He is the saint who installed the idol of Sri Krishna at Udupi in Karnataka. The Philosophy he preached was previously known as ‘Tattawavada’. Now it is known as ‘Dwaita’. He lived seven hundred years ago. He boldly said to a Muslim king: “By whatever name you may call, God is One.”He maintained that one’s religion is not decided by birth but by his nature and personality. The Acharya’s knowledge, scholarship and achievements made him a great savant.
Madhvacharya (1238–1317 CE), also known as Purna Prajna and Ananda Tirtha, was the chief proponent of Tattvavada “Philosophy of Reality”, popularly known as the Dvaita (dualism) school of Hindu philosophy. It is one of the three most influential Vedanta philosophies. Madhvacarya was one of the important philosophers during the Bhakti movement. He was a pioneer in many ways, going against standard conventions and norms. According to tradition, Madhvacarya is believed to be the third incarnation of Vayu (Mukhyapraṇa).
Madhvacarya was born on the auspicious day of Vijaya-daśami (Dussehra) in 1238 CE (AD) at Pajaka, a tiny hamlet near Uḍupi. Narayana Panditacarya who later wrote Madhvacarya’s biography has not recorded his parents’ names. Traditionally it is believed that Nadillaya Narayaṇa Bhaṭṭa as name of the father and Vedavati as Madhvacarya’s mother. They named him Vasudeva at birth. Later he became famous by the names Purṇa-prajna, Ananda-tirtha and Madhvacarya.
Before the birth of Madhva, when his parents had gone for a purchase in the market, a beggar climbed a dhvaja stambha (flag-post in front of a temple) and announced: “Bhagavan (Lord) Vayu deva is going to take birth for the revival of Vedic dharma in Pajaka kṣetra to a couple.” The prediction made by the beggar was discussed by the parents of Madhva till they reached home.
Even as a child, Vasudeva exhibited precocious talent for grasping all things spiritual. As an incarnation of Mukhyaprana this was not new for him. He was drawn to the path of renunciation and even as a boy of eleven years, he chose initiation into the monastic order from Acyuta-Prajna (also called Acyuta Prekṣa), a reputed ascetic of the time, near Uḍupi, in the year Saumya (1249 CE). The preceptor Acyuta Prekṣa gave the boy Vasudeva the name of Purṇaprajna at the time of his initiation into sannyasa (renounced order).
A little over a month later, little Purṇaprajna is said to have defeated a group of expert scholars of Tarka (logic) headed by Vasudeva-paṇḍita. Overjoyed at his precocious talent, Acyuta Prekṣa consecrated him as the head of the empire of Vedanta and conferred upon him the title of Ananda Tirtha (saint of immaculate bliss).
Thus Purṇa-prajna is Madhva’s name given to him at the time of sannyasa (renunciation). The name conferred on him at the time of consecration as the Master of Vedanta is “Ananda Tirtha”. Madhva, a name traceable to the Vedas (Balittha suktam), was the nom de plume assumed by the Acarya to author all his works. Madhvacarya showed that Vedas talk about him as “Madhva” and used that name for himself. However, he used Ananda Tirtha or Sukha Tirtha also to author his works. Madhvacarya was the name by which he was to later be revered as the founder of Tattva-vada or Dvaita-mata.