The world was at his feet
Today is the 110th Jayanthi of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati. N. VANCHINATHAN pays tribute to the Paramacharya.
SRI CHANDRASEKHARENDRA SARASWATI was born under the star of "Anuradha" in a Kannadiga Smartha family in Villupuram (South Arcot district) as the second son of Sri Subramaniya Sastrigal, District Education Officer. The child was named Swaminathan, after the family deity, Lord Swaminatha of Swamimalai. Swaminathan had his early education at the Arcot American Mission High School at Tindivanam, where his father was working. He stood first in all the subjects in all the examinations winning several prizes. It is interesting that he won a prize for his proficiency in the recitation of the "Holy Bible."
During the childhood of the Acharya, his father consulted an astrologer. After studying the horoscope, the astrologer asked his wife to bring some water, washed the boy's feet and prostrated before him. Then he explained to the bewildered father, "One day the whole world will fall at his feet."
In the first week of February 1907, a message came from the Kanchi Kamakoti Math to Subramanya Sastrigal, asking him to come with his son Swaminathan. Subramanya Sastrigal was away in Tiruchi on duty and relatives arranged to send Swaminathan with his mother to Kanchipuram. The then Acharya was suffering from smallpox and had the premonition that he might not live long and decided to install Swaminathan as the next "Peetathipathi." It was for this reason that he had directed the Math officials to bring Swaminathan to Kalavai, a village 30km from Kanchipuram, where he had camped. But even before the arrival of the boy, the 66th Acharya attained Siddi. He had administered upadesa to his disciple Lakshminathan, who was none other than Swaminathan's cousin (son of his mother's sister). He was to be installed as the 67th Peetathipathi.
Swaminathan and his mother started for Kalavai. He travelled by train to Kanchipuram and halted at the Sankara Math there. Swaminathan was taking his bath at the "Kumara Koshta Theertham" when one of the Math servants asked him to accompany him in a separate horse-drawn cart. In the Acharya's own words (reproduced from T.M.P. Mahadevan's "The Sage of Kanchi."):
"My mother, accompanied by myself and other children, started for Kalavai to console her sister on her son's assuming the Sanyasa Asramam. We travelled by train to Kanchipuram and halted in the Sankara Math there. I had a bath at the Kumara Koshta Tirtha. A carriage of the Math had come there from Kalavai with the people to buy articles for the Maha Puja on the tenth day of the passing of the previous Acharya. One of them, a hereditary maistry of the Math, asked me to accompany him. A separate cart was engaged for the rest of the family to follow me. During the journey the maistry hinted to me that I might not return home and that the rest of my life might be spent in the Math itself. At first I thought that my elder cousin having become the Head of the Math, it was his wish that I should live with him. But the maistry gradually clarified matters as the cart rolled on. The acharya had fever which developed into delirium and that was why I was being separated from the family to be taken to Kalavai... I was stunned by this unexpected turn of events. I lay in a kneeling posture in the cart, shocked as I was, repeating "Rama... Rama," the only prayer I knew. My mother and other children came some time later only to find that instead of her mission of consoling her sister, she herself was placed in the state of having to be consoled."
The 67th pontiff passed away soon after. Swaminathan was immediately installed as the 68th head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam on Wednesday, February 13, 1907, the Second day of the Tamil month of Masi, Prabhava year. Swaminathan was given Sanyasa Asramam at the early age of 13 and was named Chandrasekharendra Saraswati.
To don the mantle of "Sanyasi" at the age of 13 and to perform the rituals, namely extreme penance, dyanaa and puja not to mention renunciation along with control in dietary habits are no mean tasks. The parents who had doted on the child wondered whether the boy had the strength to live up to the expectations.
The Math officials consoled them, reminding the parents that they had three other sons and should be proud to dedicate one child to the country. The most poignant words came from the incumbent himself. Moving towards them he made his obeisance and said, "Why do you all hesitate?" I have the full Anugraha from my Guru and I will safeguard and will maintain the greatness of this Sanyasa Peetam and my Ashram as the 68th Peetathipathi. Give me wholehearted permission." Pacified, the parents left.
When His Holiness as 68th Peetathipathi of Kanchi Kamakoti Peedam visited Tindivanam in 1907, the entire township had a glimpse of him. They had last seen him as a boy of 12 years and now he was adorning the Peetam of the Kanchi math. All of them, including elders and women, assembled and prostrated before him. The teachers of the Arcot American Mission Higher Secondary School, where His Holiness studied, and his students came in large numbers to have darshan. The Acharya, conversed with each teacher and presented them with mementoes.
On May 9 of 1907 (Thursday, Bilavanga year, Chitra month, 27th day) "the Pattabishegam" for His Holiness as the 68th Peetathipathy of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam was performed at the Kumbakonam math. Devotees and government officials, Pandits including Shivaji Maharaja of Thanjavur with their representatives participated in the memorable event. On that day pujas were performed in all the temples and the Acharya offered worship in all of them. This was followed by Annadanam. Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi was acknowledged as "Jagathguru," the Great Preceptor, whose blessings people across the globe sought.
Send this article to Friends by