A great and famous saint who is known as the founder of Karnataka. When people had lost all hope, he provided inspiration to Hakka and Bukka who tilled the people with hope and courage. He adorned the Sharada Peetha of Sringeri. He strove to strong then the foundations of the Empire of Vijayanagar.
Revered Vidyaranya became the architect who shaped an empire. Though he was the Prime Minister of the State, he remained a saint primarily. He wrote with the help of his brother Sayana a treatise called ‘Sarvadarshana Sangraha’ which is of great help to scholars.
Once he held a discussion with Akshobhya Teertha, a great scholar, and expressed his respect for his scholarship. He met Akshobhya Teertha’s disciple Jayateertha in the cave of Yaragola and came under the influence of his work ‘Pramana Lakshana’. He invited Jayateertha to Vijayanagara and took him out in procession on an elephant. Such was the respect he showed to scholars.
Vidyaranya became the twelfth head of Shankaracharya’s Sharada Peetha in 1331 A. D. at Sringeri after the passing away of Bharati Krishnateertha. He was the head of the Adwaita Peetha for fifty-five years and attained eternal bliss in 1386 A.D.
Vidyaranya wrote commentaries on the four Vedas and the Upanishads. He enriched the world of learning by writing works like ‘Panchadashi, Jeevanmukti Viveka’, ‘Anubhuti Prakashika, Parashara Madhaveeya’, ‘Devi Aparadha Stotrd and others. These are celebrated works on Adwaita philosophy. He dealt with the essentials of fifteen Ragas in his ‘Sangeeta Sara’ and thus became the founder of the Karnataka style of music. It is a classical music.
vidyaranya laid the firm foundation of Vijayanagar empire with piety and righteousness as its cornerstones. He guided the kings properly by imparting correct knowledge regarding religion and faith, during the reign of Bukkaraya.
After the death of Harihara, there was a conflict between the Jains and Srivaishnavas of Vijayanagar on account of some difference of opinion. Vidyaranya solved their problem at that time. He advised Bukkaraya to call the leaders of both religions and tell them that there was perfect freedom to all people to follow the tenets of their religion as prescribed in their religious books; he had a royal proclamation issued which became the law of the land. It fostered a feeling of tolerance among different religions in Vijayanagar Empire.
Vidyaranya was a great saint who hard renounced everything. There was a proper blending of both militancy and other worldly approach. After the founding of the Vijayanagar Empire he felt that the mission of his life had been fulfilled. He rid the internal and external enemies, returned to Sringeri and adorned the Sharada Peetha by becoming its chief.
When Vidyaranya breathed his last, he was probably 118 years old. He dedicated his entire life for welfare of the people. And it was his main aim.
What he hated was injustice and tyranny; and what he achieved was fearlessness and willingness on the part of people to respect other religions. Those that wish to serve people must first earn the merit to serve. To achieve anything worthy it is not enough to have strength of muscle only. Along with it we must have purity and loyalty to the cause. Such people should always have before their eyes the ideal of large-heartedness.
Vidyaranya meditated long. He did not ask for personal happiness or power from Bhuvaneshwari. He begged for wisdom and the power to renounce the world. He became a monk. It was not to draw away from human suffering that he became a saint, so that he might reach the highest point of enlightenment. It was to warn the people who had lost the sense of dignity and self-respect so that they might together build a mighty empire. By the time the empire of Vijayanagar was firmly established, he had already adorned the Sringeri Sharada Peetha as its head. He made over the merit of his tapas to the newly founded empire and guided the Kings in the proper administration of the empire. He made the Kings understand that they should administer the State with the sole object of the welfare of the citizens at heart. He guided the people also to give up hatred and jealousy. He gave a very good support for all the learned people. Through this work he also learnt many things. He became the true devotee of Sharada. In reality he was a saint only so far as his personal life was concerned and practiced renunciation, clean life, loyalty and fidelity to his religion. But in public life he joined hands with kings and Common men to work for the welfare of the People.
People of Karnataka have shown their respect for this great saint and founder of Vijayanagar by installing his idol in the temple of Virupaksha in Pampakshetra (modern Hampe).
Even today we can see this statue of Vidyaranya in the temple of Virupaksha at Hampe.