The intellectually gifted and spiritually blessed Smārta Sāraswat-s who flourished on the banks of the River Saraswatī in the Himālayan region, north of Kurukshetra were forced to migrate initially because of the drying up of the sacred river. Subsequently, the repeated assaults made by Muslim invaders in the 15th century forced them to move southward. Upon reaching Kanarā, their loyalty, integrity and intelligence earned them high positions in the service of the royals of Nagar. But it also inspired envy and anger among other groups in the court who sought to discredit them in the eyes of the ruler. This influenced the Chief to ask the Sāraswat-s to prove their credentials and show him their Guru. Unflinching faith came to the rescue of the troubled Sāraswat-s making the elders of the community offer penance and intense prayer at the feet of Lord MahābaῙeshwara in Gokarṇa whereupon His mercy vouchsafed a vision which turned real on the following evening on the banks of the Koṭitīrtha. The sannyāsī – Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī -who came as a divine emissary, carrying the idol of Lord Bhavānīshaṅkar (which is consecrated at the Bhanḍikerī Math) agreed to become the Guru of the Sāraswat-s and meet the ruler of Nagar. Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī hailed from the ‘Āshrama Sampradāya’. ‘Āshrama’ was one of the 10 lineages established by Ādi Shaṅkarāchārya to systematize the Sannỵ̣āsa Paramparā which would carry on and project the correct perception of Sanātana Dharma. Traversing the entire length and breadth of Bhāratavarsha (India) thrice on foot this ‘Advaita Sthāpanāchārya’ – Ādi Shaṅkarā - established four Maths to promote Advaita Siddhānta. After him, His shishya-s continued His exemplary work.
While the king of Nagar acknowledged the obvious credentials of Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī, he still wanted these to be ‘endorsed’ by the Jagadguru of Shṛṅgerī. Swāmījī, agreed to this condition as well and proceeded thereto. The officiating priests shut the temple, failing to recognize and accord due courtesy to the holy visitor who waited patiently for the deity’s darshana. The Jagadguru had a dream in which the Devī indicated what had happened and that a transgression had occurred in the Math premises. The Acharya hurried to the temple and saw for Himself how Devī Shāradāmbā had caused Her own effulgence to radiate from Swāmījī’s visage. Assured that the priests had sought forgiveness for their wrongdoing, the Jagadguru heaped honours upon Swāmījī and gladly made the official declaration sought by the Nagar King that this was, indeed, a worthy Guru of the Sāraswat Brahmins. After this formal acceptance Swāmījī returned to Gokarṇa where He established the Bhanḍikerī Math, enlightened an eager samāja for over a decade with the priceless knowledge of the scriptures and 14 days after appointing a shis̲h̲ya and telling the devotees to love and venerate the Guru, attained Mahāsamādhi.
In 1720, on Chaitra Shuddha Pūrṇimā, heeding the pleas of devotees that the Guruparamparā should continue, Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī ordained the only son of Shrī Kṛs̲h̲ṇayyā Kulkarṇi from the Hariṭekar family and named the shis̲h̲ya Swāmī “Shaṅkarāshram”. In return, Kṛs̲h̲ṇayyā was entrusted with administrative functions in the Math and told that in future preference would be given to the ‘Shukla Bhaṭ’ family (this is a designation the family and its descendants were given) when choosing a shis̲h̲ya.
The composure and wisdom displayed by Shrīmat Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī when he had to ascend the pīt̲h̲a within two weeks of his ordination, was evidence enough of His suitability for taking on the huge responsibility thrust upon him at such short notice. Striving constantly for the spiritual uplift of the people, Swāmījī constantly reminded them that both joy and sorrow were but passing phases and that their goal should be to attain mastery over the fickle mind. There are many incidents on record to show how Swāmījī’s Grace and Blessings reached out to miraculously redeem the poorest of the poor when he prayed humbly and sincerely to the Guru for succour.
It was during His time that Basappā Nāyak II of Nagar made land grants to the Math by a gift deed dated 1739. In 1757, Swāmījī fell ill on His way back to Gokarṇa from Bhaṭkal, where some local Sāraswat-s displayed indifference. The devotees entreated Swāmījī to take some respite at Shirālī, where the pious Nāgarkaṭṭe family gladly hosted Him. In view of His failing health everyone pleaded that Swāmījī should ordain a shis̲h̲ya immediately to carry on the lineage, but the Guru refused and soon after took Mahāsamādhī, once again leaving the community without a spiritual Master.
The magnanimous Nāgarkaṭṭe family gladly donated their homestead for erecting the Samādhi Sthala. (This Samādhī is referred to as the “Hoḍī Samādhī” now.) But the Divine had decreed much more than that for the sacred land situated in the Parashurāma Ks̲h̲etra. So a unanimous decision was taken to consecrate the idol of Lord Bhavānīshaṅkar at the hallowed spot and thus it transpired that the sanctum that would draw devotees from all corners of the earth, the mother’s nest which would attract all Her fledglings to rejuvenate their flagging morale – the Shrī Chitrāpur Math – came to be established here!
In recognition of the large-hearted sevā offered by the Nāgarkaṭṭekār-s who gave up their own home to build the Math, their family members are accorded the distinction of receiving the prime honour (the “pailŏ vīḍŏ” as it is called) during the Rathotsava at the Math premises.
Since Shrīmat Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī had taken Mahāsamādhi without appointing a shishya, the Sāraswat community, which earnestly wanted a spiritual Mentor to guide them, once again faced the backlash generated by anger and envy from trouble mongers, till the ruler of Nagar actually threatened to lock up the Math and confiscate its assets if they did not find a successor to the pīt̲h̲a immediately.
Providentially, someone recollected that a Sāraswat youth initiated by Swāmījī Himself was steeped in sādhanā at Kollur. When the elders rushed to the great soul with the earnest appeal that He should become the next Mathādhipati, He graciously consented, came to Shirālī and ascended the pītha as Parijñānāshram Swamījī II.
Swāmījī’s inspired teachings on the tenets of dharma helped greatly to heighten the devotion of the laity towards God, Guru and the Math. Many are the instances recorded at the time of the miraculous cures and inner transformation brought out by a Blessing or even the Darshana of this great Yatīshwara.
With time and advancing age as Swāmījī’s activities began to diminish, the samāja entreated Him to ordain a shis̲h̲ya to carry forward the holy Guruparamparā. Upon His consent the elders of the community began looking for a worthy successor and came upon an eminently suitable young sādhaka from a Shukla Bhaṭ family of Mallāpur. After the father agreed to let his son take on this sacred role, Swāmījī came to Mallāpur and performed the Shis̲h̲ya Swīkāra ceremony, ordaining the initiate Swāmī as “Shaṅkarāshram”II. When the time came to drop His mortal coil, Swāmījī advised the Shis̲h̲ya Swāmī to preach to His people with love as if they were His own children and after assuring Him of spiritual eminence in His holy mission, peacefully attained Mahāsamādhi. This Samādhi is to your left when you are facing the Hoḍi Samādhi and shrine of the Lord Bhavānīshaṅkar at Shrī Chitrāpur Math, Shirālī.
A great scholar and Yogī, Parama Pūjya Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī was revered as the very incarnation of Lord Dattātreya. His total absorption in spiritual pursuit made him very frail in physical health, causing His bhakta-s to beseech Him to ordain a shis̲h̲ya soon. Swāmījī consented and the search for a suitable initiate began. There was a very promising youngster in the Talgeri household. After the family had agreed, Swāmījī performed the Shis̲h̲ya Swīkāra ceremony, gave the Shis̲h̲ya Swāmī the holy Upadesha and the name “Keshavāshram”.
Just as it was with the earlier Masters, many miracles have been attributed to Swāmījī: Once when His body was suffering from high fever, Swāmījī transferred the shivers it was undergoing to His daṇḍa (the sacred staff carried by a sannyāsī), but only for the period of His Anus̲h̲t̲h̲āna! Another incident devotees recall is of how the vaḍā batter dropped in smoking oil refused to rise because Swāmījī had not been served His customary gruel (conjī). Since it was a day commemorating Parama-Guru Parijñānāshram Swāmījī, Shis̲h̲ya Swāmī had mistakenly hoped Swāmījī would partake of the delicacies on the menu instead of the customary gruel. “How can the oil get heated when the heat (of hunger) within has not been assuaged”, is how Swāmījī light-heartedly brushed off the wondrous incident!
Also documented is the startling incident of how, years after Swāmījī’s Mahāsamādhi, when Parama Pūjya Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī visited Mallāpur and had the slab removed for some repair work, the flowers, bilwa leaves and tulasī placed within almost a century earlier were still so fresh that their fragrance filled the air!
Fifth in the lineage of our Holy Guruparamparā, Keshavāshram Swāmījī was able to stir the samāja with His enlightening discourses and spiritually radiant persona. This made the laity gladly contribute a portion of their income for the upkeep of their beloved Math. So the revenue of the Math increased and some fields and land were acquired during Swāmījī’s able Mathādhipatya which lasted for over four decades.
While a self-realised Master does not ascribe too much importance to ‘miracles’ they happen most naturally because of the Divinity He exudes so effortlessly. So it was but natural that a child of a devoted couple from Murḍeshwar, who had not uttered a word since birth, began to speak soon after attaining Swāmījī’s darshana. Another devotee from MaṅgaĪūru, whose pockets were empty, set out on foot to visit Shirālī for Swāmījī’s blessings. After a while, total exhaustion forced him to rest under a banyan tree. His feet were swollen and painful and he thought he would breathe his last before seeing Swāmījī. Slipping into slumber he dreamt that the merciful Swāmījī Himself was applying fragrant medicinal oil to heal his feet. Upon waking he was dumbstruck to note that not only had the pain and swelling disappeared, the scent of the oil still lingered in the air! Grateful beyond description he rushed to the Math and fell at Swāmījī’s feet with overwhelming gratitude and bhakti.
When age began to make its presence felt, the devotees requested Swāmījī to appoint a shis̲h̲ya. The worthy candidate was found in a Shukla Bhaṭ family of MaṅgaĪūru and in 1804 Swāmījī performed the sacred Shishya Swīkāra ceremony at Shirālī and named the prime disciple “Vāmanāshram”. For almost two decades Swāmījī groomed the Shis̲h̲ya-Swāmī in Yogābhyāsa, spiritual study and all the skills required for the demanding role of Mathādhipati and in 1823 attained Mahāsamādhi in Shirālī. This Samādhi is to the extreme left when you are facing the Hoḍī Samādhi.
Extremely compassionate and totally immersed in sādhanā, Parama Pūjya Vāmanāshram Swāmījī could not pay too much attention to the administrative matters of the Math. A manager, hailing from the Shukla Bhaṭ family was put in charge, but he was not able to do his duty efficiently. The elders of the community felt it might be more prudent to request Swāmījī to ordain a shis̲h̲ya who could be entrusted with the administrative responsibilities of the Math.
There was, at the time, in Swāmījī’s retinue a bright young man called Parameshwar from the Nagarkar family. Earlier, penury had forced him to serve as an errand boy in a household at MaṅgaĪūru, where a visiting astrologer had predicted that this young man should not be treated as a menial for he was cut out for a much larger role which would earn him eminence and public regard. The priest at Viṭṭal, where Swāmījī was camping, also noticed the exceptional qualities of the boy and told Swāmījī that he may be a suitable candidate for ordination as a shis̲h̲ya. When this was endorsed by the elders of the samāja, Swāmījī agreed to conduct the formalities upon returning to Shirālī. In 1836, the shis̲h̲ya designate was duly inducted with the ceremonial Shis̲h̲ya Swīkāra and given the name – “Kṛs̲h̲ṇāshram”.
Swāmījī, however, did not comply with the community’s request to let the Shis̲h̲ya Swāmī take over the administrative functions. Perhaps He was aware that the shis̲h̲ya would have to soon take on the role of Mathādhipati as well. For soon after, Swāmījī fell gravely ill with small-pox and after declaring that His mission was complete and blessing everyone took Mahāsamādhi in 1839 at MaṅgaĪūru. Since tender coconut water was administered to Vāmanāshram Swāmījī in His last days, this is the sevā devotees offer at the Samādhi Sthala to this day.
The Sāraswat Samāja flourished during the time of Kṛshṇāshram Swāmījī because He was a great scholar and spiritual leader, as well as an able administrator. Under His Guidance the competent manager Lājmī Veṅkaṭaramaṇaiyyā functioned efficiently, resulting in a substantial increase in landed property of the Math and ornaments for the adorning of Lord Bhavānīshaṅkar!
How a Sage’s blessing has the power to transform the fortunes of the bhakta is illustrated in the story of a poor devotee Nāgarkaṭṭe Durgappayyā, whose sincere and regular chanting of the Saptashatī as per the directive of Swāmījī , brought him both affluence and high esteem! Once, when Swāmījī was camping at MaṅgaĪūru, the elders of the community broached the subject of appointing a shis̲h̲ya. Swāmījī agreed and an exceptional young man from the Nagar family, who possessed all the requisites of a future Mathādhīpati was selected for this sacred role. In 1857, Swāmījī conferred the holy Upadesha and performed the Shis̲h̲ya Swīkāra ceremony at Shirālī naming the initiate “Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram”.
Once, hearing about the Rathotsava (chariot-festival during which the deity is taken around in a carved and decorated wooden chariot erected especially for the occasion) to be held at Veṅkaṭāpur the young Shis̲h̲ya Swāmī asked Kṛshṇāshram Swāmījī if he could go to watch it. The gentle admonition from Swāmījī that a sannyāsī, who was going to be the future Mathādhipati, cannot just go for such an occasion informally made the young shis̲h̲ya feel a bit disappointed. That was when Swāmījī decided to hold a Rathotsava at Shrī Chitrāpur Math itself, much to the exultation of Shishya Swāmī and the gratification of the entire samāja. The grand Rathotsava, which began in 1862 was an annual celebration during Chaitra Shuddha Pūrṇimā. The highly-skilled artisans, deft in metal and wood-work, who were invited to design the chariot, were given warm hospitality- a place to live, provisions and every facility for them to do their creative work undisturbed. There was a festive air all around and many small traders also set up their shops to sell their wares, while at the Math preparations to accommodate and look after the devotees who came from far and wide began much in advance. This much-awaited annual celebration was discontinued for a while during the time of Parama Pūjya Ānandāshram Swāmījī due to several reasons. But our 10th Guru – Parama Pūjya Parijñānāshram Swāmījī III – revived it and come April this week-long festivity at Shrī Chitrāpur Math is a much-awaited event even today.
Another incident devotees recall is of how traders of Shirālī, who conspired to create a “black-out” by shutting their shops early on a day when the Lord’s idol was taken out from the Math in a procession on a ‘pālakhī’ (silver palanquin), had to face the consequences of their insolent actions when their property was engulfed by an unexpected fire. But the merciful Swāmījī forgave them, saying it was prārabdha that had misled their minds. The much-loved and revered Shrīmat Kṛshṇāshram Swāmījī took Mahāsamādhi in Shirālī in 1863. His Samādhi stands between that of Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī II and Shrīmat Keshavāshram Swāmījī.
Named “Kālappā” by his parents to ward off any evil eye being cast upon his lustrous good looks, the extremely intelligent, strong-willed and quick-witted Shrīmat Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī was barely 12 years old when He was ordained as the Shishya Swāmī. He received the invaluable Guidance of His Guru for just five years before Kṛshnāshram Swāmījī took Mahāsamādhi and the young shis̲h̲ya became the eighth Mathādhipati whose longest-on-record tenure lasted for 52 eventful years!
A great spiritual leader, Sanskrit scholar, Yogī, proficient astrologer too and a most able administrator, Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī had a lot of expansion and renovation done of the Math structure and the Samādhi Sthala-s therein. A lot of agricultural land was acquired and this enhanced the revenue of the Math substantially. A water tank – Shivagaṅgā-sarovara - dug close to the Math added beauty and proved beneficial to the devotees. Many old shrines in Chitrāpur were re-built and an elegant two-storeyed structure, which Swāmījī named ‘Pan͂chavaṭī was built on the Govardhana hillock. In addition, a road was constructed from the Shirālī highway to Shrī Chitrāpur Math and with houses and even lamp-posts on either side, Chitrāpur began to look very picturesque indeed!
For easier communication with the world outside Swāmījī’s thoughtfulness ensured that a post office was constructed, with an adjoining residence for the Postmaster… and to provide elementary education for the children of the local population, a Kannaḍa school was started near the Math. A weekly marketplace was created to take care of day-to-day needs. There was little doubt that the far-sighted Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī tried His best to make Chitrāpur a model village and this drew a lot of admiration from the laity and visiting dignitaries.
Where the practice of Dharma and maintaining ethical standards were concerned however, Swāmījī was extremely strict. Flouting of rules led to fines which were utilised for community welfare, while the offender had to do prāyaschita – for purification and atonement. Travelling abroad led to ex-communication (crossing the waters was considered tantamount to ‘losing caste’). Swāmījī wanted His people to be strong-rooted enough to hold their own in a motley of drastically different cultures and lifestyles before they stepped out of their cocoon, but one section of the samāja was unable to understand this, leading to some antipathy within the community. Swāmījī however remained unruffled and continued to pray for their welfare.
Instances of miraculous cures, solving of legal disputes and many worldly problems with just a word of Blessing or the holy tīrtha from Swāmījī are legion. Oft-quoted are two incidents – one of a great devotee and the other of a sceptic – both of whom were granted visions with Swāmījī manifesting Himself as Lord Dattātreya. Needless to add, the bhakta was beside himself in ecstasy, while the non-believer who had come to scoff stayed back to pray for the rest of his life!
The negligence of some people in adhering to Swāmījī‘s precepts made Him initially vow not to initiate a shishya, but in 1915, when He suddenly took ill, He declared that He had received a sacred Directive from the Divine and was ready to ordain one. Shāntamūrti, the second son of Haridās Rāmachandra Bhaṭ was found most suitable and Swāmījī bestowed the youngster with Āshrama Sanyāsa with the name “Ānandāshram” and gave the holy Upadesha soon after.
Within eight days of this momentous Shis̲h̲ya Swīkāra, at an auspicious moment Shrīmat Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī took Mahāsamādhi leaving an extremely pure and worthy disciple to take on the mantle of Mathādhipati. Shrīmat Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī’s Samādhī Sthala is to your right when you face the Hoḍī Samādhi in Shrī Chitrāpur Math, Shirālī.
With a visage and temperament as calm and unruffled as the name in His Pūrvāshrama (Shāntamūrti), Ānandāshram Swāmījī ascended the Pītha and became the ninth Guru of the Chitrāpur Sāraswat community almost immediately after His initiation. Hungry for knowledge, Swāmījī immediately requested the erudite Shāstrī Shrī Kaikiṇī Subarāya Bhaṭ to be His guide as He assiduously began a study of Vedānta, Sanskrit, grammar, logic. But even after acquiring proficiency in all of this, Swāmījī acutely missed the physical Presence of His Guru who had left Him too soon. The burden of tackling the administrative affairs of the Math also took away a lot of time He would have gladly spent in spiritual inquiry. This made Swāmījī decide that some time in solitude was mandatory and He requested the compliance of Viṭṭal Subarāya Bhaṭ. But this was not the glorious destiny the Divine had planned and so, after a solitary night spent incognito on a Jain Patel’s verandah, when devotees found Him and pleaded that He should return to His grieving ‘flock’, the gracious Swāmījī agreed.
The routine returned and Swāmījī performed all His duties as Mathādhipati with grace and élan, but the thirst for deeper spiritual pursuit and the need to find an able Āchārya continued to bother Him and He prayed to the Gurushakti to show Him the way forward. The answer came when Swāmījī visited the Ādi Math at Gokarṇa, where He met the scholarly Swāmī Kṛshṇāchārya Paramahaṁsa of Ṛshikesha. The mutual regard and promise of learning a lot from the Swāmī made Swāmījī want to go for a while to Ṛshikesha. The laity supported their Guru’s saṅkalpa and Swāmījī was able to undertake this yātrā. The Āshīrvachana-s Swāmījī gave enroute at stopover-camps at HubῙī, Puṇe, Mumbaī, Delhī made the ecstatic samāja rejoice at the amazing brilliance and spiritual radiance of their beloved Guru!
Delving into Paramārtha at Ṛshikesha, interacting with Swāmī Kṛshṅāchārya and many other Sages was a period of great fulfilment for Swāmījī and upon His return to Chitrāpur, He once again took on the mantle of working selflessly for the welfare of the samāja. Swāmījī’s erudition and undeniable aura used to make hundreds of devotees pour into Chitrāpur for the annual Rathotsava. Noting the problems caused by the heat, scarcity of water, lack of adequate medical facilities and infrastructure, the mounting cost and dwindling supplies all made Swāmījī decide in 1939 to discontinue this chariot-festival temporarily. Instead, Swāmījī introduced a novel concept – the Sādhanā Saptāhā - which was a carefully planned schedule for week-long spiritual activity like bhajana, kīrtana, japa undertaken by sādhaka-s in cooler months like December and this received a tremendous response from the laity.
There are many cases on record wherein straying or sceptical individuals where brought back to the right path by this Guru who was Compassion Incarnate. A striking story is that of Viṭṭal Subarāya Bhaṭ himself who felt confusion and diffidence to accept Swāmījī, who had in the early years been a ‘fellow-student’, a co-learner so-to-speak, as His Guru. But when he tried to go away to ponder upon this dilemma, the image of Swāmījī appeared again and again on his mental screen till he rushed back to seek forgiveness from the Guru whose greatness he had not been able to fathom earlier.
One illuminating piece of historical information comes from a portion of the Guruparamparā Stotram written by Parama Pūjya Ānandāshram Swāmījī. In it, Pūjya Swāmījī has listed the names of some of the great Guru-s who were the revered Predecessors to our present Guruparamparā which began in 1708 with the advent of Parama Pūjya Parijñānāshram Swāmījī I at Koṭitīrtha in Gokarṇa. The Masters mentioned by Swāmījī in His stotram are – Parama Pūjya Shrīmat – Achyutāshram, Ānandāshram, Kaivalyāshram, Nṛsiṁhāshram, Keshavāshram, Vāmanāshram, Kṛshṇāshram, Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram - Swāmījī s and finally, Parama Pūjya Shrīmat Parijñānāshram (I) from whom the present lineage is traced. Thus, we can safely state that the current 300 plus-year-old history of Shrī Chitrāpur Math is of the Jñāta Guruparamparā about which we have more extensive knowledge and records, while our actual ‘treasury’ - our sacred inheritance – as Pūjya Ānandāshram Swāmījī has revealed - goes much further back…
Heeding the tenets of Swadharma, studying Vedānta and striving for progress in Paramārtha were the main qualities Swāmījī tried to inculcate in the sādhaka-s. But the growing slackness in the laity prompted Swāmījī to think (just like His Guru had) that ordaining a shishya and trying to keep the Saṁsthāna flourishing was neither needed nor relevant. Upon insistence from a couple of senior sādhaka-s, however, Swāmījī did make an announcement at the silver jubilee commemoration of His own ordination that He would ordain a shishya at a proper time. Later He announced that this would happen after the Chāturmāsya Vrata of 1958.
Accordingly, on the 1st of March 1959 nine-year-old Ravindra Shaṅkaranārayaṇa Shukla was ordained as the Shishya Swāmī in the presence of a mammoth gathering of devotees at Shivājī Park, Mumbaī. For seven years the devoted shishya was groomed lovingly and given lessons in Sanskrit, grammar, logic and the scriptures. In September 1966, Ānandāshram Swāmījī shed His mortal coil and attained Mahāsamādhi while chanting “OM” at the BeṅgaĪūru Math. His Samādhi Sthala is beside that of His Guru Pūjya Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī at Shirālī.
Highly intelligent, progressive in outlook and with a keen thirst to know more about things both spiritual and technical, Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī was a mere teenager when the Paṭṭābhisheka was performed and He became the Tenth Mathādhipatī of Shrī Chitrāpur Math. But the laity was awestruck by the extraordinary canvas of His mind upon hearing the very first Āshīrvachana He gave upon ascending the sacred Pītha. “It is our fervent prayer that the piety and devotion of the populace and their reverence towards the Math attain still greater heights. We earnestly hope that all the traditional ceremonies rites and rituals will, with the collaboration of the devotees and priests, continue with the same fervour. May Lord Bhavānīshaṅkar grant you peace, contentment and protection,” was the inspiring finale of Swāmījī’s address.
Alongside guiding the spiritual advancement of the laity, Swāmījī initiated a number of schemes and measures for community welfare. The Chitrāpur Grāma Vikāsa Yojanā to make this hamlet into a self-sufficient township with agricultural, industrial and commercial growth, was mooted by Him. The plan was to start small-scale industries around the Math like a printing press, handloom and power-loom units, agro-industries and the construction of “Ānandāshraya” – a cosy home for the old and socially and financially destitute from the community funded by donations from devotees.
Swāmījī also undertook the renovation of the Dhyāna Mandira built at Pan͂chavaṭī by Pūjya Pāṇḍuraṅgāshram Swāmījī and a beautiful garden was created around it. A deer park and a bird sanctuary were also set up in the spacious grounds of the Govardhana hillock. His profound interest in telecommunication also prompted Swāmījī to set up a wireless shack for ham-operation at Pan͂chavaṭī.
His keenness to strengthen the cultural foundation of His people and to ensure that the knowledge of certain specific rituals and rites associated with the Rathotsava does not dwindle and vanish and most importantly, as a tribute to His Beloved Guru, Swāmījī re-started the Rathotsava which had begun way back in 1862 and then been discontinued from 1939. The chance discovery of an intricate dīpamālikā while searching for accessories for the Rathotsava sparked off Swāmījī’s desire to set up a museum. Thus began His single-handed crusade, sometimes even on foot, to collect precious idols and artefacts lying in a state of neglect in abandoned family homes or shrines in deep jungles. The museum also housed a library of rare manuscripts and books.
In order to make the Math self-supporting, Swāmījī created coconut plantations on the property at Beṅgre and Kembre and also set up a goshālā, which ensured milk supply to the Math. In BeṅgaĪūru, a six-storeyed complex was built on the unused land around the Math resulting in a sizeable regular income.
While Swāmījī was trying His best to turn Chitrāpur into a picture-perfect village, to motivate the youth to stay physically and mentally fit, to encourage the laity to study Sanskrit and understand the deeper significance of rites and rituals, to keep history and culture alive, to stabilize the finances of the Math and through the ham-activity to actually take the first step towards connecting the community to a wider world, there were some individuals too dry and rigid at heart to comprehend or digest the greatness of a Guru, who was leaps and bounds ahead of their narrow and extremely conservative mind-set. Sensing their total inability to accept positive changes that must happen with the passing of time, Swāmījī decided to relinquish His position as Mathādhīpati and left Shirālī to settle at Kārlā, LoṇāvaĪā in Mahārashṭra.
The mission of a Master does not cease just because He has renounced His formal designation. Establishing a trust fund called “Shree Trust” Swāmījī founded a school for the physically and mentally challenged at Virār. Another Trust -“Shāntisukhadā” was also created to work for tribal welfare in the region around the āshrama.
In the Āshīrvachana He gave at a ceremony organized to commemorate His 44th birthday on the 15th of June 1991, Swāmījī stated that He had tried and fulfilled many wishes of His Guru (Pūjya Ānandāshram Swāmījī) except that of totally uniting the samāja and had hence been prompted to sacrifice what He did. On the 29th of August Swāmījī took Mahāsamādhi in BeṅgaĪūru and soon after, His Samādhi Sthala was consecrated with all rites and rituals at Kārlā.
Many are the miracles experienced by devotees when blessed by the abundant Grace of the Gurushakti. In February 1993, Swamījī’s earnest desire to have a Dhyāna Mandira and install the idol of Devī Durgāparameshwarī in it was fulfilled. When the Samādhi was exhumed at the time for the formal installation of the Shivaliṅga upon it, the over-powering scent of sandalwood filled the air! Devotees were wonderstruck to find the two fragrant roses, the bilwa leaves and the tulasī placed on the mastaka within a mala of 108 small rudrāksha beads were all intact, with not a shred of evidence of any form of degeneration or decay! Not just that, even the vastra that had been placed around the flowers and leaves was still damp from the water on them! After all the overwhelmed bhakta-s had darshana of this miraculous fact and the Liṅga-pratishthā was done, the San͂jīvanī-Samādhī was sealed once again.
In the years that followed, a samāja which had been used to the protective umbrella of their revered Guruparamparā constantly reassuring them and steering their spiritual destiny, felt bereft and ‘headless’. Finally, taking a cue from the past some of the seniors in the community prayed at the Ādi Math at Gokarṇa for the Blessings and Ādesha of the Lord. The indication they received, from among the names they had offered, was to approach a young Sāraswat sannyāsī doing rigorous sādhanā at the āshrama of Pūjya Īswarānanda Girijī Mahārāj at Mt. Ābu.
Now this was our beloved Swāmījī, the present Mathādhipati, who had gone to Chennai 12 years before this Prophecy came, seeking the Permission and Blessings of Pūjya Parijñānāshram Swāmījī before proceeding to Mt. Abu. At that time the Sāraswat samāja was in great turmoil because of the incapacity of one section to understand the gigantic stature and power of their far-sighted Guru. Perhaps that is why the Karuṇāmayī Gurushaktī had willed that this intense youngster should do his sādhanā in peace, away from the unrest that had gripped the community, so that he could ready himself fully to rise to the multi-faceted-role that he would be expected to play when he was summoned by the Divine - to ascend the Pīth̲a and become the Eleventh Mathādhipati of a distraught people pining for a Guru to carry forward the glorious lineage and uplift them from the travails of saṁsāra. After some persuasion, the young Swāmī agreed and the 27th of February 1997 heralded a fresh awakening, a spiritual renaissance in the tiny, but truly blessed Chitrāpur Sāraswat community.
From the time Parama Pūjya Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swamījī became the Mathādhipati with the blessings of several sages, among them the globally revered Jagadguru Shaṅkarāchārya – Shrī Bhāratī Tīrth MahāswāmigaῙ of Shṛngerī, Swāmījī has inspired devotion and an eagerness in every section of the samāja to strengthen the connection with one’s spiritual inheritance – the Guru, Math and God.
Devotees visiting Shrī Chitrāpur Math in picturesque Shirālī, or going to any of Swāmījī’s camps all over the country, discover the joy of nāmasmaraṇa- chanting the name of the Lord. Many sādhaka-s have received mantradīkshā from Pūjya Swāmījī. Watching Swāmījī, they learn how to meticulously perform the shoḍashopachāra pūjā. Listening to Swādhyāya-s conducted by Swāmījī they begin to understand the deeper meaning of our ancient scriptures. At the interactive Paramarsha sessions they are able to clear long-standing doubts and at the guided meditation that are able to put aside all worldly cares and revel in some priceless moments of bliss!
Emphasizing the importance of total fitness of body, mind and spirit Prārthanā and Yuvadhārā are two global platforms created by Swāmījī to enable children and young adults to draw immense strength from their roots and develop a sound value-system so that they can reach out for the sky, without the deep insecurity or panic that grips today’s youngsters while grappling with stress and strain of competitive living.
Functioning under Swāmījī’s invaluable Guidance a number of charitable Trusts (like the Srīvali Trust and the Parijñān Foundation), run by a growing number of professionals from different fields keen to do voluntary service, have kindled hope of a better life for hundreds of locals in and around Shirālī – caste, class no bar.
Hygienic water supply, a high school (where free tuition, uniforms and a mid-day meal are provided), a tailoring and embroidery unit - Saṁvit Sudhā - to promote woman empowerment, a gymnasium, a community hall, a museum (the Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Vastu Saṅgrahālaya) an easy-loan scheme coupled with expert advice for farmers and fisher folk (Parimochana), the Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Handmade Paper Unit offering employment to locals are just some of the welcome changes that have revitalized a sleepy hamlet, made the natives stay back rather than migrate and added novel zest to the sādhanā of ‘citibreds’ who are discovering the joy of sevā.
The utter humility and total surrender with which Swāmījī attributes the success of each of the milestone events that have caused a major rejuvenation of the spiritual aspirations of the entire samāja, to the Gurushaktī and the Divine Saṅkalpa of His Guru – Parama Pūjya Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Swāmījī III – is a true eye-opener about how an ideal shishya never allows the veil of personal glory to make Him lose sight of His Divine Goal!