Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brief life sketch of Sri Chandrashekara Saraswathi Mahasvami – 03

Hare Krishna Friends,

Let us continue from where we stopped previously.

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A few concerned devotees had petitioned the District court that the Administration of the Mutt should be taken up by the court while Swamigal was a minor and until he reached the age of twenty one. Even though there was not enough property in the Mutt to be administered, the court considering the benefit of the Mutt, ordered the Mutt to be administered under the “Guardian and Wards Act”. On the day of Sankara Jayanthi in the year 1915, the Acharya took over the Administration of the Mutt on the completion of his 21st year and streamlined it. The Sankara Jayanthi celebration in the year 1915 was celebrated in a grand manner with devotees pouring in from all parts of the country. The Acharya arranged for the publication of the History of the Mutt in various languages. He got the leading Epigraphist, Sri. T.K. Gopinath Rao to examine the centuries old copper plates, and other artifacts relating to the Mutt, collate it into a book and publish the same.

The Acharya arranged for the erection of suitable Adhishtanams for his Guru and Paramaguru at Kalavai where he was initiated into the Sanyasa order. Even at the young age of 23, he loved academic discussions with pursuit of knowledge. He convened a Vidwat Sabha and conferred titles on scholars. He arranged essay competition on Dharma for students. Deserving students were given scholarships. An Ayurvedic dispensary was started by Swamigal in those days with the aim of providing free health care to the poor and needy. Swamigal had respect for any religion that accepted in the supremacy of God. He was of opinion that everyone should follow the scriptures and sayings of their own religion. His acceptance of all religions and broad mindedness was well known amongst other leaders.

He strongly believed in the cultural unity of Bharath, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. He showed serious concerns for the country to become free from foreign rule. In 1918 when Khadi cloth was propagated under Mahatma Gandhi’s swadeshi scheme, the Acharya himself switched over to Khadi for the rest of his life.

The Acharya started his first Vijaya Yaatra in 1919 to visit holy places, take dip in holy waters and grant audience to his devotees around India.

(I am reminded of a story here. Not able to recollect where this is quoted though. It is true that folks like us take a dip in the holy waters and wash off our sins. Unfortunately, the river/theerth retains some of our sins. How is this cleansed? This is cleansed when Jivanmuktas take a dip in the water? They purify the water which has been polluted by so many sinners and make it holy again……Probably this is the reason why Mahans like Kanchi Mahasvami and Sringeri Acharyas go on holy pilgrimage.)

He traveled initially in a simple palanquin. Later he switched over to Pada yaatra totally, till the end of his life. He thought of touring through the entire south of the country, go to Rameshwaram and there make the sankalpa (resolution) to visit the sacred Varanasi. It was a long and strenuous tour but it was supremely worthwhile because of the opportunities it gave to people allover the country to meet the Acharya and receive his blessings. The Paramaguru camped at various places during the course of his travel blessing the disciples, irrespective of their caste or creed. He used to strictly observe the various rituals like Chaturmasya (during the Chaturmasya, coinciding with the rainy season in India, sanyasins must stay at one place so that no harm may be caused to insects and other creatures by treading on them, when they come out in the rain), Vyasapuja, Navarathri Puja and others.

In the year 1921, Swamigal repaired to Patteeshwaram (a village in Tamil Nadu) for a sacred bath in the Mahamagham tank in Kumbakonam on the Mahamagham day, coinciding with the Kumbhamela of North India. The Madras Muslim Youth Association sent 200 volunteers to help the large gathering of devotees. In appreciation of their service, the Acharya gifted a silver cup to them.

Swamigal reached Rameswaram, traveling via Uppur, Devipatnam etc. To visit Rameshwaram, he dared to cross the 3km long rail bridge by foot. There was no road bridge at that time (I think taking a boat to cross the sea is a taboo for the Acharyas). The authorities of the temple, priests and hereditary Pandas gave a grand welcome to Swamigal (what a beautiful way to express National Integration, the Priest in Rameshwaram is a Panda from Uttar Pradesh, the Chief Priest in Kedarnath is a Nambudri from Kerala. There are many more instances like this.). He had Darshan of Sri Ramanatha and Devi Parvatavardhani in the temple. At Sethu, he gathered sand from the sea for immersion in river Ganga which he reached 12 years later, a tradition rooted in the physical, psychic and religious tradition of this country.

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We will continue with the narration the next day.

Hari Om,


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