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Acharya's Call Part-II
H.H. JAGADGURU’S Madras Discourses
10 Heritage of South India
In the course of my discourses during the past few days, I have been endeavoring to point out that we are the inheritors of the Vedas, the Puranas, the Dharma Sastra and the numerous devotional works both in Sanskrit and in Tamil. Our Nayanmars and Alwars have poured out devotion from the bottom of their hearts and given us works unsurpassed in beauty and in their wealth of knowledge. We have also in our land innumerable temples, the like of which the world has not seen. If we take a census of the places of worship in this world, we will find that India contains more temples than the places of worship in the rest of the world put together. Nearer home, Dravida Desa contains more temples than the rest of India put together. Similarly, in respect of devotional, philosophic, ethical and religious works, India has produced more works than the total output of such works in the rest of the world. In this respect too, Dravida country leads the rest of India and tradition has it that Vedic religion, philosophy and dharma, and bhakti are preserved much more on the banks of the Kaveri and the Tambraparni than anywhere else in India. Great men, in the abundance of their devotion, built temples and also endowed them with considerable properties. In some temples, the quantity of naivedyam (offerings) is in such generous proportion that a devotee can get sumptuous food by paying merely an anna. The Annapurneswari Temple in Cherukunnam (Kerala) will be closed every day only after ascertaining that no one has gone without food. There is a custom there to tie a bundle of cooked rice to the branch of a tree near the temple in the night. This practice is to ensure that even a thief does not go hungry.
It is also noteworthy that there are more devotional books in Tamil than in any other regional language. But it is a matter for regret that many people in Tamil Nadu know more about Milton and Shakespeare now than the wonderful compositions of our own great scholars and saints. If to-day the names of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru are better known in other parts of the world, it is due to the fact that they are the products of a rich and pulsating culture that has been preserved by methods which have won the admiration of the world. Being inheritors of such rich traditions, it is our duty to take steps to preserve all this wonderful heritage for prosperity.
October 15, 1957.