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....

H. H. Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati

Dr. (Miss) S. S. Janaki

His Contribution to Hinduism

Dr. (Miss) S.S. JANAKI

H.H. SRI CHANDRASEKHAREN­DRA Saraswati Svamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitha is undoubtedly the foremost and the most dynamic among the Acharyas of Sankara line­age and one of the most powerful per­sonalities of the present times. It is indeed our privilege and fortune to be living during the times of this epoch­making saint-scholar. Writing about him in 1963. Dr. Albert B. Franklin, the then Consul-General of the United States of America at Madras, said, “His Holiness is every man, and he is as old as man’s ponderings. He is the man of faith, who has given away that he had and follows only his faith. He is a symbol of that re­nunciation which is at the heart of all religions.”

It is no wonder that the lowliest of the lowly, the highest among the high, the clever and the dull, the gen­tleman or the ruffian, the learned or the ignorant as well flock to have a glimpse of the Sage, whatever their purpose may be. And everyone who gets that yearned glimpse goes away with the satisfaction of a great desire.

In this connection it would be interesting to note that on 15th Octo­ber 1927 the historic meeting of H. H. with Mahatma Gandhi took place during the latter’s tour in South In­dia. The meeting was held at a cow­shed in Nallicheri village. H.H. spoke in Sanskrit and Gandhi in Hindi. In their hour-long dialogue, they both af­firmed their faith in a State founded on belief in God and spiritual power. The only point in which H.H. expressed his difference of opinion was on the question of temple entry by Harijans. A noteworthy thing that took place at this meeting of the two Mahatmas must be mentioned. It was getting to 5.30 P.M. As Gandhiji did not take anything after 6 P.M. Rajaji came and reminded Gandhiji of the time. Gandhiji said: “My conversation with Swamiji is my food today!” Swa­miji gave Gandhiji a fruit which was with him and Gandhiji said it was a favourite fruit of his. Following Gandhiji’s principle H.H. always uses only Khadi material for his ascetic garment.

Besides Mahatma Gandhi many political leaders, heads of Mathas, artists, etc., had all en­joyed the benign blessings of H.H. Similarly many distinguished foreign scholars had the privilege of inter­viewing H.H. These include among others, Paul Brunton (author of The Search into Secret India), Arthur Koes­tler (author of works like Darkness at Noon and The Lotus and the Robot),and distinguished Professors in Relig­ion, Indian Culture and Indology from all parts of the world. Whoever it was with H.H., he was attracted to his personality, conduct and scholarship. His beaming eyes which beam a benediction and his inviting smile which casts a spell of intimacy, leave an everlasting impression on all those who have had the good fortune to have his Darshan.


H.H. belonged to a great Hoys­ala Karnataka Rigvedi Brahmin fam­ily, with Kannada as mother-tongue and domiciled in Tamil Nadu. His an­cestors had held offices in the Tanjore Nayak and Mahratta Courts. His grand-father Ganapati Sastri was Sar­vadhikari of the 64th and 65th Sankaracharyas of the Kamakoti Pitha (1835-85). His mother came of the line of Govinda Dikshita, Minister of King Raghunatha Nayaka of Tan­jore. H.H.’s Purvasrama name is Svaminathan.

True to his earlier name “Svami­nathan” H.H. is a pastmaster in many branches of knowledge, languages and disciplines that include Sanskrit, English, French, Marathi, Tamil, theo­retical and practical aspects of Ve­danta and other Sastras, Vedic litera­ture, astronomy, astrology, mathe­matics, temple-studies, music and epigraphy. In his school days he was a star-actor in Shakespeare’s plays. In every branch of knowledge he ex­cels the specialist in the field on ac­count of his uncanny and intuitive knowledge of many things and their subtle aspects, and this is something very extraordinary. The simple and easy manner with which he expresses his ideas on the varied topics to the commoner and the specialist is some­thing unique and typical of H.H.


Born in 1894 H.H. was ordained in 1907 as the 68th Sankaracharya of the Kamakoti Pitha at Kalavai near Kanchi. The Golden and Diamond Ju­bilees of the spiritual ministry of H.H., His Shashtyabdapurti and 71st Jayanti were celebrated in a fitting manner; now we are fortunate to wit­ness his birth-centenary. Of course these celebrations are immaterial to him personally. He is as far beyond the titles and honours of this world as we, on our side, are in need of honouring him, as a way of symbolis­ing our awareness of the reality he represents for us.

It is difficult for anybody to find a tribute in words for expressing one’s admiration and gratitude to­wards H.H. However it is a privileged duty for many of us to look on the life and contribution of H.H. dur­ing the last 100 years and share such ideas with others. I have had the privilege of being closely associated with the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute at Madras for more than 21/2 decades in varied capacities. I value this connection most for more than one reason. Firstly, the Institute is located in the campus of the Sanskrit College, Madras, which is sanctified by the presence of H.H. on many occasions during his visit to Madras since 1932. Secondly, the single hall that houses the Institute since it was started in 1945 is named after H.H. as it was originally the place where he stayed and performed his Puja during his visits to Madras. Thirdly, the large collections of the library of the Institute have been used by H.H. and finally many talks were delivered by H.H. in this vibrant atmosphere which were later published in three volumes under the title “The Jagad­guru’s Upadesas”, and “Acharya’s Call”.

The contribution of the many-­faceted and vibrant saint-scholar through his interviews, talks and his own exemplary conduct to diverse branches of knowledge and to human life itself are vast and varied. The rich information on this subject is avail­able in more than 70 monographs, books and articles in journals. To carry out his teachings and instruc­tions nearly 40 organisations have been set up in different parts of India at the instance or under the inspira­tion of H.H. All these details are avail­able in the special issue of the Jour­nal of Oriental Research brought out by the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute in 1973, as a commemora­tion volume for H.H. on his comple­tion of 60 years of the ministry as Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Ka­makoti Pitha.


We may now see in brief a few gleanings of the unique contribution of H.H. to religion, especially Hindu­ism, through many interesting ways that only H.H. can think of. Some of the modern Western Sanskrit anthro­pologists like Prof. Milton Singer, University of Chicago, U.S.A., have re­marked that they “learned more about the essential foundations of orthodox Hinduism from H.H. than their study of it for two years or more at the universities”. H.H. in one of his interviews, has said. ‘The distinctive­ness of Hinduism does not rest in its philosophy, ethics, or theology, things which tend to be common to all schools and all religions. Hinduism adds to these a hereditary discipline based on family and caste, and the growth or decline of Hinduism is di­rectly dependent on the social disci­plines”.

As a leading Acharya and an ex­ponent of Hinduism H.H. was con­cerned with all religions, and prac­tised religious tolerance throughout his headship of Kanchi Matha. During his first tour of India itself in 1919 he received followers of Islam and Christianity, and also Harijans, and discussed freely religious questions with them; and this attitude is being continued in the present times too.

H.H. had staunch Muslims as his devotees. In 1926 during his stay in Chettinad, when he was going for a sea-bath in a palanquin, a Muslim clung to the palanquin. When H.H. stopped, the Muslim read out verses in Sanskrit he had composed on the Acharya, wept, and told him, that he saw Allah himself in H.H. There was another Muslim who, hailing from a Sanskrit-knowing family, offered to H.H. at Salem in 1927, a set of verses, on H.H. composed by himself, one of which was set in the difficult pictorial design (Chitra-bandha) in the form of Siva-linga. Yet another sincere Muslim devotee of H.H. who contributed for the spread of Vedic studies considerably at Kumbhakonam in an organised manner, was Sri Kamalud­din, a sub-judge during 1961-63.

Repeatedly in his speeches too H.H. has maintained that there is no bar in religion. He felt that only spiri­tual understanding between one na­tion and another, and between rich and poor, would produce good-will and thus bring real peace and prosperity. When some scholars from In­dia and the West were skeptical on this point, H.H. as a great optimist said. “There is still God”.

According to H.H. Hinduism is a “nameless religion” that existed long before the founded religions. The very name “Hinduism” was unknown to our ancestors and is also not known to the common man among us. “Hindu” is a Persian word to denote an “Indian”. Hence it is both a racial and religious term as first used by the foreigners after they came to know of the region of Sindhu. Hence ‘Hinduism’ is both a way of life and a highly organised social and religious system that has come down to us from times immemorial. According to H.H. Hinduism is obviously “the only religion in the world ministering to the spiritual needs of mankind as a whole”.

Time and again H.H. has em­phasised the fact that Hinduism can survive only by the Anusthana, the observance of religious rites of its vo­taries. These practices may slightly differ from one another, but it is pref­erable to perform them sincerely according to the practice in vogue (sam­pradaya)in one’s family or as learnt from an authentic teacher. In order to inculcate the importance of such hab­its in the minds of different types of people H.H. suggested various ways imaginatively. A few of these imple­mented by H.H. during 1940-69 are –  

  1. During 1939-42 he toured the villages of Tanjore, Tiruchi, Pudukkotlai and adjacent areas for organising the Mudradhi­karis’ scheme. In each village or part of a town or major street of a city, a Mudradhikari or a rep­resentative of the Math was appointed. The ideals of the Sangham or Association of these Mudra dhikaris included social service, fostering temple-wor­ship, care of cows, sacred trees and holy waters, reading of Pu­ranas. etc. Over 2000 of these units were established.
  2. Sent a message wilt reference to the communal riot in Bengal and on the forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam and violation of Hindu women by Muslims; H.H. directed that those forcibly converted or violated be taken and honourably received with due expialory rites.
  3. Advice to write out Rama-nama every day and bring or send the notebooks to the Math, and the Math giving or sending Prasada to such devotees.
  4. Started in 1950 more than 100 associations called Vaara Vazhipaadu Sangam for doing devotional recitations, etc.
  5. Adopted steps for the populari­satton of the Ramayanas of Valmiki, Kamban and Tulasidas.
  6. Presented Rudrakshamala to deserving devotees.
  7. Started in 1953 an association for providing funeral arrangements for the dead bodies of the destitute Hindus.
  8. In 1950 gave a message on the importance of the recital and exposition in Margasirsha month of the two hymns of Andal and Manikkavacakar, the Vaishnava and Siva saints, the Tiruppavai and the Tiruvempa­val. Held big Tiruppavai­-Tiruvempavai conferences for eight days, with programmes of recital and exposition of these two hymns which caught the hearts of the people and became most popular all over the Tamil country. The Tamil Siva Maths of Tamil Nadu co-operated with H.H. in this movement. Almost all the leading Tamil scholars, Bhagavatas and religious lead­ers have been taking part in these conferences. The move­ment helped to bring on the common platform of Bhakti the Vaishnavas and Saivas. The printing of these two poems, getting them by heart, their translations and setting them to tunes, singing them, gramo­phone records of these, all in­creased as a result of this movement. A central organisation was also set up for this and registered. In this connection H.H. drew public attention to the most interesting fact that the Tiruvempavai festival was being held every year, to this day at Bangkok, in Thailand. Select psalms from Devaram and Tiruvaimoli were printed and sent to over four lakhs of Tamil-speaking people in India. Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, etc.

Sent Srimukhas and cir­culars on the need for religious practices to legislators,    Con­gress-members, temple-authori­ties, school-managements, etc. and also       distributed pamphlets to the large gatherings during temple-festivals in various     centres. Free copies of Tirup­pavai-Tiruvempavai were distri­buted by thousands   to boys and girls; similarly copies of Bhaja Govindam, epitome of Bhaga­vata,             Avvaiyar’s Vinayakar Ahaval, Tirumuruhaiirupadai, etc.

  1. In 1963 consecrated the Sankara Matha and images of Adi Sankara and his four dis­ciples in marble at Agnitirtha at Ramesvaram. The entire monu­ment is conceived by H.H. with great originality and imagination and is an epitome of Hinduism and Indian culture.
  2. In October 1965 H.H. gave the message through the All India Radio that service to the coun­try (Desa-seva) was on par with service to God (Isvara-seva). H.H. had a lakh of copies of a Hindi Stotra on Hanuman printed and circulated among the Jawans for courage and vic­tory; appealed to the nation to contribute literally to war fund and himself gave a contribution in gold.
  3. In April 1966, H.H. promulgated the Pidi-arici-tittam, of everyone setting apart “a handful of rice”, the same to be collected at a local temple, cooked and offered to God and then distributed to the poor.
  4. In August 1969 H.H. arranged for the distribution of a booklet containing the gist of the Bhagavadgita to all the gradu­ates at the convocation of the Madras University.
  5. Temples, holy lakes and pilgrim­age-centres (Kshetras and Tirthas) abound in all parts of India. They are all loaded with symbolism and are the chief constituent institutions of Hin­duism, and have a unifying in­fluence. H.H. as a specialist in this field has explained the sig­nificance and essence of the above in many of his lectures and interviews. In order to com­municate the ideas to a larger audience effectively, H.H. con­ceived of a new annual confer­ence for inculcating values of Hindu Dharma through the time-honoured means of litera­ture, folk arts and fine arts and the temples. The first of these was organised in 1962 on a grand scale for a week begin­ning on 13th September, at H.H.’s camp at Ilayattangudi in Chettinad, where there is the Samadhi of H.H.’s great grand­preceptor and predecessor. For the first time, Sivacharyas versed in Saiva Agamas, Bhat­tacharyas versed in Pan­charatna and Vaikhanasa Aga­mas, came in large numbers and from all parts of Tamil Nadu and discussed the Agamas and temple-practices. For the first time again, traditional St­hapatis who built the temples and temple-cars gathered in large numbers and discussed Silpa texts and temple-architec­ture and sculpture and the building of temple-cars. Schol­ars came from all over India and outside and spoke on differ­ent aspects of Indian culture in the epics and their versions in regional languages, and on In­dian culture in countries out­side India. In the nights there were demonstrations of folk arts, dance-dramas like Yakshagana, Bhagavatanataka and forms of similar arts from Kerala and Tamil expositions of the epics, etc. The proceedings of the Sadas were later pub­lished in 1963 with numerous illustrations.

Similar informative conferences were held subsequently.


Such is the concern of the Ma­haperiyavaal for the common man and the scholar. Rightly is he de­voutly adored by his disciples and held in reverential esteem by numer­ous others for his scholarship in the Sastras, knowledge of modern developments, for his saintliness and for his inclusive universality of outlook and attitude. He is variously considered as a god-man, an incarnation of Siva, as an intuitive scholar and a superman. He is all this and much more. No doubt he remains the cen­tral figure in the universe, with the greatest consideration for mankind. May we be fortunate for many years to come to continue to enjoy his blessings and elevate oulselves!

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