Many great souls have walked this land in the last millennia, and one such saint who impacted his times was Vidyaranya. He was a saint as well as a king maker.
Vidyaranya was born, around 1300 CE at Shalivahan in South India, into a Brahmin family.
Establishing the Vijayanagara Empire
He was the one who guided the brothers Harihara-1 and Bukka Raya 1 in establishing the Vijayanagara kingdom.
Before being identified by Vidyaranya, these two brothers had infact converted to Islam. This patron saint convinced and reconverted Harihara and Bukka Raya to Hinduism. He trained them and persuaded them to start the kingdom, as a response to the Deccan Sultanate.
This Vijayanagar kingdom went on to become a big and prosperous empire, covering whole of Peninsular India.
Harihara and Bukka Raya
Vidyaranya later served as a mentor and guide to three generations of kings, who ruled over the Vijayanagara Empire.
He also served as the Prime Minister of the empire, over a period of time.
All this was on the political front.
Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sarada Pitham
On the spiritual front, Vidyaranya was the 12th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sarada Pitham, which was established by Adi Shankaracharya.
Sringeri Sarada Pitham
This position also implies that Vidyaranya was a follower of the Advaita school of philosophy, propounded by Adi Shankara.
Well known works
He is well known for his works such as Parasara Madhaviya and Sarvadarsanasangraha, a compendium of the school of philosophies.
Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the former president of India, was attracted by the works of Vidyaranya.
Speaking on Sarvadarsanasangraha, Radhakrishnan says, “Sarvadarsanasangraha sketches sixteen systems of thought so as to exhibit a gradually ascending series, culminating in the Advaita Vedanta – non dualism.”
The sixteen systems of philosophy expounded by him are
- Arhata or Jainism
- Ramanuja System
- Purna-Prajña Darsana or Dvaita
- Pratyabhijña (Kashmir Shaivism) or Recognitive System
- Raseśvara or Mercurial System
- Vaisheshika or Aulukya
- Akshapada or Nyaya
- Patanjala or Yoga
- Vedanta or Adi Shankara
Panchadasi, is another work by Vidyaranya, on the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.
Of all his famous works, the biography on Adi Shankara, titled Madhaviya Shankaravijayam is perhaps the most famous and circulated books. This books traces the life and mission of Adi Shankaracharya.
Vidyaranya’s brother, Sayanacharya wrote a commentary on the four Veda, which was centuries later used by Max Muller for his commentary on the Veda.
Statues and Sculptures of Vidyaranya
Today, sculptures of Vidyaranya can be traced in the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire, especially at Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. His statue is established at the Virupaksha temple, in Hampi. Another temple, the Lakshmi temple of Anagundi, also in Hampi, has a rock stone carving of this saint.
Rock stone carving at Anagundi temple, Hampi
He is a saint who helped in preserving Sanatana Dharma.