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Shrimad Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji



His Holiness Shrimad Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji – Our Patron Saint

His Holiness Shrimad Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji was the 19th Pontiff of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan, Varanasi. The radiance of His spirituality and the warmth of His personality continue to inspire and bless the Samsthan and disciples even now.

Swamiji was the second son of Sri. Subba Prabhu and Smt. Kaveri of Vatsa Gotra and was born at Kochi on Phalguna Bahula Navami under the star Purvashada in Durmukhi Samvatsara, corresponding to Friday, 26 March, 1897. Their Kuladevata was Katyayini Baneshwar. He was named Srinivasa. Swamiji had an elder brother (Janardhana) and a younger sister (Amuli). The family home is at the south-west corner in the Western Street outside the T.D. Temple, Kochi. Swamiji’s purvashram family was one of the Ashta Adhikaris of the temple. Swamiji lost His mother at a very young age. He was brought up at the residence of the maternal grandfather who was one of the Pradhan Archaks of Lord Venkatapati Temple. Thus from the beginning itself Swamiji was destined to have the Lord’s naivedya for food.The loss of the mother in childhood had its toll. But the boy was made of sterner stuff and marked by Destiny for greater roles. In a way it was a preparation for the life ahead. Swamiji did not have much of a formal education. His education was by drawing out the inner potential.

He was initiated and given Sanyasa Deeksha at Tiruchi – Srirangam, on the banks of Kaveri. The Name given to the Sishya by H.H. Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swamiji was – Sukrtindra Tirtha.  His Holiness was indeed a reservoir of Sukrit – virtue. As Guru Swamiji was ailing, Sukrtindra Tirtha performed the pooja with the help and guidance of the Purohits. Because of the illness of Guru, the Sishya stayed in a separate room and had phalahar also separately. However, the Guru was always solicitous about the Sishya and his comforts.

Sometime after the initiation, the Guru and Sishya went to Tirumala where they performed Brahmotsava and then went to Bantwal. The Guru had gone to the railway station to see off the Sishya who was proceeding to Cochin for studies. The Sishya was feeling sad and forlorn at the separation and looked crestfallen but did not have the courage to express his feelings. The Guru could understand the Sishya’s feelings and infused courage and cheer in him. He told the Sishya that he had given him the deities for performing pooja and worship, that he should perform the same with sincerity, devotion and dedication, that there was nothing to fear and that God would take care of everything and all would be well.

Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji followed this advice all His life and God did indeed take care of everything. Whatever Swamiji spoke came to be true and fructified. It was indeed a testimony of the Lord’s assurance: Ananyaschinthayanto mam yejanah paryupasate, Tesham nithyabhiyukthanam yogakshemam vahamyaham. He takes care of the well being of those who are singularly devoted to Him.In later years, this was what Swamiji told His Sishya Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha in turn, when the Sishya asked for a message. The Guru repeated what His Guru had told Him -This was what We were told by Our Guru and this is what We have to convey to you.

Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji’s Chaturmasa Vrita of 1913 was at Cochin. The stay and studies in Cochin continued till 1914 when tragedy struck. On Wednesday, June 24, 1914, Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swamiji attained Mukti at Walkeshwar Math in Bombay. The Sishya was in Cochin. The journey in those days was long and slow and the Sishya Swami could not and did not reach Bombay before the Guru was interred in Vrindavan. That was something Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji could neither forget nor reconcile with. He was just 17 years when destiny ordained that He ascend the Peetha. His Holiness Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji  became Mathadhipathi on Monday, 6 July, 1914. With it came numerous unforeseen problems, trials and tribulations. However, Swamiji faced all that with fortitude and faith.

His regime as Mathadhipathi began with a large part of the Walkeshwar Math premises being locked up – except for the essential space for Swamiji’s stay and worship. This was because of a court case on the grounds that Swamiji was a minor. With the help of well-wishers and purohits, the daily essential routine of the Math was carried on. Guru Swamiji’s  Vrindavana had to be constructed. There were debts and other liabilities to be cleared. The young Swamiji was faced with all these problems for a couple of years. Then slowly things started improving.

The Chaturmasa of 1914, 1915 and 1916 were observed in Bombay. Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swamiji’s Vrindavan was properly constructed. Shrimad Madhavendra Tirtha Swamiji’s Vrindavan, which was in a dilapidated condition was renovated also. The reinstallation of the Hanuman idols in the two Vrindavans took place in 1917. A gold kalasha was thereupon made for the pooja. In 1917, Swamiji observed the Chaturmasa Vrita at the Moola Math at Kashi where He completed His studies also.  Enroute to Kashi, He visited and camped at Nasik, Prayag, etc.

The 1923 Chaturmasa was at Cochin, 1924 at Cherai, 1925 at Kollam, 1926 at Kayamkulam, 1927 at Purakkad, 1928 at Cherthala, 1929 at Thuravoor, 1930 and 1932 at Alleppey, 1931 at Rameshwar, 1933 at Bombay, 1934 and 1935 at Rameshwar. The renovation of the Rameshwar Math was undertaken during this time. The 1936 Chaturmasa  was in Bantwal, 1937, 1938 and 1939 in Bombay and 1940 again in Bantwal. The Chaturmas of 1941 was in Mulki, 1942 in Udupi, 1943 in Gurupur. The Chaturmas of 1944, 1946 and 1947 were in Mulki, 1945 in Bombay and 1948 in Kochi. Swamiji’s Chaturmasa Vrita was observed  across the country from Rameshwar and Kollam in the south to Bombay and Varanasi in the north.

Swamiji was a man of few words. However, those weighed words were full of content and significance. Swamiji was a living example of the maxim -Deeds speak louder than words.

The greatness of Swamiji was that He never held any ill-will, hatred or anger. Patience and forgiveness were His distinctive hallmarks and virtues. Swamiji never lost His temper. Swamiji was a great Tapasvi, the very embodiment of patience, love and compassion. Swamiji was detached to worldly matters and was given to a higher thought level. Once when some ‘ambado’ was served, which had no salt in it, Swamiji ate it without any hesitation. He remarked that it had all other required healthy ingredients, even though salt was not there.

Swamiji’s faith in God and His surrender to Him was complete. God never forsook Him. Whatever Swamiji said became true. Once, a scrap merchant, a not so rich man, went to Swamiji, seeking blessings. Unexpectedly, Swamiji told him that the following year’s Chaturmasa arrangements would be his responsibility. The person was taken aback. However, his Purohit advised him to accept the task. As it happened, World War II took place and the price of scrap soared. It earned huge profits for the man, who could then manage the Chaturmasa at Udupi without any difficulty. Thus Swamiji’s blessings fructified.

Swamiji’s devotion to the Guru was equally great. Swamiji carried a feeling of hurt that He could not be present when His Guru attained Samadhi and could not even see Guruji’s holy body before it was interred in Vrindavan.  The intensity of Swamiji’s devotion during the worship on the occasion of Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha Swamiji’s Punyatithi was unparalleled.

Whenever Swamiji was faced by some difficult problem or whenever He needed some divine guidance or if the Guru appeared in His dream, Swamiji would then go to Bombay for a darshan at Guruji’s Vrindavan. That was enough to bring Him the required assurance, cheer and inspiration. This happened on many occasions. Swamiji would leave Bombay only after the Guru gave Him darshan in His dream. Once it so happened that the Chaturmasa scheduled at some other place was approaching and Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji did not leave Bombay as the Guru Swami had not appeared in His dream. All were worried. However, Swamiji soon had the vision of His Guru in His dream and accordingly left Bombay in time.

Many are the installations and re-installations that Swamiji performed.  Punarpratishtha of Hosdurg Temple in 1920; Sri Pattabhi Rama Temple, Koteshwar pratishtha in 1940; Punarpratishtha at Ullal, Kaup, Mudabidiri, Udyavar, Mundkar, Padmavati Temple at Karkal, Kodungallur, Pratishtha of Ramanjaneya Temple at Vile Parle, Bombay were all performed by Swamiji. Renovation of Rameshwaram Math and the Kodanda Rama Temple there, was an important work and it was inaugurated in 1937.

In 1944, Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji initiated the present Pontiff Sudhindra Tirtha as His disciple. It was Swamiji’s desire that the Sishya should not be a minor and that he should be conversant with English also, so as to be able to look after all the affairs of the Samsthan effectively. The search ended with young Sadashiva Shenoy, son of Sri. Ramdas Shenoy and Smt. Draupadi, of Ernakulam. After all the preliminaries, on Jeshta Shudha Dwitiya of Tarana Samvatsara, Wednesday, May 24, 1944, Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji initiated the disciple and named him Shrimad Sudhindra Tirtha. After the initiation, Guru and Sishya were together and observed the Chaturmasa in Mulki. The Guru and Sishya visited many places, the Guru imparting the knowledge of the traditions and the sastras by word and by example and the Sishya absorbing and imbibing the same. While the Guru was a person of few words, it was His desire that the Sishya should become an eloquent speaker impressing everyone with His thoughts and speech. It happened exactly like that, even though the Sishya had no earlier exposure to public speaking.

The management of the Cochin Tirumala Devaswom had, for various reasons, gone from our community during Srimad Varadendra Tirtha Swamiji’s time. The Cochin Maharaja’s Government had taken over its management. Shrimad Varadendra Tirtha was deeply anguished by this, but the situation could not be retrieved. Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji’s devotion and attachment to the Cochin Temple  and Lord Venkatapati was singular and Swamiji was prepared to do anything for getting back the management to own people. Primarily because of Government management, Swamiji had not visited Cochin for almost a quarter of a century. It was only in the summer of 1948 that both Guru and Sishya came down to Cochin. They received an unprecedentedly grand reception, the procession cutting across the main gates and compound and passing through the elephant gate of the Cochin Palace. The Swamijis were present for the temple festival. The Guru observed the Chaturmasa of that year in Cochin while the Sishya’s was at Karkal.

Soon both the Swamijis met the Maharaja of Cochin, King Parikshit, at the Tripunithura temple. The Maharaja received the Swamijis with great respect and courtesy. They conversed in Sanskrit. Swamiji impressed upon the King the necessity of restoring the administration of the temple to its rightful owners, the GSB community.  That fructified with the restoration of the temple management to the GSBs in 1949. A Rayasa Patra in this behalf was given to the Cochin Mahajan by both the Swamijis.

During the camp at Thuravoor, for the golden Dhwaja installation, the Sishya fell ill. At first, illness was wrongly diagnosed as Typhoid and later, correctly as Malaria. Guru Swamiji was deeply concerned and this took its toll on His health which was already affected by diabetes and blood pressure.

The camp of the two Swamijis was in Alleppey in April 1949. On Rama Navami day Sukrtindra Tirtha Swami was decorating the idols during the Madhyana Pooja. He appeared to be feeling tired and was sweating. His clothes were fully wet. The Sishya offered to help in decorating. But the Guru insisted on doing it Himself. After the day’s pooja, the Sishya felt that Swamiji’s health was far from good and medical care and attention was needed. The temple authorities in Alleppey and Cochin were informed and it was decided to shift Swamiji to Cochin where Dr. H.N. Kamath and others would attend Him.

The next day they moved to Cochin. The Guru was too weak and tired and was taken to the room in a chair. It was only the Sishya who went to offer coconuts and to prostrate before God within the temple. The Guru was ailing and stayed upstairs in His room in Swamiji’s bungalow in Cochin temple. The poojas were performed by the Sishya Swamiji. It was the time of the temple festival, Maholsavam. On the Aarat day the Sishya Swami did not go for the procession since Swamiji was not keeping good health. That afternoon Swamiji appeared extremely tired and exhausted, too weak even to speak. Swamiji beckoned the Sishya, who gave Him some water and an orange. By this, the Guru appeared a little better.

During those days Guru remained upstairs and the Sishya performed the poojas. After a sponge bath, Guru would do nama mudra and japa and chant the pooja mantras sitting in the retiring room. The Sishya would take the Tirtha Prasad after the pooja and offer Hastodaka to Swamiji for Bhiksha.

On Vaisakh Pournami evening Padapooja was performed to Swamiji on behalf of the Math staff. The Padapooja was performed by the Sishya Swamiji.  That turned out to be the last Padapooja for Swamiji. In spite of the treatment and care there was not much improvement in Swamijis condition.

One night the Guru was awake when the Sishya went near him. The Guru asked the Sishya to narrate a story from Kenopanishad. The Sishya did so and the Guru was happy that the Sishya had imbibed and grasped the intricacies of Vedanta.On the fateful day Sunday, 10th July 1949 which was Guru Poornima, after the Madhyana pooja when the Tirtha was taken, Guru wanted the Sishya to offer Him the Tirtha. Thereafter Guru gave the same to all others present.

In the evening when Sishya Swami went to the temple for the Mangalarti, there were repeated messages that the Guru was making enquiries and wanted the Sishya at His side. After the Mangalarti, the Sishya rushed to the Guru’s side.  By then, Guru Swamiji had asked for new clothes to be taken out and had worn them also. He was sitting majestically dressed with the ceremonial silk turban. After sometime the Guru wanted to lie down. Then he asked the Sishya to help him sit up in a reclining position, which the Sishya did. But the doctor said that the Guru must be in a supine position. The Sishya went out of the room. Shortly thereafter, at about 11.45 p.m., Swamiji attained Mukti and it was Ashada Bahula Pratipada by then.

Shrimad Sukrtindra Tirtha Swamiji was unique in many ways. Swamiji is the only Yati in the Samsthan whose birth and Vrindavan are at the same place, Cochin. His first Chaturmasa in 1913 and last Chaturmasa in 1948 were also at the same place, Cochin. He has also the distinction of having performed poojas to the Samsthan deities immediately after initiation.

The greatness and glory of Swamiji’s Vrindavan at Cochin Temple is without compare. In the parikrama of the temple of Lord Venkatesha at Cochin, Swamiji’s Vrindavan is closer to the Lord’s Garbagriha than the shrines of the Parivara Devas, Lakshmi, Hanuman, Garuda and Ganapati. The place was earlier the Yajnakund sanctified by the performance of Vishnu Maha Yaga twice every year for decades. No Vrindavan of any other Swamiji of the Samsthan has such unique features.


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