A well-preserved 700-year-old palm leaf manuscript belonging to the Palimar Math in Udupi is one of the rarest books in the Madhwa Parampare.
The book has always drawn attention, not only for its antiquity but also for the fact that it was written by Hrikesha Theertha, the first and favourite disciple of Madhwacharya.
The 250 manuscripts are handwritten and they contain the entire set of 39 works of Madhwacharya, the 13th century saint-philosopher from Karnataka and the fountainhead of Madhwa philosophy.
Popularly believed to be the third of the avatar of Hanuma-Bheema and Madhwa, his works put together are called as Sarvamoola Grantha. The 250-odd manuscripts contain all the 39 works of the Acharya and they are in Tulu.
Handwritten by Hrikesha Theertha, the manuscripts are in the Palimaru Matha at Palimaru, 7 kms from Udupi. The matha is adjacent to the serenely flowing Shambaavi river.
The matha is as old if not slightly older than the grantas. The main deity of the matha is Kodanda Rama with Seetha and Lakshmana. These idols were gifted by the Acharya himself to Hrikesha Theertha when he made him the founder-pontiff of the Palimaru Matha.
Hrishikesha Teertha (1250-1330 AD) is the first among the eight seers of the Asta Mathas to be ordained into the Dwaitha order. That is why the cycle of Paryaya system for
Krishna pooje begins with this matha.
The Sumadhwavijaya mentions that Hrishikesha Teertha was one of the favorite disciples of Madhwacharya. He used to read out the verses of Bhagavatha during discourses by the Acharya.
He is the author of “Sampradaya paddati” and “Anumadhvacharita” both of which deal with the early life and works of Madhwa.
Since he was a favourite of the Acharya, he was given the name Astotkrsta.
The Sampradaya Paddathi is a work in 26 verses. This is perhaps the first work or among the first few works on the Acharya and his texts.
In the Sampradaya Paddathi, Hrikesha Theertha refers to the Sanyasa given by the Acharya to his brother Vishnu Theertha. He also talks about Madhwacharya asking Vishnu Theertha to keep his works in safe custody and to retrieve them at a later date.
We owe to Hrikesha Theertha the information that Padmanabha Theertha was a native of Karnataka. The seer acknowledges that Padmanabha Theertha played a vital and important role in spreading Dwaitha thought and philosophy in north Karnataka and Bombay Karnataka areas.
The Madhwa Vijaya calls Padmanabha Theertham the “Guru of Karnatakas and other good men”.
He has personally made a copy of Sarvamoola Granthas in Tulu script on palm leaves even as the Acharya dictated them in Sanskrit. The manuscripts were copied on to silicon wafer to preserve them for posterity.
The manuscripts are housed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Palimaru Math and worshipped by successive pontiffs. These manuscripts first saw the light of day when Bannanje Govindacharya, noted Sanskrit and Kannada scholar, persuaded the then Palimaru Math pontiff Vidyamanya Tirrtha to publish them.
Mr. Govindacharya, who edited and printed the works, has clarified that the Acharya wrote 39 and not 37 works.
These manuscripts were digitalised along with the digitilisation of more than 2,000 volumes of palm leaf manuscripts belonging to Sode Vadiraja Mutt of Udupi, which are between two and three