Meet Sarma Sastrigal, who uses technology to preserve tradition.

Delivering the keynote address at the AIMA (All India Management Association)’s World Congress held in New Delhi recently, Sarma Sastrigal explained the significance of saffron, what it stands for and how the colour has been overshadowed by political shades. Aided by a power point presentation, he highlighted the salient features of the Hindu tradition.

“The ovation that I received showed the faith people reposed in Sanatana Dharma,” says Sastrigal, who asserts that the Vedas, the bedrock on which Sanatana Dharma rests, have to be protected. A practising priest, his focus now is the Vedas. “I’m spending most of my time teaching the Vedas; that has become my main avocation,” he says.

He teaches the Vedas at several places in the city, apart from devoting time to learners on Skype. “This student, a senior citizen located in the U.S., is all ready and set for the class at 3.45 a.m., (local time) daily. Such is his dedication.”

Students of all ages

Sarma Sastrigal’s students are of all age groups. “Among them are many senior citizens and I’m happy about it. I’d like to stress that at least after retirement from service, one should devote time to the Vedas. Besides helping preserve heritage it gives the learner a purpose post-retirement.”

Simplicity in life style is another pet subject of Sarma Sastrigal. “Lavish spending, especially on weddings, should be eschewed,” he says. “Huge amounts are spent on fancy invitations, entertainment and gifts. This practice should be avoided. Food in colossal quantities is also wasted,” he says reproachfully.

He recalls his own marriage 35 years ago. “My father, a stickler for austerity, made it clear that there would be no printed invitations (only 15 on either side were present). No mantapam was hired; the venue was the residence of my wife’s sister. Silk was eschewed. The event was not photographed. The emphasis was on rituals.”

A Vedic scholar, Srinivasa Sastrigal taught his son the Vedas, his formal education proceeding on casual lines. “I was none the worse for it,” laughs Sastrigal. After a stint with a private company, the son took a long sabbatical to learn the Vedas and other scriptures.

“My disciples include Vaishnavites too because I didn’t want to exclude them from my mission. I learnt Vaishnava scriptures too,” informs Sastrigal, who as a young man evinced keen interest in social affairs. A member of the RSS, he spearheaded many activities, including blood camp. He was founder-secretary of VIGIL that created a common platform for social activists to express their views. “Do you know that Anna Hazare addressed one of our meetings when he was not well-known?” Sastrigal gets excited when he talks about those days.

Sastrigal firmly believes that each citizen has a responsibility towards his country. “Greed, disregard for values and tradition are the causes for the destruction and calamities we witness these days. That’s why the call to come back to our roots, at least after retirement,” says Sastrigal, who is active on the social network.

“Through my website and Facebook, I connect to people,” says Sastrigal, whose ‘The Great Hindu Tradition’ is a simple guide for practitioners. ‘Vedamum Panpadum,’ the Tamil version has already seen six prints. “This, without any publicity,” observes Sastrigal, who attributes any success that might have come his way to his Guru. Social network helped, of course. “The Tamil version came about on the advice of Sri Jayendra Saraswati and I was surprised by the response,” marvels Sastrigal. All the copies he had carried to the AIMA conference were lapped up. He also distributes free copies of slim volumes of different aspects of Sanatana Dharma.

On Navaratri

“Mahalaya Paksham, special for the offerings done to departed souls, culminates in New Moon, which is today and the auspicious Navaratri begins tomorrow. A woman-centric festival, it is marked by chanting of slokas, Sri Lalitha Sahasranamam occupying pride of place.

Parayanam of Devi Mahatmyam is done as a routine in many households. “The reading has to be done with great care taken not to mutilate the syllables,” observes Sastrigal. He suggests a simple puja (October 5-14) in this context. “Light a kuthu vilakku (all faces) and do archana reciting Lakshmi ashtotram. Do nine pradikshana and nine namaskarams. Deeparadana and arati with simple neivadyam will complete the ritual. Women may do this in their traditional attire.”

Contact Sarma Sastrigal at 9444380973 and sarmasasthrigal@gmail.com