Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Mani Mandapa Temple at Orikkai

Former Director of Archaeology
Former Vice Chancellor of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya
(SCSVMV University)

A great temple for Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamiji, 68th Shankaracharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, built at Orikkai, a suburb of Kanchi about five km from Kanchi is consecrated on 28th Jan, 2011.

The temple is unique in many ways that embodies the age old tradition combined with modern aspirations. The temple falls under the category of suddha variety, meaning entirely built of one material, namely stone. There are other temples built of mixed materials like stone, bricks, wood, metal and mortar, that are called misra vimanas but when built of one material alone, as in the case of the Great Temple of Thanjavur, it comes to be called Shuddha Vimana, generally built by Emperors.

Secondly, the main temple is about one hundred feet in height, symbolizing the life span of His Holiness who lived amidst us for nearly one hundred years.  All ancient temples were built, reflecting certain basic philosophies and this follows those traditional concepts. The superstructure called the Sikhara is about 56 feet and the height is one and three fourth, the width that is 1: 1.3/4 proportions bears a particular name indicating happiness (Ananda vimana), according to the sthapati.

This was built by Ganapathi Sthapati, one of the foremost traditional Sthapatis of Tamilnadu, who comes in the family of the builders of the Thanjavur temple. He was ably assisted by his son and brothers. His other cousin brother also named Ganapathi is the famous one who designed the Valluvar Statue and the Valluvar Kottam. Both the Ganapathis belonged to the village Pillaiyar patti near Karaikkudi in Tamilnadu and bear the name of Ganesa of that place. Both are distinguished masters of architecture and sculpture.

The white granite stones for this temple have come from a village named Pattimalai kuppam about 50 miles from Kanchipuram. The temple consists of two parts, the main vimana with sikhara and second the front mandapa with one hundred pillars.

The main sikhara is built on a high upapitha and with the traditional with several musings. The sikhara is built in five storeys topped by the stupika also made of stone. The sikhara is beautified with rows of corner kutas, intermediate shalas, and the central Projections (bhadras) provided with windows (jalas) for lighting and ventilation.

The inner sanctum is not the usual garbhagraha type but is a mandapa with raised pithika with four pillars at the corner. There is passage to go around and another concentric passage which is spacious to go around. Thus, there are two concentric passages around with mandapa in the centre where a Portrait of His Holiness will be enshrined. In front of His portrait is to be consecrated His Padukas (sandals) made of sandal wood and covered with gold plate. Essentially, it is a Mandapa and hence called Paduka Mani mandapa. The Architectural treatises call this type of structures as Mandapika Prasadas.

Such structures are known from early times. A typical example comes from Srinagar , in Kashmir where the  famous Sankaracharya temple is built as Mandapika prasada. Originally, the Sankaracharya temple had circular garbha graham and is a very ancient temple. Around 1644, a Hindu King named Gopadeva added the central Vedika of the sanctum supported by four pillars. There are many such pillared sanctums built in the time of the Gupta kings in the fourth and fifth centuries. For example, such pillars temples are in Vidisa in Madhya Pradesh. Also, there is a fine temple in northern Karnataka near Badami (the ancient Vatapi). Such temples were not only built in India but also in ancient Cambodia. One of the most ancient temples at Sambhor Prai Kuk, in North Eastern Cambodia, assigned to 4th cent is also built in this form. In fact, most other temples in Cambodia are built in the mandapika style with a mandapa in the centre of the sanctum to enshrine the deity. Mahaswamiji was a great admirer and keen lover of the history of Cambodia and it really seems to be a divine coincidence that this mandap dedicated to him recalls this tradition.

Guru Parampara

Shiva Tandava
Another significant feature of this temple is two significant sculptures introduced for the first time portraying two well known dhyana slokas in Sanskrit. The sculpture on the south wall of the main temple portrays the Guru Parampara - Narayana, Brahma, Vasishta, Sakti, Parasara, Vyasa, Sukha followed by Gaudapada, Govinda yogindra, and (Adi) Sankaracharya and His disciples. This is an illustrious sculpture that would enable the visitor to correlate the dhyana sloka recited by all with the sculpture and is certainly a fine way of introducing art of sculpture to the devotees.

(Sri Adi Sankara and His Disciples)

Similar is the sculpture on the northern wall that depicts the Pradosha Tandava of Siva based on a sculpture from Badami 6th cent. Visitors to the temple who know this verse of Sandhya tandava would welcome the portrayal.

Pradosha Tandava of Shiva
There is another sculpture on the southern wall of the temple representing a Ganesa. It is a beautiful sculpture that would attract the attention of art lovers. The entrance to the sanctum also has some interesting sculptures. Sculptures of both Ganga and Yamuna are portrayed at both the door jambs of the entrances. In addition, the creeper designs here portray 16 forms of the Guru at the outer door jambs while the inner entrance depicts the twelve Jyotir lingas.

The front mandapa built of one hundred pillars is conceived in the form of a cosmic chariot drawn by horse (under carving). Built in five bays, the central ceiling carries a mandala of the 12 rasis symbolically indicated by Mesha, Rishabha, Mithuna etc. The mandapa has a very well laid out stepped entrances on three sides. The steps are decorated with caparisoned elephants. The porch in the front has wheel with spokes symbolically depicting the twelve rasis – the twelve months. Once the horse sculptures are ready and fitted, it would resemble celestial horses drawing the chariot of cosmic time and space in which the devotees are likely to move through the cosmic presence.   The huge nandi in front is a huge monolith and after finishing touches are given, it would be one of the great nandis in Tamilnadu.

The temple it must be understood is the tallest and traditionally well laid out physical space in Tamilnadu that has been undertaken in this century.

Monday, February 7, 2011

God in human form – by Dr Subramanya Swamy

Parmacharya Sri Chandrashekhar Saraswati – God in human form

I have bowed before only one sanyasi in my life, and that is Sri Chandrasekhar Saraswathi, known to the world as the Parmacharya. It is not that I am arrogant or that I have no respect for sanyasis and sadhus. In fact I respect many sadhus in this country for their learning and social services. But my upbringing, first in an English convent school, and then ten years in USA had created a distance between me and traditional Hindu culture of bowing and prostrating before any elder, or anyone in saffron clothes. Therefore, I was the “modern” Indian, believer in science, and with little concern for spiritual diversions.

In fact till the age of 30, I had not even heard of a god like human being called Sri Chandrasekhar Saraswathi. It was a chance meeting with an Indian student at Harvard in his room in the university hostel, that I saw a picture of Parmacharya on top of this student’s TV set. I asked him: “Who is he? And why are you keeping his picture?” The student just avoided the question. I also forgot about it, except that Parmacharya shining smiling face in that photograph got etched in my memory. Six years later, as my Pan American Airways plane was about to land at Delhi airport during the Emergency, I saw that smiling Parmacharya’s face reappear before me for a brief second for no reason at that time. I was coming to Delhi surreptitiously to make my now famous appearance in Parliament and subsequent disappearance, while a MISA warrant was pending for my arrest in the Emergency. At that moment, as the plane landed, I resolved that whenever the Emergency gets over, I shall search for Parmacharya and meet him.

In 1977, after the Emergency was over, and the Janata Party in Power I went to Kanchipuram to see the Parmacharya. It was in sheer curiosity that I went. Some friends arranged for me to come before him. It was a hot June evening, and Parmacharya was sitting in a cottage, a few kilometers outside Kanchipuram. As soon as he saw me, he abruptly got up, and turned his back on me, and went inside the cottage. My friends who took me there were greatly embarrassed, and I was puzzled. Since no body including the other sadhus at that ashram had any idea what went wrong, I told my friends that we should leave, since Parmacharya was not interested in giving me “darshan”.
From the cottage, we walked a few hundred yards to where my car, by which I had come to the ashram, had been parked. Just as I was getting into the car, a priest came running to me. He said “Parmacharya wants to see you, so please come back”. Again puzzled, I walked back to the cottage.
Back at the cottage, a smiling Parmacharya was waiting for me. He first asked me in Tamil: “Do you understand Tamil?” I nodded. In those days, I hardly knew much Tamil, but I hoped the Parmacharya would speak in the simplest Tamil to make it easy to understand.

He then asked me another question: “Who gave you permission to leave my cottage?” The Tamil word he used for “permission” was of Sanskrit origin, which I immediately understood. So in my broken Tamil with a mixture of English words, I replied: “Since you turned your back on me and went inside the cottage, I thought you did not want to see me.” This reply greatly irritated the priest standing in attendance on the Parmacharya. He said “You cannot talk like this to the Parmacharya”. But Parmacharya asked him to be silent, and then said that when he saw me, he was reminded of a press cutting he had been keeping in store inside the cottage and he had gone inside to fetch it.

“Here it is” he said. “Open it and read it. I opened the folded press cutting, and with some difficulty, I read the Tamil question answer piece printed in Dinamani Kadir, a magazine of Indian Express group. The press cutting had a photograph of me and below it the question asked by a reader: “Is the hero of the Emergency struggle, Dr.Subramanian Swamy a Tamilian?” And the answer given was, “Yes he is a native of Cholavandhan of Madurai District.”

Parmacharya asked me, “Is this your photograph, and is the answer given to the question correct?” I nodded. Then Parmacharya said: “Now you may go. But in the future when you come, you cannot leave till I give you permission to leave.” Everyone around me was naturally very impressed, that Parmacharya had given so much special attention especially since in those days, he often went on manuvvat (silence vow). As I left a sense of elation at the meeting with Parmacharya. I wanted to come back again. I could not understand why a “modern” person like me should want to see a sanyasi, but I felt the urge strongly.

A month later, the Tamilnadu Assembly elections were on, and I was passing Kanchipuram in the campaign rail. So I told the Janata Party workers to spare me some time to pay a visit to the Parmacharya.

When I again reached the same cottage, a priest was waiting for me. He said: “Parmacharya is expecting you.” I asked: “How is this possible, when I decided at that last minute to come, without appointment?” The priest replied. “That is a silly thing to ask. Parmacharya is divine. He knows every thing”.

Sure enough a radiant smiling Parmacharya received me. I thought that this time too, our meeting would last a few minutes, and after a few pleasantries, I can continue on my election campaign. But not so. Parmacharya spoke to me for 1-1 1/2 hours on all important subjects. He gave me guidelines on how to conduct myself in politics and what was necessary to protect the national interest of the country.

He told me that in politics, I should never bother about money or position, because both would follow me whenever an occasion demanded. But I should not be afraid to stand alone. He told me that all great persons of India were those who changed the thinking of the people from a particular set way of thought to a new way of thinking. “That is the permanent achievement for a politician, not merely becoming Minister or Prime Minister. Great persons, starting with Adi Shankara, to Mahatma Gandhi dared to stand alone and change the trend of people’s thought. But did either hold a government position?” he asked me.  He said “If you dare to think out fresh solutions for current problems, without bothering about your popularity, and without caring for whether a government position comes to you or not, you will have my blessings.” When he said that I felt a strange sensation of happiness. I suddenly felt very strong.
During the period since my first meeting with the Parmacharya, I had thought a lot about him, heard his praise from so many people. From what I learnt and what I saw of him, I began to feel his divinity. There was no other human like him. If nothing else, he was one sadhu who did not bless Indira Gandhi during the Emergency when in the height of her power and at the height if the nation’s sycophancy, she came and prostrated before him. And yet when Indira Gandhi was down during the Janata rule, he received her and gave his blessings to her after she repented for the Emergency.
It is this thought, every time (that if I do something sincerely, and for what is for the good of the people) that Parmacharya’s blessings will be with me and see me through the interim period of public and media criticism and unpopularity, that has given me this courage that today even my enemies do not deny that I possess. In such endeavours, even though in the beginning when most thought that I was doomed, I came out it successful in the end because of his blessing.

In the next few instalments I shall, without drawing the Parmacharya’s  name into the controversy, reveal many such initiatives that I took with his blessings. From 1977 to his day of Samadhi, I met the Parmacharya so many times and received his oral benediction and advice. But I never gave it publicity or got myself photographed. During his life time, I did not boast of my proximity to him either, although whenever I came to the Kanchi Mutt, always without appointment, he would see me. If he was asleep, he was awakened by his close helpers to whom he had obviously given instructions about me. There may not be another god in human form for another 100 years, but it was my honour to have known him and received his blessings. He may not be here today in human form, but because of what he had instructed me, I know and feel his is around. 

God in Human Form – Part II by Dr. Subramanian Swamy

After wonderful discourse from Maha Periyawal Sri Chandrashekhara Saraswathi in 1977, I went to have Parmacharya’s darshan numerous times. Whenever I had a difficult question that I could not answer, I would go and ask him for guidance. He gave me audience also in abundance. I got to see him whenever I came to Kanchipuram, or at Belgam in Karnataka or at Satara in Maharashtra or wherever else he was. But I did not publicize these darshan sessions in the newspapers as some others were doing. This was greatly appreciated by the Mutt officials and pujaris.

When Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, defeating the Janata Party, I was upset, and wondered if Emergency would be declared again. So I went with a group of Janata workers to the Karnataka – Maharashtra border, where Sri Parmacharya was camping on his walking tour. When I reached him, he was sitting in a hut almost as if he was waiting for me. As soon as he saw me, he got up and started briskly walking to a nearby temple. I just stood there watching him. Soon he stopped walking and sent someone to ask me to come to him alone.

When I reached where he was standing, he said to me anticipating my question; “It is a good thing that Indira Gandhi has got an absolute majority. At this juncture, the country needs a stable government, and only Indira Gandhi is in a position to give that stability.” “But what if she declares another Emergency and tries to put us all in jail?” I asked.

To this question, Parmacharya only smiled and put his hand up in his known style of bestowing his blessings. I did not realize at that time, that Indira Gandhi  had before elections, gone to Hubli in Karnataka where he was camping and  prostrated before the Parmacharya. On her own, she had vowed to him and had said that if she came back to power, she will not repeat the mistakes of the past of declaring an Emergency. Then she asked for his blessings, which the Parmacharya had given by raising his hand and showing his palm.

As I was leaving, Parmacharya asked me if I could work to unite the opposition and include the communists in it. “Communists!” I asked in utter incredulity. I added: “The Soviet Union has just invaded Afghanistan (December 27, 1979), and are preparing to capture Pakistan , and then soon they will swallow India . How can we believe the Communists?”

“Not like that at all” said Parmacharya to me. He clearly gave me a hint that Communists will never be a danger to India . In fact he gave me a clear indication that in some years to come the Soviet Union will not be there at all. I just could not believe what I heard. But eleven years later, that is exactly what happened. The Soviet Union broke up in 1991 into 16 countries, a development no human being foresaw. Parmacharya was above human, a divine soul. He could see it. To this day I regret that I did not act on his advice because I spent nearly a decade (ten years 1980 -90) opposing Communism, little realizing that it was going to collapse of its own weight. I earned the Communists enmity for nothing. That is the only advice of Parmacharya I did not act on.  On other occasions, I blindly followed whatever he told me. Of course, the golden rule with Parmacharya was that he would not on his own offer any advice, but when I asked him, he showed me the way. When my mind was made up on anything, I did not ask him what I should do. Of course if I did not have his blessings, I rarely succeeded.

In 1987 for example, I tried to land with some fisherman in the island of Katchathivu to assert the rights of fisherman under the Indo-Sri Lanka accord. MGR was Chief Minister then. He had me arrested in Madurai and put me up in Tamilnadu Hotel instead of Madurai jail. The then DGP, told me clearly that unless I give up the Katchathivu trip and agreed to return to Chennai, they would keep me under arrest. Those days I knew little criminal Law, so I agreed to return to Chennai not knowing my rights. After arriving in the city I drove to Kanchipuram and saw the Parmacharya. I told him of my humiliation and my inability to go to Katchathivu. Parmacharya smiled at me as if I was a child. He told me: “You go to Delhi and file a case in the Supreme Court against the arrest, and ask the court to direct the Tamilnadu government to make arrangements for you to go Katchathivu”.

So I flew that evening to Delhi . My wife is an advocate in the Supreme Court, so I asked her to draft my writ petition. She was shocked by my request, “The Supreme Court will laugh at you if you come directly on a question of arrest. You must first go before Magistrate in Madurai , then Sessions Court, the High Court, and then only to Supreme Court” she said.

I insisted that she draft the petition. So finally she said “As an advocate, I don’t want to look foolish in the Court. So I will draft your petition but the rest you do. I won’t associate with it.” But my blind faith in Parmacharya kept me going. With the petition filed, I appeared in the Court of the Chief Justice Venkataramiah. I arrived in the Court a few minutes before the Chief Justice took his seat. Many lawyers who recognized me met me to ask why I had come, they all laughed. All of them said: “Your Petition will not only be dismissed, but also the Chief Justice will pass remarks against your stupidity, and  for wasting the time of the Supreme Court.”

When my Petition came up for hearing, a miracle happened. Chief Justice Venkataramaiah asked the Tamilnadu Counsel (then Kuldip Singh, who became a famous Judge himself later) why the Government had arrested me. Taken by surprise at the Petition not being dismissed, Kuldip Singh stammered.  “Kuldip Singh went on to explain that a pro-LTTE mob was against me  going to Katchathivu, and the LTTE had also issued a threat to finish me. Chief Justice Venkataramaiah then burst out at Kuldip Singh. He thundered “Are you fit to call yourself a democratic government? If mob wants to stop Dr.Swamy, you arrest the mob not Dr.Swamy.”

That was the divine power of Parmacharya ; when he asked you to do anything, he also took measures to see that the right thing happened.

After the Supreme Court verdict, I met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Parliament House. Kuldip Singh had already informed him of the court verdict. So he told me: “Why did you not speak to me first? I would have told MGR to allow you. In any case, when you plan to go to Katchathivu, the navy and air force will give you cover. But the fishing boat on which you travel has to be provided by you.”

On May 8, 1988, I landed on Katchathivu and planted the Janata Party’s saffron and green flag, and prayed at the St.Anthony Church there. As I  approached the island, there were navel patrol boats on either side of my fishing vessel  which I had taken on hire. Two air force planes were flying over me. I felt grand like a king. My salutations went to the Parmacharya. He made the impossible possible. From being arrested in Madurai to being royally escorted to Katchathivu, only Parmacharya could arrange.

God in Human Form – Part III by Dr Subramanian Swamy

In 1981, I became successful in persuading the Chinese government in re-opening for Hindu pilgrims the route to Kailash and Manasarovar. After 3 years of persuading the Chinese, in April 1981 the Chinese strongman Deng Xiao Ping invited me to China to meet him. In that meeting, he told me that as a “special favour to me and my efforts and in recognition of my steady advocacy of improved Sino-Indian relations [ he used the term "lao peng yeou" 'meeting old friend' ] he was asking the officials to meet Indian counter parts to work out the arrangements for pilgrims to visit Kailash. Deng had in jest asked me “But you must go first”. He had said it jokingly, but I was keen to see Kailash and Manasarovar. So when I met Mrs. Gandhi in Delhi to tell her of my meeting with Deng, I told her that I will lead the first batch of pilgrims and that she should agree. She laughed and said “of course. I wish I could go too.”

The opening of Kailash and Manasarovar had been considered impossible by our Foreign Ministry officials. China is a communist country and Kailash and Manasarovar is in the most sensitive area of Tibet . Therefore how could China allow Indians, even if as Pilgrims, to walk into Tibet ? But the impossible happened because throughout the three years of talks with the Chinese, Parmacharya not only gave his blessings to me for this venture but encouraged me. “We must be friends with China and Israel ” he would keep telling me whenever I came to him for darshan and anugraha (blessings).
When the Kailash and Manasarovar re-opening was announced, the first batch consisting of 20 pilgrims was slated to go in the end of August. That meant in 30 days of walking from the end of August to late September. By the time, we return, it would be end of September. At those heights in the Himalayas , September meant snow and ice cold temperatures, and that we would have to walk! Foreign ministry officials told me that since the route had not been in use for nearly 25 years, it would be a rough walk. We would have to clear bushes on the way, and perhaps encounter animals and snakes!

To make matters worse, Inderjit Gupta, then a CPI Lok Sabha MP, and good friend of many years, asked my wife to prevent me from going on this trip since I would not return. “It requires mountaineers to trek this route, not people like us” he told her. Others told me that I should think of my family (of two daughters then age 11 and 8)and not venture on such foolishness. In fact one BJP MP, perhaps more out of jealousy than concern, told me that it is punya (blessing) to die on the route to Kailash. If that were so, I wondered, why not a single BJP or RSS leader has ever gone on a pilgrimage to Kailash? Perhaps because there are no Muslims there, nor a Masjid to demolish! BJP is anti-Muslim but not pro -Hindu, so Kailash means nothing of political value to them.

But the net result of all this was that a scare was created in my family and social circles. Many urged me to forget going to Kailash. I had done my duty, they said, in getting the route opened, but it is not necessary to go there. My daughters reminded me of my promise made the previous year that I would be with them on my birthday, which fell on September 15th. The previous year I had to be away to address a meeting in Bihar . If I went to Kailash I would again not be in Delhi on my birthday. This troubled me.
So anguished and confused by all this I flew to Bangalore , and drove down to where Parmacharya was camping. He was reading a book when I saw him. He put down his book and glasses, and asked me what brought me to him. “Kailash and Manasarovar route has been opened with your blessings. I have been asked by our Government to lead the first batch of pilgrims. But all my colleagues in Parliament are scaring me with stories of what can go wrong with me on this hazardous trip”.  Parmacharya  said in a comforting voice “Nothing will happen. You go and come. The opening of Kailash route is a great achievement for our country”

“I have only regret. That I will not be able to be with my daughters in Delhi on my birthday” I added. “When is your birthday?” He asked.  “September 15th. But the journey back will not be completed before September 30th.” Parmacharya only smiled. He puts his palm in blessing and merely said: “you go and come”. I left on September 1st on my journey.

My journey to Manasarovar lake and then for a darshan of Kailash went very smoothly thanks to Parmacharya’s blessings. I returned to the Tibet-India border on September 13th, and camped that night at Kalapani, a military cantonment on the Indian side. That night, faraway from Delhi on the Himalayas , I could not help thinking of my daughters and my promise to them to be with them on my birthday. It would be another 15 days of walking before I could reach the plains and then Delhi .

Next morning at breakfast, the camp commandant came to me with a telex from Delhi . It said that on Prime Minister’s instruction, an air force helicopter would be coming that morning at 10 AM from Bareilly to pick me up and take me back to Bareilly , from where I will be taken by car to Delhi . I was thrilled. This meant that I would be in Delhi on September 14th evening, and be with my family on the next day for my birthday! What a miracle!

I was that time just an MP, and that too from the opposition. And yet this privilege was extended to me. The only reason for this was the blessing of Parmacharya. With this blessing, any miracle could happen. I was honoured to witness it. I prayed to Lord Shiva and Durga at the Kalapani temple at 18,000 feet above sea level, with snow all around. I said a special thanks to Parmacharya. When I returned to Delhi , and thereafter went to see Parmacharya, I explained all that happened. He merely smiled.
In 1986, I was passing Kanchipuram, so I made a detour and went to the Kanchi Mutt. Parmacharya was there giving Darshan to hundreds of people. I also stood in the crowd. But the pujaris saw me and whispered to the Parmacharya that I had come. So he asked me to come close and sit before him. After the crowds had left, he looked at me as if to ask me why I had come. The Babri Masjid issue then was hotting up, and so I said Parmacharya that I was planning to visit Ayodhya to study the situation. I asked the Mahaswami what stand should I take.

Parmacharya looked at me very sternly and said “you are a politician. Why do you have to take a stand on a religious issue? You stay out of it. You spend your energies on improving our economy or our relations with China and Israel .” I was taken aback by his stern remarks. But I persisted and said “At least the Government will have to take a stand”. He said: “Let the government make it possible for the religious leaders of both religions to come together and work out a compromise. But you stay out of it.
I then told Parmacharya that my friend, and leading Babri Masjid agitator Mr.Syed Shahabuddin wanted to see his holiness, and whether I could do bring him next time. The pujaris around the Parmacharya protested. They said that Shahabuddin was anti-Hindu, and he should not be allowed inside the Mutt.

The Parmacharya waved away their objections. He gave me permission to bring him to the Mutt. Then he said to the Pujaris. “Only Subramanian Swamy knows the art of befriending Americans, Chinese and Israelis at the same time. He can also be a friend of Shahabuddin.” Then turning to me, he said: “Keep this quality. Never be afraid of making friends with anyone.” I have followed this advice despite heavy criticism from the media. I have made friends with Morarji, Chandrasekhar and Indira Gandhi after terrific quarrels with them. Sometimes one needs to quarrel to come to an understanding of each other’s strength. Generally, I love to oppose those in authority because for a strong democracy, opposition is necessary. But Indian society being feudal, those in power underestimate who oppose them. And in my case, people in power have always underestimated me because they think I am alone. But they don’t realize I have friends everywhere, in all political parties and in all important countries. That is why I have won all my battles against Government.

Because I have never betrayed anyone, these friendships remain for a long time. In 1990, I could have betrayed Chandrasekhar and fallen for temptation offered by Rajiv Gandhi to become PM. But when I discouraged this idea, Rajv Gandhi’s esteem of me and trust in me went sky high. Because of the trust I develop my friends from all over the world confide in me. People ask me often “How do you get so much accurate information”. This is the answer. I have secret friends and open enemies. Most other people have the opposite: secret enemies and open friends.

Thus Shahabuddin trusted me to bring him to the Mutt with honour. In early 1987, I brought Shahabuddin to see Parmacharya. I brought the fierce Muslims-rights agitator Mr.Syed Shahabuddin to Kanchipuram to have a darshan of the Parmacharya. Shahabuddin had told me many a times that he had a urge to see the Parmacharya. He never explained why. Nor I asked him why since I assumed everyone would like to see a living God on earth.

Although Shahabuddin is a strict Muslim, he accepted two fundamental points defining a patriotic Indian Muslim. The first point, a patriot would accept that though he is a Muslim, his ancestors are Hindus since 99.9 percent of Muslims of India are descendents of converts. Muslims who think that their ancestors are Persians or Arabs or from Tajikistan , can never be patriotic Indians, because they live in a myth. They are psychologically uprooted from India . The second point is that although the present day Indian culture is composite, in which all communities and religions have contributed, the core of this culture is Hindu in character and substance. Hence even if one changes one religion, it need not lead to a change of culture. Religion is personal, culture belongs to the nation.

Shahabuddin had accepted the two points and that is why I defended him against the charge that he was communal. But the RSS [which is not pro-Hindu, but merely anti-Muslim], saw in Shahabuddin a convenient hate figure, and dubbed him a “second Jinnah”. Naturally bigots of the RSS protested when they came to know that I was bringing Shahabuddin to meet Parmacharya. When we arrived at the Kanchi Mutt, the Mutt-Pujaris told me that Parmacharya had wanted me to bring Shahabuddin right into the inner part of the Mutt where he was staying. We were made to sit before a shut door, and told Parmacharya would come soon.

The door was opened by Parmacharya himself. When Shahabuddin saw him, he started to weep, with tears rolling down his cheeks. He folded his hands in a ‘namaste’ and said “Oh my Lord Parmacharya, please save my community and save the nation”. I was taken aback [Much later when we were back on our way to Chennai, I asked Shahabuddin why he broke down , before the Parmacharya. He simply said that he could not control himself when he saw the radiant face of the Parmacharya.]
Parmacharya asked Shahabuddin what troubled him. He said “The Babri Masjid has been shut to Muslims by a Court Order and I pray to you to help us open it to us”. [At that time, 1988 there was no talk of its demolition by RSS]. Parmacharya told him that Hindus and Muslims should work out a compromise. He suggested a number of proposals, such as joint prayers, or Hindu Prayers on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Muslims Namaz on other days with Sunday being denied to both. All these compromise proposals, Shahabuddin said, would be unacceptable to devout Muslims.
I added in my proposal.  Koran prohibits Namaz in constructions built by demolishing other religions holy places : therefore if it can be proved that a temple was demolished by Babar’s men to build the mosque in Ayodhya, and then the Muslims themselves should agree to the Babri Masjid demolition.

Parmacharya looked at me with a benign smile. He had earlier warned me to stay away from this issue, instead asked me to concentrate on political and economic issues. But Shahabuddin quickly agreed that Koran prohibited reading namaz in such places, but contested that Babri Masjid was built on a temple site. He said he had construction blue prints to prove his point.  Two hours of discussion had taken place, and therefore the Mutt pujaris were getting impatient. A big crowd was waiting for the Parmacharya’s darshan. So Parmacharya closed his discussion by asking Shahabuddin to bring his blue prints and come again. Surprisingly, again Shahabuddin prostrated before him, and then we both left.

Shahabuddin never came back again. But two years later, I became the Law Minister. I confronted the Muslim organizations with a proposal that the Government would appoint a Supreme Court Judge in a one man Commission of inquiry to determine whether or not there was a temple before the Babri Masjid was built. And if the conclusion was that there was a temple, then Muslims must agree to give up the Masjid. If not, then the Hindus would vacate the masjid.

Surprisingly, while all the Muslim organisations agreed to my proposal, the fanatic Hindu organizations refused to agree. Our government did not last long enough for me to go ahead with the Commission of Inquiry anyway disregarding the fanatics. Nor could I persuade the successor Narasimha Rao Government to follow my proposal. It would have amicably resolved the issue. But alas, Babri Masjid was finally demolished in bitterness.

Perhaps Parmacharya was telling me not to get involved from the beginning because he foresaw that it would be demolished as a part of destiny. If Babar’s violence was undone 450 years later, then RSS violence on December 6, 1992 could also be undone someday, but I hope, by understanding and love. Otherwise the cycle of violence will continue in the country, with the Hindus and Muslims  not reconciled to each other.
In April 1990, I received an urgent summons from Parmacharya to come to Kanchipuram. So I rushed. When I saw him, he merely smiled, put up his palm in blessing and then waved me on to go away! I was puzzled. Why was I asked to rush to the Kanchi Mutt from Delhi , merely to be sent away? The Mutt pujaris told me that on Parmacharya’s instructions the Mutt had decided that I was to share the dais with Rajiv Gandhi on the occasion of Parmacharya’s 97th birthday in May that year, to be celebrated in Kanchipuram. It turned out that no other politician except Rajiv and myself were to share the platform. It was a great honour, not only that I would be with Rajiv, but more that it was on Parmacharya’s instructions. But why did he so honour me?

That May meeting turned out to be crucial for me, because it created a rapport with Rajiv which I did not have before. Rajiv too had great regard for the Parmacharya and therefore his selection of me to pair with Rajiv, meant for Rajiv that I could be trusted. From that date onwards, Rajiv trusted me blindly with no reservations.

Parmacharya thus not only altered my outlook, but he also ensured from time to time that I came on the right path. Once for example, in 1992, the two junior swamis, Jayendra Saraswati and Vijendra Saraswati had asked me to collect some funds for a Ghatikasthanam library that they wanted to build in honour of the Parmacharya. They even printed letter heads to make me the “Patron” of the project, but insisted on a donation.

With great difficulty, I collected Rs.15 lakhs and gave it to them as Janata Party’s gift. When Parmacharya came to know about it, he sent me a query: “Why should you donate to the Mutt when you are yourself begging for funds from the people to run your party? Please do not do it in the future”. Since then I have stopped giving donations to any cause. Beggars cannot donate.

Naturally, when Parmacharya attained samadhi in 1994, I felt like an orphan in public life. HE was always there when I had a dilemma to set things right. But I had the God’s grace to see him, a living divinity, for 17 years. Many of his opinions and directions I can never reveal, because he said them knowing fully well that I will keep it to myself. But by guided  and listening to him, I have become so strong  mentally as a person, that I feel that no one can cow me down or demoralize me no matter how bad a situation I am in.

Parmacharya taught me that the easiest way to finish an enemy is to make him a friend. He had urged me not to hate the sin, but the sinner. Of course, sometimes the easiest way is not available because of ego clash, and so the sinner has to fought to be made to realize the sin. But one has to keep in mind that there is a God’s scheme, redemption for the sinner what we call as prayaschitam. The ultimate revenge belongs to the divine. As human beings we have no right to revenge; only self-defence and righteous struggle. As Hindus, this is easy to understand because we believe in the law of Karma. People who see me fighting fiercely with Indira Gandhi, Chandrasekhar and Jayalalitha and then working with them get confused or even disgusted at what they perceive as my opportunism. I do not make up with those I quarrel with at height of their power, but when they cease to be in office. The reason for this flexibility in making friends out of enemies of yester year is the advice that Parmacharya once gave me in 1977: ” India is plagued by divisions, and the egos of our rajas had played havoc with our national security, making it easy for foreigners to conquer us. Therefore, never hesitate to create unity, without of course compromising on the fundamental concepts of morality. India has never forgotten those who unite the nation.” I have defined three such fundamental moral principles.

These three fundamental concepts of morality are

I shall not speak lie, even if I withhold   truth.
I shall practice what I shall preach.
What I do will be transparent for all to see. I consider myself therefore free to plan my political strategy as I see best, without regard to criticism from my political opponents, but within these three moral limits.

Sri Kanchi Kamakshi Amman Temple Vikruti Varusha Brahmotsavam 8 - 20 February 2011

Detailed schedule of the Utsavams 
are given below:

Morning  Vahanam
Evening Vahanam
8 Feb 2011

Ganesha on Mooshikam
9 Feb 2011
Rishabham (Bull)
10 Feb 2011
Makaram (Yali)
Chandra Prabhai (Moon)
11 Feb 2011
Golden Simha (Lion)
Yanai (Elephant)
12 Feb 2011
Surya Prabhai (Sun)
Hamsam (Swan)
13 Feb 2011
Pallakku (Palanquin)
Nagam (Snake)
14 Feb 2011
Kili (Parrot)
15 Feb 2011
Ratham (Chariot)

16 Feb 2011
Kudirai (Horse)
17 Feb 2011
Almel pallakku
Silver Chariot
18 Feb 2011
19 Feb 2011

20 Feb 2011
Vishvaroopa darsanam (5-7 am)

* Vidaiyatri Urchavam from 20 to 28 Feb 2011
* Sri Acharyal Purappadu (Procession) in the evenings from 11 to 15 Feb 2011

About the Brahmotsavam

Utsavams are festivals celebrated at the temples. Generally everyone enjoys festivals. But with temples there is also another reason to celebrate an utsavam. The three Murthies, Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma along with Their Devies are supposed to participate in the Brahmothsavam of Kamakshi Temple.

During the procession in the Utsavam all the thirty three thousand Devatas starting with Indra and Dik Balagas are supposed to participate. Also Utsavams are celebrated mainly to ward off the various pollutions created at the temple atmosphere due to many reasons. Hence the devotees who attend the Kamakshi Temple Brahmothsavam will get their problems solved and their desires fulfilled by the presence of the Three Murthies and the Devadidevas.

The deities are taken in procession accompanied by Temple elephants, Nadaswaram, Bands, Bharatha Natyam Performances, Kolattam and other local entertainments like bommalattam, (using Alis, huge dolls made of paper mache), kudiraiattam etc creating a festive atmosphere. People from different parts visit their relatives during the festival. Roadside shops sprout selling numerous articles of interest to children and elders. An Utsavam is an exciting and exhilarating function where devotion, arts and business are blended together homogenously. Hence people are happy and enjoy the festivals. Normally people go to temples for praying to get the blessings. During festivals the Gods come out to meet people and give blessings to everybody including the old and indigent who are not able to visit the temple.

Brahmothsavam is a big festival, which is celebrated every year in temples. As per legend it is told that Lord Brahma started it and it is believed that during this festival he himself presides over the festival, hence the name “Brahmothsavam)”. It must be celebrated because during this time Yagasala (Homa guntams), Initialising the God in the Kalasam (Pot), 1Japa on both the times mornings & evenings, everyday Abhisheka for the Moolavar with the Kalasa Jalam (water) etc. are performed which help to purify the atmosphere. Kamakshi Temple Brahmothsavam

At Kamakshi temple the Brahmothsavam starts generally in Tamil month of ‘Masi’.  The important events of this Utsavam are given below.

Day prior to start of Brahmothsavam -   Angurarpanam and Mrithsangrahanam
In the evening the Astra Devi (the deity representing the Angusam of Kamakshi) is taken in procession along with Lord Ganesha to the Mritheshwar Temple at North Raja Veedhi where after proper propitiation with appropriate puja Mrithsangrahanam (Removing mud) from under the Bilwa Tree of the temple is taken and brought Kamakshi Temple. This ritual shows how closely Hindu religion respects the ecology. Even removal of mud for the festival is done after paying proper respects to the gods concerned. This mud is used next day to grow Paligai (growing lentils for the Festival) at the foot of Dwijasthambam

First Day of the Brahmothsavam - Dwijarohanam - Flag Hoisting
This is a very important day when a number of activities take place. The Sivachariars (priests) who are chosen ties the Rakshabandan on the hand at a religious function where he makes the sankalpam (oath) to adhere to the rules and regulations of the rituals for conducting the Utsavam. One of the conditions is that he should not leave the town till the completion of the Brahmothsavam. In fact this is generally observed by the public at large also in the olden days. After the start of the Brahmothsavam people of the city do not go out of it during the Utsavam.

Apart from this a number of Homam, Kalasa sthapanam etc are conducted within the Temple premises where reputed Vaidheekas (Veda Vidwans) participate in doing Japam, Homam etc for the general benefit of the mankind as a whole.

Dwijarohanam is done on this day when a flag carrying the picture of Sri Devi Kamakshi will be hoisted on the Dwajasthambam i.e., flag mast of the Temple. It announces to everybody that the Brahmothsavam has started. During this time the Paligai is also planted in the mud taken from Mritheshwar Temple. 

Second day to 12th Day
Every day of the festival Utsava Kamakshi Devi is taken in procession both in the morning and evening accompanied by other deities like Saraswathi and Lakshmi depending on the Vahana used. The day wise list of Vahana is given below. From 4th  to 9th day,  Acharyal also is taken out in the evening procession.

Every day Utsava Kamakshi is taken in procession in the morning and evening through all the four Rajaveedhies and Vanavedikkai (Firing of Crackers) is arranged near Kachabeswarar temple on different vahanas. But on the 5th day i.e. evening when Utsava Kamakshi is carried by Naga Vahanam (Snake) she is taken up to Gangabai Chatram beyond Sankara Matam.

On 6th Day- Sri Devi Kamakshi is taken in procession on the wooden chariot and Sri Devi stays in the Sankara Matam from morning to evening. During this time all respects are paid to Sri Devi and the temple staff.

On 9th day - in the morning Sri Devi is taken in procession on "Almelpallakku" which is a special palanquin sculpted with toy sevadar carrying the palanquin. In the evening Utsava Kamakshi is taken in procession on Silver Chariot donated by Sri Acharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. The Pallakkus (palanquins) are always carried by men force called Sreepathasevai which is a tradition going on for many years.

On 10th day - Evening carrier is Kalpagodhyanam, which is a tree similar to Kalpaka Vriksha. This day falls on Masi Magam and devotees take bath in the Temple Tank inside the temple and this is called Theerthavari. This day Dwija Avarohanam i.e. lowering of Flag is done. After this Sivachariar removes his Rakshabandan.

11th Day - This night Utsava Kamakshi Devi is placed inside the Moolavar, the Sanctum & Sanctorum.

12th Day   - Viswaroopa Darsanam (5 AM to 7AM)
On this 12th day of the festival Sri Devi Kamakshi gives Viswaroopa darsanam to all the public at Moolasthanam with Urchava Ambal. Cow and calf are brought to perform Go puja. The Moolava Kamakshi has Chandana Kappu (Sandal Paste) on this day.

Vidaiyatri Urchavam starts from 12th day. Goddess Kamakshi will be giving Darshan in the temple premises in full attire with jewels sitting in the Unjal (swing) in the Sukhravara Mandapam in the temple. Sri Devi is supposed to be relaxing these days. This will go on for 7 days. During this time chanting of Veda and music programme using various kinds of musical instruments take place. On the 8th day of Vidaiyatri festival both Moola Kamakshi & Urchava Kamakshi have Chandana Kappu. 9th day of Vidaiyatri festival evening Utsava Kamakshi will go around inside the temple in Pushpa (flower) Pallaku.

Payathankanjhi Festival (Green dhal i.e. lentil soup festival)
For the last 3 days Payatankanjhi Festival is performed. It will be done in the Urchava Kamakshi’s place known as ‘Asthanam’. Goddess Kamakshi will be giving darshan in a very relaxed manner to remove the fatigue of the busy schedule She underwent for the past 18 days. During this time green dal kheer, soaked broken green dhal and powdered jaggery along with Vada is offered to the Goddess for ushna (heat) santhi.