As we have seen so far, Sri Vidyaranya’s contributions towards nation building, politics, jurisprudence, agriculture and commerce were in no small measure. However, what people remember to this day are his monumental and lasting contributions in the cultural arena.
The Vijayanagara Empire attained great success from an agricultural perspective under the reign of Chikka Kampana. The Vijayanagara administration gave great importance to efficient schemes of irrigation that form the bedrock of any successful agricultural enterprise. A record number of tanks and bunds were built during this era – several of which are being used to this day.
Those familiar with Sanskrit–even an introductory course is sufficient–are sure to know Bhartrhari mainly via reading several shubashitas (noble sayings in verse form). Indeed, almost every other verse by Bhartrhari is a shubashita.
A king of Ujjain, Bhartrhari was the elder step brother of his more renowned sibling, Vikramaditya. His life presents to us a living account of a person’s transformation from a pleasure-loving emperor who had everything at his disposal to a sage who gave us the immortal Shataka trilogy.
A. R. Krishna Shastri, the great savant of Kannada literature, once took a young boy to meet D. V. Gundappa (DVG). The boy, by then, had some articles to his credit. He had even taken a copy of his book for DVG’s perusal. DVG quietly glanced through it, and a whirlwind of questions followed. In order to answer those penetrating questions, the boy had to exhibit his hard-earned, meticulous scholarship. DVG must have been impressed, though there were no visible signs of it, for he moved on to the next topic. It was about a metrical flaw in one of the boy’s poems. Prof.
The Vijayanagara Empire pioneered not only Hindu cultural renaissance but also re-energized administrative, political, and economic conditions of the era. Under Madhava-Vidyaranya’s guidance, time-tested concepts of Hindu polity were brought back into currency along with much needed innovations. So effective was his model that three hundred years later, the famous Shivaji, influenced by the Vijayanagara model, instituted the अष्ट-प्रधान (council of eight ministers) concept for his own administration.
Vidyaranya ensured that different religious traditions of the land were given equal respect while not disturbing the peace in the empire. For a great empire to flourish, it needs more than military and political prowess. Only a robust cultural and social foundation can ensure that the people of a country remain united through troubles and turmoil. If a cursory look at today’s world can show us what kind of profound impact religion can have over a country, it is impossible to not see how religion ruled the worldview eight hundred years ago.
We will never tire of repeating that quote of Vidyaranya from his Panchadashi that amply illustrates how he managed affairs of state as well as those of the Spirit:
ज्ञानिना चरितुं शक्यं सम्यग्राज्यादिलौकिकम्
It is indeed possible for the enlightened one to navigate politics and worldly affairs well
Krishna points out in the Gita (3.21) – "यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठः तत्तदेवेतरो जनः" – that people follow the actions of a learned person. Vidyaranya was definitely one such shreshtha whose life is worthy of emulation though impossible for most people. His life has several gems worthy of adoration and emulation.
Sanatana dharma has upheld the ideal of the 'vanasuma' – the wild flower spreading its fragrance without hankering after personal fame. However, this shunning of fame, while rewarding in one’s sadhana, can cause quite a problem when it comes to historicity.
Vedic traditionalists or Vedics in short, are a community of people who are fast fading into the pages of history. They are the torchbearers of Vedic traditions and have been carrying it forward for generations. A happy, contented life even under poverty has been a trademark of their way of life. Some of their traits include: