WITH Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi, the Junior Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, returning to the Sankara Mutt in Kancheepuram on November 16, religious activities at the mutt are back to normal. The mutt is trying hard to cope with the situation that has arisen in the wake of the arrest of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi. Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi was at Mahabubnagar, Andhra Pradesh, when the senior Acharya was arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police.
All pujas have resumed at the mutt. Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi performs the mandatory Sri Tripura Sundari Samedha Chandramouleeswara puja three times a day. In the evening, pupils of the Veda patasala offer prayers. R. Sankaran, a chartered accountant from Chennai who is the spokesman for the mutt, briefs the press twice a day. "We are praying for Sri Jayendra Saraswathi's welfare and return. All of us are deeply hurt and angered by the turn of events. Our tradition is only prayer," he said. He said that all charitable institutions associated with the mutt were functioning normally.
The mood is a little despondent in the mutt. The flow of devotees has reduced. Most of those who visit it are from Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra. Inside the mutt, they worship at the "athishtana" of the Paramacharya, who passed away in January 1994. Security men belonging to a private agency have been posted at the mutt entrance. Police are seated a little bit way in a non-obtrusive manner.
SRI VIJAYENDRA SARASWATHI told Kamakoti, a Tamil magazine, that "my only wish now is to meet my Gurunathar [Sri Jayendra Saraswathi]". He said: "I want to know directly from him the hardship and the suffering he has undergone. What I hear from others is confusing and intimidating." He said he had asked his legal advisers to apply to the magistrate for permission to meet the Sankaracharya. "I should have his darshan. That is what I want now," Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi said.
On November 27, the mutt manager, Sundaresa Iyer, said the mutt's regulations did not permit the junior Acharya to visit his Guru in jail. He also said the mutt would resort to legal action against journals and a television channel for carrying scurrilous reports.
When the interviewer of Kamakoti asked him about "the truth on Sankararaman", Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi replied: "I only remember that man in a half-baked way. Why should we discuss him? The courts will find out the truth. But I firmly believe in one thing - that my Gurunathar is innocent. All the allegations made against him are false. The world outside does not know the rigours to which we are subject and the rules we have to follow. Today, some newspapers and television channels have separated and twisted certain incidents from the circumstances in which they took place. I was told that when I removed the dust that had fallen on my face, a television channel telecast it and said I shed tears. Is this press dharma?"
He asked: "Why have the press turned so much against us? I am told that every hour a new falsehood against us is shown on the scroll [of a television channel]. Some [channels] started alleging that my brother was hiding from law. So the mutt allowed the television channel crew to take pictures of him here. They took pictures of him but told more lies."
Frontline sent a list of questions to Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi through Sankaran. To a question on the mutt's future, Sankaran said that it would continue to dedicate itself to all its activities as it had done until now with the support of its followers. On the mutt's plans to undo the damage done to its reputation, he said its devotees, though anguished by the recent turn of events, were still with the mutt. "The mutt, while continuing its good work in all fields, is hopeful of repairing the damage in good time," Sankaran said.
Answering another question, the spokesman denied reports in the media that the Mutt had huge assets. The Mutt, he said, depended on its devotees' contributions for performing its day-to-day activities. The fall in the interest rates this year had contributed to the shrinkage of its income. Sankaran denied as baseless media reports that there were "two camps in the mutt", divided between Sri Jayendra Saraswathi and Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi.
Asked how the mutt planned to run its various institutions, Sankaran said it was currently managing its activities with the help of retired officials and pensioners who wanted to serve it. The mutt planned to induct young professionals and employ modern methods of management and administration to manage its activities. "We appeal through Frontline to service-minded young professionals all over India to volunteer themselves for this," Sankaran said.
The Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, "in the interest of public awareness and protection of Dharma", published three advertisements in newspapers on November 21, "with the support and contribution of the devotees of the Peetam". The advertisements dealt with the mutt's welfare activities; "a quick glimpse of the activities of the Acharya in the last 51 years - in the field of education, Vedic research, health care, social welfare and religion... "; and the social welfare activities of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi. One of the advertisements said: "There are dark clouds on the horizon - which like all other clouds will disappear one day."
When reporters asked Sankaran about the purpose of the advertisement campaign, he replied: "A character-assassination is under way. So we wanted to explain the activities of the mutt and the Periyava [Sri Jayendra Saraswathi] in the proper way... . Gossip columns and anonymous letters are appearing in the media. We wanted to dispel all this. So the advertisements were released to project the welfare activities of the mutt - social, medical and educational - and to explain how the Swamiji [Sri Jayendra Saraswathi] had been the inspiring force behind all this."