History & Culture

In the service of Goddess

Neelakkal. C.N.Ramachandra Sastrigal ,Stanikam at Sri Kamakshi Ambal Devasthanam, Kanchipuram on Tuesday. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

A few centuries ago, out of the six traditional families that were serving the famed Kamakshi Amman temple at Kanchipuram, four families left for Thanjavur for historical reasons and only two families stayed back to serve the goddess. The ancient text ‘Sowbhagya Chintamani’ gives an account of Kanchi Kamakshi Amman temple and the traditional families that conducted worship and other rituals in the shrine.

One family belongs to the Neelakkal lineage and the present hereditary sthanikam and archak mirasdar is C.N. Ramachandra Sastrigal, who has completed 50 years in the service of the goddess in the famous shrine of Kanchi.

“Neelakkal Muthusamy Sastrigal was the fifth in the lineage and he married Dharmasamvardhani (also called Dharmambal), grand daughter of Syama Sastri, one among the Carnatic music trinity. “I have named one of my sons Syama Sastri in memory of the great vaggeyakara!” says Ramachandra Sastrigal.

Srividya Upasaka

After having studied up to eighth standard at K.M. Subharayar School, he went on to learn traditional Vedic studies and came out with flying colours. “Kanchi Mahaswami taught me , Bhrudruhari’s ‘Vairagya Sadhakam,’ in Orikkai. That was the greatest blessing in my life!” says the Sastrigal in a choked voice. In Tiruvaanaikkaval, he studied under Vidhyastanam T.S. Balakrishna Sastrigal. He was taught Siddhantha Lesa Sanghraha and given pareeksha in Advaita Sadas in 1960-62. Subsequently, Ramachandra Sastrigal obtained Srividya deeksha from Guhananda Mandali. “Srividya is an ancient influential school of Goddess-centric Shakta Tantra, clearly focusing on the goddess’s three manifestations, namely, the beneficent deity Lalita Tripurasundari, Her mantra and the Yantra – Sri Chakra.” It is said that one must, in previous births, have done thousands of years of sadhana of all the devatas to receive the message and get initiation into Srividya only if one is in the final birth. Hence the Upasaka is considered as a God in human form.

Spiritual knowledge

Ramachandra Sastrigal is a unique person, who has used his Srividya knowledge only to add his spiritual strength and offer worship at the sannidhanam of the goddess. “I do not use the spiritual knowledge for my personal gain or for the sake of my close disciples!” said the Sastrigal. “Paramacharya in his discourse at Vuyyuru in Andhra Pradesh, in January 1968, said that we get happiness if we work with interest, without expecting results. Aim of vidya is for happiness or ananda. Ultimate aim of vidya is peace and equality. Only then vidya become immortal or amrutha” added Ramachandra Sastrigal.

With the blessings and permission of Kanchi Mahaswami, he started performing puja to Kamakshi Amman, from 1962. He has completed half a century in the service of the goddess Kamakshi, without a break. He never used his knowledge for vaidheeka karya like performing homam or puja. He firmly believes that he lives only to serve the presiding deity of the ancient shrine. “I am happy about this!” said Sastrigal.

Rasika of Carnatic Music

Ramachandra Sastrigal is a great lover of Carnatic music and has been a witness to many instances where Maha Periyava had interacted with great musicians such as Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer, N.C. Vasanthakokilam, Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Palghat Mani Iyer and other veterans who had come to pay obeisance to the Mahaswami at various venues. He even recalls the sahityam and the raga which a particular musician sang when he or she met the Paramacharya. He narrated how Paramacharya conducted Tyagaraja Aradhana in Kanchipuram with the rendition of the saint’s Pancharatna kritis.


“The Brahmotsavam of Sri Kamakshi Amman is being celebrated from February 15 this year. Events such as folk arts, annadhanam and other rituals will be performed. The deity will be taken out in a procession on different vahanams between February 15 to 21 and this will be followed by Badrapeetam, Kudhirai, Aal Mel Pallakku, Velli Ratham, Sarabam, Kalpa Kothyanam, Mahamedu and finally Viswaroopa Darsanam. ” said Ramachandra Sastrigal.

Neelakkal Ramachandra Sastrigal was born in 1938 on Vaikasi Pooram p at their ancestral home in the Sannadhi Street, where he continues to live till now .

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 10:48:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/in-the-service-of-goddess/article4462068.ece

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