The vandalism of a Brindavana has resulted in an outpouring of support from all quarters and subsequently, a systematic and synergistic restoration of the holy site.
Aided by Krishna Devaraya, the nineteenth-generation scion of the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire, devotees, their respective spiritual orders, and government agencies worked in sync to revitalise the shrine.
This effectively busts the myth that Hindus are a fractious, disunited lot.
The five-centuries-old Brindavana, which was recently vandalised by supposed ‘treasure hunters’ has been quietly restored, thanks to royal, statutory and popular participation.
Krishna Devaraya, the nineteenth-generation descendant of emperor Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire, in his quiet and unassuming way, helped rebuild the Brindavana of Sri Vyasatirtha in just 24 hours. The holy site was vandalised in the early hours of 18 July, close to his home in Anegundi near Hampi.
After 20 hours of non-stop work by various agencies, by the afternoon of 19 July, the Brindavana of Sri Vyasatirtha was restored to its previous glory. “It was such a great relief for me to see the sacred structure coming back to life. A great joy filled the atmosphere. The humungous gathering at the site was ecstatic and chanted shlokas, eulogizing god and Guru,” he told this correspondent.
This beautiful shrine, erected on a tiny island in the middle of the Tungabhadra river, is called Sri Vyasatirtha Brindavana by devotees of Sri Vyasatirtha, who lived between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One of the most revered figures of the Dvaita philosophy (founded by Sri Madhavacharya), his influence and contribution at the peak of the glory of the Vijayanagara empire is unparalleled.
Hindus are eternally grateful to Sri Vyasatirtha for guiding Krishnadevaraya, the monarch, in his efforts to uphold and protect Dharma, said the royal descendant.
On 18 July, around 7.30 am, Krishna Devaraya received a call on his mobile, bringing the news of the vandalism of Brindavana to his notice.
“Sri Vyasatirtha was the spiritual guide for six Vijayanagara emperors beginning with Saluva Narasimharaya (c.1431-91) up to Achyutadevaraya (who ruled Vijayanagara from c.1529-42). But the saint’s close association with Sri Krishnadevaraya (c.1471-1529) and the latter’s devotion towards the former is legendary,” he says.
“Devotees of Dvaita lore consider the Brindavanas of their Gurus as their jagruta rupa (live embodiments). They do not look at them as mere stone structures. Hence, many devotees were very upset on seeing the destruction of what they consider as sacred. I feel blessed to be part of this resurrection exercise. Without the grace of the Guru, this would not have been possible, he said.
The sacred Brindavana was completely dismantled and the beautiful stone carvings thrown into the dust.
The young scion, who works very quietly, put together a plan of action to reconstruct the shrine. “It took some time for me to regain my composure and think about the actionable points. The first thing that occurred to me was the urgent ‘reconstruction’ of the Brindavana for which a damage assessment had to be made. So, I immediately rushed to Nava Brindavan. The Koppal police and district administration teams also arrived to ensure the safety and security of the site. Officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) too had reached the spot,” he said.
In the course of time, the pontiffs of the Madhva Mathas started arriving at the site. The first to arrive was Sri Vidya Sreesha Tirtha of Sri Sosale Vyasaraja Matha, who belongs to the parampara of Sri Vyasatirtha. Sri Satyatma Tirtha of Sri Uttaradi Matha and Sri Subudhendra Tirtha of Sri Mantralaya Raghavendra Swamy Matha also arrived by evening. Along with these Swamis, hundreds of devotees thronged the Nava Brindavan Gadde to help in restoration work.
Intense work started with the collective will and resources of the Madhva Mathas, the civic administration, the police, ASI and volunteers, led by Krishna Devaraya, with everyone doing their bit silently.
“Gururaj Diggavi (Assistant Executive Engineer, KRIDL, Koppal), conservation architect Neeraj Kulkarni of GN Heritage Matters, Bengaluru, labourers from Anegundi and a few scholars with technical expertise such as Sri Seshagiri started repairing the stone carvings as per ‘Tantrasara’, a treatise written by Sri Madhvacharya on temple Vastu Shastra. Experts from the ASI oversaw things while the police maintained calm among devotees. It was a massive, concerted effort in an operation that needed to be finished without breaks,” he said.
As the news of the desecration started spreading through social media, there was an outpouring of grief from seers and devotees alike.
“Only a quick but perfect renovation could provide solace to the upset devotees. I realised the importance of speedy resolution and hence stayed at the site the whole day trying to ensure smooth execution of jobs simultaneously,” said Krishna Devaraya.
Incidentally, despite the commencement of Chaturmasa, the four-month period when sanyasis settle down for a period of intense self-study and sadhana, and generally do not make public appearances, the seers came out in the open to support the rebuilding of the shrine.
Apart from being a spiritual Guru, Sri Vyasatirtha was known to have built many water tanks, irrigation canals and brought several thousands of acres of dry lands under cultivation.
“To this day, some of these water tanks are surviving in drought-hit Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. They still provide water to hundreds of acres. Such was his greatness,” says Krishna Devaraya.
A notable feature of this rebuilding exercise, however, is the unification in thought of several Dvaita spiritual orders, which otherwise did have some disagreements amongst themselves. Krishna Devaraya said he was proud of the fact that everyone put their shoulder to the wheel in this effort, despite some reportedly unpleasant developments at Nava Brindavana on special occasions such as the Aradhanas of Gurus.
On this occasion, observed the erstwhile Royal, the heads of those Mathas came together, discarding earlier differences, to cooperate in the revitalising of the shrine. In fact, they took it upon themselves to organise food, boarding and lodging for volunteers and devotees without seeking government help.
“The Mathas have shown how a collective leadership can quickly correct such heinous wrongs,” he said.
Krishna Devaraya has appealed for such Dharmic unity to continue prevailing between the Mathas, and that the Peethadhipatis discard their internal disputes. Offering his help, he has urged the Peethadhipatis to review the safety and security arrangements at Nava Brindavana.
“As the district administration and the police control the surrounding areas and the routes leading to Nava Brindavana including the boats, I urge them to increase vigil and put some monitoring systems in place. A special campaign has to be undertaken to create awareness among the locals and tourists on the protection and preservation of historical and spiritual monuments, especially since Nava Brindavana is close to Hampi, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site,” he said.