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The Galaxy of Madhva Vidwans: Dung Association

Ill-will between the Mathas

 

I’ve already mentioned that there were two Madhva Mathas in Mulabagal. There arose a cause for ill-will between the two.

I’ve also mentioned that the Swami of the Majjigehalli Matha didn’t reside in Mulabagal but merely visited it once every few years. That Swami was magnanimous, he was a Rasika, a connoisseur. Not only did he have elephants and horses in his Matha, he displayed enormous affection towards them.

When the Swami stood next to the elephants and ordered, “Ram bol!,” “Sita bol!,” the elephants would raise a loud trumpet: I’ve not only heard about this, but I’ve seen it. The Swami took pride in the supremacy of his Matha.

It was the occasion of preparing to travel to Kolar, the center of the only exam I’ve passed in my life: Lower Secondary. We were about eight or ten students travelling with our teacher on two bullock carts. The village Tambuhalli was nine miles from Mulabagal. Kolar was nine miles from there. The Palar River flows there. Majjigehalli was a mile to the south of Tambuhalli.

Clouds had gathered since the wee hours of the morning on the day of our journey. By the time we reached Tambuhalli, rain was pouring in torrents. I’ve seen that kind of rain only four or five times in my life. It was around eleven in the afternoon. Where would we have our bath and food at that hour? Thinking that we could obtain the facility in the Matha, our teacher went to Majjigehalli and made inquiries. We received a favourable reply.

We disembarked from our carts at the Matha. Inside, the Vaidika Brahmanas were getting ready to prepare food, warming their bodies with charcoal which was burning at three or four spots. To our fortune, it was the Dwadashi (the Twelfth Day of the fortnight). They were reciting the Dwadasha Stotram:

Madhava Madhava sadhaka vande
Badhaka bodhaka shuddha samaadhe |
Nandana nandana Govinda vande
Anandatirtha parananda varada ||

I was intimately familiar with these verses owing to the influence of Madhva Brahmanas in my town. Some boys used to humourously twist the last line as

Anandatirtha paraatanna hodeda || (literally, “Anandatirtha ate rice from an enormous plate”)

“Paraatanna” means an enormous plate full of rice.

We had hot water bath and ate a hearty meal.

Majjigehalli Swami was desirous of visiting Mulabagal. But there was an obstacle.

dung association The Galaxy of Madhva Vidwans: Dung Association DA2-300x221

Pushkarani in Mulbagal

The Raja Beedi—Main Street—of Mulabagal was the Market Street. This street directly faces the Sripadaraja Matha. To the north of the Matha lies the life-stream of Mulabagal, the large Pushkarini (water tank). Travelling westwards on the northern road of this Pushkarini, one reaches the Majjigehalli Matha. The intent of this Matha’s Swami was to take out a procession passing directly in front of the Sripadaraja Matha. This would then proceed in the easterly direction, pass through the Market Street and turn to the North at the end of the Street. Then it would turn westwards, proceed to the north of the aforementioned Pushkarini and finally return to the Majjigehalli Matha.

The Sripadaraja Matha objected to this plan. They raised a din claiming that if another Matha took out a procession complete with music and instruments directly in front of their own, it would amount to humiliating their prestige. This objection eventually reached the courts. I don’t recall which way the judgment went.

Hindus need to constantly bear this episode in mind.

Dung Association

 

Two traditions were prominent in the Madhva Brahmanas in our town: the Vyasa Koota and the Dasa Koota (Koota variously means, “group,” “association,” etc). The Vyasa Koota, like the Vadagalai tradition of Srivaishnavas, held the Veda as the premise. The Dasa Koota, like the Tengalai tradition of Srivaishnavas, held the experiential verses and teachings of the Haridasas like Purandara Dasa as the premise.

Along with these two branches, there was another tradition named Sagani Koota (literally: Dung Association) which flourished for a few years in Mulabagal. Its singular distinction was the strictness of ritual and tradition in the matters of conduct and lifestyle. This branch had special reverence towards fasting on the Ekadashi (the Eleventh Day of the fortnight, typically considered auspicious by Hindus).

That specific day was ideal for dipping buffaloes in the lake and giving them a bath. The adherents of Sagani Koota didn’t take bath before four in the evening on Ekadashi. The reasoning: if one took bath at the usual time, one would feel hungry at the usual time. Additionally, while taking bath, water would enter the body through skin pores and hair follicles and therefore it would be akin to eating food. And therefore further, one had to bear hunger till the maximum time possible and then take a dip in the lake and immediately sit for Puja. It was only then that one gets the fortune of sipping the Tirtha (sanctified water). Indeed, one had to take only Tirtha during Ekadashi.

This was an extreme feature. But there’s something else that’s more humourous. That’s the supreme sanctity of cow dung. As soon as one wakes up from bed in the morning, one needs to take a pinch of cow dung, mix it in water and wash one’s face with it. After this, one needs to apply a bit of mud mixed with cow dung on the forehead (akin to Kumkum). Then, the cow dung-mixed water should be sprinkled on the Tulsi plant to sanctify it. During this process of Tulsi-sanctification, one needs to cover the nose with the dhoti so that one’s breath does not touch the Tulsi plant. Equally, while performing the Abhishekam to the Saligrama and other murtis, one needs to pre-sanctify the Abhishekam water with a pinch of cow dung. In case Tulsi leaves were unavailable, one had to procure Tulsi stem and cut it into fine pieces. These pieces had to be offered to the deity while performing the Puja—of course, after sanctifying them with cow dung. And so, because cow dung was sacrosanct and super-auspicious, the adherents of this tradition came to be known as Sagani Koota.

I haven’t personally witnessed all of these modes of Puja. I’ve heard the details of some of these modes from others. Perhaps there was an element of mockery in such narratives. Indeed, when one treads the path of purity, ritual, sanctity and vows, it isn’t rare to find extremities. The Sagani Koota is one example of such extremity. This Koota didn’t survive for long. It didn’t attract too many adherents.

Today there’s none who can even recall its name.

Concluded

This is the second and concluding part of the English translation of the seventh chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 5 titled “Vaidikadharma Sampradayastharu.” Translated by Sandeep Balakrishna.

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D V Gundappa

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.
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