Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Srini Pichumani srini_pichumani at MENTORG.COM
Sun Jun 25 23:18:34 UTC 2000

Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> Srini Pichumani <srini_pichumani at MENTORG.COM> wrote:
> > > <>.
> >
> >In the diatribe pointed to here,  the angst expressed at the ex-President of
> India R.Venkataraman possibly heading the consitution >review panel could be
> deleted,  given that ex-Justice Venkatachaliah is now heading the panel.

> Done. Thanks for the update. Mea culpa. I was relying on my memory of old
> information.  But seriously, Srini, it is my turn to be disappointed, just a
> little, in the word you choose to describe what is essentially an issue-based
> set of questions.

I disagree with your characterization of the above article as issue-based.  I
have no problems with your comments about the history (or the lack thereof) of
the Kanchi matha,  or comments about various people's opinions and writings,
including that of the acharyas,  on the origin and history of this and other
mathas,  date of Sankara etc.

But you are way out of line on so many other comments in the above article.
And seem to facilely construct a conspiracy theory around various regular
activities of the Kanchi matha's acharyas and its adherents,   while elsewhere
you display acute sensitivity (cf.  your comments regarding Hacker and Kulke
almost constructing a conspiracy theory about Vidyaranya)  and are ready to jump
on statements such as "the Kanchi matha is currently more popular than the
Sringeri matha",  which in itself is polemical according to you.

First off,  your comment regarding the Kanchi acharyas comment about what to
wear,   how to behave,  etc.  These are portions of regular speeches and
conversations that have been recorded by the faithful and published as books.
What is objectionable in this apart from their being trite ?  Don't all types of
religious teachers ask people to uphold sanaatana dharma,  vaidIka dharma,
varnAs'rama  dharma etc etc and exhort people to various types of normative
behavior ?  Isn't there a big difference between such plain sermonizing and
advocating sati/sahagamana whatever ?

Regarding performing artistes and traditions,  your comments are greatly
exaggerated and hence your indignation doesn't make sense.  I have seen  quite a
few books and recordings on Carnatic music and have attended many conferences
over the years,  and hence say this with some amount of authority.  There are
very very few recordings on which I have seen their benediction - only ones I
have seen are special issues,  such as the navAvaraNa krithis of Dikshitar
(Balamurali ?),  where the artistes or persons involved in the recording sought
their blessings.

When it comes to books,  many books published over this century indeed seek
their blessings.  But this has a perfectly natural explanation in that various
musicians and music scholars who publish these books have had a lot of
interaction with the late Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati,  which they cherish.
Whether it is just some musical titbits,  or detailed explanations of musical
compositions,  or details about the musical sampradaya in temples and such,  he
has shared with them the information that he himself has picked up over the
years.  The list of musicians who he has interacted with is impressive indeed,
considering that these interactions started in the early 1900s itself and
continued throughout this century.

Besides,  he and other earlier Kanchi acharyas belong to the lineage of
musicologists and scholars such as Govinda Dikshitar and Venkatamakhi.  Hence
the matha has had some manuscripts and early books on music -- Subbarama
Dikshitar in his letters to The Hindu in 1893 remarks that he has requested the
Sankaracharya for help in obtaining the matha's manuscript of the caturdaNDi
prakAs'ikA -- which the late acharya must have had some acquaintance with.  So,
in comparison to various other acharyas,  of this matha and others,    he has
shown a keen interest in music.
In any case,  why should all of this be seen as the Kanchi matha arrogating to
itself the rights to Carnatic music ?  Doesn't make sense.  As an early
counter-example,  let me point out that the publication "abhayAmbA navAvaraNam"
of Kallidaikuricchi Anantakrishna Iyer (Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya,  Calcutta.
1936) has the benedictions of the Sankaracharya Bharati Krishna Tirtha of
Govardhana Pitha.

There is also a good amount of psychological naivete on your part when it comes
to analyzing the actions of various people,  high and mighty or otherwise,  who
are adherents of the Kanchi matha or who are close followers of the late
Chandrasekharendra Saraswati.
Why should you consider Smt.Vidya Shankar's biography of Shyama Shastri as one
of critical scholarship,  and then proceed to criticize it for not mentioning
court cases and so on.   It most certainly is not,  and like her other
publications is filled with a lot of straightforward piety and details.  That's
all.  So are the books on Tyagaraja by Prof.Sambamurthy,  even though he was a
critical scholar on various things musical,  and the book on Dikshitar by
T.L.Venkatarama Iyer.

As for the speeches of ex-President R.Venkataraman or opinions of Agnihotram
Ramanuja Tathachariar (I see you have now removed your comments on this one !),
you make it out as though the Kanchi acharyas or matha are responsible for these
things.  R.Venkataraman has his own personal faith in the late acharya which he
gives expression to as he sees fit.  But you cry wolf unnecesarily.  Whither
secularism,  my foot.  Secularism is not going to whither (sic) away because of
his references,  nor will it be strengthened necessarily if he drops such
references.  The average person on the street is intelligent enough to
understand it as plain pious behavior,  even while dismissing it as somewhat of
a show-off.  Imputing grand,  dark motives to such behavior is pointless.

> Please also do check some of the books I listed earlier, although I have kept
> the really vitriolic publications by partisans of both Mathas
> out of my list.

I appreciate the list of references,   but would have preferred not to see the
spin on many of them.  Another point -  from day one,  publicly and privately,
you keep mentioning that you ignore the vitriolic publications...  I suppose you
are referring to publications such as those of Varanasi Raj Gopal Sarma.   But I
find many similarities in your outbursts and theirs,  whence my "weaned on matha


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