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.