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Monday, May 5, 2014

A.K. Velan - 2

Author: 'Paranthaman' (V.Narayanan) (in Tamil)
Source: From the book Paramacharyar pages 052-064, 1992 edition
Publisher: Narmadaa Padhippaham
Translator: saidevo

As narrated by the author:

Another incident. Happened around 25 years ago. Sri Jayendrar was the younger Periyavar then. He was camping for months at Ilayattankudi in Chettinad with the entire group of SriMaTham assistants and was giving his blessings and grace to the devotees. The temple in Ilayattankudi, Kundrakkudi and PillaiyarPatti are established and run by the clan of wealthy traders of Chettinad (the Nagaratthaars). They are their family temples.

A Pongal festival was being celebrated at KilaSeevalPatti about three miles from Ilayattankudi. The celebrations included speeches by the masters in different subjects.

Around 5 o' clock in the evening A.K. Velan was giving a special speech. When I was there on the stage with him, I was called by someone from the rear end of the stage. Wearing bands of vibUti all over, a middle aged brahmin in panca kaccha dhoti and uttarIyam (shounder cloth) and sporting a tuft of hair on his head, asked on seeing me, "You are the one who has accompanied Pulavar A.K. Velan from Chennai?" When I said yes, he continued, "Chinna PeriyavaaL has directed him to come to Kanchi PeriyavaaL MaTham after his speech is over. You please inform this to him and bring him there. Since I have some urgent work I can't stay here. I may be excused; shall take leave now," and went away.

We had planned to urgently go to Thanjai directly from there after the speech and then return to Chennai. To suit our program, my friend who was to give his speech at the end, took the stage in the beginning itself. I informed him of the call from SriMaTham after he finished his speech. It gave him some surprise, though he was a respected person in SriMaTham and had the bhAgyam of Paramacharyar voluntarily talking to him and blessing him. (This incident is given in the earlier part of this tale).

Being in such a situation, why did he hesitate! Only a few days before this Pongal celebrations he had been released from the Tiruchi Central Jail on completion of a six months term for the dharna he participated in. The dharna was against the raise in prices of essential commodities and was conducted by the D.M.K. The first batch of the sit-in agitation held in Thanjavur, the native place of Kalignar Karunanidhi. After he was arrested, A.K. Velan presided over the second batch of dharna held before the Thanjavur Collector's Office, where he was also arrested. Before this incident, he used to have dharshan of Paramacharyar in Chennai and other camps whenever he had an opportunity. Thus his hesitation was due to the sudden change in the path of his life.

He went to the Ilayattankudi camp, taking courage, with the dutiful feeling that he should not disobey the orders from SriMaTham. The Pulavar was liked by the SriMaTham assistants and officials. One reason for this cordiality was that he was himself a man of goodness and modesty. The other reason was that he was among the people who received direct blessings from Paramacharyar.

The SriMaTham people received him with kindness and inquired about his kSema lAbha (health and prosperity). They took him to the office and seated him. Meantime, the news reached the pIThAdhipati (pontiff). PeriyavargaL was then in his blessing posture in the adhiSTAna Shiva temple adjacent to the camp. It was the adhiSTAnam of the 65thpIThAdhipati of Kamakoti PiTham, Sri (Sudarsana) Mahadevendra Saraswati SwamigaL, who was Paramacharyar's Parameshti-guru. When Paramacharyar was in the Ilayattankudi camp, a variety of Atmika sadas (spiritual conferences) and shAstra sammelana (scriptural meetings) took place at frequent intervals. The Shaastric lessons for the then younger Periyavar Jayendra SwamigaL was also going on, which were taught by very great Vedic pundits, even from the adjacent states of Andhra and Karnataka. The place which was devoid of the modern facilities was nevertheless in the mood of festivity, with visits from the devotees near and far.

bramachary (bachelor) came and took us to the adhiSTAnam as directed. It was a small temple with a small building with some surrounding space. Grass had grown all over the floor. With compound walls on four sides, a peaceful atmosphere was prevalent there. Paramacharyar had taken his seat at one side of the sannidhi of the frontal hall. Some great people were participating in a conversation with him. Velan went and prostrated with the fear of what Paramacharyar might say to him. The sage gave a look at Velan, his face tilting up. As Velan stood joining his palms in reverence, he realized that it was not a harsh but a benevolent look; the light of the sage's glance flashed and ran like lightning; he raised his hand and blessed. The assistant nearby gave akSata and vibUti. Earlier, during every darshan Paramacharyar used to make him sit, speak a few words, give prAsadam with a touch of his hand and bless by a raised hand.* It was not so on that day. When we had pradakSiNa of the prAkAra we saw Sri Jayendra Periyavar on the other side conversing amiably with the students of the Veda Paatashaalaa, sitting on the grass. When we bowed to him, he inquired "Eppo vandheL (when did you come)?" and asked us to be seated there.

"As per Periyavaa's directions only I had sent a person there asking you to come here! You have no physical problems after having 'gone there' and come back (I hope)?"

Velan could not open his mouth to speak. He could only gesture that he had no physical problems and was peaceful.

Sri Jayendrar continued: "You did it only for the welfare of the people. Nothing wrong with that. So many ways to work for the welfare of the world. Good things can be done in other ways also. Are there any ways that are not in our TirukkuraL or the Tamil Literature?

"You can do sevA in those other ways. Aren't you having a large family, profession, responsibilities and duties? Periyavaa had such an abhiprAyam (opinion about you). Which was why the call here on your return trip."

Velan said nothing in return. We bowed and took leave.

Velan could not talk for sometime. His misty eyes revealed the melting of his heart. When we took leave of people in the SriMaTham camp and came near our car, the people from the catering area who were known to us approached us and compelled, "You can start after the night puja and bhojana thereafter." We explained to them the urgency we had to visit Thanjai the same night and then return to Chennai as we had to be present in the city on the next day. Asking us to wait for a minute, one of them went and came back with three packs of pongal and puLiyodara (tamarind rice), and gave them to us with compulsion.

For the apex position that Paramacharyar was in, in what way was this A.K. Velan a person to keep in his mind and worry about? A.K. Velan individually was not a great person to be considered or expected of in a kAryArtha way; he was also not a rich man, or a man of position. He also did not have anything that is not found elsewhere. He had nothing except that he was a devotee, a man of love and humility and a truthful man. He was the owner of an ordinary studio. He was not a man who amassed lakhs in the film industry. And he was a man with a big family. Next to God, it can be seen only in Paramacharyar: his care to regulate the actions of a person, his love to take into his fold, his thoughts to correct and guide. Thousands of people in our country have had such experiences from Paramacharyar; are still getting them. Many would cherish them as great treasure in their heart and discuss them as rare honours and gifts. Whenever I used to meet such people, I felt that the world did not know about such treasures and was eager to bring them out. The reason behind the publication of this book Paramacharya was only that yearning to give expression to those experiences.

When I reminded him of this Ilayattankudi incident and was conversing with him, Tiru. Pulavar A.K. Velan told me a subtle point. "When one gets the opportunity of a first darshan of Paramacharyar, one should keenly observe, remember and follow verbatim, what the sage expresses very subtly in a half or three quarters of a word, with the backing of a complete prevision. People who had shown sincerity in following that subtle advice have come to gains, and they adore it as his divine power. Those who neglect the subtle advice, when they get totally different experiences, would regret that they were pre-warned, only they themselves did not heed. One cannot but wonder at such great divine power, highlighted by the experiences of a great number of his devotees.

"You reminded me of what Sri Jayendra SwamigaL told me the other day: that there were no ways that did not find a place in our Tamil literature and books; and that service can be done in one or more of those ways. I am now reminded of another rare incident that happened to me sometime back. When I had my first darshan of him in Noombal, the directions Paramacharyar gave me was nothing but 'Continue to do your Tamil services'! You talked about me, my family and my undertakings in great detail. He listened to them, inquired still more about other details and yet gave the direction to continue to do only my Tamil services. Since I did not have the clarity and conviction of following Paramacharyar's dictum then and continued with my temple construction works, I suffered expenses beyond my capcity. We started the sculptural works using the stone slabs brought from a hill near Kanchipuram known to be suitable for such works. We also got the full clearance and cooperation of the temple administration officials. We started our holy works on an auspicious day. Yet things did not go as planned and desired by us. I am now reminded that I did not get the blessings I asked him on that day for these works." Velan went emotional as he spoke about this incident.

Velan also remembered and told about his yet another darshan at this same Ilayattankudi on a previous, rare occasion. The two darshans are very different, yet the abhimAnam (affection) is the same in both.

"When I was returning in my car with family after having bath and darshan in Rameswaram, we came across the signboard that the road to Madurai was closed, so we had to take a diversion via Tiruvadhavur. The early night had already passed. We went in a wrong way and later inquired and found the right direction, but it was ten o' clock in the night by then. The children were hungry. The small hotels in the villages we passed through were already closed. Taking the correct road, we went to search for a restaurant near a theatre, but there were no food facilities in that area. We were asked to go to Pudukottai straight for food. We would have come some distance in the road we were directed to travel. We saw a large arch across the road with the words, 'Welcome, Sri Kanchi Kamakoti pIThAdhipati Jagatguru Sri Sankaracharyar!'

Only then I remembered about Paramacharyar's Chettinad camp. I asked the driver to go to the camp. My people in the car said, "It is going to be one o' clock now. It won't be polite to wake up and trouble the people in SriMaTham. Let us go straight to Pudukottai." It was not that I did not have that idea. But my mind was anxious that having come thus far, it was not proper to pass by without having a darshan, when SwamigaL is camping nearby and en route.

I said, "Let us go there and see. If we have the chance let us have a darshan. Or else let us have a pradakSiNa of the place and go. When we reached Ilayattankudi, I had already directed that the car driver should not sound the horn and wake up people there. Except of a light here and there, there was nothing shining in the area. A temple pond of moderate size, with some houses and coconut trees around it were seen. We were keen to meet somebody who would know where Periyavar would be staying. The car was driven very slowly. A brahmin held up his hand and stopped the car. Even before I got down opening the car door, he asked me, "You are A.K. Velan, right?" With eagerness, I asked him about where Periya SwamigaL was staying. He said, "First get down the steps of the pond and wash your hands and legs. Ask the people in the car to do the same." After complying with his directions, we asked him if he could take us to where Periya SwamigaL was staying.

"First, you people come this way. Can have darshan after the AhAra (food). All this only as per PeriyavaaL's directions: that you are coming and that we must do these things to you."

How did he know about us, who were wandering somewhere? I could not understand how could he know about us and take us into his fold at this time of past midnight. All of us including the children were seated in a line on the floor at one side of the camp and served hot cooked rice, pitlaa (a special sambar) and steaming hot rasam. After 25 years, I could not forget that tasty meal. Two people carrying hurrycane lamps, we were taken to the adhiSTAnam. SwamigaL was awake at that time of the night, as if to give us his darshan. We prostrated to him with a sense of immense gratitude. He inquired about our trips and travelling. We asked for his permission to go to Thanjai that same night. He said that it was enough if we took the trip only in the morning. I humbly told him again about the urgency. He again emphatically said that we could go in the next morning.

Our intention was not to trouble the MaTham for our night stay. We were accommodated at one another side of the camp on convenient, large jamakkALams (thick, cotton beds) with a mAppiLLai pillow at the foot of a wall (a raised construct about the height of two bricks at the foot of a wall in choultries to serve as pillow for the wayfarers). Within 15 mintues of our settling down to sleep, a man came and said, "Periyavaa told us to give milk to the young children. Took us some time, should excuse." I later came to know that Periyavar had noticed our children below eight years when we prostrated to him and had said, "The children would not have eaten properly. Give them some milk." What a great and compassionate heart Periyavar had!

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