I had made couple of visits to the temple town of Kanchipuram however I could not go to Kanchi Mutt the Kamakoti Peetam of Sri Adi Sankaracharya. Legend is that Sri Adi Sankaracharya established the peetam some 2500 years ago and placed one of the five spatika lingas got at Kailas and placed the "yoga linga" for his own personal worship and that of his successors at Kanchi. There was an inner call to me to visit Kanchipuram and I pulled one of my old friend who worked with me in LMW, Coimbatore to accompany me. Unexpectedly I got a call from one more friend of mine who also worked with me earlier that he is also interested in joining our trip.
We started our journey at 6.30 a.m. on Sunday, 10th May 2009, in my Santro. We started from Ambattur Estate Road, touched Poonamalle Highway and then proceeded straight. We fueled our vehicle and decided to fuel ourselves on the way and we stopped after Poonamalle to have a cup of coffee and some biscuits. The Road was excellent which is a four way express lane to Bangalore. We were cruising as the traffic was less. The high way occupies all major MNCs manufacturing units like Hyundai, Nokia, and Motorola. On the way we could able to see the entry point of Sriperumbudur and on the left hand side there was a memorial to Late Sri Rajeev Gandhi (former Prime Minister of India).
We cruised past the road and reached Kanchipuram by 7.30 a.m. We bought fresh fruits to be given to the present Kanchi Aacharya. One of the person who worked in Kanchi mutt was waiting for us in the Mutt and he took us inside the Mutt. He was sharing his experiences with the Mahaperiyava and at around 8 a.m. Bala Periyava or the current pontiff of the Mutt Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi came out and gave darshan to all devotees who were congregated there and he was enquiring one by one. We also got introduced and we paid our pranams and namaskarams to the Aacharya. He blessed us with prasadams.
Then we went to see the Adishtanam or Brindavan of the Mahaperiyava in the Mutt premises. There we meditated for some time. That day was “Anusham” star which is the birth star of the “Aacharya” and a group of pundits were chanting Vedas. That was soulful to hear. We did our pradakshinam to the brindavan and later saw the Bala Periyava performing pooja to “Sri Bala Tripura Sundari sameda Sri Chandra Mouliswara”. Then we had our brunch at Kanchi mutt by 11.30 a.m. and then proceeded towards a village called Orirukkai which is about five kilometers from Kanchipuram. Surprisingly Maha Periyaval’s Jayanthi Celebrations were going on there with “Adi Rudram” and “Chandika Homam”.
In this lovely spot on the banks of the Palar an ambitious project is under way. A satabdhi manimantapam being built in tribute to Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati of the Kanchi Kamkoti Peetam by the Sri Sri Sri Mahalakshmi Mathrubhutheswarar Trust. The Chennai-based trust is completely dedicated to the work and hopes to complete the project asap. The memorial to the centenarian sage is being built wholly of granite with the grand dimensions and architectural details of the ancient temples. The foundation was laid in 1997 in the presence of the late M. S. Subbulakshmi and T. Sadasivam who were great devotees of the Paramacharya, an embodiment of learning and compassion who was committed to religious harmony. He reached out to all irrespective of cast and creed. M.S. and Sadasivam contributed to the project though funds generated from concerts and royalties from the sale of CDs.
Huge slabs of granite lie scattered on the 7.5 acres of land. Elegant horses straining to throw off the restraint imposed by their riders, rotund elephants chewing at their sugarcane and lions with endearing faces seem to leap out of the confining limits of stone. Scores of sculptors oblivious to the heat have their eyes trained on their task. Directing them is a tall white clad figure, S. M. Ganapathi Sthapati. Steeped in the Shilpa Shastras, he is giving shape to the vision of the trustees and of the late “Pradosham Venkatarama Iyer”. A railway employee, Venkatarama Iyer who adored the sage, would have his darshan during every Pradosham for many years. It was he who thought of a memorial and chose this spot.
The Manimantapam consists of four sections — Paduka mantapam, Prakara mantapam, Praja mantapam and the Maha mantapam. Incidents from the life of the Paramacharya will be portrayed in the Maha mantapam. Panels depicting the Adi Guru parampara and Dwadasha lingams are seen at the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum. The Vimanam crowning it will be decorated with rows of rudraksha beads. And within the sacred space below will be placed the image of the sage, his gold plated padukas (sandals) and the spatika lingam. Several sections of the structure have already been fashioned by the sthapati's son, Sankaran sthapati, at his workshop in Bangalore and will soon be transported here.
A panel depicts Lord Nataraja's joyous dance during Pradosham watched by Periyaval. Another symbolises Kailasa though the image of Lord Dakshinamoorthy, Kaladi through Adi Sankara and Kamakoti through the Paramacharya. For Ganapati Sthapati this is a labour of love and devotion. He has included the rare features of temple archaeology combining the distinct features of the Pallava, Chola and Pandya periods as an offering to the Periyaval who had an in depth knowledge of the Shilpa Shastras.
According to trustees — K. R. Athmanathan and K. Vedamurthy — “The wonderful feature of the work is that it was never halted owing to lack of funds. His devotees are everywhere and they care — from those who contribute Rs.100 to those who are able to give much more” The total project cost is about 12 crores. Those who are interested can directly contribute to SSSMM Trust, Sivam-Subham, New no.12, First Main Road, Kotturpuram, Chennai-600085. Ph: 91-044-24474113. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: http://www.manimantapam.org/
The Manimantapam is unique for the experience it offers the visitor. Apart from the spiritual aspect, here is a work in progress that is educative as well, especially for lovers of art and history and for the young to learn about their heritage. Watching the memorial take shape is like being conveyed back in time. All the work at the Manimantapam is done manually, as in the past. Chisels and other tools are being continually fashioned at the work spot. So it must have been when the mighty structures of worship arose across the length and breadth of the Tamil country centuries ago. So would the rocks have been located, tested for purity and size and then transported from diverse places to the destination. So must the sculptors have come from various parts, lived in sheds and toiled with eagle-eyed concentration to turn gray rock into exquisite objects of beauty and worship.
Reference – The Hindu article by Kausalya Santhanam