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LegaCity : Scholar Venkataramanachar and the miracle on Telugu Brahmin Street

By Rajesh Govindarajulu

Mar 12, 2019

Coimbatore became a part of the Mysore kingdom during the second half of the seventeenth century. The Wodeyars of Mysore had taken over this region from the Naicks of Madurai. The rule of the Naicks and the Wodeyars gave the city a cosmopolitan blend. Streets like the Oppanakara Street ( the tax collector functioned from this place ) and Telugu Brahmin Street became famous in the Pettai region. 

The famous Coimbatore fort had been built during the Vijayanagar period ( The Naicks of Madurai formed the second tier of the monarchy, while the Polygars formed the third tier ). The fort area had a two street Agraharam which housed a number of scholars. Hyder Ali was a capable leader and he took advantage of the prevalent situation and became the suzerain of Mysore. He was followed by his son Tipu Sultan. 

The father and son duo fought the English tooth and nail over a period of 32 years ( 1767 - 1799 ). The four Anglo - Mysore Wars culminated in the death of Tipu Sultan at his capital Srirangapatnam during the year 1799. The English reinstated the old Mysore royal family after taking over most of the Tamil speaking parts of their kingdom. The killing of Dheeran Chinnamalai ensured their continuance and they chose the strategically located Coimbatore as the capital of the newly formed district on 24/11/1804. This day of graduation is being celebrated as Coimbatore Day. 

Diwan Purnaiah ( 1746 - 1812 AD ) of Mysore was an able administrator. He was known as Kriahnamacharya Purnaiah or Mir Miran Purnaiah. The administrator was known for his skill with accounts, prodigious memory, proficiency in several languages and hard work. He served as a war time commander under Tipu Sultan. Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar ( born in the year 1794 and ruled Mysore between the years 1799 - 1868 AD ) was educated and mentored by Purnaiah. The Diwan had governed Mysore from 1799 - 1810 along with the English resident of the East India Company. 

Diwan Purnaiah is remembered for laying the foundation of the sound administrative system which became the foundation for the progressive Mysore state during the British era. Its interesting to note that Diwan Purnaiah was born in Coimbatore. 

Venkataramanachar of the Sowdha family belonged to the Bharadwaja Gothra and the family were ardent disciples of the Uttaradi Mutt. The great Saint Jayatirtha , the author of Nyaya Sudha was a Pontiff of the Uttaradi Mutt. Venkataramanachar was an eminent scholar on all four branches of scriptures - Vyakarana, Tarka, Meemamsa and Vedanta. He had written several treatises on Meemamsa and Vedanta but unfortunately none of the palm leaf manuscripts are available. 

One day, the great scholar went to meet Diwan Purnaiah along with a disciple .The mansion was full of people and people did not take cognizance of the two of them and Venkataramachar chose an area near a room in order to wait for the Diwan. In order to ensure that time was not wasted, the scholar began elucidating on Tattwaprakasika in Kannada to his disciple. He was not aware that the Diwan was having a bath in the room nearby. Purnaiah thus witnessed the scholarship of Venkaramanachar and was enraptured by the subtle manner adopted by him while teaching his student. 

The Diwan had in fact stopped bathing for a while in order to enjoy the words of the scholar. On completion of his bath, Purnaiah came out and invited him to continue teaching, so that the others who had not offered a seat to Venkataramanachar would realize their mistake. The people assembled were taken aback by the scholarship of Venkataramanachar and his skills were extolled by the great Diwan. Thereafter Venkataramanachar was offered a mansion to reside and his mundane wants were met from the state coffers. Purnaiah began the process of supporting learned people, mutts, temples and dargahs at a time when the British had stopped this kind of support. 

The great scholar continued to be humble even after the attainment of success. Quite a few high officials who included Tahsildars and Deputy Collectors used to be at his bedside in order to massage his legs and hands with devotion. Hundreds of disciples were fed everyday in his residence. Diwan Purnaiah passed away in the year 1812 and Venktaramanachar decided to move over to Coimbatore after the passing away of his benefactor. 

He purchased a house on Telugu Brahmin Street and began residing there. The said house had been sold at a low price for it had been haunted. Daily worship and Bhashya Teeka lectures were conducted in the house in an uninterrupted manner. According to sources, one evening at Pradosha Kala, a demoness walked out of the house from the backyard and had stated in Tamil that it was difficult to stay in a house after listening to the sound of the prayer bell and witnessing the flames emanating from the Arti. 

The people of Coimbatore came to know about this incident and the crowd of students at the residence of Venkataramanachar began to increase astronomically. They began attending the classes while also witnessing the daily worship of Lord Lakshminarayana, the family deity. 

The learned firmly believed that Lord Hayavadana must have been pleased with the good work of Venkataramanachar. The sequel to this story is sure to enlighten the people about the grace received by Venkataramanachar thereafter. One early morning, the horse faced deity, Lord Hayavadana appeared in the dream of Venkataramachar and commandeered him to fetch the icon of himself seated on Lord Hanuman for his daily pooja. Lord Hayavadaa told him that he was to go to Udupi and bring him to Coimbatore. 

The said idol had been initiated by the great Saint Vadiraja and had been immersed in the box which contained image of Lord Hayavadana seated on Lord Hanuman in the waters of the Madhwa Sarovara at the Sri Krishna Temple in Udupi. Saint Vadiraja had carved the image on the brass box all by himself. The Lord appeared in the dreams of the then Sodhe Mutt Swamiji and the local Tahsildar at Udupi wherein he stated the exact spot where the box could be discovered. 

Meanwhile Venkataramanachar told his disciples about his dream and they readily arranged a trip to Udupi. Hundreds followed Venkataramanachar and they had to walk or use a boat for modern modes of transport were unavailable those days. The entourage reached Upupi on a good day and on learning about the arrival of Venkataramanachar, the Sodhe Mutt Swamiji and the Tahsildar received him with honours. They arranged for fetching the idol of Lord Hayavadana from the spot indicated in their dreams. 

Everyone was astonished to find the said idol of Lord Hayavadana seated on Lord Hanuman. Venkataramanachar was praised for being the true recipient of the grace of Lord Hayavadana. The scholar hugged the Lord 's idol to his bosom and composed a number of verses in his praise. 

The details pertaining to the story of Venkataramanachar, had been chronicled by D.V.Subbachar in the last quarter of the twentieth century. His maternal grandfather Madhavanatha Sripadangalavaru ( 1834 - 1931 AD ) happens to be the grandson of the hero of this legacity story, scholar Venkataramanachar. The saint was the favourite of the scholar who was his paternal grandfather. Saint Madhvanatha Sripadangalavaru had in fact narrated the story of his grandfather scholar Venkataramanachar to D.V.Subbachar (1907 - 1993 AD).

Venkataramanachar performed Pratimarchana at the temple of Lord Krishna in Udupi. A number of philosophic discussions were held at the moment and Venkataramanachar had expounded details concerning Dwaita philosophy to the audience in Udupi. 

Thereafter the icon of Lord Hayavadana was brought by Venkataramanachar to his residence in Coimbatore. Nyaya Sudha Mangalam was performed to celebrate the arrival of Lord Hayavadana to Coimbatore. The descendants of Venkataramanachar became eminent in Coimbatore and his great grandson C.M.Padmanabhachar ( Advocate ) was a very successful person. C.M.Padmanabhachar ( 1864 - 1919 AD ) wrote a number of works in Sanskrit and English. He co founded the Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Club along with Rao Bahadur A.T.Thiruvengada sami Mudaliar ( 1855 - 1923 AD ) and his friends. 

The city began to flourish as a knowledge centre thereafter.

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