During his historic padayatra, which spanned 23 years and touched remote corners of Bharat, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, 68th pontiff of the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam, sowed the seeds of many social welfare projects and implemented plans for the promotion of Sanatana Darma. In reach and effect it was equal to what Adi Sankara, founder of the Sarvagnana Pitam, accomplished. Periyava, as the Jagadguru is reverentially addressed, established Sankara Maths at several places, arranged the renovation of existing ones, conducted vidwat sadas to propagate Advaita and put in place schemes for the welfare of priests and Vedic scholars. It is remarkable that he achieved all this when the atmosphere was not conducive. Chaos prevailed as the British Raj was at its tyrannical worst in order to counter the Freedom Movement crusaders. Travelling from Kumbakonam to Kanyakumari in the South and to Varanasi up North, Periyava blessed lakhs of people, instilling hope and faith in their hearts.
Proceeding to Kasi from Tiruchi, Periyava traversed all the States. Having collected the sand from the shores of Rameswaram 12 years earlier, he moved with clock-work precision, his entourage faithfully following him. Reaching Prayag (Allahabad, July 1934), Periyava proceeded to Triveni Sangamam, where he consigned the sand, to the accompaniment of Veda gosham, in the presence of dignitaries, priests and local people.
It was Monsoon time. The sage performed his noon ablution in the river, which was in spate. From an elevated position, he observed the landscape, which was like a sheet of water. In his vision, he saw Sri Adi Sankara, all those centuries ago, standing there. He felt that a monument would be appropriate to mark the event. He wished that the tower of a temple should be visible to all those who raised their heads after snana (dip) in Triveni Sangamam, where the three rivers — Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati — merged. With the presence of Veni Madhava temple, the location in Prayag was ideal for Sankara Vimana, he thought.
However, it was not until 1962 that Periyava expressed his desire, to Murugappa Chettiar of TI Cycles. C.S. Ramachandra Iyer, (he was Cabinet Secretary) and engineer Somasundaram, were entrusted with building the edifice, which would rise from the river, not an easy task nearly 60 years ago. But with his grace, the structure, envisaged as a three-tier temple, materialised. Eminent temple architect and agama specialist, Ganapati Sthapati, was chosen to design and execute the construction.
Sri Sankara Vimana Mantapam, which symbolises the integration of Sakta-Siva-Vishnu concept, is an engineering marvel. A unique three-tier structure rising to 130 ft, it stands on 17 pillars, each 30 ft in height, to build which 16 wells, 50 ft in depth were sunk in the river. On the first floor is Sri Kamakshi, presiding Goddess of the Kamakoti Pitam. The second is for Sri Venkatachalapati, exactly as He stands in the shrine on top of the Seven Hills. The third floor houses the massive eight-tonne Sahasra Lingam. Made of a single stone, it has a thousand lingams on its surface. It had been sanctified by Periyava, who performed abishekam to the lingam, when he was in Sathara.
The Lingam was brought to Thenambakkam, where Periyava camped for many years. He wanted the 1,000 lingams to be sculpted only when Veda chanting was in progress. It took eight months to complete the task, as sculptors devotedly worked on the lingam, when the Brahmapuriswarar temple resonated with Veda chanting.
After 20 years of relentless work by everyone involved, the majestic temple was consecrated on March 13, 1986, by Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, 69th Pitadipati of Sri Kamakoti Peetam. The cost of Rs. 60 lakhs was met through generous contributions by the Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam, the U.P. Government, other State Governments, philanthropists and devotees.
Thirty two years had passed and it was time for renovation and expansion. The initiative was blessed by Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, who wanted to get the temple ready ahead of the Kumbh Mela in January 2019. The Sankara Vimana Renovation Committee was formed under the Pujyasri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal Golden Jubilee Charitable Trust.
The Committee includes C.R. Rajendran (Retd IAS officer) and C.R. Sundaramurti (Retd IAAS officer) — both sons of the late C.S. Ramachandra Iyer — and M. Raman (Retd IAS officer). Sri Jayendra Sthapati, son of the late Ganapati Sthapati, is the architect.
Guided by Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal, the Committee has been working to meet the target date. A huge mantapam has been created for pujas and satsang events. Expenses have overshot the estimate of Rs. 1 crore.
Consecration has been scheduled for Sunday, December 2, 9.45-10.45 a.m.
Salient features of the temple
The lingam is called Yogasahasra Lingam in which 1,000 lingams are sculpted. It is 100 ft in height with a diameter of three ft. as found in the Uchipillaiyar Temple, Rockfort, Tiruchi.
The goddess is a replica of Kanchi Kamakshi. The floor also has 51 Sakti pitams represented.
Sri Venkateswara is as found in Tirumala. This floor has representations of 108 Divya Desams.
The temple has shrines for Sri Adi Sankara, Vinayaka, Nataraja, Kartikeya and Rama.
A sculpture of Meenakshi Kalyanam adorns the front.
Episodes from Purana are depicted as paintings on the walls and ceiling
The Renovation Committee welcomes contributions, especially to create a corpus fund. Direct transfers may be made by RTGS/NEFT to the account details given below:
Sankara Vimana Renovation committee, a unit of His Holiness Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal Golden Jubilee Charitable trust, No. 85, Chamiers Road, R.A. Puram, Chennai, 600028
Account name: Sankara Vimana Renovation Committee
S.B. Account number: 6621232739, Indian Bank, R.A. Puram branch. IFSC: IDIB000R003
Contact: 9962258500. Email: email@example.com