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Sri Raghavendra Swamy was born in 1601 A.D. at Bhuvanagiri (Tamil Nadu), by the benign Grace of Lord Venkateswara, when all the planets were in exalted and auspicious houses, bestowing a long divine life, (700 years) full of miracles and healing powers for the welfare of humanity. He ruled the Vedic Samrajya from 1624 to 1671. His 345th Aradhana was celebrated in August, when lakhs of devotees thronged Manthralayam and the hundreds of Brindavans in India and abroad.
A famous couplet in Kannada goes like this: Manthralayadilluruva Karedallige Baruva.
The meaning is “Residing in Manthralaya, He will respond to your call.” This is absolutely true. Sri Parimalacharya has given darshan to many in India and abroad, particularly in the U.S., where many Kannada devotees reside.
Venkatacharya, as the saint was known, got married to Saraswathy and the two were leading a happy life, even though they were extremely poor. Also they had implicit faith in God. When Venkatacharya was crowned as Saint Raghavendraswamy, Saraswathy, unable to withstand the pangs of separation committed suicide. By His divine powers, Swami sent her to heaven.
While touring Kumbakonam, Sri Raghavendraswamy was invited to attend a function, with his wife and son. The head of the family requested him to make sandalwood paste, using a grinding slab. It was Swami’s practice to recite Vedic Mantras, mentally. The paste was given to all the guests, who smeared it on their bodies. And they complained of a burning sensation all over. The Swami, tendering his sincere apology, explained that he was inadvertently reciting Agni Stothram, while grinding. He again invoked Lord Varuna and made a paste, which had a cooling effect on every one.
A royal Prince was bitten by a cobra and died immediately. When Swami was told about this, he had the venom extracted by the same snake and the Prince recovered. A devotee, who met with an accident, also got another lease of life.
Raghunatha Rao arranged a special puja for Sri Raghavendraswamy in his house. Mango juice was prepared in a large vessel and kept in the kitchen. His only child fell into the vessel and drowned. Invoking Sri Moola Rama, the Swami sprinkled holy padhodhaka water on the child, bringing it back to life.
The miraculous healing powers of Sri Raghavendraswamy spread far and wide. Some unscrupulous and mischievous boys wanted to test the Swami. On his route, one of them lay down pretending to be dead fully covered by a white cloth. The understanding was that he should not get up when Swami sprinkled water and asked him to rise. He should get up when the command was given by them. The drama was enacted and wailing friends asked Swami to revive the boy. Swami simply said that his life span was over and hence nothing could be done. He was indeed dead and did not awaken when the mocking gang asked him to.
In Sirasangi, a gentle man with an intention to test his powers, gave him a wooden rod covered with steel caps at both ends, and asked him to make it grow into a plant. After meditation, Swami planted it in the soil and sprinkled holy water on it. The dead wood started sprouting. This miracle is incorporated in the Suprabhatam of Sri Raghavendraswamy, in Sanskrit.
Out of profound regard for Sri Raghavendraswamy, the Badshah of Bijapur, presented a rare gem-studded golden necklace. The Swami offered it to God and placed it in the Yaga Kundam. The Badshah was much annoyed and expressed his feeling. The Swami put his hand in the fire, retrieved the chain in the same condition and gave it back.
When Sri Guru Rayar was proceeding to Adoni, Venkanna, a cow-herd boy prostrated before him. The Swami blessed him and advised him to pray at the time of adversities. After a few days, the Nawab of Adoni, who was passing by, stopped and asked Venkanna to read a message from the neighbouring King. The illiterate boy expressed his inability to read. A furious Nawab threatened to kill him if he did not read. Venkanna earnestly prayed to Sri Raghavendraswamy to save him. Most surprisingly, he read the entire text. As there was very good news in the message, the king made him the Dewan of Adoni.
After learning about the miraculous powers of Swami, the Nawab decided to test him. He told his Dewan to take him to Guruji. He took meat on a silver plate covered with a silk cloth and offered it. After sprinkling water, Swami asked his disciples to remove the silk cloth revealing fruits. The Nawab fell at Swami’s feet soliciting his person. Also he requested the Swami to ask for any favour or gift. Guruji asked him to hand over Manchala village, which has come to be known as Manthralayam. It is at this holy place that Bhakta Prahlada performed a great yaga.
In 1671, Sri Raghavendra-swamy asked his followers to construct a Brindavan around him, at Manthralayam. He sat there playing on the veena and sang “Indhu Enege Sri Govindha” in Bhairavi invoking Lord Krishna to dance before him. He then controlled his breath and a Brindavan was constructed around him, placing 300 Vishnu Saligramas over his head. It is believed that he is alive inside the Brindavan, another 600 years, performing miracles. His very affectionate devotee, Appannacharya, was late in reaching Manthralaya, by which time the construction of the Brindavan was completed. A sorrow-stricken Appannacharya could not complete an important sloka. From inside, the Swami prompted him with the words, “Sakshi Hayatsothruhi.”
When Sir Thomas Munroe was the Collector of Bellary in 1800, the Madras Government ordered him to procure the entire income from the Math and Manthralaya village. When the Revenue officials were unable to comply with this order, Sir Thomas Munroe visited the Math for investigation. He removed his hat and shoes and entered the sacred precincts. Sri Raghavendraswamy emerged from the Brindavan and conversed with him for sometime, about the resumption of endowment. The Saint was visible and audible only to Munroe who received Manthraksha. The Collector went back and wrote an order in favour of the Math and the village. This notification was published in the Madras Government Gazette in Chapter XI and page 213, with the caption “Manchali Adoni Taluka”. This order is still preserved in Fort St. George and Manthralayam.
All the priests in the Math were much annoyed, because in spite of their long and sincere service, he did not give them darshan. That night, Guruji appeared in the dream of the chief priest and told him that as Prahaladha, he and Munroe were class-mates in Kritha Yuga and he was destined to perform this noble deed of solving the Math’s problem. Hence the unique privilege.
An ardent devotee, who suffered a massive heart attack, and was given up for dead is said to have been revived by Swami who blessed him in person. In another instance, a sceptic person, who questioned the significance of Thursday fasting, was made to realise its importance and he is now a steadfast devotee. Swami appeared before his devotee who had just completed the Sri Satyanarayana Puja and gave her manthrakshe.
A famous film distributor in Chitradurga, had this experience. One morning, all his family members were away, except their servant, a Muslim, who was mopping the floor. Sri Raghavendraswamy stood before him and said in Kannada, “Dhari bidu”, meaning “make way”. He went towards the Puja room, which was locked, and it opened on its own. He had sprinkled water from the front door up to the Puja room, while entering. When the servant went inside, he could not see the “stranger” and was shocked to find the Puja room open. When the family members returned, he narrated the incident about the “stranger”. When they showed him a picture of Sri Raghavendraswamy, he said that it was that very person who came there. Incidentally, the distributor had helped generously in the construction of Brindavans all over the country and Swami had sanctified his house, with holy water.
A devotee in Bangalore had the unique experience of Swami receiving him at the Math. The devotee reached the Math at 1 p.m. and the doors were locked. Crestfallen he was about to retreat when an old priest asked him to come inside. The devotee had darshan and received the prasadam. It was only after he came out did he learn that he had just been involved in a miracle because a person he met outside said that he had the keys to the locked door and it was none other than Swami who had blessed him. And in several cases Swami has blessed childless couples with progeny. B.K.S. Varma, the famous artist of Karnataka, painted a picture of Sri Raghavendraswamy, in a sitting posture and writing on palm leaves. The painting was almost complete, except for the eyes. As it was very late in the night, he was much tired and fell asleep by the side of the photograph.
Sri Raghavendraswamy appeared in his dream and told him that he himself would complete the picture by painting the eyes. When the artist woke up in the morning, the eyes were in place looking radiant. Copies of the precious picture were printed at Bangalore and were all quickly sold. One of them is at the Rayar Math in Saligramam, Chennai.
This writer himself has benefited from the kindness of Swami. A ring which had the embossed figure of Swami was lost and an intensive search did not bring it to surface. The ring was later found among the valuables in the steel locker, where certainly the writer did not put it.
The life span of Sri Raghavendraswamy is 700 years, of which 400 years have been completed and more than 300 Brindavans installed in India and abroad. Guruji transcends caste and religion. All are equal to him. K. J. Yesudas gave a music performance at Manthralaya, recently, singing songs on Him, paying homage to Swami to whom we shall pray for world peace.