A report of the event which took place on 18th November 2005.
Rameshwaram, the island at the southern tip of the country, hallowed by the installation of the Holy Lingam of Lord Sri Mahadeva by non other than Lord Rama, which is now the principle deity in the magnificent Ramanath Temple, is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for all denominations of Hindus. It is one of the four holy Dhamas or spiritual pilgrimage centres, the other three being Badrinath in the North, Dwaraka in the West and Puri in the East. A branch of Sri Kashi Math had been established here when His Holiness Yadavendra Teertha Swamiji (H.H.Keshavendra Teertha Swamiji) was the Mathadipathi about 300 years ago. According to available records and legend, the math along with the Kodanda Rama shrine (inside the main Rameshwaram temple) was built through the efforts of one Kalinga Prabhu, a Gauda Sarawat Brahmin of Kochi who was serving as a naval officer with the Dutch, at that time. The math is located just outside the West Tower entrance of the main Ramanath temple on Nadu Theru Street. Due to ravages of time, both the Kodanda Rama shrine with the deities of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana , situated within the main temple complex, as well the Math situated ourside on Nadu Theru, became dilapidated. The shrine was renovated on 19 March 1937 by Srimad Sukrathindra Teertha Swamiji. The Math building outside however continued for much longer period in a dilapidated condition and it is only recently that a decision to pull down the old structure and build a new Math building on the same site was taken.
Friday, 18th Nov 2005, was the day chosen to re-inauguration of the newly built Math building at the lotus hands of H.H.Srimad Sudhindra Teertha Swamiji. Having been fortunate enough to witness the opening of the new Math at Badrinath, the Nothern end of the country by His Holiness in June 2005, I was keen to be a part of this function of re-inauguration of the Math at Rameshwaram, the southern tip of the country. My wish was fulfilled by the grace of Guru and God. On the evening of the 17th Nov, I reached Madurai from Ernakulam along with family and friends, where His Holiness was camping enroute to Rameshwaram at the guest house of the (now defunct) Meenakshi Mills. The 260 km journey from Ernakulam to Madurai takes us through enchanting and picturesque hill stations of Wagamon and Kumily. After the overnight halt at Madurai, we started off next morning at 8.30 in a convoy of cars along with His Holiness and party. The auspicious time fixed for the inauguration was 12.15 to 12.30 noon time. We had therefore ample time on our hands to cover the 160 km distance from Madurai to Rameshwaram. Rameshwaram is an island and is connected with the southern tip of Madampam by the 3 km long Pamban bridge built across the Palk Bay. The sight from the Pamban Bridge is enthralling. His Holiness decided to cover part of the distance by walking on the bridge and we were blessed to accompany His Holiness during this walk.
The convoy reached the Rameshwar Kashi Math at the West Tower Entrance on Nadu Theru at 12.00 noon, where His Holiness was received with Poorna Kumbha by members of the community. The GSB Seva Mandal Mumbai had undertaken to organize the re-inauguration ceremony. Representatives from Kochi, Mumbai, Mangalore, Bangalore, Chennai and other towns and cities of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu were present. Ved Murthi Subraya Bhat of Enrakulam and Ved Murti Subramany Bhat from Rameshwaram along with other Vaidiks, then conducted the rituals and prayers associated with the opening of the Math and formal pravesha or entry. At the stroke of 12.30 noon, His Holiness along with the deities entered the Math by the main door after cutting the ribbon, followed by vaidiks, other members, men, women and children, all of them elated to be a part of this historic event.
His Holiness then climbed the stairs to the first floor of the Math where the pooja room, hall and Swamiji’s room are situated. The pooja deities of His Holiness were then ceremonially deposited in the pooja room. After paying obesceince to the deities, Swamiji briefly addressed the gathering, pointing the significance of the event. We got glimpses of the over 300 year old history of the Rameshwaram Math as well as the Kodanda Rama Shrine. It was appropriate that in keeping with the tradition, disciples of the Kashi Math from all the places are present and cooperating in the function, said His Holiness. His Holiness said that the main sabha function would be held in the evening after the pooja and samaradhana.
All eyes were then riveted on the elaborate and enchanting pooja rituals performed by His Holiness to the accompaniment of vedic recitations by vaidiks and bhajans by the disciples. The main Arati was over by 5.00 pm and thereafter samradhana was arranged in a hall which is located near the Math on Nadu Theru. There were about 600 people present during the first day function.
In the evening at around 7.00 pm the sabha function commenced. Sri Dinesh Pai of GSB Seva Mandal, Mumbai, welcomed the gathering and said how fortunate the Seva Mandal is, being entrusted with the task of organizing this function by His Holiness. He said Seva Mandal has been fortunate in serving His Holiness and Sri Kashi Math in various places throughout India and looks forward to serve the Math and the GSB Community in future also.
His Holiness then commenced the Ashirvachana. Swamiji said that it is a long-held and lasting tradition of the Kashi Math to witness participation of the members from centres all over India, in the functions of the Math.
Swamiji said that Samsthan is for the spiritual and all round development of the samaj and the members of the samaj have consistently showered love and allegiance to the samsthan. The samaj members feel quite at home in the branch maths of the smasthan and it is like working of a big family. Swamiji particularly prayed to God on this occasion to strengthen this unique bond between the members of the samaj and the Kashi Math Samsthan. Swamiji remembered on this occasion the services rendered by civil engineer late Sri.C.V.Kamath in the various construction activities of the Math over the years and how the baton was passed on to his son, Sri C.Vittal Kamath who continued this tradition and who has now passed on this baton to his son.
Sri C.V.Kamath who has supervised the construction of the new Math in Rameshwaram and his team was honoured by His Holiness. Next, His Holiness pointed out that the Mumbai based G.S.B. Seva Mandal has always shown its readiness and sincerity in serving the Kashi Math in various ways. Even here, they prayed His Holiness for being entrusted with the task of organizing the Rameshwaram Math re-inauguration function, which they have carried out in a satisfactory manned after enlisting the cooperation of members from all other centres as well. It has been a tradition with the Seva Mandal that wherever they embark on a project they first pray at the Brindavan of Sri Madhavendra Teertha Swamiji at Walkeshwar, Mumbai. Swamiji cited several examples of how sincere prayers at the Brindavan at Walkeshwar has produced wonderful results unfailingly. Swamiji blessed the proposed activities of the Seva Mandal including the proposed engineering college project at Mumbai and held out the Mandal as an example of how good deeds done sincerely beget multifarious benefits. As good seed when sown properly will produce a good plant, tree and fruits. Similarly a bad deed or seed will produce only bad results. His Holiness then honoured the executive members of the G.S.B.Seva Mandal present. The new Math has been built with the goodwill and cooperation of all members of the samaj and such cooperation was lauded by His Holiness. A new home has been built and inaugurated, for the next 2-3 days, havans and homas will be conducted by the vaidiks for the good of all those who have participated in the function, said his Holiness.
His Holiness then dwelt on the four Dhamas or sacred places. Badri in the North is Mukti Dhama. Dwaraka is a Leela Dhama of the Lord in the West, where Lord Krishna showed his multifarious leelas. Swamiji then recounted the legend of the King of Orissa who was a staunch devotee of Dwarakadheesha whom he used to visit every year.
After many such annual visits, he once prayed to the Lord that beign old and infirm, he would no longer be in a position to go to Dwaraka for the pilgrimage. He prayed to the Lord instead to come and reside permanently in Orissa. The Lord instructed the king in a dream he had that the Lord would follow the king on foot to Orissa on condition that the king should not turn his face and try to see the Lord during the journey. The sound made by the nupura (anklet) of the Lord would be sign that the Lord is following. After a considerable distance was covered, the king found out that the sound of the anklet had ceased and then on turning his back found that the Lord had disappeared. The king was deeply disappointed. The Lord again appeared in his dream and instructed the king how a wooden log will appear floating in the sea off the Orissa coast and instructed the king to carve out the deities of Krishna, Balabhadra and Subhadra from the wooden long and to install these at Puri. This is the abode or Dhama of the Lord in the East.
Now as regards the Southern Dhama of Rameshwaram, Lord Rama was born in North at Ayodhya and He would not have come to the South had Sita not been kidnapped by Ravana and brought to Lanka. Sita would not have been kidnapped had Ram not gone to the forest. It was the causeless mercy of the Lord wanting to bestow blessings on the southerners, which resulted in the Leela of Sita’s kidnapping and Rama’s march South of the Vindhya on the way to Lanka to kill Ravana and rescue Sita. Rameshwaram, the Southern Dhama is the place where Linga Pratista was done by Rama as advised to Vasista in expatiation of the sin of Brahma hatya (killing of Ravana who was a Brahmin). A pilgrimage to this Ramanatha Kshetra brings immense merit to the people. Swamiji recalled earlier visit to Dhanushkodi along with Guru His Holiness Sukrathindra Teertha Swamiji when Dhanushkodi was thriving and there was a temple there dedicated to Sri Ramachandra. It is our misfortune that the whole area (which had been renamed as Gandhi Dhama) was destroyed in a cyclone in 1965 and now Dhanushkodi is more or less in a dilapidated state.
In conclusion, Swamiji blessed the gathering.