Circa 1977. Mahaperiaval asked: ‘What is special about this tank?’
The question was addressed to ‘Ramayanam’, honorific for Sri Srinivasa Iyengar in recognition of his scholarship. He along with Vedagiri and another shisya were standing on the banks of the tank in Karvet Nagar, at the foothills of Sapthagiri. The tank is enormous, but there are other such large tanks.
Mahaperiaval – the 68th Acharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam - himself answered: ‘Notice how perfectly levelled these tank steps built so many years ago are. The water level all around is exactly 3 or 4 inches below this step – a remarkable engineering feet for such a huge old tank.’ HH stayed for several months in Karvet Nagar including observing Chaturmasya Vratam. It is now the location for a remarkable Patasala, one that combines tradition and modernity. We wanted to visit it and when we rang, the couple managing it suggested we be there by 6.00 am if we wanted to see the morning activities.
My wife and I had no problem reaching the place: 12 kilometres from Puttur by a two-lane excellent road that we did in less than 20 minutes. The first thing we noticed as we entered the Patasala was the hectic but organised activity at that time of the day. 40 odd boys, aged 5 to 15, have already had their morning baths, finished their Sandhyavandanam and were on to other Brahmacharya nithya karmas. In batches of 5 or 6, some were doing their morning Agni karyam.
Two or three boys were performing Vigneswara abhishekam to the recital of Ganapathi Atharvaseersa Upanishad and other sukthas. Some boys, who had finished their samita dhanam were in the class room doing Veda parayanam and reciting various slokas such as Dakshinamurthi slokam. Intense but sublime divinity was enveloping the whole place. That it was raining rather incessantly simply did not seem to matter.
This is a Jyotishya Panchanga Powrohitya Patasala, being run under the aegis of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. HH Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Sankaracharya Swamji, 70th Acharya of the Peetam takes deep and personal interest in the Patasala. HH’s vision is combining traditional and modern education systems, preserving our tradition and adapting it to contemporary conditions.
Integral to our tradition is offering appropriate prayers and performing the required religious ceremonies on various occasions – Gruhapravesam, Upanayanam, Marriages, etc., And, at the core of our prayers, as Lord Krishna says, are Veda mantras. To perform rituals on our behalf, we need purohits who have been trained in Veda chanting as well as performing the pujas and ceremonies as prescribed in our shastras. They also need to know panchangam, our traditional calendar and be trained in Jyotisha - a Vedanga or aspect of Veda, so that the functions are held at the right time. Many of our great sages, including Vasistha and Vishwamitra, have performed this role. No wonder we consider a purohita to be Brahma himself. The traditional sources of purohita training, i.e., gurukula training in our villages, have largely dried up for various reasons. The purpose of the patashala in Karvet Nagar is to fill this important gap.
We also have to face up to another reality.
Youngsters also need to get the benefit of modern education, including the ability to communicate in English and local languages and acquire where possible appropriate professional qualifications. They then have two career options – be a full time purohita and yet be able to interact and communicate with others in the modern world with confidence, or, take up a professional job and do part time purohita duties. The Patashala in Karvetnager provides the dual track opportunity. The students are enrolled under the AP school system as well and the more senior ones attend a Matriculation School. Indeed there are similar such dual-career-track institutions under the aegis of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in places like Bangalore, Tirupati, Tambaram, and, Avadi.
Once the morning, essentially Vedic, activities are completed, and, after breakfast, about 8 or 830 am, everyone is on to ‘normal’ schooling.
The older ones change into their school clothing and go to a Matriculation school. The younger boys have teachers coming to the Patasala. There is one teacher per standard and the students are taught all the usual subjects, such as Maths, Languages, etc.
Around 2 pm, for all the boys including the older ones who by then return from their school, is when substantive Veda Adyayanam starts. 5 out of the 45 students are taught Rig Vedam and the others Yajur Vedam. There are therefore two Veda adhyapakas.
Evening time is for sports and cultural activities. In groups, by rotation, some play in the grounds outside, and, some learn mridangam. After sandhyavandanam, they recite Vishnu Sahasranamam and then have dinner, followed by two hours of Sanskrit learning and school homework. By 9 pm they go to bed.
Often students find undergoing one system of education tough enough. Here they carry double the normal learning load: do a regular normal school, plus, Veda adyayanam. It is a tough regime and calls for enormous dedication, on their and on their teachers’ parts: in fact, when the boys return from the school, they have a bath and do madhyanyikam before lunch. They don’t waste a moment on non-productive activities. Even Sundays, if they have an odd afternoon off from studies, they do spring-cleaning!
‘Vedo Akhila Dharma Moolam’: this well-known smriti is something our Acharyas have regularly emphasised. Vedas are the root of all dharma. “Vedic injunctions”, Mahaperiaval observed, “govern our entire life, from birth to death: ‘nishekaadi smasaanaantam’.” HH added: “The vedas centre on God. Bhagavan says in Gita – Vedaischa sarvair ahameva vedyah.” Foremost mission of our Acharyas is therefore preservation of vedas and ensuring we have people who are proficient in vedas.
“If efficacy of vedas has to be sustained, they need to be taught from the mouth of a teacher and a dedicated and disciplined life is necessary.” This dictum of Mahaperiaval, the Patashala in Karvet Nagar, aims to meet in every respect. Not surprisingly it has won the Best Patashala award.
My wife and I spent less than a day in the Patashala: it left us not just overwhelmed but duly humbled. You realise how many people, with ‘ananya bakthi’, undistracted devotion to the cause and to the Acharyas, are behind this inspired institution. In addition to admiring them, what we, i.e., those interested in Veda dharma sastra paripalanam or preservation of vedic culture, can do is to encourage such Patashalas and provide financial and other support. Anyone interested should contact Mrs Lakshmi Mandhata – 0091 9500195021 or Sri Pratyaksha Charitable Trust (https://sripratyaksha.wordpress.com).
Quite simply, we have not seen a better example of shradda and seva: deep faith and dedicated service.
‘Vedo Nithyam Adhiyathaam’
‘Study and Recite Vedas every day’ – Sri Adi Sankara
Hara Hara Sankara, Jaya Jaya Sankara
Jaya Jaya Sankara, Hara Hara Sankara