MY EXPERIENCES WITH SRI PERIYAVA (69TH PEETADHIPATI)...
Sri Rama Jayam
S.Chidambaresa Iyer, “Sri Kamakoti-Nagalakshmi”, R-35 Anna Nagar, Chennai-600 040
III INSTALMENT OF MY EXPERIENCES WITH PERIYAVA
In this 3rd instalment, I propose dwelling on my experiences with the Kanchi Periyava in 1975. In this, and other writ-ups, I have not limited myself to the experiences Per Se, but have went beyond to describe the areas, just to make plain that our culture is not limited to S.India, we are conversed with, but to the entire country, be it our S.India, but Andhra, Orissa, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, U.P., Tripura, Rajasthan Sourashtra or other places.
It was a Sunday, August 10 or so, and I was resting in my home in the I.C.F. colony. It occurred to me then, to go and meet Sri Periyava. On that day, He was in Kalavai. I took a bus to Arcot and then to Kalavai from there. When I reached Kalavai, it was noon and the second Kala arthi was in progress. After the arthi, I took the theertham from Sri Periyava. At that time, He asked me to stay on after taking food. I went to the nearby Sri Venugopala Swamy temple, had my food and came back to the Kalavai Brindavanam, where the Pooja was kept.
The Brindavanam complex was very small in those days, with the two Brindavanams of the 66thand the 67th Peetadhipatis (Pujya Sri Chandra Sekharendra sarasvati Swamy and Pujya Sri Mahadevendra Sarasvati Swami) in a common enclosure for both. There was a small ‘ottuk kattidam’, with a room and a ‘rezhi’ , behind these Brindavanams. HH senior was inside that small building. There was well in between the Brindavanams and the building. There was big iron gate (‘Irumbu kradhi’) to this comlex. To the North and East of the Brindavanam complex was a deep ‘pallam’. Circum-ambulation of the Brindavanam complex was difficult, but can be done. Across the road,in the elementary school, the Mutt office functioned in a small room . TNK, my friend Sivarama Iyer, Kazana Kalyana Sundaram Iyer, Adayar Viswanathan, dhadi Muthuraman were all there along with others. I was waiting in the office. At 4-30 p.m. HH came. I was told that he was not well and was having fever. HH on the road and was going through the tapals of the day and giving darshan and prasadams to devotees. He called me to His side and asked me if I can go North for about 40 days after applying for leave in my office from my duties. On my agreeing, he asked me to go to Mutt office and come with a paper and pen. I came back and sat by His side, with paper and pen in hand. There upon He dictated from memory addresses in Orissa, Calcutta, Asansol, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Patna, Allahabad, Varanasi, Ayodhya, Hardwar, Rishikesh, New Delhi, and Kurukshetra. In those days phone facility was not available as now. This dictation took till 9 pm, as He was simultaneously giving darshan to devotees and seeing mail. He gave me prasadam then itself and directed that I can go early in the morning itself. There was no need to see him again, He said. I went to the Sri. Venugopalaswamy temple again to sleep. I got up in the morning next day. I said to myself, “I came here yesterday. I have not seen Sri Periyava, yet, and I am to leave now. Sri Periyava will be somewhere in the Brindavanam Complex only. I shall do parikrama of the complex at least before I leave”. So thinking, I did circum-ambulation of the complex thrice and was about to leave. But, lo!. Sri Periyava rushed to the Irumbu Kradhi gate, stood there for a min or so, holding both His hands high and out stretched, as though blessing me, and went back inside as he came!. I was so happy, and left the camp with a light heart.
My first place of visit was the Puri Jagannatha Kshetra. At the Khurda Road station, I met Pammal Viswanathan who was an Electrical foreman there, and having his own office there. I met him in his office early in the morning and left for Puri. I didn’t know then that he will become Pammal Viswanathan. I had a short talk with him about the facilities for stay in Puri and left. Thereafter, I met him in Southern Railway only as a Dy CEE (Sr. DEE), much later.
Puri Jagannath temple
I reached Puri in the morning around 10 a.m. and went straight to the temple. I had a darshan of Lord Jagannath, Bala Bhadra and Subhadra, in a row on a raised platform (5’ high and 13’ broad). They give Teertha Prasad there. I accepted it. In front of this Sannidhi, can be seen a Garuda sthambha. It is said that Sri Chaitanya Maha Prabhu was standing near this sthambha and praising the Lord and attained Mukti then and there. I came out of the main hall of the temple and saw the Mukti Mandapa. (There are Mukti Mandapas at three places—Puri Jagannath temple, Kasi Vishwanath temple one in each and three at Kanchi one at Viswanathar temple near Sarva theertham, one in the Ramanatha Swami temple near the Mutt, and the third somewhere else. The symbol for a Mukti Mandapa is a set of three cocks on a pillar nearby) The Mukti Mandapam at Puri is a separate building with a large platform-4’ high and about 20’ broad, with its own canopy. When I saw it, some poojaris were resting there. At the parikrama, I came across, at the SW corner, a shrine for VIMALA PEETAM, with Subhadra Devi. This, today, I find to mydismay is now having a placard of Revati (wife of Sri Balarama) Sannidi. Further on, I saw huge Vinayaka, said to be brought from kancheepuram. It is said, that one of the Ranis of Puri Maharaja came from Kanchi, and she brought this Pillayar with her. At the NW corner and facing east is the shrine of Sri Lakshmi. In the courtyard of this shrine the first pillar at the right was having a Lakshmi Narasimha being worshipped by a young Sannyasi, having Eka danda. Thisrare sculpture, reminiscent of Adi Shankara, who sang Jagannathashtakam, here is now covered by a platform encompassing this whole courtyard and this platform is completely hiding this sculpture. The administrative officers and the Puri Maharaja must do this. (Bringing back the ancient glory of the Vimala Peetam and restoring to view, this rare sculpture)
I went to Cuttack to see Sri Ranganath Mishra. I met Mr.Krishnan, Chief Telegraph Master. He was living alone and I became his guest. Because of the heavy floods in Mahanadi, I was forced to live in Cuttack for about 10 days, with him and he was kind throughout. Soon after reaching Cuttack, I planned to meet Justice Ranganath Mishra (He was a kanyakubj Brahmin), who was living in Tulsipur, a suburb. I took a hand-drawn rickshaw and asked the rickshaw wallah to take me to Justice Misra. It was raining hard then and was dark at 7 p.m. He took me to the bungalow of the Chief Justice Jagannath Misra, who was taking a walk in the long Varandah of his large bungalow. I met him and introduced myself as having been sent by Kanchi Sankaracharya to meet him. He was surprised and said, “”It must be Ranganath Misra, that you want to meet and directed me to meet him in his Tulsipur Bungalow. I replied, “I do not know any place here; so, if you direct this rickshaw wallah, his house, it will be helpful”. With this, we were able to reach the bungalow of Justice Misra. He was extremely delighted to see an emissary of HH sankaracharya. The first question he asked of me was whether I had darshan of Lord Jagannath at Puri temple. I said yes. Next question was whether I had partaken the Prasad. I said no. Then he said we are going to Puri temple on coming Thirsday. Then he explained what he was doing as the President of the Sama Veda Sabha there. He wanted me to see the Swargadwar Patashala, where Atharva Veda of Pippalada (?) shakha was being taught to a few boys, whose strength is dwindling day by day (This was the situation in 1975 !). On the way to Puri (before I had met Justice Misra) I heard from a Tamil Professor (I am unable to recollect the name,now) that there were three written manuscripts of this shakhas existing now—one in in bannpur in Orissa itself, one has been taken by the westerners to Germany(?) or Holland, and the third is a family property of a Bengalee gentleman in Calcutta. The one in Orissa is the common property of that village. All these three are in Oriya script.
On the specified day, we (Justice Misra, his wife, his brother-in-law and self) went by cart to Puri and met Raut, the poojari and had darshan of the Lords. We did a parikrama inside the Garbha Gruha, around the platform, I had mentioned earlier. Justice Misra told me then that platform contains 9 lakhs saligramams inside. After the darshan we came to the guest house to rest in the afternoon and went back to Tulsipur, to his bungalow in the night 7 p.m. At te dining table, the Lord’s prasadam was served. It was very tasty. For washing hands, the justice was having a towel for me (a very ordinary man) to wipe my wet hands !. I was very much moved at his Guru Bhakti, toward HH, in this gesture.
We also went to Swarga dwar, on the sea coast and saw the Veda Patashala run by the Mutt. There were about 10 boys. It is a fine building, well maintained. Later, after a few years, I went there again with the Perambur Homam group and did Homam during day and Bhajan there with the group for a night.
After Cuttack, I went to Bhadrak nearby, famous for the Bhadra Kali temple. This is a small town with a majority of vyshya population These Vyshyas are friendly toward Brahmins. This is a local trading town. I could not meet any Brahmin here, however. But there are Brahmin-friendly Vyshyas. With their support and involvement, a sculpture/ Chitra/ handloom cloth centre can be started here. Orissa is famous for these arts.
My next place of visit was Calcutta, where I met B.V. Raman, the secretary of the Sama Veda Patashala (Ved Bhavan) with Vaman Bhattacharya as the teacher, Here, I came across a rare book, “Thrucha Bhaskara”, a book in Sanskrit, by Bhaskararaya on Soorya. It was in advanced state of a torn condition, and kept in a careless manner. I could not see that book again in my later trips to Calcutta. I could not meet any Veda Vidyarthi. I came across a few gentlemen, Pattabhiraman of L&T, Ramakrishnan, who later became Secretary of the Meghalaya Govt, Kumar (with whom I stayed for the two days, I was there),and Mahalingam. From here, I went to Ranchi, through Asansol. There was Veda Patashala there. I met the Vadhyar only here also. From here, I proceeded to Jamshedpur, to meet Muthu Krishnan. He was living in ‘L’ Road in his quarters. I reached there at around 3 p.m., extremely hungry. His old father, a black thin man was available, Muthukrishnan having gone to his office. The old man received me with open arms and offered some ‘More Sadam’, remaining in the house, since all had already taken their food and were resting. This was ‘devamrutham’ to a hungry man. He kindly enquired after me and of my purpose. I explained as having been sent by HH. After some time Muthukrishnan came back from the office and explained the activities of the Brahmana Samajam there. The vadyars from there were available to the people in the surrounding places, for religious functions—para and apara. He later that evening, took me to the Sama Veda Srowthigal and introduced me to him. They had a big Samajam hall built with the help of the Tata Steel management. The Srowthigal said that a few (I do not remember the no.) Sama Veda Vidyarthees studying there then. Muthu Krishnan took me to the Anjaneya temple on the banks of the Sowparnika river nearby. The Anjaneya was of a very small form, but was said to be very powerful. I remembered the form took by Sri Anjaneya, when He entered the Lanka island, in cognito. From Jamshed pur I went to Varanasi and met Chellam Iyer who was managing the Kamakoti Sankara Mutt in the Hanuman Ghat. Sri. Pattabhirama Sastri, a noted Sanskrit scholar, was there then, The Mutt had a few rooms for stay of the yatris to kasha. Each had a picture of our Acharya and a plaque indicating the donor’s name . The Mutt building was at a short distance from the river Ganga (a five minute’s walk) On the bank there was a small building which was said to be an adhisthanam. It had a small lingam 12” high and of about 6”dia, in a greenish stone, It had Sri Chakra embossed on it. I had not seen such a linga, before. A number of years later, I came to know that it is the adhishthanam of Sri Chidambara Natha Yogi, Guru of Sri Muthuswami Dikshtar. Near by our Mutt at the Hanuman Ghat, was a small house where Kavi Subramania Bharati’s near relations were living. Bharatiyar was said to have come to this house. I saw a Rasa Linga there, in that house. At the Sri Anna Poorneswari temple at some distance from here, I worshipped Mata Sri Anna Poorneswari and Lord Shiva at Her side with a bhiksha patra. Anna Poorneswari is having a ladle in Her hand, offering Bhiksha to Him, After Her darshan, while coming out, near the exit at the left, but inside the main temple itself, was a small shrine where you go down a few steps to reach it. There I saw a lingam similar to the one I saw in the Chidambara Natha Yogi adhishthanam. This was, however larger (10’ dia and 15’’ High)and at the left corner of the shrine. This linga is brownish and not a greenish one, described earlier, but had Sri Chakra embossed on it like the earlier one. It is said that it was installed by Bhaskara Raya, the well-known Sri Vidya Upasaka. I went to Lord Vishwanatha’s temple, passing through the Vishwanath Gully. En route, is the Dundi Vinayka on the road itself, smeared all over in Saffron. Lord Vishwanatha is accessible to every one. He is in the form of a linga, in a small square bound depression in the Garbha Gruha. It was in an afternoon I saw Him . The aarathi is done around 6 p.m. daily, with seven pundits sitting round the linga, representing the Sapta Rishis. This takes an hour with Mantra Ucchatana, abhishekam, flower alankara and shodasa Upacharas, Damaru is sounded throughout along with shankha. From the Kumaraswamy Mutt (Kashi Matam) Nadaswaram and Thavil are also played . This is a kattalai of a chettiar family. Lord Vishwanath’s Thamboolam is much sought after. It cost Rs, 100/- those days. The whole atmosphere turns divine in that one hour.
I shall continue the III instalment again, in my next letter.