Kanchi Seer – Pudhu Periyava

(Article contributed by devotee)

Jaya Jaya Sankara Hara Hara Sankara

Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya stated “Feed the poor! Look after the needy! Educate the illiterate! Empower them to earn their daily wages and lead a life of dignity. Every morsel of food they eat from your efforts is your Bhiksha Vandanam to me

Subramanyam Mahadeva Iyer was born to Mahadeva Iyer and Saraswathi Ammal on 18 July 1935 in a small village named Irulneeki (meaning ‘dispeller of darkness’) in Thanjavur district.

Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swamigal had observed three unique qualities in Subramanyam Mahadeva Iyer: Jan Akarshanam, Dhan Akarshanam and Jal Akarshanam, hence chose him as his successor by giving the divinely ordained pontifical title “Sri Jayendra Saraswathi” on 22 March 1954. As 69th peetadhipathi, Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal followed the footsteps of his guru and joined him in all his yatras and services. Since then, His Holiness was reverentially addressed by devotees as ‘Pudhu Periyava’. People started hailing him as ‘Kriya Shakti’, the active force of his guru, who was earlier called ‘Ichcha Shakti’.

Next only to Sri Adi Sankaracharya:

  • Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal has traversed the entire nation four times.
  • He consecrated the murti of Sri Adi Sankaracharya at the entrance of Pasupathinath Temple, Nepal. As advised by him, the King of Nepal constructed an arch at a place called Mirganj on Indo-Nepal border and named it as ‘Sankar Dwar’.
  • He was the only Sankaracharya who had visited Kailash and Manasarovar after Sri Adi Sankaracharya. At a height of 14,000 feet, he consecrated two murtis of Sri Adi Sankaracharya at the foot of the mountain, one at the place of commencement of parikrama and other at the concluding place of parikrama. The day Periyava visited happened to be the auspicious “Guru Poornima” and he performed Vyasa Puja after having a snaanam in the punya theertham Manasarovar.  After the puja, while blessing those who had accompanied him, he said the 15 days delay in getting visa from China was ‘Bhagwat Sankalpam’, due to which he could perform Vyasa Puja at Manasarovar on the auspicious Guru Poornima, which also happened to be Guruwar (Thursday).
  • He was the only Sankaracharya who had visited Sri Dhakeswari Temple in Bangladesh after Sri Adi Sankaracharya. The Government of Bangladesh named the entrance of the temple as ‘Sankaracharya Gate’ and honoured him by erecting an arch in front of the temple naming it ‘Jayendra Arch’.  
  • During his Char Dham Yatra, Pujya Periyava offered spatika Lingam to Kedarnath. He had organised to inscribe Adi Sankaracharya’s slokas on marble stones and had also placed portraits of Tamil Saivite Saint Thirugnana Sambandar’s Thevaram hymns. He had also visited Amarnath and offered silver/gold bilva leaves. He placed a Linga made of mercury on the ice avudaiyar and performed puja.
  • In Paithan, Maharashtra in 1984, the proposal that he supported to erect a statue of Sri Adi Sankara in the local Santh Eknath Samadhi Mandir was opposed by a doctor. As he left Paithan, the doctor said: “Maharaj, I have troubled you much. Please don’t curse me.” Pujya Periyava smiled and said: “Doctor, I did not experience any trouble. The talk of curse is completely wrong. Even if you cut this body into several pieces, each piece will only bless you. I have worn this saffron cloth not for cursing anybody, but for seeing Narayana in everybody.” The offshoot of this expression of compassion was that the same doctor changed his mind, installed the statue in the same place later and invited the seer to inaugurate it.

Service to Sanatha Dharma:

Veda Samrakshana:

  • Pujya Periyava expanded the Matam’s Veda patashalas to more than 30 places across the country and the Matam runs them in Nepal too.
  • He started a few more trusts like Advaita Sabha, Sri Adisankara Advaita Research Center, etc., to carry out research activities and spread Advaita philosophy. Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita scholars have also been invited to exchange views and they are honoured. He had also visited those matams and created an environment of friendship, peace and harmony.

Sanskrit:

  • Pujya Periyava founded organisations like Amarabharathi Pariksha Samithi which teach Sanskrit. Sanskrit is being taught through postal correspondence too. Language, grammar, literature, etc. are being taught. A magazine by name Samskrit Sriis also being run. Competitions are conducted for school students.
  • He composed many songs in Sanskrit about his Guru and the Gods. He enjoyed Carnatic music, and often hummed his own favourite song ‘Bhajare Gurunatham, Manasa’. During his discourses, he often referred to the phrase ‘Jantunam Narajanma Durlabham’ (‘human birth is rare indeed’).

Education:

  • Pujya Periyava’s contribution in the field of education is enormous. Apart from opening Veda patashalas, Agama patashalas, etc., as said by Pujya Paramacharya, Swamiji had also established number of modern schools in the name of Sankara Vidyalaya. He wanted both Dev bhakti and Desh bhakti to be taught to the students simultaneously. He wanted value based education (including cultural and traditional values) to be imparted to students.
  • Schools for the differently abled students are run in Kanchipuram, Kalavai and Hardwar.
  • Industrial training institutes (ITI) are being run in Coimbatore and the most backward area Madhubani in Bihar.

Medical Service:

With the blessings of his guru, Pujya Periyava reached out to the nook and corner of the country through hospitals and clinics.

  • The first major initiative was adopting the sinking Child Trust Hospital in Chennai, converting it into a major hospital for children with all special facilities.
  • Sankara Nethralaya Eye Hospital in Chennai is creating history. Pujya Periyava also established Kanchi Sankara Eye Society in Coimbatore. It was Periyava who had paved the way for eye donation across the country by his steadfast campaigning.
  • Considering the backwardness of Northeast India, Periyava had established Sri Kanchi Sankara Health and Education Foundation in Guwahati. Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya functioning under its auspices is doing a great service for the people of Northeast. He also established a general hospital on the way to Badrinath in Himalayas.
  • On behalf of Sankara Matam and as instructed by Periyava, eye screening camps are being conducted regularly at several places every year.

Social Service:

Pujya Periyava believed that the only way to revive and re-invigorate the dharma would be to take it to the doorsteps of every home. He was always concerned about the welfare of the poor and the needy and he had initiated a lot of services for them.

He once said: “If God (Iswara) appears in front of me I shall not ask for wealth, fame or immortality. I shall ask for the ability to get into other people’s hearts and remove their sorrow and tears.”

  • In 1987, while he sat in penance in front of Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati, he got a divine order and immediately on return from Tirupati, Periyava started a movement called Jan Kalyan & Jan Jagaran which is carrying out several services, undertaking numerous projects.
  • Several helps are rendered during natural calamities like floods, tsunami, earthquake, etc. On Pujya Periyava’s instructions, Kanchi Matam extended all possible helps to the victims of Gujarat earthquake. It adopted two villages, completely built them afresh and brought them back to normalcy in all aspects.
  • Pujya Periyava always used to visit the places struck by natural calamities, talk to the victims, motivate, bless and extend all possible helps to them.
  • During Kargil war, financial support was provided for the families of deceased soldiers.  
  • For the victims of 2004 tsunami, several helps including eye screening lamps and treatment were provided for the victims along coastal Tamil Nadu.  
  • Artificial legs and tricycles are given for differently abled persons. Hostel with all facilities are being run for orphaned girls in Kanchipuram, Kalavai and Kalahasthi.

Go Samrakshana:

Pujya Periyava wanted each and every temple to have its own Goshala. He supported a lot of animal welfare organizations and animal activists to start Goshalas. During Prime Minister Vajpayee’s period, he announced a fast unto death for a ban on cow slaughter, which made Vajpayee to form a cattle commission. Periyava campaigned for the welfare of cattle throughout his life.

Dharma Rakshana:

  • Pujya Periyava was seen as an avatar of Shankara and promulgated concept of Santana Dharma.
  • He spread the message “Dharmo Rakshati Rakshita” across the country throughout his life. He always thought of unity among Hindus and the growth of Hindu Dharma. He wanted our elders to teach the fundamentals and significant aspects of Hindu culture and religious traditions to the children.
  • In order to spread Hindu Dharma, its culture and tradition, Periyava founded an organization by name Hindu Religious Board (Hindu Samaya Manram) and expanded it across the state with 375 branches. The board had separate wings for children, students and women. It undertook activities such as temple cleaning, cultural training classes, slokacompetitions and summer vacation camps, etc.
  • World Religion, Philosophy and Cultural Conference was organized in Madurai with the noble aim of creating religious harmony among world religions. Representatives of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Ancient Greek and Egyptian religions, Confucianism, Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Judaism and Jainism participated and shared their concepts and activities. Representatives from various Asian, European and African countries participated.

Religious Harmony:

  • On one side, Pujya Sri Jayendra Saraswathi was focusing on the growth of Hindu Dharma through Hindu Religious Board and its activities, and on the other side, he was striving hard to create harmony among world religions. He visited the matams of other sampradayas like Dvaita, Visishtadvaita, etc., and struck a cordial relationship with them. He also participated in several interfaith dialogues and advised people to respect not only the indigenous Indic religions but also the Abrahamic religions.
  • In the year 1981, when the Harijans of a small hamlet by name Meenakshipuram in Tirunelveli district were converted to Islam, the whole nation was shocked. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was very much concerned about the situation. However, without waiting for the governments to take steps, Pujya Swamiji rushed to Meenakshipuram, spoke to the local people, gave them the confidence, motivated them and stopped many from converting. He also spoke to the representatives of both the religions and prevented further worsening of situation and brought back normalcy.
  • The actions which he had undertaken for resolving the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid issue instilled faith and confidence in the minds of both the Hindu and Muslim. He sincerely and strongly believed that the issue could be resolved by talks and indulged in peace talks many times. Muslim organization had great respect for him and cooperated with him. That a few more religious leaders are trying for dialogues now, even while the Supreme Court is seized of the issue, is mainly because of the strong base Periyava had laid by his talks.

             Indian Politician and former Deputy Prime Minister of India LK Advani said, “I had the privilege of knowing Jayendra Saraswati Swamiji very closely. Our association became closer during the rule of NDA-I, when I was the Minister of Home Affairs in the government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji. Swamiji proactively initiated a dialogue with various religious and social leaders of the Muslim community to evolve an amicable solution to the Ayodhya dispute. This dialogue helped a lot in promoting mutual trust and goodwill between Hindu and Muslim communities. I join the millions of devotees of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt in offering prayers to the Almighty and in seeking peace to the departed soul.”

  • He issued certificates to trained priests of Sri Tantra Vidyapeetham, who hailed from all communities for Kerala temples, much before Kerala government took the same initiative. If today in Kerala, we find priests from all communities without the discrimination of birth in Hindu temples, is due to contributions by him to it. Pujya Periyava envisioned a program for entrepreneurial development as a means to social harmony.
  • Pujya Periyava did yeomen service to society by helping revive numerous Hindu traditions, especially those practiced by the Scheduled Castes. Under his guidance, the Kanchi Mutt helped revive numerous folk art traditions. He was a bulwark of defense against Christian predation. In spite of the most horrific attacks and humiliations he had to suffer, Periyava defended Manu Dharma most admirably.
  • The followers of the mutt call Jayendra Saraswati a reformist saint and credit him with ensuring that the preachings of Adi Sankara were spread among people beyond the Brahmin community.

Avathara Purusha:

अधरं मधुरं वदनं मधुरं नयनं मधुरं हसितं मधुरम्
हृदयं मधुरं गमनं मधुरं मधुराधिपतेरखिलं मधुरम् ॥१॥

 

Likewise, Pudhu Periyava is the embodiment of all the good qualities. His Holiness is most simple, with an ever smiling face, and easily approachable (Sowlabhyam) by one and all. He is the central force in unifying the various factions and establishing firmly the unity in diversity in the country.

Paramacharya’s words about Pudhu Periyava to Bala Periyava: “Avar Srimatathukku Seidhullathu Ver Yaralayum Seiya Mudhiyadhu” (What your Guru has done for Sri Mattam cannot be done by anyone else).

Let us all follow the footsteps of Pudhu Periyava by doing services as “MANAVA SEVA IS MAHESWARA SEVA”

References:

 Books: JAGADGURU SRI JAYENDRA SARASWATHI SWAMIJI – AN OFFERING

Websites: http://kamakoti.org/

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