He had a huge following in South India and had sought to play the role of a mediator in the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute
Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi coming out from Madras High Court Campus in Chennai. Shankaracharya, 82, the 69th pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt, died on Wednesday, February 27, 2018, in Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram.
Kanchipuram: Jayendra Saraswati, who broad-based the activities of the Hindu monastery Sankara Mutt with inclusive activities, died here on Wednesday in a private hospital. He was 82.
The 69th pontiff of the Mutt, established by Adi Shankaracharya in the eighth century, was ailing for quite some time. He was admitted to a private hospital here early on Wednesday after he complained of breathlessness.
Doctors said the pontiff died following cardiac arrest. His last rites will be conducted on Thursday and his body will be interred in the Mutt premises in accordance with traditions followed for Hindu seers.
The mortal remains of Jayendra Saraswati were kept at the Nandavanam in Kanchi Mutt for devotees to offer their prayers.
Meanwhile, junior pontiff Vijayendra Sarawati was elevated and given the charge of heading the Mutt.
Born Subramaniyam Mahadevan on July 18, 1935, in Irulneekki in erstwhile Thanjavur district, Jayendra was anointed successor to the Mutt by Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamigal and was given the title Sri Jayendra Saraswati on March 22, 1954.
Jayendra had a huge following in South India and had sought to play the role of a mediator in the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute during the BJP government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee between 1998 and 2004.
He was also mired in controversy when he was arrested in 2004 during the regime of late J. Jayalalithaa and made an accused in the murder of Sankararaman, an official of the famous Varadharaja Perumal Temple in Kanchipuram.
He, along with junior pontiff of the Mutt Vijayendra Saraswati and 21 others, was acquitted by a court in 2013 in neighbouring Puducherry where the case was transferred from Tamil Nadu.
Hundreds pay homage
Another controversy in which he was involved was in August 1987 when Jayendra Saraswati suddenly decided to leave the Mutt. After spending 17 days in Tala Cauvery in Kodagu in Karnataka, he returned to the Mutt to a warm welcome by thousands of devotees. He then kick-started his social organisation, Jana Kalyan.
Jayendra Saraswati sought to diversify the activities of the Sankara Mutt, which was largely run on orthodox lines for long, by entering into charitable activities. It ran several schools, eye clinics and hospitals.
He had his spiritual tutelage from ‘Maha Periyava’ Chandrasekarendra Saraswati and travelled the length and breadth of the country with his guru.
In January 1994, Jayendra Saraswati formally took over as the head of the Kanchi Mutt. There began a spiritual journey that saw several highs and lows for the institution.
As news of his death spread, a pall of gloom descended on the Kanchi Mutt, with hundreds of his followers thronging the Mutt to pay their homage.
A host of national leaders and even political leaders in Tamil Nadu, who had differences with Jayendra Saraswati and the Mutt, condoled his demise.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among those who expressed their condolences.
Condolences pour in
Expressing his condolences, President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted: “Sad to hear of the passing of Jayendra Saraswatiji, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Our country has lost a spiritual leader and social reformer of rare eminence. My condolences to his countless disciples and followers.”
Prime Minister Modi also shared on social media an old picture of his with the seer along with a condolence message.
“Deeply anguished by the passing away of Acharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Jagadguru Pujyashri Jayendra Saraswati Shankaracharya. He will live on in the hearts and minds of lakhs of devotees due to his exemplary service and noblest thoughts. Om Shanti to the departed soul,” Modi said.
“Jagadguru Pujyashri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya was at the forefront of innumerable community service initiatives. He nurtured institutions which transformed the lives of the poor and downtrodden,” he added.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said he was “saddened” to hear about the death of the Kanchi seer. “He was revered by lakhs of believers all over the world for his teachings. May his soul rest in peace,” the Congress President added.
Senior BJP leader and former Union Home Minister L.K. Advani in his condolence message said that he knew the seer — who played a key role in defusing acrimony between the Hindu and Muslim communities over the Babri Masjid dispute — well.
“I had the privilege of knowing Jayendra Saraswati Swamiji very closely. Our association became closer during the rule of NDA-I, when I was the Minister of Home Affairs in the government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji,” Advani said in a written message.
“Swamiji proactively initiated a dialogue with various religious and social leaders of the Muslim community to evolve an amicable solution to the Ayodhya dispute. This dialogue helped a lot in promoting mutual trust and goodwill between Hindu and Muslim communities,” he added.
The BJP veteran said he joined millions of devotees of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt in “offering prayers to the Almighty and in seeking peace to the departed soul”.