Jayendra Saraswathi

Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya (born Subramanyam Mahadeva; 18 July 1935 – 28 February 2018) was the 69th Shankaracharya Guru and head or pontiff (Pïțhādhipati) of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.[2] Subramanyam Mahadeva Iyer was nominated by his predecessor, Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, as his successor and was given the pontifical title Sri Jayendra Saraswathi on 22 March 1954.[3]

Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal
Jayendra Saraswathi 3 (cropped).jpg
Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal
M.Subrahmanyam Iyer

(1935-07-18)18 July 1935
Died28 February 2018(2018-02-28) (aged 82)
Kanchi Kāmakoti Pīṭādipati
In office
8 January 1994 – 28 February 2018
Preceded bySri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swamigal
Succeeded byVijayendra Saraswati
Personal details
ResidenceKanchi Kamakoti Mutt

Nearly forty years after he was chosen as a successor, Jayendra Saraswathi succeeded Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi as the 69th Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in 1994. He is the only senior Pontiff of the Mutt who did not anoint his Junior. His Junior was anointed by the then Senior Pontiff Maha Periyavaa during his lifetime in the early 1980s.[4]

Early lifeEdit

Jayendra Saraswathi was born as Subramanyam to Mahadeva Iyer and Saraswathi Ammal on 18 July 1935. He completed schooling at Irulneeki primary school and at a middle school at nearby Aathichapuram village. Then he shifted to a vedha padasala at Thiruvanaikoil in Trichy. He visited the village on holidays and used to play normal games such as marble and 'killi-thandu' like other children of his age. Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi selected him as his successor, when Jayendra was only 19 years old.[5]


Saraswathi was head of the mutt established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 5th century. He had his spiritual tutelage from 'Maha Periyava' and travelled the length and breadth of the country with his guru. He delivered religious discourse besides involving himself in various spiritual and social activities as well. Under his guidance, the mutt started several schools and hospitals. Jayendra Saraswathi ensured that the Mutt involved itself in various social activities. Thanks to his efforts, the mutt today runs several schools, eye clinics and hospitals. He also managed to establish a direct connect with the people.[6]

Although the mutt is primarily a religious organisation, Jayendrar, whose character was underpinned by a strident social consciousness, had both the conviction and courage to steer the mutt into territories into which it had not ventured before. Jayendra found strength from his own inner conviction and the need for both the mutt and the Hindu religion to reach out to the poor and downtrodden. He was still strong on religious practices and their understanding — it was one of the reasons he was handpicked as the 69th pontiff of Kanchi mutt when he was just 19 years of age. It took enormous amount of courage for Jayendra Saraswathi to renounce the world including his parents at the age of 19 in order to become true spiritual guru. He travelled with his senior across India barefoot to spread awareness on Hindu culture.

But he could make the two unlike poles reside comfortably within him. And that is because he was also a man of vision, who had a grasp of his own destiny. The previous Kanchi mutt head, Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi had a profile and presence that combined religious benevolence and spiritual sensitivity but he rarely spoke in public. But Jayendra liked to get involved in the current affairs of India, public life and liked to meet people across castes.

Chandrashekharendra Swamigal had observed three unique qualities in his shishya (student) Jayendra Saraswathi : Jan Akarshanam, Dhan Akarshanam and Jal Akarshanam and hence chose Jayendra as his successor. Saraswathi had the ability to attract people anywhere such that Saraswathi's power was such that people used to call him to places where there was drought. He had the unique power of attracting rains anywhere. So people used to have great faith in him. Any public project inaugurated by the Kanchi seer used to taste success.[7]

He clearly understood the changing pulse of the socio-political, cultural-religious fabric of the country. In the 1980s, he was able to spot the churn and realised the need for both the mutt and its head to have a different profile other than being a sentinel of religious rites and rituals. It is this belief that made him to openly take on the Hindu-baiter and former chief minister M Karunandihi on the language issue, by asserting that 'Sanskrit was his father tongue and Tamil his mother tongue'. It is considered a bravura explanation.[8]

While his senior Mahaswami Chandrashekharendra was silent, Jayendra was outspoken. If his Guru was inner directed, Jayendra was outgoing. If the Mahaswami walked, Jayendra motored, even flew. If the Guru avoided fame, the disciple enjoyed it. If the Mahaswami immersed in contemplation with self, Jayendra involved in conversation with the world.

Unlike his predecessors in Kanchi Sankara Mutt, Jayendra Saraswathi was involved in both spiritual and public life and was known for the efforts for a solution in the Ayodhya issue during the erstwhile period of Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, but it failed to fructify. Jayendra Saraswathi chose to bring warring factions into table and wrote a series of letters to All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishadh (VHP) to work out a solution.

The calm, quiet and inward-looking Math and its grammar changed into one of high pulse and activity under Jayendra Saraswathi's leadership after the Mahaswami attained siddhi in 1994. Being more contemporary than traditional, Jayendra Saraswathi often tested the limits of orthodoxy and extended the areas of the Math's reach and influence beyond its traditional adherents even as he explored areas of social thrust. He was instrumental in the Kanchi Math expanding directly into people's service and not remaining merely a spiritual fountainhead as it was under the Mahaswami.

Jayendra visited Manasarovar and Kailash in 1998 and became the only Shankaracharya to do so after the Adi Shankara. There he installed the idol of Adi Shankara. One of his important contributions is founding of the Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya, a deemed university in the name of his guru.[9] Under Jayendra's tenure, Kanchi Math ran the deemed university and dozens of schools and hospitals — territories previously not in the reach of Mutt — besides over 50 traditional Vedic schools and temples. Jayendra broke the restraining rules of the Math and reached out to the downtrodden. He went to Harijan bastis and attracted thousands of new followers and devotees. He transformed a spiritual and ritualistic Math into a socially vibrant one. This brought him high popularity and also into interaction with a multitude of social and political leaders in the country.[10]

The followers of the mutt call Jayendra Saraswati a reformist saint and credit him with ensuring that the preachings of Adi Sankara were spread among people beyond the Brahmin community. This he did by encouraging the spiritual mutt to become more of a social service-oriented one and making it all-inclusive. But at the same time, he did not wish to go down in history merely as a religious figure. He had ambitions of being seen as a seer who understood politics and wanted to have a say in issues facing the nation. It is this approach that led to Jayendra Saraswati playing a part in trying to resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute during the NDA rule, by engaging with stakeholders from both communities and the government. [11]

Kanchi Mutt is known for their contributions, charity towards all castes, communities and religions. They have helped lots of Schedule Caste people, stopped conversions, helped in restoration of Temples, spreading the Greatness of Sanatana Dharma across various States in India.

As quoted by Kalavai Venkat, a California-based writer and author: "His Holiness Jayendra Saraswati Swami did yeomen service to society by helping revive numerous Hindu traditions, especially those practised by the Scheduled Castes. Under his guidance, the Kanchi Mutt helped revive numerous folk art traditions. He was a bulwark of defense against Christian predation. In spite of the most horrific attacks and humiliations he had to suffer, Sri Jayendra Sarasvati defended Manu dharma most admirably."

He issued certificates to trained priests of Sri Tantra Vidyapeetham, who hailed from all communities for Kerala temples, much before Kerala government took the same initiative. If today in Kerala, we find priests from all communities without the discrimination of birth in Hindu temples, is due to contributions by him to it. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi envisioned a programme for entrepreneurial development as a means to social harmony.[12]

During his time as the head seer, Jayendra Saraswathi launched several charity initiatives such as the ‘Jana Kalyan, Jana Jagaran,’ a movement to "serve the people and awaken the masses". The charity programme aimed to establish temples in Dalit colonies and engage Dalits in temple rituals to expand the Hindu collective beyond the Dravidian polity's anti-upper caste stance, and equating Hinduism with an inherent suspicion of Brahminism. He also appointed Dalit trustees in temples such as Mylapore Kapaleeshwarar.[13]

According to people who had been close to him during this period, Jayendra Saraswathi recognised the faultline in Hinduism that had triggered the conversions and embarked on an attempt to bring in Dalits and other socially oppressed classes into the mainstream Hindu fold. For months, he toured the state extensively, visiting villages, talking to Dalits and other communities. Departing from the usual convention of the mutt, which insisted that the pontiffs travel only by foot, Jayendra Saraswathi had got some of his devotees to donate a customised van that he used for his travel to these villages. Though he was only the junior pontiff of the mutt, Jayendra Saraswathi became more high profile as the aging senior pontiff Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi was focusing energies on religious matters in late 80s. He launched a social service movement called Jan Kalyan in the mid-1980s, that took him and his band of younger devotees to the slums in and around Kanchipuram, later expanding it to other parts of Tamil Nadu.[14]

Under his tenure, The Kanchi Mutt started many schools, eye clinics and hospitals. Child Trust Hospital, Hindu Mission Hospital, Tamil Nadu Hospital and other public welfare institutions which are religious focused were developed by him.

He was seen as an avatar of Shiva Shankara and promulgated concept of Santana Dharma.[15]

He also conducted ‘Viswaroopa Yatra’ and ‘Sandarsanam’ at the Poranki Veda Pathasala. He played an important role in the establishment of the eye hospital – Sankara Nethrayala – between Vijayawada and Guntur in 2004. Jayendra Saraswathi's primary motto was to promote spirituality among people and also spread the bhakti cult. He renovated or participated in ‘kumbhabhishekam’ of more than 100 temples in the State. The seer took part in the ‘kumbhabhishekam’ at the Kanaka Durga temple atop Indrkeeladri in the 90s. He also installed Krishna's idol at the Labbipet Venkateswara Swamy temple in 2015. The Kanchi Kamakoti Charitable Trust in Tenali is among the several institutions set up by him. [16]

Arrest and AcquittalEdit

In 2004, Jayendra Saraswathi was arrested in connection with the Sankararaman murder case on Diwali day.[17] The court said that the complainant failed to support the prosecution and he was given bail.[18] The trial went on till 2013 when he was acquitted by the court.[19]

Death and SamadhiEdit

On 27 February 2018, for doing the daily routine Pooja, Jayendra asked Vijayendra Saraswathi to perform the routine poojas, which acted as a premonition that he wanted to handover the reigns to his successor. Jayendra even did Sandhyavandhanam that same day. The 82-year old seer was admitted to a hospital near Kamakshi Amman Temple in Kanchipuram the following morning due to breathing problems. However, Jayendrar was perfectly in shape and even walked whilst being inside the hospital. A few hours later, hospital and mutt sources announced that he had died[20] and issued statement "The 69th Acharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Jagadguru Pujyashri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamigal attained Siddhi at 9.00 am today - Shukla Trayodashi - 28 Feb. 2018 at Sri Kanchi Kamakotii Peetam Sankara Matam, Kanchipuram."[21]

As a sanyasi, Jayendra Saraswati was not cremated. He was instead interred in a Samadhi, that is referred to as a 'brundavanam' or 'adhishthanam'. A Tulasi tree was planted and a Shiva lingam was consecrated on top so that it will become a permanent shrine. The process of interment is called 'Brindavana Pravesha Karyakramam', which began on 1 March 2018 at 8am.[22]

The priests started performing chanting of mantras and his body was kept for devotees to pay respects from 10 am of 28 February 2018 to 8am of 1 March 2018. Jayendra Saraswati's body was placed in the hall of the Kanchi math in a seated position, for devotees to catch a final glimpse. Devotees from various places visited the mutt from the morning of 28 February and throughout the night and paid homage to the late Acharya till 8am of 1 March 2018. Abhishekam of Shiva linga, a ritual was performed with chanting of Rudram and Chamakam on 1 March from 8am. Kanchi Mutt manager said over 5 lakh people came to the shrine to pay respects. It was decided that Jayendra Sarawasthi would be laid to rest beside his guru, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi and hence the seer's ‘brindavanam’, or final resting place, was constructed right next to the one that serves as the brindavanam for the 68th pontiff Sri Maha Periyava.[23]

Mutt officials stopped the public darshan by 8am on 1 March 2018 and initiated the installation of the brindavanam by reciting slokas. The final rites of Jayendra Saraswathi began with an 'abhishekam' ( bath) with milk and honey at 10am.A huge crowd had assembled in the small auditorium to watch the proceedings of the installation of the Brindavanam. The body of Jayendra Saraswathi was later carried to the adjacent ‘Brindavan Annexe,’ for his Samadhi, where the mortal remains of his predecessor Sri Chandrasekerendra Saraswathi were interred in 1993. The rituals for lowering Jayendra Saraswathi's body in the 7 x 7 ft burial pit in the Brindhavanam Annexe started after 11 am on 1 March 2018.[24] The Mutt's Pontiff Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi performed the poojas for his guru and predecessor. The 69th pontiff of the Kanchi Sankara Mutt Sri Jayendra Saraswathi was placed in the ‘samadhi’ within the Mutt premises in Kanchipuram.

Reactions, tributes and legacyEdit

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated "Deeply anguished by the passing away of Acharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Jagadguru Pujyashri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya. He will live on in the hearts and minds of lakhs of devotees due to his exemplary service and noblest thoughts. Om Shanti to the departed soul. Jagadguru Pujyashri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya was at the forefront of innumerable community service initiatives. He nurtured institutions which transformed the lives of the poor and downtrodden."

Vice President Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu said, "Pay my respects to Kanchi peethadhipathi Shri Jayendra Saraswati who attained moksha. His contribution for the welfare of mankind and in promoting spirituality will always be an inspiration for others."[25]

Indian Politician and former Deputy Prime Minister of India LK Advani said, "I had the privilege of knowing Jayendra Saraswati Swamiji very closely. Our association became closer during the rule of NDA-I, when I was the Minister of Home Affairs in the government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji. Swamiji proactively initiated a dialogue with various religious and social leaders of the Muslim community to evolve an amicable solution to the Ayodhya dispute. This dialogue helped a lot in promoting mutual trust and goodwill between Hindu and Muslim communities. I join the millions of devotees of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt in offering prayers to the Almighty and in seeking peace to the departed soul."

Notable dignitaries who offered condolences and paid homage following his demise include former Union Minister and Pattali Makkal Katchi leader Anbumani Ramadoss, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader MK Stalin, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind,[26] Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Union ministers D. V. Sadananda Gowda and Pon Radhakrishnan,[27] Banwarilal Purohit, O. Panneerselvam, Sengottaiyan, and Ilayaraja.[28]

Muslims from Kanchipuram and nearby places also visited the Kanchi Mutt after his death, to pay their respects to him. They offered prayers (Namaz) as a token of respect for the Swami. The Nawab of Arcot is also known to be very close to the Mutt and its Acharyas.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi Dies At 82". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Navigation News - Frontline". www.frontline.in. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Real history of the Kanchi math (Re: Former President Inaugurates...) Celebrations". www.advaita-vedanta.org. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Who was Sri Jayendra Saraswathi?". 28 February 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Kanchi seer's native village shuts down for a day, classmate recalls days when they played marbles together - Times of India". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Jayendra Saraswathi passes away: Pall of gloom descends on Kanchi mutt as devotees gather to pay last respects - Firstpost". www.firstpost.com. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Jayendra Saraswathi dies at 82; updates: Final rites of Kanchi seer tomorrow at 8 am; tributes pouring in LIVE News, Latest Updates, Live blog, Highlights and Live coverage - Firstpost". www.firstpost.com. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Jayendra Saraswathi passes away: Seer with social consciousness charted a unique path mixing piety and politics - Firstpost". www.firstpost.com. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Acharya Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal who melded spiritualism with social outreach". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Jayendra Saraswathi: An Acharya with a difference". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Jayendra Saraswati, the Seer Who Tried to Resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Dispute". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Sri Jayendra Saraswathi (1935-2018)". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  13. ^ http://www.justicenews.co.in/jayendra-saraswathi-1935-2018-spiritual-leader-who-expanded-kanchi-mutts-business-services/
  14. ^ https://theprint.in/2018/02/28/jayendra-saraswathi-was-a-reformist-whose-work-was-overshadowed-by-court-cases/
  15. ^ "Jayendra Saraswathi and Shankaracharya tradition: All you need to know - Times of India". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  16. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/vijayawada-had-a-special-place-in-jayendras-heart/article22883800.ece
  17. ^ "Kanchi seer Jayendra Saraswathi, a spiritual colossus till his arrest in 2004, dies - Times of India ►". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  18. ^ "Kanchi Shankaracharya, 22 others acquitted in Sankararaman murder case - Hindu Janajagruti Samiti". www.hindujagruti.org. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Kanchi seer Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, others acquitted in auditor assault case - Times of India ►". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Kanchi Sankaracharyar Jayendra Saraswathi Died - Tamil News Live". 28 February 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi passes away, last rites to be held today". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati interred at Kanchi math". 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Jayendra Saraswathi's mortal remains placed in 'samadhi' on Kanchi mutt premises". 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018 – via www.thehindu.com.
  24. ^ "Kanchi Sankara Mutt's Sri Jayendra Saraswathi laid to rest next to his guru". 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  25. ^ "PM Modi, Vice President Condole Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi's Death". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Jayendra Saraswathi passes away: Kovind, Modi pay tributes to 82-year-old Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham seer - Firstpost". www.firstpost.com. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Kanchi seer Sri Jayendra Saraswathi laid to rest - Times of India". Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  28. ^ http://www.yarloosai.com/watch/IsXIRB8DL2w/UU-JFyL0zDFOsPMpuWu39rPA/tn-deputy-cm-o-panneerselvam-minister-sengottaiyan-pay-respect-to-kanchi-shankaracharya.html
Religious titles
Preceded by
Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swamigal
Kanchi Kāmakoti Pīṭādipati
Elected on: 22 March 1954
Succeeded on: 9 January 1995
Succeeded by
Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal