Sri Devi Kamakshi Sri Sri Sri Adi Sankara Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji Sri Sri Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji Sri Sri Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamiji
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The episode of The 'Arrest' of the Kanchi Math!

H.H. Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

When Maha Periyaval1 was camping in Kattupalli, far from the maddening crowd of Madras for four months in 1965, one day some devotees were talking in his presence about the coup which took place in some country and how the soldiers had brought the palace of the King or President of that country under their control by driving away the guards. That night, when Periyaval was conversing privately with a few devotees he remarked with a budding smile, "Do you know that our Math too has been arrested twice?" None of us knew, we were all ears, longing to here an interesting story. His budding smile blossoming wide He remarked, "You know who effected the arrest? Sivaji Maharaj!" Our interest was further whetted and it sharpened our ears further.

"It was a granny who told the story in such details as would put to shame even a scholar-historian. She herself played a role in the story. Even after fifty years of the event, she recounted it to her grand children, without forgetting a single detail. She narrated it as though reliving it", Periyaval said and began telling the 'story' in homely Tamil with His unique histrionic expertise, which can by no means be recaptured in cold print.

It was the time when Serfoji (of the Marathan stock) was the titular ruler of Thanjavur, i.e., the beginning of the last century. There was a dispute between him and paternal uncle Amarasimha Maharaja over the right of succession. The British intervened with their tactics of "the monkey's arbitration'2 and gave the title of Raja (Ruler) of Thanjavur to Serfoji. Though he was called Raja, only the town Thanjavur (with Vallam) came to his hands. Amarasimha was made the dummy ruler of Thiruvidaimarudur. The rest of Maharashtrian Kingdom was annexed to Madras Presidency, ruled by the British.

While the British swallowed up the native States like this, they used to appease the erstwhile rulers by giving huge pensions. Now too they gave such big privy purses to both Serfoji and Amarasimha.

Though these two had their personal differences, both were great scholars and versatile in the fine arts. They extended great patronage to the scholars of the Vedas, Sastras and Scriptures. Serfoji was promoting the Veda Sastras and the Arts from Thanjavur and Amarasimha was doing the same from Thiruvidaimarudur.

When the latter repaired to Thiruvidaimarudur from Thanjavur, many Maratha pandits also came along with him. He also invited the local pandits in the surrounding areas to settle down at his new headquarter, offering substantial grants to them. He held Court with all these scholars.

Among them was a Brahmin belonging to the Hoyasala sect of Karnataka. Govinda Dikshita, the King-maker, who established the reign of the Naiks in Thanjavur and was the Guru and Chief Minister of the first three Naik Kings was also a Hoyasala Brahmin. The above said Brahmin of Thiruvidaimarudur belongs to one of the families of that sect which came from Karnataka to Thanjavur and settled down there in the time of Govinda Dikshita.

There is a Sankara Math in the street facing the northern tower of the temple of MAHALINGA SVAMI at Thiruvidaimarudur. It is administered by out Math. Our Hoyasala Brahmin was performing Puja there. He was also the Mudradhikari (agent) of our Math (which was at the time functioning from the interim headquarter at Kumbakonam) He used to collect the offerings and subscriptions of the people around the Math and to remit them tot he then Acharya3 aboding at Kumbakonam) He used to collect the offerings and subscriptions of the people around the Math and to remit them to the then Acharya3 aboding at Kumbakonam. The Acharya was the 64th in the line.

  1. 'Maha Periyaval' (the Great Elder) or simply 'Periyaval' (the Elder) is the Tamil name by which our Sage of Kanchi is generally known.
  2. The story is that the arbitrating monkey appropriated to itself the dues of both the parties!
  3. Synonym for Guru. The Head of a Math is called Acharya of Acharya Svami(gal). 'Svamigal' refers to any holy man.

The Maratha scholars in the Court of Amarasimha used to hold the family of that Brahmin in high esteem, as he was the local priest of the Sri Math as also the Mudradhikari of our Sri Math. Because of this relationship, even the children in his family (with Kannada as the mother-tongue) used to talk fluently in Marathi. As the family had settled down in TamilNadu for many generations past, they were quite familiar with Tamil language and the local traditions.

It is the custom to beat the drums at the beginning of the morning Puja at the Math. Its sound will reach Tiruvidaimarudur which is five miles to the north east of Kumbhakonam. On hearing it, the Brahmin used to leave for Kumbhakonam daily.

There is something interesting about the beating of the drums in our Sri Math, Two types of leathern instruments, nagara and tanka were used in the Math. The nagara was about two feet in diameter and resembled the iravai-saal, the semi-spherical iron bucket used in irrigation. The tanka was a smaller one, one feet in diameter. Both were played upon with the stick. In addition, there was a pair of cymbals. A particular family was dedicated to playing these instruments in perfect rhythm and pitch. You will be surprised to know that they were Muslims! They spoke Hindustani and Urdu. It was the ruler of Udaiyarpalayam very devoted to the Math, who had sent these Muslims to the Math. During the Acharya's grand processions it was the same Muslims who served as the horse guards.

At the time when our story happened, there was a mandapam (raised platform) for beating the drums, rising to a fairly good height, by the side of the entrance of the Math. On account of the height of the mandapam and the absence of the noise of the present day traffic at that time, the sound of the drums was clearly heard five miles away by the Brahmin of Thiruvidaimarudur, who at once left for the Sri Math.

He used to reach the Math at the time of Diparadhana4. After taking the tirtham5 given by the Acharya (at the end of the Puja), he would partake of the prasada6 food at the Math. After a little rest, he would attend to the work there and return to Tiruvidaimarudur for his Sandhya-vandanam (evening ablutions).

By the grace of the Acharya the Brahmin had two sons. Both studied Rigveda in the Patasala run by the Math at Kumbhakonam. The elder son, after his studies, took over the father's Puja (at the Thiruvidaimarudur Sri Math) and the duty of Mudradhikari and remained at home.

The younger one learnt the Kavyas (literature) and Sastras (Sacred Lore) also after finishing the course in the Veda. Bright in appearance, brilliant in intellect and also in the field of action, he obtained the special grace of the Guru. He underwent training in the important assignments relating the Math and stayed on there itself without returning to Thiruvidaimarudur. Within a short span he finished the training to perfection and began to the entrusted with highly responsible tasks.

In keeping with the prevalent practice of the times both the brothers got married immediately after finishing the Vedic studies.

We are now in the middle of last century, in the year 1843-44, to be exact. The tatankas (ear ornaments) of Goddess Akhilandesvari at the Jambukesvaram7 temple were required to be renewed and offered again to Her. It was Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada Himself who had originally designed these ornaments in the from of Srichakra8 and installed them on Her ears. As and when these ornaments were in need of repair, it was the Acharyas of our (Kanchi) Math who got them repaired and offered them afresh to the Mother. So, at the time I am alluding to, the temple authorities of Jambukesvaram and representatives of the local public came to our Acharya Svamigal with such a request.

Accepting the invitation, He came to Jambukesvaram along with His big Math retinue. The younger son of the Brahmin of Thiruvidaimardur was entrusted with the onerous job of organizing the grand function for the Tatanka-Pratishta (reinstallation of the Tatankas). When he took up the task with aplomb, another trying challenge came up. A legal suit was filed in Tiruchy, opposing the Tatanka Pratishta. You all know that a legal case hardly gets over fast. The Math had to camp there itself all the while. The 'younger-son', in addition to attending to all the needful with regard to the case, which was itself a heavy responsibility, because the very honour of the Math was hinged on it, had also to take an important part in tackling the practical problems and complications in the running of the Math out-quarters.

  1. Waving of the lamps before the deities in the concluding part of the Puja.
  2. The sandal-water poured on the Puja-images in ablution and collected for distribution.
  3. Offering to the Deity, later distributed to the devotees.
  4. Same as Tituvanaikka, generally known as Tiruvanaikkovil, near Tiruchy.
  5. The mystic diagram relating to the Divine Mother.

By the Grace of Chandramaulisvara and Amba9 the pain he took bore fruit. All the judgement of the courts, which the plaintiffs moved one after another in appeal, went in favour of our Math. At that time, in the Judicial set up there were the Principal Suder Amin Court (at the lower level), the Civil Court (in the middle level) and the Suder Adalat (High Court). In all these courts, judgement was favourable to us.

Well, but how long did it take for the legal battles to come to an end? The granny who narrated the story told about it in this way: The old people of those days could not calculate the duration by the Hindu or English calendar. So they said, "When the camp of the Math commenced at Jambukesvaram, the Acharya Svamigal squeezed a lemon on the idol of Chandramaulisvara in abhishekam (ablution) and the seeds were thrown in the courtyard which at that time was covered with earth and not paved. They grew up into trees, bearing fruits and the Svamigal continued to be there to perform abhishekam with those fruits! Normally, it takes 4 to 5 years for a lemon tree to bear fruit. So, the litigation must have gone on for such a long time."

The festivity of the Tatanka-Pratishta was multiplied manifold due to the joy in winning the case, the enhanced vigour in fulfilling the badly delayed function and the spirit of gratitude towards the Mother who by creating the obstacle had reaffirmed both Her Grace and the devotee's power of endurance. The 'younger-son' had a big share in all this.

But he met with a personal tragedy while the case was going on. His young wife passed away. Totally dedicated to the service of the Math as he was, he was not unduly affected by the bereavement. But the people who lodged the case spread the canard that it was a punishment to him for his tricky manipulations in fighting an unjust cause. He was not affected by it either, but the slander, on the head of his bereavement, touched the heart of the Svamigal. So he performed the second marriage of the younger son of our story, soon after the Tatanka-Pratishta, in the very shrine of Akhilandesvari.

The second wife was an eight year old girl. She steadfastly performed daily Puja to the Divine Mother for giving her such a noble husband till she breathed her last in ripe old age. Every day, she also used to go to the temple of Nagesvara Swami in Kumbhakonam (where the family was set up). It is this temple that was praised by Appar Svamigal10 in his Tevaram as 'Kudantai Keezhokottam'.

It was this girl-turned-granny who told all this story.

To revert to the story: The Math go ready to return to Kumbhakonam. The stock-taking at that time gave a shock to the authorities. They found that the Math had incurred a very huge expenditure on account of the litigation, the prolonged camp and the grand function of the Tatanka-Pratishta. It had run into heavy debts and they wondered whether it could come out of the woods unscathed.

The Svamigal was very sad at the development and remarked to the 'younger son' of our story: "It is a pity that the Math has been burdened this way in my time. How nice it would have been if I had stopped with what would have received universal approbation and not taken up the gauntlet of the legal suitors! Could I not have restrained myself from defending our side legally, but instead, allowed the rights (to perform the Tatanka-Pratishta) to be enjoyed by the other party?"

The younger son was also upset, as he was the administrator-in-charge, and so he held himself responsible for the agony caused to the Svamigal.

It is the Divine Mother's way to give such afflictions to the victory and over joy do not go into our head and make us conceited. It we face the diresituation with firm faith in Her Grace, She would doubly reward us with greater joy and success.

Imposing such faith in Her Grace, our 'younger son' resolved to do the utmost he could to unburden the Math of the debts. AS he was not quite sure what turns his proposed remedial measures might take, he decided to go ahead quietly all by himself, without informing any body, including the Svamigal.

Straight he went to Thanjavur. Serfoji was no more and his son was the Raja there. Our 'Younger son' conveyed the matter to him in a polished way taking care not to lower the honour of the Math. He submitted by suggestion that it would be a fitting gesture on the part of the Raja if he could accord reception at Thanjavur to the Math while on its way from Tiruchy to Kumbhakonam, in view of the fact that the Math had won a significant case which conferred prestige to the entire Thanjavur region.

  1. Chandramaulisvara, the crystal - Linga from of Siva, is the Presiding Deity of the Math, Amba is the Divine Mother, the Consort of Siva.
  2. Appar, also called Tirunavukkarasar is one among the three divinely inspired composers of the holy hymns of Siva in Tamil, called Tevaram.

One does not know the mood the Raja was in at that time, or the problems he had then. He neither responded with a spirited "Yes" nor declined with a haughty "No". He deliberated for three days and expressed his inability.

The buoyed-up spirits of 'the younger-son' once again sagged. He felt that though he meant well, it was wrong to have undertaken the mission without the knowledge of the Guru and without getting His blessings and that was why it failed.

He returned to the Math and made a clean breast of all that happened to the Svamigal.

Svamigal was moved and consoled him. He said, "It is all the will of Mother. Let us start, leaving everything to Her will".

The carts of the Math with the attendants and, at the rear, the palanquin of Svamigal started to Kumbhakonam via Koviladi bypassing Thanjavur.

It was early dawn next day. The vehicles were passing through the banks of Kaveri at Thiruvaiyaru. All of a sudden, a number of sepoys surrounded the vehicles and forcibly dragged them to the opposite banks, on the route to Thanjavur. The cartmen cried that the carts belonged to the Math and so they must be left along to proceed the Kumbhakonam by the other bank. But the sepoys turned a deaf ear to the plea. Some of them mounted guard along with the carts. The elephant, horses, camels etc. of the math coming behind also met with the same fate.

The palanquin of the Svamigal too was stopped, but in a respectful way. Vedic scholars of the court gave the ceremonial reception and the requested Svamigal to come to Thanjavur. Immediately the sepoys surrounded the palanquin on all the four sides in reverential besiegement. Even now, does not the army conducting a coup d'etat in civilised nations arrest the erstwhile Head of the State respectfully in his own residence in order to escape the adverse criticism of the international community?

Svamigal understood that this was what had been done to Him. He had performed Kumbhabhishekam11 eight or ten years back to Divine Mother Kamakshi at Kanchi, receiving Her directions on His dream. Now, He had performed the re-installation of the Tatankas for Akhilandesvari. He had set out on this journey, 'leaving everything to Her will', Therefore, even now, He accepted the present turn of events thinking, "Mother! So you contrive it this way? Then it is all right!" and proceeded under the custodyof the sepoys, amidst Vedic chanting by the scholars of the Royal Court.

  1. Pouring sanctified water over temple towers and the idols at the completion of renovation, thus recharging them with divinity.

The name of the Raja, the son of King Serfoji, who had sent the sepoys was Sivaji. He was the very same person who had earlier told our 'younger son' that he was unable to received the Svamigal!

When I told you in the beginning that Sivaji had arrested the Math, it was to this Raja that I referred to. I deliberately said just Sivaji, misleading you to believe that it was the great Chatrapati Sivaji!12 Is not such a technique of deception practiced by men of letters to heighten the dramatic value of a story? If you remembered your history lessons (I am using the term 'remembered', instead of 'known' out of consideration!) you would have wondered as to how Chatrapati Sivaji, who lived 150 years prior to the last century, could figure in our story.....

What followed the 'arrest' of the Math as it entered Thanjavur was the right royal welcome accorded to it there it was actually a princely hospitality that the Math personnel received there. Big choultries like the Vennatrangarai Chatram and Sreyas Chatram were made ready to accommodate them in all comfort. Heaps of sweets and mounds of rice filled up the camp, like those created by Sundaresvara for Gundodara13. It was a festival of feast.

Raja Sivaji, overcome with reverential emotion, personally received the Svamigal with all honour, and made grand arrangements for His Puja and feeding of Brahmins.

What is all this mystery? How is it that the one who refused to extend an invitation was now aggressively thrusting hospitality? Why is it that he showed 'violent Bhakthi' and brought them forcibly under arrest instead of inviting and receiving them with humility?

It is all doing of Chandramaulisvara! After sending off our 'younger son' with negative reply, the Raja had a dream. We saw that the Mother Goddess had ordered the Svamigal in a dream to perform Kumbhabhishekam to Her at Kanchi. Now the Father God appeared in the Raja's dream and ordered him to render due honours to the Math where He took abode and to its Acharya. Like a father, more indulgent towards a disobedient son, Siva had blessed the Raja with His darsan in the dream for his earlier act of refusal! That was why he was overcome with emotion.

Let it be. But why did he arrest the Math to bring them to his place? Well, he had sent back the administrative officer of the Math, short of slapping on his face, only recently. If he were to invite the Math in the normal course within a few days, how would the Math, the status of which is higher than that of the Court, as it is the very seat of Sri Adi Sankara, react? Would it say to the Royalty, "Whichever way you push, according to your pleasure, we would bend?" A Svamigal may not personally mind honour and dishonour and forgive delinquents. But when the honour of the Pontifical Seat is involved, would he not be unbending in such a context? The Raja and his officers and pandits deliberated over all this. That was why they ultimately hit upon the plan to receive the Math by resort to Asurabhakti (bhakti in the demon's way!). It looks as though they did this to give a spicy story to us!

Chandramaulisvara stood to great gain as a result! Sivaji Raja donated gold vessels studded with precious gems, a rare right-side whirled conch shell with gold covering and other gifts for Svamigal's Puja.

He arranged for a ceremonial procession round the principal roads of Thanjavur with all pomp and panoply. For the occasion he had a pair of elephants yoked together, with a giant size silver howdah placed above. The howdah was nearly three-fourth the size of our Math's Puja chariot (i.e., chariot shaped silver shrine). It was octogonal with eight legs. The Svamigal had difficulty in getting upon the howdah with some of its legs intercepting. The Raja standing by the side of the elephant understood the situation. He could have ordered for a ladder or a similar contrivance to help the Svamigal mount the howdah. But in the gush of devotion, he did not do that but himself sprang upon the elephant in a single leap and held the weighty intercepting legs of the howdah on one of his hands and bore its sitting plate on his very shoulders, facilitating the Svamigal to mount up easily. AS soon as the Svamigal positioned himself on the howdah, the Raja jumped down with the same swiftness.

In keeping with royal etiquette, the only son-in-law of the Raja, Sakharam Saheb sat at the back of howdah.

Another pair of elephants who also similarly yoked with a howdah above. The Raja sat in its front, for that was the usual custom. But as an unusual honour, the very 'younger-son' whom the Raja formerly disposed off discourteously was now requested to take the honoured position at the back! To compensate for the insult 'with a high rate of interest', the Raja made him elephant-mounted so as to be seen by all the citizens!

  1. The seventeenth century hero of Maratha who vanquished the Moghul empire.
  2. When Siva came to Madurai as Sundaresvara to marry Minakshi, an avathar of Sakti, He created hills of eatables for the gobin-chief Gundodara.

When our 'younger son' took his seat on the howdah, the Raja filled up his hands with flowers made of pure gold as a personal gift, not to be passed on to the Math. Knowing his humility, the Raja did this in such a way that the crowds could not see it.

True to his nature the 'younger son' did not bundle out the loose flowers in the thick of the royal reception and dropped them down to a known personal standing below. The receiver promptly disappeared in the crowd! Our man just dismissed it from his mind, feeling that the reward for his soulful service to the Guru must only be Grace and not gold.

The Raja honoured him in another way also. Knowing his bashful nature, he did not do it in public view then, but yet made it publicly known later on! He conferred on him the title of 'Hejib'. In those days, it was the title for one who was authorised to represent big institutions and deal directly with the Government. 'Hejib' was one among the positions and names that came into vogue among us (Hindus) too after the regime of the Nawabs....

The crowds, rejoicing only at the gala procession, hardly noticed the gift of gold and its disappearance. In particular they were curious to know who that unknown man was who enjoying the back seat of their Raja. Making enquiries thereof and getting to know about him, they lavished praise on him.

The eight year old girl who married the 'younger son' in front of Akhilandesvari was also present in the crowd. The womenfolk surrounded her and clamored in joy, "That young Sastri looking like a raja and sitting near the Raja, is none other than the hubby of this baby!" Overcome with shyness, the child-wife was moved to tears at this. She wanted to slip away but wherever she passed, the womenfolk would surround her. Poor thing! The girl was helpless! While all the others were totally enjoying the festivity, the child bride was perplexed by shyness and the sorrow born of it. Does it mean she did not experience joy? Oh, no! Evenly balancing her negative feelings, weaves of joy were lashing within her mind.

Even after fifty years, the old granny lived through that mixture of emotions while narrating the events. The granny's pride in the greatness of her husband - unknown to her at the time of the incident - added another dimension to her narration.

As a Fitting finale to the festivities, the Raja performed Kanakabhishekam14 to the Svamigal on the day of the latter's departure. The very same Raja who shirked inviting the Svamigal on grounds of paucity of funds, now went on showering light-weight flowers of gold on the Svamigal covering Him from head to foot! It was as though the Raja was enveloping the Svamigal with his devotion!

The gold totaled up to 5000 varahans (approx. 10 Kg.). The 'younger son' heaved a sigh of relief. All the debts incurred at Jambukesvaram could be paid off with this gold. Still there would be a surplus too, so ran the thoughts of the man who had made the Math his very life.

On return to Kumbhakonam, the debts were cleared off completely.

The balance was guarded by the 'younger son' heedfully as the proverbial serpent does the treasure, knowing as he did the value of each and every pie belonging to the Math.

The Svamigal was filled with a sense of fulfillment. The Grace of the Mother, which he stead-fastly held to, had stood him in good stead. He had cleared off the debt. He had also fulfilled the renovations touching Kamakshi and Akhilandesvari. Replete with this sense of fulfillment, he shed his mortal coils and attained to that One fullness ('paripurnam adaivadu, as it is said in Tamil) with two or three years.

But the people remarked, "The King's glance itself is said to cast the evil eye. Our Svamigal received excessive honours from the King. That has brought about this!"

Before attaining Siddhi, the successor was appointed by him. Who was it? Remember the elder brother of our 'younger son' who remained at Tiruvidaimarudur itself, looking after the Puja at the local sub-Math and serving as Mudradhikari? It was the son of that elder brother, who succeeded to the headship of the Math.

The new incumbent was very generous from childhood. He was a great scholar as well. One reason for this twin excellence may be the fact that he was almost brought up in the household of the Marathan Brahmins of that place who excelled both in scholarship and liberality.

The two quality acquired illimitable dimensions after he ascended the gadi. He used to arrange daily for newer and newer offerings in the Puja as ordained in the scriptures relating to worship. Huge quantities of sweets and eatables, popular in the North would be prepared for naivedya (food-offering) and distribute to the large number of devotees. He also used to distribute food and clothing to the poor. He organised scholars' meet frequently, deliberated upon the intricacies of the scriptures with them and honoured them munificently.

Though he was not of the imposing physical stature of the previous Svamigal, he too had the predecessor's splendorous majesty and became popular with both the lay and the learned.

It was during his days that the Math got arrested for the second time! The persons who implemented the order of the arrest were, now too, the sepoys of the Raja of Thanjavur. But there was a difference. On the previous occasion, the Raja acted on his own. Now another person was instrumental in moving the Raja to action. You will be surprised to know who that person was. It was none other than the central figure in our narrative - 'the younger-son'. Las time it was just a matter of besieging the Math people on the wayside. But now the very edifice of the Math was besieged.

I think, I have sufficiently whetted your curiosity.

Why did our 'younger-son' instigate the Raja to arrest the Math?

We saw that he knew the value of money almost to a fault. So he gave considerable though to the prevailing situation. The new Swami was over-generously gifting away money and articles, without looking to the financial position of the Sri Math. So, what all could be saved in the interim period had melted away. Even the silver howdah received as a gift from the Raja was in the process of being disposed of piece by piece. Our 'younger son' being the paternal uncle to the present Head of the Math felt delicate to boldly discuss the matter with him, by reason of very relationship. He could not even go to the extent that any other Manager of a Math normally would.

He pondered over this day and night. At last he came to a decision. 'Delicacy can't be helped if the matter is to be sorted out by verbal discussion. So let not talk, but act. Let us dare to act with dash. We have no axe to grind. We act only with the good of the Pitha15 of Bhagavadpada at heart. Therefore it does not matter even if we earn a bad name as having transgressed the bounds of respectful behaviour' he thought.

  1. Lit, bathing a person in gold. In practice, large quantities of gold coins or golden flowers are showered over the person.
  2. Pitha, Holy Seat Bhagavadpada, feet of the Lord, is the respectful appellation of Sankaracharya.

Being the Hejib, he could send a letter direct to the Raja. So he requested him to send a posse of sepoys. The Raja regarded his words as Gospel Truth and so without enquiring into the why the wherefore of it, he sent the soldiers.

The docile Brahmin took 'military action'!

He sent away the watchmen of the Math and ordered the sepoys to replace them.

His plan was to prevent the entry of all and sundry to the Math and to the Svamigal with their real or concocted pleas for monetary help and extracting the Math's funds, exploiting (Periyaval himself used the word, 'exploit') the soft nature of its Head. He called in the sepoys of the State for this purpose since he considered that it was a grievous wrong to instigate the very employees of the Math to act against the wishes of its Head. 'It is one thing if we personally incur that sin, though with the excuse that we do it only in the interest of the Math. But it is quite another if we encourage others too to act similarly, because the very morale (Periyaval himself used the word 'morale') will be in jeopardy then, he thought.

He instructed the soldiers not to let in anyone except with his permission. The very fact of the State's sepoys providing guard served to frighten the people who wanted to get the Svamigal's largesses by deceit. The entire town was shaken by these developments.

The Svamigal, being young, also put up a 'counter - challenge'! He refused to take bhiksha16 till the soldiers went back. The Head's 'Satyagraha' to counter the Hejib's 'military action'!

The Hejib could not afford to see the Svamigal starving. He was now in a dilemma. Because, it he yielded in tot the Svamigal of young blood might feel that he could carry on as he liked and the Math might be again brought to a dire pass because of his over-generosity.

At last he approached the Svamigal and said, "I am making this submission only because of the painful experience of the past. Whether I remain or go is immaterial. But my only wish is that the Math, which must be an eternal entity, should not once again face that difficulty. Please allow me to invest at least the gold balance of the Kanakabhishekam, so warily preserved by me, in a way that will fetch permanent income to the Math".

Realizing the justice in the plea, the Svamigal accepted the request.

  1. The meal of a monk is called biksha because generally a monk is enjoined to get his food by begging. But the head of a monastery is an exception.

Our 'younger son' withdrew his military action. The sepoys went back.

The devotees heaved a sigh of relief.

Without telling anyone of his plans, with the bag of gold-coins folded in his lap, the 'younger son' started on horseback. He had learnt horse-riding to help him carry out emergent emissaries on behalf on the Math.

He went straight to Kapisthalam. Mooppanar, the leading citizen of the entire Thanjavur region was living there. He was rich, righteous and religious, and added to these, had also the capacity to guide one on the right type of investment. That way why our man went to him.

He asked Mooppanar for advice on how to secure a good income from the gold worth Rs. 17,000/- he had with him.

Mighty pleased at the coming of the respected official of the venerable math and that too on an important matter relating to the Math, Mooppanar gave him sound advice.

There is a village called Anaikkudi to the north-east of Kumbhakonam. Its official landlordship, called 'miras', vested with one known as Anaikkudi Pillai. Though a non-Brahmin, he belonged to the vegetarian sect of Saiva Vellalas and was the head of a big family. It is said that they had 1000 'velis' (i.e. more than 6500 acres) of land those days. They had a plough of gold and only after they began the ploughing operations with it in a season the other land-owner would start with theirs.

Mooppanar knew that Anaikkudi Pillai intended to sell part of his lands.

So, he told our 'younger son': "When it is for the Math, Pillai will offer better lands for lower price. There could be no better investment than this".

The idea was acceptable to our man. Mooppanar felt that the Brahmin who had come all along with so much gold must have enough security. So, he sent his assistant along with him to anaikkudi.

Though our 'younger son' was very careful with money, once he was convinced about the trustworthiness of a person, he would leave even the treasures of paradise to that person's charge. So, without arguing about the price, he left the bag of gold with the Anaikkudi landlord, asking him to make over to the Math as much land as he considered was worth the gold, at his earliest convenience.

Pillai was won over by our younger-son's high caliber. For the sake of the Math itself he would have shown extra-consideration. Now in his admiration for our man, he resolved to double that.

In a short time, he made over 40 velis of his land in the village of Karuppur, just two miles to the northeast of Kumbhakonam, to the Math. 40 velis is the equivalent of 250 acres. Even in those days of cheap price, it speaks for the generosity of Pillai to sell 250 acres of the best cultivable land for Rs. 17,000/-.

Even today17 the income from Karuppur is the maximum that the Math gets from its land-holdings...

I subscribe to the view that a Math should not have excess of wealth. I feel that too much of money would necessitate our (Math Heads) worrying about its safe-keeping and tempt us to go on planning to multiply it! That would be detrimental to our dedication to matters of the spirit, which is injunctively laid on us. Only when the money-power and man power of a Math is within limits, there is more necessity and scope for the Head striving to gain more tapo-balam (spiritual power through penance) and it is this power alone that will help him in promoting Dharma. But to an extent money and man power are also necessary to carry out Puja as prescribed in the Sastras, to hold assemblies of scholars and honour them, feed the devotees, help the poor and propagate Dharma, all of which are also cast as duties on a Math.

I have narrated the story of a person who dedicated his body, possessions and should to fulfil these basic needs of our Math. What I started in a lighter vein on 'coup' and 'arrest' has ended with the story of a servant of the Math who dedicated his entire life to it.

We have heard that Sachdeva bound the very Lord Krishna with the rope of Bhakthi; and Yasoda, who unlike him did not know anything of Bhakthi, still less, too bound Krishna to the mortar with the rope of love! In a way, we can view the arrest of the Math by the Maharajah Sivaji and the 'younger son' Hejib on a par with those episodes in the Maha Bharatam and Bhagavatam.

While telling the story, Periyaval did not mention the names of many of the characters, including that of the 'younger-son'. But we would like to add to the flavour of the story by revealing their names.

  1. The 'Today' refers to 1965 when Periyaval was telling the story.

The central figure, the 'younger-son' is no less a person than the parental grandfather of Periyaval Himself. His good name was Sri Ganapati Sastrigal. The name of the 'elder son' is Sri Seshadri Sastrigal. The 'Hoyasala Brahmin', the father of these two, and the great-grandfather of Periyaval was called Sri Subramanya Sastrigal. The Svamigal who performed the Tatanka-Pratistha is the 64th Acharya of Kanchi Math, the fifth Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svamigal. (Our Periyaval is the seventh to bear that monastic name).

The 65th Svamigal who was 'Over generous' is the fifth Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati Svamigal. We refer to him as 'llayaattangudi Periyaval' after the place where he attained final beautitude. We was the son of Seshadri Sastrigal and his name in the pre-monastic days was Mahalingam.

Now it will be obvious to the reader that the granny who told this story is none other than the grandmother of Periyaval. He is the alter ego of the energy - Source of the Math, the Divine Mother in the form of Kamakshi; and his grandmother's name is Kamakshi - Kamakshyamma in Kannada and Kamakshi Ammal in Tamil. If the grandmother narrated the story, not omitting any details after fifty years of the happenings, the divine grandson who heard it then narrated it similarly sixty years thereafter! But the present reproducer who imbibed the narration and also jotted down a few points, missed some details. Later he had then furnished by the highly obliging and respected Sri Sambamurti Sastrigal of Tenacious memory, the younger brother of Periyaval. This narration is reverentially dedicated to the memory of the Sastrigal, who was called to the beyond in 1985 - Ra. Ga.

   

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Next page in  The Souvenir is  What Life has taught Me: Sri 
MahaPerivaa, in part Rarely do saints like our Paramacharya talk about themselves. But he did so and what he said was marked by humility of which he is never tried of speaking. Said the Acharya: God has created some souls to live for others only.
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