Multi faceted genius

In the life of Vidyaranya, one finds an example of genius in multiple fields, including politics, art, culture, dharma, spirituality, social reform etc.

He lived a rich life of over eighty years. His name, taken on after entering sannyasa (monastic order), translates to ‘forest of knowledge’. This provides an indication to his level of erudition. He took monastic vows during the last eight years of his life. He was known as Madhava in his pre-monastic life.

He was one of the visionary leaders behind the creation of the Vijayanagara Empire, which ruled a vast portion of India for more than three centuries between the 14th and 17th centuries. The empire held off invasions and established several cultural, legal and social trends which influence society even today.

Vidyaranya ably advised the founder brothers, Harihara and Bukka, who established and stabilized the kingdom in its initial days. He organized the realms of the kingdom and appointed regional heads from the royal family. He sent four of his own brothers to advise the regional heads.

Vidyranya also commissioned many works of art and literature and himself wrote a number of classic works in Sanskrit which was used as the common language in the multi-lingual kingdom.

In the realm of dharma and adhyatma (metaphysics and spirituality), he left his mark by composing classics such as Panchadashi.  After taking on monastic vows, he became the head of the Sringeri Peetham, a monastic and dharmic institution established by Adi Shankara.

From studying his life, it becomes apparent that his was a life of sacrifice and his goal was to serve in the interest of the general good of society.