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A Tribute to Brahmasri Kamakoti Shastri

 

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Brahmasri C V Kamakoti Shastrigal, Srividya Sthanigam of Sri Kanchi Kamakshi Temple attained the lotus feet of Sri Kamakshi Parabhattarika early this morning. Sri Shastrigal, a great scholar and an encyclopedia of Srividya, was one of the primary disciples of Brahmasri Chidanandanatha (Sri 'Sir' Subrahmanya Iyer) and the head-priest of Sri Kanchi Kamakshi Devasthanam. Initiated into the worship of Sri Kamakshi Para Bhattarika at the young age of 12, Sri Shastrigal dedicated his entire life to the worship of Bhagavati Sri Kamakshi.

The illustrious family of Kamakoti was specially chosen by Bhagavan Adi Shankara to spread Srividya in southern India and to worship Sri Kamakshi. Sri Sheshadri Swamigal was a member of this illustrious family. Shastrigal was born to Brahmasri Vedamurti Shastrigal, a distinguished scholar belonging to Kamakoti family. He came in contact with H H Paramacharya Sri Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati Mahaswamigal of Kumbhakonam Mutt at a very young age and received his guidance at every step. He then undertook Srividya Upasana under the guidance of Brahmasri Chidanandanatha and received Purnabhisheka from the great Master. Sri Shastrigal, being a master of Agama Shastra, performed Pratishthas and Kumbhabhishekas at all major shrines in India like Sri Minakshi Temple at Madurai, Sri Akhilandeshwari Temple at Jambukeshwaram, Sri Rameshwaram Temple, Sri Kamakhya Mandir, Sri Vindhyavasini Temple, Sri Annapurna Temple at Kashi, Sri Omkara Ashrama Kamakshi in Haridwar etc. He authored several books like Srividya Saparya Paddhati, Sri Kamakshi Mahatmyam etc. An ardent worshipper of Amba in the form of Sri Bala Tripurasundari, his Diksha name was Sri Balanandanatha. He has thousands of loving disciples who have received invaluable guidance from him in Srividya Upasana.

Sri Shastrigal, apart from being a scholar par excellence, was a great Mantra Siddha who helped hundreds with his mantra Siddhi. He was very close to H H Paramacharya Sri Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati Mahaswamigal and remained his most trusted Shishya. An incident from his life shows the immense blessings of Amba and Sadguru on Sri Shastrigal. During the time of Sri Vedamurti Shastrigal, a great Avadhuta, Sri Swayamprakashananda arrived in Kanchipuram. He was a great siddha and in every Kshetra he visited, the main deity of that Kshetra would appear in front of him and personally offer a welcome. When he arrived in Kanchi, this did not happen. Disappointed, the Avadhuta sat in deep meditation for 48 days, but in vain. In spite of his severe prayers, Sri Kamakshi did not appear. On the 49th day, he climbed the Dhwaja Stambha in the temple, stood inverted on his head and began to recite the sacred Shodashakshari Mahamantra. By mid noon, due to the burning Sun and the yogAgni emanating from his frame, a thin flame appeared from his right toe and began to spread upwards. Filled with compassion towards her burning son, Sri Kamakshi appeared seated on Panchabrahmasana, with Rama and Vani on either side. After blessing him, Amba instructed him to accept Prasada from the house of Sri Vedamurti Shastrigal. Swamiji accepted Shastrigal's hospitality and blessed him.

After several years, Sri Shantananda of Pudukkottai (Sri Bhuvaneshwari Adhishthanam) became the disciple of Swami Swayamprakashananda. According to his Guru's instructions, he came to Kanchipuram to perform Srividya Purashcharana. His Guru reminded him of Amba's instruction and told him to accept bhiksha only at the residence of Sri Kamakoti Shastrigal (Sri Vedamurti Shastrigal had attained Siddhi by then). Sri Shantananda came to Kanchi and began to spend his entire day in the Sannidhi of Sri Kamakshi, immersed in Japa. Sri Kamakoti Shastrigal noticed the rare brilliance in the naked avadhuta and requested him to accept Bhiksha. Swamiji, who had not eaten anything for a week by then, enquired who he was. On hearing his name, Kamakoti, he immediately agreed to accept Bhiksha at his residence. He would eat one ball of rice from the hands of Sri Kamakoti Shastrigal and wipe his hands on his long matted locks. After a month, one morning Shastrigal heard the sound of numerous bells from the Sannidhi of Amba. When he rushed to the temple, he found Swamiji in a state of Samadhi and Amba's earring was in his hands. Sri Kamakshi had blessed Swami Shantananda and had graced him with Mantra Siddhi. Swamiji, according to instructions from Sri Kamakshi, established a beautiful temple dedicated to Sri Bhuvaneshwari in Pudukkottai.

Whenever Swamiji visited Kanchi, he blessed Sri Kamakoti Shastrigal and his family by accepting bhiksha from them. During one such visit, he narrated an incident, 'Kamakoti, I was trying to see through my Yogic powers if there really is a self-realized master in physical form currently. I was guided to visit Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati in Sringeri by Sri Bhuvaneshwari. To personally test his realization, I went to Sringeri and sat outside the temple of Sri Sharada. I lay there for three days and no one took notice. On the third day, when I began to leave, an attendant of Mahasannidhanam came running and informed me that Jagadguru wanted to see me. Surprised, I followed him and reached a dark room. It was an empty room and in the middle of the room was seated a frail Yati, whose brilliance seemed superior to that of the Sun. He stared at me and his sight induced shaktipata in me. In seconds, I was in the state of Samadhi. He is the foremost of Jnanis in physical form currently. He is the true Jivanmukta. He will shed his mortal frame in the next few months. Have his Darshan before that'.

Sri Kamakoti Shastrigal at once decided to visit Sringeri. The income that he received from the temple was next to nothing. In fact, the temple was in such a bad state that Shastrigal had a big problem offering even Naivedyam to Amba. He would offer whatever he had in his house and because of this, his family spent days without food. As Smt Saroja Mami recollects, 'once we were in a very bad financial state and someone gave Mama some dakshina. He immediately bought some grains, made prasadam, offered it to Amba and distributed it to devotees. Family, children, and society - everything was secondary to Kamakshi. Kamakshi was his mother, Guru, friend and child. He took care of her and she always took care of him'. With great difficulty, he managed to reach Sringeri. But Mahasannidhanam was in the state of Samadhi then and there was no saying when he would return to bahirmukha avasthA. Sri Shastrigal requested H H Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Swamigal, the junior Acharya then, to grant him Darshan of Mahasannidhanam. The next day, when Acharya went to pay his customary respects to his Guru, Mahasannidhanam at once opened his eyes and said, 'Kamakshi's child had come to see me. Bring him'. Acharya at once summoned Kamakoti Shastrigal to the holy presence of Sri Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal. Shastrigal performed dirgha danda pranama to the two Acharyas and offered a picture of Sri Kamakshi and tirtha prasada to Mahasannidhanam. The great Jivanmukta, like a child hugging a long lost mother, grabbed the photo, held it close to his heart and tears of joy began to flow from his eyes. After a while he said, 'You have brought me great joy. The only lack I have had in this life is of not seeing Sri Kamakshi with this charma chakshu. There is nothing dearer to me than Arya Shataka. Amba has blessed me finally with this photograph and fulfilled my wish. You have given me a photo of my Devata and I will give you your upAsya. shArada is none but Bala'. Saying so, Mahasannidhanam blessed Sri Shastrigal with his lotus hands and gave him a rare photograph of Sri Sharada Parameshwari with a serpent on her crown. This photograph adorns the puja mandira of Sri Shastrigal to this day.

Sri Kamakoti Shastrigal has been the guiding spirit behind the activities of Kamakoti Mandali. Our Mandali offers ananta koti pranams to Brahmaikya Sri Kamakoti Shastrigal and prayers to Srividya Parameshwari to grant strength to his family and Shishya Koti to bear the immense loss. Our loss is shared by none other than Sri Kamakshi Mahabhattarika, who will now miss an obedient son, a naiShThika upAsaka and a loving father of bAlA.

pAtena lochanarucheH tava kAmakoTi
potena pAtakapayodhibhayAturANAm |
pUtena tena nava kAnchana kuNDalAmshu
vItena shItalaya bhUdharakanyake mAm ||