Question: Recently I visited a house who happen to be my far relations and I saw a deity of Sri Ragevendra Swamiji. I did not asked them any questions at the time. I would like to use this forum to find out if Srila Prabhupada has mentioned anything about Sri Ragevendra Swamiji.

Regarding your question about Sri Raghavendra Swami, Srila Prabhupada does not mention him, but he is a bonafide acharya and saint of the Madhva sampradaya. Today he has become a popular guru in South India, but practically no one knows or cares what he actually taught. His true teachings are that we should all surrender completely to Krishna, as Sri Madhvacharya had taught before him. Their philosophy is based on nine “prameyas” or philosophical foundations, beginning with sri vishnu paratamam – “The vishnu-tattva is the supreme absolute truth.”

Sri Raghavendra was the greatest author and preacher in the line of Madhva in the last 500 years. He wrote countless books establishing Krishna as the Absolute Truth. He gave special stress to the chanting of the names of Krishna, and in particular he recommended the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

While he was present in the world, he performed many miracles, including bringing the dead back to life. After completing his preaching work, he chose to enter “jiva-samadhi”, where a saint is buried in his samadhi while still living. Before entering the samadhi he told his disciples he would live physically for 100 years, in his books for 300 years, and in his samadhi for 700 years. He ordered his disciples to place 1,008 shalagrama shilas on top of his head, and then cover him with dirt. Till this day Sri Raghavendra is still living within the samadhi in mantralaya. He has manifested himself to many people, including a British government officer who came to confiscate the ashram’s lands. This instance was recorded by the British officer in the government gazette at the time.

The scriptures establish Sri Raghavendra as a partial incarnation of Bhakta Prahlada, the great devotee of Sri Narasimha Avatara. You will find in Raghavendra temples, the utsava murti (festival deity) is not of Raghavendra, but of Bhakta Prahlada. The main “deity” will be a replica of his samadhi (called a Brindavana) with dirt taken from the original samadhi in Mantralaya. In front of this will be a deity of Bhakta Prahlada. They treat the samadhi as the body of Sri Raghavendra and bathe, dress, and apply twelve tilaks to it just as we do to our body.

Devotees of Sri Raghavendra pray to him with the following mantra:

pujyaya raghavendraya
satyadharmarataya ca
bhajatam kalpavrikshaya
namatam kamadhenave

Sri Raghavendra is like a kalpa-vriksha (a desire fulfilling tree) for he always takes care of his devotees’ spiritual needs.