The Origin and History of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan and the Guru Parampara-
Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji to Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji and Shrimad Samyamindra Tirtha Swamiji
V. Sudhish Pai
Shri Kashi Math Samsthan, Varanasi is a Dharma Peetha of the Goud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) community – a religious institution with glorious traditions and a hoary past. The GSBs are those Saraswats who migrated from Goudadesha, known as Trihothrapura in the Puranas. The Peetha has been occupied and adorned by great Yatis who radiate spirituality and divinity.
Historic Continuity – Study
Amongst various obligations that we owe to society and one another, there is the Rishi runa or Yati runa- the debt we owe to our preceptors and scholars. Among the millions and millions who inhabit this planet we are fortunate to take birth as Brahmins and even more blessed to be GSBs, born with a Kuladevata, Ishtadevata, Gramadevata and a Dharma Peetha with the Dharma Guru. Not all societies are blessed thus. We owe it to ourselves to be aware of our past- the history of the Dharma Peetha and the Guru Parampara. ‘To know modern times one must know antiquity.’ Historic continuity with the past is both a duty and a necessity. One should have a sense of history as well as an awareness of it. Without it life would be humdrum and prosaic. Human existence is not just animal existence but a yearning and preparation for better and higher things, the attainment of which would not be possible without adherence to Dharma-Dharma which protects those who adhere to it and that would be possible only with the help and guidance of a Dharma Guru. This paper is set and built on that theme.
All institutions are the result and expression of the accumulated experience of ages. Change is the law of nature-but there are certain things and ideas which are immutable and unchanging. The old order, it is true, changes, yielding place to the new, but it always leaves to its successor a large legacy of ideas and habits, which in their turn become the nucleus of fresh acquisitions, each generation leaving its mark on succeeding generations. All human institutions have all the centuries in them and like the organic world obey the law of evolution by which they are gradually transmuted. We cannot rightly interpret or understand the present without some knowledge of the past. One does not know how much awareness of all this is there in us.
We GSBs have our distinct customs and traditions, language and culture. All this makes up the personality of a person. Tradition, it is said, is an enormous magnifier. But it is not like instant coffee. Every generation would have to cherish it and defend it and carry it forward. It is imperative for us as for any other race or community to cherish and preserve our culture and heritage. This has to be cherished and preserved primarily at the family level at home. Hence the importance of the institution of marriage and family and its sanctity. The hallmark of India is no doubt unity in diversity. While we mingle with the rest of the society we cannot allow our identity to be lost. Existence without identity would not be ‘life’ or ‘living’- it would not be worthwhile. The institutions of temples and Maths help us and guide us to preserve and nourish all this. Thus their need and importance.
Rishi Parampara and Yati Parampara
In earlier times it was the Rishi Parampara which imparted religious and spiritual knowledge and guidance and tended the people. The Rishi Parampara consisted of various eminent sages who were basically in the grihastashrama and who had their ashrams and gurukulas and the baton was passed on from the Guru to the Shishya. The origin of Math- monastic institution can be traced to the Buddhist period. The congregation of monks was known as Sangha and their monastery was called Vihara or Sangharama. Such institutions were firmly established during the time of Buddha. One of the sacred books of the Buddhists, the Vinaya Pitaka contains elaborate rules regulating the conduct of monks and the affairs of monasteries. It is after the time of Shri Adi Shankara that the system of Maths as we know them now with a Mathadhipathi and a Yati Parampara began. A Math is a religious institution presided over by a spiritual head, the Mathadhipathi. The Maths founded by Adi Shankara were modelled on the Buddhist Vihara and many of the rules of the monastic order were taken from the Vinaya Pitaka. He gave the whole thing a Vedic garb. He based the idea of renunciation at any period of a man’s life on the Vedic text : Yadhreva virajet tadhreva prabrajet– which lays down generally that the moment a man develops non attachment to the things of the world, he is at liberty to renounce the world. The Mathadhipathi is one who has taken sanyas and is in the fourth ashrama- it could either be a Bramhachari taking sanyas or sanyas being taken by one who has passed through the grihastashram.
Temples and Maths
In Hindu society, Shastras and Hindu law- there are basically two distinct religious institutions- both ancient and popular. One is the Devasthan or Temple, the other is the Math. The heart of a temple is the deity or the idol round which everything centres. The endowment is in favour of the deity/idol of a temple. All the assets of the temple are vested in the deity. A Math in ordinary language signifies an abode or residence of ascetics and in legal parlance connotes a monastic institution presided over by a superior called the Mahant or Mathadhipathi.
In the case of a Math it is the Mathadhipathi who occupies the pivotal position and the assets of the Math vest in the Mathadhipathi occupying the Peetha at any given point of time. A Math is totally different from a temple in its concept and purpose. The primary object of a temple is to perpetuate the worship of the deity and the celebration of festivals. The basic purpose of a Math is propagating religious doctrines and fostering spiritual knowledge- ‘Dharma Prathishtapan’ and ‘Dharma Prachar’. Though there are idols /deities in a Math, they are essentially for the personal worship of the Mathadhipathi. The worship of the deities is quite a secondary matter being only ancillary to the main purpose for which the Math is established. cf: B.K.Mukherjea- The Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trusts (Tagore Law Lectures) 5th edn Ch 7- pp 320 and 329-331 (which is one of the most celebrated authorities on the subject). Mayne’s Treatise on Hindu Law and Usage – para 831 is identical.
The distinction has been noted in the well known Sanskrit lexicon- Amarkosh and Medatithi in his commentaries on Manu Smrithi speaks of the two institutions separately.
It is of interest and significance that His Holiness Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji expressed the same idea independently:
“The Guru Parampara is the Math which is the Dharma Peetha. Dharma Peetha came into existence for the Dharmic uplift and progress of the Samaj and to ensure that there is no deterioration or decline of Dharmic values and for establishment of Dharma. That means the Samsthan exists for the purpose of Dharma and not for the purpose of performing Daiva pooja only. It is enough to have temples for the performance of poojas. There is no need for a Mathadhisha for that purpose only. The Mathadhishas are there for the purpose of establishing of Dharma (Dharma Prathishtapana). Our Samsthan came into being on account of the earnest desire and prayers of the Cochin Mahajan that our Samaj should have a Dharma Peetha and Dharma Guru of its own for Dharma Prathishtapana. That is how the Samsthan came into existence. For us, Madhwas, Daiva pooja is an absolute necessity and it is our belief that even the Brahmadika Devas perform pooja to the Lord. So, we have to perform Daiva pooja and the deities (Shri VyasaRaghupathy and others of the Samsthan) are for Swamiji’s aradhana (worship). The Samsthan was founded not for the performance of Daiva pooja only but for Dharma Prathishtapana. The Dharma Prathishtapana has to go on eternally. So the Samsthan has to be there all the time. It is not as if, if one performs Daiva pooja, he is a Mathadhipathi, otherwise he is not. Therefore, the Samsthan does not exist merely for the performance of Daiva pooja continuously and perpetually.”
“The pooja is for the purpose of Swamiji’s worship. Dharma Prathishtapana is not mere performance of pooja. Dharma Prathishtapana means the establishment of Dharma and preventing its decline and protecting Dharma. Dharma Prachara is required for Dharma Prathishtapana. We should adhere to Dharma and ensure the continuity and protection of the age old customs, traditions and sampradaya of the Samaj. All this is Dharma Prathishtapana.”
The Samsthan exists for the purpose of Dharma and not for performing Daiva poojas only. Temples are for performance of poojas. Maths and Mathadhipathis are there for establishing Dharma Prathishtapana which is not mere performance of poojas. Of course the Mathadhishas also perform Daiva pooja as part of their worship and anushtana. The very object of a Math is to maintain a competent line of religious teachers for propagating and disseminating the religious doctrine of a particular order. And in law there cannot be a Math without a Mathadhipathi as its spiritual head and in control and possession of its assets and property.
To reiterate, the essential or central part of a temple is a deity or idol, the presiding element in a Math is the Mathadhipathi- who is the head of the institution and combines in himself the supreme authority- both spiritual and temporal. He is not a trustee in the technical sense- the assets being vested in the institution and managed by him. The Mathadhipathya denotes and connotes the supreme authority of the Math in all its aspects and affairs.
Maths have been the centres for religious and spiritual guidance for the laity. The Guru is the head of the Math and it is settled that in all religious and spiritual matters his judgement is final. The Maths have been the bastions of Hinduism- of our religion and culture through the ages.
A Math Samsthan like Shri Kashi Math Samsthan means and includes the Mathadhipathi- Swamiji, the disciples, their temples and everything connected with them, all the GSBs, the entire community all these cumulatively constitute the Samsthan. The father’s allegiance to a particular Math is perpetuated by his progeny. Mathadhipathi is not just a person, so also Mathadhipathya- it is a representative position. Shri Kashi Math Samsthan is the ultimate authority in matters of Dharma pertaining to temples coming under its purview.
There are four types of Sanyasis – Kuteechaka, Bahoodara, Hamsa and Paramahamsa- in the ascending order. The Swamijis of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan are Paramahamsas. All are Sanyasis but because these Sanyasis head a Samsthan the functions are also administrative. The Paramahamsa Sanyasis are not supposed to wear gold and jewels but because our Swamijis are Mathadhishas with royal functions and digvijaya they do wear jewellery and silk for the sake of the Samsthan’s Vaibhava(grandeur). Some Mathadhipathis (like Shringeri Shankaracharya) even wear a crown during Durbars and Digvijayas.
The position and life of a Mathadhipathi unlike an ordinary Sanyasi is a very difficult one, it is like wearing a crown of thorns. It carries with it heavy responsibilities and obligations and many times irreconcilable duties and functions. As the Mathadhipathi, Swamiji has to accept all royal honours that go with the Peetha and partake in its glory and grandeur. These include wearing silk and gold, having seemingly grand Bhiksha and phalahar in silver plates and vessels, having royal umbrella and such other regalia. But for a sanyasi such honours and paraphernalia are not permissible. Swamiji being essentially a Sanyasi and also a Mathadhipathi these two positions have to be reconciled. This has to be done with more japa and anushtana and the awareness that the honours given are not for the individual (vyaktitva) but for the institution-Peetha.
In Shriman Madhwacharya’s ‘Yati Pranava Kalpa’ it is stated that it is the primary duty and obligation of a sanyasi to establish the supremacy of Vishnu. How much more is it the obligation of a Mathadhisha!
There is the Dharma Peetha. It is Dharma that controls all. No one is independent of that and all including Swamijis are within the control and limits of Dharma. None can act according to whims and fancies. Though in the Birudavali (title) of the Swamijis there is an expression ‘Sarvathantra Svathantra’, they are not free to act as they like. They too are bound and controlled by custom, tradition, usage and protocol. The Dharma Guru – (the extant Mathadhipathi Swami) personifies and represents the Dharma Peetha. The position of the Dharma Guru is unique. During the time of the Guru the Shishya Swami is only a sevak of the Guru to act according to the Guru’s bidding.
Genesis of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan
The genesis of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan as we know and have it today can be traced to the 16th century.
The position of the Cochin Thirumala Devaswom Temple and its relation with the Samsthan is both important and unique. Shri Kashi Math Samsthan was founded on the earnest request of the Cochin Mahajan. The Vigraha of Lord Venkatapathy in the Cochin temple was also given by the Samsthan.
A brief history and background of the origin of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan and its relation to the Cochin Temple and Mahajan as narrated by Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji to me on Jan 26, 2004—
The Goud Saraswath Brahmins in Kerala and large parts of Karnataka were affiliated to and were disciples of the Kumbakonam Math (now known more popularly as Shri Raghavendra Swami Math, Mantralaya). In the Guru Parampara of that Math was a Yati- Shrimad Surendra Tirtha Swamiji. His disciple and successor was Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji who brought to Cochin the idol of Lord Venkateswara from the Vijayanagar empire (worshipped by Saluva Narasimha Raja). To Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji, who observed Chaturmasa at Cochin in about 1539 A.D. the Goud Saraswath Brahmins of Cochin made an earnest request that the Goud Saraswath Samaj should have a Dharma Peetha and Dharma Guru of their own. The Swamiji in consultation with his Guru Shrimad Surendra Tirtha Swamiji acceded to the prayer and asked the GSB Mahajan of Cochin to select a suitable vatu and a place at Varanasi and proceed thereto for the initiation of the new Sanyasin. The vatu, said to be Hanumantha Bhat in his purvashram, was thus initiated at Varanasi on the banks of the sacred Ganga and was named as Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji. His Holiness was given the idols of Lord Rama and Lord Vyasa for worship and all other paraphernalia befitting and required for a Mathadhipathi. Thus Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji became the first Yati and Mathadhipathi of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan which was founded at the behest and with the efforts of the GSB Mahajan of Cochin in 1541-1542 AD. This is the great and significant historical link between Shri Kashi Math Samsthan and the Cochin Mahajan who have both the special privilege and responsibility of cherishing the Samsthan and ensuring its smooth working and onward march and succession to the Peetha.
This special relationship and tradition has been there for the last five centuries. This tradition was given express recognition with reason when Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji, the present Mathadhipathi initiated a vatu into sanyashrama and performed the Shishya Sweekar ceremony in 2002 (June 20, 2002). Preceding that Shishya Sweekar and for the said purpose, Shri Swamiji sent a Rayasapatram dated 1st September 2001 to Cochin Thirumala Devaswom Temple reminding the Cochin Mahajan of the special historical ties between them and the Samsthan and as per the usage of the Samsthan calling upon them to get the horoscopes of Brahmacharis from Kochi and the nearby Samoohams for selecting a suitable vatu for initiation into Sanyasa ashram to perpetuate the holy Guruparamapara of the Samsthan. The Cochin Mahajan has also the privilege of performing the first Padapooja to the Swamiji after the Shishya Sweekar and offering Patta Kanika and garlanding the Swamiji on special occasions.
This has been the special relationship between Shri Kashi Math Samsthan and the Cochin Temple and Mahajan and the unbroken tradition of the Samsthan which is to be cherished, preserved and carried forward and adhered to always.
The history and evolution of our Math Samsthan apart from furnishing information about events unfolds a procession of great personages who apart from scaling rare peaks of excellence in religion and spirituality, are models of good, simple living and great thinking, showing us how to live a life of promise and fulfilment made possible by ceaseless striving, devotion and dedication backed by the grace of the Almighty. They exemplified what is said in the Chandogya Upanishad: Yadeva vidyaya karothi, shraddaya, upanishada, tadeva viryavattaram bhavati- Whatever is done with vidya (knowledge), shraddha (faith and conviction- the totality of positive attitudes) and upanishad (deep thinking- contemplation) becomes supremely efficient. Of each of these stellar spiritual giants it may be said “his is truly clarum et venerable nomen”(an illustrious and venerable name).
Progenitor of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan
Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji is believed to have been a GSB or in any case a North Indian Brahmin. He was a disciple of the great Shrimad Vyasaraya Tirtha Swamiji and was known as Shrimad Vishnu Tirtha and Shrimad Vidyanidhi Tirtha because of his extraordinary learning. He was an adept in 64 disciplines of learning. In the span of a short paper it is impossible to do any justice to his genius and multifaceted personality. Shrimad Surendra Tirtha Swamiji was the head of the Kumabakonam Math. His Holiness had to meet in debate a great Saiva scholar. Surendra Tirtha sought from Vyasaraya Tirtha the services of Vishnu Tirtha. There was Dandaparivarthana and Vishnu Tirtha was thus gifted to Surendra Tirtha as a disciple. He was to succeed Surendra Tirtha on the Kumbakonam Math Peetha though Surendra Tirtha already had a Shishya –Sudhindra Tirtha.
Vijayindra Tirtha succeeded Surendra Tirtha as Mathadhisha of Kumbakonam Math and was followed by Sudhindra Tirtha whose disciple and successor was the famous Raghavendra Swami of Mantralaya.
Shri Vijayindra Tirtha was the most powerful champion and active exponent of Madhwa Siddhanta against the onslaught of its relentless critics, indeed the bulwark of the Madhwa School.
Apart from the idol of Lord Venkatesha at Cochin which was given by Vijayindra Tirtha, the Mahalakshmi idol at Alleppey, the Bhuvaraha idol at Varapuzha and the Ugra Narasimha idol at Mulki were also given to the GSB Samaj by Vijayindra Tirtha. He has also sculpted many idols.
With reference to His Holiness’ scholastic genius and other mystic powers we may recall:
Tradition has it that Vijayindra Tirtha had once a debate with the Virasaiva Guru residing at Kumbhakonam. The condition under which the debate was held was that if the Saiva Guru won, Vijayindra should join his Math. But if on the other hand, Vijayindra triumphed, the Saiva Guru should make over all his properties to his victor. The discussion lasted for 11 days at the end of which the Saiva Guru was worsted and the Saiva Math at Kumbakonam came into Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji’s possession.
Vijayindra Tirtha along with his entourage was proceeding to Mulki with the Ugra Narasimha idol. It was Amavasya and as they reached the outskirts of Mulki it became totally dark. Some members of the party asked the Jain ruler of the place for some coconut leaves to make torches. He derisively refused. Swamiji admonished the person who asked for torches saying that when God Himself was with them they were not lacking light. As the party went a little further there was a sudden bright light emanating from the Jain ruler’s residence which was on fire. That was sufficient light for them to reach their destination. The following day the ruler begged for forgiveness from the Swamiji and offered kanika. He also prayed that every year they should bring the deity to his residence and accept seva. This is done even now. During Vanabhojan the deity is taken to that place and the descendants of the Jain King offer sevas.
What is of significance for us is that Vijayindra Tirtha did not initiate any other disciple other than Shri Yadavendra Tirtha the first Yati and Mathadhipathi of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan. He thus founded the Kashi Math Samsthan and acquired the title Saraswat Dharma Peetha Sthapanacharya. The exact dates of the birth and samadhi of Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha do not appear to be certain. His birth is placed in the second decade of the 16th century.
Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji attained Mukti on Jyeshta Bahula Trayodashi on the banks of the Kaveri at Kumbakonam where His Holiness’ Vrindavan is situated. It is again quite interesting and significant that (almost 4 centuries later) Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji was given Sanyasa ashram on the banks of the Kaveri at Trichy –Srirangam- not far from Kumbakonam.
Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji, that ascetic and scholar par excellence is the progenitor of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan. The first Yati and Mathadhipathi is Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji .
As stated Yadavendra Tirtha’s initiation into sanyas by Vijayindra Tirtha was at Varanasi. This is believed to be for the reason that Vijayindra Tirtha, being a Brahmin from the north, already had a Math there which was gifted by the Raja of Darbanga. Thereafter, Vijayindra Tirtha took Yadavendra Tirtha to Kumbakonam where the senior Swamiji Shrimad Surendra Tirtha gave him idols of Lord Rama, Lord Vyasa, Saligrama and paraphernalia. A Tamarashasana dated Magha Shudha Panchami of Plava Samvatsara, Shaka Shalivahana (Sh.Sh) 1463 corresponding to Saturday, 21st January, 1542 and a Rayasapatram dated Magha Bahula Trithiya of the same Plava Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1463 corresponding to Friday, 3rd February, 1542 were also given. These are preserved in Shri Kashi Math. The paraphernalia that was given included a Palanquin, a White Umbrella, two Divtigas (torches), two Chamaras, two Asanas, one Davala Shanka(white conch), Nagari(drum), Pathakas(flags), Thalas(cymbals).
Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji was also invested with the authority to give Mudhradharana, and also Manthropadesha to the members of the GSB Samaj and the authority to guide them in Dharmic matters.
Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji was also given the authority to guide the GSB Samaj in Dharmic matters. Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji undertook tours in the country with all the deities and paraphernalia, doing Dharma prachara and other duties attached to the Swamiji pertaining to GSB Samaj. This tradition is being continued with some changes demanded by the changing times and circumstances.
An anecdote which has been handed down from generation to generation and which has been narrated by the present Pontiff is worthy of mention. Once Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji, the first Mathadhisha was performing meditation and pooja on the banks of the Ganga at Varanasi. A royal entourage came there for bath. The ladies left their gold bangles on the bank and entered the river for bath but found them missing on return. His Holiness was accused of having taken it and posing to be a Sanyasi in meditation. Swamiji who was deeply lost in Japa and Dhyana felt extremely hurt and implored Ganga Devi. And lo and behold the river Goddess came up with the bangles. The royals felt abashed and as a token of repentance and gratitude offered some land there to the Math. This incident brings out the glorious spiritual power of Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji.
His Holiness installed the idol of Shri Ramadeva in the Moola Math. The Prathishta of Lord Varaha at Azheekal – Vypeen was performed in 1570 by Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha. About 300 years later it was shifted to Cherai due to sea erosion and other natural factors.
In 1606 one Jog Mallya donated some land and a temple at Bhatkal to the Samsthan.
After a long reign of 66 years and more on the Peetha His Holiness attained Mukti on Ashada Bahula Panchami of Keelaka Samvatsara, Sh. Sh. 1530 corresponding to Wednesday, 26th June, 1608 AD on the banks of the river Gopi in Bhatkal where his Vrindavan is situated. As the original Vrindavan was dilapidated and overtaken by the river, the present Pontiff had a new mritika Vrindavan built at the present spot some decades ago. The 400th Punyathithi Of Yadavendra Swami was celebrated in 2008 – 2009 with the main function held on January 23, 2009.
It may be of interest that the Punyathithi of the great Shrimad JayaTirtha- Tikacharya a disciple in the direct line of Shrimad Madhvacharya and the author of Shriman NyayaSudha the great commentary on Shrimad Acharya’s works is also Ashada Bahula Panchami. Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha was a contemporary of Shri Vadiraja Swami of Sodhe.
Shrimad Keshavendra Tirtha Swamiji succeeded the first Mathadhisha Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha in 1608 and was the second Mathadhipathi. His birth is reckoned as in 1583. He had a long reign of over 62 years. It is this Swamiji who was blessed with the idol of Lord Veda Vyasa when His Holiness was taking a holy bath at the Pancha Ganga Ghat in Varanasi. Ever since then Lord Vyasa has been the main deity of worship and that idol adorns the centre stage on the Simhasana. In commemoration of Shri Keshavendra Tirtha being blessed with that deity at Varanasi, even now whenever Swamiji camps at the Moola Math in Varanasi it is customary for Swamiji to take a dip in the Ganga at Pancha Ganga Ghat with that idol of Vyasa on the head. It is a beautiful idol – chakra and sankha are embossed on the right and left shoulders respectively. And there is Srivatsalanchana on the right chest. There are ear rings also. It is this Swamiji who gave the first Ajna Patrika- 1620 Chattam for the Cochin Temple for performance of the daily poojas, festivals and other rituals and for the temple management allocating the work to the 22 families of priests (Vaidiks) and the management to the Grihastas. It is also said that Cochin was named Goshripur by Keshavendra Tirtha because of its prosperity and auspiciousness.
The first Shaka Math of the Samsthan is at Basrur- it was established by Keshavendra Tirtha Swami. The land and the Math at Hemmady were donated to the Samsthan. Keshavendra Tirtha attained Mukti in Basrur on Phalguna Bahula Thrithiya of Saumya Samvatsara, Sh.Sh.1591-Sunday, 27 February, 1670 and the Vrindavana is situated there. Keshavendra Tirtha was a contemporary of Sudhindra Tirtha and Raghavendra Tirtha of Kumbakonam Math.
Keshavendra Tirtha was succeeded on the Peetha by his first disciple Shrimad Upendra Tirtha who became the third Mathadhipathi. It was not uncommon in those early days for a Swamiji to take two disciples . This was mainly for the reason that one Swamiji had to remain in Varanasi to protect the property and preserve the title as was the then prevailing requirement during the Muslim rule. The 1620 Chattam for the Cochin Temple was amended by Upendra Tirtha granting a Nirnaya Patrika in 1654 on Jeshta Shudha Dwadashi of Jaya Samvatsara Sh.Sh. 1576 corresponding to Wednesday, 17th May 1654, regulating the customs and rituals both in the matter of pooja and management. It was also ordered that the temple should take care of the have nots among the GSBs. He installed the idol of Gopalakrishna at the Moola Math. Some Rayasapatras of Swamiji are available. His Holiness attained Samadhi on Karthika Shudha Sashti of Ananda Samvatsara, Sh.Sh.1596-Saturday, 24th October 1674 at Varanasi. It was Jala Samadhi.
When a Yati attains Mukti on the banks of the Ganga or the Godavari it is the custom in our Kashi Math that the mortal remains are not interred in the Vrindavan but are immersed and deposited in the river. While no Vrindavan is built, an idol of Lord Anjaneya is installed and worshipped. The idol of Mukhyaprana is installed in the Vrindavan because when a Yati discards the physical body he is believed to go to Vayu Loka before final emancipation. Thus there is no Vrindavana for Upendra Tirtha.
The fourth Swamiji is Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha II. Not much is known about him. For most part of his life he was in the north- Varanasi. He did not initiate any disciple. In later life he was in the south. There was a Math at Varkala in Kerala said to have been set up by this Swamiji which fell a victim to the ravages of time. His Vrindavan is at Hemmadi where he attained Mukti on Bhadrapadra Pournami of Khara Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1633 – Saturday, 15 September, 1711.
Shrimad Raghavendra Tirtha, the disciple of Shrimad Upendra Tirtha is the fifth Swamiji. He hailed from Tripunithura. His birth is reckoned as in 1646. He was a great Tapasvi and scholar, also well versed in Ayurveda. He cured the Shishya Swami of Shri Gokarn Parthagali Math of some stomach ailment which was gratefully acknowledged by the Guru Swamiji. He had achieved Vaksiddhi- whatever he said used to happen. Many sick people were cured by the Tirtha given by Swamiji.
He was a great upasaka of Lord Narasimha and was blessed with the Lord’s Darshan in the Moola Math at Varanasi. Thereafter Lord Narasimha is also worshipped as a main deity. The idol of Narasimha in the Math pantheon is believed to be as the form that Raghavendra Tirtha was blessed with. It is Ugra Narasimha with a smiling benevolent face. There is also a Gadha (mace) resting on the right knee. Thus the main deities in the Samsthan are VyasaRaghupathi Narasimha. Raghavendra Tirtha Swamiji also installed a Lakshmi Narasimha idol in the Moola Math.
Raghavendra Tirtha appeared before the Court of the Muslim Ruler of Benares on Tuesday, 26th September 1676 in connection with his title and exclusive possession of some portions of the Math property. Records regarding all this are said to be available.
It is said that once the Swamiji of Uttaradhi Math wanted to perform Rama Navami pooja and utsava at Kashi but was not permitted by the Muslim ruler. The Uttaradhi Math Swamiji sought the intervention of Raghavendra Tirtha on whose recommendation and request the Nawab permitted the Rama Navami celebration by Uttaradhi Math Swamiji.
One Kalinga Prabhu (from Cochin) was the Commander of the Dutch Navy ( the Dutch were then ruling parts of India). The firing by the Dutch Navy accidentally hit the top of the Gopura of the Rameshwaram Temple. As an expatiation for it, as advised and directed by Raghavendra Tirtha, Kalinga Prabhu constructed the Keraleswar temple (Old Siva Temple) in Cochin and the Math in Rameshwaram.
A curious and disturbing event also took place during this time. There was intermingling and inter dining between the disciples of Kashi Math and Kumbakonam Math whose Swamijis were received in our temples with full honours. Indeed the first Prathishta of Lord Venkatapathy in Cochin was performed on Chaitra Poornima of Vikari Samvatsara Sh.Sh. 1521 – Friday, 30 March 1599 by Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji (of Kumbakonam Math) the successor of Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji who brought the idol to Cochin. Sudhindra Tirtha’s disciple and successor in the Kumbhakonam Math was Shrimad Raghavendra Tirtha of Mantralaya who was succeeded by Yogindra Tirtha. Yogindra Tirtha was on a visit to the Cochin temple when our fifth Swamiji Raghavendra Tirtha was there to receive him. When Raghavendra Tirtha was about to garland and welcome Yogindra Tirtha, Yogindra Tirtha was upset and angered as to how Raghavendra Tirtha could have the name of his Guru and thrust away the garland with his danda. This caused great consternation and anger among the Cochin Mahajan and the Shishya Vrinda of Kashi Math. Yogindra Tirtha was turned away. The connection between the two Maths and its disciples was severed. This is indeed known as Yati Bharata like the Mahabharata war. A ‘Tamara Patra’ was obtained from the Swamiji of the Uttaradhi Math in 1681 recognizing the traditional powers and privileges of Kashi Math Samsthan and its Swamijis in respect of Goud Saraswat Brahmins and referring to Raghavendra Tirtha as Moola Samsthanadhipathi. It was given by the Shishya Swami Shrimad Satyadhisha Tirtha on Kartik Bahula Panchami of Durmati Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1603- Sunday, 20 November 1681.
Like his Guru Upendra Tirtha, Raghavendra Tirtha also attained Mukti at Varanasi on Phalguna Shudha Chaturdashi of Krodhi Samvatsara, Sh.Sh.1646 – Monday, 15th February 1725. Accordingly there is no Vrindavan and a Mukhyaprana idol is installed in the Math.
Raghavendra Tirtha’s disciple and successor is Shrimad Devendra Tirtha Swamiji, the sixth Swami. It is Shrimad Devendra Tirtha who along with his disciple Shrimad Madhavendra Tirtha that performed the second Prathishta of Lord Venkatapathy at Cochin in 1719, Sh.Sh.1641. Thus it can be inferred that there were three generations of Swamijis at the same time in the early 18th century. Raghavendra Tirtha- his disciple- Devendra Tirtha and his disciple Madhavendra Tirtha. Devendra Tirtha was given a Sanad -Rahadri which entitled him to travel with the paraphernalia (21.9.1734). Devendra Tirtha attained Mukti at Bantwal in Chaitra Shukla Paksha perhaps in 1740 where his Vrindavan is situated.
The seventh Swamiji is Shrimad Madhavendra Tirtha Swami– the disciple of Devendra Tirtha. He hailed from Cochin. Madhavendra Tirtha had a long regime. He is the Swami who founded the Walkeshwar Math at Bombay. He was again a great yogi and tapasvi.
It was the tradition that whenever the Samsthan was in need of something the Cochin temple and Mahajan would respond and rise to the occasion. There are many such instances at different points of time. The Math land at Varanasi- Nepal Chowk was purchased during Madhavendra Tirtha’s time with the assistance of the Cochin Mahajan. The Cochin Mahajan sent a vinanthi to Swamiji with the offering of a daily kanika and a request for Swamiji’s prayers and blessings for the welfare of the people and Swamiji sent a Rayasapatra in response to that. This was to further cement the historical ties between the Cochin Mahajan and the Samsthan. Thus it was during Madhavendra Tirtha’s Mathadhipathya that the tradition was set up that there should be contribution kanike which is now reckoned as Re 1/- per day from the Cochin Temple to the Samsthan. This has continued and is prevalent today an annual kanika is given from the Cochin Temple to the Samsthan in the Malayalam month of Chingam. The practice was broken for sometime for different historical reasons. It is to make up for that, that the land at Thirumala belonging to Cochin Thirumala Devaswom was given to the Samsthan in the 1970s and the branch Math put up there in 1981.
It also so happened that two of Madhavendra Tirtha’s disciples predeceased him. His first disciple and the eighth Swami is Shrimad Jnaneendra Tirtha who was for most of the time at Prayag and Kashi. Some portions of the Math property in Varanasi which had gone out of its possession were recovered by the Math in 1746 during Jnaneendra Tirtha’s stay there. Correspondence between Jnaneendra Tirtha and the King of Varanasi is available. He attained Mukti at a young age at Nasik on the banks of the Godavari. As per tradition there is no Vrindavan. The Branch Math at Nasik was set up in 1994. There is a Mukhyaprana idol there also.
The second disciple of Madhavendra Tirtha and the ninth Swami is Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha III who also predeceased the Guru. His Vrindavan is at Honnavar where he attained Mukti on Phalgun Bahula Dwitiya of Nandana Samavatsara, Sh.Sh. 1694 corresponding to Wednesday, 10th March 1773.
Madhavendra Tirtha took a third disciple Shrimad Upendra Tirtha II who is the tenth Swamiji. During Madhavendra Tirtha’s lifetime and Mathadhipathya- Upendra Tirtha took as his disciple Shrimad Rajendra Tirtha- the eleventh Swami. Thus at some point of time in the second half of the 18th century there were three generations of yatis of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan- Madhavendra Tirtha (the 7th Swami), Upendra Tirtha(the 10th Swami) and Rajendra Tirtha(the 11th Swami). There are Rayasas (letters) written by Madhavendra Tirtha to Rajendra Tirtha blessing him and advising him to study well.
Shrimad Madhavendra Tirtha performed many Prathishtas- including Shri Bindu Madhava at the Moola Math at Varanasi. The Prathishta at Gurupur was performed by Swamiji and Gurupur owes its prosperity to His Holiness’ blessings. He had said that Ratholsava would be celebrated in Gurupur and it came true. The Ganapati idol in the Cochin temple was also installed by him. The darshan at Mulki is also by reason of Swamiji’s blessings. The Prathishta at Cherthallai temple was also performed by him in 1763.
Madhavendra Tirtha attained Jeevanth Samadhi at Walkeshwar on NagaPanchami day –Shravana Shudha Panchami, Sh.Sh. 1697- of Manmatha Samvatsara corresponding to Tuesday, 1st August 1775. Shrimad Madhavendra Tirtha Swamiji was a great Jnani and His Holiness would have had a premonition of the end of his earthly sojourn; and that he having accomplished the work ordained and the call of the Lord having come, one should be prepared to answer His call and remembering the Lord, one should enter Samadhi and give up the mortal frame. Thus, meditating on God and giving up the mortal frame, one attains Jeevan mukthi which is a great thing. Shrimad Madhavendra Tirtha Swamiji knowing all this prepared himself and answered the Lord’s call.
It is one of those extremely rare instances. The other well known Jeevanth Samadhis are of Sant Jnaneshwar at Aland and Shri Raghavendra Swami of Kumbakonam Math at Mantralayam.
The power and fame of Madhavendra Tirtha’s Jeevanth Samadhi and Vrindavan at Walkeshwar is unparalleled. It is believed that Madhavendra Tirtha is still alive and hears and answers the prayers of devotees and blesses them. One’s prayers there are always fulfilled and granted.
Some youngsters who came to Bombay looking for job and livelihood were directed by the present Pontiff to do pradakshina and pray at Madhavendra Tirtha’s Vrindavan. Their prayers fructified and they secured jobs.
It is believed that Madhavendra Tirtha Swamiji still goes for bath in the Banaganga early in the morning. People have heard the sound of padukas and those sleeping on the way from the Vrindavana to Banaganga find themselves at a different spot the next morning. Shri Narasimha Bhat of Mulki who was for paricharaka with Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji has had that experience. So also Shri Manicka Pai- my grandfather’s younger brother. He was sleeping on the path between the Vrindavan and the Banaganga not knowing of this. Sometime in the night he felt he was being pushed with the gadha and the next morning he found himself lying at a different place.
It is said that Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha had heard the sound of padukas many a time. On one occasion when Sukrathindra Tirtha was going for morning snana at Walkeshwar Math he saw some tapasvi (Madhavendra Tirtha) walking towards the Banaganga with the wooden padukas whose sound he had heard.
The spectacular success of the GSB Seva Mandal’s Ganeshotsava at King’s Circle in Bombay is attributed wholly to the grace of Madhavendra Tirtha. Every year they place a coconut before the Vrindavan and that is kept with the Ganapati idol. Many are the experiences of people who have been blessed after offering prayers at the Vrindavan.
The tenth Swami Shrimad Upendra Tirtha II initiated litigation and recovered some of the Math property in Varanasi which was in someone else’s wrongful possession. Like his namesake the third Swami Upendra Tirtha I, he attained Mukti at Varanasi on Margashira Shud Saptami of Virodhikritu Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1713- Friday, 2nd December, 1791. There is no Vrindavan but there is a third idol of Hanuman installed in the Moola Math there.
The eleventh Swami is Shrimad Rajendra Tirtha. He was a great Vedantic scholar and a famous writer in Sanskrit. The Prayag (Allahabad) Math was established during his reign. He also purchased more land for the expansion of the Math. It was during his time that Saktan Thampuran was making efforts to raid the Cochin temple. There are letters written to Rajendra Tirtha by the Cochin Temple and Mahajan about this. His Holiness was also a great Ayurveda physician and wrote a celebrated work “Sharira Vinischaya.” Shrimad Rajendra Tirtha attained Mukti at Thuravoor on Vaishakh Bahula Ekadasi of Siddharti Samvatsara Sh.Sh. 1721- Thursday, 30 May 1799. His Vrindavan is situated there. He had initiated two shishyas- Sureendra Tirtha and Vishnu Tirtha.
The twelfth Swami is Shrimad Sureendra Tirtha. He hailed form Kayamkulam. His birth was on Pushya Shudha Sashti of Hevilambi Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1699- Sunday, January 4, 1778 .He initiated and took a disciple at a very young age – the fourteenth Swami- Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha who hailed from the Tantri family of Cochin and was born on Chaitra Shudha Saptami of Shubakritu Samvatsara- Sh.Sh. 1704- Thursday, 21 March, 1782. The reason attributed to Sureendra Tirtha taking a disciple early is perhaps some experience that His Holiness had in the Moola Math at Varanasi in the room where the fifth seer Shrimad Raghavendra Tirtha is believed to have had the vision of Lord Narasimha. That room was kept closed since then for more than 150 years. It is only sometime ago in 1982 after the Chaturmasa there that the present Pontiff Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha after prashna had the room opened and installed an idol of Lord Krishna there.
The Ashta Mathadhipathis of Udupi imposed a ban on Sureendra Tirtha’s movement with titles and honours (birudavalli). His Holiness challenged this successfully. It was established that he had all the rights to travel with full titles and honours in North and South Canara Districts. There is also a Rahadri dated 1.7.1789 ensuring his safe travel from Benares to Allahabad. He performed the Prathishta of Lord Venkatramana in Kundapura in 1815. Swamiji had lent a sum of Rs. 12500/- to the East India Company on a pronote dated 22nd December,1798. It appears that for one reason or other the amount has not yet been recovered.
There is some shrine in the purvashram family house of Shrimad Sureendra Tirtha . That was renovated by Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha and also by Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha.
Shrimad Sureendra Tirtha Swamiji chose to camp most of the time at Alleppey while the Shishya- Shrimad Vibhudhendra Tirtha performed Digvijayas, touring from place to place. The main deities were with the senior Swami Shrimad Sureendra Tirtha. That perhaps explains the number of deities placed on the second step of the Simhasana with the name of Shrimad Vibhudhendra Tirtha inscribed on them. They were with Vibhudhendra Tirtha. Shrimad Vibhudhendra Tirtha performed Prathishtas at many temples including that of Veera Venkatesha in the Mangalore Venkataramana temple in 1804. His Holiness was at Manjeshwar for a long time. In 1804 the temple was renovated and Lord Bhadra Narasimha was installed. The bejewelled crown of the Samsthan deities was given to Lord Bhadra Narasimha- Utsava Murthy of Manjeshwar. While performing pooja of Bhadra Narasimha, Swamiji used to place Veda Vyasa’s crown on the Narasimha idol. Once he could not remove the crown from the idol of Bhadra Narasimha and interpreted it as the Lord’s wish to keep it permanently. His Holiness also donated a golden pendant and gold coins for kanakabhishekha to the temple.
Vibhudhendra Tirtha was a renowned scholar with many commentaries and compositions to his credit quite a few of which are not readily available. His Holiness is also the author of “Guru Pravara Manjari” dealing with the Guruparampara of the Samsthan.
Even during the time of Shrimad Sureendra Tirtha, Shrimad Vibhudhendra Tirtha initiated disciples. The elder disciple, Shrimad Sumatheendra Tirtha, the fifteenth Swami was from Vypeen. He was born on Ashwija Bahula Panchami of Kalyakuta Samvatsara, Sh.Sh.1720- Monday, 29 October, 1798 and was initiated on Phalguna Shudha Saptami of Bhava Samvatsara Sh.Sh.1736-– Wednesday, 15 March, 1815. Sumatheendra Tirtha was for most of the time with his Parama Guru Sureendra Tirtha at Alleppey. The younger disciple of Shri Vibhudhendra Tirtha was Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha, the sixteenth Swami (Abbayya in his purvashram). He was mostly in the northern districts and touring with the Guru Vibhudhendra Tirtha. For a long time he was camping at the Kundapur Venkataramana temple.
Thus at some point of time there were perhaps four Swamijis- Sureendra Tirtha ( the 12th Swami), Vibhudendra Tirtha (the 14th Swami),Sumatheendra Tirtha(the 15th Swami) and Vasudendra Tirtha (the 16th Swami).
Shrimad Sureendra Tirtha attained Mukti on Jeshta Shudha Saptami- of Khara Samvatsara, Sh.Sh.1753- Friday, 16 June, 1831 at Alleppey and his Vrindavan is situated there at the old Lord Venkatapathy Temple.
The thirteenth Swami is Shrimad Vishnu Tirtha. Not many details are available about this Swamiji. He was in the north- Kashi – for a long time and supervised the extension of the Math premises and the construction of the Prayag Math. He attained Mukti at Prayag. There is no Vrindavan and an idol of Hanuman is installed in the Math at Allahabad.
Thus five yatis of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan have taken Jala Samadhi having passed away on the banks of the Ganga/Godavari- three in Varanasi, one in Prayag and one in Nasik and there are no Vrindavanas for them.
Shrimad Vibhudhendra Tirtha attained Mukti on Magha Bahula Panchami of Vijaya Samvatsara, Sh.Sh.1755- Thursday, 27 February, 1834 at Manjeshwar where his Vrindavan is situated.
On the Samadhi of Vibhudhendra Tirtha, Sumatheendra Tirtha succeeded as the Mathadhipathi as per the Guru Vibhudendra Swami’s Will. Unfortunately around that time differences arose between Sumatheendra Tirtha and Vasudendra Tirtha. Vasudendra Tirtha filed a case in Tellicherry seeking partition of the Math. There was a decree by the Trial Court. Shrimad Sumatheendra Tirtha appealed to the Madras High Court. During the pendency of that appeal, Sumatheendra Tirtha attained Mukti at Alleppey on Pushya Amavasya of Sadharana Samvatsara- Sh.Sh.1772- Friday, 31 January 1851, having initiated Shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha. Sumatheendra Tirtha’s Vrindavan is at Alleppey (old Venkatapathy Temple).
Shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha Swamiji is the 17th in line. Hailing from the Kaundinya Gotra Kamath family of Palliport near Kochi, Swamiji who was Narasimha Kamath (son of Shri Giri Kamath) in his purvashram was born in 1837- Jestha Bahula Thritiya of Hevilambi Samvatsara, Sh.Sh.1759 – 21.6.1837. He was initiated into sanyashram at a young age by his Guru Shrimad Sumatheendra Tirtha Swamiji at the Thirumala Devaswom Alleppey in 1849 according to one version and according to another on Pushya Bahula Navami of Sadharana Samvatsara Sh.Sh. 1772 – Saturday 25, January 1851. The Guru Shrimad Sumatheendra Tirtha was ailing then and attained Samadhi not long thereafter. The Divan of Travancore, a Madhwa Brahmin was quite close and devoted to Shrimad Sumatheendra Tirtha and Swamiji had asked him to take care of the Shishya- Bhuvanendra Tirtha.
The Divan asked the Shishya whom he would like to have as his guardian as he was still a minor when his Guru attained Mukti. Sumatheendra Tirtha’s Guru- Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha Swamiji had taken two Shishyas -Sumatheendra Tirtha and Vasudendra Tirtha. And Bhuvanendra Tirtha wisely said that he would have Shrimad Vasudendra Tirtha as his guardian. As mentioned, at that time the Math was passing through a crisis and was in throes of a division. There was a case filed by Vasudendra Tirtha against Sumatheendra Tirtha seeking Mathadhipathya and partition of the Math. A decree to that effect had been passed and was pending execution when Sumatheendra Tirtha attained Samadhi and Bhuvanendra Tirtha chose Vasudendra Tirtha as his guardian. Vasudendra Tirtha was deeply touched and mightily pleased, he gave up his idea of initiating a Shishya, accepted Bhuvanendra Tirtha as his Shishya and ward and gave up his claim to divide the assets of the Math and asked Bhuvanendra Tirtha to go over to Manjeshwar where he was camping. Thus the foresight and the timely astute decision of Bhuvanendra Tirtha saved the Kashi Math from partition in the mid 19th century and it has continued as one entity.
Bhuvanendra Tirtha stayed on at Alleppey to finish his studies and before he could reach Manjeshwar, Vasudendra Tirtha attained Mukti at Manjeshwar on Vaisakh Pournami of Siddharth Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1781- Monday, 16th May, 1859 and they never met. Vasudendra Tirtha’s Vrindavan is at the Manjeshwar Math facing the Vrindavan of his Guru Vibhudendra Tirtha. Vasudendra Tirtha had prepared an inventory of all assets with him and left copies in the Math and the Manjeshwar temple. On verification after Bhuvanendra Tirtha reached Manjeshwar it was found that some item of the treasure was missing. Swamiji called upon anyone who had taken it to return it promptly. None responded. Therefore, Swamiji took a lemon- chanted mantras and set it rolling. The lemon rolled on and came to a halt in front of the house of the person who had taken the treasure. He duly begged to be forgiven and returned the asset. That was Swamiji’s power even at that young age.
Bhuvanendra Tirtha was a great tapasvi, a great scholar and a great Vaidya- Ayurveda pandit. He hailed from a family well versed in Ayurveda. His Holiness was a powerful spiritual figure whose powers of anugraha (blessing) and nigraha (curse) were equally pronounced and efficacious. Whenever Swamiji gave any blessing it came true. There are many instances. It, however, needs to be clarified that Swamijis do not curse anyone-no nigraha. What happens is that when you do something wrong and anything hurting or insulting to the Peetha or the Swamiji, it automatically rebounds on the wrong doer. It is not that Swamijis wish ill or curse, but God is more displeased and angry when His devotees and sadhakas are sought to be troubled or hurt. The story of Durvasa and Shibhi Chakravarti in Shrimad Bhagvata is the typical example.
Speaking of Bhuvanendra Tirtha and his spiritual prowess, there is the case of His Holiness giving ‘mantra pinda’ to a lady past the child bearing age and her giving birth to a son. Then there is the incident of a Navayat (Muslim) child bitten by a snake and dead – being brought back to life. The grateful father donated a huge sum which came in handy for renovating the old Math building in Bhatkal. His Holiness’ mantra shakti and vaidya shakti cured ailments almost immediately. He could cure ailments with Tirtha and Prasada.
It is said that Bhuvanendra Tirtha’s mystic powers were such that when he had fever he would transfer it to his holy dhanda and he would be normal. Then he would have bath and perform pooja. Thereafter, he would take back the fever from the dhanda.
Many artists, sculptors and scholars earned the grace of Shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha and excelled in their chosen fields. The case of Ranjal Janardhana Shenoi of Karkal – who was in the service of Swamiji and the Math and who had no particular skills or education but with Swamiji’s blessing attained great expertise in Shilpa shastra and became a renowned sculptor is an example. Swamiji guided one Vasudeva Shanbhag in composing a great literary work in Kannada. Pavanje Laksminarayanappa, a Sthanik Brahmin studied at the feet of Swamiji and with his blessing became a great Kirthankar and served also Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swamiji and Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji.
It is again with Swamiji’s blessing, inspiration and guidance that the Canara High School was begun by Shri A. Subba Rao Pai. Once Swamiji was sitting outside the temple at Mangalore when someone looking impressive and important drove by in a coach. On enquiry His Holiness was told that it was a Judge and on further questioning it was mentioned that one needed to be educated in the modern system to attain such position. It was then that Swamiji inspired Shri Subba Rao Pai to start a school so that our people too could get educated and aspire for such positions. It is to be noted that at least two persons who studied in the Canara High school became High Court Judges- Shri K.P.Lakshman Rao became a Judge of the Madras High Court and Shri A.Narayana Pai was a Judge and then Chief Justice of the Mysore (later Karnataka) High Court. Canara Bank also founded by Shri A.Subba Rao Pai, though after Bhuvanendra Tirtha’s lifetime owes its inspiration and origin to Swamiji.
Once Swamiji was travelling from one place to another with the entire retinue of the Math- the mode of travel those days being bullock cart and palanquin- necessarily slow moving and time consuming. It was getting dark and late. They saw a big bungalow at a distance and Swamiji sent word enquiring whether they could camp/halt there for the night. The owner of the palatial building unwilling to give it for Swamiji’s camp callously replied that the building was full of scorpions and hence unfit for habitation. On hearing this Swamiji bade the retinue to proceed. Lo and behold when that building was opened by the owner he found it full of scorpions indeed.
His Holiness performed many Prathishtas and Jeernodhara Prathishtas. In 1852 the Prathishta of Shri Venkatachalapathy and Shri Lakshmi Narasimha was performed in a newly constructed temple at Alleppey which was acknowledged by the Maharaja of Travancore sending Kanika. The utsava moorthis at Padubidri were installed in 1855 and His Holiness’ prediction that there would be Ratholsavam came true. The installation of Shri Lakshmi Venkatesha in Hosadurg in 1864 and Shri Venkataramana in Kundapur in 1874 and Sahasra Kumbhabisheka at Shrimad Anantheshwar Temple in Manjeshwar in 1875 were performed by him. The darshan at Manjeshwar which had stopped resumed after Swamiji’s fervent prayers. Swamiji also installed the idol of Lord Dhanvanthari, the presiding deity of Ayurveda in Cochin. That temple is managed by a branch of His Holiness’ purvashram family – leading Ayurvaids.
Bhuvanendra Tirtha initiated a Shishya at Manjeshwar in 1876 and named him Varadendra Tirtha.
The 3rd Prathishta of Lord Venkatapathy- Cochin Thirumala Devaswom was performed by Bhuvanendra Tirtha and his Patta Shishya Varadendra Tirtha in 1881. That year’s Chaturmasa was also at Cochin. All the poojas and festivities in the temple including the Vishnu Mahayaga and the two Araats are performed as per Bhuvanendra Tirtha’s prescription- Chattam. That is a model of foresight and wisdom, expertise and catholicity. The Ratha that is taken on Mahanavami day was given by His Holiness. The last installation was performed in 1886 of utsav moorthis of Shri Mahamaya at the Shri Mahamaya Maha Ganapathi temple at Shirali.
Bhuvanendra Tirtha Swamiji was also a great integrating force for the community. The Dwara Palaks at the Cochin temple were sculpted and given by Ranjal Janardhan Shenoi of Karkal at Swamiji’s instance and similarly the Deepasthamba at the Karkal temple was given from Cochin.
Guru and Shishya performed the 1882 Chaturmasa at Kashi. A hundred years later, in 1982 the present Pontiff performed Chaturmasa at Kashi. On the way back at the request of the Swamiji of Kavle Math, Bhuvanendra Tirtha visited and camped at Khanapur near Belgaum which has a large following of the Kavle Math. At the insistence of those devotees- Swamiji performed Chaturmasa too at that place. Many houses there not belonging to Kashi Math shishya vrinda have Bhuvanendra Tirtha’s photos.
Swamiji had to face and fight many litigations in all of which he succeeded. While in Shimoga District in 1866, he was prevented from proceeding with all the paraphernalia by the Shringeri Math disciples. He got a final decision in his favour from the Judicial Commissioner of Mysore. There was also litigation in Allahabad in respect of certain lands. The other important litigation is regarding a command given by Swamiji about a social matter. Swamiji had pardoned certain devotees by asking them to do Prayaschith. Some other devotees filed a suit in 1877 challenging this and requiring that those pardoned devotees should be kept away from the temple. The Sub Judge of Mangalore ordered that “the power of ejecting and re-admitting to caste rested with the Guru.” This was affirmed in appeal by the District Court of South Canara observing that it is not open to Courts to question the propriety of re-admission. And this attained finality with the Madras High Court dismissing the second appeal in 1882. This is a judgement of historic importance. In all religious, ecclesiastical and spiritual matters the Guru stands supreme.
Bhuvanendra Tirtha Swamiji attained Mukti at Abhijit Muhurt (noon) on Margashira Shudha Pratipada of Vyaya Samvatsara Sh.Sh. 1808 – Friday, 26 November, 1886 at Basrur where his Vrindavan is situated facing that of the second Guru Keshavendra Tirtha.
The eighteenth Swami is Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha whose 100th Punyathithi is being observed this year. He hailed from Andikadavu in Cochin and was born on Aswija Amavasya (Diwali) of Kshaya Samvatsara Sh.Sh. 1788 -1866 AD. In his purvashram he was Giri Mallya, son of Shri Anantha Mallya. He was a precocious child. It is said that as a young lad playing with his friends he donned the role of a Swami. This was reported to Bhuvanendra Tirtha who sent for the boy and asked him what he wished to be and the youngster replied that he wanted to be a Sanyasi- Swami. Bhuvanendra Tirtha said that he would take him as a Shishya. Coming events cast their shadows before. What was perhaps said in a lighter vein turned out to be true. Bhuvanendra Tirtha did initiate as his Shishya the young Giri Mallya then only in his tenth year in June 1876. That was at Manjeshwar on Jeshta Pournami of Dhatu Samvatsara Sh.Sh. 1798- Tuesday, 6th June, 1876.
Varadendra Tirtha was destined to be a leader and a great spiritual personality. He had the benefit of being with the Guru for over 10 years. He camped at Varanasi for a long time for his studies and became a great scholar. He was a multifaceted personality and his scholastic attainments were wide and varied covering almost every aspect of human endeavour. Apart from his great mastery of Vedanta and Sanskrit he was a multi linguist- having deep knowledge of more than 14 languages including foreign ones. Sanskrit, Konkani, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Latin, Urdu, German, French, English, Portuguese and Japanese. He also had great technical knowledge and expertise. He had Mantrasiddhi too. He was also a scholar in Mathematics, Astrology, Palmistry and Ayurveda.
On Bhuvanendra Tirtha attaining Mukti in 1886, Varadendra Tirtha ascended the Peetha of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan at the age of 20. He lived to the maximum of his potential.
Once students of the Patashala were disturbed in their recitation by the chirping of the birds. They complained to Swamiji. His Holiness drew a circle around the students and the birds who came inside lost their voice because of Swamiji’s mantra shakti. After the recitation he again drew the circle and the birds regained their voices.
Some magician came to Swamiji to show his prowess and by his magic brought out the conch- sankha in the pooja room. Swamiji then asked him to send it back to the pooja room. But try as much as he did, he could not. Then Swamiji with his spiritual prowess and Mantrashakti got the better of the magician and sent back the conch.
It is said that early in the morning His Holiness himself would pluck the flowers and arrange them for the pooja.
Swamiji has been known to have repaired watches, clocks and time pieces. So also the telegraph machine. Once the train in which he was travelling was not moving due to some problem. Swamiji went to the engine and set right the problem and the train could proceed with the journey. Modern engineering and mechanical gadgets held a fascination for him. He would open an instrument- see its inside- examine- detect the problem and set it right. He had made for himself a chair and writing table which is now displayed at the Dahisar Math Museum. He thus excelled in carpentry too. Swamiji founded a printing press known as Sachidananda Mudralaya in Basrur in order to print various manuscripts on religious works which were in the Math. His efforts in composing, printing and book binding were marvelous. During the hours between worship and late nights- he would engage himself in reading and writing and also book binding. He was planning to construct a building for housing all the books lying unattended in all the Maths from Rameshwar to Varanasi and the library was to be named Bhuvanendra Granthalaya. That however did not come about.
Lord Wellingdon the Governor of Bombay and later Viceroy of India visited the Walkeshwar Math to pay respects to Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha. Swamiji arranged some mechanical device and pressing a button from where he was seated had two elephant statues at the entrance garland the Governor and his lady to their utter joy and astonishment.
It is worthy of note that Swamiji excelled in all this without any formal education having taken sanyas when he was barely ten and achieved all this in a short life span of less than 48 years.
Swamiji was very fond of children. Once while at Manjeshwar His Holiness arranged for the circus company to come near the temple to perform the circus for the whole day so that the children could see, enjoy and entertain themselves. What would have been the whole day’s collection for the circus company but for their coming to the temple, was given by Swamiji. It was also during Varadendra Tirtha’s time that the practice of giving crackers to children on the occasion of Diwali was started and it is still continued.
His Holiness was a patron of fine arts, music and literature. He was himself a versatile literary figure- his poetic genius finding expression in many wonderful compositions in praise of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and others.
Someone who had filed a court case against the Math sought His Holiness’ blessings. Swamiji replied that truth alone would win and gave him gandhaprasasd. Of course he lost the case- but continued to receive Swamiji’s affection.
Swamiji performed the Prathishta and Puna Prathishta in various temples. Prathishta at Udupi Lakshmi Venkatesha temple was performed in 1896, the idol of Shri Venkataramana in Puttur temple was installed in 1899. His Holiness also performed the Prathishta of Lord Venkatapathy at Ernakulam Temple in 1897. His Holiness was invited to the Palace and honoured by the Maharaja of Travancore.
Having got disillusioned with the community, Varadendra Tirtha had retired to Tiruchirapalli on the banks of the Kaveri far away from GSB settlements. His Holiness was not keeping good health. He had decided not to initiate any vatu and take a disciple as he felt that the community did not seem to require or cherish a Dharma Guru. Swamiji’s purvashram brother Shri Krishna Mallya strongly protested; threatened to go on a fast and persuaded Swamiji to change his mind and initiate a disciple. His Holiness relented and asked Shri Krishna Mallya to get a suitable vatu.
The choice then fell on the 15 year old Shrinivasa Prabhu. He was taken to Trichy. And there on Sravana Bahula Chathurthi of Paridhavi Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1834 corresponding to Sunday, 31 August, 1912 he was given Sanyasa Deeksha and named Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha. Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swami was very sick then and came on all fours to give Sanyasa Deeksha to the disciple. His Holiness was unable to perform the pooja and it fell to the new Swami to perform the pooja on the very day he took sanyashrama. The Sanyasa Deeksha was in Sravana during the Chaturmasa. Thereafter both the Swamijis went to Thirumala where they performed Brahmotsava. Shrimad Sukrathindra Swamiji held the katika as the yajman. Then they camped at Bantwal for sometime. After some days Sukrathindra Tirtha was sent to Cochin for studies while Varadendra Tirtha went to Bombay. The Guru Shishya who were together till then thus parted company. They were not to meet again.
Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swami did not have a long time on the physical plane thereafter. Swamiji attained Mukti on Ashada Shudha Dvitiya of Ananda Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1836 – Wednesday 24 June, 1914 at Walkeshwar, Bombay. His Vrindavan is there by the side of the illustrious Vrindavan of Madhavendra Tirtha.
The nineteenth Swami is Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha, the Guru of the present Pontiff and in whose revered memory this Institute (Sukrathindra Oriental Research Institute) is established. Last year 2012 marked the 100th year of His Holiness’ Sanyasa Sweekar. This year 2014 we commemorate the 100th year of the Samadhi of His Holiness Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha and the centenary of Sukrathindra Tirtha ascending the Peetha of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan. These are important landmarks.
His Holiness Shrimad Sukrathindra Swamiji the 19th Pontiff of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan was a great saint. The radiance of His Holiness’ spirituality and the warmth of his personality continues to inspire and bless us.
Born at Kochi on Phalguna Bahula Navami under the star Purvashada in Durmukhi Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1818 corresponding to Friday, 26 March, 1897, His Holiness was the second son of Shri Subba Prabhu and Smt. Kaveri of Vatsa Gotra. Their Kuladevatha was Katyayini Baneshwar. He was named Shrinivasa. Swamiji’s siblings were an elder brother Janardhana and a younger sister- Amuli. The family home is at the south west corner in the Western Street outside the Kochi temple. Swamiji’s purvashram family was one of the Ashta Adhikaris of the temple. Swamiji lost his mother at a very young age. He was brought up at the residence of the maternal grandfather who was one of the Pradhan Archaks of Lord Venkatapathy. Thus from the beginning Swamiji was destined to have the Lord’s naivedya for food.
Luxury and ease were not part of his younger days. The loss of the mother in childhood had its toll. But then the boy made of sterner stuff and marked by Destiny for greater roles weathered all that calmly and stoically. In a way it was a preparation for the life ahead. Swamiji did not have much of a formal education, he was indeed educated in the true sense for education is the drawing out of the inner potential, the manifestation of perfection already in man. Swamiji’s later life more than demonstrated this. As a child he had a lot of hair. Elderly ladies in the neighbourhood like my great- great- grandmother called him sanyasi when they used to comb his hair. Indeed he turned out to be a sanyasi, one with the Paramahamsa traits.
As stated he was initiated and given Sanyasa Deeksha at Tiruchi- Shrirangam, on the banks of the river Kaveri (on whose banks downstream at Kumbakonam is situated the Vrindavan of the great Vijayindra Tirtha – the progenitor of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan). The name given by the Guru- Sukrathindra was so apt and meaningful. His Holiness was indeed the source and reservoir of all sukruth- virtue, auspiciousness and blessedness and all that is good. As the Guru was ailing the Junior Swami Sukrathindra Tirtha performed the pooja with the help and guidance of the Purohits immediately after taking ashram. That was the great fortune and blessing- again an indication of his great tapasya and high spiritual attainment in the days ahead. The Guru and Shishya stayed in separate rooms and had phalahar separately because of the Guru’s illness but the Guru Varadendra Tirtha was always solicitous about the Shishya and his comforts.
Sometime after the initiation the Guru and Shishya went to Thirumala where they performed Brahmotsava and then went to Bantwal. There is a photo of Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha wearing a kaupin and with the dhanda and gindi proceeding to offer arthi to Lord Lakshmi Venkatesha. That was during the camp in Bantwal. The dhoti meant for Swamiji had not yet dried and the Guru Swami asked the Shishya to go for the arthi with only a kaupina which the Shishya implicitly did.
The Guru had gone to the railway station to see off the Shishya who was proceeding to Cochin for studies. The Shishya was feeling sad and forlorn at the separation and looked crestfallen but did not have the courage to express his feelings. The Guru could understand and intuit the Shishya’s position and feelings and infused courage and cheer in him. He told the Shishya that he had given him the deities for performing pooja and worship, that he should perform the same with sincerity, devotion and dedication, that there was nothing to fear and that God would take care of everything and all would be well. Swamiji followed the advice all his life and God took care of everything. And all that he spoke came true and fructified.
It was, indeed, a living testimony of the Lord’s assurance : Ananyas chinthayanto mam yejanah paryupasate tesham nithyabhi yukthanam yogakshemam vahamy aham –that He takes care of the well being of those who are unflinchingly devoted to Him. In fact this is what Swamiji said to his Shishya Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha when the Shishya asked for a message. The Guru repeated what his Guru had told him and said ‘that was all that we were told and that is what we have to convey too’. All this only brings out the significance of devoted worship and surrender to the Almighty.
His Holiness’ Chaturmasa in 1913 was in Cochin. The stay and studies in Cochin continued till 1914 when tragedy struck. On Wednesday, June 24 1914 the Guru Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swami attained Mukti at Walkeshwar Math in Bombay. The Shishya was in Cochin. The journey those days was long and slow and the Shishya Swami could not and did not reach Bombay before the Guru was interred in Vrindavan. That was something Sukrathindra Swami never forgot or could reconcile with. He was just 17 years when Destiny ordained that he ascend the Peetha, perhaps the youngest to assume Mathadhipathya, apart from Bhuvanendra Tirtha who was only 14 when his Guru passed away but had Vasudendra Tirtha as his guardian and Mathadhipathi. His Holiness Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji became Mathadhipathi on Monday, 6 July, 1914. With it came numerous unforeseen problems, trials and tribulations which unfortunately took their toll. Swamiji faced and bore all that with fortitude and faith.
His Holiness’ regime as Mathadhipathi began with a large part of the Walkeshwar Math premises being locked up – except for the essential space for Swamiji’s stay and worship because of some case on the ground that he was a minor. With the help of some wellwishers and purohits the daily essential routine in the Math was carried on. The Guru’s Vrindavana had to be constructed. There were debts and other liabilities to be cleared. He was faced with all these problems for a couple of years. Then slowly things started improving.
The Chaturmasas of 1914, 1915 and 1916 were in Bombay. Varadendra Tirtha’s Vrindavan was properly constructed and Madhavendra Tirtha’s Vrindavan which was in a dilapidated condition was renovated. The re- installation of the Hanuman idols in the two Vrindavanas took place in Phalgun of 1917. A gold kalasha was made then for the pooja. In 1917 Swamiji performed the Chaturmasa at the Moola Math at Kashi when he completed his studies. Enroute to Kashi he visited and camped at Nasik, Prayag etc. There is a copy of the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita purchased at Varanasi with His Holiness’ signature. The book is now with Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji with his name inscribed and the words ‘disciple of’ in English written above the Guru’s signature. This is regularly used by Swamiji. The curve was moving upward. The 1918 Chaturmasa was at Udupi, 1919 at Katpadi, 1920 at Mulki and 1921, 1922 at Mangalore.
Then came M.N.Prabhu’s case. M.N.Prabhu had dined in the company of people of various castes. After an enquiry into the matter His Holiness in exercise of his powers excommunicated M.N.Prabhu in November 1920 and he was consequently refused entry to the Venkataramana Temple, Mangalore. He filed two suits- one challenging Swamiji’s order and the other claiming damages on the ground that the order was illegal and libelous. Both the suits were decreed in 1924. His Holiness appealed against with the decrees to the Madras High Court. In 1929 a Division Bench of the High Court headed by that eminent Judge, Sir Vepa Ramesam allowed the appeals and dismissed the suits with costs. (See: AIR 1930 Mad 100). The High Court recognized and upheld the Swamiji’s power of excommunication and held that the order was legal and valid without being vitiated by any malice or conspiracy. But a decade was lost in this.
During the time this case went on Swamiji was mostly in Kerala. The 1923 Chaturmasa was in Cochin, 1924- Cherai, 1925- Kollam, 1926- Kayamkulam, 1927- Purakkad, 1928- Cherthala, 1929- Thuravoor, 1930 and 1932 at Alleppey, 1931- Rameshwar, 1933- Bombay, 1934 and 1935 Rameshwar. The renovation of the Rameshwar Math was undertaken during this period. The 1936 Chaturmasa was in Bantwal, 1937, 1938 and 1939 in Bombay and 1940 again in Bantwal. The Chaturmasa of 1941 was in Mulki, 1942 in Udupi, 1943 in Gurupur. The Chaturmasas of 1944, 1946 and 1947 were in Mulki, 1945 in Bombay and 1948 in Kochi. His Holiness’ Chaturmasas were performed across the country from Rameshwaram and Kollam in the south to Bombay and Varanasi in the north. These are some bare historical details.
His Holiness was a man of few words which were full of content and significance. The maxim “Deeds speak louder than words” fully applied to him. As our present Swamiji says what Guru Sukrathindra Tirtha said was like Sutra- short and crisp; when one tried to understand and build on it , it became Bhashya- commentary- with all ramifications and nuances.
One reason for Swamiji’s apparent withdrawal and less speech, it is said , was the betrayal of his trust by some people who were apparently close to him but who were split personalities- talking one thing here and saying another thing there, and in a way misrepresenting things and presenting them as they would like them to be. He was thus greatly disillusioned with people and his faith in them was shaken. Even people who spoke or acted against Swamiji and the Samsthan were forgiven. This was so even in M.N.Prabhu’s case.
The greatness of His Holiness was that he never had any ill will, hatred or anger. Patience and forgiveness were his distinctive hallmarks and virtues. It is said that Swamiji never ever lost his temper- indeed a rare virtue and a sure sign of the virtuous and the great. Indeed he was a great tapasvi and a very embodiment of patience, love and compassion.
Some staff of the Math once ate some plantain kept for naivedya- then realizing his mistake sought forgiveness and punishment from Swamiji. Swamiji fondly told him that he ate it perhaps because he was hungry, that he should not repeat it and that his realizing the mistake was itself repentance.
Swamiji’s detachment to worldly things and the high mental level was also quite pronounced. One typical instance would substantiate this. Once when some food was served- ambado- to be specific there was no salt at all in the dish- but His Holiness ate it with relish saying that except salt all other required ingredients were there. This speaks of a different state of mind!
Swamiji was also a great lover of animals. Quite a few animals were reared in the Math at one point of time.
Swamiji’s belief in God and surrender to Him was complete and God never forsook him. Whatever he said came true. There is the instance of a rather not so well to do person who went to meet Swamiji to seek his blessings for his welfare and prosperity. At that time Swamiji told him that the following year’s Chaturmasa was to be his. He was taken aback. His purohit who was accompanying him asked him to accept it and that God and His Holiness’ blessings would take care of everything. And it happened. World War II came- the price of scrap that he was dealing with soared and it earned huge profits and could fund the next Chaturmasa at Udupi with ease. Thus His Holiness’ blessings fructified.
Swamiji’s devotion to the Guru was equally great. He always carried a deep feeling of hurt and sadness that he was not present when his Guru attained Samadhi and could not even see the holy body before it was interred in Vrindavan. The intensity of his devotion while performing worship on the occasion of Varadendra Tirtha’s Punyathithi was unparalleled. The experience of both Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha and Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha with respect to Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha require to be noted.
Whenever he felt there was any problem or whenever he had some intuition or if the Guru appeared in his dream, Swamiji would go to Bombay and a darshan of the Guru’s Vrindavan was enough to bring him cheer and inspiration. This has happened on quite a few occasions. He would leave Bombay only after the Guru appeared in the dream. Once it so happened that the Chaturmasa at some other place was approaching and Sukrathindra Tirtha did not leave Bombay because the Guru Swami had not appeared in the dream. Everyone was a little worried. Then Swamiji had the vision of his Guru in his dream and accordingly left Bombay.
Once when Sukrathindra Tirtha was camping at Walkeshwar some devotee visited the Math and stayed there for somedays. On one of those nights when he was sleeping he got up and saw some Swamiji standing in the hall. The next day when he narrated this to Sukrathindra Swamiji, Swamiji said that he had not gone to the hall and the devotee saw the Guru Varadendra Tirtha. In 1945 when Sukrathindra Tirtha had gone to the Victoria Terminus Railway Station to see off Sudhindra Tirtha one of the inmates of the Math saw a Swamiji standing on the terrace. Sukrathindra Tirtha had not returned from the station; it was again Varadendra Tirtha.
There is this unusual experience of Sudhindra Tirtha. In December 1944 when both Sukrathindra Tirtha and Sudhindra Tirtha were camping at the Bantwal Math- the two Swamijis were sleeping in separate rooms. Sometime in the night Sudhindra Tirtha woke up and saw Varadendra Tirtha lying on a big wooden box which served as a cot. Sudhindra Tirtha stood up. The other Swami asked who it was. Sudhindra Tirtha told who he was and expressed a desire to press Swamiji’s feet- which Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji told me- he felt were very soft. Varadendra Tirtha blessed him and he felt gratified. The next day Sukrathindra Tirtha was pleased beyond measure to hear of the disciple’s experience.
Once when there was plague in Bombay the people came to the Walkeshwar Math asking for medicine which Bhuvanendra Tirtha and Varadendra Tirtha used to give. Sukrathindra Tirtha was not an Ayurvaidya. But when people insisted and had faith, Sukrathindra Tirtha saw that there was some Bhasma (powder) in the box. He took it – invoked the blessings of the Gurus and gave it asking the people to take it with Tirtha. They were cured. Later he told them that the medicine was over.
Many are the installations and re-installations that Swamiji performed. Punarprathishta of Hosdurg Temple in 1920; the foundation of Shri Pattabhi Rama Temple Koteshwar was laid by Swamiji in 1937 and the Prathishta performed in 1940. Punarprathishta at Ullal, Kaup, Mudabidiri, Udyavar, Mundkar, Padmavati Temple at Karkal, Cranganore, Prathishta of Ramanjaneya Temple at Vile Parle, Bombay were all performed. Renovation of Rameshwaram Math and the Kodanda Rama Temple there was an important work that was undertaken and costed about Rs. 43,000/-. It was inaugurated on 19th March,1937.
In 1944, Sukrathindra Tirtha initiated the present Pontiff Sudhindra Tirtha as his disciple. Shrimad Indirakant Tirtha Swami of Gokarn Math suggested at one point of time that Sukrathindra Tirtha should give Sanyasa Deeksha and initiate a disciple because it takes time to shape oneself like the Champaka tree which has to be planted and nurtured for quite sometime before it flowers. Sukrathindra Tirtha replied that there was also another kind of champaka- “bhuyin champa” which flowers without much delay and that God would shape things well.
The lookout for a proper candidate, however, began. It was Swamiji’s desire and condition that the vatu should be a major and should be well conversant with and have a working knowledge of English so as to be able to look after the temporal affairs of the Samsthan effectively. The choice narrowed down to Sadashiva Shenoy s/o Shri Ramdas Shenoy and Smt. Draupadi of Ernakulam, studying for the Intermediate at Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam. He was in his 18th year. One Subba Bhat an elderly priest and confidant of Swamiji was commissioned by him to meet the boy and his father and broach the topic. It was sometime in early 1944- following the temple festival in Ernakulam. Young Sadashiv who was sleeping was woken up by Subba Bhat and told that His Holiness wanted him to accept sanyas and be his Shishya. The boy asked the priest to speak to his father. After some initial doubts and hesitation the youngster appears to have made up his mind. Swamiji was performing special abhishekas and pooja to get a positive response from the vatu. One evening as bell rang for Mangalarthi in the T.D.Temple, Ernakulam, the father asked the son for his final decision and the son responded that if the father and the family thought it appropriate he would take sanyas for continuing the Kashi Math Samsthan Parampara. The die was cast. It was a defining moment. Destiny had marked out young Sadashiv Shenoy for extraordinary things- the journey had begun.
Born on Wednesday, 31st March 1926 under Swati Nakshatra in Chaitra Masa of Ksyaya Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1847, he lost his mother when he was 4 years old and was looked after and taken care of by the eldest sister Smt. Sharada Ranga Prabhu. Even as a youngster he had a deep religious and spiritual inclination and after his upanayanam at the age of 11 he was doing the regular poojas at home. Indeed he had confidently declared that he would not miss the pooja even on a single occasion all his life little realizing then that it would happen that way.
The initiation was to be in May 1944 by which time he would have completed 18 years and attained majority. Prior to that he went to Mulki to meet Swamiji whom he had never seen. The Purohit Shri Shrinivas Bhat had advised him how he was to present himself before the Guru. The upper garment- shalya was to be tied to the waist- over the dhoti as a sign of humility and respect. Sukrathindra Tirtha was mightily pleased to meet the Shishya designate. The oracle at Mulki had already opined that it was an excellent choice and God had shown the right candidate. Swamiji arranged a pilgrimage cum study tour for the Shishya to visit places and meet people. Shri Narayana Avadhani among others accompanied the vatu. They visited many places. In some temples- the Swami- to- be sat on the Ratha. The oracle at Gurupur pronounced that he would be a crest jewel in the crown of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan. After all the preliminaries, on Jeshta Shudha Dwitiya of Tarana Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1866 – Wednesday, May 24, 1944 Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji initiated the disciple and named him Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha.
Late Shri N. Govinda Pai and my grandfather late Shri N. Ranga Pai, as members of the Advisory Committee of the Cochin Temple then under the management of the Government, performed the first padapooja after Shishya Sweekar on behalf of the Cochin Mahajan as per tradition. My grandfather was closely associated with the Swamijis. I am happy and proud to say that this has continued and has been the reason for my own devotion to and association with Swamiji.
All the events leading to the Deeksha were narrated to me in detail by Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji himself in 2004.
The relationship between Guru Sukrathindra Tirtha and Shishya Sudhindra Tirtha, to use Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji’s words, is unique. The Shishya was completely devoted to and had implicit faith in the Guru and the Guru had unbounded affection for the Shishya and very high expectations of him. The Shishya considered himself a mere sevak to do whatever the Guru asked him. Such was his deference that the Shishya would not even touch the Guru’s bed, leave alone sit on it.
Sukrathindra Tirtha is verily Kalpatharu who answers all our prayers and blesses us. Of course, the greatest recipient of it has been his Shishya Sudhindra Tirtha.
After the initiation in May 1944- Guru and Shishya were together and observed the Chaturmasa in Mulki- that is the only Chaturmasa that the two of them observed together. Thereafter in late 1944- it was decided that the Shishya Swami should go to Bangalore for studies. That was the first separation from the Guru. The Shishya wrote a letter asking for the Guru’s photo and kept it under the Guru’s pillow. A photo was, of course, given. The Shishya was given the idols of Vyasa (the original one given by Surendra Tirtha), Rama and Krishna for his worship. The Swamiji’s photo was kept on the window pane near the bed and the Shishya Swami would place in front of that photo whatever kanika that was received. Guru Swamiji used to send about Rs. 500/- per month for rent, salaries and other expenses. The great thing is that the Shishya was never in want. Everything went on smoothly- all requirements were duly met. Whenever there was need for money, Sudhindra Tirtha had only to extend his hand towards Swamiji’s photo and the necessary money was there. That was the Guru’s grace and the Shishya’s faith. This showering of grace by the Guru on the Shishya has always continued and the Shishya joyously and gratefully acknowledges this.
The Guru and Shishya visited many places- the Guru imparting the knowledge of the traditions and the shastras by word and by example and the Shishya absorbing and imbibing the same.
While the Guru was a person of few words it was his desire that the Shishya should turn out to be an eloquent speaker impressing everyone with his thoughts and speech. It turned out to be just like that though Shishya had no earlier exposure to or experience in debating or public speaking; and the Shishya attributes all that entirely to the Guru’s grace.
The management of the Cochin Thirumala Devaswom had, for various reasons, gone out of our control sometime during Varadendra Tirtha’s time, the Cochin Maharaja’s Government having taken over the management. Varadendra Tirtha was deeply anguished by that- but the situation could not be retrieved. Sukrathindra Tirtha’s devotion and attachment to the Cochin Temple and Lord Venkatapathy was singular and Swamiji was prepared to do anything for getting back the management to our own people. Primarily because of Government management Swamiji had not visited Cochin for almost a quarter of a century. It was only in the summer of 1948 that both Guru and Shishya came down to Cochin to an unprecedentedly grand reception, the procession cutting across the main gates and compound and passing through the elephant gate of the Cochin Palace as in the case of the Kings. The Swamijis were present for the temple festival. The Guru observed the Chaturmasa of that year – Sarvadhari Samvatsara (1948) in Cochin while the Shishya’s was at Karkal.
That year both the Swamijis met the Maharaja of Cochin King Parikshit, at the Tripunithura temple. He received them with the greatest respect and courtesies. The King also sat on the floor and they conversed in Sanskrit. Swamiji impressed upon the King the necessity of restoring the administration of the temple to its rightful owners, the GSB community. That fructified with the restoration of the temple management to the GSBs in 1949. A Rayasa Patra in that behalf was given to the Cochin Mahajan by both the Swamijis – 8 May 1949. The actual handing of the keys was by Sudhindra Tirtha as the Senior Swami attained Samadhi shortly prior thereto.
During the camp at Thuravoor- for the golden Dhwaja installation-the junior Swamiji fell ill- first wrongly diagnosed as typhoid and then correctly as malaria. The Guru was deeply concerned and this took its toll on his health which was already affected by diabetes and blood pressure.
There is a liquid beauty in the rising sun, there is a royal splendor in its midday blaze and there is also an exquisite grace in its setting glow. So it is with the life of a great man. There is a sweetness in its childhood and adolescence, there is resplendence in its maturity, and again there is a deep pathos in its last days. Now we reach the closing scenes of that great life of Sukrathindra Swami.
The camp of the two Swamijis was in Alleppey in April 1949. On Rama Navami day Sukrathindra Tirtha Swami was decorating the idols during the Madhyana Pooja. He appeared to be feeling tired and was sweating. His clothes were fully wet. The Shishya offered to help in decorating. But the Guru insisted on doing it himself. After the day’s pooja the Shishya felt that Swamiji’s health was far from alright and better medical care and attention was needed. The temple authorities in Alleppey and Cochin were informed and it was decided to shift to Cochin where Dr. H.N.Kamath and others would attend to Swamiji. Probably Swamiji had had a heart attack at that time.
The next day they moved to Cochin. The Guru was too weak and tired and was taken to the room in a chair. It is only the Shishya who went for offering coconuts and prostrating before God in the temple. The Guru was ailing and stayed upstairs in the room in the then Swamiji’s bungalow in Cochin temple. The poojas were performed by the Shishya Swamiji. It was the time of the temple festival- Maholsavam. On the Aarat day the Junior Swami also did not go for the procession since Swamiji was not keeping good health. That afternoon Swamiji looked extremely tired and exhausted- he was too feeble to speak. He beckoned the Shishya who gave him some water and peeled and gave an orange- after which the Guru appeared a little refreshed and better.
Those days the Guru was upstairs- the Shishya performed the poojas. After a sponge bath, Guru would do nama- mudra and japa and chant the pooja/ mantras sitting in the retiring room. The Shishya, after the pooja, would take the Tirtha Prasad and offer hastodaka to Swamiji for Bhiksha. When the Guru was taking Bhiksha, the Shishya would read the Sundarakhanda. Only later did Sudhindra Tirtha come to know that it is very desirable and meritorious to do Sundarakhanda parayana when a yati has his Bhiksha.
On Vaisakh Pournami evening Padapooja was performed to Swamiji on behalf of the Math staff. The Padapooja was performed by the Shishya Swamiji. That turned out to be the last Padapooja for Swamiji.
Inspite of the treatment and care there was not much improvement and Swamijis condition was deteriorating. Sudhindra Tirtha scrutinized the Guru’s horoscope and consulted astrologers- the result was far from encouraging. All the time Sukrathindra Tirtha tried to remain cheerful and made others also feel happy. Sudhindra Tirtha did Mritunjaya Japa and had the Mritunjaya Havana performed for the Guru’s good health and long life. It went off very satisfyingly. After the havana and pooja when the arthi was being taken to the Guru, the wicks fell down and were put out- not a happy or favourable sign. The Shishya Swami felt quite dejected.
Sukrathindra Swami bemoaned that while his worthy preceptor Varadendra Swami was a master in Ayurveda and skilled in the art of healing, he knew nothing of it and had to rely solely on physicians and their advice and medicines.
A few days before the passing away, one night the Guru was awake when the Shishya went near him. The Guru wanted the Shishya to narrate a good, interesting story and suggested that he narrate the story of Kenopanishad. The Shishya narrated the story which greatly pleased the Guru. It contains the eternal truth. The Guru was happy that the Shishya had imbibed and grasped the intricacies of Vedanta.
Sukrathindra Tirtha followed the ancient system of imparting education- the Guru and the Shishya sitting together and discussing and debating difficult issues on a variety of subjects. But why did the Guru pitch upon Kenopanishad? The Shishya thought over this. Was it to convey the message that inquisitiveness leads to knowledge, knowledge to devotion and devotion to winning God’s grace? Or was it to convey that everything happens not as we wish but as He wills- only at the command of God and we must accept everything taking that to be God’s wish and grace? Perhaps it conveyed all this.
Sudhindra Tirtha’s attachment to and attention towards the Guru’s needs was such that even in the dead of the night he would wake up whenever Swamiji wanted anything or his assistance. Swamiji would just call by signalling and waving his hand and the Shishya would be up.
The Guru was happy and confident with the Shishya beside him. One day the Guru Swamiji, it appeared, wanted to convey something. The Shishya’s countenance was sad, tearful and fallen because of Swamiji’s health. Swamiji hence refrained from saying anything inspite of the Shishya’s repeated requests. And thus whatever Swamiji wanted to convey then has remained unsaid.
The last Rayasa that Swamiji wrote was to Shri Kaup Vaman Shenoy of Kasargod and Shri A. Venkateshwara Prabhu of Ernakulam was the last person to whom Swamiji gave manthrakshad.
The senior Swamiji was hardly taking anything because of want of taste and appetite due to his ailments which included an earlier attack of jaundice that had affected the liver. The junior Swamiji persuaded him to eat something of his choice and the dish that Swamiji wanted and partook of was “hittu” with potato and lemon pickle. That was perhaps the last food that Swamiji ate with some relish.
On the fateful day Sunday, 10th July 1949 which was Guru Poornima, after the Madhyana pooja when the Tirtha was taken, Guru wanted the Shishya to offer him the Tirtha. Thereafter Guru gave the same to all others present. Again the Guru wanted the Shishya to apply the tilak to him.
In the night when Shishya Swami had gone for the Mangalarthi in the temple there were repeated messages that the Guru was making enquiries and wanted him by his side. Mangalarthi quickly done, the Shishya rushed to the Guru’s side. By then Guru Swamiji had asked for new clothes to be taken out and worn them. He was sitting majestically dressed in the ceremonial silk turban. (It is necessary for a Sanyasi to wear new clothes at the time of Samadhi. Again taking Tirtha from the Shishya and having the Shishya apply tilak was like the son offering the Tirtha to the father for the last time and similarly applying gopichandan nama). Swamiji thus seemed to have had the premonition of his departure from this physical plane.
After sometime the Guru wanted to lie down. Then he asked the Shishya to help him sit up in a reclining position which the Shishya did. But someone – probably a doctor said that the Guru must be in a supine position. The Shishya went out of the room. Shortly thereafter there was a cry. Narasimha Bhat of Mulki was standing at the feet of Swamiji- dazed. Shri N.Lakshman Pai was near the head. Dr.V.V. Bhat was also there. Guru Swamiji’s palms were clenched and the mouth was a little open- having uttered ‘Narayan’. The vaidiks present started reciting Vayu Stuti. The Guru had attained Mukti. The Shishya prostrated. And then the next course of action had to be thought and worked out. It was the night of Guru Poornima – Ashada Poornima of Virodhi Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1871. It was about 11.45 pm when Swamiji passed away and it was Ashada Bahula Pratipada by then.
The appropriate religious texts were taken out- Shri Narayana Avadhani of the Samsthan was there. Shri Janardhan Bhat (Dr.J.A.Bhat’s father) was sent for by the Shishya Swami. He was well versed in the Shastras and knew what was to be done and how it was to be done. The body of Guru Swami in a sitting posture was brought down to the ground floor of Swamiji’s bungalow and kept there the whole night to enable people to pay their last respects.
Next day abhishekas were performed to the body and it was taken to the “agarsala’ and placed facing Shri VyasaRaghupathi. Arthi was performed to VyasaRaghupathi and that arthi was waved to the Guru Swamiji and tirtha, gandha prasad offered. Then the body was taken round (pradakshina of ) the temple. It was placed in the Aanapandal facing the Lord. Then the arthi performed to Venkatapathy was waved to the Guru Swamiji. Tirtha and gandha prasad were offered. Then it was taken and placed in front of Hanuman temple facing east. There were further ceremonies and thereafter the Shishya Swami was not to see the body. “Kapal Patan’ ceremony was done. A saligrama chakra was placed on the head where a nominal hole was made. Then the body was placed in a big sack and lowered into the erstwhile Yajnakund. It was then filled with lots of camphor, salt and pepper besides sand. It is significant that the previous year at Sukrathindra Tirtha’s instance the Yajnakund which was on the southern side of the temple was shifted to the northern side. And the place where Vishnu Maha Yaga was performed for many years became the final resting place- Vrindavan for Sukrathindra Tirtha. That is ever holy. It was almost evening by the time all this was over.
Thereafter Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji had to perform the Trikala pooja. A small idol of Mukhyaprana was kept at the Vrindavan by Sudhindra Tirtha Swami, the very next day and poojas began. That idol is still there.
As stated 10th July was Guru Poornima, the day that Chaturmasa generally commenced. If there is any inconvenience that day then it is started on Ashada Bahula Panchami. Sukrathindra Swami had said that that year they could commence the Chaturmasa on Panchami day. This again appeared to be a premonition of his impending departure. Accordingly Sudhindra Tirtha Swami commenced the Chaturmasa on Panchami- Friday, 15 July, 1949. Thereafter, it has been the practice to begin the Chaturmasa on Ashada Bahula Panchami. This continues even now.
On the 13th day after the Samadhi- Friday, 22nd July 1949 there were certain ceremonies. Dhana was given to 24 Brahmins as prescribed. There was Samaradhana for all men and women. Menu included hittu, lemon and potato pickle, chutney, ladoo, mando etc. That evening there was a Mahasabha and Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swami ascended the Peetha of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan as the Mathadhipathi. He was 23 years old.
Sudhindra Swamiji used to light two small lamps near the photo of the Guru. In the night before the oil was exhausted Swamiji would get up from sleep. The Guru came in dream every night and the feeling was Guru Swamiji was alive and with him. This happened daily till the idol of Mukhyaprana was consecrated in the Vrindavan. That was at 11.20 a.m. on Friday, 18 May, 1951 Vaisakh Shudha Dwadasi of Khara Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1873. It was a grand function. Thereafter big lamps were lighted near the photo.
It may be mentioned that my great grandmother Smt. Draupadi composed songs in Konkani on the Samadhi of Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji and the consecration of the Vrindavan.
Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha Swami is unique in many ways. He is the only Yati in the Samsthan whose birth and Vrindavan happen to be in the same place- Cochin. His first Chaturmasa in 1913 and last Chaturmasa in 1948 were also at the same place-Cochin. He has also the distinction of having performed poojas to the Samsthan deities immediately after initiation.
The greatness and glory of His Holiness’ Vrindavan is nonpareil. In the parikrama of the temple of Lord Venkatesha at Cochin, Swamiji’s Vrindavan is closer to the Lord’s Garbagriha than the Parivara Devas- Lakshmi, Hanuman, Garuda and Ganapathy. The place is what was earlier Yajnakund sanctified by the performance of Vishnu Maha Yaga twice every year for decades. Such is the final resting place that has been ordained by Providence for Swamiji. Perhaps no Vrindavan of any other Swamiji of the Samsthan has these unique features.
As mentioned, Swamiji in his purvashrama stayed with his maternal grandparents and had the naivedya of Lord Venkatapathy. After taking sanyas it was the naivedya of Lord VyasaRaghupathi that Swamiji had. And now in the Vrindavan it is Venkatapathy’s prasad eternally.
In 1969 to commemorate the silver jubilee of Sudhindra Tirtha Swami taking sanyas, His Holiness had a Prabhavali made for the Hanuman idol (at the Vrindavan) with the Panchayath of Lord Badri Narayan in it.
Devotees pray at the Vrindavan and their prayers are answered. Instances are legion. One gets peace, satisfaction and joy on worshipping there- your problems melt away and you are showered with divine grace. Sukrathindra Swami’s very name sanctifies both those who chant and those who hear.
Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji the present Mathadhipathi had some doubts and fears on taking over the Mathadhipathya after the Mahasamadhi of Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji. All that vanished with Swamiji keeping the padukas of the revered Guru Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji below the Samsthan deities and offering worship. That gave both strength and direction to Swamiji’s efforts in promoting Dharma and organizing the Samaj. The Trikala pooja performed with Bhakti and Shradha yielded the desired results. Garlanding and offering worship to the photos of three generations of Gurus in Swamiji’s room in the mornings and evenings is also a practice started by Sudhindra Swamiji. Swamiji offered special prayers during Pooja for the uplift and well being of the GSBs especially the poorer sections amongst them, that they have better education and placement in life and all round prosperity and welfare so that they take their rightful place in society. The prayers have been amply answered as borne out by the march of events.
One day sometime in the early 1950s, while at Cochin a priest came to Sudhindra Tirtha Swami with a saligrama which he wanted to give to Swamiji in return for some money which he badly needed. It was a rare and beautiful saligrama of Shri Lakshmi Narayana. Swamiji tried to dissuade him from parting with it but he was insistent and Swamiji accepted it and offered him dakshina. He was happy. Swamiji happily and reverentially took the saligrama to the pooja room. It was the starting point of greater prosperity for the Math and the followers and Swamiji was mightily pleased and grateful to the Lord.
1963 witnessed a unprecedented event. On the initiative of Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji the Swamijis of Kashi Math, Gokarn Math and Kavle Math observed Chaturmasa at the same place – Karkal.
In 1965 Swamiji founded the Bhuvanendra Balakashrama after which the Samsthan experienced steady progress and welfare materially and otherwise and there has been no looking back since then. Thereafter Varadendra Balakashrama and Sukrathindra Balakashrama were also started amongst many other activities/ charities. A large number of new branch Maths have been established and old Maths renovated. Quite a few charitable trusts have been created. Swamiji has also performed Prathishtas, Punarprathishtas and Kumbakishekam at various places. Various programmes and activities were initiated by the Samsthan. Swamiji has always ensured that there are enough assets of the Samsthan before creating any liabilities.
Swamiji’s reign- Mathadhipathya has been long, eventful and fruitful. That has not been dwelt upon at great length here because it is all very well known. Swamiji has been heading the community and guiding it for about five generations. In my own family – six generations- from my great- great- grandmother to my son- have paid obeisance to Swamiji. We all are blessed to be in the Samaj during His Holiness’ regime.
The functioning of the Samsthan was smooth and the directions of the Mathadhipathi were adhered to without hesitation till the time of Shrimad Sumatheendra Tirtha Swamiji i.e. the middle of the 19th century. Thereafter there has been some resistance on the part of the community and disinclination to adhere to Swamiji’s advice and directions. Sometimes this has taken the form of open defiance.
Bhuvanendra Tirtha’s actions were challenged in Court with the Swamiji winning upto the High Court. Varadendra Tirtha and Sukrathindra Tirtha also had to face unwarranted litigation making them feel disillusioned with the people. It is always necessary that the Dharma Guru’s words are followed and injunctions carried out. Not doing so invites sin. Hence the present Pontiff Sudhindra Tirtha has refrained himself from giving any ajna or adesha and confined to giving upadesha. There were no hurdles for a long time. The Samaj was organized and galvanized. A lot of improvement particularly on the material plane took place.
In 1989 Swamiji gave sanyasadeeksha to a vatu who was named Raghavendra Tirtha. Events took a different turn thereafter. He did not shape himself well. By precept and practice he showed himself to be unworthy and disinclined to the life of a sanyasi. He was therefore disowned by Swamiji and it was declared that he had no connection with the Samsthan. He initiated a litigation – the first and only of its kind by a Shishya against the Guru claiming Mathadhipathya as against the Guru himself. All this is now too obvious and too painful to recall. The community has had its fire ordeal in this process.
On Jestha Shudha Dasami of Chitrabhanu Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1924 -Thursday, June 20, 2002 the day of Ganga Avatar, His Holiness initiated another vatu into sanyashram at Haridwar and named him Shrimad Samyamindra Tirtha. Born on Sunday, 12th September, 1982, under Adhra Nakshatra in Bhadrapada of Dundubi Samvatsara, Sh.Sh. 1904 at North Parur, in his purvashram he was Umesh Mallan, son of Surendra Mallan. After vigorous study and training befitting a Swami he performed the SudhaMangala in January 2010, the first in the community after Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji’s SudhaMangala in 1955. He is touring places, conducting camps and all other religious activities as a worthy representative of the Pontiff.
Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji is the present Mathadhipathi and the 20th in line in the Guruparampara. Initiated into Sanyashram in 1944, he ascended the Peetha in 1949 on the Samadhi of his Guru and predecessor Shrimad Sukrathindra Tirtha Swami. Swamiji has completed observing 70 Chaturmasas- 70 years of sanyashrama and about 65 years as Mathadhipathi. These are unique events in the Math. The longest reigns have been of the 1st and the 2nd Swamis. The first Swami, Shrimad Yadavendra Tirtha Swami’s sanyashram and Mathadhipathya was about 66 – 67 years. Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha has already surpassed that period in the Sanyashram. The second Swami, Shrimad Keshavendra Tirtha Swami’s sanyashram period is not known, his Mathadhipathya was about 62 years which also has been surpassed by the present Pontiff.
Mantramudharana – Rayasapatras
Tapta mudradharana is a vedic ritual, very essential for a Vaishnava. It is meant to burn one’s dushkarmas and doshas and stimulate the intellectual and spiritual activities. It is to be received/taken from Sanyasis who have become Pontiffs- Paramahamsa. Mudhradharana is the act of the Guru imprinting the marks of Vishnu- chakra and shanka- on the disciple. Its significance is on the spiritual plane. Of the Pancha Maha Bhoothas, Agni is God Incarnate whose vital force is heat. By heating the Mudras in the sacred fire its chaitanya is absorbed by the Mudras. By stamping them on the Shishya the Guru transmits the chaitanya. The heated Mudras leave indelible reddish marks of Vishnu on the Shishya. The Guru thus kindles the divine spark in the Shishya. When the Mudhradharana is performed along with Mantropadesha i.e., Guru giving a mantra for japa –it is Mantra Mudhradharana. Mudhradharana sanctifies the body and the Mantra enlightens the mind, illumines the spirit. The whole being is thus imbued with divinity. The right to perform Mantra Mudhradharana is one of the most important privileges that distinguishes a religious head- Mathadhisha from an ordinary sanyasin. It symbolizes the cementing of the relationship between the Swamiji and the Shishyavrinda and gives depth and significance to the Guru Shishya Bandha. The traditional paraphernalia represents the religious and temporal suzerainty of the Swamiji.
The Patta Deva of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan is Lord Rama because of which on the top of every Rayasapatram it is written Shri Ramachandraya Namah. Every letter of correspondence of the Swamiji is really an “ajna” order. It is called Rayasa- it is received and treated very respectfully. A lamp is lit and it is read in front of the deity in the temple for the information of all the Shishyavargas. At the end of the Rayasa- the words, “Ithi Narayana Smaranami” are written and the signature of the Swamiji is affixed.
In earlier days at the top of the Rayasa a seal was affixed- It contained the words: (In the case of Shrimad Varadendra Swami) ShriMadhva Hridkamalavasa Vyasaramarchane Vrittah- BhuvanendraYatichatroh Varadendra Virajate, meaning He who worships Shri Vyasa Rama residing in the lotus heart of Shrimad Madhvacharya- the Shishya of Shri Bhuvanendra Yati- Varadendra Tirtha so shines- i.e., reigns. Then there is the Birudavali. That seal was decided to be changed by Shri Varadendra Tirtha who designed the present insignia which came into vogue only in about 1920 during the time of Shri Sukrathindra Tirtha. It consists of the impression of the idols of Shri VyasaRaghupathi with the paraphernalia around. This religious insignia is used only in Chaturmasa Rayasapatrams- in all other official documents it is only the seal bearing the name of the Swamiji and his signature.
It may also be of interest that sending Chaturmasa Rayasapatrams started only from the time of Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha. That practice does not appear to have been in vogue earlier.
The Pantheon of the Samsthan
The predominant deities of the Samsthan are- Lord Vyasa bestowing Jnana- knowledge and wisdom, Lord Rama- the embodiment of Dharma and endowing with an ideal life and Lord Narasimha blessing with Nirbhaya- fearlessness.
The idol of Vyasa is the one Keshavendra Tirtha Swami was blessed with. The idol of Rama – Raghupathi is the one given by Shrimad Surendra Tirtha and Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha to Yadavendra Tirtha at the inception of the Math. The idol of Narasimha is in the form that Raghavendra Tirtha was blessed with during Darshan. These three idols adorn the first step of the Simhasan in the Samsthan (during Chaturmasa when the big Simhasana is kept) with Lord Veda Vyasa in the centre, Lord Rama on the right and Lord Narasimha on the left. These are Panchaloha idols.
While all idols are taken and abhisheka performed on the day of the beginning of Chaturmasa, the main Vyasa deity is taken for abhisheka on Yugadi, Diwali and the Punyathithi day of His Holiness Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji. The main idol of Rama is taken for special abhisheka on Rama Navami day and that of Narasimha on Narasimha Jayanthi day.
The original Vyasa idol (also of Panchaloha) given by Surendra Tirtha is also in the Samsthan and is kept on the third step of the Simhasana at the right end- in one prabhavali- Rama- Vyasa-Krishna- and this Krishna idol is taken for pooja on Janmashtami. There are many other idols in the Math.
On the second step in the centre is a beautiful idol of Vyasa made of saligrama. It is the utsava moorthi. It is this idol which is taken for Kanakabhisheka and on Vyasa Jayanthi and also for the Vahana pooja during Navaratri festival (Sharad Navaratri and Vasant Navaratri- Rama Navaratri). At the bottom of this idol is inscribed Shri Krishna. Then there are silver idols of Varadaraja- LakshmiVenkatesha, LakshmiNarayana on the right and LakshmiNarasimha and BhadraNarasimha on the left. These idols are attributed to the time of Shrimad Vibhudendra Tirtha Swami whose name is inscribed on the idols.
On the third step at the centre is Veera Vittala- Lord Vittala holding a conch. On the right in one Prabhavali are Rama, Vyasa and Krishna, as stated above. On the left in one Prabhavali are Lakshmana, Rama and Sita. Then there is one Navaneeth Krishna- Damodar taken for Uthan Dwadashi Tulasi pooja, one Manthana Krishna, one Venugopal, one Venkataramana and one small silver idol of Vyasa. All these are placed on the third step.
There are three Hanuman idols. One a rare image of MukhyaPrana with a bow in one hand and a book- Ramayana in the other is taken for Pavamanabhisheka. There are also two idols of Garuda and one ten handed Ganapathi, Siddhi Vinayaka- Vidhya Ganapathi.
During times other than Chaturmasa and Vasantolsava, most of the idols are in a peli (silver box) with the main deity Veda Vyasa being visible- the other idols being inside the box adorning the first step of the small Simhasana. On the second step in the centre is placed Lord Vittala and the other main deities – Lord Rama on the right and Lord Narasimha on the left. The other small idols of Anjaneya, Garuda and Ganapathi are also placed on the second step.
Unique Features and Special Honours
The Kashi Math Samsthan has certain unique features. The deities are touched only by the Swamijis and none else. The decoration of the idols is by Swamiji only. So also the entire pooja including abhisheka is performed by Swamiji alone. The relationship between the Dharmaguru and the Shishya Varga is also of a special nature- the devotion and loyalty of the Shishyas to the Peetha and the Swami and Swamiji’s concern for the disciples are unparalleled. It is also the tradition to deal with the Shishya Varga in a good and befitting manner without hurting their feelings. Even when they err, they are gently corrected and brought on the right path.
Historically and by tradition the Swamijis of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan are entitled to special temple honours and privileges when they visit Thirumala. The Swamiji will be received at the Mahadwaram with Poornakumbha and taken inside for special darshan. He can offer arthi to the Lord. Then he will be presented with Seshavastram-the silk shalya worn by the Moola Devar. Thereafter he will be seen off at the Mahadwaram with Mangala Vedyams. It is also the tradition that when Shri Kashi Math Samsthan wants some sevas to be performed in Thirumala, irrespective of the sevas of others and its availability, Swamiji’s sevas are to be accepted and performed.
These practices and traditions are perhaps attributable to the fact that Shrimad Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji offered pooja to Lord Venkateswara for 12 years and Kashi Math owing its origin to His Holiness is entitled to these privileges.
Similar honours and privileges are also offered to the Swamijis of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan when they visit Rameshwaram.
These are some of the bare factual details of the founding and history of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan and the Guruparampara and its distinctive features.
This should arouse our interest and kindle our enthusiasm in knowing more and more about our Math and our Swamijis and enable us to win the grace of Shri Hari Guru.
The times we live in are characterized by a loss of the sense of values. Repetition, it is said, is an efficient factor for recall. Remembering the history and the persons in it will help to replenish our lives and make them fuller and richer. We reach a point when as we perceive greatness we are left with a feeling: that of which we cannot speak intelligibly is something about which we are bound to keep silence. But it is the silence of reverence and worship and not of ignorance. It is in this spirit that we have to out approach and try to understand these Masters.
To adapt what Will Durant said: Just as continuity of memory is necessary for the sanity of an individual, continuity of our tradition and culture is necessary for the sanity of the community.
Of course every institution should adapt itself and be resilient so as to be relevant to meet from time to time the altering conditions of a changing world with its shifting emphasis and differing needs. Our Maths and institutions have been broadly doing this.
It is well for us to pause and take count of our coarser selves. If our heritage is not to perish and our society is to endure we need to remember and pay obeisance to these saints and draw inspiration and sustenance from our glorious past. These sages have a lesson to teach us, if we care to stop and learn; a lesson quite at variance with most that we practise and much that we profess.
NOTE: This has been prepared not on the basis of any original study or research but based on material already available in and collected from various sources- gathering other men’s flowers. A lot of information has, of course, been gathered from my talks with Swamiji on different occasions and in different contexts as also with elders some of whom had spanned the period of four Swamijis from Shrimad Bhuvanendra Tirtha. That is really a precious original source.
For the smooth flow of writing and reading, instead of mentioning His Holiness or Shrimad or Swamiji everytime, the name and the commonly used pronouns in English though singular have been employed.