Chandrashekarendra Saraswati

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Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati VIII Swamigal
A 1933 photograph of Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal
Nationality Indian
Born Swaminatha
(1894-05-20)20 May 1894
Resting place Kanchi Mutt
Senior posting
Title Jagadguru
Period in office 9 May 1907 – 8 January 1994
Consecration 13 February 1907
Predecessor Sri Sri Mahadevendra Saraswathi VI
Successor Jayendra Saraswathi
Religious career
Ordination 9 May 1907

Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal (20 May 1894 – 8 January 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 Periyavar. He is widely considered as one of the greatest indian sages of recent times . He shone as bright as Adi Shankaracharya as an intellectual genius not only in the traditional shashtras but also in astronomy , algebra, archaeology, sculpture, yogasanas , linguistics etc . He is renowned for his saintly life , strict adherence to the shashtras , unparalleled knowledge in a wide array of subjects, and above all his compassion for all irrespective of religion, caste, gender , creed etc .

Early life[edit]

Chandrashekarendra Saraswati was born on 20 May 1894, under Anuradha nakshatra 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 Shri Subramanya Sastrigal, a District Education Officer and his devout wife, Smt Mahalakshmi. 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 Sastrigal, popularly known as Sivan Sir.[1] Sadasiva Sastri was born on 3 October 1903 in Viluppuram, South Arcot District, Tamil Nadu. He has written a magnum opus based on Hindu philosophy in a Tamil book titled "Yenippadigalil Maanthargal". He attained moksha at Kancheepuram on 8th January 1994 (Dhanur, Krishna Dwadasi) in his Centenary year.[2][3][4][5]

Incidents leading to Sainthood[edit]

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".[citation needed]In 1906, the 66th Acharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham performed the annual Chaturmasyam (a four-month annual ritual performed by Hindu ascetics while remaining in one place), in a village near Tindivanam in Tamil Nadu. This was Swaminatha's first exposure to the Math and its Acharya. Later, Swaminatha accompanied his father whenever he visited the Math where the Acharya was deeply impressed by the young boy.[citation needed]

In the first week of February 1907, the Kanchi Kamakoti Math had informed Subramanya Sastrigal that Swaminatha'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 Swaminatha 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 travelled by train to Kanchipuram and halted at the Sankara Math. By then, Lakshminathan had fallen ill:[citation needed]

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

[citation needed]

The 67th Acharya also died, after reigning for a brief period of seven days as the head of the Math. Swaminatha was immediately installed as the 68th head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam on 13 February 1907, the second day of the Tamil month of Masi, Parabhaava (பரபாவ, the 40th Tamil Year) year. He was given Sanyasa Asramam at the early age of 13 and was named Chandrasekharendra Saraswati. On 9 May 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.[citation needed]

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 the 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 21st year. The administration of the mutt was taken over only in name, but the actual work was taken care of by an agent, one Sri Pasupathi Iyer. He hailed from Thirupathiripuliyur, was an able administrator, who volunteered to do the job without compensation. Acharya does not sign any document, instead Sri Mukham stamp is placed on documents.[1]

He had vedic studies at Kumbakonam Mutt opposite the mahamaham tank (Melkarai) from 1913–1915. In 1915, Sri Anantharama Srouthigal was his prathama adhyayana tutor. At times, the teacher had slapped the paramacharya if he did not recite the verses and later annoyed for his act. ‘You are my student and Bala periyavar... I shouldn’t have canned you. For this Paramacharya had replied, ‘you are my teacher and you have every right to punish me so. No need to feel sorry.’ 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 (Son-inlaw of Anantharama Srouthigal, H/o. Visalakshi) to vacate the place and go to his house next door. Narayana came home and died within minutes. Thus was his spiritual darshan.[citation needed]When her family visited the Kanchi Mutt in 1991, the aged acharya blessed the family members and enquired if they were Nagam's children. Such was his memory.[2]

Acharya spent several years in the study of the scriptures and dharma shastras and acquainted himself with his role as the Head of the Math.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

He was the head of the Mutt for eighty-seven years.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. He referred to Veda rakshanam in most of his talks.

Remaining active throughout his life, the sage of Kanchi twice undertook pilgrimages on foot from Rameshwaram in the far south of the Indian peninsula to Benares in the North.[citation needed] He organised several seminars on Indian culture , Vedas , Veda bhashya, Agamas , Natya shashtra, archaeology and sculpture. He sent scholars and indologists to many South East Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia etc to discover the cultural links between India and those countries . He is credited with the rediscovery of several ancient temples like the panchamukheswara temple at Sri Kalahasthi, which were thought to be lost. He also identified the samadhi of Sadasiva Brahmendra at Manamadurai.He was responsible for the renewed interest in Indian sculpture and Agamas, through the Vyasa Bharata Agama silpa sadas he held regularly.At such seminars he also promoted the display of Thai and other south east Asian dance forms which demonstrated the cultural influence of India on other countries . 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 Peetadhipathi is considered by many to have been the Golden Era of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.[citation needed] He attained Mukti (died) on 8 January 1994 at the age of 100 and was succeeded by Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal.

Spiritual leadership[edit]

His strict adherence to the tenets of sanyasa ashrama made him shine as a great saint .He travelled widely only by foot and rarely by palanquin , this way he toured entire india once and south india several times . Dilapidated temples , cowsheds , thatched huts , living at such places even in the remotest of villages , he strived to spread dharma amongst the people . He fasted on most of the days , even on the occasions he took food , he had a simple diet of milk and fruits .  Dalai lama , after visiting the sage in his ripe 90's is said to have  told the press  "He is the only real saint of the 20th century ". People from all backgrounds marvelled at his spartan life style and minimal needs : frugal diet , minimal sleep and long hours of meditation and prayers ; they imparted a continual quality of grace and serenity to him. He had devotees from all walks of life; ranging from presidents and prime ministers to scientists and archaeologists. He preached about the importance of following the Dharmic path, including the benefits of Hindu rituals and the virtues of life. 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 Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, 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 all branches of the Kanchi math. He treated all religions equally and with respect.His schemes for social welfare were simple but far reaching ;desilting of tanks , laying of roads, cow protection, planting trees , giving kunkuma Prasad from temples to those on deathbed, etc .His 'Oru pidi arisi ' scheme where the housewife keeps a handful of rice everyday aside to feed the poor , which in turn is collected by volunteers, cooked and served to the poor at temples was stunning in efficacy .He was greatly admired by other saints like Ramana Maharshi ,  Chandrasekhara Bharati  etc

Periyava and the Indian Freedom Movement[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Periyavaa is credited with reforming the noted Indian National Congress leader F. G. Natesa Iyer from Tiruchirappalli, during the Indian independence movement. 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." [6]

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 with my supporters: Sri M.Kandaswamy Servai, Sri. R.Srinivasa Iyengar, the lawyer 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 Thiruvanaikkaval. I was enthralled in my service to Swamigal as service to Lord Shiva himself".[7]

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.[8]


Some of his famous devotees include, their highness the King and Queen of Nepal, the Queen mother of Greece, the Dalai Lama, M. S. Subbulakshmi, Indira Gandhi, R. Venkatraman, Shankar Dayal Sharma, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Subramanian Swamy, S. Gurumurthy, T.H.Vinayakram, P . V. Narasimha rao , Viswanatha Satyanarayana , Paul Brunton , Robert Walser , Padma Subrahmanyam among others. Lakhs[9] of his devotees still revere him, and pray to him as a messenger of the Supreme or an ultimate Guru.


  • Svāmī, Candraśekharendra Sarasvatī (2000). Hindu dharma : the universal way of life (4th ed.). Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. ISBN 978-8172760557. 
  • The Vedas (7th ed.). Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 2006. ISBN 81-7276-401-4. 
  • Voice of the Guru : The Guru tradition (2nd ed.). Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 2008. ISBN 978-8172764159. 
  • Svāmī, Pūjyaśrī Candrasekharendra Sarasvatī (2001). Śri Śaṅkara Bhagavatpādācārya's Saundaryalaharī = Saundaryalaharī An exposition (1st ed.). Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. ISBN 978-8172762124. 
  • Fitzgerald, edited by Michael Oren (2008). Introduction to Hindu dharma : illustrated. Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom. ISBN 978-1933316482.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  • Voice of God Vol 1 and 2 (2nd ed.). Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 2008. ISBN 978-81-7276-415-9. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Shri Sivan Sir – Sadashiva Sastrigal – Yenippadigalil Maanthargal". Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "Smt Kanthi mami recalls Sri Sivan sir | sri sivan sar". 4 June 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Periyava of Angarai". The Hindu. 30 January 2004. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "What SRI HH SIVAN SIR TELLS ABOUT PERIYAVA | Kanchi Periva Forum". 9 November 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  6. ^ T.S.Mani (1–15 April 2012). "FGN – actor and patron of the arts". Madras Musings (Volume XXI, number 24). 
  7. ^ T.K.Balasubramaia Iyer (10 May 1923). "Editorial". The Hindu. Never before in the annals of Tiruchirapalli have we witnessed the 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. The mile long procession headed by richly caparisoned elephants and 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 Bhajan parties and Thevaram parties, the rich and tasteful decorations all along the route which exteded 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 the 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. 
  8. ^ From a Calendar Published on Behalf of the Mutt in 1997 – 50th Year of India Independence
  9. ^ "Video expositions". Retrieved 20 July 2014. 

Real History of Kanchi Mutt [3]


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Kanchi Kāmakoti Pīṭādipati
13 February 1907 – 20 January 1994
Succeeded by
Sri Jayendra Saraswathi