Sunday, April 01, 2012

மகா பெரியவா- 21

Do you know that Sankarachariar was once "arrested" and taken to Tanjavur ? Read this interesting story .

When Maha Periyaval was camping in Kattupalli, far from the maddening crowd of Madras for four months in 1965, one day some devotees were talking in his presence about the coup which took place in some country and how the soldiers had brought the palace of the King or President of that country under their control by driving away the guards. That night, when Periyaval was conversing privately with a few devotees he remarked with a budding smile, "Do you know that our Math too has been arrested ?"

None of us knew, we were all ears, longing to here an interesting story. His budding smile blossoming wide He remarked, "You know who effected the arrest? Sivaji Maharaj!" Our interest was further whetted and it sharpened our ears further.

"It was a granny who told the story . She herself played a role in the story. Even after fifty years of the event, she recounted it to her grand children, without forgetting a single detail. She narrated it as though reliving it", Periyaval said and began telling the 'story' in homely Tamil with His unique histrionic expertise, which can by no means be recaptured in cold print.

It was the time when Serfoji (of the Marathan stock) was the ruler of Thanjavur, and his uncle Amarasimha Maharaja was ruler of Thiruvidaimarudur. Both were great scholars and versatile in the fine arts. They extended great patronage to the scholars of the Vedas.

There is a Sankara Math at Thiruvidaimarudur. It is administered by our Math. A Brahmin belonging to the Hoyasala sect of Karnataka was performing Puja there. He was also the Mudradhikari (agent) of our Math (which was at the time functioning from the interim headquarter at Kumbakonam) He used to collect the offerings and subscriptions of the people around the Math and remit them to the then Acharya aboding at Kumbakonam)

By the grace of the Acharya the Brahmin had two sons. Both studied Rigveda in the Patasala run by the Math at Kumbhakonam. The elder son, after his studies, took over the father's Puja (at the Thiruvidaimarudur Sri Math) and the duty of Mudradhikari and remained at home.

The younger one learnt the Kavyas (literature) and Sastras (Sacred Lore) also after finishing the course in the Veda. Bright in appearance, brilliant in intellect and also in the field of action, he obtained the special grace of the Guru. He underwent training in the important assignments relating to the Math and stayed on there itself without returning to Thiruvidaimarudur. Within a short span he finished the training to perfection and began to be entrusted with highly responsible tasks.

We are now in the middle of last century, in the year 1843-44, to be exact. The tatankas (ear ornaments) of Goddess Akhilandesvari at the Jambukesvaram temple were required to be renewed and offered again to Her. As and when these ornaments were in need of repair, it was the Acharyas of our (Kanchi) Math who got them repaired and offered them afresh to the Mother through a grand function for the Tatanka-Pratishta (reinstallation of the Tatankas).

It was then a legal suit was filed in Tiruchy, by an opposing group , against the Tatanka Pratishta. The case went on for years and the Math almost spent all its savings ,but in the end, the judgement was in favour of the Math in the first court as well as in the appeals in the higher courts,thanks to the hard work done by the younger son.

He however lost his wife during the trial. But the people who lodged the case spread the canard that it was a punishment to him for his tricky manipulations in fighting an unjust cause. He was not affected by it either, but the slander, on the head of his bereavement, touched the heart of the Swamigal. So he performed the second marriage of the younger son of our story, soon after the Tatanka-Pratishta, in the very shrine of Akhilandesvari.

The second wife was an eight year old girl. She steadfastly performed daily Puja to the Divine Mother for giving her such a noble husband till she breathed her last in ripe old age.

Because of the huge expenditure in the litigation, the Math had run into heavy debts. The Swamigal felt bad about it that it has happened during his tenure and the younger son was also upset, as he was the administrator-in-charge, and so he held himself responsible for the agony caused to the Swamigal. Our 'younger son' then resolved to do the utmost he could to unburden the Math of the debts.

He went to Thanjavur and met the Raja (Sivaji, son of Serfoji- This is another Sivaji, not the Chatrapathi Sivaji we all know ) there . Our 'Younger son' conveyed the matter to him in a polished way taking care not to lower the honour of the Math. He submitted by suggestion that it would be a fitting gesture on the part of the Raja if he could accord reception at Thanjavur to the Math while on its way from Tiruchy to Kumbhakonam, in view of the fact that the Math had won a significant case which conferred prestige to the entire Thanjavur region.

Raja Sivaji deliberated for three days but finally expressed his inability ( to accord the reception as requested )

When the carts of the Math with the attendants and, at the rear, the palanquin of Swamigal started to Kumbhakonam via Koviladi bypassing Thanjavur and were passing through the banks of Kaveri at Thiruvaiyaru. a number of sepoys surrounded the vehicles and forcibly dragged them to the opposite banks, on the route to Thanjavur.

The palanquin of the Swamigal too was stopped, but in a respectful way. Vedic scholars of the court gave the ceremonial reception and the requested Swamigal to come to Thanjavur. Immediately the sepoys surrounded the palanquin on all the four sides in reverential besiegement. Even now, does not the army conducting a coup d'etat in civilised nations arrest the erstwhile Head of the State respectfully in his own residence in order to escape the adverse criticism of the international community?

Swamigal understood that this was what had been done to Him and proceeded to Thanjavur under the custody of the sepoys calmly. What followed the 'arrest' of the Math as it entered Thanjavur was the right royal welcome accorded to it.

Raja Sivaji, overcome with reverential emotion, personally received the Svamigal with all honour, and made grand arrangements for His Puja and feeding of Brahmins.

What is all this mystery? How is it that the one who refused to extend an invitation was now aggressively thrusting hospitality? Why is it that he showed 'violent Bhakthi' and brought them forcibly under arrest instead of inviting and receiving them with humility?

It is all doing of Chandramaulisvara! After sending off our 'younger son' with negative reply, the Raja had a dream. The Father God appeared in the Raja's dream and ordered him to render due honours to the Math where He took abode and to its Acharya. Like a father, more indulgent towards a disobedient son, Siva had blessed the Raja with His darsan in the dream for his earlier act of refusal! That was why he was overcome with emotion.

But why did he arrest the Math to bring them to his place? Well, he had sent back the administrative officer of the Math, short of slapping on his face, only recently. If he were to invite the Math in the normal course within a few days, how would the Math, the status of which is higher than that of the Court, as it is the very seat of Sri Adi Sankara, react? Would it say to the Royalty, "Whichever way you push, according to your pleasure, we would bend?" A Swamigal may not personally mind honour and dishonour and forgive delinquents. But when the honour of the Pontifical Seat is involved, would he not be unbending in such a context?

The Raja and his officers and pandits deliberated over all this. That was why they ultimately hit upon the plan to receive the Math by resort to Asurabhakti (bhakti in the demon's way!). It looks as though they did this to give a spicy story to us!

As a Fitting finale to the festivities, the Raja performed Kanakabhishekam to the Swamigal on the day of the latter's departure. The very same Raja who shirked inviting the Swamigal on grounds of paucity of funds, now went on showering light-weight flowers of gold on the Swamigal covering Him from head to foot! It was as though the Raja was enveloping the Swamigal with his devotion!

The gold totaled up to 5000 varahans (approx. 10 Kg.). The 'younger son' heaved a sigh of relief. All the debts incurred could be paid off with this gold. Still there would be a surplus too, so ran the thoughts of the man who had made the Math his very life.

On return to Kumbhakonam, the debts were cleared off completely.

Replete with this sense of fulfillment, the swamigal shed His mortal coils and attained to that One fullness ('paripurnam adaivadu, as it is said in Tamil) within two or three years.

While telling the story, Periyaval did not mention the names of many of the characters, including that of the 'younger-son'. But we would like to add to the flavour of the story by revealing their names.

The 'Today' refers to 1965 when Periyaval was telling the story.

The central figure, the 'younger-son' is no less a person than the parental grandfather of Periyaval Himself. His good name was Sri Ganapati Sastrigal. The name of the 'elder son' is Sri Seshadri Sastrigal. The 'Hoyasala Brahmin', the father of these two, and the great-grandfather of Periyaval was called Sri Subramanya Sastrigal. The Swamigal who performed the Tatanka-Pratistha is the 64th Acharya of Kanchi Math, the fifth Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Swamigal. (Our Periyaval is the seventh to bear that monastic name).

Now it will be obvious to the reader that the granny who told this story is none other than the grandmother of Periyaval. If the grandmother narrated the story, not omitting any details after fifty years of the happenings, the divine grandson who heard it then narrated it similarly sixty years thereafter!

Jaya Jaya Sankara, Hara Hara Sankara

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