SRI SWAYAMPRAKASHA SWAMIGAL
A galaxy of holy men have traversed the holy land of India and Sri Swayamprakasa Swamigal stands head and shoulders above such divine perceptors. Sri Swayamprakasha Swamigal was born to Sri Rama Sastrigal and Smt. Janaki Ammal in 1871 at Kalpattu near Villupuram. Though he received a formal academic education, like his perceptor, Sri Swayamprakasha Swamigal was drawn towards spiritual pursuits early in life. He was disenchanted with the worldy life which he yearned to renounce, much against the wish of his family. Sri Swayamprakasha Swamigal was steadfast in his goal of spiritual upliftment and eventually became a disciple of Sri Judge Swamigal of Pudukkottai. Several people have been the grateful recipients of Sri Swayamprakasha Swamigal’s munificient grace. His prominent disciple, whom the world looks up to as the Sathguru is Sri Shanthananda Swamigal. Sri Shanthananda Swamigal has built the adhishtanam of Sri Swayamprakasha Swamigal at Dattagiri in Sendamangalam.
Birth and Childhood
Swamigal was born in a village ‘kalpattu’ (a village at a distance of around 16 kms from Vilupuram and close Thirukovilur in Tamilnadu) on 28-11-1871. He was born with 3 brothers and 2 sisters. His parents were Sriramaswamy Sastrigal and Smt. Janaki Ammal. Swamigal’s purvashrama name was ‘Krishnamurthy’. During his childhood, his father moved from Kalpattu to a small village ‘Aduthurai’ on the banks of Cauvery in Tanjore district.
During those days, there was a craze for English education among the people as it was easy to get government jobs in British India with English knowledge. Hence his father educated ‘Krishnamurthy’ in an English medium school at a place called ‘Thiruvidaimaruthur’ & ‘Kumbakonam’. Though Krishnamurthy was getting educated through English medium, he also showed equal interest to learn Sanskrit to read the Vedas & Puranas that were available in Sanskrit. He completed his matriculation education at Trivandrum. While attending the school education, he also attended separate classes to understand the Upanishads, Sanskrit Verses, Puranas, Ithihasas etc.
Job & his wish
Ironically, the essence of Vedas, Puranas & Upanishads greatly influenced Krishnamurthy to develop his inner desire for sainthood rather than any Government job. Unaware of this, his parents were praying for a good Government job for his son ‘Krishnamurthy’ and also a girl to get him married.
However, Swamigal got a job in ‘Settlement Department’ of the Government and was posted at a place called ‘Salem’. Though Krishnamurthy was workaholic and hardworking, often he got into deep meditation whenever possible and followed it as a practice. In the meanwhile, he also got bonus & increments for his hard work.
It is the duty of the parents to find a matching bride for their son after they get proper education & a decent job. Hence, his parents started searching alliance for their youngest son Krishnamurthy. But Krishnamurthy turned down all the requests and conveyed his wish to become a saint. This angered his parents and brothers and they told him to pay back the Rs. 3000/- that they had spent for his education and later he can go as per his wish. They imposed such condition because in those days, Rs.3000 was a very big amount and it will take years to save such a big amount. They also thought that it will be a long period to make Krishnamurthy incline towards the marriage.
Krishnamurthy accepted their condition to their surprise but in turn also proposed one condition from his side that they should not prompt him for marriage till he repays the money. After this, Krishnamurthy determined to repay the money to his brothers at the earliest so that he can leave for taking up the Sanyasam (saint). He started to save money in the bank for repayment and Sanyasam. He also got transfer to Chennai (Madras) at this time.
A small beginning towards Sanyasam
At this time, a very good marriage alliance was proposed to Krishnamurthy’s parents and they sent their eldest son to talk to Krishnamurthy about the alliance. When his brother came and informed him about the alliance, Krishnamurthy didn’t talk to him for 4 days and made him to wait without any interactions and interfaces. Irked by Krishnamurthy’s behavior, his brother was about to pour a pot of cold water on Krishnamurthy’s head. At this time, Krishnamurthy told his brother to chant ‘Purusha Suktam’ mantra and pour which angered his brother further. Krishnamurthy smiled and told that he need not pay him any more money as the condition laid by him was breached by them. However, he signed and gave the passbook to his brother which had an accumulation of around Rs.500/-. Krishnamurthy took this incident as a symptom for his Sanyasam and resigned his job to start a pilgrimage to a holy place in North India ‘Kashi’.
Struggles at Kasi
After resigning the job, Krishnamurthy reached Kashi and became a student of Sri Dakshinamurthy Swamigal. He learnt more about the vedhas for 3 years. During this time, Krishnamurthy’s health also deteriorated. The ashram informed his parents about the same and they rushed to Kashi and requested him to come back with them. Krishnamurthy informed and assured them that he will come back to their village on the 96th day from then. His parents’ heavy heartedly left Kashi without knowing what was in the store!
Though Krishnamurthy assured his parents that he will return on 96th day, his mind was restless and was thinking more about Sanyasam (sainthood). He requested his guru to give ‘Deeksha’ which is a ritual process to recognize a person as ‘Sanyasi’. In Hindu rituals, Sanyasam can be granted only by a ‘Guru’ and that too by following proper rituals.
His Guru smiled at him and told that he should get the blessings and permission from his parents to attain the Sanyasam which is mandatory. Krishnamurthy wrote a letter to his parents to grant him the required permission for becoming Sanyasi. But his parents asked him to come to his native first and hence Krishnamurthy decided to go to the village in person to get their permission.
The 96th Day incident
When Krishnamurthy reached ‘Aduthurai’, it was exactly the 96th day (the day promised by him to his parents at Kashi that he will return back to the village to see his parents). But it was so sad that Krishnamurthy could not even go to his house straight as he heard that his father was dead on that day morning and hence he rushed to the burial ground.
Though Krishnamurthy reached the burial ground, he refused to participate in the last rites. He told the people around that he has a detached mind and cannot take up any activity that will exhibit his attachments towards relationships. People were surprised to see the determination of Krishnamurthy.
Struggles to get Sanyasam.
On the 13th day death ritual of his father, Krishnamurthy requested his mother and brothers to grant him permission to take up the Sanyasam. But they were trying to console him on various factors. At this time, his brothers ‘Narasimha Ganapadigal’ and ‘Guruswamy Ganapadigal’ got jobs as teachers at a place called ‘Ganapettai’ that fell under the then ‘Pudukottai Maharaja Kingdom’ as veda teachers. Krishnamurthy’s family migrated to the new place and Krishamurthy who had already perceived himself as Sanyasi didn’t even take any vehicle but reached the new place only by walk. (This is mainly because, in those days, a Sanyasi was not supposed to go by any palanquin or any vehicle but is supposed to go only by walk).
After reaching the Ganapettai, Krishnamurthy started following the rituals mandated for Sanyasis like ‘Bhiksha’ wherein a Sanyasi is not supposed to earn or work for getting his food but he is supposed to beg with others to get food and is also supposed to take only a small quantity of staple food without even salt.
People at Ganapettai noticed the determination of Krishnamurthy and started giving respect like a Sanyasi only. His mother and brothers started realizing that Krishnamurthy had high determination to become a Sanyasi. But Krishnamurthy was also determined to obey the words of his guru to get the permission. Hence he was roaming in the ‘Ganapettai’ village like a lion roaming inside a cage with rage.
One year passed by, Krishnamurthy’s mother and brothers realized that it was not so easy to divert him from taking Sanyasam and hence they accepted his request but asked him to find a suitable guru first, who can grant him Sanyasam (as Kashi will be a distant place for which they were not ready to send him for getting Sanyasam). Krishnamurthy was so happy to hear this and started the search for a guru who could grant him the ‘Deeksha’ for Sanyasam.
Judge Swamigal & ‘Sanyasam’
Krishamurthy heard about a Mahan ‘Judge Swamigal’ who was staying in Madurai that time. Judge Swamigal got this name because of his earlier profession as a judge. He resigned his post and took up the Sanyasam following the ‘Avadootha school of Ashram’. He was well respected for his strict disciplines and his determinations.
Krishnamurthy reached Madurai and met Judge Swamigal and detailed about his thoughts and his preparedness to take up Sanyasam. He also requested Judge Swamigal to take him as a disciple and provide ‘Deeksha’ to take up the Sanyasam.
Being a Mahan, Judge Swamigal realized the fire inside Krishnamurthy. He also felt that this Krishnamurthy had the required potential to follow ‘Avadootham’ and Sanyasam. He enquired about Krishnamurthy’s family members and asked him to get the permission of his mother on the spot and can take up the Sanyasam before his mother only. He also gave the instructions that need to be followed before and after taking the Sanyasam.
Krishnamurthy walked 72 miles to reach his mother. At that time, he was wearing only a ‘loin cloth’. He did a ‘Prathakshanam’ (going around) around his mother for 3 times and fell flat (Namaskaram) before his mother. When he got up, the cloth fell down due to his guru’s blessings and he stood there as ‘Avadootha Swamigal’ and he became ‘Sri Swayam Prakasa Saraswath Avadootha Swamigal’ (henceforth referred here as ‘Swamigal’).
He also took an oath that; henceforth
THOSE WHO OFFER FOOD TO HIS BHIKSHA WILL BE HIS MOTHER
HIS GURU WILL BE HIS FATHER
SILENCE WILL BE HIS WIFE
HIS DISCIPLES WILL BE HIS CHILDREN
(The exact date he took his Sanyasam was Tamil year ‘Vihari’, month ‘ Aani’ and it was a full moon day. He was only 28 years old then).
wamigal as Avadootha Sanyasi
Avadootha Ashram is not an easy approach for Sanyasis’. It may be a way that was used to the public people living around Himalayas where several saints perform their penance without dress and people are used to it. But following such a practice in South India cannot be imagined at all. In a society where dresses play an important role and half naked itself is considered as a nuisance.
After taking up the Sanyasam, Swamigal planned to visit the temples around and first decided to visit Nerur Sadhasiva Brahmendra Saraswathi Swamigal ‘Adhishtanam’ (Adhishtanam is a place where a saint is usually buried). Swamigal used to walk very fast. Avadootha sect does not require its followers to take daily bath & perform pooja like other saints and hence Swamigal was perceived as a ‘lunatic’ by the public at many places as his body was covered with mud & dust. Some people at some places considered him as a person creating nuisance and hence threw stones at him. Swamigal did not have consciousness about his body & wounds and used to walk ignoring all oppressions and take food either by Bhiksha or with the fruits available on the way.
Swamigal visited Nerur and worshipped Sadashivar who is considered as Guru of Judge Swamigal. After this, he visited the temples in Tanjore, Kumbakonam, Virudhachalam, and Chidambaram and reached Thiruvannamalai. At Thiruvannamalai, he met ‘Ramana Maharishi’. Both of them performed penance together at the hilltop under a mango tree. Ramana Maharishi mentions about our Swamigal as a ‘Vairaghya Purushar’ (Deterministic & Dedicated saint) (Reference: from his table: Ramananda Swarnagiri).
Swamigal liked the ambience of Thiruvannamalai as it is like a citadel of saints in South India. At this time, his relatives learnt about his presence in Thiruvannamalai and started visiting him (like the same experience of Ramana Maharishi). Our Swamigal could not bear the visitors influences in Thiruvannamalai and hence decided to move to Kolli hills in Salem district of Tamilnadu. Kolli hills are considered to be mysterious hills equivalent to the ‘Chathuraigiri’ in south Tamilnadu.
Our Swamigal began his walk towards Kolli hills and was arrested by the police at Salem for creating nuisance and an advocate who happened to be his devotee appeared for him and relieved him from the clutches of the arrest by detailing the court about the sanctity attached with the Avadootha Ashram. After this, Swamigal stayed in Salem for few days and proceeded to Kolli hills.
At Kolli hills, Swamigal noticed various Sanyasis in deep meditation across the hilly areas and reached a place called ‘Senthamangalam’ located at the foothills of Kolli hills.
Swamigal at Senthamangalam
Senthamangalam was a big village wherein Hindus & Muslims formed the majority of the population. Swamigal faced hardships when he was walking in the streets of Muslims and they pelted stones at him. One of the stone hit the throat of Swamigal very badly. He never bothered about the wounds but the set of people who threw stones at him died within a short period due to their internal rivalries and by getting wounds in their throats. This surprised many in the village and they realized that a big Mahan is among them. The news spread like a wildfire and thousands of devotees thronged to get his blessings.
Though Swamigal wished to perform meditation and get into a deep penance, the devotees’ crowd grew larger day by day and hence he moved from Senthamangalam to deep forests inside Kolli hills to get his loneliness and privacy. At that time, a lady was found murdered in Kolli hills and some people created rumors that Swamigal was the reason behind the same. This frustrated our Swamigal and he decided to end his life through ‘Nirvikalpa Samadhi’.
But true devotees got him back to Senthamangalam and made him to stay at a place called ‘Sanyasi Karadu’ – a small hillock near Senthamangalam.
Swamigal at Sanyasikaradu
This small hillock is 1 km away from Senthamangalam. It also had a small cave in it. Devotees created a small tent around the cave for the devotees to sit there and get a glimpse of the Swamigal. Swamigal used to get into deep penance for several days inside the cave without food & water.
The then collector heard about the incident happening at Sanyasikaradu that a man was doing penance inside a cave without having food or water for several days and he felt that it may a case against humanitarian laws and hence ordered the cops to break the cave door and pull him out to provide the food & water. When the cops broke the door, they found that our Swamigal was in a sleeping posture but remained like a dead body. They pulled him out and thought that he was dead. But our Swamigal got up as though he was woken up from deep sleep. Surprised by this, the Cops & the Collector fell at his feet to pardon them and bless.
A Small Dossier of Miracles
A lot of miracles were said to have happened during this period that even the older people around Senthamangalam had witnessed (they used to be young in those period). A few samples are provided below.
Once Swamigal was captive inside a Muslim’s house, though he was locked inside, the Muslim house owner saw Swamigal in the streets when he went to the market. Shocked by this, when he rushed back to the house, he found Swamigal inside the room smiling at him. The Muslim fainted and later requested Swamigal to pardon him.
Once a person tried to give meat to him the same got converted to flowers.
Some people intentionally sent some prostitutes to seduce him, but when they reached near Swamigal , they could not bear the ‘Tejas’ of Swamigal’s face and surrendered before him by falling at his feet (their Kama desires were burnt at the glimpse of Swamigal).
Once Swamigal went to Nerur but the boatman refused him to enter into the boat as he was without clothes and started to sail. Soon the boat was into deep troubles and they found our Swamigal rescuing them by standing on the water. After rescuing the boat, he crossed the river by walking over the water. Many people in the boat who opposed to Swamigal fainted on seeing this.
A snake used to pose before him while he was in meditation. But this panicked the devotees. Swamigal learnt about this and looked at the eyes of the snake and to the surprise of many, the snake left very calmly and never to be seen there after.
Swamigal used to visit various places and once in ‘Thiruvaiyaru’, a Brahmin deliberately invited him for lunch and then insulted him saying that he should live only in the burial ground. Immediately Swamigal left the house without eating anything but the roof of the house got into the fire.
Swamigal chose to live near to the society to preach the people and make them live happily. Many could not realize this and some realized only later.
After spending close to 2 years in Senthamangalam, Swamigal started his pilgrimage around India. He went to various places alone and stayed under the trees and ate the food whatever was offered to him. At some places, people hit him as he was naked. Swamigal accepted all the good & bad experiences as one. He went to Kashi, Haridwar, Brahmakamalam, Badarikachram, Prayag, Ayodhi, Himalayaas, Dattatreyar’s place – Kairnar etc. Swamigal did lot many wonders like flying, walking over water, disappearing at one place and appearing at another.
When he was in meditation in Badrinaryanam, Lord Dattatreyar’s appeared in his dream and asked him to build a temple for him in Southern India which was not there at any place down south. At the same time, Lord Dattatreya also ordered ‘ Nanananda Yogiraj’ who used to live in that place to accompany Swamigal and reach Senthamangalam and help to build the temple and later attain Mukti in Kolli hills itself.
Lord Dattatreya is considered as ‘Guru of all Gurus’, an incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. All the gods in the world have got inheritance within Lord Dattatreya e.g. if one wants to worship Goddess Lakshmi, she is in the heart of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is again a part of Lord Dattatreya. Similarly if one wants to worship Goddess Parvathi Devi, she is part of Lord Shiva and Shiva is part of Lord Dattatreya. Hence by praying Lord Dattatreya, one prays to all gods’ and all gurus’ of the entire world.
When (such a great) Lord Dattatreya ordered a yogi & a Swamigal in Himalayas, both realized the importance of the temple and both came to Senthamangalam to start the work for the temple.
As it is the wish of the Lord himself to establish a temple in down south to remove the differences between Shaivites and Vaishanavites, work started by itself and moved by default.
One devotee got the idol. The specialty of this idol is that in all other places, the centre face of Lord Dattatreya will be Vishnu. But here it is Shiva. Around the temple, a small dedicated place for Swamigal was also built so that Swamigal decided to get into ‘Jeeva Samadhi’ in that place. The first Kumbabhishekam (dedication or commissioning of temple for worship) happened on 29.5.1931 and hence the name of the hillock was called as ‘Dattagiri’. Several disciples helped Swamigal in getting this done.
Swamigal’s gratitude for his Guru.
During this period, Judge Swamigal (the guru of our Swamigal who gave Deeksha to our Swamigal) attained Samadhi at a place called ‘Narthamalai’ in Pudukottai district in Tamilnadu (around 130 kms from Senthamangalam). Some devotees brought his body to Pudukottai to build his Adhishtanam with the help of the contributions from the king of Pudukottai and rich people of the kingdom. In due course, people slowly forgot about the place and also stopped pooja. Our Swamigal learnt about this through his supernatural power and went there one night to find the place of his guru. He also created the instinct among many good people in Pudukottai about this. Hence suddenly many people started talking about this and tried to find out the place of Adhishtanam (buried place) of judge Swamigal as it got submerged under various plants & bushes.
Some people came to our Swamigal in Senthamangalam to help them to show them the place. Swamigal pointed them in a map about the place. Soon, the activities picked up to renovate judge Swamigal temple and the Kumbabhishekam happened on 31-05-1936. He also sent hone his prime disciple – Sri Santhananda Swamigal to Pudukottai to take charge of the Adhishtanam. Shri Santanandar went to Pudukottai and undertook ‘Mouna Vratham’ (oath of silence) for 1 year and ate only the neem leaves and did a penance. Goddess Bhuvaneswari appeared in his dream and asked him to build a temple in that place and now people of Pudukottai witness the famous ‘Bhuvaneswari Ashram’ in Pudukottai with Judge Swamigal Adhishtanam.
Swamigal thus left no stone unturned to spread the good messages. He repaid his debt to this guru and also gave Dikshas to numerous disciples. He created a good institution without any inclination for fame, name, power or money – a rarest of rare quality
(Author note: I am blessed to write this blog in English through the sources of various materials and the intention of this blog is also not to create an overnight fame for Swamigal as he knows when to create, what to create, who will notice this blog, when he will call the reader to his place and all. This is my experience. For example, normally I write very fast, but I took nearly 4 months to complete the manuscript and typing of this happened in a single night and that too suddenly)
Swamigal also used to be great Ayurvedic Expert; he used to prepare herbal oils for the use of poor.
Our Swamigal realized during late 1940s’ that it is time for him to leave the body. Great saints know about this before hand itself e.g. Lord Ragavendra is said to be living for more than 700 years though he left his body some 3 centuries back itself. That is the power of great saints. They treated body only as a mean and not the end for achieving the Yoga & Mukthi
It was 1948; Swamigal got a paralytic stroke and also a high fever. He had an unbearable pain & his body used to shiver. Devotees called the specialist to check up his body and when they diagnosed, the body would be normal and immediately after the doctors’ leave the place, the pains continued. He told his devotees about this and said that he wished to shed off all his sins of the body by undergoing bodily pains and he did not want to carry the pains due to doctor treatments.
It was exactly December 29, 1948 (29-12-1948). Swamigal’s breath started going inwards slowly and got immersed in his body only. This is the highest form of Samadhi and Swamigal did that. Before that, he created a Sannidhi (place) before the Dattatreya statue for burying his body as Jeeva Samadhi.
On 30-12-1948, his body was buried, on 8-1-1949- Mahapuja was performed and on very next day Aradhana was performed. Even now, every year, the Aradhana is performed in a notable manner. Even today, people believe that they can feel Swamigal’s presence in this place through the smell of vibudhi (holy ash). Shri Santhananda Swamigal built various Sannidhi and installed the idol of Lord Muruga in this hillock and performed Kumbabhishekam in 20-1-1983. People may recollect that Sri Santhananda Swamigal also built the popular ‘Kandagiri’ near Salem. Recently, the temple was again renovated and Kumbabhishekam was performed on 14-7-2008.
Other Disciples of Swamigal
He used to be with Swamigal all the time. He was the disciple who took care of swamigal’s requirements as Swamigal never had any requirements for even food & water. He went to various places to collect donations for building the temple.
He moved out of the house and married life at the age of 20 and took Vratham in palani hills for 48 days to know about our Swamigal. It is said that (Bogar Siddhar guided him to reach our Swamigal). There was an anecdote which the local people fondly remember
When the temple was under the construction, several times, it was very difficult to collect the required money. Duriyanandar thought of making some quick money for the temple. He installed a pole and powered the pole through his powers such that the people touching the pole will get rid of their problems instantly and they should offer money equivalent to the severity of the problems.
Suddenly money started flowing in and when Swayam Prakasa Swamigal learnt about this, he got angry and called Duriyanandar and told that he can’t play for the money and donations should be collected through volunteering actions. He also showed some stones and touched it. Immediately, the stones turned into gold, he told that he can do much more wonders to collect money. But he advised Duriyanandar not to indulge in any such activities. He also penalized Duriyanandar to go to Kashi to get rid of the sin due to this. Swami Duriyanandar went to Kashi and spent some time and returned back to Swamigal. Both Sankarananda and Duriyanandar Adhishtanam are at the foot hill of the ‘Datta Giri’.
Krishnananda Swamigal got to know about Swayam Prakasa Swamigal through ‘Seshadri Swamigal’ of Thiruvannamalai. Seshadri Swamigal had told him to go to Senthamangalam to get Deeksha from Swayam Prakasa Swamigal. His Adhishtanam is also located inside a small ashram built by the devotees of Krishnananda Swamigal located at the foothill of the hillock. There are also few more Adhishtanam around this hillock. These will give a feel to the devotees that they are in a small Thiruvannamalai.
Shanthananda: He was also the prime disciple and he established Kandashramam in Salem later. Other disciples who got Deeksha from Swamigal are Sri Nijanandar, Sri Duriyasivam, Sri Niranjanandar (Coimbatore), Sri Venkitaramaiyar, Sri Suganandhar (Tiruchengode), Sri Abayanandhar (Mohanur), Sri Sivanandar.