Friday, November 12, 2004

The extraordinary tale of Kanchi Mutt

Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigalof Kanchi Mutt has been placed under judicial custody in relation with a murder in the Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal temple. The news is all over the place, but this post is not about the present.

Like most of the tamilians, I was brought up on the tales that Kanchi Mutt was established by Adi Sankara and the the mutt is the religious centre of all Hindus, like Vatican is for the Roman Catholics. This was fairly accepted by Tamilians of all hues. The first sign of distrust came to me when Jayendra Saraswathi disappeared in 1987. Somehow it didn't seem right that a religious head runs away for no apparent reason. Later I became an agnostic, and didn't care much about religion. But time to time, seeing the claims made by the Kanchi mutt in print and their propaganda made me wonder how much of it is true.

As I learnt about the principle of Advaita (Non Dualism), the doubts became stronger. How is it that the follower of philosophy of Advaita which states that I am He, which constitutes the highest realization, should be involved in the politics of building a temple?

And after the latest episode of his arrest, I did some more search and came across this detailed debunking of the Kanchi Mutt.

<>Kanchi math is not one of the four peethas constituted by Adi Sankaracharya. It is only a shakha (branch) of the Sringeri peetham.

A branch of the Sringeri math was established in Kumbhakonam, the building for which was constructed in 1821 AD, with the help of the Tanjore king. The seal of this math is in Kannada language, and refers to it as a "Sarada math." Since Sarada is worshipped only at Sringeri, and the Goddess at Kanchipuram is Kamakshi, not Sarada, it is seen at once that the Kumbhakonam math did not originally come from Kanchipuram.

The Kumbhakonam math soon proclaimed independence from Sringeri. In fact, this math went one step further. In addition to denying the historical truth of its origin as a branch of the Sringeri math, the story propagated was that it was originally established by Adi Sankaracharya himself at Kanchipuram, with control over the recognized four maths. Worse, a wholly fictitious story that Adi Sankaracharya ascended a sarvagna-pitha at Kanchi and attained samadhi at Kanchi is propagated as
"tradition." The real problem though was that in the course of this campaign, someone with more enthusiasm than scholarship, "fixed" the date of Adi Sankaracharya as 477 B.C. and wrote up a continuous list of gurus of the math from 477 B.C. to the present!

The Kumbhakonam math shifted to Kanchipuram in accordance with its new story. In 1839 AD, the head of the Kumbhakonam math applied for permission to the English Collector to perform the kumbhabhishekam of the Kamakshi temple in Kanchipuram. In 1842 AD, he was appointed sole trustee of the Kamakshi temple by the English East India Company Government. This is well documented because the original priests of the Kamakshi temple, who were thereby deprived of their rights, complained to whomever they could possibly complain to. Numerous petitions, counter petitions, letters, and other such documents are available from this period that allow us to piece together this account.

Thus the Kanchi math as an institution dates from 1842 AD. The headquarters continued to be at Kumbhakonam but the sannyasi head would periodically visit Kanchipuram to assert his rights over the Kamakshi temple. This math originally had a limited following in the Tanjore and Kanchipuram areas, but soon embarked on a massive propaganda campaign that ensured it prominence.

This propaganda campaign to disseminate disinformation received a major fillip from the activites of C.S. Part of this propaganda campaign includes a guru parampara that dates back to 477 BC. One can go into great details to show that this guru parampara is false. Suffice it to say however, that it is full of holes and is correct only in the details given for the post-1820 period. Thus J.S. who is said to be the 69th in direct succession from Adi Sankaracharya himself is actually only the 6th or the 7th head of the Kumbhakonam/Kanchi math

As the author mentions in the last paragraph, an institution like the Kanchi math which supposedly is doing so much for dharma, should not forget the most basic dharma of all - satyam vada. People are free to choose their gurus, but when the guru sets such a perniciously wrong example, by not sticking to the truth, dharma itself is compromised.


Chakra Sampath said...

good analysis.. very well written!

Chenthil said...

Thanks Chakra. However the major analysis is made by the person given in the link. I have just reproduced parts of it since it made sense

tilotamma said...

Chenthil - I am yet to read the analysis in detail but I felt the same way when i first heard about the arrest. But I was not taken back when he ran away the first time - in fact if things are getting too unpleasant/polititcal/confusing that would be the first instinct of a sanyasi would it not?
He is a sanyasi first and a "leader" next. The second role was foisted by us on him.Or if we think he is a leader first then too what better of showing your displeasure with the system?

Anonymous said...

chenthil, can u please tell us abt the source of this information?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Chenthil,

Thanks for doing all of us a big favour by your brilliant analysis. Such efforts are sorely needed to drive more nails into the coffins of us 'meek hindus'. Well done! Carry on your good work and may you live long. Sanatana Dharma sorely needs the services of people like you to keep its flame alive for the future generations.

I only wish you had been a Christian or a Muslim- you would have had several friendly enquiries at your doorstep by now (or, at least online) if you had similarly written something about a historic religious institution. Ah, but you see, we are 'meek hindus', so will fume and fret within, but will keep quiet.


Chenthil said...


the major portion of the analysis is from the following link


No point in replying to you. I will just say that Hinduism is bigger than any Shankaracharya and is definitely not in its death bed. If you know your mythology, you will remember that Hinduism has always supported questioning (Nachiketha questioning Yama is one example). In this aspect, it is better than Abrhamaic religions based on blind faith of one book, one god. So if you feel that my questioning the faith is going to destroy the faith, all I can say is it is foolish.

RVK said...

Well! It is very unfortunate that Chenthil and others will think that way. My first impression on the day I heard the news was shock, though my heart believed that any holy person (Kanchi Sankaracharya or otherwise), having realized more then you and me would not do such a thing. The logic is a worldly person like myself will not do it, how can someone who is more sincere in spiritual pursuits would so?

We need to think one thing after several months. After the supreme court verdict on the bail application and other cases on Sankaracharyas, it is clear that this is a state-sponsored persecution of Kanchi mutt. Irrespective of the controversy on the history of the a mutt - established 200 or 2500 years ago, this is the state of the country where political high-handedness can get this far. This controversy of the mutt's origin dates back to at least 1870 and this is nothing new in 2005.

Having seen the current Kanchi Sankaracharya on some occasions, it is hard to believe that a person involving in social work apart from religious duties would even entertain such thoughts. I wonder whether he even had some private time (other than that in the bathroom) to plan such a murder with 20+ people as seen in the chargesheet.

If anyone does not like Kanchi mutt, I would think that it is not appropriate to use this occasion to bring it down. We all should fight this state-sponsered arrogance, as it can happen to anyone who would not be a puppet to the CM.


lpcm said...

Mr.Senthil quotes where he has taken the information.If you see the original script fully in that it is self contradictary in many places;It accepts the version of Shankarachaya of Dwarka but not Kanchi Mahaswami's version;no reason is given.
Mahaswami has told on one occasion that there is an copper plate inscription (sasana) with them which records that a village is donated to the mutt by then King of Kanchi in the year 1111 A.d
In the book "Deivathin Kural" volume 5 (which contains the discourses of Mahaswami)He gives historical and other evidences in support of age of sankara as 477B.C which runs upto 80 pages in the book.
No scholar has contradicted all these so far( as far as I know).

In the advaita .org posting it is stated that the names of Shankaracahryas given by Kanchi mutt are fictious and lie;those who know Mahaswamiji would never say of him a lier.
The ignorance (of the advaita .org)goes to extent that sadasiva Brehmendirar was claimed to be a Shankarachaya of Kanchi mutt;he must show the evidence.The fact is that the 57 th shankaracharya of Kanchi is his guru.
We shall continue discussion on this if Mr Chenthil is interested.

Balumuthu said...

The Sankara mathas are supposed to do their best to propagate, mainly, the message of Advaita (non-dual nature of reality) which is the philosophic part of Sanaatna dharma, as well as its Varna-aashrama-dharma, the social division based on individuals' natural aptitudes (not birth, as some say)and inborn inclinations or sva-bhaava. The thousands of Sankara mathas which Adi Sankara is believed to have established, have degenerated in their practices and even distorted their theories, especially so due to the allurements thrown to the priestly community. It is very high time that in order to re-realize the oneness and unity which Adi Sankara ushered in with his personal efforts, by a proper understanding of Adi Sankara's message which is originally rooted in the Upanishadic wisdom. It is most tragic that the Sringeri and the Kanchi matham "followers", perhaps with the approval either explicit or through silence, of their Heads are indulging in an absolutely fruitless acrimony, a 'follower' of eithe of these calling the other's "historical" texts as spurious or faked or deliberately distorted. Irrespecive of the Mathams, it is important to look at what Adi Sankaracharya said in letter and spirit and what inspired him, the Upanishadic wisdom. One should not go to the trouble of going to the Guru-sannidhi, clad in Veshtis (Pancha-kacham or ordinary Kattu), and offer Pranamas or Paada-pooja, if one is not prepared to study our ancient scriptures with the help of guides (but from different sources claiming authority), even if one does not have even the slightest inclination to learn some working knowledge of Sanskrit to recite the Gita and the ever so many texts (or encourage one's children to do so). By this stipulation, almost all of us Hindus may be inferred to follow faith without knowledge and even a modicum of effort to acquire that knowledge. I personally know hundreds of even Brahmins [I use 'even' since the Brahmins are by the Varna dharma required to acquire and propagate knowledge and spiritual wisdom] who waste all spare time on TV and newspapers and video watching, and flaunting a copy of the Bhagavad-gita and a small collection of other Hindu texts, but actual reading is confined to cheap magazines full of vulgarities and photos in bad tase from a Sanskritized (refined) person's vviewpoint. In this context, it is utterly hypocritical for any one of us to feign that he belongs to this or that "Math" or a branch "coming under the Adi Sankara parampara" and to argue spiritual history like politics like the DMK or the JDS or the Congress does for elections. IT IS IMMATERIAL WHETHER KANCHI WAS IN FACT ADI SANKARA'S CREATION OR JUST ONE IN A THOUSAND, OR IT WAS THE FIFTH PRINCIPAL ONE SET UP TO SPEND HIS LAST YEARS, as long as we first do not care to become genuine followers of Adi Sankara's teachings of Upanishadic wisdom. We are simply cipher, each and every one of us, if we compare ourselves with both Adi Sankara, his followers and his opponents, ALL of whom mastered the Upanishadic philosophy, and formed their own debating argumens to vote or veto that philosophy. Indeed, but for our muttering of a few ill-learnt and ill-pronounced Hindu Slokas and Stotras, and a few Vedic lines, and going to Hindu temples, and performing family-oriented cermeonies, we are hardly worthy of being called Hindus, much less 'Vaidika-maarga-para' since we are selfish, loose in our senses, unwilling to change our evil ways. First and foremost we should realize that even our Mathas and temples are becoming the haunts of contractors and idlers who just don't understand what it is to serve within those holy premises. Why so, it is due to us, the hypocritcal followers with all our serious disqualifications. I THEREFORE REPEAT THAT WE SHOULD CONCENTRATE ON DOING JUSTICE TO OUR BEING SONS OF THE VAIDIKA DHARMA AND THIS GREAT HOARY LAND OF RISHIS AND ADVAITA WISDOM. And last but not least, spiritual wisdom and its practice (sad-aachaara) are different from knowledge of chemistry, mathematics, and other natural sciences of this illusory world (although neither of it is expendible in our human birth). And today's Brahmin can hardly be said to have acquired, or even have a liking for acquiring, spiritual wisdom. He wants only the latter, namely a knowledge of matter and energy and its ramifications, and to gain some certificates and get jobs.

rajaram said...


Anonymous said...

Many people and well known politicians have given huge amounts as donations to Kanchi peetham. The shastris are in cahoots with the administration side which does not maintain proper records. Result is that some have become rich with illegally acquired sottu. Sivan sottu kolla adicha yenna aagum.

Kanchi mutt is claiming that it was previously running from Kumbakonam and it shifted to Kanchi later due to persecution. If Adi Shankacharier had taken samadhi in Kanchi why did they first establish their mutt in Kumbakonam.

Kanchi mutt received help from british to become established as a mutt with fake history. To convert fake history into acceptable theories, they cooked up texts and inserted lines in texts to achieve authenticity. The british helped them in return for propagation of the caste system. And Kanchi mutt played its role well. Adi Shankaracharya did not estalish the Kanchi Kamakoti mutt. All in all, a case of nambikai droham in every aspect.

Anonymous said...

First of all, the analysis done here is based on British stooge Max Muller. He was paid to translate all the Sanskrit literature of India into German/English by a wealthy English pig to belittle Indian history. This is a program of British to make Indians incompetent.

Several historians of India debunked with all the proofs, but our communist Nehru continued the British program & abused Indian Historians. (For those who doesn't know Nehru, I would like to give one example: He called Chatrapathi Shivaji as a Rat in his "The discovery of India". Later he had to remove the sentence upon revolt from proud Marathis).

I am just briefing the important points made by Indian historians like Sri Kota Venkatachalam, Dharampal, Sita Ram Goel, Majumdar et al (many don't even know'em)

* The base for determining the birth year of Sankara was set by 788AD by Max Muller (with his quarter knowledge of Sanskrit) based on "Sankara Mandara Souraba" written in 788AD. The fact is Max Muller didn't know that the date mentioned was about the year of the book written by a "Sankaracharya". He also may not even know that all the pontiffs of Sankara Mutt's hold the title of "Sankaracharya".

* "Brihat Sankara Vijaya" written by Sri Chitsukacharya is the most authoritative book on determining the age of Sankara. Sri Chitsukhacharya was disciple & co-student of Sri Sankara.

"tishyae prayaatya nalasaevadhi baaNanaetrae |
yae naMdanae dinamaNaa vudagadhvabhaaji |
raadhae ditae ruDuvinirgatamangalagnae |
syaahootavaan Sivaguru@h sacha SaMkaraeti ||"

Meaning: "On Sunday, Vaisakha Sukla Panchami in the constellation and Lagna of Dhanus in the year Nandana, a son was born to Sivaguru and he was named ‘Sankara’ by his father in 2593 Kali (which corresponds to 3102-2593=509B.C)"

(# BTW, there are 10 Sankara vijayas written by many Acharyas)

* For people who want to understand further about the time of Sri Sankara, you can refer to book "Jina Vijaya". The book mentions about meeting of Sri Sankara with Kumarila Bhatta and also Niryana of Sankara in 477BC.

* Both the above books also mention about establishment of various mutts by Sri Sankara including Kanchi mutt. Some of the mutts were established by Sri Sankara & some of them (already existing) were handed over to Sri Sankara.

* Another book "Nepali Raja Vamsavali" (written during the reign of King Vrisha Deva Varma, who ruled between 547BC - 486BC). In the book, they clearly mention about Adi Sankaracharya as a victor against Buddha Dharma in 487BC.

* The Kanchipuram Mutt moved to Kumbhakonam in 18th century due to occupation of Kanchipuram by Nijam Nawab of Hyderabad (I think its in 1742-43).

* Some of the jokers here are asking why Kanchi Sankaracharyas are actively involving in politics. Is supporting "Ram Mandir Building" a political move? Is it political to bless poltician devotees? How can they discriminate politician devotees from other general devotees!!!

# Sri Adi Sankara himself organized Naga Sadhus (Naga Warriors) to protect Hinduism from violent forces. Isn't it in the interest of Nation & Dharma?
# Do you know that Sri Vidyaranya Swami of Sringeri, who is is instrumental in building Vijayanagar empire?

PS: It is well known fact that Kanchi Mutt has become more famous than other Mutts under the pontiff "Sri ChandraSekhara Saraswathi". All the envious detractors of Kanchi Mutt have suddenly become Heroes, Intellectuals, Historians ... LOL :D

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