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|Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati VIII Swamigal|
|ಶ್ರೀ ಶ್ರೀ ಚಂದ್ರಶೇಖರೇಂದ್ರ ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ಸ್ವಾಮಿಜೀಯವರು|
A 1933 photograph of Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal
20 May 1894
|Died||8 January 1994
|Resting place||Kanchi Mutt|
|Period in office||May 9, 1907 – January 8, 1994|
|Consecration||February 13, 1907|
|Predecessor||Sri Sri Mahadevendra Saraswathi VI|
|Successor||Sri Jayendra Saraswathi|
|Ordination||May 9, 1907|
Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal (Tamil: சந்திரசேகரேந்திர சரஸ்வதி சுவாமிகள்) (May 20, 1894 – January 8, 1994) or the Sage of Kanchi was the 68th Jagadguru in the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. He is usually referred to as Paramacharya, Mahaswami or Maha Periyavaal.
Maha Periyavaal was born on 20 May 1894, under Anuradha star according to the Hindu calendar, into a Kannadiga Smartha Hoysala Karnataka Brahmin family in Viluppuram, South Arcot District, Tamil Nadu as Swaminatha. He was the second son of Subramanya Sastri, a District Education Officer. The child was named Swaminatha, after the family deity, Lord Swaminatha of Swamimalai, near Kumbakonam. Swaminatha began his early education at the Arcot American Mission High School at Tindivanam, where his father was working. He was an exceptional student and excelled in several subjects. In 1905, his parents performed his Upanayanam, a Vedic ceremony which qualifies a Brahmin boy to begin his Vedic studies under an accomplished teacher. His brother was Sadasiva shastrigal, popularly known as Sivan Sir.
Incidents leading to Sainthood
During the childhood of the Acharya, his father consulted an astrologer who, upon studying the boy's horoscope, is said to have been so stunned that he prostrated himself before the boy exclaiming that "One day the whole world will fall at his feet".In 1906, the 66th Acharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham performed the annual Chaturmasyam (a forty-day annual ritual performed by Hindu ascetics while remaining in one place), in a village near Tindivanam in Tamil Nadu. This was Swaminathan’s first exposure to the Math and its Acharya. Later, Swaminathan accompanied his father whenever he visited the Math where the Acharya was deeply impressed by the young boy.
In the first week of February 1907, the Kanchi Kamakoti Math had informed Subramanya Sastrigal that Swaminathan's first cousin (son of his mother's sister) was to be installed as the 67th Peetathipathi. The presiding Acharya was then suffering from smallpox and had the premonition that he might not live long. He had, therefore, administered upadesa to his disciple Lakshminathan before he died. Sastrigal being away in Trichinopoly on duty arranged for the departure of Swaminathan with his mother to Kanchipuram. The boy and his mother started for Kalavai (where Lakshminathan was camping) to console his aunt who, while also being a widow, had just given up her only son to be an ascetic. They traveled by train to Kanchipuram and halted at the Sankara Math. By then, Lakshminathan had fallen ill:
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 66th Acharya. One of them, a hereditary maistry (mason) 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—T.M.P. Mahadevan, The Sage of Kanchi
The 67th Acharya also died, after reigning for a brief seven days as the head of the Math. Swaminathan was immediately installed as the 68th head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam on February 13, 1907, the second day of the Tamil month of Masi, Prabhava year. He was given Sanyasa Asramam at the early age of 13 and was named Chandrasekharendra Saraswati. On May 9, 1907 his "Pattabishekam" as the 68th Peetathipathi of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam was performed at the Kumbakonam Math. Devotees including Shivaji Maharaja of Tanjavur, government officials and pundits participated in the event.
Even though there was not enough property in the mutt to be administered, the court considering the benefit of the mutt, ordered the mutt to be administered under the “Guardian and Wards Act”. Sri C.H.Venkataramana Iyer, an illustrious personality from Kolinjivadi (Colinjivadi) village near Coimbatore was appointed as guardian by the court. The administration of the mutt was under guardianship from 1911 to May,1915. On the day of Sankara Jayanthi in the year 1915, Swamigal took over the administration of the mutt on the completion of his 21 st year. The administration of the mutt was taken over in name, but the actual work was taken care of by an agent, one Sri Pasupathi Iyer. He was an able administrator who volunteered to do the job without compensation and hailed from Thirupathiripuliyur. Sri Swamigal does not sign any document, instead Sri Mukham stamp is placed on documents.
Mahaswami had vedic studies at Kumbakonam Mutt oppostie the mahamaham tank. In 1915, Sri Anantharama Srouthigal was his prathama adhyayana tutor. As a little girl, his granddaughter Nagam used to carry milk in a pot to the pontiff next door. She said the acharya was sharp in memory and divinely blessed with prediction. Avidly she recalled how the acharya directed her father Narayana Iyer (S/o Anantharama Srouthigal) to vacate the place and go to his house next door. Narayana came home and died within minutes. Thus was his spiritual darshan.When her family visited the Kanchi Mutt in 1991, the aged acharya blessed the family members and enquired if they were Nagam's children. It is understood that the house was later donated to Mutt by the family.
Maha Periyavaal spent several years in the study of the scriptures and dharma shastras and acquainted himself with his role as the Head of the Math. He soon gained the reverence and respect of the devotees and people around him. To millions of devotees he was simply "Periyavar"—the revered one or Maha-Periyavar or Periya-Periyavar. "Periyavar" in Tamil means a great person, and conveys endearment, reverence, and devotion. "Mahaswami" and "Paramacharya" are his other well-known appellations.
Maha Periyavaal was the head of the Mutt for eighty-seven years. During this period, the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam acquired new strength as an institution that propagated Śankara's teachings. The devotion, fervour, and intensity with which the Paramacharya practiced what Śankara had taught are considered to be unparalleled by his devotees. Throughout his life, the focus of his concern and activities was rejuvenating Veda adhyayana, the Dharma Sasthras, and the age-old tradition, which had suffered decline. "Veda rakshanam" was his very life breath, and he referred to this in most of his talks.
Providing support through Veda Patashalas (schools teaching Vedic lore) through the Veda Rakshana Nidhi which he founded and honouring Vedic scholars, he reinvigorated Vedic studies in India. He organised regular sadhas ('conferences') which included discussions on arts and culture—these led to a renewed interest in Vedic religion, Dharma sasthras, and the Sanskrit language. His long tenure as Pitadhipathi is considered by many to have been the Golden Era of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. He attained Mukti (died) on January 8, 1994 at the age of 99 and was succeeded by Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal.
Periyava stressed the importance of a Guru in one's life. He repeatedly preached about the importance of following the Dharmic path. His various discourses are available in a volume of books called 'Deivathin Kural' (Voice of the Divine) which have been compiled by R. Ganapathi, a devotee of Periyava, and published by vaanathi publications. These books are available both in Tamil and English. A condensed form of these books is also available in English. These are available in any branch of the Kanchi math.He was a pure Gnani - (Sanskrit - he knew every thing happening in the world). He had proved this several times.So many devotee's mentioning this in there experience accounts for this. His advice to Paul Brunton is a classic example. He treated all religions equally and with respect. He guided the devotees by spiritual means.
Periyava and the Indian Freedom Movement
Though Periyavaa did not get directly into politics, he was interested in the happenings. At Nellichery in Palakkad (Present Day Kerala), Rajaji and Mahatma Gandhi met the Acharya in a cow shed. It was a practice in the mutt to wear silk clothes. But Acharya was the first one to do away with them and shifted to Khadi robes at Rameshwaram. He requested his devotees to do away with foreign/ non natural clothes some time earlier at Trichy.
Periyavaa is credited with reforming the noted Indian National Congress leader during the Indian independence movement,from Tiruchirappalli, F. G. Natesa Iyer. Periyavaa is recorded to have reconverted F.G.Natesa Iyer from the Christian religion back to Hinduism. It is recorded that,F.G. Natesa Iyer, as a young boy of ten years, "took shelter with Englishmen who brought him up and converted him to Christianity. Twenty years later, dissatisfied with the ability of the priests to clarify his doubts, he met the Kanchi Sankaracharya and, getting satisfactory answers from him, reconverted to Hinduism."" 
The Indian National Congress, in the decade of the 1920s, started organising the Non-Cooperation Movement, which involved getting many people to protest on the streets. F.G.Natesa Iyer, the leading Congress activist of Tiruchirappalli then, as also the elected Mayor, took this opportunity to convert the movement to also show support for the Periyavaa. He described the occasion, thus: "I was nominated by the public as the chairman of the Reception committee for arranging a reception for the Acharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. As the municipal chairman , it was my duty to provide a proper welcome and respect to Swamigal who was visiting after a long time. The opportunity to welcome His Holiness in a manner that was exponentially greater than receptions given to kings and viceroys, was accorded to me, along my with supporters Sri MKandaswamy Servai, lawyer Sri. R.Srinivasa Iyengar and the larger public. The procession that was seven miles long, was preceded by seven groups of nadaswaram players, three band groups, four elephants, many horses and camels, instrumental players, Bhajan singers, Seva Samitis. I had the blessing to hold the front side of the ivory palanquin where our guru for the whole world , Sri Sankaracharya Swamigal was seated. He gave darshan to numerous people lined on both sides of the roads, in every floor, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. There was no count of arathis, Poorna kumbams, garlands, asthika goshams. The procession that started at 6 pm ended at 10 pm in front of the mutt at Thiruvanaikaval. I was enthralled in my service to Swamigal as service to Lord Shiva himself".
The day India became free, Periyavaa gave the Maithreem Bhajata song, which was later to be sung at the UN by M S Subbulakshmi. He gave a speech on the significance of the flag and the Dharma chakra in it on that day.
Periyava's charm invited the rich and the poor, the old and the young alike to be his devotees.Some of his famous devotees include, their highness the King and Queen of Nepal, the Queen Mother of Greece, the Dalai Lama, Subramanian Swamy , M. S. Subbulakshmi, Indira Gandhi, R. Venkatraman, Shankar Dayal Sharma and Atal Bihari Vajpayee among others. To the Acharya, the VIPs and the common man were one and the same. There were thousands of personal experiences to lakhs of his devotees, who still revere him, and pray to him as a messenger of the Supreme or an ultimate Guru.
- T.S.Mani (April 1–15, 2012). "FGN – actor and patron of the arts". Madras Musings (Volume XXI, number 24).
- T.K.Balasubramaia Iyer (May 10, 1923). "Editorial". The Hindu. "Never before in the annals of Tiruchirapalli have we witnessed te grandeur and enthusiasm that were displayed at the reception of His Holiness Sri Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam who arrived at Tiruchirapali on the 23rd ult. The mile long procession headed by richly caparisoned elephants ad surging crowds with His Holiness seated high on the ivory palanquin in the center, surrounded by large concourse of Brahmins chanting the Vedas, and followed by numerous Bhajana parties and Tevaram parties, the rich and tasteful decorations all along te route which eteded to nearly eight miles, the buoyant enthusiasm of the huge crowd that pressed on all sides just to have a glimpse of His Holiness, beaming countenance and that followed the procession right through to the end, the festive appearance of the whole town and the eageress of everyone in that vast concourse of people to do some sort of service to His Holiness were sights for Gods to see and they beggar all description. It showed in a clear and unmistakable way the stronghold of religion and religious ideals still on the people of the country. No Viceroy or even the Emperor himself could have evoked such spontaneous and heartfelt enthusiasm. It took nearly five hours for te procession to reach its destination. His Holiness had a smile or a word of cheer for every one of the assembled people and when he retired into the mutt, His Holiness observed that the weariness of the journey was counteracted by the unprecedented enthusiasm of the people."
- From a Calendar Published on Behalf of the Mutt in 1997 - 50th Year of India Independence
Real History of Kanchi Mutt 
- A search in Secret India—Paul Brunton
- Sri Kanchi Mahaswamy Charitram
- Official website of Kanchi Kamakoti peetham
- A web site dedicated to The Sage of Kanchi
- Sri Mahaswamy Charitram 
- English translation of Sri Kanchi Mahaswami's discourses at  under following titles:
- The Sacred and the Profane 
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTLwFZIBGF0 - A Rare Video of Paramacharya Swamiji's discourse
Sri Sri Mahadevendra Saraswathi VI
|Kanchi Kāmakoti Pīṭādipati
February 13, 1907 – January 8, 1994
Sri Jayendra Saraswathi