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Vyasatirtha (c. 1460–c. 1539 [1]), also called Vyasaraja, Vyasaraya and Chandrikacharya, was a Dvaita scholar and poet. As the patron saint of the Vijayanagara Empire, Vyasatirtha was at the forefront of a golden age in Dvaita which saw new developments in dialectical thought, flowering of the Haridasa literature under bards like Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa and an amplified spread of Dvaita across the subcontinent. Three of his polemically themed doxographical works Nyayamruta, Tatparya Chandrika and Tarka Tandava (collectively called Vyasa Traya) documented and critiqued an encyclopaedic range of sub-philosophies in Advaita,[note 1] Visistadvaita, [3] Mahayana Buddhism, Mimamsa and Nyaya, [4] revealing internal contradictions and fallacies. His Nyayamruta caused a significant stir in the Advaita community across the country requiring a rebuttal by Madhusudhana Saraswati through Advaitasiddhi.

Religion Hinduism
School Dvaita
Born Yatiraja
Around 1460
Died 1539
Resting place Nava Brindavana
Religious career
Predecessor Bramhanya Tirtha
Guru Sripadaraja, Bramhanya Tirtha
Honors Chandrikacharya, Vyasaraja

Apart from his scholarly activities, he penned several kirtanas under the nom de plume of Krishna including the classical Carnatic song Krishna Ni Begane Baaro. Under the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, he developed large scale irrigation systems in the villages gifted to him under grants [5] and distributed his patronage among the rival schools of thought building an atmosphere of religious tolerance. For his immense contribution to the Dvaita school of thought, he, along with Madhva and Jayatirtha, are considered to be the three great saints of Dvaita (munitraya). Surendranath Dasgupta notes, "The logical skill and depth of acute dialectical thinking shown by Vyasa-tirtha stands almost unrivalled in the whole field of Indian thought". [6] B.N.K Sharma calls Vyasatirtha "the prince of dialectitians" and goes on to say that "we find in his works a profoundly wide knowledge of ancient and contemporary systems of thought and an astonishingly brilliant intellect coupled with rare clarity and incisiveness of thought and expression".[7] Even his rival, Appayya Dikshita, is said to have observed that Vyasatirtha "saved the melon of Madhvaism from bursting by securing it with three bands", referring to the Vyasa Traya. [8][9]


Historical SourcesEdit

Information about Vyasatirtha is derived from his biography by Somanatha Kavi called Vyasayogicharita and inscriptional evidence. Songs of Purandara Dasa and stories perpetuated through traditions yield important insights too. Though Vyasayogicharita is a hagiography, unlike other works in the genre, it is free of embellishments such as performance of miracles and some of its claims can be corroborated with inscriptional evidence. [10] Somanatha mentions at the end of the text that the biography was approved by Vyasatirtha himself, implying the contemporary nature of the work. While some scholars attest the veracity of the text to the claim that Somanatha was a Smartha, [11][12] others question the claim citing a lack of evidence [13][14].

Early LifeEdit

Vyasatirtha was born Yatiraja to Ballanna and Akkamma in a hamlet called Bannur. According to Vyasayogicharita, the childless couple approached saint Bramhanya Tirtha, who granted them a boon of three children with the condition that the second child, who would turn out to be Yatiraja, be handed over to him. After Yatiraja's upanayana, Bramhanya Tirtha assumed guardianship over the child. [15] Bramhanya was genuinely surprised at the precocious intellect of the child and intended to ordain him as a monk. Yatiraja, anticipating the ordination, decided to run away from the hermitage. While resting under a tree, he had a vision of Vishnu, who urged him to return after which Yatiraja returned and was subsequently ordained as Vyasatirtha. Sharma contends that Vyasatirtha would have been 16 years of age at this time. [16]
After the death of Bramhanya Tirtha during the famine of 1475-1476, Vyasatirtha succeeded him as the pontiff of the mutt at Abbur and proceeded to Kanchi, which was the centre for Sastric learning in South India at the time, to educate himself on the six orthodox schools of thought. Sharma conjectures that the education Vyasatirtha received in Kanchi was responsible for his deep erudition in the intricacies and subtleties of Advaita, Visistadvaita, Navya Nyaya and other schools of thought. [16] After completing his education at Kanchi, Vyasatirtha headed to Mulbagal to study the philosophy of Dvaita under Sripadaraja, whom he would consider as his guru, for a period of 5 to 6 years. He was subsequently sent to the Vijayanagara court of Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya at the behest of Sripada.[9]

At ChandragiriEdit

Vyasatirtha was received by Saluva Narasimha at Chandragiri. [9] Somanatha speaks of several debates and discussions in which Vyasatirtha emerged triumphant over the leading scholars of the day. He also talks about Vyasatirtha giving spiritual guidance to the king. Around the same time, Vyasatirtha was entrusted with the worship of the Venkateshwara idol at Tirupati and undertook his first South Indian tour. After the death of Saluva Narasimha, Vyasatirtha remained at Chandragiri in the court of Narasimha Raya II until Tuluva Narasa Nayaka declared himself to be the de-facto ruler of Vijayanagara. [17] At the behest of Narasa, Vyasatirtha moved to Hampi and would remain there for the rest of his life. Some scholars argue against the claim that Vyasatirtha acted as a spiritual adviser to Saluva Narasimha, Narasimha II and Vira Narasimha due to the lack of inscriptional evidence. [18][14]

At HampiEdit

At Hampi, the new capital of the empire, Vyasatirtha was appointed as the "Guardian Saint of the State" after a period of prolonged disputations and debates with scholars led by Basava Bhatta, an emissary from the Kingdom of Kalinga. [19] His association with the royalty continued after Viranarasimha Raya overthrew Narasimha Raya II to become the emperor. Fernão Nunes observes that "The King of Bisnega, everyday, hears the teachings of a learned Brahmin who never married nor ever touched a woman" which Sharma conjectures is Vyasatirtha. [20] Somanatha implies that it was around this time that Vyasatirtha had begun his work on Tatparya Chandrika, Nyayamruta and Tarka Tandva. After the accession of Krishnadeva Raya, Vyasatirtha, who the king regarded as his kuladevata, greatly expanded his influence by serving as an emissary and diplomat to the neighbouring kingdoms while simultaneously disseminating the philosophy of Dvaita into the subcontinent. His close relationship to Krishnadeva Raya is corroborated by inscriptions on the Vitthala Temple at Hampi and accounts by Paes.[note 2] Vyasatirtha was also sent on diplomatic missions to the Bijapur Sultante and accepted grants of villages in newly conquered territories for the establishment of Mutts. Stoker conjectures that this was advantageous to both the king and Vyasatirtha as the establishments of mutts in these newly conquered regions led to political stability and also furthered the reach of Dvaita. [22] Somanatha writes of an incident where Krishnadeva Raya was sent a work of criticism against Dvaita by an Advaita scholar in Kalinga as a challenge. After Vyasatirtha retaliated accordingly, Krishnadeva Raya awarded Vyasatirtha with a ratnabhisheka (a shower of jewels) which Vyasatirtha subsequently distributed among the poor. [23][24] The inscriptions speak of grants of villages to Vyasatirtha from Krishnadeva Raya around this period, including Bettakonda, where he developed large irrigation systems including a lake called Vyasasamudra. [9] It was around this time that Vyasatirtha developed associations with the Haridasa cult through Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa.

Later YearsEdit

Sharma notes that there may have been a period of "temporary estrangement" from the royalty due to internal political friction, during which Vyasatirtha retreated to Bettakonda. [24] After the death of Krishnadeva Raya, Vyasatirtha continued to advise Achyuta Deva Raya. Inscriptions speak of his donation of Narasimha idol to the Vittala Temple at Hampi. [25] His disciples Vijayendra Tirtha and Vadiraja Tirtha furthered his legacy by penning polemical works and spreading the philosophy of Dvaita into the Chola and the Malnad region, eventually assuming pontifical seats at Kumbakonam and Sodhe respectively. He passed away in 1539 and his mortal remains are enshrined in Nava Brindavana, near Hampi. He was succeeded by his disciple, Srinivasa Tirtha.


Vyasatirtha authored 8 works consisting of polemical tracts, commentaries on the works of Madhva and a few hymns. Visnudasacharya's Vadaratnavali, a polemical treatise against the tenets of Advaita, is considered to be a significant influence on him. [26] By tracing a detailed, sophisticated and historically sensitive evolution of systems of thought such as Advaita, Vyakarana, Nyaya and Mimamsa and revealing internal inconsistencies, McCrea contends that Vyasatirtha created a new form of doxography. This style of polemics influenced Appayya Dikshita, who authored his own doxographical work titled Śātrasiddhāntaleśasaṃgraha. [27]


Nyayamruta is a polemical and expositional work in four chapters. The first attacks the idealistic foundations of Advaita, which concerns the falsity of the world. The various definitions of mithyatva (falsity of the world) by the sub-schools of Advaita are dealt with and refuted. In the second chapter, Vyasatirtha explains how the Madhva doctrine of five-fold difference can be arrived at by synthesising information from the three pramanas (pratyeksa, anumana, sabda). The Advaita concept of the merging of the soul with the Brahman is argued against. While the third deals with the critique of the Advaita view on the attainment of true knowledge (jnana), the fourth argues against soteriological issues in Advaita like Moksha, specifically dealing with the concept of Jivanmukti (enlightenment while alive). Vyasatirtha asks whether for an Advaitin, the body ceases to exist after the veil of illusion has been lifted and the unity with the Brahman has been attained.
Nyayamruta caused a furore in the Advaita community resulting in a series of scholarly retaliation over centuries. Madhusudhana Saraswati, a scholar from Varanasi composed a line by line refutation of Nyayamruta titled Advaitasiddhi. In response, Ramacharya rebutted with Nyayamruta Tarangini which was further criticised by Brahmananda Saraswati. Vanamali Mishra composed a refutation of the Bramhananda Saraswati's work and the controversy eventually died down. Vyasatirtha's disciple Vijayendra Tirtha has authored a commentary on the Nyayamruta called Laghu Amoda.

Tatparya ChandrikaEdit

Tatparya Chandrika or Chandrika is a commentary on Tattva Prakasika by Jayatirtha, which in turn is a commentary on Madhva's Brahma Sutra Bhashya. It not only documents and analyses the commentaries of Shankara, Madhva and Ramanuja on the Brahma Sutra but also their respective sub-commentaries.[note 3] The goal of Vyasatirtha here is to prove the supremacy of the Madhva bhashya by showing it to be in harmony with the original source compared to the other commentaries. The doxographical style of Vyasatirtha is evident in his copious amounts of quotations from the main commentaries (of Advaita and Visistadvaita) and their respective sub-commentaries under every adhikarna or chapter.[28] Only the first two chapters of the Brahma Sutra are covered. The rest was completed by Raghunatha Tirtha in the 18th century.

Tarka TandavaEdit

Tarka Tandava is a polemical tract targeted towards the Nyaya school. Though Vyasatirtha and his predecessors borrowed the technical language, logical tools and terminologies from the Nyaya school of thought and there is much in common between the two schools, there were significant differences especially in epistemology. Jayatirtha's Nyaya Sudha and Pramana Paddhati were the first reactions against the Nyaya school.[26] The advent of Navya Nyaya widened the differences between the two schools especially related to the acquisition of knowledge or pramanas, triggering a systematic response from Vyasatirtha through Tarka Tandava. Vyasatirtha refers to and critiques standard as well as contemporary works of Nyaya: Gangesha Upadhyaya's Tattvachintamani, Nyayalilavati by Sri Vallabha and Udayana's Kusumanjali etc. and their commentaries. The work is divided into three chapters corresponding to the three pramanas and a number of topics are raised including a controversial claim arguing for the supremacy of the conclusion (upasamhara) as opposed to the opening statement (upakrama). Purva Mimamsa and Advaita adhere to the theory that the opening statement trumps the conclusion and base their statements accordingly. Vyasatirtha's claim put him at odds with the Vedanta community with Appayya Dikshita being his most vocal opponent. Vyasatirtha's claim was defended by Vijayendra Tirtha in Upasamhara Vijaya. [29]

Mandara ManjariEdit

Mandara Manjari is the collective name given to Vyasatirtha's glosses on three (Mayavada Khandana, Upadhi Khandana, Prapancha Mithyavada Khandana) out of Madhva's ten refutation treatises called Dasha Prakarna and one on Tattvaviveka of Jayatirtha. Sharma notes "It is a tough and keenly argumentative gloss, replete with logical niceties". [30] Vyasatirtha here expands only on the obscure passages in the source text therefore the treatment is detailed and intricate.


Bhedojjivana is the last work of Vyasatirtha as it quotes from his previous works. The main focus of this treatise is to emphasise the doctrine of difference (Bheda) in Dvaita as is evident from the title, which can be transliterated to "Resuscitation of Bheda". Sarma notes "Within a short compass, he has covered the ground of the entire Monistic literature pushed into contemporary prominence and argued an unexpurgated case for the Realism of Madhva".[31]


Vyasatirtha is considered to be one of the foremost philosophers of the Dvaita thought along with Jayatirtha and Madhva for his philosophical and dialectical thought, his role in spreading the school of Dvaita across the subcontinent and his support to the Haridasa movement. His role as an advisor and guide to the Vijayanagara emperors, especially Krishna Devaraya, has been notable as well. His legacy can be analysed in the following facets.

Spread of DvaitaEdit

Sharma credits Vyasatirtha of converting Dvaita from an obscure movement to a fully realised school of thought of philosophical and dialectical merit. Through his involvement in various diplomatic missions in the North Karnataka region and his pilgrimages across the South India, he disseminated the precepts of Tattvavada across the sub-continent. By giving patronage to the wandering bards or Haridasas, he oversaw the percolation of the philosophy into the vernacular and as a result into the lives of the lay people. He also contributed to the spread of Dvaita by establishing several Hanuman [note 4] idols across Karnataka. Vyasatirtha is also considered as a major influence on the then burgeoning Chaitanya movement in modern day Bengal. [32] Stoker postulates that his polemics against the rival schools of thought also had the effect of securing royal patronage towards Dvaita.

Scholarly InfluenceEdit

Vyasatirtha was significantly influenced by his predecessors such as Vishnudasacharya, Jayatirtha and Madhva in that he borrowed from their style and method of enquiry. He exerted considerable influence on his successors. Vadiraja's Yuktimalika derives some of its arguments from Nyayamruta while subsequent philosophers like Vijayendra and Raghavendra have authored several commentaries on the works of Vyasatirtha. Vijayadhwaja Tirtha's Padaratnavali, an exhaustive commentary on the Bhagvata Tatparya Nirnaya, borrows some its aspects from Vyasatirtha's oeuvre. His influence outside the Dvaita community is found in the works of Appayya who adopted his doxographical style in some of his works and in the works of Jiva Goswami.

In his dialectics, Vyasatirtha incorporated elements from such diverse schools as Purva Mimamsa, Vyakarana and Navya Nyaya. His criticism of Advaita and Nyaya led to a severe scholarly controversy generating a series of exchanges between these schools of thought and led to reformulations of the philosophical definitions of the respective schools. Bagchi notes "It must be recognised that Vyasatirtha's definition of reasoning and his exposition of its nature and service really register a high watermark in the logical speculations of India and they ought to be accepted as a distinct improvement upon the theories of Nyaya-Vaisesika school". [33]

Contributions to the Haridasa cultEdit

Vyasatirtha was the initiator of social changes in the Dvaita order by inducting wandering bards or Haridasa's into the mainstream Dvaita movement regardless of caste or creed. Serving as a mentor and a patron to bards such as Purandara, Kanaka and Vadiraja and by penning several mystical poems in Kannada himself, he enriched the Haridasa and Kannada literature.

Political influenceEdit

The political influence of Vyasatirtha, Sharma contends, came to the forefront after the discovery of Vasyayogicharita. According to Stoker, "Vyasatirtha" was more than just a sectarian polemicist; he was an agent of the Vijayanagara state and a powerful regional authority". [34] By establishing mathas and shrines across the subcontinent and patronising large scale irrigation projects at strategic locations and forging productive relationship across various social groups, he not only furthered the reach of Vaishnavism but smoothened the integration of newly conquered or rebellious territories into the empire. [35] Though the exact nature of his relationship with Krishnadeva Raya has been disputed by various scholars, the general consensus indicates that he was regarded highly by the king. The establishment of Madhva Mathas led to fostering of economic connections as apart from serving as a place of worship and community, they also served as centres of trade and redistribution of wealth.


  1. ^ Quote from Sastri: It was Vyasatirtha, who, for the first time took special pains to collect together from the vast range of Advaitic literature, all the crucial points for discussion and arrange them on a novel, yet thoroughly scientific and systematic plan[2]
  2. ^ Quote from Paes: Raya being washed by a Brahmin whom he held sacred and who was a great favourite of his. Sharma conjectures that the washing of the disciple by the guru is found only among the Madhva people (mentioned in Madhva's Tantrasara) [21]
  3. ^ Bhamati, Panchapadika, Vivarana and Kalpataru of the Advaita school, Srutaprakasha and Adhikaranasaravali of the Visistadvaita school and Tattva Prakasika and Nyaya Sudha of the Madhva school
  4. ^ Madhva along with Hanuman and Bhima are considered to be the avatars of Vayu


  1. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 2.
  2. ^ Anantakrishna Sastri, Advaitasiddhi, Calcutta Oriental Series, pages 36
  3. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 44.
  4. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 50.
  5. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 4.
  6. ^ Dasgupta 1991, p. viii.
  7. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 97.
  8. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 34.
  9. ^ a b c d Jackson 2000, p. 903.
  10. ^ Stoker 2000, p. 24.
  11. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 252-253.
  12. ^ Rao 1926, p. xviii.
  13. ^ Sarma 2007, p. 157.
  14. ^ a b Verghese 1997, p. 8.
  15. ^ Jackson 2000, p. 902.
  16. ^ a b Sharma, p. 26.
  17. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 27-28.
  18. ^ Sarma 2007, p. 156.
  19. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 29.
  20. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 29.
  21. ^ Robert Sewell, Forgotten Empire,p. 249-250
  22. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 39-40.
  23. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 30.
  24. ^ a b Sharma 2000, p. 33.
  25. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 78.
  26. ^ a b Williams 2014.
  27. ^ McCrea 2015.
  28. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 45.
  29. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 53-54.
  30. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 57.
  31. ^ Sarma 1937, p. 15.
  32. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 104.
  33. ^ Bagchi 1953, p. 125.
  34. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 17.
  35. ^ Stoker 2016, p. 33.


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