H.H Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji
Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji was the nineteenth Swamiji of Shree Kashi Math. He was born on Friday, Phalguna Bahula Navami of Durmukhi Samvatsar (Sh. Sh. 1818) corresponding to 26th March, 1897. He was a great ascetic and an orthodox Swamiji. He became the head of the Math in 1914 when his Guru, Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha passed away in Walkeshwar, Bombay. This had happened only two years after he was initiated into sanyas.
H.H Shri Swamiji had perfomed installation and reinstallation ceremonies at various temples. Thus it was in January 1918 that H.H Shri Swamiji performed the reinstallation ceremony in Shri Tirumala Venkataramana Swami Temple in Bantval. The second renovationinstallation ceremony at Shri Venkataramana Temple in Katapadi was performed by H.H Shri Swamiji on Vaishakha Shuddha Shashti of Siddharthi Samvatsar, Sh. Sh. 1841 (1919). The renovation installation of Shri Varadaraja Venkataramana Temple at Hosdurg was done by H.H Shri Swamiji on 10-5-1920. Since then the temple is known as Shri Lakshmi Venkatesha Temple. H.H Shri Swamiji visited the temple for the last time on 29-4-1943 and with the financial support of the local people made arrangements for the construction of a tank (sarovara) near the temple. H.H Shri Swamiji laid the foundation stone of Shri Pattabhi Ramachandra Temple of Koteshwara on 3-1-1937 and installed the idol 0 Shri Pattabhi Ramachandra along with those of Lakshmana, Sita and Anjaneya on Wednesday, 14-2-1940 in the newly constructed temple. Among the other temples renovated by H.H Shri Swamiji are Shri Venkataramana temples at Ullala, Kaup, Mudabidri, Udyavara and Mundkur, Shri Padmavati temple in Karkala, Shri Raja Gopala Krishna Temple at Krangannoor and Shri Kodanda Rama temple at Rameshwram. Shri Ramanjaneya temple at Vile Parle, Bombay has the following Shasana Shloka (Pratistha Shloka), composed by Shri Vasudeva Ganapati Bhat of Mulki –
This ceremony was performed on Monday, Jyeshta Shuddha Navami of Yuva Samvatsar, Sh. Sh. 1857 (10th June 1935).
The following Shlokas (Prashasti Shlokas) also composed by Shri Vasudeva Bhat, are recited every evening during the Deepa Namaskara Puja:
This also refers to the installation of the idols in the temple by Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji.
About sixty years ago, Shri Kochi Tirumala Devaswom was managed by the Government. When H.H Shri Swamiji was observing Chaturmas Vrita in Kochi in Sarvadhari Samvatsar (1948), the king of Kochi had paid a visit to the temple where the SWqmiji had camped. H.H Shri Swamiji impressed upo; the king he necessity of transferring the rights of administration of the temple to its rightful owners, the Goud Saraswath Brahmana community. The king obliged and in due course, the temple management was transferred to the hereditary trustees of the temple.
Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji had sent a Rayasapatra to Shri Ganesh Ramachandra Sharma, the celebrated author of Saraswath Bhushana mentioned earlier. Some details of certain temples and Kashi Math buildings are available in this Rayasapatra . Incidentally, the traditional similarity between this Rayasapatra and that sent by Shrimath Surendra Thirtha Swamiji of Shri Kumbhakonam Math in A.D. 1542 (reproduced earlier) can be easily seen. A free rendering of this Rayasapatra (appeared in Marathi in Saraswath Bhushana (pp. 247-248) is as follows:
Sh. Sh. 1839, Serial No.124
With meditations on Lord Narayana we bless our beloved disciple Ganesh Ramachandra Sharma and other scholarly Brahmanas, residing in Sasashti, Anthruji and Konkan. By the grace of our Gurus and of the Deities we are engaged up to this day, Friday, Shravana Shuddha Panchami of Pingal Samvatsar (1917) in our Math buildings in Kashi in the divine presence of Shri Lakshmi Narasimha and Shri Vyasa Raghupati, in the daily routines, conducive to our way of life (sanyasshrama) such as bathing, japa, worship, religious discourses etc. and keeping in mind your welfare, we are doing well. In particular, the presiding Deities of the Math, along with the Math troupe had left our Math premises in Walkeshwar on Sunday, Ashada Shuddha Panchami and reached Kashi in the morning of Sunday, Ashada Bahula Chaturthi. On the way we had stayed in Nasik, Harda and Prayag for performing the daily duties and pujas enshrined in the holy Shastras. We are staying in this sacred temple for the observance of the annual Chaturmas Vrita. We hope that you and other foJlowers of the Math will be pleased to know this.
After the passing away of our Guru, Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha Swamiji, we had left Goshripur (Kochi) for Walkeshwar, Bombay, where the Vrindavan of Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha Swamiji was properly renovated. The Vrindavan of Shrimath Madhavendra Thirtha Swamiji, which was in a dilapidated and pitiable condition was also renovated. This was followed by re-installation of the idols of Lord Hanuman and other relevant rites at the site of Vrindavans in the month of Phalguna Sh. Sh. 1838 (1917) in a befitting manner and according to traditional methods. For this purpose we had to stay in the Math buildings in Walkeshwar for a period of two years and a hail’.
Later we received many requests (Binnahapatras) from our followers residing in various States and Provinces, inviting us to observe Chaturmas Vrita in their places. It is gratifying to note in those letters the sentiments expressed and the kind regard shown with venerable respect towards our Math by our disciples. The wishes of these people wiJl be fulfilled shortly. But the current Chaturmas Vrita of the Deities of the Math is being observed in Kashi with the grace of Shri Vyasa-Raghupati. We have wished to spend some time in this holy place in the pursuit of traditional language, which is conducive to our sanyas ashram. Therefore, it has been our lot to face mutual separation for some time to come.
According to the custom followed by the disciples of the Math, it is the duty of each and every disciple to take part in the various activities of the Math, being carried out in this sacred place and to remit the annual Kanika (donation) in kind or cash. It is the considered opinion of the Math Deities and our own opinion that it is only then that their service will be the foundation for their welfare both in this world and in the next and also for earning the grace of Shri VyasaRaghupati.
Sd/ (Sukrathindra Thirtha)
Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji initiated an 18-year-old Sadashiva Shenoy, son of Shri Ramadas Shenoy of Ernakulam into sanyas on lyeshta Shuddha Dviteeya of Tarana Samvatsar, Sh. Sh. 1866 (Wednesday 24-5-1944) in Shri Venkataramana Temple, Mulki and called him Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swami, the twentieth head of Shree Kashi Math. Some unusual experiences of both these Swamijis (as told to the present author by Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji) are being dealt with below. The Guru-Swamiji (Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha) was camping in Kashi Math premises in Walkeshwar on one occasion when one Bhashyam visited the Math and saw the Swamiji. He stayed there for four days. On one of those nights when Bhashyam was sleeping in the Bhuvanendra HaJl in Walkeshwar Kashi Math, he got up and saw some Swamiji standing in the hall. Next day, he asked the Guru-Swami whether he had come to the hall the previous night. H.H Shri Swamiji had, in fact, not gone to the hall! H.H Shri Swamiji told Bhashyam, “You saw our Guru, Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha!” (This Swamiji had passed away in 1914). From this it may be inferred that the divine presence of Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha Swamiji (whose Vrindavan is in Walkeshwar Kashi Math) was felt there even after attaining his Maha Samadhi. Bhashyam considered himself fortunate and in gratitude offered kanikas to the Vrindavan of Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha Swamiji and presented silver eye coverings to the idol of Lord Hanuman, installed in the Vrindavan. This instance was narrated to Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji, when he was in Bangalore by Bhashyam himself.
Another instance leads to the same inference as above. It was in 1945 that Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha (the then shishya-Swami) was to travel from Mumbai to Bangalore. The Guru-Swami had accompanied him to the V. 1′. Railway Station to see him off. As soon as they left Walkeshwar, Shri Venkatesh Bhat (father of Shri Narayana Bhat) staying in the Math, saw a Swamiji standing on the terrace of the Math. He told this to some other residents of the Math, when they said that H.H Shri Swamiji (Shrimath Sukraiteendra Thirtha) had just gone to the Railway Station, and in that short time he could not have returned from the Railway Station. They doubted him. The real fact was that Shri Venkatesh Bhat had seen Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha!
Here is an unusual experience of Srimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji himself. It happened in December 1944, when the GuruSwami and the newly initiated shishya-Swami were camping in Shree Kashi Math premises in Bantwal. The two Swamijis were sleeping in two separate rooms. Sometime during the midnight, the shishya Swamiji got up and saw Shrimath Varadendra Thirtha lying on a big wooden box (also serving as a cot). The shishya-Swami arose and stood by the side of a pillar (in the room). Then he heard the other Swamiji asking, “Who is there?” The shishya-Swamiji told who he was and expressed a desire of pressing the feet of the Swamiji, who promptly obliged and gave him an opportunity of pressing his feet. He also blessed the shishya-Swamiji. Next day Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swami narrated his experience of the previous night to his Guru. The Guru-Swami was pleased beyond measure.
When Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji was in places other than Walkeshwar, Mumbai, His Guru used to appear before him in dream. When this happened invariably H.H Shri Swamiji used to visit Mumbai within a short time. This had happened on many occasions. Therefore whenever he saw his Guru in a dream, it was certain that he would come to Mumbai within a short time. And without fail he used to come to Mumbai.
On some other occasions, when H.H Shri Swamiji was troubled in mind due to some reason or other, while he was staying in other places, his Guru used to appear before him in a dream and as usual this was always followed by a journey to Walkeshwar, Mumbai. On his arrival in Mumbai, a Darshan of the Vrindavan of his Guru was enough for him to be cheerful in mind. This had happened on more than one occasion.
Before concluding the narration of the contributions made by Srimad Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji, reference must be made to certain social protests leading to excommunication of M. N. Prabhu, a leading member of the Community in Mangalore by the Swamiji, and the latter filing two suits (O.S.Nos. 52 and 109 of 1921 in the Subordinate Judge’s Court in Mangalore) against the Swamiji. The background of this well known episode of the period was the Harijan uplift movement and its impact on the liberal-minded members of the Community. Even before the advent of Mahatma Gandhi, a crusade against untouchability was being carried on in Mangalore by Kudmal Ranga Rao, a Chitrapura Saraswath. Some of the educated and progressive Goud Saraswaths, who had come under his influence, began to question the old social practices including prohibition of inter-dinning with the Harijans.
The sequence of events relating to the suit and appeal may be summarised as follows: On 24th October 1920 M. N. Prabhu of Mangalore deined in the company of members of various castes including three Harijans. Some members of the community who were close to H.H Shri Swamiji reported the violation of the caste rules to H.H Shri Swamiji who was then 23 years old. On 11th and 15th November 1920 H.H Shri Swamiji interviewed Srinivasa Pai and Venkata Rao to verify the truth of the matter. About the same time, H.H Shri Swamiji also interviewed two Bhandarkars. Later in the same month, H.H Shri Swamiji met a deputation on behalf of M. N. Prabhu. The deputation, however, did not present M. N. Prabhu’s case, but asked for adjournment and fuller enquiry.
Meanwhile M. N. Prabhu sent a document to H.H Shri Swamiji admitting the latter’s right to take prompt and immediate action in the matter and did not deny the truth of the complaint made against him. At the same time, he quoted several instances of other members of the Community breaking the caste rules of inter-dining with the Harijans. Therefore he asked either to be condoned for his act of inter-dining with the Harijans or condemn all those who broke the said caste rules. In his order dated 23rd November 1920, H.H Shri Swamiji excommunicated M. N. Prabhu from the caste. Thereafter, when he tried to enter Shri Venkatramana Temple, Mangalore, he was refused entry.
Consequently on 6th May 1921 M. N. Prabhu filed a suit (O.S. No.52 of 1921) praying for declaring Swamiji’s order illegal to declare that he was “in caste”. On 23rd November 1921 he filed another suit (0.S.109 of 1921) claiming damages of Rs.7500 on the ground that the order was illegal and libelous, in the Subordinate Judge’s Court in Mangalore. After hearing the case for a long period of 57 days, the Subordinate Judge of Mangalore, on 8th May 1924, in his judgement running into 400 printed pages decreed that Swamiji’s order was null and void (O.S.No.52 of 1921) and that M. N. Prabhu was entitled to full damages (O.S.No.I09 of 1921).
Shortly afterwards, H.H Shri Swamiji appealed (Appeal Nos.382 and 383 of 1924) against both the decrees in Madras High Court. The Madras High Court reversed the decrees of the lower court of 3rd April 1929 and dismissed both the suits of M. N. Prabhu with costs throughout. (For details of both the suits filed at Mangalore and Madras, refer A.I.R.1930 Madras, p.lOO). The High Court came to the conclusion that the Swamiji’s excommunication order was within the law and there was no malice and conspiracy involved in passing the order.
In this connection, another famous judgement of the Madras High Court passed on 17th August 1882 has upheld the power of the Swamiji’s of Shri Kashi Math Samsthan to re-admit to caste persons who have been excommunicated. The details of the case may be summarised as follows.
Srimad Bhuvanendra Thirtha Swamiji had pardoned three members of the community by asking them to do some prayashchitta by which they were given the right to enter Shri Venkatramana Temple, Mangalore. Aggrieved by this action of H.H Shri Swamiji four other members of the community filed a suit (No.O.SA of 1877) before the Subordinate Judge, Mangalore, praying that these three persons be kept away from the temple. This, in effect, meant revoking the pardon granted to them by H.H Shri Swamiji in this regard. In fact, Swamiji had issued a Rayasapatram to the Goud Saraswath temples that these persons should enjoy all privileges of the Goud Saraswath community. The Subordinate Judge ordered that the power of ejecting and readmitting to caste rested with the Guru. This order was upheld by both the District Court of South Kanara (Appeal NO.6 of 1879) and the High Court of Judicature of Madras in its order passed on 17th August 1882.
Perhaps Srimad Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji as well as his advisers were not aware of the judgment of 1882. Had this been presented before the Subordinate Judge in Mangalore in 1921 by the Swamiji, the case would not have gone further. (For more details, confer Shri Sadguru Puja, ed. K. V. Kamath)
Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji passed away in Kochi on Ashada Shuddha Purnima of Virodhi Samvatsar, Sh. Sh. 1871, Sunday (lOth July, 1949). His Vrindavan is in Shri Kochi Tirumala Dev~lswom. It is a strange coincidence that the birth place and the place llf Vrindavan of this Swamiji happened to be the same (Kochi). This had not happened in the case of any of the earlier Swamijis.
During the year following the passing away of his Guru, Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji used to have the same dream almost every night, in which he felt at one moment that his Guru had passed away; on the next moment he felt contrary to this. He used to see the Guru-Swami every night. The divine presence of the Guru Swami was always felt by the shishya-Swami. When the Vrindavan was constructed in Kochi and when the idol of Lord Hanuman was installed, such dreams became rare and in due course totally stopped. This Vrindavan had unlimited glory. On one occasion Shri Narasimha Shat of Mulki was to perform pujas in Shri Venkataramana temple, Kasaragod. However, his wife was in hospital in a serious condition and he had to attend her also. He was in a fix. At that moment, his thoughts reached the Vrindavan at Kochi. He solemnly vowed that if his wife recovered and became all right, he would invite Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji to his home and perform Pada Puja. The same night, his wife had a dream in which she saw Shrimath Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji (he had already passed away and left his mortal body), who gave her prasada and told her that she would recover from the illness. She did show signs of recovery from the very next day and within a few days she completely recovered from the illness and returned to her home. Shri Narasimha Bhat could perform the puja in Kasaragod temple without any anxiety. Subsequently the couple invited Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swarniji to their home and performed Pada Puja and narrated the glory of the Vrindavan of the Guru-Swami and his wife’s dream.