Srimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji was the Twentieth Pontiff and Mathadhipati of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan, Varanasi. As the Dharmaguru of the Gowda Saraswat Brahmins of India, Swamiji had been guiding the community in spiritual matters for the past seven decades.
The Guruparampara of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan belongs to the ‘Paramahamsa Parivrajaka’ category of Sanyas. The Swamiji is not merely a Sanyasi, but a Dharmacharya with greater responsibilities. Swamiji would be on travel constantly from place to place, camping and interacting with devotees, advising them to lead a life of integrity and to be always devoted to God. The constant traveling, varying regional climates, long hours of daily worship, and the patient and loving audience to the devotees were all systematically managed by Swamiji. Guruji always performed the Trikala Pujas to the Samsthan Deities.
Swamiji was an abode of kindness, compassion, generosity, faith and patience. Swamiji had a keen memory too. Swamiji remembered not only the faces of the devotees, but their names also. He astounded devotees by calling them by their names, even when he was seeing them after a long time. Swamiji was very affectionate towards children and very kindly to elders. Swamiji’s charming smile and pleasant demeanor is indelibly etched in the hearts of devotees.
Swamiji was also an abode of spiritual knowledge, insight and wisdom. Swamiji’s discourses elevated the audience to a higher level of spirituality. Swamiji knew many languages very well but always spoke in Konkani.
In the Purvashrama, Swamiji was Sadasiva Shenoy, a youngster of just seventeen years when the hands of destiny lead him onto his divinely ordained path. The youth, the fourth son of Sri. Ramadasa Shenoy of Ernakulam, was mild mannered and well behaved. Sadasiva was born at Ernakulam on 31 March 1926. At the very tender age of four, he lost his mother Smt. Droupadi. Nevertheless, he grew up with an inborn serenity of character. He was an intelligent student and had a genuine aptitude for acquiring knowledge. He loved nature and sometimes found a tranquil peace perched atop the high branch of his favorite tree at home. Even at that young age, He was inclined towards a pious and religious life. He had noble traits like devotion to God, desire to help and serve fellow beings, honesty, integrity and love for Dharma. He started performing the daily pooja at his home ever since his Upanayana at the age of eleven. He was an Intermediate student at the Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, with Science subjects. He was well into the second year of study. He had scored admirably in the first year examinations and was sure of scoring equally well in the second year studies also. The bright future of an engineer or a scientist awaited Him. At that juncture in his life the divinely ordained turning point came.
At that time Srimad Sukrathindra Tirtha Swamiji, the 19th Pontiff and the then Mathadhipati of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan, was on looking for a suitable Brahmachari for initiating as his Pattasishya. Guru Swamiji’s attention was brought to this youngster. Subsequently the horoscope of young Sadasiva was comprehensively scrutinised by proficient astrologers, who found it exceedingly suitable. At the instant of Guru Swamiji, the matter was put to Sri Ramadasa Shenoy as well as young Sadasiva himself, and their consent was obtained. Soon after, Guru Swamiji invited Sadasiva and Ramadasa Shenoy to his Camp at Sri Venkataramana Temple, Mulki. It was a friendly and pleasant meeting, wherein the Guru Swamiji advised young Sadasiva to undertake an All India Pilgrimage cum Study Tour prior to his Ashrama Sweekar. That is the tradition and practice of the Math before giving Sanyasa Deeksha to a Sishya.
The auspicious day of Sanyasa Deeksha was 24 May 1944. It took place at the ‘Sri Venkataramana Temple’ Mulki (Karnataka). Thousands of devotees from all over the country gathered to witness the great event. They filled the banks of Sambhavi river where the young Brahmachari took his ceremonial dip, shedding the Purvashrama. Then, in the Sannidhi of Sri Venkataramana, Guru Swamiji initiated him into Sanyasa and conferred the name of Srimad Sudhindra Tirtha on the Pattasishya.
Sudhindra Tirtha was already familiar with Sanskrit. Now, he mastered it at the Sri Bhuvanendra Sanskrit College, Karkala. Scholarly teachers of the college were appointed to impart to him the necessary education in Vedas, Upanishads, and other Dharma Sastras. He camped at the Srinivasa Asrama in the College premises. He completed his spiritual studies in a short time. The Brahma Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, Upanishads and other works were studied in detail and he became a true scholar of the Dwaita Dharma of Srimad Madhvacharya. He learnt the scheme of worshipping God according to Agama Sastra.
Sudhindra Tirtha traveled with the Guru Swamiji to various places and came to know his duties well. He sat at the feet of the Guru Swamiji and learnt the glorious traditions of the Sri Kashi Math. Besides Konkani, his mother tongue, Swamiji became well versed in Sanskrit, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Hindi and English. He was also familiar with Telugu and Tamil. He familiarized himself with the respective literatures as well as latest developments in the country and abroad.
In 1949, the Guru Swamiji attained Mahasamadhi at Cochin. Thereupon Srimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji became the Mathadhipati of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan, Varanasi. As the Dharmaguru of the community, he took up the responsibility of leading and guiding the community at the age of 23.
By this time, India was a free Nation. Swamiji had to guide and shape the destiny of a community in this new environment. Swamiji not only rose but also surpassed every expectation of the people. He won the hearts of the devotees all over the country. His presence was treasured. Over the years, he established a record number of Math Bhavans, Srines and Temples. He traveled untiringly from place to place, guiding, unifying and leading the community to progress and prosperity. He gave much importance to welfare schemes and activities like ‘Sri Kashi Math Welfare Fund’, ‘Housing Scheme’, ‘Charitable and Medical trusts’ etc.
Temples and Deities
Srimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji performed many installations of deities in various temples – Balaji Mandir, Mumbai, Sri Varadaraja Venkataramana Temple at Gurpur, Sri Venkataramana Temple, at Suratkal, Sri Venkataramana Temple at Konchady, Sri Partha Sarathi Mandir at Bangalore, Sri Venkataramana Temple at Konchadi, Sri Muralidhara Krishna at Kota, Sri Narasimha in Sri Ramanjaneya Temple at Mumbai, Sri Narasimha in Sri Venkataramana Temple at Uppinangadi, Sri Lakshmi Venkatesa Temple at Mudabidri, etc.
In 1988, Swamiji consecrated ‘Bhagawan Vedavyasa’ in the ‘Sri Vyasa Mandir’ at Sapta Sarovar, Sadhubela, Haridwar. Lord Vedavyasa is not only a great Sage, but also the divine incarnation of Lord Narayana. Near this ‘Sri Vyasasram’, there also functions the Sri Madhavendra Charitable dispensary, with a clinical lab, an X-ray unit, and an operation theatre.
A milestone event of 1994 was the consecration of the ‘Ashta Kuladevatha Mandir Complex’ at Ambalamedu (Kerala). The Complex also has a separate Mandir for Navagrahas. Establishing of this complex brought back the waning tradition of Kuladevatha worship into a great many homes. It is now a regular destination for many family pilgrimages.
In 1994 itself, Swamiji consecrated the ‘Sri Ramanjaneya Temple’ in Nasik (Maharastra) on the banks of holy river Godavari. This too is a landmark Temple.
In 2001 of the new millennium, Swamiji consecrated ‘Sri Bala Vyasa’ on the banks of the river Yamuna at Kalpi (Uttar Pradesh) the birthplace of Lord Vedavyasa.
Inter – Math Harmony
During Swamiji’s tenure, Inter-Math harmony was much manifest. The three Dharma Gurus – Srimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji of Sri Kashi Math, Srimad Dwarakanatha Tirtha Swamiji of Gokarna Partagali Jeevottam Math, and Srimad Sachidananda Saraswati Swamiji of Kaivalya Math – observed their annual Chaturmasa Vrata at the same location of ‘Sri Venkataramana Temple’ Karkala (Karnataka). At certain other events Swamijis of all the four Maths were present.
Over the years, Swamiji established many new Math Bhavans at various places – Bhagamandala (Karnataka), Konchady (Karnataka), , Suratkal (Karnataka), Bandora (Goa), Tirumala, Calicut (Kerala), Bangalore, Haridwar, Nasik (Maharashtra), Chennai, Ambalamedu (Kerala), Khed (Maharashtra), Kalpi (U.P.), Badrinath (Uttaranchal), Tirupati, etc.
The original Kashi Math and the Shrines therein at Brahma Ghat, Varanasi (U. P.) were fully renovated. This was the very first major undertaking after Swamiji’s Peetharohana. Other renovations were at Prayag (U. P.) and Karkala (Karnataka). Swamiji was prompt to execute timely renovations at the Vrindavans of past Swamijis, wherever such were found necessary.
The ‘Mata Sharada Nilaya’, inaugurated by Swamiji in 2012 at the Math Bhavan at Dahisar, Mumbai is a unique museum that has exhibits of centuries old customs and traditions of the Mathadhipatis of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan.
Swamiji founded a matching number of Community Establishments for implementing the various social and welfare schemes of the Math. In 1956, ‘Sri Kashi Math Welfare Fund’ was established at Udupi. It had multifarious purposes and aims like establishing institutions for spiritual education, hospitals, Vridhashramas, Balakashramas, homes for the poor, free meals schemes, etc. In 1965, Sri Bhuvanendra Balakashrama was established in Basrur (Karnataka), where young brahmacharis are trained to lead an ideal life in the path of upholding the values, traditions, culture and Dharma. In 1976, ‘Sri Varadendra Balakashrama’ was established at Ambalamedu (Kerala) where young Brahmacharis are imparted the lessons of leading an ideal life, hand in hand with academic education. Other institutions are – ‘Sri Sukrtindra Balakashrama’ at Karkala (Karnataka) and ‘Sri Srinivasa Nigamagama Pathasala’ at Mangalore (Karnataka). In 1971, Swamiji established the ‘Sukrtindra Oriental Research Institute’ at Kochi (Kerala) to enable research and propagation of Indological and Oriental subjects. In 1971 itself, as per the desire of Swamiji, ‘Sri Sudhindra Medical Mission Hospital’ was established at Ernakulam, which now has a ‘College of Nursing’ also. In 1971, the ‘Bharatiya Samskritik Prakatanalaya’ was established at Mumbai, in order to bring out religious books. Swamiji is the Chief Patron of ‘Dr. Padiar Memorial Homoeopathic College’ at Chottanikkara. There is a ‘Sri Madhavendra Tirtha Medical Centre’ in Mumbai and at Sri Vyasasram, Haridwar.
Grama Sabhas and Activities
At the instance of Swamiji, the community formed a Maha Sabha and its tributary branches of local Grama Sabhas at many places for continuous social and religious activities in the community. Over the years, the scheme was greatly instrumental in augmenting unity and preserving the cultural identity of the community.
He codified the unique ‘Twelve Commandments’ (Dwadasha Kalpana) for a better life. He compiled a ‘Samooha Prarthana’ incorporating prayers to Vedavyasa, Raghupati, Narasimha, Maruti, Ganapati, Guru, Garuda, Krishna and Lord Narayana.
Over the years, Swamiji gave countless wonderful discourses. He was ever happy and willing to impart knowledge and wisdom. Swamiji’s discourses contain invaluable guidelines. They lead the devotees from darkness to light, from untruth to truth and from the worldly to the spiritual. In his discourses, even highly philosophical topics are presented in very simple language, so that anyone can understand. He narrates apt parables and quotes great Sanskrit slokas from Scriptures, explaining them clearly.
Swamiji was a gifted composer of devotional hymns in Sanskrit. The following are some of his stotras and stutis. They are metrical as well as poetic:
Srimad Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji gave Sanyasa Deeksha to Srimad Samyamindra Tirtha Swamiji on 20 June 2002 at Sri Vyasasram, Haridwar, who now succeeds him as the 21st Mathadhipati of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan.
In 2005, the 80th Vardhanti Mahotsava of Swamiji was witness to the very rare and never before ‘Sahasra Sankhabhisheka’ to Bhagawan Vedavyasa performed by Swamiji and Pattasishya together at Haridwar.
Swamiji’s Navati Mahotsava was joyously celebrated countrywide with various programs and rituals. The Navati Mahotsava had special Pujas and Homas at Sri Vyasashram, Haridwar, in the presence of Guru Swamiji and Pattasishya. It was attended by a record number of happy and jubilant devotees from every corner of the country and abroad, converting the entire location into a festival town.
Swamiji attained Mahasamadhi at Sri Vyasasram, Haridwar, on 16th January 2016. Hence, Swamiji’s VRINDAVAN would be constructed there itself. For the whole community, for devotees of four generations, Swamiji was the Guiding Light and Divinity Incarnate.