Ashta (eight) Mutts of Udupi, governing the affairs of Srikrishna temple have a history of over 850 years and so do the controversies. From the fist known controversy of poet saint Kanakadasa being denied entry into Sri Krishna temple to the latest row over ‘Vitla Pindi’ or ‘Krishna Leelothsav’ celebrations, that erupted a week ago, Udupi Ashta Mutts court controversies at an ease that makes even the most controversial politician look pale in comparison.
It has been a tradition in Udupi to hold Vitla Pindi celebrations, on the next day of Srikrishnastami. As per tradition, on the Vitla Pindi Paryaya Mutt, which is at the helm of affairs of Sri Krishna Temple for the past two years, shall conduct rathothsava and hold activities marking the childhood of lord Krishna and distribute prasadam to the devotees. For the first time in history of Srikrishna Temple, two separate ‘Mruthika Mutrthi’ (clay idols) of lord Krishna were worshipped and carried around the Car Street near Krishna Temple in separate (raths) chariots. Laxmivara Theertha swamiji of Shiroor Mutt virtually stole the thunder by organising a parallel Vitla pindi celebrations just 15 minutes ahead of official Vitla Pindi celebrations organised by Paryaya Sode Mutt pontiff Vishwa Vallabha Theertha Swamiji.
Devotees ended up witnessing an unusual spectacle of back-to-back festivities including breaking of hanging pots and distribution of ‘chakkulis’ as ‘prasadam’. The event is seen as an act of revenge by Shiroor pontiff Laxmivara Theertha Swamiji on being ignored for ‘Arghya Pradhana’ held on the eve of Srikrishnastami celebrations.
While Paryaya Sode Mutt thought it best not to respond to the new controversy and perhaps fight back at the right time, Shiroor Mutt pontiff justified the parallel event by describing that Lord Krishna appeared in his dream and instructed him to organise the ‘Utsava’ (parallel). “Last night I had a dream. In the dream lord Krishna appeared and told me to offer a separate rathothsava on the Vitla Pindi. Accordingly, I am offering a rathothsava now,” he said. The controversy yet again exposes the rift between the ashta mutts deeply divided over bloated egos and traditional beliefs.
Why unity eludes ashta mutts ?
The visionary Vadiraja ushered in the biennial system of ‘paryaya’ to retain unity among Ashta Maths. However, this very system has become the bone of contention for the seers. Every paryaya is associated with one or the other controversy.
Having renounced a materialistic life and embraced asceticism, most seers face flak for encouraging nepotism. Monks are also expected to sever all ties with their previous pre-monastic life. But in reality it is the brothers, fathers or members of their family who run the administration.
In Sode Mutt it is pontiff’s father who is ‘Diwana’, a position equivalent to present day manager or Administrative Officer. In Shiroor, Pejawar, Putthige and Palimaru Mutts, the day-to-day affairs are managed by their brothers acting as administrative Managers. The nepotism if nothing has exposed the claims of Swamijis as being ‘Parivrajaks’ or ‘Sarva Sanga Parithyagis’ (those who have renounced materialistic life).
Though eight mutts were founded by Madhwacharya- the exponent of Dwaitha philosophy, a consensus on a simple issue as ‘panchanga’ (Hindu almanc) still eludes them. If four of Ashta Mutts follow ‘Drigganitha Panchanga’, the rest have been faithful to ‘Arya Bhateeya Panchanga’. Even Ekadashi (fasting) in eight mutts is observed on different days. Arguably the biggest ever controversy seen remains Putthige pontiff Sugunendra Theertha swamiji’s tour to US.