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PART-3: kAnchi Sri prati-vAdi-bhayankaram aNNangar-AchArya svAmi
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 09:52:39 PDT

kAnchi Sri prati-vAdi-bhayankaram aNNangar-AchArya svAmi (1891 - 1983)
PART-3 :  in memoriam ~~ (by tirumanjanam S. Sundara Rajan)

kAnchi svAmi passed away on June 21 1983.    I had  visited him a little 
before his end came. Stepping into the vEdAnta vAijayantee pATha-SAlA 
(which he established and where he lived his later years) was like peering 
a mine of gems, since one could just pick up at random a classic edition one 
had only heard of and despaired of acquiring a copy.    The wizard spirit of 
this treasure-house of books did not even raise his head to look at you as he 
sat in the large hall where the walls were totally screened off by racks 
racks of books.  His head was bent over a book or a sheaf of papers on which 
he was writing. When I succeeded in identifying myself to the svAmi, he said, 
"Oh, that's Kannan's brother, is it! Well, then,  you must have brought 
ball-pen refills for me ?"

My brother Sri Kannan had the advantage of a steady Madras posting and 
could pay regular visits to kAnchi svAmi.   On his repeated visits to this 
doyen of Sri-vAishNavam, Kannan was mindful to take two strange 'offerings'.  
One was a small polythene pouch of raisins, which the svAmi could chew on 
without distress over his long hours of writing.  The second was a packet of 
ball-pen refills.   The svAmi always prized these as precious gifts indeed.   

I was shy of approaching the svAmi who was a scholar-phenomenon of 
the century.  The memory is vivid in me of his central leadership of the 
astonishingly large  'adhyApaka gOshThee' that had been assembled 
during the unprecedented All India vEda sammElan organised in 
April 1973 in the vast Ramleela Grounds in Delhi by the tri-danDi 
Sriman nArAyaNa jeeyar (Senior).  A showy display of devotion to the 
great personage would have been inappropriate on my part (just as any 
attempt at linguistic, literary or theological assessment severally of his
 writing would ever fall short of the profundity and authenticity of his 
contributions.)    I therefore just watched from away as he gazed on in 
adoration of Lord Sri lOka-shEma rAma and His entourage (ceremonially 
brought over from His shrine in Lodhi Colony) and led the recitals in a 
ringing voice.   It was a moment of bliss as the unfathomable spate of 
paramAchArya nAthamuni's bhakti (agAdha-bhagavad-bhakti-sindhu) 
washed over us all assembled at the vibrant venue of the vEda conference

"Keep looking at the books," the svAmi said to me, "till I finish with this."
He called me out in a while, and I approached him with an arm-load of 
books I had picked up.   I quickly tallied the (nominal) prices printed on 
books and made to submit my petty payment.   He had started simply giving 
away his books to whoever showed interest, and hence would not accept 
money.  I was not overmuch into the svAmi's confidence like my brother was 
and could not think of a proper manner of showing my regard except timidly 
press my payment.  He acceded and said, "Well, this should take care of the 
'prasAdam' (cooked offering) at to-morrow's conclusion of nam-piLLai 
utsavam!"  He thus gave a status to a Nobody like myself, and value to my 
handful of rupees.

And, peering at me down his thick glasses, svAmi asked, "What be the 
books you picked up?"  As I read out the titles one by one, he asked, 
"Is that engaL-AzhvAn gloss on vishNu-purANam?  Oh, can you read 
nAgari ?"  His eyes glinted and he was readily pleased to discover the 
tiniest merit or skill in any of his visitors.  In these times of wicked 
neglect of Sanskrit studies, it gratified him that one could barely read off 
the deva-nAgari script, even if not be literate in the language itself.

He got misty-eyed as he noticed me holding his Sanskrit translation 
of the mudal-Ayiram (first Thousand) of the divya-prabandham.   
"sundara-rAjA," he whispered to me but actually slipping into fond  
reminiscence, "Once I had sent in the day's instalment of translation, 
the form-proof used to come from the press just overnight, and jAmAtA
-svAmi would return the corrected proof forthwith.  Day after day it 
went on so, and we got the full book, you know, printed in no time!"   
[jAmAta-svAmi was, of course, his elder son-in-law, 
tirumalai-akkArak-kani sampat-kumArAchArya svAmi, and father of 
Sri anantAzhvAn.]   "That was how  we worked on this, and that was 
the kind of excellence of Sanskrit printing in kAnchi of those days!   
To-day, of course, it is as BhavabhUti describes it!" And he fell into a 
reverie as he recited the line from uttara-rAma-charitam, 
"purA yatra srOtah, pulinam adhunA, tatra saritAm" 
~~ the swelling current of the river has yielded to a sandy stretch!

In assuming that a  scholar like kAnchi svAmi would ipso facto be 
unapproachable to a layman like me, I had failed to store up the 
benefits of  exposure to a real and outstanding personage of the times.   
His personal wants were few and his hidden acts of charity many.   
His learning did not weigh him down and his civility never deserted 
him in the keenest of his personal struggles.   He had a child-like 
simplicity and he used to indulge in occasional and soft teasing.  
(Good jokes, someone said, bite like lambs and not like tigers!)  
"You folks of chOzha-nADu are in need of tonDai-nATTu 
apprenticing to speak Tamil properly!"  Once, commenting on 
another scholar's rickety grammar behind a faulty interpretation, 
he said, "The writer has a touching trust of analogy in deriving 
('samAsam') an epithet.   For him, if Indra's spouse were indrANee, 
then 'talahANee' it is (colloquy for talai-aNai, pillow) for the wife of 
talaha (whoever that was) !"

His books occupy the pride of place in my collections and, despite 
that I had acquired them with my two-bit payments off and on, 
the books were like God's bounty, quite free. They are on the verities, 
beneficient, sustaining.  Like the sunshine, like the breeze, the flow of 
a river, and the capacity for good memories.  
He is a 'prAtas-smaraNeeyah', one to think of when you arise 
from  sleep at day-break.***** "Sri-ranga-nAthO jayatu !" ************

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           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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