I am glad to reproduce an article from the Web about Vennathankarai Andhavan and the Present Pontiff Swami Gopaladesika Mahadesikan and thank the Contributor.
SRIMAD ANDAVAN ( SRI VENNATRANKARAI ANDAVAN )
(VED): _Sri Velaamur Varada Krishnamachariar Swami belonged to Kalyana Puram near Tiruvaiyaaru. He married one Alarmel Mangai. Both the families were steeped in Vedic tradition. The family enjoyed the patronage of Serfoji Raja of Thanjavur on account of their deep dedication to Vedic tradition. They lived in a house adjacent to Singaperumal Koil at Vennatran Karai whose praise has been sung by Tirumangai Alwar.
The couple was blessed with a son in the cyclic year _Kara_ in the month of Panguni when the star Anuradha was in the ascendant.19th March 1882. At his birth, he was named Seshadri. He received Pancha Samskaram from his father as well as the first lessons in Sama Veda from his father.
He was sent to Tiruvaiyaru Vembu Sastrigal and (*Nagaraja Sastrigal*SMM), noted Sanskrit Pandits to specialize in Sama Veda, Kavya, and Nataka. Later, he studied and became proficient both in Yajur Veda and Divya Prabhandam. Qualified to perform yagnas, he was an authority in Dharma Sastras and in the practical application of six Sutras in daily life. He excelled in Goshti Parayana as he was endowed with a rich mellifluous voice.
Srimad Srinivasa Maha Desikan in his Purvasrama was quite well known for his philanthropy. He has helped pious Vaishnavas in times of dire need. Although born in a wealthy family, Sri Srinivasachariar_s mind and heart turned to renunciation and to severing Worldly attachments. He had already sought the feet of Gnana Vairaghya Anushtana Sampanna Poundarika Puram Andavan and received from his Grantha Kalakshepam, Bhara Samarpanam, Prapatti Prayoga Upadesam, Presha Mantra Upadesam and Sannyaasa Prayogam. Considering his Poorvasrama financial resources as trash, he cam e to Poundarika Puram Andavan Asramam as his final retreat.
After becoming the Acharya, he devoted his full attention to the administration of the Asramam and to the celebration, in a grand manner the Tirunakshatra of the past Srimad Andavans. (* He helped Chaturveda Satakratu Navalpakkam Narasimha Tatachariar, Kozhiyalam Sri Ranga Ramanuja Maha Desikan and several others and earned their gratitude and blessings*SMM )
The daily Aradhanas were performed with great piety and devotion. The _Sathumurai_ congregation was indeed an inspiring sight to the devout. On such occasions, Srimad Andavan himself led the Goshti giving it both grace and solemnity. He would recite all by himself the Nighamana Adhikara of Sri Rahasya Traya Sara of Sri Vedanta Desika. His discourses on such occasions were listened to with rapt attention.
Srimad Andavan seemed to have a premonition of his impending death. He called to his side the then Srikaryam, Paravakkottai Sri Rajagopalachariar Swami( who had come to the Asramam to assist him in the conduct of Tirunakshatra celebrations) and told him in confidence that since his earthly life would not go beyond the next Sravanam day which fell on 5th April 1980, he should be interred by the side of his Acharya in the Brindavanam on the bank of Vada Kaveri. Strangely enough, Srimad Andavan entered his Jyoti at 2 pm on 9th April 1980,(* which was Siddharti Panguni 27th, a Krishna Paksha Navami Tithi day*SMM) so close to the last day which Srimad Andavan had himself fixed. (*IT WAS THIS SWAMI WHO INITIATED INTO SANNYASA ASRAMAM THE MAHAN CELEBRATED AS _INJIMETTU AZHAGIYASINGHAR_*SMM)
The Iyal Goshti of Venntran Karai Andavan was a magnificent sight, the like of which was never seen or heard of before. The grand procession led by the Ahobila Mutt elephant, with the idol of Sri Bhashyakaara at the head, passed through the streets of Srirangam and impressed all by their colorful variety- the Poorvaasrama son of Acharya carrying the worn garlands of several Divya Desas, seven or eight divisions of Veda Parayana Goshtis, their Vedic chant piercing the sky above all the surging sea of Srivaishnavas, devotees and disciples. The procession stood at the Dasavataaran Sannidhi and after Mangalaasaasana there reached the Asramam. Ubhaya Vedaanta Vidwan Madhurantakam Sri Veera Ragahavachariar Swami paid glowing tributes to Srimad Andavan_s many sided virtues in verse and prose. Another glorious chapter in the history of Sri Poundarika Puram Asramam came to a close_
His Tanian reads as follows:
Bhakthyaaddhi Poorna Varadaarya Kripaatha Sinham
Sri Srinivasa Munivaram Aham Prapadhye //
(meaning) I take refuge at the holy feet of Srinivasa Maha Desikan who was like a honey bee at the lotus feet of the yathi- srEshtar , Sri NaarAyaNa MahA Desikan and performed his prapatthi at the sacred feet of Poundarikapuram SrinivAsa MahA Desikan after receiving his pancha samskAram rites from Sri VaradAchArya Swami known for his Bhakthi-Jn~Ana -VairAghyam .
SRIMAD ANDAVAN - PRAKRITAM ACHARYA (THE PRESENT PONTIFF) (PARAVAKKOTTAI SRI GOPALA DESIKA MAHA DESIKAN)
(VED) _ Born in the year Roudri on the 2nd day of Panguni under the star of Rohini, corresponding to 17th March 1921 in the Mazhaiyur village as the son of Sri Venkatachar Swami and Janaki Ammaal, the daughter of Puraanam Vidwan Sri Kuppuswami Iyengar Swami. (*The village was gifted to the forefathers of this family about 6 generations earlier. From that time onwards the further generations of the family had been living there*SMM)
Srimad Andavan was named Rajagopalan after the presiding deity of Mannargudi temple which at the time of his birth was celebrating the Tiru Ther (car) festival. Paravakkottai Sri Venkatachariar Swami was a pious scholar belonging to Vadhula Gotram Kandaadaiyar family who fashioned his life strictly according to the prescribed rules for a Sri Vaishnava. He had received instruction in Rahasya Traya Sara at the feet of Poundarika Puram Srimad Andavan. His elder brother, (*Sri Chakravarthi Aachariar* SMM), also had been performing Biksha services to Srimad Andavan.
When child Rajagopalan was 2 _ years old, his mother died and two aunts from Thillaiambur came to look after the child. After the Upanayana Samskara, Sri Rajagopalan was placed under Mannargudi Sri Srinivasa Gopalachariar for Vedic instruction
Later, he joined K.R.M. Estate Paatasaala and studied Sanskrit poetry under a distinguished Vidwan Peruga Vaazhndaan Sri Krishnamachariar Swami. Owing to the hard discipline of the teacher, the pupil was able to acquire proficiency in Sanskrit.
Later, the boy was admitted into the Sanskrit college at Sholinga Puram by Sri A.R.Krishnamachariar Swami who also instructed him in Champu literature. Because of the boy_s proficiency in Sanskrit,(* in 1936*SMM), he was admitted into the 3rd Year class in the
During his stay at the Sanskrit college, he had as class mates or College mates some of the distinguished scholars of the present time, such as PURISAI KRISHNAMA CHARIAR Swami, the Editor of Nrisimhapriya, VILLIVALAM SRI NARAYANA CHARIAR SWAMI a great scholar and brother of the present 45th Pontiff of Ahobila Mutt and Mylapore Sri Srinivasachariar who later set up a Publishing house _*Sarasa Kala Nilayam_*SMM) solely for the purpose of printing and publishing the works of our great Acharyas like (*Melpakkam Narasimhachariar, Marudur A.R.Krishnama chariar*SMM). Sri Rajagopalan moved with these persons intimately, true to the saying _ Birds of the same feather flock together. (*When he was just 12 years old, he had his Samasrayanam and Bharanyasam done by the Great Poundarikapuram Andavan himself*SMM).
Having lost the mother at a tender age, child Rajagopalan had to perform the mother_s annual Sraddha. He lived such a pure and disciplined life in strict conformity with Sri Vaishnava tradition as to win the awe and regard of the learned Srivaishnavas of Thillaiambur. They regarded him as another VASISHTA and would not do or say anything unorthodox during the Sraddha. (*.He would never take Paraannam(food outside) even from his childhood *SMM)
Two days before Rajagopalan_s father attained the lotus feet of the Lord, he had advised his son to do Vedaanta Kalakshepam under the feet of the Jeeyar of Parakaala Mutt. An obedient son that he was, Sri Rajagopalan went to
Later, he learnt under Deekshachar Swami, Nyaya Siddhanjanam, Tattva Muktaa Kalaapam and Nyaaya Parisuddhi and returned to Thillaiambur in 1947.
The Swami Participated in six examinations in Vedantha Sastras conducted by _Vedaanta Desika Vichaara Sadas_ under the direction of the Jeeyar of Parakaala Mutt. He also passed the Purva and Uttara parts of our Vedanta in the examination conducted by _Mysore Maharaja Vidwat Pariksha_.
Later, he entered Grihastaasramam marrying Lakshmi, the eldest daughter of Tiruk Kudanthai Aarupaathi Setlur Sri Srinivasachariar Swami, who was a strict follower of Vaishnava Aachaaram and had done Vedantha Kalakshepam. The couple was blessed with five sons and a daughter.
After getting employed as a Sanskrit Pandit at Musiri, Sri Rajagopalachariar Swami used to visit Srirangam in connection with the affairs of the Asramam, which was always uppermost in his mind.. On such occasions he would call on Sri Madurantakam Vira Ragahavachariar Swami and cultivate his acquaintance. (* Whenever he prostrated at the feet of Madurantakam Swami, the latter would do _ Prathivandanam_. Our Swami felt embarrassed and hit up on a plan to stop the _Prathivandanam_. So, he submitted that that he had not been initiated into Vaisvadevam and requested Madurantakam Swami to initiate him. This done, the Madurantakam Swami had become his Acharyan also and there was no way for him to do _Prathivandanam_ anymore !*SMM) From the distinguished scholar and Vidwan, he received Vaisva deva Upadesam, for which he fell prostrate at the feet of the Madurantakam scholar. The latter did not relish such respect offered to him and felt extremely uncomfortable.
At the age 59, Sri Rajagopalachariar Swami accompanied by his family proceeded to Kshetraadanam bathing in the Narmada, Ganga, Triveni Confluence and afterwards offered worship at Gaya, Haridwar and Bhadarikasramam. Then he went to Ahobilam where he participated in the 10 days Utsavam of Lord Nrisimha and returned to Musiri.
TAKING HOLY ORDER Srimad Vennatrankarai Andavan was keen and anxious to nominate a successor so that the Muni Traya Munirupa tradition could be continued without break in the Acharya line. He used to sound the Srikaryam Sri Rajagopala Iyengar about this and persuaded him to assume the Sannyasa Asrama. One day, on the spur of the moment, he called the Srikaryam and administered Presha Mantram, Prapatti Yogam, Sannyasa Anushtaana Kramam and Ashrama Sweekaara-Kramam. The day before he merged with Jyoti, he called Sri Rajagopala Swami and gave him the ochre robes,(* Avakundanam, Jala Pavitram, Sikhyam, Kavacha Vastrams etc.*SMM) and staff as well as the keys of the Asramam and commanded that he should assume the role of the Acharya in a year or two. And, for more than a year and a half the Ashramam remained without an Acharya.
Owing to the appeal and entreaties of many eminent persons such as the late lamented 44th Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt, Ubhaya Vedaanta NAVANEETHAM RAMA DESIKA CHARIAR SWAMI, MADURANTAKAM SRI VEERA RAGHAVACHARIAR SWAMI,(*Mannargudi M.S. Rangachariar Swami, Vennatrankarai Velaamur Sowriraja Iyengar *SMM) and a host of others, the Srikaryam Sri Rajagopala Swami occupied the Peetam of the Acharya in a picturesque ceremony held at Vennar Bank, Thanjavur. The place appropriately chosen for this solemn purpose is twice-blessed. Three of the 108 Divya Desas lie here close to each other; it is the native place of Vennatran Karai Srimad Andavan and the resting place of Veliyanallur Srimad Andavan; it is further sanctified by its association with three of our Purvaacharyas- Sri Nainar Acharya, Brahma Tantra Swatantra Swami and Saakshaat Swami. The Asrama Sweekaranam took place on 20th February 1982, Dwadasi day of Masi month in the cyclic year Dunmathi, when he assumed the new name _ SRIMAD GOPALA DESIKA MAHA DESIKAN_. (*On the previous day , on Ekaadasi day, he performed JEEVA SRAADDHA as ANNA SRAADDHA. As many as 16 scholars participated in the Nimantrana like U.V. Madurantakam Vidwan Veeraraghavachariar Swami, Vidwan Villupuram Madhavachariar Swami, AHOBILA MATAM SRIKARYAM SWAMI, PERIYAASRAMAM U.V PADUKAA SWAMI, Vaduvoor Salakshana Ganapaadigal who acted as Brihaspathi, Bangalore Veda Vidwan Swachannam Anantachariar who acted as Brahma*SMM)
(*Throughout the night, he kept awake along with others when Madurantakam Swami delivered discourses on Satkatha and Vedantas. NEVER BEFORE IN THE ANNALS OF ANY MATAM OR ASRAMAM WAS SUCH A JEEVASRAADDHAM HAD BEEN PERFORMED.*SMM) (*The Parakaala Mutt Swami presented as Hayagriva Prasadam a Kamandalu and Kaashaayam*SMM)
SRIMAD ANDAVAN_S MANY-SIDED SERVICES TO RELIGION
Srimad Andavan_s devotion to his and our Purvaacharyas is too apparent to need any special mention. He renovated the Brindavanam of Velianallur Sriman Narayana Maha Desikan at Vennar Bank, erecting of four pillared Mantapam and installing the idol of the Acharya. (*He also raised a compound wall and an iron fence all around the Mandapam*SMM) (*In 1989, the Swami visited Vennatrankarai, where the local host, Sri Sowriraja Iyengar honored him with Poornakumbham and a heavy garland that adorned Neelameghap Perumal. It was a sight for Gods to see *SMM)
Under Srimad Andavan_s direction, Swami Desikar_s shrine in
Under the patronage and Presidentship of the Acharya, the _ Sat Sampradaaya Samrakshana Sabha_- registered as a Society was founded in 1986 to foster FREE Sanskrit education and offer FREE instruction in the Vedas, Prabhandas and other Grantha Chatushtayams..
The Nitya Aradhana plan to provide uninterrupted Aradhana in the Asramam was created with a deposit of Rs.1,000 collected from each disciple. The amount donated under the head has been deposited in the Bank and the accruing interest is being utilized for the administration of the Asramam.
A revised edition of Rahasya Traya Sara was published in 1990. Chillarai Rahasyangals of Swami Desika have also been published by the Swami - in three parts. Srimad Andavan has been imparting instruction to the disciples through Kalakshepams. On such occasions, the disciples have highly benefited by Srimad Andavan_s approach, his mastery of the subject, the clarity of thought and the ease with which he reduces any complicated concept in philosophy or theology into simple and clear terms._
His Tanian reads as follows:-
Rakshana Yathitva Yugaaga Maantham /
Achaarya Bhakthi Pari bhootham Anargha Seelam
Gopaala Desika Munim Aasrayaamah //
(meaning) We seek refuge at the sacred feet of our revered AchAryan ,Sri Gopala MahA Desikan , who received the sacred rites of SamAsrayaNam , Bhara SamarpaNam , ThurIyAsramam and the wealth of Ubhaya VedAntham from the three great AchAryAs , Srinivasa MahA Desikan , Sri Ranganatha MahA Deikan and ParakAla Matam Swami .
Submitted at the feet of our Acharya