It was a chance trip I had undertaken to Vaitheeswaran Koil to offer my obeisance to the presiding deity there. While I was driving between Cuddalore and Chidambaram, I saw a signage towards “Bhuvanagiri” and it struck to my mind that I haven’t been there ever although I have passed by the place so many times. So, I made it a point to visit the place on my return. With the Grace of the Almighty, it was made possible.
Bhuvanagiri is a quaint town positioned between Srimushnam on the West and Cuddalore on the East. This is the place where the revered Hindu Saint Sri Raghavendra Swamy was born to Smt. Gopikamba and Sri Thimannacharya in the year 1595 AD. He was named Venkatanatha on his birth and during his naming ceremony, he seemed to have pulled the Tulsi Mala of one of the visitors who had come that day, symbolically referring that he will embrace spiritualism eventually. Being a Madhwa Brahmin and hailing from a poor family, he was sent to his Uncle’s place for his childhood learning on Religious Scripts. It is said that Venkatanatha was a bright child and learned the Vedas among various other scriptures and won many debates during his times, especially in the lines of Advaita and Dwaita – the philosophy established by the Madhwa proponent Sri Madhwacharya. Under the tutelage of his Guru Sri Sudhindra Theertha who was also the peetathipathi of the Kumbakonam Mutt, he won hearts and debates with elan – being a trained Veena player, he was also adept in music and was a regular performer as well.
Venkatanatha was married to Saraswathi as per Hindu rituals but lived a life of poverty, so much so that feeding two meals a day for the couple and their only child was a rare event. In a particular incident, Venkatanatha taught the sacred Vedas to a child of a purported lower caste which didn’t go well with the community. Venkatanatha argued that all creations of the Almighty are equal and anyone can learn the sacred scriptures which alienated him further from the community. With no opportunities for a respected learning, dejected and upset over things that unfolded, Venkatanatha took his books to throw them away in a temple pond from where Goddess Saraswathi appeared and said that he was Her child and that He was filled with Gynana and Knowledge. She also asked him to immediately visit His Guru at his Ashram. The Guru ordered that Venkatanatha must undertake Sanyasa as that was the will of the Almighty. The Guru named him “Sri Raghavendra” and ordained him as the head of the Mutt in 1621 and advised him to visit the country and bless the people to overcome their miseries, sorrow and poverty as well as spread the word of the Hindu Madhwa Siddhantha.
Sri Raghavendra decided to settle down at Manchala village which is now named Mantralaya in Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh. It is said that Rayaru is alive inside His Brindavana and blesses his devotees. Over the years, the “mruthike” or the holy sand from Mantralaya has been taken and placed across the world to create “Sri Raghavendra Mathas” which teach the holy scriptures at the precincts. One such Brindavana is located at Bhuvanagiri as well, inside the same house he was born. The Matha is managed by a Private Trust under the supervision of the SRS Mutt, Mantralaya and ably guided by the the peetathipadhi of SRS Mutt, HH Sri Subhudendra Swamiji.