The Kashi Math was founded in the year 1542 AD.

Foundation of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan

A small vatu entered the yajna mantapa of the emperor Bali of danava vamsha, the traditional enemies of devatas. When the emperor asked him what he wanted, he said he had come there to receive the land covered by his three steps. Shukracharya, the priest of danavas, smelt danger and forewarned the emperor that the vatu was none other than Lord Vishnu in disguise, who had come there to deceive him. In spite of the warning from the priest, the emperor felt so happy that Lord Vishnu had come to his doors as a beggar and promised him to donate the land he had asked for. Right at that moment the small vatu grew to unimaginable proportions and assumed virat rupa. He measured the entire world with one step, the rest of the universe including the sky was measured by his second step and asked the emperor as to where he should keep the third step. Bali offered his head, on which the virat purusha placed his foot, thereby sending him to patala loka. It is recorded that during the measurement of the sky, the toe of the virat purusha (V amana) reached Brahma loka where, Lord Brahma was pleased to receive Vamana (the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and washed the toe with sacred water, which then flowed down the sky and became the river Ganga, who is thus considered to be a daughter of Lord Vishnu and hence became very sacred.
Varanasi, situated on the bank of the river Ganga, is considered as a sacred city through its association with the sacred river. It is also famous because the great Vishveshwara Temple is situated in this city. It was (and still is) a centre of Sanskrit study, where many pundits study and/or teach Hindu Dharma Shastras. One of the Swamijis, Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swamiji of the Kashi Matha Samsthan had spent ten years in this city for the study of Dharma Shastras.
Kashi has been a sacred city for Vaishnavas and Shaivas alike. It has also been a repository of knowledge for the scholars, having a thirst for Sanskrit literature. Scholars who had learnt in Kashi are revered all over India. It is from this city that the present Kashi Matha Samsthan got its name.
Shri Vyasaraya was the Rajaguru of the Vijayanagara Empire. Krishnadevaraya (1509-1530) was its famous emperor. Once Shri Vyasaraya happened to visit an old Brahmana couple in their home, where he was treated as an honoured guest. Being pleased with their service, he blessed them, "Let a worthy son be born to you". With tears in their eyes, the old Brahmana pleaded, "Oh Righteous Swamiji, we are sinners and we are not fortunate enough to have that blessedness. Perhaps it is not in our destiny to have a son born to us. We have already grown old and our clan (vamsha) might get extinguished", and fell at the Swamiji's feet. The Swamiji felt sorry. He thought for some time and pondered, "Lord Mulagopalakrishna made me utter those words and it is up to Him to see that the words come true", and remembering the Lord, the Swamiji addressed the couple, "Do not worry any more. Lord Krishna spoke through me. With his grace nothing is impossible. You will be blessed with not only the son, but two. However, you have to offer the elder son to me. Lord Hari will bless you". The couple's joy knew no bounds. The Swamiji departed some years later, the Swamiji visited them again. Now as predicted, two sons were born to the couple and as promised, they offered the elder son, Vittalacharya to the Swamiji. The younger son, Guruprasada, remained with the parents.
Vittalacharya is believed to have been born in A.D. 1517. Nothing more is known about his parentage and the place where he was born. It is known with certainty that his father was a Brahmana. The young Vittala accompanied Shri Vyasaraya to his headquarters in Vijayanagara, where he was looked after well. This happened around 1522, when Vittala was barely five years old. After performing chowla and upanayana ceremonies, the Swamiji himself taught him Tarka, Vyakarana, Mimamsa, Vedanta etc. Recognizing the development of Bhakti and Vairagya in the child prodigy, the Swamiji initiaged him in 1525 into sanyasa and named him Shri Vishnu Tirtha. This happened when he was eight years of age. (Early in this century, the Swamijis of the eight Mathas of Udupi, founded Shri Madhwacharya, used to initiate young boys into sanyasa. These were balasanyasis).

The education of Shri Vishnu Tirtha was spread over the period 1522-1535. In the meantime (around 1530) Shri Surendra Tirtha of Shri Kumbhakonam Matha visited Vijayanagara to see Shri Vyasaraya (both were brothers in their Purvashrama). Shri Surendra Tirtha was very much impressed by the young shishya-Swami, Shri Vishnu Tirtha. At his request, Shri Vyasaraya offered Shri Vishnu Tirtha to Shri Surendra Tirtha after making him go through the ceremony of danda parivanana, and renamed him Shri Vijayeendra Tirtha. Shri Vijayeendra Tirtha stayed with Shri Vyasaraya for the next five years and then went to Kumbhakonam to join his new Guru, Shri Surendra Tirtha (in 1535). A reference to the offerring of Shri Vijayeendra Tirtha to Shri Surendra Tirtha can be found in a kirtana of Saint Purandaradasa (1484-1564) "Vyasarayara charana kamala darshana dhareyolu Vijayeendra Vadirajaremba parama shishyara padedu merede keeruthiyalli Surendraru putra bhiksheya bede Vijayeedranna karunisi matavanuddharisi .. "

The kirtana composed in praise of Shri Vyasaraya (the Swamiji had given Dasa deeksha and had named him Puradaradasa) says, "You became famous by having great disciples like Vijayeendra and Vadiraja. When Surendra (Surendra Tirtha of Kumbhakonam Matha) begged for a son (a disciple-shishya), you offered him Vijayeendra and saved his Mata".

Later in 1545, a Veerashaiva Mathadhipati of Kumbhakonam challenged Shri Surendra Tirtha to argue with him in Dharma Shastras if he dared. He further stipulated that whoever was defeated should be the servant of the winner. The Swamiji had to accept the challenge. By then Shri Vijayeendra Tirtha had mastered many Shastras and got the titles like Vidyaratnakara, Vidyabdni (Ocean of Vidya), Vidyanidhi (treasure of Vidya) etc. So Shri Vijayeendra Tirtha easily defeated the challenger. As per the terms of the challenge, the Veerashaiva Matha property was handed over to the Kumbhakonam Matha of Shri Surendra Tirtha. A reference to this is found in Epigraphia Indica (Vol. 12, 1913-14, p. 340) as follows:

"Vijayeendra Tirtha was one of the most famous of the Madhva Acharyas. Nothing is known of his parentage or his birth place. Surendra Tirtha of the Purvadi Matha or Sumatindra Matha, the twelfth guru from Shri Madhvacharya, was the spiritual guru of Vijayeendra Tirtha. He also succeeded him on the pontificial see as the thirteenth guru. But Vijayeendra Tirtha, like Vadiraj Tirtha of the Sode Matha, received all his education in philosophy from the great Vyasaraya Tirtha of the Vyasaraya Matha.

"In his purvashrama, he was known by the name of Vittalacharya. He is said to have held the pontificate, according to the list preserved in the Raghavendra Swami Matha, for a period of 55 years, 5 months and 16 days from Saka 1461 to 1517 and to have died on Jeshta Bahula. He appears to have spent the last part of his life at Kumbhakonam. He is said to have been the master of 64 vidyas (branches of learning), which he employed in vanquishing a great Veerashaiva Guru, who had a large following and who had his Matha at Kumbhakonam. The condition under which this philosophical wrangle took place was that if the Veerashaiva Guru succeeded, the Madhva Acharya should join him with all his followers; and if the Madhva Guru won, the other Guru should make over his Matha with his belongings to Madhva Acharya and go away to the north, never after to return to Kumbhakonam. After an eleven-day discussion, Vijayeendra Tirtha came out successful. The Veerashaiva Guru was obliged to leave the place and retire to the north, making over his Matha and all its belongings to his vanquisher, whose spiritual descendants still enjoy its possession. On the anniversary of this event the image of Vijayeendra Tirtha is taken in procession to this Matha even at the present day (1913-14). When Appayya Dikshita wrote condemning the Madhva philosophy, Vijayeendra Tirtha wrote several refutations of his works. He also wrote commentaries on almost all important Madhva works, such as Chakra Mimamsa, Chandrikodahrita, Nyaya Vivarana, Nayayamrita Vyakhya, Appayya Kapola Chapetika, etc. "

Kashimath Details

The Swamijis used to (and even now) visit various centers where their followers were residing, perform trikala puja (thrice a day), engage themselves in pravachanas (religious discourses), bless the disciples, etc. On receiving the binnahapatram (invitation) from the elders of the community residing in a particular city, inviting the Swamiji to observe the Chaturmasya Vrita of a particular year in their city (such request come from many cities), the Swamiji accepts one. The Swamiji used to stay for four months (now it is reduced to two months or four fortnights) in the city. According to this custom, Srimad Vijayeendra Tirtha of the Kumbhakonam Matha was invited by the Goud Sarasvata Brahmanas of Kochi to observe the Chaturmasya Vrita of the year A.D. 1539-40. The Swamiji had compiled with their wished and had gone to Kochi. During his stay there he drew a plan, according to which he would select a boy form the Goud Sarasvata Brahmana community an initiate him into sanyasa in Kashi, and found a Matha with the young sanyasi as the head of the Matha. The Kochi Goud Sarasvata Brahmana community and initiated him into sanyasa in Kashi, and found a Matha with the young sanyasi as the head of the Matha. The Kochi Goud Sarasvata Brahmanas agreed and the Swamiji selected a suitable boy from their community and after completion of the Chaturmasya Vrita, took him to Kumbhakonam with him for imparting the necessary training and instructions. With the permission of the Guru-Swami (Shrimad Surendra Tirtha), the Shishya-Swami (Shrimad Vijayeendra Tirtha) informed the Goud Sarasvata Brahmana residents of Kochi to purchase some land in Kashi on the bank of the river Ganga. Accordingly, the required land was purchased and a building constructed to house the Matha. It was decided that the shishya-Swami (and not the Guru-Swami who was old at that time) would initiate the by into sanyasa and accordingly, Shrimad Vijayeendra Tirtha set on a long journey form Kumbhakonam to Kashi with the chosen boy and a group of Kochi Goud Sarasvata Brahmanas. When the party reached Kashi, the other group, which had already been there, had completed the building for housing the Matha.
On an auspicious day, the boy was initiated into sanyasa and named Srimad Yadavendra Tirtha. The entire group stayed in Kashi in the premises of the Matha for some time and then returned to Kumbhakonam, visiting various sacred places on the way. The new Swamiji was ceremoniously brought before Shrimad Surendra Tirtha, who presented him two deities, one of Lord Ramachandra (Raghupati) and the other of Vedavyasa as well as a shalagrama for the daily puja, along with other paraphernalia, required for different purposes on the same lines as those followed in the Kumbhakonam Matha Samsthan. Each and every Swamiji of the Kashi Matha continued to worship Vyasa Raghupati and shalagrama from that day to the present one. The present head of the Matha is also worshipping these even today.

When Shrimad Surendra Tirtha gave the deities and other things to the Kashi Matha, he also authorized Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha to prescribe rules for conduct of all religious ceremonies and also the authority to enforce these rules, to imprint Mudras (mudra dharana vidhi) on the persons of Gowda Saraswata Brahmanas and to instruct mantropadesha thereby authorizing them to utter certain mantras such as Om Namo Vasudevaya, etc.

(These functions were earlier done by the Swamijis of the Kumbhakonam Matha Samsthan). This authorization, written on a copper plate and dated Magha Shuddha Panchami of Plava Samvatsara . Sh. Sh . 1463, Saturday 21st January, 1542) is in Devanagari script but in Kannada language. A free rendering of the contents of this copper plate, as reproduced in Sarasvata Bhushana, a Marathi book written by Shri Ganesh Ramachandra Sharma (Pub. The Popular Book Depot, Bombay, 1950, pp. 506-507) is given below:
(The title of Shrimad Surendra Tirtha is given at the top).




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