Vivekananda &c.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu May 7 20:03:30 UTC 1998

"N. Ganesan" <GANESANS at CL.UH.EDU> wrote -

>Currently browsing thru'
>Raymond B. Williams, A sacred thread: Modern transmission of
>Hindu traditions in India and abroad, 1992, Pennsylvania.
>The politics of Kanchi math is described in:
>William Cenkner, The Sankaracharya of Kanchi and the Kamakshi
>temple as Ritual center, p. 52-67
>The political undertakings of Sringeri Sankaracharya
>is ably dealt by:
>Glenn Yocum, The coronation of a Guru:
>Charisma, politics, and philosophy in contemporary India,
>p. 68-91

These two articles stand out in great contrast to each other. The first
is almost deeply apologetic, the second is quite critical (which is
welcome). But do note that many of Prof. Yocum's observations are based
on reports in Deccan Herald, a newspaper which seems to have a political
agenda of its own, and The Hindu, which has its own concerns!

>From p. 316,
>"A usually unstated, but implicit corollary of this charge is that
>the Brahmin gurus of the South Indian Sankaracharya mathas (Sringeri,
>Kanchi) clearly do know something, indeed know a great deal that
>ordinary folk, including their lay Brahmin followers, do not know."

This observation has been made in the context of how Brahmin populations
in Madras view the Sankaracharyas with respect to the gurus of Saiva
Siddhanta Adheenams. I am not sure one should exclude SrIvaishNavas from
this attitude - nowadays many of them look to the Sankaracharyas for
leadership, often at the expense of their own institutions. If anything,
it only shows how the caste divide has become more pronounced since
India's independence. I have pointed this out to Prof. Yocum (personal
communication) and would like to point out on this forum too, that till
quite recently, Brahmins in Tamil Nadu did show a great deal of respect
to the heads of Saiva Siddhanta mathams, who are normally Sudra by
birth. For example, read U. V. Swaminatha Iyer's biography of Maha
Vaidyanatha Sivan, re: the interaction with the Tiruvavaduthurai and
other Saiva Samsthanams. Vaidyanatha Sivan and his brother, Ramaswami,
were both highly learned in Tamil and Sanskrit, not to mention the Vedas
and music, and were leaders of the Smarta Brahmin community in Tanjavur.


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