Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Ganapati Muni: The Man and His Mission

G. Sirama Murty

A. M. A. L. College Anakapalle,

Were it possible for a Vedic Rishi like Vasistha, Viswaamitra or Madhuchchandas to come down to us in flesh and blood and live amidst us in the machine age, how would he look like? Would he be like a Rip Van Winkle in the modern world? Would he be like a fish out of water and cut a sorry figure in all probability? Such questions seem idle now since Kaavyakantha Vaasistha Ganapati Muni, known as Naayana, occurred and proved beyond a shadow of doubt the Aurobindonian thesis that the Rishi is not a thing of the past. Generations to come would certainly wonder whether such a man as Naayana had ever walked the earth in twentieth century. Truly did his biographer sing.1

“Atlmaanusha Gambhira Vismayaavaha Vistaraa Vaanivilasa bhuyista Muner Ganapateh Katha.”

(The great life story of Ganapati Muni is deeply steeped in superhuman significance; is wonderful; is full of graceful play of the Goddess of Speech and Learning.)

Ayyalasomayaajula Surra Ganapati Sastry popularly known as Vaasistha Ganapati Muni alias Naayana, was born in 1878 at his maternal uncle’s house in Logeesa Agrahaaram in the present Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh. He came of a learned family well-known for its traditional learning and worship of the Divine as Mother (Sri Vidya). His mother Suramma believed him to be a gift of the Sun God, Surya, while his father, Narasimha Sastry held that his son was an incarnation of the Elephant God, Ganapati, whom he had seen in a vision at Kaasi, coming out of the idol in the temple of Dunthi Vinaayaka to sit on his lap for a moment and then disappear. Naayana himself believed to the end of his life that he was an Avatar of Ganapati, Bhagavan  Ramana Maharshi, his master, being an Avatar of his brother Skanda. Ganapati believed that he descended to the earth in order to fulfil a particular divine mission. The mission was to free India from foreign yoke and rebuild it on the prestine principles of the ancient Veda which upholds equality of sexes and social justice. He dedicated his life for the upliftment of the unprivileged and under-privileged like the Harijans, serving them both by precept and practise. To him, Mahatma Gandhi was an Avatar or Maitreya. Engaged, like him, in the divine mission of national liberation and regeneration.

He spent his early years mostly at his father’s in Kalavarayi Agraharam, a small village near Bobbili in the present Srikakulam District Andhra Pradesh. He derived much of his traditional learning from his father and his paternal uncle, Prakasa Sastry. He was schooled at the paathasoalaas in Bobbili and Salur. His schoolingwas but formal. His amazing encyclopaedic range of knowledge and reconcile erudition for which he was most famous came to him partly by revelation through his Tapasya and partly by his own desultory studies.

As a child, he was always active and agile, though his physical health was woefully poor. It seems he made a mark not only as a sportsman but also as a marksman. He was a prodigy who mastered all important classics ofSanskrit before he was fourteen. What is more interesting is that he even discovered and perfected his own method of calculation in astrology at the tender age of ten. The method has now been published under the title Ganaka Kanthaabharanam. Though he began to write regular verses at the age of ten, he did not take care to preserve any or his early compositions. He was in the habit of destroying his verses because, very often. He compared them with those of Kaalidaasa, Bhavabhuti, Bhaaravi and Maagha and found them wanting. On account of this peculiar habit of striving for almost impossible perfection and consequent destruction of poems when they fell short of the ideal, the juvenile works of Ganapati Muni are lost to us. A few occasional verses and two little Khandakaayaas Paandava Dhaartaraastra Sambhavam and Sukanyaa Dasra Samvaadam, examples of his early extempore poetry, are all that we have today coming from his early boyhood days. They are enough to give us a glimpse of the mighty poet and seer blest that he became in course of time.

Though he became a guru of his gurus at tender age, though his reputation for predicting the future accurately was very high, though his intellectual precocity was universally recognized to be extraordinary, Ganapati was very much ill at ease because the promise ofhis avatarhood was not fulfilled. There was no manifestation of the Divine in him as yet. He thought deeply of it and decided that he should meditate and practise penance as ancient Vedic Rishis had done for realizing God in their own selves. His rather had already initiated him into the mysteries of Mantrasaastra and he had daily been chanting Mantras like Panchaakshari, Medhadakshinaa murty, Naaraayanaastaakahari, Sauraastakshari, Bala, Maatangi, Bhuvaneswari, Shodasi in all sincerity and devotion as enjoined by the Saastras. He was seriously thinking ofleaving his home in search of suitable places for worship and meditation when his father proposed that he should marry. Ganapati hesitated for a while, thinking that marriage would be an insuperable obstacle in the path of his spiritual progress and self-realization. Ultimately, he concluded that it was possible to achieve a harmony between the temporal and spiritual values and interests, and that celibacy and renunciation were not at all necessary for self-realization in the Hindu scheme of life. Soon he got married. The philosophy of reconciling the apparently contrary facts and values of life and learning remained at the very core of Ganapati Muni’s life and thought. He alone held the key to the mysterious inner harmony which lent a splendour to his life and puzzled his critics making them blind to his real achievement which is Life Divine on this ‘too, too, solid earth.’

During the course of his peregrinations Ganapati visited pilgrim centres like Naasik, Banaaras, Kaanpur, Bhuvaneshwar, Mahendragiri and practised severest austerities described in our Puraanas and Saastras. His Tapas, indeed, was glorious. He had certain mystic experiences at these places and sometimes held communion with gods and goddesses. Notable among such experiences is his communion with the Mother at Bhuvaneshwar, when the Divine Mother administered him a cup of milk-rice-sugar preparation called paayasam.

While he was at Mandasaa in 1901, he came to learn that the famous university of Sanskrit at Navadweep in Bengal had invited scholars and poets of India to prove their mettle in the court to be held under the formidable presidentship of Ambica Dutta. Ganapati Sastry was barely twenty-two and yet he had the audacity to take the gauntlet. In the great battle of poetry and poetics, of skills of commentary and elucidation, of bright banter and bitter satire that followed, Ganapati Sastry came out in flying colours. Nineteen scholars of universal renown, including Ambica Dutta, a betenoire of Ganapati Sastry. signed the certificate of merit and blessed him with the title Kaavyakantha, meaning ‘One whose speech is poetry,’ which since then had replaced his original surname Ayyalasomayaajula. The world knows him only as Kaavyakantha today. With the resounding victory at Navadweep, the whole literary world of Sanskrit lay at his feet. Kaavyakantha became a name to conjure with.

Ganapati Sastry basked in the glory of his poetry for a couple of years. His incredible performances of Astaavadhaana and his uncanny skill in the game of chess became legendary. Surely, his achievements were of no mean order. And yet he was restless. Somewhere in the dark recesses of his heart, he had a lurking feeling that he had not yet attained the highest state of bliss and godhood.

In 1907, Ganapati Sastry was at Arunachalam, discoursing on the Upanishads and the ten Mahaavidyaas when, all on a sudden, it occurred to him that the Braahmana Swamy in the cave of Skanda, who had been practising severe austerities for many years past, giving up speech altogether, might be of help to him. In a flush he realized that he was in need of a guru–a Master–and the Braahmana Swamy might be his guru. The historic meeting of the two mighty minds is a red-letter event in the history of mankind itself. Ganapayi Muni discovered Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi who besides being his spiritual brother and mentor, proved himself, later on beacon to the entire world. Here is a description of the discovery by an authentic disciple of the Bhagavan. 2

In the heat of the afternoon sun he climbed the hill to Virupaksha cave. The Swami was sitting alone on the veranda or the cave. Sastri fell on his face before him and clasped his feet with outstretched hands. In a voice quivering with emotion he said: “All that has to be read, I have read; even Vedaanta Sastra I have fully understood; I have performed Japa (invocation) to my heart’s content: yet have I not up to this time understood what Tapas is. Therefore I have sought refuge at your feet. Pray enlighten me as to the nature of Tapas.”

The Swami turned his silent gaze on him for some fifteen minutes and then replied: “If one watches whence the notion ‘I’ arists, the mind is absorbed into that; that is Tapas. When a Mantra is repeated, ifone watches the source from which the Mantra sound is produced, the mind is absorbed in that; that is Tapas.”

It was not so much the words spoken that filled him with joy as the grace radiating from the Swami. With the exuberant vitality that he put into everything, he wrote to friends of the Upadesa he had received and began composing praises of the Swami in Sanskrit verse. He learnt from Palaniswami that the Swami’s name had been Venkata Raman and declared that henceforth he must he known as Bhagavan Sri Ramana and as the Maharshi.

Ganapati Muni continued to practise his austerities under the guidance of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. The years he spent in and around Arunachalam were best in his life. He was at the height of his spiritual powers. It was at Arunachalam that he composed his magnum opus, Umaasahashram (A thousand verses in praise of Uma), Harasahashram (A thousand verses in praise of Shiva,) Indraani Saptasati (Seven hundred verses in praise of Indraani), countless Stotras and Sutras. At Padaiveedu he had the Veda revealed to him through his disciple Daivaraata. At about the same time, he experienced the presence of the Divine Mother Renuka and Her celebrated son Parasuraama. With the exception of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa he is the only example of a Jeevanmukta (Liberated Soul) by virtue of the Kapala Bhedanasiddhi in the living history of India. Frank H. Humphreys, a theosophist, who surrendered himself to Naayana, in an article published in London Psychic Gazette, describes the Siddha Purusha that Ganapati Muni was.

It is impossible to describe what it is like to be in the presence of a Master. I did not know he was a Master, but to sit in his presence, though he hardly said a word, and does not know English, was to feel oneself thrilling through and through–to feel new impressions touching one mentally. It was an extra-ordinary experience.

I learned later that he was the first Sanskrit scholar in India, and that is saying something out here where Sanskrit Is the language of the scriptures and every student of wisdom learns it. He knows the sciences inside out, and many languages. You remember how the Apostles suddenly “Spoke with tongues.” Well, there are people here, who have known this man all his life, and they know that until one day, he did not speak a word of Tamil, a very difficult language. Fifteen days afterwards, he was able to give a long lecture in pure Tamil and to read it and write as well as any of the professors.

I asked him how he achieved this feat and he replied, “By meditation.”

He enjoyed the absolute confidence of the Bhagavan. Though he could not see eye to eye with him on socio-economic problems of the day, he realized the truth of his master’s viewpoint and surrendered himself wholly to the will of his Master. It was in the service of his Master that he wrote the famous Ramana Gita, the quintessence of Vedaanta, which equals, if not surpasses, even the celebrated Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutraas in lucid exposition and cogency of thought.

Though he lived entirely in God, paradoxically enough, he could never get rid of his intense desire for national liberation. This desire led him to enter the Indian National Congress if only to quit it shortly for good. In the brief period of his political career, he was the president of Tamil Nadu Pradesh Congress. He played a prominent part in Belgaum Congress which met under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Probably it was during this period that he wrote a constitution for Free India under the title Saamrajya Nibandhanam. With Mahatma Gandhi’s assuming political leadership, he withdrew from politics much in the same way as Sri Aurobindo had done before. He, in fine, got over the illusion that he was destined to win freedom for India, though he directed all his Tapasya for national good only to the end of his life.

After he left the Ashram at Arunachalam, he settled for a time at Ananda Ashram at Sirsi. Now he devoted an his time for the study and interpretation of the Vedas. During his stay at Sirsi and Gokarnam on the west coast of India, he wrote an original commentary on the Rig Veda which, unfortunately, is not available now in its entirety. His critique on the Mahabhaarata is an amazing piece of scholarship. His spiritual quests and conquests could not stifle the creative writer in him. With his novel Poorna, he broke new ground in Sanskrit literature. His lucid prose style alone is enough to capture the hearts of the readers, let alone plot and characterization. It is unfortunate that he left it unfinished. Another work called Poorna Kaadambari, too, is said to have been composed at Sirsi. At the request of the pontiff of a matt, Naayana composed, on the Spot, a hundred verses, called Tattwaghantaa-Satakam, giving brief resume of the Advaita Vedaanta.

Compelled by the pressure of domestic affairs, Ganapati Muni came to Kalavarayi from where he proceeded to Calcutta and Kharagpur at the invitation of a few of his devotees. His stay at Calcutta and later at Kharagpur was far from being comfortable. His health, which had always been delicate, deteriorated rapidly in the uncongenial atmosphere at Kharagpur. Finally, he succumbed to death on 17th July 1936. Even Bhagavaan Ramana Maharshi was shocked to receive the telegram announcing his death. The Bhagavaan burst into tears and said: “Where can we find the like of him? 3

A man of God, he was a god among men. If his ambition was thwarted on political front, his success was not any the less on that account. His enduring poetry and invaluable spiritual conquests eloquently testify to the success of his mission. He hoped for a small success and won a great one. Instead of being a liberator of India, he emerged, in the end, a liberator ofMan. His success was in striking contrast with that of Mahatma Gandhi who, aspiring to be a liberator of Man, ended as a mere liberator of India. The seer-poet is, indeed, a gift from heaven. Let us cherish his memory.


1 Vaasiatha Vaibhavam: T. V. Kapali Sastry Sirsi, 1944.
2 Ramana Maharshi and the path of Self-knowledge, Rider & Co., London, P. 97.
3 “Kaavyakantha Ganapati Muni: A Great Devotee of Bhagavaan” by Viswanathan; The Mountain Path, April 1965.

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