By Swami Harshananda
Narahari Tirtha lived in A. D. 1250-1335. Among the four chief disciples of Madhvācārya, Narahari Tīrtha was the third. Known as Svāmiśāstri in his pre-monastic days, he was an officer of the kings of Kaliṅga of the Gajapati Dynasty. When Madhvācārya visited the kingdom, it was Svāmiśāstri being the most learned among the court pundits, who had to face him in philosophical disputation. Being vanquished by him, Svāmiśāstri as per the original covenant, renounced the world and became a sanyāsin disciple of Madhvācārya, assuming the monastic name ‘Narahari Tirtha.’ He stayed back in his place, obeying the injunctions of his guru.
When the royal dynasty was about to collapse due to the death of the young king and the kingdom plunge into chaos, he assumed the reins of the king and ruled very efficiently until the heir-apparent came of age, to take over. As per the desire of Madhvācārya, he secured the beautiful images of Sītā and Rāma from the new king and returned to Uḍupi to join his preceptor. It is said that Madhvācārya worshiped the images for 80 days and then bequeathed the same to Padmanābha Tīrtha, the first of the four disciples. Narahari Tīrtha became the abbot after the demise of Padmanābha Tīrtha, in A. D. 1324.
Narahari Tīrtha was a great scholar in Sanskrit and Dvaita Vedānta. He was also a poet in Kannada language. His songs in Kannada have the aṅkita ‘Raghupati,’ though, sometimes, he has used his real name itself. He wrote a ṭippaṇī on the Brahmasutrabhāsya of Madhvācārya. He is reputed to have written an independent commentary on the Bhagavadgitā. Some of the other works referred to by other writers as his are:
- He lived in A. D. 1238-1317.
- Kaliṅga is present Orissa.
- Aṅkita means assumed title.
- Tippaṇī means brief notes.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore