For inspiration and break, many brahmachari monks visit Udupi, a holy town in the state of Karnataka, the Southern part of India, where for over seven centuries celibate monks have dedicated themselves to the worship of Lord Krishna. The Krishna temple here was founded by Sri Madhvacharya who initiated eight disciples into sannyasa, renounced order, and they carried the legacy of worship of Krishna. Each of these eight sannyasis have headed a disciplic line of succession and since the thirteenth century each of these lines have had over thirty lifelong celibate sannyasis serving selflessly.
Inside the Krishna temple complex at Udupi is a small memorial ‘Vrindavan’ where seventy to eighty of these sannyasis’ bodies were placed after their demise. This is one of the holiest places that many celibates visit for prayers and blessings; it’s most inspiring to know that such pure souls served here for decades without desiring anything material. Most of these sannyasis renounced home and material comforts before they were even teenagers and then lived as a renunciate till the age of eighty to ninety. Standing inside the complex fills the heart with a tremendous surge of inspiration; a desire to serve selflessly and not wanting any name and fame or material recognition fills the heart. None of the memorial built has a name on it; most of these sannyasis are silent servers who quietly served the Lord, rejecting the ephemeral glamour and fleeting promises of this material world.
One tomb particularly catches my attention; it has a tiger’s face engraved atop the tomb. This is the tomb of Raghupravira Tirtha swamiji, the twenty third in the line of Palimar Mutt, (one of the original eight founded by Madhvacharya), who lived in the late 18th century. He lovingly served Lord Krishna in the temple and one day was disappointed to find a cow missing from the cow shed. This cow was the swamiji’s favourite and he offered the milk of this cow for bathing the deity of Lord Krishna. On searching it was finally discovered that the cow had been devoured by a tiger in the forest. Disappointed that the cow’s milk wouldn’t be now offered for his dear Lord, the swamiji repented and sat outside the temple fasting as atonement for the disservice to Lord. The news spread far and wide. As people gathered to see the intense penance of Raghupravira tirtha Swami, the townspeople were for a big shock; in the middle of this town, as if from nowhere, a tiger appeared. As people ran in fear and later saw the spectacle from the sides, the tiger walked up straight to the swamiji in front of the temple. This was the same tiger that had eaten the cow a few days ago. The tiger too was affected by the penance and repentance of the swamiji and had felt sorry for having eaten Lord Krishna’s favourite cow. As an act of atonement, the tiger approached swamiji and while offering prostrated obeisance, laid down his life. Everyone was stunned to see a tiger give up his life in atonement. The swamiji came back from his meditation and fasting and resumed his services to the Lord. To commemorate this special event, the tomb of Raghuvara tirtha swamiji has a tiger’s face carved.
Like this there have been over two hundred seventy swamis during the last seven hundred years who have served in the sacred town of Udupi. These souls have performed selfless service and performed many miracles too. But their primary focus has been on remaining in the background and humbly serving.