Saturday, November 13, 2004
A Mutt in Crisis - the Background

Late Sri.Sankararaman was not the only one to object to the new direction Sri Jayendra Saraswati was taking the Mutt in. The reason is that Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati (aka The Paramacharya), the much-revered late predecessor of Sri Jayendrar was steadfastly orthodox. The current head, though, is a hardcore activist.

While Paramacharya generally limited his activism to expressing his views in lectures and discourses, Sri Jayendrar has launched initiatives that far outreach what was seen as the traditional boundaries of the Mutt that guaranteed its sanctity. Examples of these abound. The Go Samrakshna (Cow Protection) movement, Ayodhya, the inclusion of non-Brahmins in Veda schools of the Peetham etc. Some of these made the old time associates of the Paramacharya very uncomfortable. A commonly heard whisper among the Tamil Brahmins (the so-called TamBrams) is that Sri Jayendrar was "politicizing" the Mutt.

It is said that the change of course came about after Sri Jayendrar disappeared in 1987 during the Chaturmasya period, when ascetics are forbidden from moving from their place of residence. After a few days of worried search by everybody that is anybody in Indian law enforcement agencies, he was discovered in a remote location called Talakaveri. It is alleged that it was his rebellion against the old-guard headed by none other than Paramacharya. After his return to Kanchi from that exile, he got involved ib social activism - like reaching out to non-Brahmins, especially Dalits, setting up of an engineering college (full disclosure: I am a product of that college - Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering), the setting up of the Kanchi University etc.

All the while, the old-guard was silently worried about the changes. Some could never reconcile with a Shankaracharya getting involved in setting up a tech city that runs on wind-generated power. Along with the dread of this modernization of the Mutt, there is also a fear, shared by a minority in the old guard itself, that the Mutt has not been, well, straight with accounting practices. There were some whispers that Paramacharya was not happy with the pomp with which his centenary celebrations were held, complete with him being worshipped with 100 gold coins.

In spite of all this, Sri Jayendrar has held the respect, however grudging, of most followers of the Kanchi Mutt. Most of those people who are begrudging are happier with the junior Shankaracharya, annointed the successor to Sri Jayendrar, Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati, who is seen as being closer to the Paramacharya mould.

This, then, is the background of the travails of this Mutt. The results of this murder case against Sri Jayendrar is going to be very crucial to the future of this Mutt, especially since, from the reports that have come out about the victim, it is clear he was an old-guard member.

Watch this space for more information as we go forward.

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