Spiritual mentor and administrator

ONE OF the highly commended instruments of Vaishnavism has been the Acharya parampara. These teacher-dynasties have imparted to their disciples a rare value-based spiritual education. Apart from conveying the philosophy of Srivaishnavism, they have taught generations how to approach the literature of Vaishnavism and also the observance of the disciplined life of an ideal householder of the faith.

Among such acharyas in recent times, Sri Krishna Thathayarya Mahadesikan of Kanchipuram deserves special homage. Popularly known as Tirupputkuzhi Swami, he was born 180 years ago and was Mudhal Teerthakar at the Devaraja Temple in Kanchipuram. As a direct disciple of Srimad Periandavan of Srirangam, he mastered Srivaishnava theology and wrote works on Nyayasastra, Vedanta and Mimamsa. A doyen among logicians of his time, he worsted Rama Sastri of Mysore on the theme of the term Narayana denoting the Supreme, by writing "Paramukha Chapetika". He even wrote a work on music. His unwavering admiration for Vedanta Desikar led to his detailed commentaries on the Acharya's Nyaya Parisuddhi and Nyaya Siddhanjana.

Nor did he confine himself to mere scholarship. His administrative abilities led him to renovate the Sri Vedanta Desika shrine at Thooppul in Kanchipuram. During his time the temple had been closed for quite a few years and was almost in ruins. As a Srivaishnavite and staunch follower of Vedanta Desika's writings, the Swami gathered a few devotees and set about clearing the place and reinstating the worship of the Acharya's image in the temple.

This was not relished by some members of the community belonging to the Tenkalai sect, and a case was filed against the Swami for illegal occupation of the shrine. The case came up for hearing in the Chingleput Court. There was a very big crowd of Vadakalai supporters of the Swami, but they were requested not to come in, by the Swami's lawyer. The other sect filled the room. However, when the Swami entered the courtroom, all the assembled Vaishnavas got up. When asked by the English Judge why they were all showing such courtesy to the accused, the assemblage said that the Swami happened to be their Acharya. The Judge gave a ruling that since he was himself an eye-witness to the incident, he was sure the Swami who commanded such an impressive number of disciples should not be harassed and that he should be allowed to continue the renovation of the Desikar shrine.

Tirupputkuzhi Swami restored the original glory of the Thooppul temple. When he became the Dharmakartha of Varadarajaswami temple, the Swami renewed the Mangala Sasanam programmes of Vedanta Desikar, for the presiding deity on the birthday of the Acharya, as the ritual had been given up for more than six decades. He was honoured with the first Mahamahopadhyaya title by the Government.

Apart from his scholarship, he was revered for his exemplary life of self-discipline following the rules prescribed for the Srivaishnava. Here is his timetable for a Srivaishnava to worship in the Kanchipuram temple every morning.

As one comes face to face with the deity at dawn, one must recite slokas like "Kausalya Supraja Rama" and the Tamil matin hymn of Tondaradippodi Azhwar as also verses from Andal and Vedanta Desikar. One should then submit one's requests and pray for the Lord's compassion.

After taking in the wondrous image of the Lord ornamented from the crown to the feet, one is to hail the way He is seen along with Sridevi and Bhoodevi. Then must one remember the auspicious qualities of those attending on the Supreme and spend a while praying for the prosperity of the Divya Desas, the temples about which the Azhwars have sung.

After receiving the holy water and Satari, the devotee should invite the Lord to his house for being worshipped. After receiving permission to perform the day's duties, it would be time for circumambulating in the prakaram, and at the conclusion sit in the Mahamandapam and do Nama japam for a while. Then, one must formally take leave of the Dwarapalakas and come home and start the day's activities.

Tirupputkuzhi Swami was able to be the pathfinder for everyone in the Kanchipuram temple. The archakas, cooks and other servitors including those who played the instruments, performed their work faultlessly because the Swami was regular in attending to the temple in this disciplined manner and also was their spiritual mentor.

Rarely do we have this combination of scholarship, commitment to the religious path chartered by one's spiritual ancestors, an undying love for the rituals of temple worship and administrative capacity.


SRI THATHADESIKA Thiruvamsasthar Sabha, Kanchipuram, and the religious monthly, Sri Kanchi Perarulalan, will celebrate the 180th Thirunakshatram (birthday) of Thirupputkuzhi Sri Krishna Thathayarya Mahadesikan, popularly known as Sri Thirupputkuzhi Swami, on November 16 (Subam-Aippasi-Aayilyam). It also marks the completion of 20 years of publication of Sri Kanchi Perarulalan, started by Thirupputkuzhi Sri Narasimha Thathayarya Mahadesikan, an ardent disciple of Thirupputkuzhi Swami.

The 180th birthday celebrations will include Vedaparayanam, religious discourses and release of souvenir and audiocassettes. The audiocassette will contain Sri Hasthigiri Mahathmyam, a literary discourse by R. Srinivasavaradan. Sri Hasthigiri Mahatmyam is a rendering in Tamil poetic form, with Sanskrit-Manipravala commentaries by Swami Nigamantha Mahadesikan on the avatharam of Lord Varadaraja. It is a three-hour long devout offering to Sri Varadaraja and a tribute to Nigamantha Mahadesikan and Thirupputkuzhi Swami, whose devotion to Nigamantha Mahadesikan was unparalleled. The last 30 minutes of the cassette contains the compositions of Bhoodhathazhwar, Nammazhwar, Thirukkachi Nambigal, Koorathazhwar and Nigamantha Mahadesikan.

The organisers of the celebration seek generous donations from devotees, which may be sent to: The Secretary, Sri Thathadesika Thiruvamsasthar Sabha, No. 35, Sannidhi Street, Kanchipuram-631501.

Special releases: As part of the Thirunakshatram celebrations of Thirupputkuzhi Swami, Hayagreeva Vidya Peetam, No. 22 (New no. 54) Thiruvalluvar Street, Taramani, Chennai-600113 (Ph: (9544) 22430730) will release a special postal cover and souvenir. Honouring of vidwans and thadheeyaradhanam are also part of the agenda.