Shyama Shastri (13-14th century) was an erudite scholar, statesman and the minister of King Gajapati of Kalinga (Orissa) State. When Sri Madhvacharya reached Orissa while returning from Badrikashrama, a Vidvat Sabha was arranged there. Among the galaxy of scholars, pandits and philosophers, Shyama Shastri also was present. Acharya Madhva defeated all the scholars and upheld the supremacy of Dvaita Philosophy. Inspired by the Dvaita philosophy, Shyama Shastri became the disciple of the Acharya and followed him to Udupi. He was initiated into the sanyasa-order and was given the name NARAHARI TIRTHA.
Narahari Tirtha engaged himself in spreading the doctrines and philosophy of Dvaita. At the time, Madhvacharya sent Narahari Tirtha to Orissa to propagate the Dvaita Philosophy and also to bring back the ancient gold vigraha of Lord Rama known as MOOLA RAMA, along with the vigraha of Seeta. The deities were a part of the Kalinga State treasury. Narahari Tirtha set out to Kalinga and stayed in a remote cave on the outskirts of the city.
Around that time, the king of Kalinga died and his son who was to be the successor was very young. As was the custom prevalent those days, the royal elephant was given a garland and left free to move around. Whomsoever the elephant garlanded would be accepted as the king. The elephant headed straight towards the cave where Narahari Tirtha was residing. Hearing the commotion of people and the elephant’s trumpet, Narahari Tirtha came outside. The elephant immediately placed the garland around Narahari Tirtha’s neck! The people were surprised but happy at the same time because they recognised their own minister, Shyama Shastri in the Sanyasi! Accepting it as the Lord’s Will, Narahari Tirtha ascended the throne. He beautifully integrated his SANYASA DHARMA along with RAJA DHARMA – verily a “RAJA-RISHI”. He diligently and efficiently ruled over the kingdom and its people for a period of twelve years. There are innumerable stone-inscriptions describing the religious as well as the welfare programs undertaken by Narahari Tirtha for the community. When the prince was capable of taking charge of his responsibilities, Narahari Tirtha, the “personification of dispassion”, handed over the kingdom to him and made preparations to leave for Udupi. The young king wished to express his reverence and gratitude to the Acharya who had ruled and looked after the kingdom all these years. He requested Narahari Tirtha to ask for anything that he wanted as a gift, and it would be his fortune and privilege to offer it to the acharya. The Acharya told the king that he did not want anything for himself, but requested for the idols of Moola Rama and Seeta which were in the royal treasury. The king willingly handed over the idols to Narahari Tirtha.
A contented and fulfilled Narahari Tirtha reached Udupi. He had been able to carry out his Guru’s words and bring the divine idols to Udupi. Sri Madhvacharya was overwhelmed to receive the beautiful Moola Rama and Seeta vigraha-s. The rare and unique idols were crafted by the celestial architect, Viswakarma at the behest of Lord Brahma himself. Through the ages, they reached the Kings of Kalinga and were safely kept in the State treasury. Sri Madhvacharya intuitively knew about the idols and wanted to revive the worship of Moola Rama and Seeta. On receiving the idols from Narahari Tirtha, Sri Madhvacharya placed the idols alongside Sri Krishna and worshipped them. From then onwards, the pontiffs of Madhva Matha have been worshipping the idols. Sri Moola Rama and Seeta vigraha-s were worshipped by Sri Raghavendra Tirtha of Mantralaya who also belonged to the same parampara and the tradition of worshipping and offering services to Sri Moola Rama and Seeta continues to this day by the present Acharya-s.
Narahari Tirtha was one of the foremost amongst the Haridasa-s of the Bhakti movement. He composed beautiful kirtan-s in the kannada language under the signature of “Narahari” and “Raghupati”. He wrote commentaries on various scriptural texts as well as on Sri Madhvacharya’s works. He built many temples and was instrumental in extensively spreading the philosophy of Sri Madhvacharya. It is said that the well-known Art-forms known as “Yaksha Gana” and “Bayalu Aata” (open theatre drama) were introduced by Narahari Tirtha, as a part of Vaishnava Bhakti Movement.
ससीतामूलरामार्चा कोशे गजपतेः स्थिता।
येनानीता नमस्तस्मै श्रीमन्नृहरिभिक्षवे॥
“Prostrations unto Sri Narahari Tirtha, the Great Ascetic, who brought the icons of Moola Rama and Seeta (to the Madhva Matha) from the treasury of King Gajapati”.
“Sriman Moola Ramo Vijayate! Sri Guru Rajo Vijayate!”
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