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How a boy became the head of Kanchi mutt in mysterious circumstances?

Updated on September 24, 2014

Mahaperiayava in younger days!

The story of young recluse!

A boy, studying in school was taken one day by parents to visit a saint. None of the family had any inkling as to what is going to happen shortly. The Pontiff of a renowned mutt was ill and he had to name his successor immediately to prevent the mutt, a gap in administration. Traditions wanted that each such head should anoint a suitable disciple to succeed him. The family visited the mutt and took dharsan(seeing a saint). Little they had any monition, that in a few days’ time, their son is going to occupy the holy seat! The head of mutt being terminally ill, pointed to a bright boy in the assembly to succeed him. He was none other than a close cousin of the boy. Everything happened mysteriously. The boy was aghast to know that his cousin is about to occupy the highest honor that can be bestowed on any young boy.

The head of the mutt, who was ill anointed the boy as his successor and passed away soon. For that function, the boy had to attend once again since it is his own cousin selected as head of the mutt. What happened in between is a great riddle! In a few days after return they heard that the boy, who had succeeded the head, was ill with small pox, which was considered a deadly infection on those days. Only home remedies such as covering the body with neem leaves and applying neem paste. But, everything turned futile. As ordained by fate, the newly ascended boy succumbed to the illness. Gloom prevailed in the mutt but before passing he named his cousin to succeed him. The parents of the boy were called urgently to the mutt along with the boy. He saw that the condition at mutt heart rending. He could not reconcile himself to occupy such illustrious post as head of the mutt. But, he was named and hence there was no other go. He was summoned into the presence of senior keepers of the mutt who explained to him the urgency to adopt ‘sanyas’, i.e. relinquishing worldly ties and adopting the ways of a recluse. The boy was hardly fourteen years when he was forced to occupy the exalted position. He was clueless. His parents were miserable. They never thought that fate will force their boy to adapt to sanyas at the young age. They had many dreams about him but everything was shattered in seconds.

The boy was taught by a group of pundits and teachers about his various duties, the performance of daily rituals and worship of the deities which were regularly done by his predecessors. It was a tight schedule for the fourteen year boy. But he applied his mind rigorously and learned everything in a shortest period. He took over the reins of the mutt and started involving himself in administering the traditional mutt in a best manner. Thus the boy who was named as “Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi” took to the onerous duties of the mutt. His conduct was exemplary. He is now a recluse and hence he gave up hunger, taste and other cravings, though he was young. Whenever he found that some food is tasty, he abstained from it forever. He took simple foods like perched rice, butter milk etc that too in small quantities as required by the traditions of recluses. The seniors found that he was willing to take the responsibilities fully and acquired all the scriptural knowledge within a short time. Meanwhile, he was performing the ritual worships to the deities procedurally and he sat long hours performing the rituals. After few years of training, he desired to perform pilgrimage to various temples in India. The entire pilgrimage was performed mostly by foot. At rare times, he was asked to sit within a palki which was carried by four or five palki bearers. While travelling also, he seems to be absorbed within himself recollecting the teachings of scriptures. Most of the time, he will be seen performing ‘japa’, repetition of god’s name silently in the mind. The strict adherence gave a strange glow to his person. His eyes exuded compassion and grace. He listened to the woes of the devotees silently, blessed them with holy ash, saffron powder and fruits. Those who received those holy prasadams were considering themselves as highly blessed. He solved the problems of many people by silently blessing them and praying to his deity silently for them. He interceded on behalf of poor people and appealed to the rich to contribute for their welfare! For some unemployed persons, he asked people in authority to provide them with some job. He never considered it as mean to intercede on behalf of poor people. He was happy, that he could be of some service to the poor. Many people in authority or Officers of central and state government were his ardent devotees. Hence whenever he asked something for the poor, they readily acceded. In normal life, we find that heads of monasteries considered themselves above the ordinary and never interceded for the poor. But in the case of Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi, he treated all as ‘embodiments of god’ and tried to help them in the best way possible. Many volumes of books were written on Mahaperiava as he was dearly called by the devotees. I will try to post few events whenever chance permits!


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