Sri Kasi madam aadheenam Thiruppanandal
Kumara Swami Mutt Kedar Ghat Kasi (Varanasi),
Sri Kumara swami Mutt at the kedar Ghat, Varanasi and Sri Kasi Mutt at Tirupanandal in Thanjavur District are two of the renowed saivite Mutts in India, founded by or owing their origin to saint Kumaraguruparar who hailed during the seventeenth century in the southern most part of our country and rendered invaluable social and spiritual service, especially in the Gangetic, region, by dint of his profound learning, wisdom and spiritual prowess.
The name ‘Kasi Mutt’ is significant in that if indicates the institution’s association with the holy city of kasi (Varanasi) and, in particular, with the Kumara swami Mutt at the Kedar Ghat, found Ed by the Saint himself.
Kumaraguruparar was born about three hundred and fifty years ago at Srivaikuntam, now a small town on the northern bank of the river Thamarabarani,midway between Tirunelveli and Tiruchendur, His parents who were ardent devotees of Lord Murtha (Kart hick) at Tiruchendur, were chidless for long.Kumaraguruparar was born to them as a result of their fervent prayers to Muruha.The child did not speak until he was about five years old, The intensive faith of the parents in the Lord’s grace At the age of five, when on a visit to Him yielded results. At the age of five, when on a visit to the shrine at also sang, extemporarily,a song of a classical type, known as Kandar KALIVENBA in adoration of Lord Murtha (skanda) much to the delight of the parents and to the surprise and admiration of the devotees then assembled there.Kumaraguruparar thus came to be first known to the world at large as a born-poet and a child prodigy graced by termed as a climax and fruition of accelerated spiritual maturity and wisdom gained in former births.
May be, Kumuraguruparar had passed the age of boyhood, when, it is said, he took leave of his parents and left srivaikundam promoted by an urge to seek and find a guru, a spiritual master.Earlier, when on a visit to Tiruchendur, he had heared a voice from the heavens to the effect that the person before whom his words faulterd, would be his guru.
When proceeding on this quest, Kumaraguruparar first halted at Madurai.Tirumalai Nayakar was then ruling this part of Tamilnadu (as a Vassal of the kingdom of vijayanagar ) with Madurai as capital. Kumaraguruparar worshipped at the great temple there and composed a cluster of poems knows as PILLAITAMIL in adoration of the goddess Meenakshi.This composition, MEENAKSHI-AMMAN PILLAI-TAMIL, is well known for the beauty of its style, rhythm and richness of import. It is said that promoted by a divine call, TirumalaiNayakar contacted kumaraguruparar and arranged for a public exposition of the poems in the temple. Tradition has it that in the course of the exposition, the goddess appeared in the guise of an young girl, graced the poet by putting a garland of pearls around his neck and then disappeared.atahis incident, it may be remembered,
Kandar Kalivenba: A translation into Hindi and English-Published by Sri Kasi Mutt, Triupanandal. Was the second one showing that the poet was a great soul and must have come into this world with a divine mission.Needless to say that Tirumalai Nayakar honoured the poet in a big way, made his visit to Madurai a memorable one, by celebrating it verily as a festival.
During his stay at Madurai, Kumaraguruparar composed poetical works known as MADURAI KALAMBAKAM and MEENAHSHI AMMAI KURM. It is said that at the request of Tirumalai Nayakar he also composed a code of ethics antitled NEETHI NERI VILAKKAM comprising of one hundred and two verses.
From Madurai, Kumaraguruparar proceeded to Tiruvarur,workshipped Lord Thiyagaraja and stayed there for sometime. While at Tiruvarur, he composed a series of poems entitled TIRUVARUR NAANMANI in the praise of Lord Thiyagaraja.
Leaving Tiruvarur, Kumaraguruparar proceed to Dharmapuram. On reaching that place he experienced a feeding of elation and ecsaty foretelling that some thing great and good was to happen to him ere long. He was soon to realide his objective of finding his spiritual master, the one preordained by providence.
The sanyasin who then adorned the ‘GNANAPEETAM’ of dharmapuram Mutt was one Masilamani Desikar. On entering the mutt kumaraguruparar paid his respect to that sage. Desikar asked our poet if he could explain (not the literal meaning but) the philosophical import of a certain verse in the peria puraanam (biographies of sixty three saivite saints) where in saint sekkizhar, its author, has adverted to the ecstasy and bliss experienced by saint sundarar (one of the canonical four) the moment he had ‘darsan’ of the lord at thillai (Chidambaram). Kumaragurupara could not readily answer. His words faultered. Remembering intuitively the heavenly voice that he heared at tiruchendur, he realized that he was in the august presence of that very personage, his guru, preordained as such by the lord. He immediately prostrated before desikar and entreated that he might be taken as his disciple and given initiation.
Desikar acceded to Kumaraguruparar’s request but desired that Kumaraguruparar should go on pilgrimage to kasi and return as a prelude to initiation. Kumaraguruparar pleaded for waiver of this condition explaining the risks and delay involved in making the trip from the far south to kasi in those days. The guru was pleased to modify the condition. He stated that Kumaraguruparar should at least go to Chidambaram, and stay there for a ‘MANDALAM’ (45 days), worship the lord of thillai (Chidambaram) and then come back to him. Kumaraguruparar agreed to do so and took leave of his guru.
On his way to Chidambaram, Kumaraguruparar made a brief halt at vaitheeswarankoil, worshipped at the temple there and composed a ‘PILLAITAMIL’ IN ADORATION OF LORD muthukumaraswami (Murtha) in that shrine. This visit by the saint to vaitheeswarankoil, it is said, was in response to a divine call (by Murtha).
Desikar repeated his wish that kumaraguruparar should visit kasi and that there he should strive to revive the Vedic religion which had been relegated to the background (due to animosity between different religionists) and thus revive the cult of saivism in the north.
We may pause here and digress a little the aforesaid meeting between the pontiff of dharmapuram and kumaragurupara, reminds us about the first meeting between Ramakrishna paramahamsa and Vivekananda, nearly two centuries later. The former was then a relised soul, a ‘gnani’ but the latter, though a highly intellectual and well-read person, in the ordinary sense of these terms, lacked the requisite spiritual experience, as such, until then. But the fact that Vivekananda was then an aspirant and has an irrepressible yearning to know about and realize the truth, qualified him to receive the blessing of Ramakrishna. We may draw an analog here between the meeting between kumaraguruparar and masilamani desikar on the one hand and Vivekananda and Ramakrishna on the other. We may even continue the analogy and refer to kumaraguruparar visiting kasi at the behest of his guru and to Vivekananda visiting America after receiving the blessing of his master. The similarities in both the case are striking and obvious.
We may now revert to our subject proper. Kumaraguruparar under look to render service as desired by his guru and took leave of him. It must have taken some months for him to reach kasi. We may well infer the difficulties he would have experienced on the one hand and experiences he would have gained on the other during that long and arduous journey.
On the eve of reaching kasi, kumaraguruparar prayed to the goddess of learning to confer hergracee upon him. He composed in adoration of her a series of verses known as ‘SAKALAKALAA VALLI MAALAI’
The religions of kasi was then part of and a province in the moghal empire. Aurangazeb (1658 -1701) was then the emperor at Delhi. Dara shuko, a brother of arungazeb, was badusha (ruler) at kasi. He was a scholar and is known to have translated the Upanishads into Persian. It is said that he was tolerant towards other religions, a rare trait in Muslim rulers.
Soon after his arrival at kasi, kumaraguruparar would have naturally desired to meet the badusha. Notwithstanding the genial attitude of that ruler, it appeared, there were practical difficulties for a Hindu sanyasin like him in getting admission into the palace. May be he was actually prevented by the guards from going in and having an audience with the badusha. Whatever it was, situation must have warranted him to make use of his spiritual powers. Our saint, it is said, got astride a lion and (it must be) without any obstruction whatever, entered the palace and thus had his first audience with the badusha. It may stated in the connection that during the moghal days, to capture a lion a live was considered as rare feat and those who could accomplish this received royal patronage.
Dara shuko had then convened an interreligious conference at kasi. Delegates representing several religions attended that conference on his invitation. This conference was in sessions when kumaraguruparar set foot at kasi.
The badusha invited kumaraguruparar to come and address the conference. The sage accepted the invitation and addressed the sessions. He spoke in Hindustani, the language of that region. The subject of his talk saivism, its fundamentals, its catholicity and universality. He explained its tenets in the light of saliva Sid hanta, its basic philosophy.
It may be stated that the sage had, in his prayer to the goddess of learning, expressed a desire to the effect that he may be gifted with such a power of expression as would humble even emperors. The audience which heard the sage’s talk with rapt attention became rapturous. What was more, the badusha who was already all respect and admiration for the sage, bowed to him, expressed his appreciation of his talk and declared that he could ask of him, any favour he liked. It was thus evident that kumaraguruparar had received the grace of the goddess of learning in full.
Kumaraguruparar told the badusha that he may be given an abode at kasi from where he could be enabled to propagate saivism. The badusha readily agreed to grant the sage’s request and also given him the option to choose a place which may be to his liking.
Tradition has it, that the shrine of kedarnath at varanasi, on the bank of the ganga, at the site which now bears its name, (namely, kedar ghat) was then in ruins and covered by shrubs and debris, and that kumaraguruparar who had, by divine intuition, come to know about it was then praying for the guidance of the lord (kedarnath) in this respect. It was then that the badusha offered to grant him a site whereon he could construct an ‘ASRAM’ and, what was more, left the choice of the site to the saint himself.
Giuided (innately) by the lord, kumaraguruparar told the badusha that an area of land encompassed by the flight of a kite (garudan) which would make its appearance and fly overhead might be granted to him. The badusha agreed accordingly. Ere long, a kite appeared in the sky as if by a miracle, made a circular flight overhead covering a fairly large area which included the site on which the shrine of kedaranath once stood, and also the site where on the (kumara swami) mutt came to be built later. The badusha made an absolute gift of those areas to our saint.
Prior to the arrival of kumaraguruparar to kasi, that city was experiencing the great gloom. The temple of viswanath had already been demolished due to fued and faction resulting from intolerance. Other important temples there like the panduranga temple and the kedarnath temple has also shared the same fate. It was against this background that kumaraguruparar carried there the message of tolerance and love, was able to bring in peace and harmony strife – ridden society, and to prove that the Hindus and Muslims could live together as good neighbors respecting each other’s faith.
Kumaraguruparar’s good rapport with the rule and the ruling class and the amicable relationship between persons owing allegiance to different faiths, which he could affect as a result of his preachings, paved the way for the removation of Hindu temples including those of viswanath and panduranga.
Kumaraguruparar, who become almost a permanent resident of kasi for the rest of his life, it known to have visited dharmapauram on four occasions and paid his respects to his guru. On one such occasion, it is said, he took with him all the kasi, tendered them at the feet of his guru and declined the offer and suggested that it behooved them for the benefit of people of that region to whome that property should rightly belong.
Kumaragurupara stayed at kasi for well-nigh thirty year (1658-1688). He gave regular discourses on Tamil Culture, its religions, literature and scripabled the local people to grasp and understand clearly expositions, and, what was more, the centiments expressed by him touched to their hearts. His talks reveal his profound knowledge of scriptures, both in Tamil and Sanskrit.
It said that kumaraguruparar gave daily discourses in Hindi on Kamba Ramayana which were so inspiring that many devotees and scholars among whom was the illustrious Hindi poet and saint Sri Tulasi das attended them.
Kumaraguruparar was a spiritual giant unequaled in his generation. He was aphilosopher of rare intellectual acumen, a divine poet, a great educationist, an eminent preacher well versed not only in Tamil but in Sanskrit and Hindi as well and, above all, a leader who could, by sheer force of his spiritual personality, persuade other to conform to his way of thinking and achieve the impossible.
In his monumental work on the ethics – needhi Neri valagam – kumaraguruparar has highlighted the value and importance of learning, as many as nineteen out of total of one hundred and two verses nearly one fifth of it. That the saint has chosen to deal with this subject of learning so elaborately in a treatise on ethics, would suggest that in his view, learning should serve us a proper basis for shaping and regulating a morally sound society. In one of his poem dealing with learning, the saint has, incidentally also emphasized one’s moral duty offending the needy.
Though the Needhi Neri Vilakkam is generally, stated to be an epitome of Tirukkural, we find that Kumaraguruparar has included there in certain ennobling concepts as ethics which are not referred to by Tiruvalluvar.
Two of the verses in Needhi Neri Vilakkam seen to have had a special appeal to Gandhi. They are as follows, as rendered in English by one Rev.H.Stokes.
Youth is a bubble on the water; riches in full abundance are the long waves that roll on the water; the body is a writing on the water. Why, O my friend! Worship us not the court of our God?
Kumaraguruparar attained “SAMADI” at kasi on the third day after full moon in May 1688.
The kumara swami mutt and the temple of kedaranath, both associated with the memory of our saint, are now two of the important land mark sat kasi. The mutt (not so much the building but the institution), the spiritual centre, as such, serves as a beacon light to guide and illuminate us in the realm of ethics, religious and philosophy. The saints successors- in- interest, the presiding sanyasins of the mutt, have all along continued to foster and carry out his noble mission, through the institutions at kasi and tirupanandal and their various branches.
The opulent and well-to-do admirers and followers of kumaraguruparar, including rajas and nobles have, during his life time and after, gifted properties to the two institutions, namely, the kumara swami mutt at Varanasi and the kasi mutt at tirupanandal, to foster and carry out the ideals cherished by the saint.
The following are some of the donors who have liberally contributed in this behalf.