My experiences with the Paramacharya
My first Darshan of His holiness was in 1921 in my native village Vatarangam near Sirkali. I was then eight years old and the Paramacharya Himself was about 28. Many elders in the village were surprised that such a young Sanyasi could be the Head of an important Pitham like the Kanchi Kamakoti Math. The Paramacharya was observing Chaturmasya in a nearby village and used to come to the Kollidam river every morning for His bath. His paraphernalia including an elephant used to come with Him and I remember that His Holiness had Bhiksha in one of the houses in my street.
After my village was totally washed away by floods in the Kollidam we shifted to Kumbhakonam where I had my schooling. The Kamakoti Math was in the Math street and as school boys we used to have glimpses of the Paramacharya, always pouring over some book. The Paramacharya's purvasrama brother, known as Sivan, was running a photo studio next to the Math. He is now living in Madras as an ascetic and his book "Enipadigalil Maanthargal" (Men in the runs of the Ladder) published in 1987 is a remarkable document.
About 15 years ago, I and Sri Maganti Suryanarayana Pantulu of Vijayawada, and ardent devotee of the Paramacharya were proceeding to Tirupati when near Nagalapuram, Pantulu suddenly had the car stopped and said that His Holiness was somewhere in the vicinity. True enough, we located the Paramacharya sitting on the floor in a small Vishnu temple in the village. He had arrived there on foot and was conversing with the priest of the temple. After we made our obeisance, He asked me about my native place and when I mentioned Vatarangam He asked me whether I remembered the tree in front of the Siva temple there. I told him that it was a jambu vriksha (Naaval - maram) I had a hunch that he recognised me as the author of 'Sri Tyagaraja Swami Kirthanaigal' for which publication He had sent a Srimukham from His camp at Eluru(1967). Without mentioning this, He asked me to sing a Tyagaraja Kriti and when I rendered 'Sitavara Sangita Jnanamu' in Devagandhari, He asked the temple priest whether he could locate the scriptural text: 'akasa - sariram brahma'. When the latter pleaded ignorance, the Paramacharya Himself repeated the whole passage. He then enquired about Pantulu's welfare and we took leave of Him with a heavy heart.
My meeting with the Sage Kanchipuram on January 11, 1987 was the most unforgettable experience in my life. The genesis for this occasion started in 1983 when a batch of devotees from madras went to pay their respects to the Paramacharya when He was camping at Kurnool. His Holiness spoke to them at length about the services rendered by Venkatamakhi to Karnatic music and desired that steps should be taken to popularize the Gitas and Prabandhas composed by the eminent musicologist. On their return to Madras the devotees contacted me and from December that year arrangements were made at the Music Academy to present papers and demonstrations on the Prabandhas of Venkatamakhi. while Vidushi R. Vedavalli dealt with the musical side of the compositions, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam presented a dance feature based on them.
In the meanwhile the devotees decided to bring out a small publication containing select compositions of Venkatamakhi and commissioned me to produce it. This booklet was released in the presence of the Paramacharya in 1987 on the date mentioned by me above. Many ardent devotees from madras were present at this memorable function.
At the command of His Holiness I spoke at length on Vidyaranya, Govinda Dikshita, and Venkatamakhi and their contribution to Karnatic music. Intervening now and then, the Paramacharya made illuminating comments and prompted me to speak on points not covered by me. He then narrated an incident from the life of Govinda Dikshita in which the latter tried to save a Sthapati from death but found that fate was inexorable. An article written by His Holiness on this subject, but published in the name of Vidwan Ramakrishna Sastrigal, was then included in the booklet.