Bhagavata is considered as the King of Puranas. Sri Madhvacharya has extensively used it to propound the tenets of his philosophy of Tattvavada in addition to writing a gloss on Bhagavata. In the light of this work Bhagavata Tatparya, many saints and scholars have written commentaries on Bhagavata from before the time of Vijayadhvaja Tirtha till date. At the behest of my preceptor H.H. Sri Vishvesha Tirtha Swamiji of Sri Pejavara Matha, I was engaged in editing the commentary of Sri Vijayadhvaja Tirtha on Bhagavata. The entire volume has since been published by Sri Raghavendra Mutt, Lingampally, Hyderabad. While editing that work I observed that the words in the original text do not confirm with the commentary of Vijayadhvaja Tirtha at many places. So it was my cherished desire to edit the Bhagavata text itself giving all the different readings acceptable to the Vaishnava commentators. So I collected all the different readings suggested by Sri Yadupati Acharya, Satyadharma Tirtha, Sudhindra Tirtha and others.
Accidentally enough, I chanced to come across a rare palmleaf manuscript of Bhagavata in Subrahmanya Mutt at Subrahmanya, A cursory reading of the book ensured me that there were so many readings which differed from the printed and normally accepted readings. Thereupon I collected two more palmleaf manuscripts of Bhagavata from Subrahmanya Mutt and two others from Pejavara Mutt. I tried to collate all the different readings during which process I found out that many times the correct reading acceptable to Vijayadhvaja was available in the palm leaf manuscripts only and not in the hitherto printed texts or paper manuscripts. So I engaged myself in great earnestness in the editing of this work.
The script employed in all these palmleaf manuscripts is 'Tulu'. It could be a primitive form of modern Malayalam script. Though scholars still debate whether Tulu has a script of its own or not, the fact remains that the majority of Dvaita Vedanta works in addition to Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata is written on palmleaves using the same script and hence its importance to us.
Special mention must be made of one particular manuscript used here. That is the one which belongs to Subrahmanya Mutt. The script employed here is older and has many variations when compared to other manuscripts. Also the palmleaves themselves are very old and resemble in hue and texture the Sarvamula manuscripts of Sri Palimaru Mutt, believed to be written by Sri Hrishikesha Tirtha a direct disciple of Sri Madhvacharya. Since the manuscript is very old an attempt is made by one of the previous heads of the Mutt to rewrite the 12th Skandha as the original book was fast decaying. The rewritten palmleaves are placed along with the original palmleaves of the 12th skandha and this presents a very interesting and useful study of the material which enables us to determine the date of the manuscripts. Unfortunately the copyist has not given any details either about himself or about the date on which the writing was completed, a practice mostly followed by later copyists. All that he has said about himself is this:
His name is Janardana living in Adhaka village. There is no village of that name in South Kanara today. But His Holiness opines that it should be the name of a village near Kunjaru and Pajaka wherefrom many of the previous pontiffs of Subrahmanya Mutt came. Janardana should have been a disciple of Subrahmanya Mutt and hence the mention of Narasimha and Vedavyasa at many places in the manuscript. Had the later practice of mentioning the name of his guru been followed we could h.ave arrived at a near definite conclusion about his date, since the lineage of gurus has been kept intact in every Mutt. But even otherwise we can safely say that it is one of the oldest palmleaf manuscripts preserved anywhere and it should be at least six hundred years old. So it is a manuscript which very nearly goes back to the period of Vijayadhvaja Tirtha who entered Vrindavanam around 1426 A.D. So this is a priceless manuscript and by the grace of God it has come down to us.
There is a striking concordance in the readings of all these palmleaf manuscripts. While we get a particular reading in the printed and paper manuscripts, where it differs, the reading in all the palmleaf manuscripts is identical. In rare cases there is a very minimal variation amongst them. It was astonishing to find out that there are more than five thousand different readings in the palmleaves as compared to the text which has been printed claiming to be acceptable to Vijayadhvaja Tirtha. And this too, excluding the लकार variations. There is no reason to boycott the लकार from the texts as it occurs in the Vedas and also in the मातृकामन्त्र and so the palmleaves rightly retain the लकार wherever it is used. Post Panini Sanskrit literature has abandoned the लकार altogether and uses the लकार instead.
It has already been stated that there are more than five thousand different readings in these palmleafbooks. Many of these readings found in the palmleaves agree with Sridhara's readings. But the palmleaves should not be mistaken to be a version of Sridhara's recension of Bhagavata. For we have two recensions of Bhagavata, the one Vaishnavite recension acceptable to Acharya and commented upon by Vijayadhvaja and others and the other Sridhara's recension. The latter is actually Chitsukha's recension of Bhagavata. Sridhara belongs to a later date. All other schools of philosophy have followed the Sridhara recension while only Madhvas have carefully preserved the Vaishnava recension. Mere agreement of a few readings of the palm-leaves does not establish its identity with the Sridhara recension. Certain words, phrases and Shlokas are exclusively preserved in the Vaishnava recension. All such words, phrases and Shlokas have been recorded and explained by Sri Madhvacharya in his Bhagavata Tatparya, The contents of the individual adhyaya, the number of adhyayas in a particular Skandha and above all the text of Sruti Geeta which is so vital to the Vaishnava recension should be examined before arriving at a conclusion. And the examination of all these vital aspects unmistakably points to the fact that this is the Vaishnava recension only.
Padaratnavali of Vijayadhvaja happens to be the oldest among the commentaries which cover the entire text. The other commentaries are either later works or cover only a few Skandhas. So my endeavour has been to arrive at a reading which would be acceptable to Vijayadhvaja Tirtha. To arrive at a text completely acceptable to Sri Madhvacharya will be impossible now. We learn from Madhva Vijaya that the original text was mutilated even during the boyhood of Acharya. So by trying to arrive at a text acceptable to Vijayadhvaja Tirtha we will be trying to arrive at a text which will be nearer to the Acharya's text.
In view of this the following procedure has been adopted here. Where the palmleaf readings and Vijayadhvaja readings agree with each other there is no problem at all. Where they differ, if Vijayadhvaja has recorded the word and rendered its meaning his reading is included in the text and the palmleaf reading is given in the foot-notes. If Vijayadhvaja has not recorded the particular reading in his commentary and if there is nothing to the contrary in his commentary, then the palmleaf reading only is incorporated in the text. Many times it has so happened that even though there is no mention of the word in Padaratnavali, the word will appear in later commentaries or very rarely in a single paper manuscript. In such cases also the palmleaf reading only is incorporated in the text and the other readings are given in the footnotes. We know Vijayadhvaja's commentary is replete with interpolations and when there is certainty about it attempt is made to retain the palmleaf reading in the original text.
While editing Padaratnavali I had indicated at many places in the footnotes that either the commentary is not clear or the words recorded by Vijayadhwaja are not to be found in the original text. But astonishingly the palmleaf readings render the commentary clear and the particular words are to be found in these palmleaf manuscripts, strengthening our belief that this text is more acceptable to Vijayadhwaja than the other printed and paper manuscript texts.
The copyists who wrote on the palmleaves have a unique way or writing. Some copyists write only the original text. Those who write the commentaries do not include the original text in their writing. Very rarely we find both the original text and the commentary written by the same copyist together. But often the original text and the commentary have to be corrected using different writers' writings. So we will not be in a position to ascertain the particular text with respect to a commentary written by a particular copyist. As these works are further copied by later copyists whatever has been written in the margins in the process of understanding the work by way of personal notes has also found its way into the commentaries themselves and this has complicated the matter to a very great extent. So I have tried to edit the work within my own parameters.
I received these palmleaf manuscripts from the hands of the reverred His Holiness Sri Vidyamanya Tirtha Swamiji of Sri Palimar and Bhandarakeri Mutts with an express injunction that the work should be completed and the printed work handed to His Holiness in a short time. But unfortunately I was not able to keep my promise and His Holiness left us for his heavenly abode on 14.5.2000. I feel very sad now and only invoke his blessings from his heavenly abode.
The palmleaves were very wornout and it was very difficult to go through them. So I do not claim that all the relevant readings have been recorded and scrutinised. There may be a few more readings which have not been noticed by me due to my shortcomings. I pray your forgiveness for the same.
I place on record my gratitude to Smt. Janaki Nagaraj and Sri A. Ananta Tantry for the valuable help they have rendered in recording the readings and proof-reading.
My preceptor H.H. Sri Vishvesha Tirtha Swamiji of Sri Pejavara Mutt has been the guiding force behind this work all along. But for his encouragement this work would not have found the light of the day. It was my ardent desire that the book should be published under his aegis only, occupies as he does the seat sanctified by Sri Madhvacharya and Sri Vijayadhvaja Tirtha whose (the latters) name has become synonymous with Bhagavata in Madhva circles. His Holiness's commitment to Bhagavata right from his childhood is extraordinary and I deem it a great honour to be initiated into this work by his refulgent personality.
With humble pranamas at his lotus feet I conclude this write-up invoking the choicest blessings of Sri Adhokshaja Vitthala enshrined in his heart.
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