CHARUKESI

SAGES OF SRINGERI: K. Sureshchandar, V. Jayashankar, A.R. Natarajan, N. Srikantha Sastry, B.V. Kamesvara Iyer; Rs. 350.SIVA DARSAN: Vamanan; Rs. 399. Both the books can be had from Tattvaloka, 138 Eldams Road, Chennai-600018.The first book covers the lives and times of four Acharyas of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham namely, Sacchidananda Sivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati (33rd), Chandrasekhara Bharati (34th), Abhinav Vidyathirtha (35th) and the present head Bharati Thirtha by different authors.A common feature among the four is that all of them were from humble middle class families and as children were offered willingly by their parents to serve the Peetham. In Indian tradition, a lofty position is accorded to the Guru and without his grace no one can attain fulfilment of the purpose of life. This aspect is revealed in the case of all the four sages.Many do not know that a few gentlemen from Kallidaikurichi had come to Kalady with 300 workers and toiled to clear the site for building the shrines for Sharadamba and Sankara in 1910.

Catholic outlook

The 33rd seer had unshakeable faith in the traditional values of Hinduism and his open-mindedness while dealing with people of different religions reveals his catholicity.His successor, Chandrasekhara Bharati was also a Sanyasi of the highest order. When in 1940, some devotees of Kolkata planned to build a Hanuman temple on the site belonging to the Kali temple a tussle broke out. It was finally resolved when both the parties abided by the Acharya's verdict. Hailed as a Jivanmukta even before he was 20, Abhinava Vidya Thirtha was initiated into meditative contemplation when he was hardly 15 and soon abidance in the Self became natural to him. He was keenly interested in agriculture too and he had even designed an innovative water supply system.The present Acharya, Bharati Thirtha was noted for his humility and wisdom even as a young boy. During his tours, he used to exchange letters with his Guru and they were not only just polite, but also poetic. The narration is in simple style, sprinkled with interesting anecdotes and this makes the book highly readable.There are several books on Siva, but Siva Darsan is unique. It has everything one would want to know about Siva - His glory, His manifestations, His divine deeds, the 12 Jyotirlingas, the abodes of Siva, modes of Siva worship and finally saints who worshipped Him. The author delves deeply into all these subjects. His felicity in bringing out the philosophical content of the hymns is impressive.He says that all deities are essentially the same and aptly quotes the Siva Purana, in which Siva asserts, "Vishnu dwells in my heart, even as I dwell in His. He who makes no difference between us is especially dear to me."According to the author, the imposing Siva temples of Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Thirubhuvanam are majestic representations of the Chola period, when love for God was the reigning popular sentiment.While the deities worshipped in Chidambaram are Nataraja and His consort Sivakamasundari, the crystal linga is said to have been given by Adi Sankara himself.

Saints

The last chapter on saints devoted to Siva gives interesting accounts of the lives of Sundarar, Sambanar, Kannappar, Karaikal Ammayar, Tirunavukkarasar, Nandanar, a Kashmiri woman saint, Goraknath and Mahadevi, a 12th century poet. The author has relied not only on the Siva Purana but also on several other authoritative works in Tamil, Sanskrit and English, to provide a true and complete Siva Darsan.Photographs and illustrations add to visual appeal. The books could have been priced at an affordable level.