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PART-2 : kAnchi svAmi Sri PB Annangaracharya

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Date: Wed Jun 21 2000 - 10:42:06 PDT

PART-2 : kAnchi Sri prati-vAdi-bhayankaram aNNangar-AchArya svAmi 
(1891 - 1983) ~~ a short memoir ~~ (by tirumanjanam S. Sundara Rajan)

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BIRTH: vikrti-meena/panguni-viSAkham (March 1891)
EXPIRY: rudhirOdgAri-mithuna/Ani-Sukla-EkAdaSI  (June 21 1983).
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The Sri-vaishNava religion has its commodious gallery of  scholars, each  
of them with a signal accomplishment of his own.      kAnchi svAmi stands out 
among them as one who liberated cloistered scholarship and reached the beauty 
and message of religion to those who could not pursue learning or spiritual 
observances for a career, and above all, as one who established proper 
standards 
of research based upon historical verification and internal evidences of our 
classics 
as correlated to corroborative externals.    Shri kAnchi svAmi was the 
twentieth 
century's rare polymath scholar of the Tamil and Sanskrit languages, and of 
the 
Sri-vaishNava religion.       In this, he ranks with the savants like 

~~ gO-vardhanam rang-AchArya who raised (around the year 1857) the 
Sriranga-nAtha shrine at the SrikrshNa's sportland of gOvardhanam and the 
mammoth temple of gOdA-Sriranga-mannAr (referred to as 'rang-ji mandir')
at vrndA-vanam (district Mathura in Uttar Pradesh State), and who made a 
Sanskrit translation of the extensive 'bhagavad-vishayam' commentary on 
tiru-vAi-mozhi scripture;

~~ gAdhi anant-AchArya who raised the SrivEnka/TESa temple in Fanasvadi, 
Mumbai;  and besides authoring several works of his own, had got the 
Sri Venkatesvara Steam Press set up and published the entirety of the
eighteen mahA-purANa, and the variorum edition of the various 'vyAkhya'
on Sri-rAmAyaNam;

~~ vAna-mA-malai jeeyar Sri chinna-kaliyan svAmi who toured all over the 
country and installed shrines and won a considerable Sri-vaishNava following 
in far-flung areas, including Nepal.

kAnchi aNNA svami's parents were Sri aNNA-rang-AchArya and alar-mEl-mangA. 
The putative ancestor, prati-vAdi-bhayankaram hasti-giri-nAthar-aNNA, was 
remembered in our kAnchi svAmi for  learning and skills of studious research 
and 
disciplined debate, and for the worship of the archA-vigraham of 
vEdAnta-dESika 
which had been presented to the ancestor by svAmi-dESikan's son and had 
come down to him as a centuries-old sacred heirloom.

kAnchi svAmi had his education successively under his own father, the 
celebrated 
gAdhi svAmi and his own maternal grandfather, shashThi azhakiya-maNavALa 
jeeyar.   He started on, and mastered, his instruction in the vEda as late as 
his 
22nd year under the celebrated tirumalai vinjamUr mAmpaLLam sudarSan-AchArya. 
  
His life-long career of unflagging authorship (with as many as 1276 known 
titles) 
was inaugurated at a precociously young age with the Sanskrit work 
'divya-prabandha-vivEka:', establishing the Tamil hymns of AzhvAr-s as 
'Sruti-pramANam' (scriptural authority). On the works and themes of 
SrivaishNava 
religion which was his natural passion and sustenance, none wrote more 
prolifically 
than aNNA, more to purpose, more authentically, and more rewardingly for the 
reader of  literature and 'sampradAyam'.

In the year 1907, when he was sixteen, aNNA made his first pilgrimage to 
Srirangam and came to the notice of kuvaLai-k-kuDi Singham aiyangAr who was 
drawn to aNNA's ringing recital of the surpassing hymn Sriranga-rAja-stavam.  
  
(This represents a  poignant moment of the festival of irA-p-pattu / 
tiruvAi-mozhi-t-tiru-nAL when the 'stavam' is rendered lustily in the 
'gOshThee' 
/ psalmody every day as the Deity Beautiful, namperumAL, emerges from the 
parama-pada-vASal, strolls along the southern bank of  chandra-pushkariNee 
tank, 
turns right and strides into the enchanting spread of sand, 
maNal-veLi-azhakiyAn, 
to gather in His arms, so to say, the ardent AzhvAr hurrying towards Him).

Singham svAmi was a philanthropist of Srirangam and had established in 
East Chitra street an ubhaya-vEdAnta-pATha-SAlA which became renowned for 
turning out a large and distinguished band of scholars.   Singham svAmi 
recognised 
the young prodigy in aNNA and he gave him a prompt cash reward of rupees 
one hundred, this in the year 1907. aNNA svAmi has recalled in his 
autobiography 
how ecstatic this made him;  he had money and would travel. He rightaway set 
out 
on a pilgrimage of Sri-villi-puttUr, AzhvAr-tiru-nagari, tiru-k-kurunkuDi, 
vAna-mA-malai to worship the deities and acquaint himself with the eminent 
scholars of the places.   This was a fulfilment he had sought for ever since 
he 
started remembering things.

aNNA was barely 20 when he married kOmaLammA, daughter of tirumalai 
anant-AN-piLLai vEnkaTa-varad-AchArya.  kOmaLamma passed away quite 
young leaving behind her husband and two daughters.  T.A. krshNamAchArya and 
gOpAlAchArya, the scholar-brothers (who, happily, are still in their long 
years of
invaluable service in the tirupati-sannidhi of Sri gOvinda-rAja, are the sons 
of 
kOmaLammA's brother.)

aNNA's life was entirely devoted to restoring and vigilantly protecting the 
ancient 
systems of worship in the temples, and to his extraordinary career of 
authorship.  
He wore his scholarship lightly, and to purpose.  He happened to the 
definition of
what a scholar be, learning informed by a critical faculty ~~ " vidvAn 
vipaS-chit
dOsha-jnah".    To cite just two instances of his skill of verification.   He 
proved
that the well-known and beautiful hymn 'mukunda-mAlA' cannot be attributed to
kula-SEkhara-AzhvAr, as is fondly believed.    The second one is in the 
context 
of svAmi-dESika's well-known allegorical play 'sankalpa-sooryOdayam' which
was in refutation of the precedent vaishNava-advAita allegorical play
'prabOdha-chandrOdayam'.   The fact that the two works are of a common genre 
and that the 'sooryOdayam' actually contradicts the 'chandrOdayam' led to a 
popular assumption that the authors of the two works were contemporaries.   
This was not so, and kAnchi-svAmi established (as though he was adopting the 
best critical tools of the Oxford Indologists) that krshNa-miSra, author of 
'chandrOdayam' lived in the 9th century and hence not a contemporary of 
dESika.   
The same date of miSra ~~ long after kAnchi svAmi's finding,~~ had been 
arrived at independently by a lady professor of the Delhi University in her 
edition of 'chandrOdayam' published in the 1960's.   His reasoned expose`s 
remind
one of Dr Samuel Johnson's exposure of the spuriousness of an ostensible 
medieval
Latin classic, Hessian, as published by a pseudo-scholar Macpherson.  Also, 
kAnchi-svAmi indeed never took a holiday from his favourite task of textual
purification which he pursued not out of any pedantic conceit but from an
outgoing concern for preserving the salutary thoughts of the noble 
philosophers
of the 'sampradAyam'.  He did it for the classic 'AchArya-hr.dayam', and for 
a 
certain reading of the celebrated gOvinda-rAjeeyam gloss on Sri-rAmAyaNam.

An evaluation of his contributions in these two respects cannot be 
accomplished in a single life-time. aNNA indeed belonged to a bygone era when 
writing flowed from research, research was supported by scholarship, 
scholarship 
was built through long apprenticeship and preserved in integrity, and 
integrity 
was matched by a love of learning.  The prolificity of his writing never 
suffered 
the predictable banality of hack-writing.   His prose had its own sap and 
fibre 
and organic vitality like the writing of, say,  Francis Bacon and Ralph Waldo 
Emerson, an all-time demonstration of the qualities of good writing, "mitam 
cha sAram cha vachO hi vAgmitA" (brevity and essentiality).   Suffice it for 
a 
short account as this to identify some milestones of his career as would 
speak 
of this colossal personality.

aNNA had digested the entirety of the divya-prabandham exegesis and written
excellent and reliable synopses under the comprehensive title  
'divyArtha-deepikA'.      
This apart, he published consolidated critical editions of the complete works 
of 
vEdAnta-dESika, maNavALa-mA-muni and rAmAnuja.   He also wrote precious 
commentaries on the hymnal works of Sri-vatsAnka (=koora-t-tAzhvAn) and his
renowned prodigy-son, parASara-bhaTTa.    aNNA's minor Tamil works 
'Sri-bhAshya-sArAmrtam' and 'Srimad-bhagavad-geetA-sAram' are clear capsule 
expositions of Sri Ramanuja's source works.   His 'dramiD-Opanishad-prabhAva
-sarva-svam' highlights the specific instances of Sri rAmAnuja's indebtedness
to the Tamil scripture, divya-prabandham.  

The admirers of aNNA would severally have their own choice of what they 
regard 
as aNNA's magnum opus.   Of such varied identified works would be prominently 
aNNA's Sanskrit version of the entirety of divya-prabandham, besides the 
Sanskrit 
translation of cardinal 'rahasya' classics Sri-vachana-bhUshaNam and 
mumukshu-p-paDi.   (The late Dr Krishna Datta Bharadwaj, a professional 
teacher 
of Sanskrit who had headed the elite Delhi Modern School, was also a 
passionate 
viSishTAdvAita scholar and SrivaishNava savant.   He had remarked to me with 
great feeling that he was admitted into the portals of the unique 
divya-prabandham 
literature only after he acquired copies of the kAnchi svAmi's Sanskrit 
translations.)   
aNNA has rendered each verse of divya-prabandham into a Sanskrit SlOkam with 
metric correspondence to the Tamil original, and has thereunder given the 
dEva-nAgari transliteration of theTamil verse, and has also written a concise 
and 
succinct summary in Sanskrit of the classical commentaries on each verse.   
This is 
the unique achievement of aNNA, and is something so non-pareil that one has 
to 
consider it as only of divine dispensation.  

Near the western gate of Sri varada-rAja temple is the majestic nampiLLai 
shrine 
(consecrated in the year 1940, in tribute to the 13th century aesthete par 
excellence 
and author of the precious commentary ~ eeDu ~ on the scripture 
tiru-vAi-mozhi).    
This will be regarded as the outstanding institutional achievement of aNNA.   
(The original shrine of nampiLLai is in Srirangam in the middle of the 
stretch 
between tiru-manjana-kAvEri and the lofty southern gOpuram edifice built by 
achyuta-rAya of the vijayanagara empire.   It is over this edifice that the 
44th jeeyar 
of Sri ahObila-maTham had got the massive gOpuram raised.)   Much earlier, 
around the year 1916, he set up in the eastern mADa street of vishNu-kAnchi 
the vEda-pAThaSAlA named 'vEdAnta-vaijayantI'.

aNNA's discourses on 'tiru-p-pAvai' constituted an unfailing annual festival 
of 
the month of mArkazhi in the city of Chennai over a span of 22 years 
(1931-83).  
In the last year of the discourses, aNNA rendered the Day's Verse in the 
idiom of
'aRaiyar-sEvai'.   His 120-day-long exposition of the 'AchArya-hrdayam' (in 
the 
year 1939) right in the sacred site of AzhvAr-tiru-nagari must have been one 
of 
his most prized memories.   On his regular visits to Srirangam, he made it a 
point 
to begin with a brief talk in Sanskrit before switching over to his 
substantive 
Tamil discourse (arranged in the kuvaLai-k-kuDi pAThaSAla).

The SrivaishNava religion has the core concept of ukandu-aruLina-nilangaL, 
meaning the Chosen Seats of the Lord, and are referred to as 'divya-dESam'.   
There are 108 divya-dESam hymned by the blessed AzhvAr-s and located across 
the length and breadth of the country.  The svAmi had led groups of devotees 
and scholars on memorable pilgrimages to these hallowed places.

The svAmi had in his time written and issued several periodicals, viz., 
manju-bhAshinI, vana-mAlika, brahma-vidyA, amrta-laharI, and Sri-rAmAnujan 
(all in Tamil), vaidika-manOharA (Sanskrit), Sri-rAmAnuja-patrikA (Telugu) 
and SrivaishNava-sudhA (Hindi).

Honours came copiously to this versatile, humanist genius.     tiru-nArAyaNa 
aiyangAr of the scholarly journal Sentamizh (Madurai) admired him as the 
Sentamizh-c-chelvar. Sivananda of Hrsheek/ES called him vyAkhyAna-vAchaspati. 
  
The President's Certificate of Honour for Sanskrit Scholars was awarded to 
him in 
1965, followed by the Republic Day civil award of Padma-Bhushan in 1967.   
In the year 1971, the Vice-President of India, G.S. Pathak, presented to him 
the title 
'mahA-mahimO/pAdhyAya' on behalf of the bhArati parishad of prayAg 
(allahabad).   
The svAmi submitted to the worldly honours as instances of service to 
religion, 
but nonetheless used to repeat that he had the distinction that he never did 
miss 
participating in the adhyApaka-gOshThee recitations in the Sri-varada-rAja 
temple 
in his native kAncheepuram.

Any tribute to Sri aNNA svAmi would ever fall short of his eminence and 
humanity.   
John Dryden's adoration of William Shakespeare could be all of the 
description that
would fit aNNA, as "that large and comprehensive soul". The geet/AchArya, 
SrikrshNa, 
declares "I appropriate the Wise unto Myself !" (jnAnee-t-vAtmaiva mE matam). 
 
kAnchi-svAmi could well be of the Wise thus identified.

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