He has left for his heavenly abode, and the Hindu community across the globe is feeling as though they have orphaned. there is no exaggeration when we say this, because Shri Vishwesha theertha swamiji was not just a Peethadipathi, he was the guiding light to the hindu community, a divine energy who brought peace, prosperity and love in every life he touched.
We bow our head to this Yathikula Chakravarthy and pay our respects on his demise.
Sri Madhvacharya, the founder of the Dvaita school of philosophy, one of many branches of Indian Vedanta philosophies, established the Sri Krishna temple at Udupi and appointed eight young Sanyasis as peethadipathi in order to take care of the worship of Sri Krishna and also to spread the knowledge of dharma to the masses. The lineage of one of the eight Sanyasis is what is now known as the Pejavara Matha. Sri Adhokshaja Theertha, who was one of the direct disciples of Srimadacharya, is the founder and first Swamiji of this Matha.
In the glorious Vaishnava disciplic succession of stalwart Yatis such as Sri Vijayadhwaja Theertha, Sri Vishwesha Theertha and Sri Vishwapati Theertha, Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji ascended the seat as the 32nd head of the Pejavara Matha.
Initiation and early education:
Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji was born on the 27th of April, 1931 as the second child of Sri Narayanacharya and Srimati Kamalamma, a pious couple from Ramakunja. The parents named the child as Venkataramana.
The year was 1937. Six year old Venkataramana was playing near his house in Ramakunja when he accidentally fell into a pond nearby. Unable to swim, the young kid quickly started drowning. However, the grace of paramatma was on him and a boy passing nearby spotted the kid struggling to stay afloat. He raised an alarm which brought Venkataramana’s parents to the place and the kid was saved. The parents thanked the boy profusely for saving their son’s life.
The six year old kid also expressed his gratefulness and said “You saved my life today. I shall forever be thankful to you. However, I noticed you didn’t rescue me yourself but called for help. Do you not know swimming?” The boy replied “I know swimming. But you are a Brahmin and I belong to the backward class. So I cannot touch you”. Those words of the young Dalit boy made a deep impact on the mind of the young Venkataramana. He never forgot the incident, nor did he forget the words of the boy.
Two years after that incident, as desired by Lord Vittala, Venkataramana had not only become a sannyasi, but was also appointed as the head of the Pejawar Matha, one of the ashta mathas of Udupi following the Dvaita Vedanta tradition started by Sri Madhwacharya. The young Sri Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji, as Venkataramana would thenceforth be known as, began his extraordinary journey in making a deep and lasting impact on the Hindu society in the 20th and 21st century.
The early education of the young Sanyasi happened at Udupi itself. The head of the Bhandarakeri Matha, Sri Sri Vidyamanya Theertha Swamiji, taught all the Shastras to the young Yati for eight years and helped transform him into a knowledgeable and erudite scholar of Vedanta and Shastras. Sri Swamiji quickly became an extraordinary scholar in Nyaya, Vedanta and other branches of philosophy.
When only 25 years old, the young & radiant Swamiji became the President of the Agamatraya Conference organized by the Maharaja of Mysore and held in Nanjanagud. It was in this conference that Swamiji electrified the audience with his oratory skills when he declared – “If God is not in our hearts, we will become like the ruined temples of Hampi”.
War on untouchability:
Although the young Sannyasi’s time would primarily be occupied by religious and spiritual activities, he would never give up his ambition to work towards the upliftment of the Dalit and backward communities of India. Swamiji had utilized the incident in his childhood to create a goal for himself to reform Hindu society.
The initiatives of Swamiji were not limited to the precincts of the Udupi mathas. In 1970, he presided over a conference of over 40 mathadhipatis at Udupi. At a time when interaction with even the leaders of the non-brahmin communities were avoided, he invited and ensured participation of non-brahmin mathadhipatis in the conference. A unanimous resolution, declaring untouchability as being totally out of place in Hindu dharma, was passed in the conference. Swamiji called upon the entire Hindu community to throw out the practice completely out of their lives. Swamiji hugged a senior IAS officer belonging to the Scheduled Caste on stage to declare his war on untouchability.
Effective execution of responsibility:
The blind following of western values and systems has turned into a hurricane for our culture and spiritual roots. Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji realized this truth and the consequent threat more than 50 years ago itself! One of his first goals after completing his education was the establishment of a Guru Kula. His dream was realized in 1956 A.D when he established the Purnaprajna Vidyapeetha in Bangalore. Founded with the twin goals of preservation of our ancient culture and the propagation of the philosophy of truth of Srimadacharya, the Vidyapeetha is seeing rapid growth and recognition as an ideal Guru Kula, all due to the dedicated hard work of Sri Swamiji. The Vidyapeetha is contributing hundreds of scholars and Yagnikas every year, thereby ensuring that the stream of Tattvavada scholars, which could have dried up, will at least flow for a few more generations. Currently, over 300 students are residing in the Vidyapeetha and undergoing education in various Shastras. The complete responsibility of these students, including their stay, food and other essentials is taken care of by the Vidyapeetha.
For the head of any Udupi Matha, the Paryaya and consequent responsibility to worship Lord Krishna for two years is a crown of honor. Such an auspicious duty was bestowed upon Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji for the first time in the year 1952 A.D. Sri Swamiji’s first Paryaya was unmatched in history for its grandeur in spiritual, social and scholarly activities. It was during this Paryaya that the proud torchbearer of Madhva culture, the Akhila Bharata Madhva Maha Mandali was founded. The ABMMM held its first conference under the Presidency of His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore. During Sri Swamiji’s second Paryaya in 1968 A.D, the entire region of Udupi was literally revitalized. During this Paryaya, on the occasion of the regional summit of the Vishva Hindu Parishat, the slogan given by Sri Swamiji – “Hindavaha Sodaraaha Sarve Na Hinduhu Patito Bhaveth” became a mantra for all workers of the Parishat. Even during the third Paryaya of Sri Swamiji in the year 1984 A.D, lady luck smiled on Udupi. The entire spiritual, cultural and physical landscape of Udupi has undergone revolutionary transformation during the three Paryayas of Sri Swamiji.
Bold steps of the Revolutionary:
The first Swamiji to consider Dalits as an integral part of Hindu society has been Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji. His decision to review the traditional practice of untouchability, from a human perspective, and the consequent steps taken by him has caused a revolution. “In our homes and public places, do Dalits enjoy the same opportunities that Christians and Muslims do? When they approach us after having converted, we do not discriminate against them. That being the case, aren’t we conceding that other religions treat them with humanity while we do not? Is there a greater insult to our Dharma and society than this?” – Such sharp and logical questions from Sri Swamiji opened the eyes of the conservatives. The controversy over conversion of Dalits in the Meenakshipuram area of Tamilnadu was effectively countered and prevented by the personal visit of Sri Swamiji. The pleasant smile of Sri Swamiji won over even staunch opponents. Hindu society emerged even stronger.
Every Hindu will continue to work in the path laid down by Swamiji to achieve a better, united and enlightened Hindu Society.
Dr. Sindhu Prashanth