Master Ekkirala Bharadwaja was born on 30th October 1938 to Sri Ekkirala Ananthacharya and Venkata Lakshmi in the small township of Bapatla in Andhra Pradesh. He lost his mother early in his childhood. His father was highly learned in the ancient Hindu Scriptures – the Vedas and the Shastras. (Sri E. Ananthacharya is the author of several books on the Vedas and the Ayurveda School of medicine. His book in English, The Vision of Aryan Glory (first published in 1938) was used as Indology course material for three years in the University of Hamburg, Germany.) While many would everyday gather around his father to get their doubts cleared regarding various intricate questions on the Vedas, young Bharadwaja appeared to be indifferent. He was adept in cricket. Once when one of his father’s friends heckled him for sitting outside, while others were crowding inside to hear his father speak, Bharadwaja requested him to answer only one question of his, regarding the epic Mahabharata (which is known to every child in India). That one question astounded the man in its penetrating intelligence. He had no answer.
In 1955, Bharadwaja’s initiation ceremony (akin to the Christian baptism) was performed. On that very day his nephew passed away. “The initial heartbreak had left and, in its wake, several fundamental questions arose in him: “Is there a Supreme Spirit? What is its nature? How can we contact it? What is life? What is death? Is there a soul? Why hasn’t man found a way out of death? What is time?” and such others. The search went on unanswered.
In 1959, Acharyaji completed his post-graduation in English Literature. He began working as a Lecturer in English and appeared for the rigorous Indian Administrative Services exam in 1961. The following year, he was declared selected and sent an appointment letter. Much in the vein of prince Siddhartha who gave up a life of power and wealth and later became known as Lord Buddha, Acharyaji also turned down the offer. He became ‘converted’ after a profound spiritual experience at the Samadhi Mandir of Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi (9th February 1963, Shirdi is in Maharashtra, India).
In 1968 he resigned his job (as English Lecturer at Bapatla, Prakasam Dist., A.P., India) and lived at the ashram of a Mother for a year. After that, on a specific indication from Baba he left the ashram and settled in his present job here, at Vidyanagar (Nellore Dist., A.P., India). At first he was very much disappointed with the life here which had stifled his spiritual longings. There was none that shared his aspirations, none to join him in Satsang. Life looked dreary and barren even like the rocky soil here. He yearningly prayed to Baba either to take him to a place where he could have Satsang or to secure it here for him. Within a few months there was Baba’s response in the most seemingly casual manner. A Christian boy, a student, started criticizing me for adoring a human being like Sai Baba. A discussion ensued which went on for days and drew large numbers of students to participate in it. Out of these a small group took shape and decided to have weekly Satsang (devotional or spiritual gathering) on Thursdays for Bhajan. The Bhajan, by the grace of Baba, has been going on for the last nine years without interruption even for one week…Baba’s grace has been manifesting in the most miraculous ways to the participants in the bhajan…”. Indeed, several saints such as Sri Ranganna Babu of Guntur and Sri Samarth Narayana Maharaj of Harihar themselves came to bless the devotees rather than the devotees going to them.
Many such groups sprung up at several places and Pujya Acharyaji began to travel extensively to spread the message of Baba. All the devotees came together and decided to set up the Sai Baba Mission (now Sri Master Universal Sai Trust) to propagate Baba’s teachings and furnish the materials for the same. They elected Acharyaji as their head. Through their united efforts and Baba’s grace, a temple dedicated to Sri Sai Baba came up in Vidyanagar in1981, the forerunner of many others.
In1973, he visited Shirdi to pray for explicit guidance in the matter.The message from Baba was that he should get married and that thereby his karmic ties would be worked out. Pujya Acharyaji entered matrimony with respected Smt. Alivelu MangaThayaru (fondly known to us as Ammagaru) on March 6th 1975. After 1981, Pujya Acharyaji resigned his job and devoted himself full time to intensive research into the lives and teachings of several saints, travelling extensively and personally contacting many of them. He studied in depth seven branches of science and five of the major religions of the world (Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Taoism). In 1983 began the fortnightly magazine Sai Baba. He met personally all those who had been fortunate to have lived with and observed Sai Baba – the man and the master - and recorded their experiences. He also translated many spiritual works from other languages and brought to light spiritual traditions of yore the culmination of all this is a series of books on Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi, Sri Akkalakot Maharaj, Sri Tajuddin Baba of Nagpur and numerous others in English and Telugu.
Since Pujya Acharyaji had himself been an agnostic before becoming a believer, his books such as Edi Nizam (What is the Truth?), Vignana Veechikalu (the Marvels of Science), Matham Enduku (Why Religion?), explore and prove the existence of God in a scientific manner and the necessity of resorting to a Sadguru (the Supreme Master) who can guide us on spiritual and worldly matters alike.
By now he was father of a daughter and son. His dynamic life of spiritual ministration continued undisturbed despite a host of domestic troubles. Many would come to him for succor – spiritual and physical. He used his personal funds to educate many young students with no means and for many other social purposes. Pujya Acharyaji made those who contacted him start spiritual disciplines easily and live richer, purposeful, righteous and peaceful lives. Great stalwarts such as the Christian missionary Paul Reps (Seattle,USA) have also testified as to how reading the life and teachings of Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi have enabled them to understand the Christ and Christianity all the better.
Indeed in the past century India has borne many great men and women. But Pujya Acharyaji’s life and work cannot be summed up. What distinguishes him? His work was not for himself, not just for those around him but is for all the coming generations. The Quest for Truth, which is as hard as treading the edge of a razor, is now for us an open book.
Acharyaji was a realized soul. But, along with his spiritual activities of visiting and taking 'darshan' of saints in remote parts of India, he was belabored on the one hand by the humdrum of everyday existence of writing books, giving lectures, book binding, attending to correspondence, collecting funds etc. and on the other, fulfilling the responsibilities of a family man. Acharyaji's life sets an example for us. His life showed that Realization neither elevates nor eliminates us from the world, but establishes one in fullness, which is evident in all that he did.
To the everlasting grief of his followers, admirers and devotees, the magnificent saga of Pujya Acharyaji’s earthly existence came to an end in 1989. Though he has left his mortal frame, even now He responds to the call of the devotees.
It is now nearly twelve years since our beloved Pujya Acharya Ekkirala Bharadwaja Master attained Mahasamadhi (April 12th, 1989); years in which we have often felt his absence in flesh and blood and yet have been immensely assured, of his response whenever called to, of his sure but remote guidance of our lives. Devotees acquainted with Pujya Acharyaji during his lifetime or through his books would know the story of Pujya Acharyaji’s spiritual quest for truth.
Pujya Acharya Ekkirala Bharadwaja's samadhi mandir is present in His home town Ongole.
(Photo Courtesy:Shri.Suresh Reddy, Ongole)