rukminishavijaya

Pejavara · Puttige · Palimaru · Adamaru · Sodhe · Kaniyooru · Shirur · Krishnapur

Other holy places
Mantralaya · Pajaka Kshetra · Udupi · Tirupati

Purandaradasa · Kanakadasa · Vijayadasa · Gopaladasa · Jagannatha Vittala

For Madhavacharya the Advaita saint, see Madhava Vidyaranya.

Shri Madhvacharya (Tulu:ಶ್ರೀ ಮಧ್ವಾಚಾರ್ಯರು) (1238-1317) was the chief proponent of Tattvavāda (True Philosophy), popularly known as Dvaita or dualistic school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedanta philosophies. Madhva was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in many ways, going against standard conventions and norms. Madhvacharya is the third incarnation of Vayu, aka Mukhyaprana, after Hanuman and Bhima.


Birth and childhood

Acharya Madhva was born on Vijayadashami day of 1238 CE at Pajaka, a tiny hamlet near Udupi. Narayana Panditacharya who later wrote Madhva's biography has recorded the names of Acharya's parents as Madhyageha Bhatta as name of the father and Vedavati as Acharya's mother. They named him Vasudeva Naduilya at birth.Later he was also refferre to as Purnaprajna ,Anandatirtha and finally Madhvacharya. Even as a child, Vasudeva exhibited precocious talent for grasping all things spiritual. He was drawn to the path of renunciation and even as a young boy of eleven years, he chose initiation into the monastic order from Achyuta-Pragna, a reputed ascetic of the time, near Udupi, in the year Saumya (1249 CE). The preceptor Achyuta-Pragna gave the boy Vasudeva the name of 'Purnaprajna' at the time of his initiation into sanyasa.

A little over a month later, little Purnaprajna is said to have defeated a group of expert scholars of Tarka(logic) headed by Vasudeva-pandita. Overjoyed at his precocious talent, Achyuta Preksha consecrated him as the head of the empire of Vedanta and conferred upon him the title of Anandatirtha.

Thus Purna-prajna is the Acharya's name given to him at the time of Sanyasa (renunciation). The name conferred on him at the time of consecration as the Master of Vedanta is 'Ananda-tirtha'. Madhva, a name traceable to the vedas (Balithasuktham), was the nom-de-plume assumed by the Acharya to author all his works. Madhva showed that vedas talk about him as "Madhva" and utilized that name for himself. However, he used Ananda Tirtha or Suka Tirtha to author his works. Madhva was the name by which he was to later be revered as the founders of Tattva-vada or Dvaita-mata.

Tour of South India

Still in his teens, Madhva set out on a tour of South India. He visited several places of pilgrimage like Anantasayana, Kanyakumari, Ramesvara and Sriranga. Wherever he went, he preached his Tattvavada or religious truth to the people. He attacked superstitions and declared that they should not be mixed with spirituality. While his Tattva-vada initiated frenzied discussion among scholars all over India, it also attracted severe criticism and attacks from the orthodoxy. But Madhva remained unperturbed and soon after returning to Udupi, he proceeded to write his commentary(Bashya) of the Bhagawadgita.The authentic records show that he wrote 37 works on Tattva-vada and they are collectively called as Sarvamula granthas. He established his school of thought by giving concrete proofs using three platforms called prathyaksha, anumaana and aagama (see, infer and also refer the vedic text).

Visit to Badri

In course of time, the urge to spread his philosophy far and wide took him north. In Badri, he bathed in the holy Ganga and also observed a vow of silence of 48 days. From there, he traveled to Vyasa-Badri where he metVyasa at his hermitage and presented him with his commentary of the Gita. Veda Vyasa changed the word that claimed "I have written with all His capacity" to "I have written with little of His capacity"

Upon his return from there, he authored his celebrated commentaries on the Brahma Sutras. Though he authored several works, he never wrote any work with his own hands. Instead, his disciples transcribed his dictation onto palm leaves. Satya-tirtha was one of the disciples who served as the scribe for most of his works.

In the meantime, his influence had spread far and wide throughout the country. Scholars all over India paid tribute to his unique analysis and commentaries of the scriptures. The circle of his disciples grew bigger and several got initiated into sanyasa under him. Achyuta Pragna who had until then been skeptical about Acharya's philosophy soon became a whole hearted adherent of Tattva-vada.

Installation of Krishna and return to Badri

After his return from Badri, Madhvacharya stayed in Udupi for some time and wrote his bhashyas or authoritative commentaries on all the ten Upanishads. He also composed glosses on forty hymns of the Rig Veda and wrote a treaties Bhagavata-tatparya highlighting the essential teachings of the puranas. Apart from these, he authored several topical handbooks and a on devotional song.

It was also during this time that he installed the deity of Krishna which he found in the western ocean near the Udupi sea-coast. After sometime, after appointing some disciples to take care of worshiping the deity of Krishna that he had installed, he undertook his second tour to Badri.

On the way, he had to cross the River Ganga. The other bank was then under the rule of a Muslim king. Unmindful of the threats of the Muslim soldiers against crossing the river, the Acharya boldly crossed the river and reached the other bank. He was taken before the Muslim ruler who was taken aback at the boldness of the ascetic. The Acharya said: 'I worship that Father who illumines the entire universe; and so do you. Why should I fear then either your soldiers or you?'.

Hearing such words, the Muslim king was greatly impressed. He was filled with reverence for this unique monk. He made offers of several gifts and riches which Madhva politely declined and continued on his way to Badri. Once there, he met with Vyasa and Narayana yet again. On his way back to Udupi, he visited Kashi where he defeated an elderly Advaita ascetic, Amarendra Puri in a philosophical debate.

Then came Kurukshetra where a strange episode is said to have occurred. The Acharya got a mound there excavated and demonstrated to his disciples the buried mace of (the epic hero) Bhima therein; and once again had it buried under the ground. Later on he visited Goa on the way back to Udupi. Here he is said to have enthralled audiences with his music. His musical expertise is attested by contemporaneous writers.

Last days

After returning home from his second tour, the Acharya took to initiating social reforms in and around Udupi. A section of orthodoxy however, was still active and opposed to his views. Pundarika-Puri, an advaita ascetic was also humbled by the Acharya in a debate. It was around this time that Padmatirtha, a monk jealous of Madhva's erudition and popularity, arranged to have his works stolen from the custody of Pejattaya Shankara Pandita in Kasaragod. Madhva now traveled to Kasargod and defeated Padma-tirtha in a philosophical debate. The essence of this debate was reduced to writing by his disciples and published as the Vada or Tattvoddyota. The stolen works were eventually returned to Madhva in a felicitation ceremony arranged by Jayasimha of Kumbla, the king of sothern Tulu Nadu

The acharya also had an intense debate for about 15 days with Pejattaya Trivikrama Panditacharya, the royal preceptor of the time, and emerged victorious. Trivikrama Panditacharya eventually became a disciple[2] himself and went on to write a commentary called Tattva-dipika on the Acharya's Brahma-sutra-bhashya and thus paid his tribute to the guru.

The Acharya too was equally fond of Trivikrama pandita. In deference to the request of the devoted pupil, he wrote an extensive commentary in verse, viz, Anu-vyakhyana on the Brahma-sutras. The Acharya was dictating this work-to four disciples simultaneously, on each of the four chapters, without any break. At the same time, the composition of the work Nyayavivarana was also completed.

Nearing his seventies now, Madhvacharya initiated his brother into the monastic order. He was to be known as Sri Vishnutirtha[3], the first pontiff of the present day Sodhe Matha and Subramanya Matha. About the same time, Sobhana-bhatta received initiation into sanyasa from the Acharya. He later came to be known as Padmanabha Tirtha[4].

Both before and after the initiation of these two, several disciples form various regions of the country got their initiation into sanyasa from the Acharya. Among them, the names of eight disciples who chose to stay on in Udupi as pontiffs of different mathas are as under, in the order of their initiation":

1. Hrisikesa-tirtha (Palimaru matha) 2. Narasimha-tirtha (Adamaru-matha) 3. Janardana-tirtha (Krsnapura-matha) 4. Upendra-tirtha (Puttige-matha) 5. Vamana-tirtha (Sirur-matha) 6. Vishnu-tirtha (Sode-matha) 7. Srirama-tirtha (Kaniyuru-matha) 8. Adhoksaja-tirtha (Pejavara-matha)

The other two celebrated sanyasin-disciples of the Acharya are - 9. Padmanabha-tirtha 10. Narahari-tirtha

When Padmanabha-tirtha was initiated into sanyasa is not definitely known. There were several who had got initiation before him. It appears that he should have been initiated into the order some time between the dates when these eight pontiffs were initiated into the order.

After initiating several into the monastic order and installing pontiffs to the various mathas, he toured all over the district and engaged himself in educating the general public. He also composed the literary work "Krsnamrtamaharnava". His discourse to Brahmins at Ujire, where he delved upon the spiritual aspect of ritualism came to be published under the title of Khandartha-nimaya (Karmanimaya). Next he visited Panchalingesvara temple at Paranti, which he found in a dilapidated condition, without any worship or festivity. He made arrangements for the resumption of proper worship there according to the rituals prescribed by the ancient scriptures (agamas).

In the 79th year of his life, he decided to take leave of his disciples and proceeded to assign to them the responsibility of carrying on the tradition of his Tattvavada. Having done that, on the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Magha in the Kali year 4418(1317 CE), he betook himself to Badri, all alone. The day on which he thus proceeded to Badri is celebrated as Madhvanavami to this day.


The disciples of the Acharya, both pontifical and lay, continued his tradition with devout zeal. Hundreds of dialectical treatises came to be written. Among the writers belonging to this school we may roughly classify some outstanding ones in the following chronological order: Vishnu Tirtha, Padmanabha-tirtha, Narahari-tirtha, Trivikrama-panditacharya, Narayana Panditacharya, Vamana-Panditacharya, (Traivikramaryadasa), Jayatirtha (Tikacharya), Vijayadhvaja-tirtha, Visnudasacharya, Vyasatirtha, Vadiraja, Vijayindra-tirtha, Raghavendra Swami, Yadupati-acharya, etc.

His philosophy Tattva-vada also eventually inspired the Haridasa cult who heralded the Bhakti movement for centuries to come. Seminal contributions were also made by the Haridasas in fields of music and literature. Narahari Tirtha, one of the direct disciples is also responsible for the resurgence of Yakshagana[5] and other forms such as Kuchipudi. Raghavendra Swami of Mantralaya was a saint in this tradition who lived in the 16th CE and is revered and worshiped to this day. Several Dvaita mathas and Raghavendra mathas in particular, continue to be established all over India and also in some places in US, UK and other countries[6]. All these Madhva mathas continue to further the propagation of Vedic studies and are also involved in social and charitable activities.

Madhva, commenting on the Vedānta-sūtra (2.1.6), quotes the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa as follows: [7] "The Ṛg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda, Atharva Veda, Mahābhārata [which includes the Bhagavad-gītā], Pañcarātra, and the original Rāmāyaṇa are all considered Vedic literature.... The Vaiṣṇava supplements, the Purāṇas, are also Vedic literature." We may also include corollary literatures like the Saṁhitās, as well as the commentaries of the great teachers who have guided the course of Vedic thought for centuries.[8]

Religious establishments

The main icon (vigraha) in Udupi of Lord Krishna was established by Madhvacharya. The 8 monasteries (ashta mathas) of Udupi have been following his philosophy since then. The Eight monasteries (Ashta Mathas) are Krishnapura, Pejavara, Puttige, Sodhe (Sondhe), Kaniyooru, Adamaru, Shirur and Palimaru.


  • Hanuman
  • Bhima: Madhvacharya declared, in his work "Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya:" that he was the one who took the avatars of Hanuman and Bhima. Significantly, the only other person who openly makes such a declaration about his original form is
    Sri Krishna, (in bhagavad-gita).

Works of Madhvacharya

The Works of Madhvacharya are many in number and include commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita and the Brahma Sutras. Sri Madhvacharya also composed many works on the philosophy of Tattvavada.

See also


  • Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
  • Acharya Madhva baduku bareha ( Kannada ) by Bannanje Govindacharya.
  1. ^ Sharma, Chandradhar (1962). "Chronological Summary of History of Indian Philosophy". Indian Philosophy: A Critical Survey. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. vi.  
  2. ^ Mukhya Prana
  3. ^ Subramanya Kshetra
  4. ^ Padmanabha Tirtha
  5. ^ Yakshagana
  6. ^ Raghavendra Mathas around the world
  7. ^ ṛg-yajuḥ-sāmārtharvāś ca bhārataṁ pañcarātrakam mūla-rāmāyaṇaṁ caiva veda ity eva śabditaḥ purāṇāni ca yānīha vaiṣṇavāni vido viduḥ
  8. ^ Goswami, S.D. (1976), Readings in Vedic Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself, S.l.: Assoc Publishing Group, pp. 240 pages, ISBN 0912776889  

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