A saga of service and sacrifice

MARCH 05, 2020 – The Hindu

A tribute to the 69th head of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam, on the occasion of his second Aradhana

A spiritual leader, who worked for the uplift of the downtrodden and who endeared himself to this section of society by his unique approach, Vedic scholar, who sowed the seeds of numerous Patasalas across the country, Pitadipathi, who covered the entire land on foot not once but three times… Sri Jayendra Saraswati, 69th pontiff of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam, established by Adi Sankara, was indeed a phenomenon. It is two years since he attained siddi, on February 28, 2018, at the age of 82. His Aradhana rituals have begun at his Brindavanam in the Kanchi Sankara Math. The three-day events, including Namasankirtanam, Pancharatna Kriti rendition and discourses, culminate in Mahabhishekam and Poornahuti on March 7.

Strict adherence to Sanyasa dharma and duties as Pitadipathi did not distance Sri Jayendra Saraswati from the common man. “He reached out to the less privileged in several ways. Through bhajans and simple discourses, he spread devotion among them. He made them realise their importance as a vital link in the spiritual chain. He never missed an opportunity to showcase ancient music instruments and folk art forms. He started many schemes not only to protect the artistes but encourage the next generation to learn the instrument,” says Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati about his Guru. The 70th Pitadipathi has left Chennai to oversee the arrangements and participate in the Aradhana.

“I’m fortunate to get a disciple, who has made it his mission to fulfil the tasks that I have set for myself as Pitadipathi — to propagate Advaita and Sanatana Dharma, with the focus on for human welfare,” said Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, 68th head of the Pitam about Sri Jayendra Saraswati. Mahaswami was not exaggerating when he made this observation about his successor, whom he had spotted even when the boy was in his teens. Subramaniam was born on July 18, 1935, in Irulneeki village. Mahaswami’s eye had caught the potential of the young boy, who accompanied his parents — Mahadevan and Saraswati — during their prayerful visits to the Sage’s presence.

Until he attained the age of 18 and could be officially drafted, the incumbent engaged himself in the study of sastra, Vedantha, etc. at the Tiruvidaimarudur patasala, again as Mahaswami ordained. Having inherited the legacy when he was a mere child under extraordinary circumstances, the Acharya was well aware of the difficulties it posed an untrained individual. He, therefore, was clear that his successor should be well-versed in all the subjects, when he assumed the mantle.

From 1954, when he was anointed, to 2018, when he shed his mortal coil, Sri Jayendra Saraswati spent every day of the 64 years in service. Behind the pleasant smile and trademark laughter was steely nerve — resolve to strengthen the base of the Pitam and embrace followers sans discrimination. Veda Samrakshanam, cow protection, installation of Adi Sankara images and padukas, reaching out to the poor, especially during crises such as natural calamities, opening educational institutions and reviving pujas in village temples were only a few of the tasks on the agenda of Mahaswami. His disciple threw himself heart and soul into all of these, working relentlessly to leave imprints even in the remote parts of the country. To him nothing was impossible. Such was his Gurubhakti. “He is Ichcha Sakti (thought) and I’m Kriya Sakti (deed),” he declared. And Sri Jayendra Saraswati lived up to it. Not only the welfare schemes his mentor started flourished but countless new ones were started. By anointing Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati as his successor, he made sure that the good work continued seamlessly.

Towering edifices

Adi Sankara Mantapams were raised at Haridwar, Tirupati, Puri, Nepal and so on. The Nepal Government commemorated the Sankaracharya’s visit with a beautiful arch. Mani of Kasi Sankara Math recalls the experience of making ready a marble statue of Adi Sankara to be installed at Kailash Mansarovar. “The job was done within a week, because of his grace. The command came from Jayendra Periyava, when he had reached Kathmandu, on way to Kailash, after a consecration in Kasi. I got the two-ft statue ready and took it to Kathmandu, where it was installed and Vyasa Puja was performed,” he says. When he was camping in Satara (Maharashtra), Mahaswami thought of a temple for Sri Nataraja on the lines of Chidambaram. Sri Jayendra Saraswati would recall later: “Off I went to gather funds. After a whirlwind tour of Gujarat, arranging discourses by an eminent pandit, we returned with ₹10 lakhs. Without touching the money, the beaming Sage pushed it towards the altar, signalling the start of the project.” The consecration of Uthara Chidambaram took place in 1986. A similar case was that of the Adi Sankara Vimanam at Prayag.

“Don’t build more temples, instead take care of old and ancient ones,” was Mahaswami’s mantra, which was adopted by his successor. Thousands of temples, including those of historic and puranic importance, have been revived, priests appointed and daily pujas restored. Members of the numerous Sankara medical and education trusts that Sri Jayendra Saraswati founded and supported remember the optimism and enthusiasm with which he served society through these institutions.

A keen follower of current affairs, Sri Jayendra Saraswati advocated peaceful co-existence among communities. When Sikh-Hindu clashes erupted in Punjab, he sent a message of harmony, printing lakhs of copies and distributing them door-to-door in the villages. He had new houses built for those affected in the skirmishes, which broke out in Puliyankudi. “Where is the Ram Rajya, which Mahatma Gandhi visualised,” he said in anguish during such times. “Adopting a simple lifestyle, devotion and service among the people will go a long way in eradicating distrust and animosity,” he prescribed.

A few of Sri Jayendra Saraswati’s accomplishments

Completed the 10,000-km padayatra across the country three times

Put the States of the North-East and Kashmir on the map of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam

Chatur Veda Sastra Pariksha Sabha

Kirti Sthamba at Kaladi for Bhagavadpadal and arranging daily puja

Nithya Puja Trust for Sri Brihadiswara temple, Thanjavur

Carnatic Music Seva Trust, which took steps to restore the house of Tyagabrahmam

Distance learning of Sanskrit and schools dedicated to the language

Journals in Tamil and English to propagate Sanatana Dharma

Bank loans for the economically backward entrepreneurs

Hindu Mission hospitals in several districts

All-religion conference in Madurai, which was presided over by the Nepal ruler

Ayurveda healing and learning centres

Aid to the leprosy afflicted in Kumbakonam

Expanded Bhikshavandanam by forming a Trust

(Information courtesy: Special souvenir released at Kanchi Sankara Math on March 19, 2019)

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