Udupi: The Temple Town of Udupi has been my birthplace. Although I lived most of life in Bengaluru and Mumbai, I never missed my yearly visit to my native place, and visits to Krishna Temple, Anantheshwara Temple, and Chandreshwara Temple accompanied by my mother were a must.
We used to stroll around Car Street, seeing all the eight Mutts: Sode Mutt, Puttige Mutt, Pejawar Mutt, Kaniyur Mutt, Phalimar Mutt, Shiroor Mutt, Adamar Mutt, and Kaniyoor Mutt.
The pontiffs of each Mutt had the opportunity to worship Lord Krishna for two years on a rotational basis. So, the head of each Mutt would get a chance once in 16 years. All these Mutts were humble dwellings and simple cottages built many years ago. The pontiffs would always be engrossed in worship of Lord Krishna or performing religious activities, often engaging in discourses on Vedas, Puranas, Bhagavad Geeta, Ramayana, Mahabharata in the evenings and on special occasions. The Paryaya ceremony, the resplendent occasion when the baton (or right to worship the Lord) is handed over to the next Mutt is held once in two years in January. Even to this day, it is celebrated with great fervour and each and every person living in Udupi looked forward to it.
I was no different and as a young boy, I remember maneuvering my way through the crowded streets, just to make it to the mammoth chariot. Pulling the chariot itself was considered to be a service of God and my tender little hands got a chance to pull the huge rope that was tied to the chariot. I felt glorified.
Coming to Pejawar Seer, he was a different person for sure. A man in saffron robe, who always stood out from the rest. Along with his commitment to spirituality and religious duties, he aspired to bring social equality among Hindus. He always strove to bridge the gap between the upper castes and lower castes. While many only preached, Swamiji always dared to follow his preaching and when he spoke about uplift of the Dalits he did not merely say that the Dalits must treated equally, he did what it took to implement the same.
He conducted 'Padayatra' to Dalit settlements, visited the houses of Dalits and interacted with them. Soon, there was hue and cry about the same. Many took exception to what he was doing and some religious scholars and leaders even asked the Pejawar seer to confine himself to temple activities only.
But, the iron man in saffron robes was far away from even paying heed to his detractors. He only focused on what he had decided to do and he continued to visit the dalit settlements as part of his inclusion project. He even took it to the next level by providing 'Deeksha' to the Dalits, which again earned him the wrath of people from various quarters.
Swamiji was somebody who knew the value of education and in his pursuit to build a stronger society, he started various educational institutions for teaching both Vedic sciences as well formal education.
Swamiji did not have an imposing physical appearance, but this short and lean man could make his voice heard regardless of when there was noise over various issues pertaining to the nation.
He was always clear about his stand on various issues and proved to the world that he had sharp leadership qualities.
After having seen him from a distance, in recent years, I had been associated with two schools - Vidyodaya Public School in Udupi and Anandathirtha School at Pajaka, Kunjargiri. Through trusted lieutenants, he provided encouragement to build good infrastructure, hire good teachers and provide education to the people of Udupi. He would also encourage many families from North Karnataka to send their children to Udupi for schooling. Labourers and daily wage workers would send their children to Udupi and they would be well taken care of through affordable fees and hostel facilities. There was an element of trust and faith that the children will be looked after by the Swamiji, and they were not let down.
When a simple, pious, learned sage passes away, there are no words that can describe the loss. The Swamiji was short and frail, but his stature was tall and magnificent. I bow to him with full respect.
Report by Chandrashekar Kutyar
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