If ever there is a book written on friendship, surely the names of Raghavendra Swamy and his friend and constant companion Appancharya would figure among the top.
The friendship and close bonding between Raghavendra Swamy and Appanacharya goes back to the time when Raghavendra Swamy (Rayaru) completed his victorious Sanchara in south India and decided to settle down at Manchale near Adoni (Advani, now in Andhra Pradesh).
Rayaru came to Adoni and met Diwan Venkanna and the Nawab of Adoni, Syed Masood Khan. He discussed the place where he wanted his Brindavana to be built. He then decided to visit Bichale as he had heard a lot about Appanacharya and his Veda Patashala (school) or rather Vedic university.
When Rayaru first came to Bichale, he saw that the patashala had students coming from different regions. He also came across Appanacharya, a rich Zamindar, who possessed more than 300 acres of fertile lands. Appanacharya was a rich and pious Madhwa and he was well respected in and around Bichale.
A scholar himself, Appanacharya had started the Veda Patashala to impart knowledge in Shastras and Vedas to students. He also taught at the Patashala. He relished teaching from the Japada katte. The students, as part of their duties, were asked to seek Bhiksha from the residents of Bichale.
Appanacharya’s gotra was Atreyasa. He was a religious person and diligently performed rituals every day. He was also called the Jagirdar of 289 villages. The villagers of Bichale respected him and his students adored him.
His deep devotion to God and his simple and noble life marked him as a holy man. His greatness was such that when he put rice in a clothe and hung it from a tree, the rice got cooked automatically.
Appanacharya would conclue his teaching at 12-30. He then offered the rice which was cooked atop a tree without lighting fire as Naivaidya to the gods and then took his meals along with his students.
It was around this time that Rayaru came to Bichale. Both met each other for the first time near the Japada Katte. Appanacharya then invited Rayaru to his house. Thus, started the tale of everlasting friendship between the two.
Appanacharya insisted that Rayaru must stay on at Bichale and in his house only. Rayaru smiled and accepted the offer. He asked the officials of the Sri Matha which he was heading at Kumbakonam to bring all the paraphernalia of the Matha to Bichale.
As days passed by, the friendship between the two grew. Rayaru respected Appanacarya’s devotion and singlemindedness. Appanacharya, on the other hand, realised the greatness of Raghavendra Swamy and did everything he could to serve him.
Appanacharya then decided to personally cook food and look after the comforts of Raghavendra Swamy. He personally used the grinding stone (Rubbu Gundu and Varakallu) to prepare Dal and Chutney to Rayaru,
Rayaru used the food prepared by Appanacharya to give Naivaidya to the Moola Rama idol and other deities, Appanacharya also prepared Payasa regularly for Rayaru.
Rayaru performed the pooje of Moola Rama Devaru in the hall of Appanacharya’s house. He also slept and took rest there. The Japada Katte became the point where both engaged in religious and philosophical discussions.
Rayaru stayed on for 13 years at the residence of Apanacharya. Every day, was a take of friendship between the two. Several years went by and Rayaru desired to hand over the Peetha of the Sri Matha to Appanacharya. The latter replied that he had become addicted to tobacco and he could not give up the habit. Rayaru then dropped the idea of making Appancharya his successor.
The time for entering the Brindavana drew near and Rayaru realised that if Appanacharya was near him, he would not be able to enter Brindavana easily. He then decided to send Appanacharya for Sanchara and then enter Brindavana.
There was an anthill in the house of Appanacharya in which a cobra had made a home. Rayaru prayed to the snake god every day and placed a vessel of milk for the cobra to drink. When he decided to enter Brindavana, Rayaru realized that he would have to ensure that the snake god moved to a new home. He did not want any harm to come to the snake god after he had gone away from Appanacharya’s home.
The Rayaru prayed to snake god and ensured that it left the ant hill. Appanacharya, however, did not know why Rayaru was doing this. However, his loyalty to Rayaru was so unquestionable that he did not ask about it any further.
The bard of Mantralaya was so pleased with the service of Appanacharya that he gave 12 acres of land at Kaldakumtla village, 12 kms from Mantralaya.
There is another story about the munificence of Rayaru to Appanacharya. Though Kamalabai was Appanacharya’s first wife, they did not have any children. Rayaru asked Appanacharya to get married a second time. Appanacharya’s second wife was Ratnabai. Subbanacharya was born from this union which was blessed by Rayaru.
Rayaru entered Brindavana when Appanacharya was away. This story is well known and I have already written about it in an earlier post. Suffice to say that Appanacharya was the first person our Rayaru spoke to from the Brindavana. Rayaru completed the last line of a sloka that Appanacharya sang in his praise.
When Appanacharya saw that the last slab on the Brindavana was put in place and that he could no longer see Rayaru he burst into a song
“YoBhaktya Guru Raghavendra
Charana Dwandam SmaranYahaPathet
Stotram Divya Midam Sada Nahibhavetassya
Keertihi Digvidita Vibhutiratula
A sobbing Appanacharya could not complete the last line. Rayaru completed it from the Brindavana, saying Saakshi Hayastotrahi.
The flood waters of the Tungabhadra destroyed Appanacharya’s house. It was rebuilt. You can still see many articles associated
with Rayaru here and also at the Japada Katte. The Ekashika Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy at the Japada Katte is the first Brindavana outside Mantrayala.
While Bichale is in Karnataka, Mantrayala is in Andhra Pradesh.