Srimad Sudhindra Theertha Swamiji – A tribute

On the occasion of 80th Birthday Celebrations

I pay obeisance to the revered Guru Sri Sudhindra

Who through his ardent devotional supplication prevailed upon Sri Bhagavan Vedavyasa, the form of the Supreme Lord Sri Hari incarnated to bestow sacred knowledge and fearlessness, to agree, and had Him installed along with His disciples (Paila, Vaishampaayana, Jaimini and Sumantu) in a grand temple on the banks of the Holy Ganga;

Who showed his disciples the way of devotional worship of Sri Vedavyasa ( and his works) to be the best, easy and efficacious way ( of living a fulfilling life).

His Holiness Srimad Sudhindra Theertha Swamiji, the nineteenth in the holy lineage of Mathadhipathis of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan will shortly be stepping into His Holiness’ 80th year.  This is indeed a momentous event not only in the history of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan but also in the history of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins spread all over India.  His Holiness, born in 1926, as Sadashiv Shenoy to a respectable GSB family in Ernakulam, was initiated into sanyas by His Guru Srimad Sukriteendra Theertha in 1944 and was named as Sri Sudhindra Theertha.  When the Guru attainted Mukti in 1949, Sri Sudhindra Theertha was installed as the Mathadhipathi and continues to be so to this day.  The Shishya Varga of Swamiji is indeed fortunate to have been under the benign spiritual guidance of Sri Sudhindra Theertha for a record period of 56 years which is unprecedented in the history of GSB Samaj.  The Shishya Varga is thrilled and grateful to Providence for this.

An unique occasion to mark several milestones of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan and our Dharma Guru His Holiness Srimad Sudhindra Theertha Swamiji, and to invoke further blessings of the Lord,  is the forthcoming Sahasra Shankhaabhisheka at Sri Vyasa Mandir, Haridwar on the banks of the Holy Ganga, from 18th May 2005 to 22nd May 2005.  Abhisheka (Ceremonial bathing) of Bhagavan Vedavyasa will be carried out through over 2500 Shankhas, by the Lotus Hands of His Holiness on these days.

Bhagavan Vedavyasa is known as Baadaraayana as  He is ever resident in Badarikaashrama, and also known as Krishna Dwaipayana as He appeared in a Dweepa or Island.  His Holiness Srimad Sudhindra Theertha, as already explained in the invocatory shloka above, built a grand temple complex at Sri Vyasashram, Haridwar in the year 1988. The form of Sri Vedavyasa as an infant on the lap of His mother Satyavathi as intuited by His Holiness in a vision, has been immortalized by His Holiness not only in a hymn but also by building a grand temple complex for Sri Bala Vedavyasa at Kalpi in the Jalaun District of Uttar Pradesh, the Janmasthan of Sri Vedavyasa, in the year 2001.

Sri Kashi Math Samsthan has always had a special relationship with Sri Vedavyasa. It is believed that the diety of Sri Vedavyasa which is worshipped by the Kashi Math Swamijis, originally came into the possession of Sri Kesavendra Theertha Swamiji, the second pontiff of the Math by sheer fortuitous circumstances while bathing in the Ganga at Kashi.  To this day all succeeding pontiffs while taking a ceremonial bath in the Ganga at Kashi, do so along with the diety of Sri Vedavyasa on their head.

Gowda Saraswat Brahmins have a hoary antiquity and trace their origin to the banks of the legendary Vedic west flowing river, Saraswathi, (now extinct). The community is spread all over India and particularly in the southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, and Kerala.  Significant presence of GSB’s is there also in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta and Gujarat.  A sizable number of  GSB’s particularly the professional class like engineers and doctors have migrated overseas and are thriving in USA, UK, Australia, Gulf, etc..

The years of His Holiness Sri Sudhindra Theertha’s reign as Swamiji and Mathadhipathi viz 1944 to date have seen tumultuous and revolutionary changes in all spheres of life.  Political independence, reorganization of states, advances in science and technology, universalisation of education, better access to healthcare, economic gains due to liberalization, participation of women in the job market, better and speedier communication and travel, developments in media such as satellite television are some of these changes.  Along with the advantages which these changes have brought about, the community along with others in the country has also had to bear the ill effects such as loosening of the strict code of conducts which our ancestors used to follow as members of the Brahmin community, in our thinking and behaviour, in our neglect of the scriptural studies of Vedas, in our casual attitudes towards our temples and institutions and above all in elevating the Artha and Kama (wealth and desire) aspects of the four Purusharthas, to the utter neglect of the remaining two viz. Dharma and Moksha.

It is in the mitigation of the ill effects as enumerated above that Sri Sudhindra Theertha has provided a ray of hope to the community.  His Holiness recognizing well the plight in which the community finds itself is constantly on the move justifying the title of Parivraajakaacharya, giving audience to those who seek it, providing succour to the needy and distressed, advising on matters raised by the disciples from time to time, supporting and encouraging the study of Sanskrit and also education of priests required for our temples, renovating old temples, giving guidance and moral support to the community in starting of socially beneficial projects such as schools, colleges, hospitals, etc.  Throughout such hectic travel and work schedule, however is the scrupulous observance of the thrikaala poojas of swamiji’s deities.  It is a pleasure to be present and to watch the Alankara or decoration of the diety with flowers, and the devotional service or pooja rendered by His Holiness.  It is also a pleasure and great fortune to listen to the Pravachanas by His Holiness which are simple, erudite and enlightening.  Swamiji has the uncanny ability to remember faces and names, and people meeting Swamiji after a long gap of time are pleasantly surprised when they are addressed by their names by His Holiness.  Those who write letters to Swamiji are sure to get prompt replies in Swamiji’s own handwriting.

An unique feature of the Gowda Saraswat Brahmins is the system of Kuladevathas or family deities.  It is said that when Lord Parasurama brought along with Him GSB’s to South, he brought along with them their Kuladevathas as well.  Swamiji always exhorts the disciples to keep up the worship of Kuladevathas and not neglect it.  As is well known, Goa from where GSB’s migrated down along the west coast due to Portuguese persecution, is the place where all our Kuladevathas are installed.

Swamiji in order to further strengthen this system, built a Kuladevatha complex at Ambalamedu, Kochi in the year 1994, thus enabling the people in the southern states particularly Kerala and Tamilnadu to worship the Kuladevathas.

In June 2004, a Kashi Math branch at Badrinath was opened by His Holiness.  With this branch, Sri Kashi Math has branches right from Rameswaram in the South to Badrinath in the North and hence represents the pan India character of the GSB’s.  As pointed out by His Holiness, the Badrinath Math along with those in Haridwar and Kalpi symbolizes the return of the migrant to his roots.

It is a difficult task to summarize the sayings of His Holiness simply because they are so wide ranging, contemporary in context, and always  keep in view the brilliant past of the community as seers, teachers and guides to the people at large.  However if one were to attempt such a summarization, four things would appear to be very dear to His Holiness;

  1. Compulsory observance by members of community of sandhyavandan and other mandatory rituals.
  2. Study of Sanskrit as means to scriptural studies.
  3. Protection of Cows.
  4. Maintenance and upkeep of our temples.

On this solemn occasion, let us join together in expressing our gratitude to the Lord for bestowing on our Samaj,  a Sadguru of the caliber of Sri Sudhindra Theertha and pray for continuance of His guidance for many more years to come.  Let us also rededicate ourselves to the causes which are dear to our Guru, as pointed out above, so that the Guru is pleased and through Him, Sri Hari is also pleased.

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