Paramacharya of Kanchi

Pon Paramaguru, I.P.S. (Retd)

The prestige of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham founded by Sri Adi Sankara on the Vaisaka Sukla full moon day in 481 B.C. in his 27th year, has always been high, because of the sages who adorned it as matadhipathis. But in its 68th Acharya, His Holiness Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvathi Swamigal, the Kamakoti Peetham has got a Matadhipathi acknowledged by all as one of the noblest and finest souls of all times. Ever since he became the Matadhipathis in 1907 he has been guiding aspiring souls from all over the world.

To the devout Hindus, the Paramacharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham is their guiding spirit and many have felt the impact of the `magic' of his personality. Periyaval, as he is reverentially called by his devotees, is an unique personality, who is divine and yet human, whose ministering grace is universal in its sweep, and whose concern is for all. By combining religious authority with reformist zeal, he had endeared himself to countless devotees, Frail of body and frugal in diet many marvel at his ceaseless activities for the spiritual uplift of people through inner awakening.

On his initiative many new temples and temples and prayer halls have been erected in places where non existed hitherto. Old and neglected temples have been renovated.

In 1914 the Acharya, came to Kumbhakonam on the Sankara Jayanthi day he was then 20 years old. He took over the management of the Math. He infused a new spirit into the Math's activities by inviting men of great learning to give discourses. He also established a Pathasala within the Math.

The Jagadguru set out from Kumbhakonam in 1919 on a `Vijaya Yatra', a victorious tour of India, which lasted 20 long years. He went in his palanquin followed by 200 persons, 20 bullock carts, with elephants, camels and horses. He covered most of South India and many sacred cities in Northern and Central India. The devotees in their thousands showered their love and affection on him, who treated all the pomp and pageantry accorded to him as belonging to the Almighty God.

His concern for the poor is unlimited. He never fails to exhort the better placed sections of society to go to the succour of the destitute. He has made the Kanchi Math itself set the example in this direction.

The Acharya has been a strong nationalism even from his early youth. Being a Sanyasi he could not, of course, enter active politics. But in his heart of hearts he supported the freedom movement. He wanted not only the foreigners to go, but also the foreign outlook for our people. He had been wearing Khadi right from the days when Gandhiji gave the call to boycott foreign cloth.

The universal adoration is understandable because of the universality of his mission. The Sankaracharya has always maintained that "The various religious are like the various arches of the bridge, for the good of all. The religions are many only to cater to the different tastes of men. This should not lead to religious fanaticism and hatred."

The Acharya is ever on the alert to discourage attempts to weave stories of magic and miracle around himself. The central theme of all his lectures in `vaidika matam', religion propounded by the Vedas which is not founded by any human being which His Holiness envisions as the hope and succour of the future generations, not only in India but throughout the World.

Those who go to have a glimpse of the Acharya see not only his humility but also his native humour and logical approach. His utterances are always marked by simplicity and restraint, width of inner harmony that is in it measure as absolute as any that the greatest of saints has achieved.

The Jagadguru is that person in saffron robes who places the values of social accountability and personal responsibility at the highest pedestal. He has utmost concern for the unity of family and its role in preserving and promoting values cherished by noble souls everywhere.

In 1951 when I was Deputy Superintendent of Police at Kumbhakonam I had on his invitation the good fortune to meet him and get his blessings. Then at Anaithandavapuram Amman festival, I had the opportunity to address the gathering in his presence.

In 1956, when I was I.G., Pondicherry, the Kumbhabhisekam of Manakula Vinayagar was celebrated. I had the pleasure of escorting the Paramacharya in the midst of thousands of devotees to the Gopuram and witnessed the Acharya performing abhishekam to the Kalasam. Later at Cuddalore during the prayer meeting, the Acharya praised me for safely escorting him to the Manakula Vinayagar temple Gopuram for performing the abhishekam and blessed me. Lastly in 1978, I had the darsan of the Paramacharya at Kanchi, when he very kindly inquired about my welfare, recollecting my past meetings with him and profusely blessed me, which I will ever cherish.

Today at Kanchi the Paramacharya spends much of his time in tapas (meditation) for the welfare of humanity. However, he gives Darshan to thousands of devotees who came from far and near and blesses them. He is the holiest of saints who transcends distinctions of caste and creed.

By any reckoning the Kanchi Paramacharya is an unique phenomenon, not only at his times, but also of all times and his happy Centenary birthday will be a milestone in the history of mankind in its onward march of self-realisation or God-realisation here and now.