SRIVAISHNAVISM IN KARNATAKA
Srivaishnavism (shrIvaiSNavism) (ಶ್ರೀವೈಷ್ಣವ ಧರ್ಮ) is the religious manifestation of the philosophy of ‘Vishishtadvaitha’ propounded by Sri Ramanuajacharya (1017-1137A.D.) in the eleventh century in Tamilnadu. This sect formed one of its strong bases in the Southern part of Karnataka during the the life of its proponent who lived in different parts of Karnataka for more than three decades.
This religious sect is essentially a
constituent of Hinduism and accliams Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavadgeetha as
its fundamental scriptures. The commentaries written by Sri Ramanuja and his
major disciples have continued to be the foundations of their religious beliefs
and practices. However one has to take cognisance of the fact that Sri
Vaishnava sect has a Dravidian component also because many of its devotional
songs and texts are written by Alvars (ALvArs) in chaste Tamil. As a matter of
fact, these texts are among the major influences that formed the Pan-Indian
Bhakti movement. The presence of this sect in Tamilnadu neccisiated a synthesis
of the Dravidian and the Aryan in its precepts and practices. The fact that it
is an absolutely Vaishanavaite sect having nothing to do with Shiva created a
spate of internal conflicts. Tamilnadu is a Shaivaite stronghold also.
Consequently the Chola, Chera and Pandya dynasties were embroiled in
controversies that were as much religious as political. However, people were
more tolerant than their rulers and a spirit of ‘give and take’ did exist among
them. It is interesting to note that Srivaishnavism in Karnataka is basically
Sri Ramanujacharya had to face a lot of persecution from the Chola kings, and that caused an exodus towards North. The advent of Sri Vaishnavivism in Karnataka coincides with the arrival of Sri Ramanuja at Tondanuru (tonDanUru) via Satyamangala, Ramanathapura and Mirle. There was a historical meeting between the saint and Bittideva (Vishnuvardhana) the the Hoysala monarch. (1108-1142A.D.) The legend has it that Sri Ramanuja cured Bittideva’s daughter of some illness and that act got a new convert to his creed. Bittideva, adpoted the new religion and acquired the name Vishnuvardhana. However there were no traces of a zealot on this noble king and he continued to encourage other religions irrespective of his own views. Even his wife Shantala and minister Gangaraja continued to practice Jainism. Sri Ramanujacharya moved from Tondanur to Melukote. (mElukOTe) The temple of Cheluvanarayanaswamy was restored to its earlier glory and he stayed there for a number of years. Melukote became a holy pilgrimage centre for Sri Vashnavas. It continues to be that even to this day. It has also become a centre of taditional learning.
There is an element of secualrism in this sect and it is believed that Sri Ramanuja had no qualms in throwing his teachings open to every one heedless of caste and creed.
Sri Ramanuja travelled extensively in different parts of Karnataka, after he finished his task in Melukote. He spent almost twenty years as a mendicant sage preaching and dessiminating the essence of his faith. He could draw enough support to build the magnificient Chennakeshava temple at Belur. Many more temples dedicated to Keshava, Janardhana and other Gods in the Vaishnava pantheon are found all over Karnataka.
The royal patronage continued even after the demise of Sri Ramanuja and Vishnuvardhana. Other Hoysala kings such as Narasimha-1, Ballala-2 and Ballala-3 patronised this religion quite generously..
Vijayanagara Empire supported and functioned as a rallying point for various sects of Hiduism. All the four dynasties that ruled in Vijayanagara namely Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Araveedu gave unstinted support to Sri vaishnavism. Bukkaraja, Krishnadevaraya, Achyutaraya and Venkatapati Devaraya are the more prominent ones among them. The visit of Sri Vedantha Deshika A philospher, poet and an apostle of the sect to Melukote helped to further the cause of Sri Vaishnavism.
The next watershed in the history of
the Sri Vaishnava faith in Karnataka occured during the regime of the Wodeyar
The contribution of this sect to the art and architecture can be enviasged in a number of temples. The exqusitely beautiful temples at Belur, Somanathapura, Melukote, Nuggehalli, Hosaholalu, Javagal and Araluguppe provide ample testimony to this fact. Some poets have adopted Kannada as the language of artistic expression and made handsome contributions.
1. ‘Sri Ramanuja, Melukote and Srivaishnavism’, By K.E. Narayanacharya, 2005, Kautilya Institute of National Studies
2. ‘Sri Ramanuja in Karnataka, an epigraphical study’, By B.R.Gopal, 1983, Sundeep Prakashan.
3. ‘Vaishnava divya darshana kaipidi: a hnad book’ By T.K. Iyyangar
4. Tirunarayana (An article on Melukote)