Courtesy:Sri.P.R.Kannan
TRADITION OF SANYASI DISCIPLES OF KANCHI SANKARA MATHAM
P.R. Kannan
Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham has maintained the noble tradition, set by Adi Sankaracharya himself, of recognizing and encouraging those whose thirst for Liberation is intense. The Sankaracharyas have guided the mature aspirants on the path of austerities and even got some of them initiated into Sanyasasrama. Some of these Sadhakas have stayed in the Srimatham in Kanchipuram and pursued their spiritual course.
Sanatana Dharma acclaims Sanyasasrama very highly. Maharishi Haritha says:
सर्वेषां आश्रमाणान्तु संन्यासी ह्युत्तमाश्रमी ।
स एवात्र नमस्यः स्यात् भक्त्या सन्मार्गवर्तिभिः ॥
"Of all asramas, Sanyasa Asrama is the highest. He should be worshipped with devotion by others, who are on virtuous path.
Veda Vyasa says:
मोक्षाश्रमं यश्चरते यथोक्तं शुचिस्सुसङ्कल्पित-बुद्धियुक्तः ।
अनिन्धनं ज्योतिरिव प्रशान्तं स ब्रह्मभावं द्विजातिः ॥
"The wise Sanyasi, who follows the rules of the Asrama with purity and firm resolve, attains to the peaceful state of Brahman, like fire which is not fed with firewood."

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Sarvagnatma
When Adi Sankaracharya ascended the Sarvagna Peetham in Kanchipuram, many came to oppose him in debate. One of them was a boy of seven, named Mahadevan. He came from a village called Brahmadesam near Tirunelveli. His father was a great scholar of Purva Mimamsa and had defeated many Jaina and Boudha scholars in debate. During these debates, the child Mahadevan had also helped his father. Such was his attainment. After his father debated with Adi Sankara and accepted defeat, Mahadevan continued to debate for four days. Though he was defeated in the end, his brilliance caught the special attention and love of Adi Sankara. So when the child of seven accepted him as his Guru and asked to be initiated into Sanyasa, Adi Sankara was only too pleased to do so. He must have remembered his own being ordained into Sanyasa readily by his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada in Omkareswara kshetra.
Later Adi Sankara appointed the young Sanyasi as his successor Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, initially acting under the guidance of Sureswaracharya. His Diksha name was Sarvagnatma. He wrote a beautiful book of more than a thousand verses to explain the Advaita Tatva enunciated by Adi Sankara in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. The book was titled 'Sankshepa Saariraka Bhashya'. It is one of the very few of such books in verse form on this subject and is an authoritative reference work.


Prithvidhara
Prithvidhara (or Prithvidhava) was an Acharya elder to Adi Sankaracharya. Like many scholars of that time, he had written a commentary on Veda Vyasa's Brahma Sutras. Adi Sankaracharya wrote his own commentary, debated with scholars and proved all the 99 commentaries extant before him to be not true. Prithvidhara accepted defeat and, won over by the brilliance of the arguments of Adi Sankara, became his disciple. His biggest contribution to the asrama of Sanyasis was to organize them into ten groups as desired by Adi Sankara: Tirtha, Asrama, Vana, Aranya, Giri, Parvatha, Sagara, Saraswathi, Bharathi and Puri.
तीर्थाश्रम-वनारण्य-गिरि-पर्वत-सागराः । सरस्वती भारती च पुरी नामानि वै दश ॥
Though all of them are Advaita Sanyasis, each group has had unique identification mark. This classification, known also as Dasnami, has stood the test of time and is observed all over India.


Sri Maharashtra Swamiji (Sri Sankarananda Tirtha Swamiji)
Coming to recent times, this Sanyasi had the great good fortune of having a chance meeting with the Mahaswamiji of Kanchi, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamiji in 1929.He had been initiated into Sanyasa Asrama earlier by one Sri Sahajananda Tirtha Swamiji. In Sri Mahaswamiji's own words: "In 1929 I met a Sanyasi in a border village of North Arcot (district in Tamil Nadu). He knew only Marathi and Hindi. He told us that when he travelled to Rameswaram by train, he lost his danda (staff of Sanyasis) during the journey. He probably fasted till he got a new danda. He was duly given a consecrated danda. From that time he regarded me as his Guru as I saved his Asrama dharma. He was then more than 80 years of age. He refused to leave me till 1954 when he attained Siddhi.
He joined us for Chaturmasya in that year. I was laid up with malaria fever for about forty days. None used to touch me as per normal practice. But, as I was unable to stand or walk on my own, this old man, being a Sanyasi, took upon himself the duty of helping me. He used to bathe me, and help me in dressing and even eating. His selfless service impressed me much.
He was, by nature, hot-tempered and had an authoritative voice. He was a terror to all near him. He had been in the Revenue Department in the Dewas State in Central India. Neither Nanasaheb nor Jhansi Rani could match him in authoritativeness. On no day would he fail to do Puja to my feet and partake of Charanamritam; none could deter him from his purpose. Tears would roll down his cheeks during this Puja.
Once in Kanchipuram a relative of his came to me and expressed wonder as to how I could be so cold without the least reciprocity towards one, nearing his 100th year of age, who regarded me as his sole spiritual refuge high above any God. My natural superficiality did not react even to this admonition.
Once we were in Tirupati; I was returning from the temple after darshan of Balaji. The aged Sanyasi, who was in our camp, had managed to come to the top of the hill; he met us outside the temple. The temple authorities, in deference to his old age, Asrama and connection with our Matham, offered to arrange for his darshan of Balaji. The Sanyasi fell at my feet and exclaimed: "I have had darshan. This is Balaji. Pardon me. I cannot accept your offer." He returned without Balaji's darshan." Such was his devotion to Sri Mahaswamiji.
Those, who were ordained into Sanyasa Asrama in Srimatham at the behest of Mahaswamiji, were all disciples of his in the 'Tirtha' Sampradaya. He always stayed at Srimatham and finally attained Siddhi in 1954 at the age of 105 in Srimatham in the Mokshapuri of Kanchipuram. His Adhishthanam is situated on the eastern bank of Sarvatirtha tank. Daily Pujas and annual Aradhanas are being held regularly.


Sri Narayana Tirtha Swamiji (Sri Odacheri Swamiji)
In 1937 when Sri Mahaswamiji was camping in a village close to Odacheri, a boy of eight came weeping early in the morning and prostrated to him. When asked for the reason for his weeping, the boy said: "It is unbearable. Please give me Sanyasa." Sri Mahaswamiji asked his attendant to comfort him and bring him back. The boy had lost his parents a year ago; he was now staying with his uncle at Odacheri. The previous night the boy had committed the 'unspeakable' crime of helping himself with the left-over rice, one day old instead of the rice, three days old. His aunt beat him up and pronounced that he was good for nothing and deserved to take to Sanyasa. Mahaswamiji arranged for the boy to be well cared for during the day, and got his uncle and aunt to come to the camp in the evening. He further arranged for the boy's upanayanam to be held in the Srimatham camp the next day under the aegis of the same uncle and aunt. The boy continued to stay in Srimatham, studied Yajur Veda and Sastras in the Srimatham Pathasala in the next four years.
The boy was then asked to serve Sri Maharashtra Swamiji, who joined Srimatham. He learnt explanations of Sastras from the Swamiji. One day Mahaswamiji bade Sri Maharashtra Swamiji to initiate the boy into Sanyasa Asrama. The new Sanyasi's name was Sri Narayanatirtha Swamiji, popularly known as Sri Odacheri Swamiji. He used to beg for alms from homes and offer to his Guru and eat the balance. Later when Sri Maharashtra Swamiji attained Siddhi, Sri Odacheri Swamiji continued to stay in Srimatham. He used to study books from the library, specially those dealing with greatness of kshetras. He used to go on kshetra yatra carrying nothing more than one extra cloth to wear. He would not touch cash. If somebody bought him a bus ticket, he would travel, go to the temple in the kshetra, bathe in the tank and have darshan of all important spots there. If offered bhiksha, he would accept. Otherwise he would beg for alms. He would sleep anywhere and be in Samadhi frequently. But he made it a point to join Mahaswamiji during Vyasa Puja every year. He had thus been with Mahaswamiji during 45 Vyasa Pujas.
During Mahaswamiji's yatra to Satara, the camp halted at a place called Kathak near Hubli. Swamiji fell down in the temple and suffered a fracture in the waist bone. When he was hospitalized, initially he refused to be operated upon. However, during the actual operation, he was in Samadhi state for two hours and hence did not need anesthesia. He was discharged after four weeks. After Chaturmasyam in Belgaum, when the camp proceeded ahead, Mahaswamiji sent Swamiji back to Walajabad in view of his health condition.
Later when Swamiji heard of the yatra of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji to Badrinath and Kedarnath, he decided to join him despite the pleading of his disciples not to undertake the arduous journey in view of his poor health. He went and joined the camp in Badrinath. One day in the evening Swamiji could not be located in the camp. Army Jawans searched, but could not find him. The next morning Swamiji was seen coming on the bank of Alaknanda river in his normal Kashayavastra in condition of heavy snow. He was treated with vigorous rubbing of body with woolens. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji praised the high attainment of conquest of senses of Swamiji.


When the camp reached Haridwar, Swamiji left for Pandharpur alone and joined Mahaswamiji in Vyasa Puja. Swamiji then went on a tour of several places in the South and finally reached Walajabad. One day he instructed his disciple that if a Sanyasi departs, his danda should be broken into three pieces. After two days, on the day of Sri Ramanavami, some Vedic scholars deputed by Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji arrived. To the chant of Mandukya Upanishad and Nama Sankirtanam, Swamiji breathed his last at 3.45 p.m. on Sri Ramanavami day on 21.4.1983; there was a flicker of brilliance in his eyes. His Adhishthanam is located behind Kashi Viswanatha temple in Walajabad. At the time when Swamiji departed, Mahaswamiji noted in his camp in Andhra Pradesh that a coconut slipped away from near him and broke. Mahaswamiji observed that some great personage had attained Brahmic state. As instructed by Mahaswamiji and Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji, Odacheri Swamiji had initiated some disciples into Sanyasa Asrama; notable among them were Sri Karur Swamiji, Sri Nashik Swamiji and Sri Mallaji Swamiji.


Sri Nashik Swamiji (Sri Sivananda Tirtha Swamiji)
His Purvasrama name was Krishnamurthy Iyer. He belonged to a village called Tanneer Kunnam Sathanur situated near Irulneekki, the celebrated native place of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji in his Purvasrama. He worked in the Central Printing Press in Nashik; even at that time he used to visit Srimatham now and then and render service. Every year during Margazhi month (Dhanur Masa), he used to be in Srimatham, giving a helping hand in Pujas, like preparing sandalpaste etc. He was a disciple of Sri Odacheri Swamiji, who cleared his doubts on Sastras. He was a Grihastha and had four daughters and a son.
In due course he was initiated into Sanyasa Asrama by Sri Odacheri Swamiji as directed by Mahaswamiji. He observed penance at several kshetras including Kumbakonam, Rameswaram, Tiruvanaikkaval etc. and finally attained Siddhi in Kanchipuram in Srimatham in 1998 on the day of Gayatri Japam. His Adhisthanam is located in Upanishad Brahmendra Srimatham in Kanchipuram.


Sri Tambudu Swamiji (Sri Kuvalayananda Tirtha Swamiji)
Sri Tambudu Swamjil in Purvasrama belonged to a village called Ilandurai, also known as Dakshina Badarikasrama. This is the kshetra of Sri Kalyana Sundareswara and Abhiramivalli, who gave darshan to Bhagavan Veda Vyasa as fruit of his intense Tapas. Brief Sthala Puranam of this kshetra can be seen in the link:
http://www.thanjavurparampara.com/si...konam-Swamigal
Sri Tambudu Swamiji came in a Telugu brahmana family of Parasara Gothra. His father Sadasiva Iyer was a school teacher, who had studied Rig Veda as per family tradition. He had rendered devoted service to the 65th Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Sri Mahadevendra Saraswathi Swamiji during his camp in Kumbakonam. He never missed on any day having darshan of Sundareswara and Abhiramavalli in Ilandurai. Sadasiva Iyer and his devoted wife Vedamba had six children. The first child entered Sanyasa Asrama, initiated by Sri Nashik Swamiji. He was Sri Siddhananda Tirtha Swamiji, popularly known as Annan Swamiji. The sixth child was Sri Kuvalayananda Tirtha Swamiji, known as Sri Tambudu Swamiji, so called to distinguish from his elder brother, Sri Annan Swamiji.
Born on 7.1.1928, he studied Rig Veda in the celebrated Raja Veda Kavya Pathasala in Kumbakonam. Right from childhood he was known to be meticulous in following all Sastraic injunctions in daily life. He was a noted Srividya practitioner. He was very helpful and service minded by nature. He was very much attached to the Rig Veda scholar Sri Mayavaram Krishna Sastri and used to participate in Rig Veda Parayanam along with him in many centres. Impressed by the dispassion and regulated life of his eldest brother and himself, Sri Mahaswamiji asked Sri Nashik Swamiji to bestow Sanyasa Asrama on both of them. Sri Tambudu Swamiji became Sanyasi on 12.5.1987. He stayed continuously in Kanchi Srimatham, observing Srividya Upasana, Vyasa Puja, Chaturmasyam, Sraavana Sravana Vrata etc. His daily schedule included chanting of Hayagriva Upanishad, Srimad Bhagavatham, Bhagavadgita and 108 Upanishads. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji asked him to be in charge of running Sri Upanishad Brahmendra Matham and Sri Ramabrahma Matham in Kanchipuram. His Sathabhishekam was celebrated in a grand manner in 2009 in Kanchipuram. He breathed his last on 28th June 2017.
His disciples, initiated by him into Sanyasa Asrama as directed by Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, include Sri Atmabodha Tirtha Swamiji (Sri Kumbakonam Swamiji) and Sri Sahajananda Tirtha Swamiji (Sri Ambur Swamiji), who are rendering continuous and valuable service to Srimatham in many ways on many fronts.
(This article is based on the book in Tamil on the life story of Sri Tambudu Swamiji by Sri Kumbakonam Swamiji (Sri Atmabodha Tirtha Swamiji)).