The volumes contain over 500 photographs of Paramacharya.

His life span was 100 years (May 20, 1894-January 8, 1994) touching at least three generations. Hundreds were directly associated with him while for thousands he was living god. Paramacharya continues to be the guiding force for many, who worship him savouring memories of a close contact, an occasional glance and a rare smile. Meant for such devotees and for those who never had the opportunity to meet him is the display of pictures in a gallery opposite the Sankara Math in Kanchipuram.

Sri Sankara Bhakta Jana Sabha Trust that has set up the permanent exhibition faced a request from ardent followers. “Can we have copies of some of these photographs?” In answer was the effort to print the pictures and publish them as two volumes. The first edition was well-received with all the copies selling out. The money was used to raise a corpus fund. The second edition is now ready for sale.

Turning the pages of “Divya Darshan of Sri Kanchi Mahaswami” is akin to going on a journey with the saint – from his purvasrama days when he was Swaminathan to the period he became Periyava – The Elder, beacon to which people turned for advice and solace in times of challenge, stress and agony.

Myriad situations, myriad expressions – the camera captures Paramacharya meditating, reflecting, talking, walking, reading, smiling, laughing... An amazing aspect is that no two pictures are alike, even if they belong to the same year. Young and raw in one, he looks mature, even older in another. Age has no meaning here. It is the moment, the place.

A brisk walk to see an aircraft at the Meenambakkam airport leaves followers scurrying behind. He is all poise, just about to commence one of his cherished lectures. The eyes are serene, compassionate, thoughtful, watchful and mischievous in different circumstances. It is the sage’s Spartan simplicity that brings tears to the eyes. The publishers have gathered from various sources pictures, 540 in all, from devotees and the captions bear their names. The black and white albums, with an occasional splash of colour, transport the reader to a different era. Printed on imported paper, the classy finish makes the set of volumes a collector’s item.

While some of the photographs are familiar, there are many rare ones. For instance, Swami performing abishekam to Sudarsana Chakra at the kumbabishekam of the Rameswaram temple, praying on the banks of the Godavari and many close-ups. Besides, the edition has a biographical sketch of Paramacharya and a map giving details of the places he covered on foot.

Devotion and philanthropy

Sri Sankara Bhakta Jana Sabha Trust, formed in 1967, has two units which look after the Brahmapuriswarar temple and Veda Pata Sala in Sivaasthanam, Thenambakkam. Celebration of Sankara Jayanti, organising Annadanam and sadas are regular on the agenda of the Trust, which goes to the aid of the needy. Contributions to the Trust in the form of draft or cheque may be sent to the following address: Sri Sankara Bhaktha Jana Sabha Trust, New No. 70, Old no. 199-A, St. Mary’s Road, Abhiramapuram, Chennai, 600018. Contact 9003076823/044-24996823.

Keywords: Paramacharya