MY EXPERIENCES WITH SRI PERIYAVA (69TH PEETADHIPATI)
Sri Rama Jayam
I propose recording in the following paras, the experiences of one of the many thousands of ordinary devotees of our, the sacred Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Many would have been made aware of the supreme powers of our Swami’s Guru Maharat, who was with a mortal frame for 100 years, with us. In my view, there may not be many who are aware of the greatness our present 69th Acharya. I have a little knowledge of Him, which I propose to share here with you all, from my memory. In this information transmission, if there is any mistake or omission or athyokti, I am responsible for them totally, and seek your forbearance for it.
At the outset, I want to make it plain that I see all the THREE ACHARYAS as ONE personality, indivisible as the Sankaracharya of Kanchi. I express this purposely, because there is a justification for it.
I think that I first saw Him in the Mylapore Sanskrit College campus, where He was in the camp of His Guru. Mahudi Vaitha and I went to have the darshan of both the Gurus there in 1957. I was one in the crowd of thousands, who had gathered there. Next time, I met Him along with Sri. Neelakanta Iyer (now Neelakanta Dikshitar). HH asked Mr. Iyer, showing me,“ Will he do kainkarya?”. This was in 1965.
My first kainkarya to Him and the Mutt was in 1970, when I accompanied Him in His camps from Valliyur-Thiruchendur- Thirunelveli- kallidaikkurichi-Kovilpatti-Sattur (my birth place) . I requested Him to take leave of Him and the camp after Sattur. He asked me to accompany up to the Madurai camp, which I did.
At Valliyur camp, Sri Bhanu Pant was the camp manager, Sri Kalyana Sundaram Iyer was in charge of the Khazana (Cash-box), Pudukkottai Sundaram was the karwar (one who is in charge of the ugranam- materias store). My work in the camp was to write the addresses of the VRNT donors, who had donated nakshatra kanikkai, in the post office envelopes, carrying vibhuti & kumkuma prasadam. Most of the days, the addresses were so much that I had a full day’s work of writing from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on some days overshooting to the next day. This speaks of the volume of work done by late Sri. Annadurai Ayyangar and his men in the VRNT. ( Alas! That kind of work is no more available today to get more donors for the VRNT, though there are more people now offering to do kainkaryam. Most of our Veda patashalas are having hand to mouth existence. All devotees may decide to help Veda Vidya by donating Rs. 100/- per month each, if they are really interested in the promotion of Veda Vidya (without advancing excuses). Their donations are to be sent straight to VRNT office at Adambakkam or to the Mutt, with a request to forward the money to the VRNT office. They can also offer 10 mins each of Veda Uccharana, while having darshan of the Lord, in the temples of their villages daily. This way our Veda Vidya will prosper. Even a shanti patam recitation will do, if they have not learnt any Vedas. Even if that is not learnt, a mental recitation of Gayatri Japa Mantra at least 108 times or for 15 mins, be done, preferably sitting in front of the deity. The recitation of this mantra has to be done in five sections, and slowly) At Valliyur camp, I got the parichaya of old Nott Sri. Narayana Rao (90, then), an ardent devotee of our Paramacharya. We went to the Vanamamalai Mutt at Nanguneri, where our HH met the Jeer Swami, and was closeted with Him for some time. We saw the Urangaappuli (the Tamarind tree-said to be more than 1000 years old and not died) where Nammazhvar was seen in mounam for a long time. None knew about his birth. It is said that Madhura kavi Azhvar came to him and asked him, “Chetthathin Vayittril Siriyadhu Pirandaal, etthai th thindru engey kidakkum?” To this, Nammazhvar is reported to have replied, “Atthai th thindru angeye kidakkum”. This dialogue is said to mean, “if in a body-Chetthadhu, siriyadhu-Jeevathma came into existence, where will it be, and eating what?”. Nammazhvar’s reply to this was, it will remain there itself eating (enjoying),’Atthai’ the Paramathma (It is to be noted that in the Visushthadwaita philosophy, Jeevathma and Paramathma are different- Not so in the Advaitha Philosophy.
HH in those days, was walking on foot, and we used to reach next camp site by a vehicle. Our next camp was ‘ThenThirupperai’, a famous Vaishnava centre, where the Swami was called Makarabhushanam (Makara Nedun kuzhaikkadhar). We camped here, in the temple mandapam. After a day there, we reached Thiruchendur camp, and here also, we camped in the temple mandapam only. I accompanied HH to the temple, carrying garlands that were offered to Him. HH went inside the Garbha Gruham. After the temple visit was over, HH addressed the huge crowd that had gathered there and the trustees and honoured all the trustees with the garlands he had received and with a shawl each. We visited Thoothukkudi and Vallanadu. In Vallanadu, there is an agraharam at the Sannidhi of Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal (a small temple with the moorthi in Sudhai (brick and mortar structure). It was under repairs then. HH visited the very old Adisesha Sastrigal, who was bed-ridden. HH visited him in his house and enquired after his health. I learnt later, that he was a famous Sri Vidya Upasaka. After this, we took the Tamra parni route to Thirunelveli. En route, we went to Karungulam and visited the agraharam there, where the famous Veda Vidwan, Karungulam Krishna Sastrigal ( He taught Vedas to our Maha Periyava), had lived earlier. HH spoke to the gathered audience there about the late Mahamahopadhyaya Krishna Sastrigal. From there, we proceeded to Thirunelveli via Palayam kottai. We all reached Tirunelveli directly through vehicles and Sri HH came next morning by foot. On the way, H paid a visit to the Palayam kottai Jail and spoke to the inmates there. Sarkkaraippongal was served to all of them, with HH’s prasadam. Late Karvar Ramamoorthy (He was the previous karvar of the Mutt. He prepared the sarkkaraippongal over night, inspite of a heavy and incessant rain all through the night, and the fire wood all had become soaked in water. There were many Ramamoorthys in the Mutt then, Mappillai Ramamoorthy (attached to the Pooja kitchen), Karvar Ramamoorthy, Mayavaram Ramamoorthy (who had done a lot of work in connection with Thirup pavai & Thiru empavai) and a Veda Vidwan known as Seppu Rama Moorthi. Sri. TNK (T.N.Krishnamurthy Iyer) took over as Sri Karyam of the Mutt. That year’s Sankara Jayanti was celebrated in Tirunelveli itself. Mettur P. Nilakanta Iyer, who became the Sri Karyam next, came and had darshan at Tirunelveli. After the Sankara Jayanti celebrations. We started westward toward the Putarjuna Kshetram, via Amba samudram, Brahma Desam (Brahma Desam was the birthplace of Sarvagnathman, who adorned the Sri Kamakoti Peetam next to Adi Sankara). There are three Arjuna Kshetrams (where the Arjuna tree is the sthala vruksha), Putarjunam in the Tirunelveli Dt., Madhyarjunam (Thiru-idai- marudur) in the Thanjavoor Dt. and the Mallikarjunam (Sri Sailam), where the lata of Malligai is also a sthala vruksham, in the Telugu Desham. After Putarjunam (Thiruppudaimarudur), we came to Kallidaikkuricchi. We camped here, in the Sri Lakshmi Varaha swami temple, where the nithya poojas are being done by Smarthas and not by Vaishnavas. This swami has therefore no Namam, adorning His forehead. He has instead oordwa pundram, like we see in all Kerala temples, like Guruvayoor, Thirupparaiar etc. (The introduction of Namam must have come after the advent of Ramanuja & Vedanta Desika in the 10th century A.D.) We stayed in Kallidaikkurichi for three days, and the pooja was placed in the SW corner of the Prakaram. There were 103 pada poojas conducted for the padukas kept in the pooja, by the local public. After Kallidaikkurichi, we camped in Kayattar, noted by the name of Kattabomman. Next was Kovilpatti for a day and then to Sattur (my birthplace) The pooja here was in the Arya Vyshya school, near river Vaippar. After this, we went to Thulukkapatti, Virudunagar and then to Madurai Sethupathi Highschool camp. We were here for three days. In Madurai city, there was a procession organized by NMR Subbharaman and Sasivarna Thevar, along the four Masi Veedhis, and there was a mammoth crowd all along the route I carried a small stool on which HH stood at many places en route, to give darshan. The procession was at night, and it took more than 3 hours. We visited the famous Madurai Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple in an after noonat around 4 p.m. HH went right inside the Garbha Gruham, both at Sri Meenakshi Sannidhi and at the Sri Sundarshwarar Sannidhi. The honouring of the elite of Madurai Temple was done near Potramarai tank.
I must relate two strange incidents that happened here, in Madurai. We were proceeding to the newly opend Uttara Kriya Mandapam built on the south bank of Vaigai river by TVS group, via the Adi Moolam Pillai Agraharam, soon after the day’s Chandra Mouleeswara pooja. It was around 1 p.m. I was accompanying HH with the Prasadam box. On the way, our Mutt Sri. Nagaraja sastri came running, and informed HH that three silver coins used for doing Sahasra Pada Pooja to Acharya’s Paduka, were seen missing after that day’s Paduka Pooja. On hearing this our HH laughed loudly and proceeded walking. After some distance, one old Brahmin Pandit wearing a few rudraksha malas, came to HH and requested Him to visit the house of his chettiar friend, as a favour to them. HH readily agreed and asked him to show the way. Then, after a few houses along the street, we came in front of the house referred by that old Brahmin Pandit. The old man led the way for us. HH followed and climbed the four steps leading to the house and put his right foot inside the threshold. At once, He stopped taking the next step inside and asked the old man to bring all to Him from inside the long house. One young lady came out from inside crying aloud. HH consoled her with pacifying words, came out and passed on. What stopped HH from getting inside further is still a mystery.
At Madurai, I took leave of HH and came back to Madras and work. I shall continue my experiences in my next instalment.
S. Chidambaresa Iyer. 22 Oct 2015 (Vijaya Dashami Day-6 p.m.)