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Kalady’s Rediscoverer & Rediscovery – Part 3

Continued from previous part …

During His Vijaya Yatras, the Mahaswamiji had observed with frustration the conspicuous absence of reverence and dedication towards Jagadguru Sri Adi Shankaracharya. After His return to Sringeri, the Mahaswamiji was thinking of what should be done to check the drifting away of the people of the land from their old moorings. More than a millennium ago, Sri Adi Shankaracharya had found the country in utter chaos due to conflicting creeds, diabolic superstitions and abominable practices in the name of religion; and with His indefatigable vigour, intelligence and charisma had brought about a renaissance of Sanatana Dharma. The Mahaswamiji now sought the great master’s support and guidance to repeat the same.

While these thoughts were revolving in His mind, the then Diwan of Mysore, Sri K. Seshadri Iyer, a very close disciple of Mahaswamiji came on a visit to Sringeri to pay his respects. The Guru then broached the subject to him.

Kalady traced

Conferring with the sacred intention of the Guru and without wasting any time, Seshadri Iyer proceeded to the Malabar region. The Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya – the traditional account of the great saint philosopher clearly pointed about His birthplace as Kalady. Sri Iyer made inquiries regarding Kalady and came to know that there were three places with the name Kalady in the region. However references to the Poorna river and the Vrishachaleshwara temple (in Thrissur near Kalady) in the Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya helped resolve the issue.

Sri Iyer traced the Kalady in question to correspond with one near Ernakulam in the Princely State of Travancore. When he proceeded to that particular spot now known as Kalady, with the help of state officials, he not only found every description mentioned in the Shankara DigVijaya applicable to the place but found that its intrinsic beauty was such as to make it worthy of being the birth place of Adi Shankaracharya. The river Poorna was flowing deep through this land and nature had lavished there all the wealth of charm and serenity. Sri Iyer then returned to Sringeri and made the Mahaswamiji fully acquainted with the facts.

Overjoyed, the Mahaswamiji determined to clear the spot all around and build a shrine there; but knew that this would take a long time and involve great cost and labour. Meanwhile a small patch of land, where according to local tradition, stood the village where Adi Shankaracharya was born, was cleared. The Mahaswamiji entrusted Pandit Nadukkaveri Srinivasa Shastri, a great scholar with the job of conducting the five day Shankara Jayanti Celebrations at Kalady. Sri Srinivasa Shastri carried out the responsibility with diligence. This continued for some years. People from the adjacent parts of the country came in large numbers to this place, on such occasions and enthusiastically participated in the celebrations. Gradually a longing was created in the minds of the people to build a shrine there for the great master; but it was not easy to get possession of the land.

Securing the lands related to the Great Master

By this time eleven years had elapsed since the idea of the consecration of Kalady first germinated in the mind of the Mahaswamiji. Sri K. Seshadri Iyer, who had first found the birthplace and whose influence was immense was now no more, as also Pandit Srinivasa Shastri. The Mahaswamiji knew that nothing great could be achieved without difficulties. He simply bided His time seeking an opportune moment to act.

In 1905-06, Sri V.P. Madhava Rao became Diwan of Travancore. This statesman had the greatest reverence for the Mahaswamiji ever since he had His Darshan when being a Deputy Commissioner at Shimoga in 1885. The Mahaswamiji thought that this was a good opportunity for arranging to get possession of the lands at Kalady related to Sri Adi Shankaracharya. Accordingly He sent the Sarvadhikari (Agent) of the Peetham Sri N. Srikanta Shastri and Diwan Bahadur A Ramachandra Iyer, a retired Judge of the Chief Court of Mysore, to Travancore on this mission in 1905. They made known the long cherished intentions of the Guru regarding the consecration proposal of temples at Kalady both to the Maharaja of Travancore, Padmanabha Dasa Sri Moolam Tirunal Bala Rama Varma, and Diwan V.P. Madhava Rao.

They then went to Kalady and inspected the place. The river Poorna was flowing by, in a limpid stream; the bathing-ghat here was held sacred by the neighbouring villages and people used to come and bathe here on sacred days like the new Moon, the tradition here being that the Sri Adi Shankaracharya had bathed at this very ghat. Nearby was a shrine of Lord Krishna, as also a Math of a Sannyasin (the Thekke Madhom). All the land, known as Kalady Sanketam (place of sanctity), belonged to this Math; but the Sannyasi of the Math was entitled to nothing more than a fixed light-rent paid by the cultivating tenants who possessed permanent occupancy rights. It was not easy to bring them to part with their rights.

As if willed by Divine Providence, a year earlier, in 1904, an Act of the Governor-General of India had been passed for the preservation of antiquities and conservation of ancient monuments. The Travancore Maharaja Sri Moolam Tirunal decided to act under this Resolution to immediately acquire the land of Kalady, freeing it from all encumbrances in order to fulfill the desire of Sringeri Mahaswamiji. On 27th January 1906, a Government order was released saying – “As another step towards the introduction of this scheme, the Government considers that measures should be adopted for the preservation of the birth place of Sri Shankaracharya, the great religious teacher and reformer, whose name is held in veneration throughout India. It is situated in the village of Kalady, Manjappra Proverthy, Kuttanad Taluk on the banks of the Alwaye. The locality is treated as Sanketam or a place of sanctity … … There is a walled enclosure in a compound close to the river, which according to tradition, is the site on which the remains of Sri Shankaracharya’s mother were cremated, and the ghat in the river close by, is also held sacred as having been used by the great reformer in performing the obsequies of His mother.”

Sri Moolam Tirunal handed over the deed to the officials from Sringeri as an offering to the Mahaswamiji. The Maharaja also sanctioned a sum of Rupees ten-thousand for clearing the land and building a shrine there. The Mahaswamiji who came to know of this through the agent, Sri Srikantha Shastri was overjoyed, and hastened with the mammoth task. Sri A. Ramachandra Iyer of Mysore and Sri E.R. Subraya Iyer, a distinguished engineer who had also retired from Mysore Government service, were deputed to oversee Kalady activities like clearing the limits of the Kalady Sanketam and build the shrines for Adi Shankaracharya and Goddess Sharadamba.

To be continued …

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