It was in 1979 one June morning that His Holiness Sri Chandrasekhararendra Saraswati Swami of Sri Kanchi Kamokoti Peetha reached Gurudev Mandir in my hometown Belgaum in Karnataka.
This historic halt in Belgaum by His Holiness was a part of His long padayatra (tour on foot) for full six long years which had started sometime in the month of April 1978. In the footsteps of Adi Sankara, this 68th head of the Kamakoti Peetam, Kanchipuram amalgamated pilgrimage with propagation of the dharmic ideas – of action (karma), devotion (bhakti) and enlightenment (jnana).
During His long and extensive walk, quite a huge mass of pious people, irrespective of cast or creed, age or sex, congregated to have darshan of the Great Guru in order to obtain His blessings, whenever He chose to halt – be it in a temple or a mutt, a shed on the bank of a canal or even a villager’s cowshed. All those who sought His darshan during this astounding journey will unanimously agree with me to depict Him as God who descended on earth and I am really proud to include myself as one among those blessed. Of course, I must give all the credit to my parents who enabled me to have the darshan of the Great Guru in its true sense.
My father, Sri Nagesh was a devoted disciple of Sri Gurudev Dr. R.D. Ranade who was a regular visitor of Guru Dev Mandir for several years. He came to the mandir without break, even while on the verge of his retirement, he had emerged as one of the most privileged aspirants of the Acharya. He always insisted that I join him in his morning visits to the Mandir each day and this is how I was blessed to have darshan of His Holiness Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swami for the first time in my life, during the chaturmasya.
One of the prime jobs of the daily agenda for my father was to visit the Gurudev Mandir and perform Arati of his spiritual teacher, Sri Gurudev. He used to sit there for meditation and then return home. I must say that I was fortunate to accompany my father all those days whenever it was the sacrifice of my mother that she had to remain at home. During these visits I started realizing one thing that some kind of mysterious affiliation was being built up between my father and the Acharya. My father used to earnestly seek permission from one of the disciples of Acharya, Mr.Rajagopal, an engineer by profession, to address his one persevering wish to the Acharya i.e. is “To have the blessings of His Holiness” showered upon himself and his family.
During one such visit my father, the Acharya has had a smile on his saintly face. He offered his blessings for my father and myself with his hand held above my father’s head. He uttered the words “Anandaroop… Anandaroop” repeatedly, meaning you are already in a blissful and happy life”. It was really a touching incident and unforgettable event in my life.
Practising the fine arts was one of my fond hobbies those days. I decided that I should draw a pencil sketch of His Holiness. Believe it or not, because of the Will of His Holiness, I must say, made me sketch Swamiji in His typical but an all together unusual sitting posture. I could draw not only the sketch of Swamiji but also that of Sri Gurudev Dr.R.D. Ranade, the spiritual teacher of our family, within a couple of days or so. These sketches were then taken to the Gurudev Mandir to be shown to the Paramacharya. On that fine day the Paramacharya was sitting outdoors in a garden, well maintained by a resident gardener appointed by the trust of Gurudev Mandir. My father and I bowed down to the Swamiji to seek his blessings. We displayed the sketches to the Swamiji. To our surprise, He had a smiling look at the sketches, He turned His eyes first on the Sri Gurudev’s sketch and raised His head a bit and thereafter looked at His own sketch. This time He gave a pleasing smile and looking at us He raised His right hand and blessed us. What an awe-inspiring moment that was! We both felt a kind of overwhelming happiness at that point of time and it was really the wonderful experience in itself for my father and me. We took back the sketches accepting them as Prasada from His Holiness. Since then the sketches have been displayed in our house in Belgaum.
My father being a philosophical thinker used to seek darshan of the Acharya for whatever maximum possible time he could devote at the Mandir. He had a busy schedule attending to his duties as head Librarian in Gogate College of Commerce. With his temporary routine, but ever growing devotion towards the Acharya, the latter began to recognize my father. To one of My father’s queries that was not directly expressed to the Acharya, the Acharya gave an answer in the form of a Sanskrit Sloka.
On 9th July 1979, the Vyasapuja of the year was performed during the stay of His Holiness at Gurudev Mandir. On that day the late Sri G.D. Birla, the grand doyen of business in our country, had darshan of the Acharya and expressed his keen desire to donate a whopping sum of money to the Mutt. His Holiness calmly declined the offer, with some convincing explanation.
One fine day witnessed the arrival of the Queen Mother of Greece, along with other important members of the Royal Families of Spain and Greece. They had come down to have darshan of Swamiji. I remember, most of the school and college students in and around the town had bunked classes and gathered in the Gurudev Mandir to see the white skinned guests and incidentally fortunate enough to have darshan of the sage of Kanchi as well.
On the early morning of 11th September 1979 the Acharya left Belgaum without notice and began to walk in an eastward direction. He halted at the village of Karadiguddi, about 30 km from Belgaum and stayed in the temple of Sri Sangamesvara, in the village of Chachadi for the Navaratri Pujas from September 21, to the end of the month. The Chaturmasya was over and the town of Belgaum was left with only the spiritual memories of the momentous experiences that the devotees could gather for themselves and for others too. The Acharya continued His Padayatra…..
The lively demonstration of the extraordinary capacity of the Paramacharya can be substantiated by a few more incidents that I experienced and have narrated here.
In January 1994, I received a letter from my father and in it he spoke of his dream experiences wherein he was blessed with the darshan of Sri Swamiji. In the early morning dream, my father with his grandson Omkar went to Kanchipuram. They halted in an ordinary hotel in the town. Due to the lack of drinking water in the hotel they left the hotel and to their surprise they could see a beautiful garden in front and from a distance His Holiness along with two of His disciples were seen to be approaching them. The surprising darshan of His Holiness took them completely by surprise. Neither had any words to say, but to bow down for blessings. It was a wonderful dream experience!! Moreover, what a great coincidence it was! The day was 8th of January 1994. This was the day on which His Holiness, the supreme teacher merged into the eternal reality. He passed away quietly in Kanchipuram. My father learnt a little later that the Swamiji during those days was not allowing anyone for the darshan in Kanchipuram.
For a long time my wife has a question whirling in her mind and that was – What an educated, highly qualified woman should be doing ideally in her life? My wife is a Master of Science in Medical Microbiology but fortunately or unfortunately is a nice housewife as well. Being a sentimental person, my answer to her question was something which was not acceptable to her at all. One fine day as she was reading the cover story of the magazine ‘Frontline’ of January 28,1994, she rose from her chair as she found the right answer from His Holiness. The Acharya always believed that the proper place for a woman was the home, where she should devote her life to the welfare of her husband and family, and lead a richer and more rewarding life than a woman who follows any other career, by emulating the example set by men and competing with them.
My self indulgence and experiences with the devotion of His Holiness has made me believe deeply in the existence of God and it has eased my worries concerning with the materialistic aspects of life. I always melt when I read or hear about the Paramacharya of Kanchi. Once I was in Coimbatore on an official trip and since it was a Sunday I had nothing specific to do at the hotel. In the evening, I went out for a walk, and entered a shopping mall with the idea of window-shopping. Suddenly, I happened to see a nicely laminated photograph of the Paramacharya in a photo gallery. This attracted me, and I went in and checked about the price of the photo. On enquiry, the shopkeeper said that it was not for sale but a display to show their photo quality. I had fallen in love with the unique posture of the Acharya that I said to them, “I will not go from here unless I buy it from you, for any price that you offer”. Eventually I paid money for the priceless photo and took it as “Prasad of the Holiness”. I always remembered this incident when I see the photo at home.
Experiencing the darshan of Acharya was something like a dream come true for every devotee who has this blessed opportunity. His Holiness always used to love putting the garlands, rudraksha and flowers on His head and this was done always when he was in Mounam or silence. This particular practice of His was symbol of God Sankara in Him for his devotees. Looking at His apparent physical body, His ever glowing face, strong and youthful feet, it was very difficult for any observer to guess the exact age of “The Walking God” as if providing evidence that God is… beyond time, and more spirit than flesh.
Ever since the darshan of the Paramacharya in Chaturmasya of 1979, it has transformed my perception towards the day-to-day life and whenever I happen to see the picture of the Swamiji or hear about anything from His 100 years of holy life. I shed tears of joy and recall to mind all my experiences, few of them I have tried to narrate above.