My association with the Madurantakam Patashala

by Dr.Sreeram Jaganathan

It was an afternoon sometime during the beginning of December 2012 I got a call from Sri Dr.S.Padmanabhan, the present Srikaryam of Sri Ahobila mutt and the HOD, Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras, ‘Sreeram! Can you come to the department?’. When the call came I was at home, sitting on a bench, contemplating on my decision to have quit an engagement a day before, which was my only source of financial support, due to some difference of opinion. The support was all the more important as I had earlier quit a 10-year old (or young!?) career in Banking and IT industry in the year 2009, and with utmost temerity (personally to me it was divine grace), plunged in to the study of MA Sanskrit (full time) from the Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras, subsisting on meagre personal savings, supported by parents and spouse. I had completed M.Phil in October 2012, guided by Sri Dr.S.Padmanabhan. My temerity to quit TCS in 2009, (I had a daughter who was studying LKG then) had already raised the eye brows of near and dear and it was promptly termed madness, the effect of Saturn and what not! And now this happened and I was sulking.

‘Sreeram! This is Sri D.P.Kannan, Secretary of the Patashala at Madurantakam. The Patashala needs a teacher for English. They are not able to find a full-time teacher. Can you help them as a part time teacher with your knowledge in the language?’ asked my Acharya, Sri Dr.S.Padmanabhan. SriDr.D.P.Kannan, to whom I had been introduced earlier and who knew my background added,’The post has been lying vacant for quite some time. Yesterday as I was performing evening Sandhya, I was thinking about a suitable candidate and all of a sudden, your face flashed. So I just came to the department to seek Swami’s (Sri Dr.Padmanabhan’s) approval. Are you interested? It is a part time engagement and you will have all the flexibility’. My joy knew no bounds as my sulking was heard by Krishna, the Paramatma. He was answering through Sri Dr.Kannan.

The day Sri Dr.Kannan took me to the Patashala and introduced me to the Principal Dr.Varadagopalakrishnan, I was feeling quite at home and wondering at the turnout of events in my life. The Principal was too happy at my joining and was ecstatic in introducing me to other teachers of the Patashala. From then on it became a routine to take the 6-hour journey (3 hours one-way) to the Patashala for at least two days a week from Chennai. It was a refreshing experience to interact with the young minds, brilliant by nature, but were intimidated by the foreign language. Their own family background and the special emphasis of the Patashala system on traditional education added to their woes with English. I had a huge challenge before me! Though I began to teach them the fundamentals of the language besides their syllabus, I soon understood that it was not an easy task to continue with the basics as my own time was limited and I had a mandate on hand – to complete the syllabus in time!

During the long bus trips to the Patashala, I would think about the grace of Paramatma that was behind the turn of events in my life, who had quit a lucrative job that came along with a lot of chances to get assignments in different foreign countries on long term bases. Before I quit, I lived in the Netherlands for nearly two years working for an assignment with ABN AMRO Bank through TCS. What a transformation this caterpillar had undergone to become a butterfly that was free from the bounds of corporate cocoon. I had changed completely both inwardly and outwardly!

Dr Sreeram Before and After Transforming
While working as a corporate employee at Amsterdam, Netherlands (in 2008). Right: While teaching English in the Patashala at Madurantakam (in 2013)

I learned from my extended family that my Grandfather’s maternal uncle, Sri.U.Ve. Putcheri Duraisamy Iyengar was the Veda vadhyar in the early 20th century at Madurantakam. Also, another ancestor of mine has served as a Tamil Pandit at a school in Madurantakam. But for these two tangential connections I had no other connection to boast of whatsoever. Perhaps their grace also played a role in my association with the Patashala, which was not even a dream in life until then. Parallelly I had registered for the Ph.D (Sanskrit) and managed to complete it in 2017.

At the Patashala I had the fortune to learn the basics of the traditional sastras from its brilliant teachers. I would go early sometimes to sit along with the students and listen to their classes. Sometimes the teachers would teach me in private also, to which I am grateful to them. I am especially indebted to Sri Sudarshan, Tarka vadhyar, who taught (has been teaching) me the basics of Tarka. I used to spend a lot of time with him asking many questions and engaging him in discussions. I would sit in the classes of Sri Dr.Lakshmi Narasimhan (famously known as Sri Needamangalam) sometimes and enjoy his teachings of Nyaya.

It is a pity that I am not able to continue with the assignment any longer. I had quit it in November 2017. With the birth of our son in December 2016, life has brought in additional responsibilities that demand my physical presence in Chennai. My own teaching activities in Chennai have increased which is also a reason for the inability to continue with the assignment. I am looking forward to visit the Patashala at least once a month and give motivational lectures to the students.

To conclude this almost an autobiographical note, I would like to exhort my most esteemed Srivaishnava community to ponder the following request. We should all come together, keeping aside our trivial internal differences, to revive this excellent Patashala model of our traditional education. For the sampradaya to flourish further, it is not merely enough if we build new shrines and consecrate newer idols of Perumal and Acharyas. We should focus on reviving the traditional methods of learning. There was a time when we did not have enough means to make our ends meet and so a generation or two or three even had to deviate from tradition and take up western education and occupation. Today the financial status of the society as a whole is quite conducive to let our children do the experiment of taking up studies in sastras and perhaps combine it with advance study in Science to make it more appealing to the modern times. Time and tide are now definitely in our favour.

There should be a blend of both traditional and modern approaches and we should lend our support by not only contributing money but also participating physically. At least some of us who have earned enough money in life should be able to get released from the confinements of corporate world and look at options of keeping this system afloat by engaging in a serious manner. It is already under severe threat as there are not many students who enrol in the Patashalas and every year the number of students is decreasing. It is facing a bleak future. Unless we do something to revive it and look at it as an excellent way of alternative education system and engage, we are at a risk of losing something very valuable.

 

मधुरान्तककान्ताय सीतायै लक्ष्मणाय च ।

करुणाकरदेवाय परिकराय मङ्गलम् ।।

मङ्गलं पाठशालायै भद्रसिंहाय मङ्गलम् ।

तथैवाध्यापकेभ्यश्च शिष्येभ्यश्चापि मङ्गलम् ॥

।। शुभं भूयात् ।।

Guru Sri E S Mukundan

Being honored by TSM High School management, Secundrabad

H.M.&the staff of T.S.M.High School honouring Daasan for taking Motivation classes for 8th&10th (1hr.each). Sri Thotapalli Subramaniamgaru established in 1952 this T.S.M.High School & ZPHS. He, along with Vaikuntavasi Sri. V.P. Raghavachariyar Swami built Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple at PALEM in 1962. The STUDENTS of this school(200) are volunteers in line with GUDI BADI SEVA, vision of Sri Subramaniamgaru. All the teachers are motivated & highly qualified.  This school is opp.to the Srinivasar Temple- itself. Thrilling experience in taking part in the prayer , talking to them in the assembly& chanting VANDE MATHARAM& JANAGANAMANA with the school children & the staff. Bless them.

with warm regards
शुभाशयः

Svagatam

॥ श्रीः ॥

श्रीमते नारायणाय नमः ॥ श्रियै नमः ॥

श्रीमद्भ्यः पूर्वाचार्येभ्यो नमः ॥ श्रीमते रामानुजाय नमः ॥

श्रीमते निगमान्तमहादेशिकाय नमः ॥ अस्मद्सर्वगुरुभ्यो नमः ॥

श्रीमते मुकुन्दगुरवे नमः ॥  श्रीमते पद्मनाभगुरवे नमः ॥

श्रीमान् वेङ्कटनाथार्यः कवितार्किककेसरी ।

वेदान्ताचार्यवर्यो मे सन्निधत्तां सदा हृदि ॥ १ ॥

ज्ञानानन्दमयं देवं निर्मलस्फटिकाकृतिम् ।

आधारं सर्वविद्यानां हयग्रीवमुपास्महे ॥ २ ॥

वन्दे लक्ष्मीहयग्रीवं पुरो मे मार्गदर्शकम् ।

येनापक्वमतिर्नूनं किञ्चिद्भूता हि संस्कृता ॥ ३ ॥

अच्युतसम्प्रदायान्मां च्युतं मुकुन्द मे गुरो ।

अरक्षदनुकम्पा ते पदमनुसराम्यहम् ॥ ४ ॥

पद्मनाभगुरुं वन्दे सदाचार्यमहं सदा ।

कुलीनं धीसुशीलादिविग्रहं शुद्धवैदिकम् ॥ ५ ॥

About us 

Svagatam to the portal. The purpose of the portal is to share some of the aspects of Sri Ramanuja Sampradaya (known as Visistadvaita or Srivaishnavism) as enriched by Acharya Swami Desika through Sanskrit literature. One of the main aims is to teach the basics of Sanskrit through Stotras and vice versa through the portal. With the blessings of my Gurus I have been teaching Stotras, basics of Sanskrit, Philosophy (the basics of Nyaya-Vaisheshika, Sankhya-Yoga, Advaita and Dvaita in general, and Visistadvaita in particular) and Srivaishnava sampradaya to students of all ages. I have just begun to deliver traditional upanyasams and lectures on Poorvacharya Stotras and on the Commentary of Acharya Ramanuja to the Bhagavad Gita. Also, I render meanings of the Poorvacharya stotras and of the Bhagavad Gita, by way of recordings shared in WhatsApp, from the perspective of learning Sanskrit through them. The audio and/or video recordings of the above would be shared in this portal. Also, I intend to share my writings on the above topics. Besides the above, lectures and writings of my Gurus would be shared.

 

About Dr. Sreeram Jaganathan

To write or not to write about me? Well this question has been much deliberated upon by me for quite some time and finally I told myself that I should.

With some sattvika ahamkara I wish to introduce myself as Dr.Sreeram Jaganathan, PhD in Sanskrit. My family belongs to the Setlur (or Settaloor or Chetlur) clan of Srivaishnavas and our gotra is Kaushika. Our poorveekam (native village) is a village by name Alathurai, near Vandavasi. My grandfather, his father and grandfather had lived there. My father grew up and did his schooling from there before migrating to Chennai and settling down. My Grandfather’s Grandfather had moved to Alathurai from another village called Siruvalur (Thensiruvalur), near Thindivanam. Setlur is said to be an Agraharam by name Shreshtaluru located somewhere in the border area of present Karnataka and Andhrapradesh states. This is mentioned in the book ‘Kaushika mahatmyam’ by the renowned scholar Sri U.Ve.Paiyambadi Chetlur Srivatsankachariar Swami.

Until June 2009 I was working in TCS for almost six years, and prior to it, in ICICI Bank ltd for nearly four years. I completed a full time MBA (Finance) in 1999 from Thiagarajar School of Management, Madurai, after finishing B.Sc (Physics) in 1997 from D.G.Vaishnav College, Chennai. In June 2009, all of a sudden, I quit TCS and enrolled for a full time MA (Sanskrit) course in the Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras (more about it in the next heading below). I completed the course in 2011 and under the guidance of Dr.S.Padmanabhan, completed M.Phil (Sanskrit), full time, in the year 2012.

The title of my dissertation is, ’Upanishad vilasa – a study’. I enrolled for Ph.D in 2013 under his valuable guidance and submitted the thesis titled ‘Nature and Destiny of the Self in Advaita, Dvaita and Visistadvaita – a comparative study’ in 2015. The viva voce was held in November 2016 and the PhD degree was finally awarded in June 2017. To sum up, from July 2009 I have been studying Sanskrit, Philosophy and Sampradaya. I had been working part time with some institutions and teaching privately to meet partial financial requirements, the rest being supported by my family.

 

About the big transition in my life in 2009

Any change does not occur overnight. The reason behind my transition from leading a corporate or material life to a slightly-on the border spiritual life is divine. From the year 2005, there was a crisis brewing in the mind on questions like ‘whether what I was doing in life was right’ or ‘was I doing what I was supposed to do’. I was doing good materialistically but that did not bring in happiness or add clarity to life. I was feeling disappointed with the hypocrisy in religiousness in general as well. At this time, I took a transfer to TCS Hyderabad to pursue an academic role within the confines of corporate life. It was the play of destiny that I was introduced to my spiritual mentor Sri.E.S.Mukundan, at Hyderabad. For the first time in my life I came across an atma who walked his talk. I found him to follow the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya true to its spirit. To me he was an ideal prapanna.

I began to learn some of the stotras from him and used to participate in the Goshti conducted by him to recite the stotras. Sometimes the effect of karma is such that even as you get closer to good things there would be a separation very soon. I got an opportunity to go abroad at the end of 2006 and I went to take the permission of Mukundan Swami to leave with a note ‘I am moving away from India, away from the sampradaya as well, as I am disillusioned with it or atleast with the way it is being followed’. He said ‘ok’ and added ‘if Emberumaan wills you would definitely come back’. The words still ringer in my mind! He has left an indelible mark in my mind and I am trying to follow his footsteps in life.

Emberumaan did will and after three trips to the Netherlands, I returned in the middle of 2008 not only to India but also to the Sampradaya. Earlier between 2005 and 2008, in my quest to know about all religions and the philosophy behind them I read a lot both online and offline. One of the essays in a book by the writer Sujatha on God, led me to an important pasuram of Nammalwar, from his Tiruvoimozhi. That prompted me to dig the gold right under my cot, that is in the Srivaishnava sampradaya. Then I knew for sure that what I was doing was not correct but did not know how to proceed or which direction to choose.

I would repeatedly chant the famous Gita sloka, ‘karpanyadosho’, recited by Arjuna, while surrendering to Lord Krishna, praying to the Paramatman for a direction. In the mean time I quit TCS with an aim to pursue a PhD in management from IITs or IIMs. But Emberumaan had a different plan. During my very first visit to the parakala mutt, Mylapore for a Sanskrit class, the teacher who was sitting right under the photograph of Lord Hayagreeva, to whom I was praying to, suddenly said to me, ‘If you have time you can pursue a full time MA Sanskrit from Vivekananda College, write answers in English and get a degree easily’, as he was working there.

Incidentally, the person sitting next to him, asked me to approach the Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras where he said the course would be more interesting and the faculty were better. What intrigued me the most was his name – Mr.Gopalan. I concluded – Krishna Paramatma spoke through Mr.Gopalan. I took both the contacts and said to them wherever the destiny wills I would go. On my back home, as I was cycling, suddenly there was clarity and was immensely happy. My road ahead, which seemed to be blocked so far, became clear and I was marching ahead already. The contact person of Vivekandan college did not pick up my call and so I decided to approach the University of Madras the next day.

When I went to the Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras the next day, as I was waiting to meet the HOD, one of the Professors of the department, Dr.S.Padmanabhan, whom I never met before approached me and asked if he could help me. I went to his office, briefed about my background and told about my intent to pursue the MA program. He was taken aback as he learnt that I had quit a lucrative job especially when I was only 32 years of age and had a family to support. I was married and had a young daughter who was studying in the UKG. He tried to convince me, for my own good, to take up a job and study part time. When I told him that I have already resolved to study Sanskrit and I was not willing to go back on my decision, he agreed to help me with the procedure.

The Professor, Dr.S.Padmanabhan, impressed me as an excellent human being above all his many other glorious aspects. His amicability gave me a lot of confidence as I had no grounding in Sanskrit until then. Only later I came to know that he hailed from a highly noble family and also about the greatness of their family. H.H.Devanarvilagam Azhagiyasingar (the 43rd Jeer of the Ahobila mutt) is his father’s elder brother. Soon I realised the hand of destiny, which like a river of grace, carried me along from the bank of E.S.Mukundan Swami to the bank of Dr.S.Padmanabhan. I not only got enrolled to the MA program but also eventually sought refuge in Dr.S.Padmanabhan, my Acharya. Till date he has been mentoring me in all possible ways and I owe a lot to both the two Gurus.

I managed the financial situation for close to two years (until completion of MA) with whatever savings and PF, gratuity and other benefits of my service I received after quitting. Or so I thought – it is the grace of Emberumaan which carried me through not only those two tough years but also carrying me through until now. I should mention the support of my family – my parents, wife and even my daughter. Ofcourse they were apprehensive very much in the beginning as they were at loss of words to explain to the society what their son, husband and father did. I myself had no clue about where I was heading to. I was just floating, as my Guru E.S.Mukundan would say, in the ocean of grace of Emberumaan. But they supported – really supported – financially and emotionally. My parents in law also need to be thanked for their understanding and support.

Towards the end of MA programme, I got a job through Dr.S.Padmanabhan, to take care of rent and a few other needs. The grace of Emberumaan did not let us down financially at any point in time. Money was somehow coming in to sustain the family needs. Then I completed M.Phil under the guidance of Dr.S.Padmanabhan by working part time and gradually enrolled for PhD under him and somehow completed it by 2016 and was honoured with the degree as well. In the mean time I got an opportunity to get associated with the famous Madurantakam Patashala. I shall share another write up that talks about my association.

Slowly as the near and dear realised the value behind all these developments, accolades and recognitions started pouring in from all corners which has boosted the morale of everyone in the family. Today, with the grace of Emberumaan, there are many students who learn stotras, Sanskrit, Philosophy and Sampradaya from me. I have begun to give lectures and upanyasams as well, mainly due to blessings of my Gurus. Lord Hayagreeva has blessed me with the gift of writing poetry in Sanskrit (besides in Tamil and English) and have composed around 750 verses in Sanskrit alone. I maintain two blogspots for poetry whose links are given in the website. The third, fourth and fifth verses in the beginning of the welcome message are my own compositions on Lord Hayagreeva, Sri E.S.Mukundan and Dr.S.Padmanabhan. I write under the pen names Nakula and Mukunda-Padmanabha-Dasa. My poetry is named as Nakulasya-sughoshah.

At hindsight I realise it is all the grace of Emberumaan which has led me from where I was to where I am today. Following the footsteps of my Guru E.S.Mukundan, with the mentoring received from my Guru Dr.S.Padmanabhan, I embark upon the journey to share whatever I have learnt for the benefit of everyone in general and Srivaishnavas in particular. There have been a lot of incidents that have happened in my life in these last 9 years which have amply proved the constant presence of grace of Emberumaan. I can realise its presence and I am very much convinced He is handholding me at every step. I have not written about those incidents here but just want to conclude the essence of all of them that ‘Prapatti or unconditional surrender is the only way’!

॥ अस्मद्सर्वगुरुभ्यो नमः ॥

About Smt. Anusha Sreeram (will be elaborated later)

Anusha Sreeram is a classical vocalist and violinist. She has learned vocal Carnatic music from Smt. Laksmi Sundaram, daughter of Shri Sathur A.G. Subramanyam. She began her violin lessons from Smt.Kanakavalli Sundaravadanam at the age of 7 years. Presently she is a disciple of  “Padmashri” “Sangeethakalanidhi” “Kalaimamani” Kumari A. Kanyakumari and has performed in her group concert. She has assisted in coordinating her Guru’s ensembles managing the practice sessions and scripts. She has performed violin for All India Radio Chennai’s “Siruvar Isai”, given vocal programs for their “Illangar Isai,” and has been part of their special program “Siruvar Vadhya Vrindha” for Children’s Day in 1991.

She has a MSc (I.T.) and has completed M.Music (from University Of Madras). She has also completed Govt. of Tamilnadu technical examinations in music.

She has given many public performances and is presently focusing on teaching violin and vocal music to many students under the able guidance of her Guru Kum. Kanyakumari. She has been teaching for the past ten years and has nearly 25 students.