Stand Up And Be Counted: Kanchi Mutt Seer Has No Excuse To Disrespect Tamil State Song

by Swarajya Editorial - Jan 24, 2018 01:04 PM +05:30 IST
Stand Up And Be Counted: Kanchi Mutt Seer Has No Excuse To Disrespect Tamil State SongVijayendra Saraswati Swamigal (
  • The junior head of a traditional mutt insulting the state song in a public ceremony is highly condemnable.

    If there was a legitimate reason, the mutt should issue a clarification. If not, an unconditional apology is in order.

At a recent event, where Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit released a Tamil-Sanskrit dictionary, the visuals of Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal, the junior pontiff of Kanchi Sankara Mutt, defiantly sitting during the singing of Tamil Thai Valthu (Tamil state song) clearly comes across as disrespectful, arrogant and quite unfortunate.

Kanchi Mutt, with its history of controversies and given its close identification as the high seat of Tamil Brahminism, could do well to avoid such actions, which play into the narrative of its opponents. For a long time, with its adherence to socially regressive stands including strident opposition to the Child Marriage Restraint Act (popularly known as Saards Act, which was aimed at putting a stop to child marriage) and opposition to temple entry, the mutt has not endeared itself to a large section of Tamils. However, the abiding respect and adoration that the towering personality of Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Swamigal evoked, thanks to his exemplary life that epitomised simplicity and his legendary knowledge of scriptures, compensated for what was lost because of its obscurantist tendencies and frequent endorsement of regressive social norms.

The Kanchi seer took great interest in Tamil devotional literature, epigraphy and folk arts and traditions of Tamil Nadu. Many folk artists even today remember with pride and gratitude what he did to help them and their arts. Yet Dravidianists indulged in a campaign of calumny that he considered Tamil a 'neecha basha'. However, many Tamil scholars, who were associated with the seer had attested to the veneration he had for Tamil language. So the arrogant and unfortunate behaviour of the junior pontiff is going to reinforce the Dravidianist propaganda.

His immediate successor, Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, who himself was a victim of a campaign of slander and vilification, did well through his work on the social plane, overcoming the burdens placed on him by orthodoxy. He came out unambiguously against untouchability and agreed, at least in principle, to the appointment of archakas (temple priests) from across the caste spectrum. One may very well argue that these gestures were too little and too late. Nevertheless, his stance was progressive by several orders of magnitude above those of his own predecessors or the stance of many other institutions.

Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai, who wrote the Tamil song Neeraarum Kadaludutha, a modified version of which was later adapted by Tamil Nadu government as the Tamil state song, was himself an Advaitin. Noted Tamil Sanskrit scholar Jataayu had pointed out how Pillai employs the Vedic imagery of Goddess Earth wearing the ocean as her dress in the very opening lines. It was the salutation verse in the play he wrote, which was a symbolic one about the Advaitic union of Jeevatma and Paramatma. It was this learned professor of individuality and great scholar of Saiva Siddhantham, who introduced Swami Vivekananda to the Saiva Siddhantham philosophy. The song is also opposed by fringe Tamil ultra-nationalists like Seeman for its message of cultural unity that goes beyond the narrow conception of Tamil land. A section of Islamists also oppose the state song.

In such a situation, the junior head of a traditional mutt insulting the state song in a public ceremony is highly condemnable. There can be no excuse for such arrogant behaviour except health reasons, if any. If so, the mutt should issue a clarification. If not, it is best advised to issue an unconditional apology.

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