Paramacharya Chandrashekarendra Saraswati: God, Women and Languages

Late Paramachariya  (Chandrasekaraendra Saraswathi  of Kanchi Mutt) is  considered by the devotees of Kanchi Mutt as the most respected great Hindu saint of the last century.  His devotees belong to all sections of society although mostly the Tamil Brahmins celebrate him . He is said to be respected even by non-believers. His ‘words of wisdom’ are collected in the Tamil  book “Deivaththin kural” (Divine Voice). He is promoted as the unmatched god man of the  people from Tamilnadu and other regions.

But it is interesting to note his view point on languages other than Sanskrit, specifically Tamil.  I read a narration by Agnihothram Ramanuja thathachariyar in his book “Hindu matham enge pokirathu” (Hindu relegion – Where towards?). Thathachariya was once a close aid of Paramachariya. He used to have discussions with Paramacharya only in sanskrit, because Sankarachariya normally spoke in  Sanskrit. I am interested to share my reading with our friends.

One evening  Mr. Arunachalam of Chettinadu visited Kanchi mutt. Mr. Arunachalam was an  industrialist and such rich people normally commanded respect at Kanchi Mutt. He wanted to have the blessings of Paramacharya and he requested Mr. Thathacharia to arrange for a dharshan. By that time Paramacharya had completed his daily dharshan to the public and finished his bath. He was preparing for conducting  the evening rituals. Mr. Thathachriya informed Paramacharya about the visit of Mr. Arunachalam.Paramacharya told Thathachariya that he could not meet Arunchalam because he had taken bath and that he would have to take again if he had to meet Mr. Arunachalam, and therefore instructed Thathachariaya to inform Arunachalam that Swamiji was observing silence (mouna viratha) and hence he could not meet anybody. Paramacharya was strictly following one practice; between each puja, if he happened to talk in Tamil, he  would take bath to wash out the sin.  What was the sin? According to him speaking in Tamil  was a sin because the language was non-divine  (neecha bashai). By this witness Thathacharya we can conclude that Paramacharya resorted to speak a soft lie to avoid speaking in Tamil to stick to his  orthodox practice. The lie may be with an intention of not to offend the feelings of a rich Tamil man who could donate money for the mutt.

There is another interesting anecdote about Paramacharya in the same book. When Jawaharlal Nehru decided to bring a law to grant property rights to Hindu women, Paramacharya  vehemently opposed that idea . The reason told by Acharya was that as per Manu Smiruthi women were barred from holding property. It can also be recalled that the tactics of ‘mouna viratha’ was practiced once by Paramacharya when Indira Gandhi wished to meet him. The venue of the meeting was a “well” on either side of which Paramacharya and Indira Gandhi were present. Paramacharya only listened to Gandhi at that time and did not even see her. Reason? Mrs. Gandhi was a widow! However there were instances when he could say some words to Mrs. Gandhi too. Perhaps it should be time bound poojas of orthodox rituals which prevented to speak in Tamil or to a woman or  a widow!

Kanchi mutt is now led by jeyendra saraswati a supporter of untouchability and alleged in murder case

But we cannot say that Paramacharya followed orthodox ways strictly. For example, when his deputy Jeyendra saraswathi deserted the mutt he initially refused to take him back on his return citing that Jeyendra missed the poojas of  Saturmasya vrata. But he relaxed and accommodated Jeyendra after learning that the Kanch Kamatchi amman temple could be taken over by the Government according to the rules if the trustee was dead without appointing another member or went mad or  missing. Jeyendra was the trustee for that revenue earning temple!

The Hindu religion as constructed in the last century is a conglomeration of innumerable number of ideas, practices and rituals.  The virtue for guiding the life of an individual should be the essence of any religion in practice and philosophy. Many outdated fundamentalist theories such as Manu Dharma and practices are still followed by Hindu Mutts and the godmen. This is regrettable. They are expected to change according to the times in favour of equality of people and their languages. Christianity spreads by serving sermons in Tamil and if Sanskrit is insisted still in Poojas it will not serve the Hindu religion in the long run.

A Christian Father Jagath Kaspar arranged  for releasing Hindu religious book Thiruvasagam audio by Ilayaraja . He organises annual festival Sangamam for Tamil folk and classical performances with music and dance. But our orthodox Hindu brothers seek Sanskrit in Puja, castes among priests, Telugu in music, Hindi in Central jobs, English for software and wish to give the last place to Tamil.  How can we we claim to be an egalitarian and fair society. They/We need to think about this.

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