Ashta Matha

Madhva established the Krishna temple at Udupi and entrusted the worship at the temple to eight ascetic disciples each of whom were first heads of the eight monasteries called Ashta Mathas of Udupi.

According to tradition, Madhvācārya is believed to be the third incarnation of Vāyu (Mukhyaprāna) after Hanuman and Bhīma and is believed to have disappeared from vision when he was seventy nine years of age.

The Acharya did not earn any huge establishment or property for his matha (monastery). All the property that he left as legacy to his disciple-pontiffs was just a casket for keeping the deities of daily worship, a staff and a piece of cloth hanging from shoulders like a bag to receive alms (jolige). Later, the mathas took better shape as the number of their devout adherents became more and more. Below is a broad sketch of the Madhva-mathas now existing. The main icon of Lord Krishna at Udupi was established by Madhvacharya. The number of mathas (monasteries) which came into being in Udupi itself, yoked to the responsibility of Krishna-worship is eight (Ashta Mathas). They are Krishnapura, Pejavara, Puttige, Sodhe (Sondhe), Kaniyooru, Adamaru, Shirur and Palimaru. He also gave icons of deities to all his disciples for daily worship. The ones in Ashta Mathas are in brackets. Other Mathas too have idols worshipped by Acharya himself.

1. Palimaru matha (Sri Rama)

2. Adamaru matha (Sri Krishna)

3. Krishnapura matha (Sri Krishna)

4. Puttige matha (Sri Vitthala)

5. Shirur matha (Sri Vitthala)

6. Sodhe matha (Sri Varaha)

7. Kaniyooru matha (Sri Narasimha)

8. Pejavara matha (Sri Vitthala)

It is a local custom to call the mathas after the names of villages where the original gifted properties of the matha are situated. Thus the matha which had its property in the village Palimaru is now called Palimaru-matha. The older name of the Sode-matha was Kumbhasi-matha. Later on, in the time of Vadiraja, when the matha was established at Sode in North Kanara, it became famous as Sode- matha.

The mathas in Karnataka which were developed by Sri Padmanabha-tirtha, Narahari-tirtha, Madhav- tirtha and Aksobhya-tirtha are eight:

09. Uttaradi Matha

10. Sosale Vyasaraya-matha

11. Kundapura-Vyasaraya-matha

12. Raghavendra-matha

13. Sripadaraja -matha

14. Madhava theertha -matha

15. Kudli-matha

16. Balegaru (Banagara)-matha

For the first four mathas (9 to 12) the founder-pontiffs are common, viz from Padmanabha-tirtha to Aksobhya-tirtha. A traditional branch of Vyasaraya-matha itself came to be established at Kundapura in the district of South kanara and came to be termed Kundapura-Vyasaraya- matha.

A branch of the matha founded by Padmanabha-tirtha became Mulubagilu-matha. Sripadaraja (alias Srilakshminarayana-tirtha) who was one of the pioneers of dasa-literature and the preceptor of Vyasa-tirtha was one of the illustrious pontiffs who illumined the tradition of this matha.

Madhava-tirtha established a matha at Majjige-halli which developed into an independent branch. In the same way, two branches of Akshobhya-tirtha grew into independent mathas at Kudli and Balegaru.

Apart from these, there are four more mathas in the Tulu region:

17. Subramanya-matha

18. Bhandarkeri-matha

19. Bhimana-katte-matha

20. Chitrapura-matha

The Subramanya-matha has grown out of Vishnu-tirtha's line itself. It is said that the line of disciples under the pontiff Acyuta-prajna, who in turn was the guru to initiate the Acharya into samnyasa, branched into two lines, one at Bhandarkeri and the other at Bhimanakatte. Bhandarkeri is located some 20 km north of Udupi in Barakuru. Though Bhimana-katte (Bhima-setumunivranda) is also a matha of Tulu region, its original sourcehead is a place called Bhimanakatte on the Tirthahalli-Shimoga road. According to folk-tradition, the Chitrapura-matha is only a branch of the Pejavara-matha. This matha is situated at Citrapura, some 35 km away from Udupi on the Udupi-Mangalore highway.

Two more mathas of Gauda Sarasvata Brahmanas who illuminated the Madhva school are quite famous:

21. Kashi Math - Partagali - Jivottama Math

22. Kashi Math

The original locale of Gokarna-matha is Gokarna. Later, pontiffs of this line started a matha in Partagali (Madagaum - Mathagrama). After one of its celebrated pontiffs, Jivottama-tirtha, the matha also came to be called Jivottama-matha. According to the traditional list of pontiffs in this matha, its founder pontiff is reckoned as Sri Narayana-tirtha who had his initiation into samnyasa from Sri Ramachandra-tirtha, the tenth pontiff of palimaru-matha at Udupi.

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