Preceptors of Medieval Karnataka
First Published in 1971 in:
Since Vedic times, the place of guru in Indian society has been unique. Those were the times when other agencies of education were less known and as yet paper was unknown. The usual media of palm leaves, stone and copper material did not lend themselves to easy duplication or mass communication. Hence education was circumscribed to teachers. Many had their own academies or mathas. Most of them enjoyed royal patronage and several held very high positions as royal preceptors. Itsing, the Chinese monk who came to India in the latter half of the 7th century, was very much impressed by these scholars and the austere life they lead. He says: "There are men who, far seen in antique lore and fond of the refinements of learning are content in seclusion leading lives of continence. Though they are not moved by honor or reproach, their fame is far spread.... The rulers treating them with ceremony and respect cannot make them come to court. Now as the state holds men of learning and genius in esteem and the people respect those who have high intelligence the honors and praises of such men are conspicuously abundant and the attentions private and official paid to them are very considerable ."
Inscriptions of 10th, 11th and 12th centuries throw light on the versatile genius of such gurus and here four of them are chosen who represent their class in medieval Karnataka and an attempt is made to show their scholarship and attainments and the influence they exercised in contemporary society.
Vadiganghala BhattaMunjarya Vadiganghala Bhatta belonged to a distinguished family of gurus, in the 10th century, patronized both by the Gangas of Talakad and the Rashtrakutas of Malkhed. The Kudlur copper plates describe him as a rare genius to whom with very little effort and labour all learning came in a very short time as though it had been made ready in previous birth. His instruction in politics induced the learned men of Rashtrakuta Vallabharaja's capital to show him great honor. His counsel helped the king to conquer all regions . This Vadiganghala Bhatta was a fervent devotee of Jinesvara, author of a grammatical system free from doubt and controversy and looked upon as a great authority by the grammarians. He is described as a 'Sruta Guru'.
He enjoyed the patronage of Chalukya Vikramaditya VI and proved worthy of Itsing's description. To quote: "Before him the king raised his palms in an anjali of devotion to him; all the ladies of the royal harem revered him as guru. The princes hailed him as a saint to whom they were dear; indeed the holy Somesavrabhatta was a new Sakalya of his time, a spring for the Lakshmi of the garden of eminent poets ."
This preceptor of the Kalamukha sect, the head of Kodiya-matha, is quite well known. His pontificate as Rajaguru lasted for not less than 46 years (1156-1192 A.D.) and under him Kodiya-matha brimmed with activity. He had
specialized in many branches of learning, viz., Grammar, Philosophy, Bharatasastra, Siddhanta, logic, law and other sciences. He was always surrounded by a troop of Brahmacharins .
This is a lesser known but highly honored preceptor of the Hoysala king Ballala II. He is described as well-versed in all the branches of learning then prevalent, including a study of the Vedas, Upanishads,
smritis, nyaya, mimamsa, smriti, puranas,
poetry, drama, Vatsyayana, P\prosody, figures of speech, fine arts, mantra,
tantra, mathematics, music, architecture etc. However, he seems to have been highly skilled in all Yogas and Yogasanas; he had mastered exercises and
asanas like Padma and Svastika and was called further a great master of Yogis .
References and Notes
1. J. Takakasu, A record of the Buddhist religion as practiced in India and the Malayan Archipelago, by Itsing, (Oxford 1896), p. 161
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