Vyasaraja Matha © 2022. All rights reserved
Written by Gowdagere Vijaya Kumar Acharya
“The concepts and precepts of our Sanātana dharma are breathtaking and rooted very strongly in tradition, Vedas, Upanishads and immense volumes of scriptures. The idea of transmigration of souls, the trust of liberation from the transitory and that human destiny is determined by action in life are unique concepts.
Our land and its people have been very lucky. From time to time, we have been blessed by the Lord amidst us, correcting our wayward ways. And from time to time, we have also been blessed by the presence amidst us of evolved souls as seers, saints and gurus. They have helped synthesize the concept of Dharma and guide us through our lives. South India and, in particular Karnataka, have been home to a very large number of such enlightened souls.
The exemplary life of such seers, saints and gurus needs to be told and retold as part of our heritage. There are a number of publications on this subject in Kannada. As a growing number of our children are not familiar with written Kannada, simple and brief narratives in English would serve the purpose of familiarising them of our heritage and provoke their interest to explore and expand their thoughts.
A series of events led me to Sode, where my first narrative on ‘Shri Vadiraja Teertha, Shri Sode Vadiraja Mutt, A brief perspective’ was first published in 2005. The second edition followed in 2007 and the third in 2009. A small volume entitled ‘Sode Stotras’ was released in 2010.
I commenced my search for collating information on Śrī Vyāsarāja for my next narrative. That Śrī Vyāsarāja had consecrated 732 idols of Śrī Ānjaneyaswami was very widely spoken of. The first mention of this was from his disciple Śrī Vijayīndra Tīrtha, who went on to become an illustrious pontiff of the Maṭha now more familiar as Śrī Rāghavendra Swamy Maṭha.
Śrī Vyāsarājaru was the favoured and respected Rajaguru of four emperors of the historical Vijayanagar empire. Śrī Vyāsarāja was also the guru of the likes of Śrī Kanakadāsaru and Śrī Purandaradasaru.
Over 500 years ago, Śrī Vyāsarājaru consecrated 732 idols of Prāṇadevaru in the area of the Vijayanagara Empire, creating a revolution in Dharmic traditions.
Despite my efforts to search for data, my readings and enquiries revealed a startling situation. There has been no known record or a comprehensive listing of the 732 locations that was available – not even with the various mutts, libraries or research centres. A mention of a handful of locations were cited in some publications and known to a few individuals. This lack of data I found strange and perplexing. My feeble attempts to put this away from my mind for now and proceed with my planned narrative failed. My conscious and subconscious thoughts kept returning to this topic.
With no real planning or appraisal of the logistics involved, I set out on a journey to enquire, locate and record the idols of Śrī Ānjaneyaswami consecrated by Śrī Vyāsarājaru. The first such outing was on 19th January, 2006. Events of this fascinating voyage of discovery humbled me. Events that took place on every single journey of mine convinced me that I had not set out on this journey on my own – there is a guiding hand – whose I do not know – Śrī Vyāsarājaru’s or Mukhyaprāṇa’s.
Five centuries later, through the Lord’s inspiration to search and research this topic, I was able to locate 525 Śrī Vyāsarāja-consecrated idols of Prāṇadevaru. These idols have been photographed along with existing structures.
In any event, all my efforts and its results I humbly dedicate to Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa through Śrī Vyāsarāja and Mukhyaprāṇa.”
From the wife and children of Shri Gowdagere Vijaya Kumar Acharya: This fascinating journey ended when he passed away on April 7th, 2012. From his journey from researching about these idols to travelling to many, many corners of South India to find these hidden treasures, we saw how the divine intervention of Śrī Vyāsarājaru in his thoughts gave him the drive to find these idols across cities, towns and villages. We are honoured to have been a part of his life and journey and wish for as many people as possible to see these idols. We hope that each one of you is able to visit as many idols as you can in your lifetime.