Category Archives: Stories for Children

Raja Rishi Sri Narahari Tirtha

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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Ugadi – Nuthana Samvatsara!

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New Year (Nuthana Samvatsara or Nava Varsha) is extremely significant because it represents CHANGE OF SEASON, from the dry and cold winter to the fresh and warm spring! In most of the States in Bharat, the New Year is a celebration of the Spring Season (Vasanta Ritu) in the month of Chaitra. The New Year tithi varies depending on whether the Lunar or the Solar calendar is followed and is known by different names in different regions: Ugadi (Karnataka, Andhra & Telangana), Puthandu (Tamilnadu), Vishu (Kerala), Gudi Padwa (Maharashtra), Baisakhi (Punjab), Bohag Bihu (North-east), Navreh (Kashmir), Odia Nababarsa (Orissa), Pohela Boishakh (Bengal), etc. A few States celebrate New Year in the month of Kartika. With the arrival of Spring, there is a complete and total change or transformation in Nature. Mother Nature is at her creative best – there is newness and freshness everywhere. All around, there is more greenery which acts as a perfect backdrop for the variety of hues and colours! Mother Nature’s Holi celebration with the colours of life! We in turn reciprocate the same bhava by welcoming, celebrating and expressing our love and gratitude, reverence and respect to Mother Nature with various colours. Agriculture starts. Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables are in plenty. New Year is therefore a socio-cultural and religious utsava. Every region has its own unique customs and traditions.

Nature is nothing but an extension of the human mind – as in Nature, so too in our mind. Therefore, New Year is the best time for each and every one of us to make constructive and positive resolutions and work towards them to change for the better – both in our material and spiritual domain. On the Ugadi day, an early morning oil-bath (removes tamas and increases sattva) is a must and new clothes are welcome (discarding the old and accepting the new). The courtyard is decorated with rangoli patterns. Fresh, new and tender mango leaves, clusters of neem leaves and flowers are used to decorate the main door as well as the puja-room door. Haldi and kumkum, rangoli and flowers are used for decorating the threshold. The seasonal Jasmine (mallige) flowers are used extensively. Everyone collectively participates in the Puja-rituals whether at family level or in the temple at community level. The 9 days starting from Ugadi are known as Chaitra or Vasanta or Rama Navaratri, similar to the Sharannavaratri (Dasara) during the autumn season. Prayers are offered to Adi Sakti, the Mother of the Universe who Creates, Nurtures and Nourishes (Motherhood). Sri Rama is invoked since the Navami tithi is the day of His Avatar. Reading of the panchanga (almanac) is considered very important on Ugadi. The Vasanta Navaratri concludes on the Sri Rama Navami day – the auspicious day of Lord Rama’s Avatar, who is the embodiment of Dharma. We invoke Lord Sri Rama’s grace and blessings upon ourselves for the entire year ahead.

Importance of Mango leaves, Neem leaves and Jasmine flowers: Mango leaves symbolise prosperity. They destroy negative energy and reinforce positive energy. Even after they are cut from the branches, they continue to release oxygen for few days and hence keep the air fresh and purify the surroundings. The mango leaves have antibacterial, antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The green colour signifies balance, tranquility, composure and well-being and have a soothing effect on the mind. The leaves attract insects towards them and hence act as insect repellent. Neem has immense medicinal value. It helps boost the immunity system. Fresh neem leaves and flowers help to fight the seasonal infections (because of change of season) and airborne diseases. The pure white jasmine (mallige) flowers are the seasonal flowers of Spring. During this season, the use of Jasmine flowers is widely encouraged. The white colour and the beautiful fragrance of the fresh jasmine have therapeutic benefits. The positive energy associated with the jasmine soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. Not only for puja, but women are encouraged to adorn their braids with jasmine. In the South, “maggina jade” or “jasmine-flower braid” (braid very artistically decorated with jasmine flowers) is extremely common amongst girls.

Significance of Bevu-Bella (Neem-Jaggery) and Ugadi Pachadi: A mixture of Bevu (Neem Flowers) and Bella (Jaggery) is prepared and offered to the Lord. This is first taken as Prasad at the end of the puja rituals. Life is full of experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, and no one can avoid them. Both these experiences are yet to come to us during the course of the year. Jaggery and Neem signifying these two types of experiences are offered to the Lord. The sloka chanted while taking the bevu-bella is: “shathaayur vajra dehaaya sarva sampath karaayacha, sarvaarishta vinaashaaya nimbakadala bhakshanam” (by consuming the neem leaves or flowers, we develop a healthy and strong body, gain wealth and prosperity, and all our diseases – physical and mental get destroyed). By the Lord’s grace alone can we hope to go through the various vicissitudes of life. 

The Ugadi Habada Oota (Festival Lunch) comprises of many delicacies and all the members of the family sit down and eat together after the rituals – a mini Pankti (community) Bhojana! This brings in a feeling of togetherness and sense of participation. One of the important item is the Ugadi Pachadi. It is a combination of 6 ingredients which stand for the 6 types of tastes (shad-rasas). The shad-rasas denote the 6 types of emotions which an individual goes through in life. The shad-rasas and the corresponding ingredients are: sweet (jaggery), salt (salt), sour (tamrind), hot or spice (pepper), bitter (neem) and astringent or pungent (raw mango). The Pachadi is offered to the Lord and then taken as prasad. In most of the homes, the Habada Oota is served on a plantain (banana) leaf. The rich green colour not only provides a perfect background for the variety of food, but it denotes calmness & equilibrium. The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of the leaf, as well as its unique aroma is released by the hot food served on it. These benefits reach our system when we eat food served on a plantain leaf. The plantain leaf is placed such that when we sit in front of it, the veins of the upper & lower portion of the leaf are in the “>” shape! This is the sign for “increase” according to mathematics & signifies “progress in life!” May the food offered to the Lord (prasad) and taken by us help us to progress and achieve, to succeed and fulfil, at all levels of our personality – physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual !

नववर्षस्य शुभाशयाः — HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Lord Jagannatha & His Friend-devotee!

Bandhu Mohanty (16th century) lived with his wife and children in the town of Jajpur in Orissa. He was extremely poor and lived on alms. His honesty and simplicity endeared him to the people in the neighbourhood and they helped him. Bandhu was extremely devoted to Lord Jagannatha of Puri. He considered the Lord as his beloved friend (sakha-bhakti) and also told his wife that his best and dearest, wealthy and generous friend stayed in Puri! Silently, Bandhu would spend his time conversing with the Lord in the depth of his own heart. Once, there was a severe famine because of which all the people greatly suffered. There was no food and survival became very difficult. Bandhu’s wife suggested to him, “everyone in the town is relocating to different places. Why don’t we also move to some other place? You said that your best friend stays in Puri. Why not go to Puri and seek his help to settle down there?” Bandhu smiled at her innocence. She did not know that his best friend was Lord Jagannatha! 

Bandhu thought about the matter and agreed to her request. He could not resist the thought of having the darshan of his great friend, Lord Jagannatha in Sri Mandir! May be it was the Lord’s divine call to him! In a few days, Bandhu and family reached Puri. It was an exhausting journey for all of them. They made their way to the temple. It was late in the evening. Bandhu saw the magnificent and majestic towering gopura with the sudarshana chakra and the fluttering dwaja (flag). He was overwhelmed. He longed to reach the sanctum of the Sri Mandir and have the darshan of Lord Jagannatha reigning supreme on his Ratna Simhasana. He looked at the gate and saw an ocean of devotees waiting to enter the temple. The guards were monitoring their entry. Bandhu looked at himself and his family. They were almost in tattered clothes. Would the guards allow them inside? He was embarrassed at the thought of not being allowed into the temple. From far, all of them offered their salutations to the deity installed at the Eastern gate. 

Bandhu looked around for some food. His hungry children were crying. Not knowing what to do, they went around and saw the canal through which the starch of the cooked rice flows out from the temple kitchen. It is known as Peja Nala. The cows come there to drink the rice-gruel. Bandhu and his family drank a little of the gruel to fill their belly and quench their thirst. Bandhu’s wife insisted that they visit his rich friend dwelling in Puri and seek his help. But Bandhu convinced her that they would go and meet him next day morning. There, near the Southern Gate of the temple, they settled down to rest. Lord Jagannatha saw his friend-devotee Bandhu and his family sleeping almost on an empty stomach. The Mahaprasad from the Lord’s Abode relieves the hunger of lakhs of devotees every day, but here was his devotee and family almost starved. How could anyone in Puri Dham ever go hungry? 

Bandhu was woken up by a sweet voice that called out to him, “Bandhu! O, Bandhu!” He woke up. Right in front of him was a brahmana of dark-complexion, wearing a dhoti of molten gold hue. His eyes were bright and sparkling, and there was a bewitching smile on his lips! He had a big gold plate full of delicacies in his hand. The stranger said, “your dear friend residing in Puri has sent the Mahaprasad for you and your family. Rest assured, tomorrow morning he will make all the arrangements for your stay over here!” Bandhu was surprised, but nevertheless he accepted the plate of food. Thanking the Lord for taking care of them, he came to where his family was sleeping and woke them up. All of them had the Mahaprasad – the best meal of their lifetime! After they finished their meal, Bandhu washed the plate and came back to return it to the stranger but he was not there. He looked for him everywhere, but was not to be seen. He kept the gold plate carefully with him. He was sure that the stranger would come back for the plate. The stranger was none other than Lord Jagannatha himself!

Next day morning, when the purohits opened the Ratna Bhandar (where all the precious ornaments, gold utensils, etc., which are used for the deities and the puja are kept), they found the gold plate which was used for Lord Jagannatha’s naivedya missing. They searched for it, but in vain. The king, Gajapati Prataparudra was informed and his soldiers were despatched in search of it. No sooner, they came to the Peja Nala, near the South gate of the temple they found Bandhu and his family there. Finding them unfamiliar and strangers to the city, the soldiers on enquiring and investigating, found the gold plate with Bandhu. This was a serious crime – entering the Sri Mandir and stealing the sacred gold plate of the Lord. However much Bandhu tried to explain the sequence of events that had happened the previous night, nobody believed him. He was dragged to the court and asked for an explanation. Again, nobody believed what he said and he was put in prison. Bandhu’s family was left alone to fend for themselves. Inspite of all that had happened, Bandhu’s faith and devotion to Sri Jagannatha, the Lord-of-his-heart did not waver even a bit. He was confident that the Lord would see him through…..

That night, Lord Jagannatha appeared in the dream of the king and narrated everything that had happened. The king was asked to immediately release Bandhu and make arrangements for him and his family to stay in Puri. The king realised his mistake and Bandhu was released from the prison. The king sought forgiveness from the Lord’s devotee and personally took care of the needs of the family. All of them were taken to the temple. In the sanctum, at the Altar was his Beloved Friend, Lord Jagannatha along with Balabhadra and Subhadra. Bandhu’s joy knew no bounds. All these years he had been waiting for this most auspicious darshan of Lord Jagannatha. Eyes filled with joyous tears and a voice choked with devout emotion, Bandhu turned to his wife next to him and told her, “you had always been asking about my dear friend at Puri. HERE HE IS! Right in front of you!!” Bandhu’s wife was surprised. All these years she had thought that her husband’s friend at Puri was a wealthy and generous mortal being just like them. She did not have any idea that it was Lord Jagannatha that he was talking about all the time! With heart full of devotion and gratitude, Bandhu along with his wife and children prostrated to Lord Jagannatha. Arrangements were made for their stay very close to the temple. And as appointed by the king, Bandhu and his family remained in Puri serving Lord Jagannatha at the temple.

“Those who are ever steadfast and worship Me with total devotion, and contemplate on Me with undivided attention, I shall look after their YOGA – KSHEMA” ~ Bhagavad Geeta

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Sri Vadiraja Tirtha of Madhva Parampara

Ramabhatta and Gowri were a pious couple living in Huvinakere near Udupi. Desirous of a child, they sought the blessings of Sri Vagisha Tirtha, the pontiff of Sode Math of Udupi. The saint blessed them and told them that their first-born will be a son who would belong to the Math! The couple were taken aback! However, the saint consoled them saying that if the child was born inside the house he would be with them; but if the child was born outside the house, he would belong to the Math. The couple agreed. Soon Gowri became pregnant. Great care was taken to make sure that she never stepped out of the house. Mysterious are the ways of the Lord! One day, when Ramabhatta was having his meal, a cow strayed into their agricultural land and started destroying the crop. Gowri went outside and while trying to drive it away, she moved far away from the house. Totally exhausted, she rested under a tree. And in the field, outside her house she delivered a male child! 

When Vagisha Tirtha was informed, he asked them to bring the child. The Acharya blessed the child and named him Bhuvaraha. He pointed the auspicious signs with which the child was born indicating its glorious future ahead. The parents were worried that they might have to leave their child in the Ashram. Vagisha Tirtha consoled the parents saying that Bhuvaraha would join the Math and get initiated into sanyasa only after their second son was born. When the couple was blessed with another son, Bhuvaraha, eight years at the time was initiated by Vagisha Tirtha and given the sanyasa name VADIRAJA TIRTHA. He started his studies under his Guru.
Vadiraja Tirtha was exceptionally brilliant in his studies. Once Vagisha Tirtha wanted to test his students. Silken clothes and variety of delicious dishes were laid out and the students were asked to choose whatever they wanted. All the students rushed forward and each took whatever he wanted. Vadiraja stood in a corner silently, far away from them all. The Guru asked him lovingly, “my child, you don’t want anything? What do you want?” Vadiraja burst forth with a beautiful verse: “Devotion to Guru I seek! Blessings of elders I seek! Constantly listening to the glories of Sri Hari I seek! True dispassion I seek! Worship of Sri Vishnu I seek! Constant Japa of the Lord’s Mantra I seek! Intense Tapas to reach the Highest State I seek! Control of Sense-organs I seek! Lord Sri Hayagriva’s Blessings I seek!” Vagisha Tirtha was overwhelmed at the young student’s extreme dispassion and total devotion along with his poetic abilities. After his studies, Vadiraja travelled extensively across the country and documented his experiences under the title “Tirtha Prabandha”. Wherever he went, he met scholars and participated in conferences, discussions and debates and upheld and established the supremacy of Madhva’s Dvaita Philosophy.
Sri Vadiraja worshipped Lord Hayagriva (Lord Vishnu with the face of a horse). A goldsmith living nearby was trying to cast a panchaloha idol of Lord Ganesha. However to his surprise, the idol took the shape of Lord Hayagriva. He tried again and again, but each time the idol cast itself in the form of Lord Hayagriva. That night, the Lord appeared in his dream and asked him to hand over the idol to Vadiraja. Next day the goldsmith along with others of his tribe met the Acharya and handed over the Hayagriva idol to him. Vadiraja was overwhelmed to see his Ishta-devata. On hearing the difficulties and hardships they were undergoing, Vadiraja brought their entire community into the folds of Bhagavatha-dharma. Every day, Sri Vadiraja Tirtha would offer a sweet dish made with channa dhal, jaggery, ghee and dry fruits as Naivedya to the Lord. Vadiraja would place a tray filled with the sweet on his head and sit down. On invoking the Lord Hayagriva, the Lord would appear in the form of a beautiful white horse, place both its fore-legs on Vadiraja’s shoulders and partake the sweet. This sweet dish is also known by the Lord’s name as “Hayagriva!” Vadiraja would sing his composition known as Dashavatara Stuti set to “Ashva-dhati” – tuned to the trotting of a horse! The Lord would dance while Vadiraja sang and then the horse would disappear into the idol!
While on tour, Vadiraja reached Pune where scholars from all over the country had met for a Vidvat Sabha. “Sishupala Vadha” by the great poet Magha was adjudged as the best literary work: a MAHAKAVYA. Vadiraja told them that there was a far more superior literary work and asked them to wait for a few days before coming to any conclusion! They agreed. In 19 days, Vadiraja composed “Sri Rukminisha Vijaya” in 19 cantos and presented it to the sabha. The entire sabha unanimously agreed that this was a literary work par excellence! Even the title “Sri Rukminisha Vijaya” was more auspicious than “Sishupala Vadha”. The manuscript was taken on an elephant in a procession round the city. Sri Vadiraja was duly honoured as the best amongst the poets. 
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha reached Pandharpur. He visited the famous Vittala temple and stayed there for a few days. Nearby was a field where lentils were sown. The owner of the field noticed a white horse entering the field and grazing. He tried to chase it away. After grazing it went into the Math premises where Vadiraja was staying. The landlord came to the Math and complained to Vadiraja that his horse had eaten and destroyed his crop. Sri Vadiraja told him that he did not own any horse but the landlord was not convinced. Vadiraja realised that it was none other than Lord Hayagriva himself who had visited the field and asked the landlord to go to the field the next day and especially check the places where the horse had grazed. When the landlord did so, he was surprised. Wherever the horse had grazed, he found golden lentils in place of the consumable lentils. He surrendered to Vadiraja and gifted the land to the Math.
Sri Vadiraja Tirtha composed many stotras and contributed to the Haridasa (Bhakti) movement. He authored many philosophical texts, both in Sanskrit and Kannada. Vadiraja Tirtha introduced the Paryaya system at Udupi Sri Krishna temple and also consecrated Sri Manjunatha (Shiva-linga) at Dharmasthala. Sri Vadiraja Tirtha entered the Brindavan alive after living a full 120 years.
“Jnananandamayam Devam Nirmala Spatikakrithim, Adharam Sarva Vidyanam Hayagrivam Upasmahe!”

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