Dharmapuram Adheenam - What is it ? History and Existance

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Dharmapuram Adheenam - What is it ? History and Existance

The adheenam was founded during the 16th century, along with the Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam and the Thiruppanandal Adheenam, to spread the ideology of Saiva Sidhantam.

The adheenam is involved in publishing Saivite literature, specifically the Thevaram and Tiruvasakam and its translations. It is also involved in literary scholarship.: 182  Vaitheeswaran Koil, near Sirkazhi, is one of the temples the adheenam maintains.

The 26th Guru Maha Sannidhanam died on 4 December 2019, and was succeeded by Sri Masillamani Desiga Gnanasambanda Swamigal as the 27th Guru Maha Sannidhanam of the adheenam.

Dharmapuram Aadheenam is a Saivite monastic institution based in the town of Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. As of 2019, there were a total of 27 Shiva temples under the control of the adheenam.

Sri Villiputhur the far south of the Tamil Country in India lies the important town of Sri Villiputhur, in the modern Ramnad district. It is celebrated in legend and history as the birthplace of the Vaishnava Saint, Periyalwar and his foster daughter Andal, both of whom had sung inspired hymns on Lord Vishnu; their hymns have been collected into the first Book of the Vaishnava Canon.

Guru Gnanasambandha, the illustrious founder of the Dharmapuram line of Saiva preceptors, was born in this place, in a middle-class agricultural family, by the middle of the sixteenth century.

During that period there lived in this place a happy couple, Subrahmanya Pillai and his wife, Meenakshi. They belonged to the community known as the Karkatha velala community, which was noted for its adherence to the Saiva faith and for its vegetarian way of life, from time immemorial.

The vegetarian way of life symbolises love for all creatures of God and it is one of the basic doctrines of Saivism. Amidst all kinds of political, social and religious turmoil during the last two thousand years in Tamilnadu, the vegetarian way of food, called the Saiva way of food, has been held in the greatest esteem and veneration in the land. Even today, the term Saiva is equated with the vegetarian way of food.

The Karkathar clan had been held in the greatest veneration from the beginning of the Christian era because of its identity with vegetarianism. The community traces its legendary origin to Umadevi, the consort of Siva, who performed Sivapuja at Kancheepuram aeons ago and had delegated to these people the religious duty of performing the Thirtytwo Dharmas (duties in life and charities).

Subrahmanyam and his family were all worshippers of Lord Siva. The couple led an ideal householders' life, devoting their resources to the worship of Siva, both in the temple and in their home, and to the feeding of the devotees of God, as prescribed in the Scriptures. In due time, the grace of Siva settled on the couple and was illustrious born to them at an auspicious moment, on a Monday, held sacred to Siva.

A divine radiance lit up the peaceful countenance of the baby, as though it foretold a higher purpose to be fulfilled by him in time. The name of Thiru Gnanasambandha, the boy saint of Sirkali and the first of the Saiva Samaya acharyas, was an inspiring name and held the greatest fascination among all the Saivas in the land.

The parents named the child Gnanasambandha, after Thiru Gnanasambandha, in a prophetic moment of inspiration. The name signified one who had communion with Supreme Knowledge. Saint Thiru Gnanasambandha lived in the middle of the Seventh Century. As a small child of three years, he was fed with the Milk of supreme knowledge by Sakthi, the consort of Siva; his life story is well known.

He had toured the entire Tamil country, visiting all the important temples where Siva was enshrined and had sung about four thousand quatrains in praise of Siva. All of the songs had been set to music. He had so vigorously promulgated the Saiva faith that all the alien faiths in the land had disappeared.

His songs have been collected to the Saiva canon as the First Three books. They are unsurpassed, for hymnal beauty, emotional outburst, literary value and philosophical content, in the whole range of the Tamil literature of the last two-thousand years. It was indeed an inspired moment when Subrahmanyam choose the name Gnanasambandha for his son.

Saint Thiru Gnanasambandha the Samayacharya was enveloped in Divine Grace while yet a child, and in like manner we shall find that this child also came under divine guidance while yet a boy. The child grew up and in due course received all secular education both from his father and from the others.

Through a divine will, he easily mastered all the arts and learnt all the sastras in the Tamil and the Sanskrit languages, and attained the momentous age of sixteen. The family deity of Subrahmanyam was Lord Sundaresa of Madurai (variously known as Somasundara, Sokkanatha and Sokkalingam).

At about this time, Subrahmanya Pillai planned to go to Madurai with his wife and son and worship Lord Sundaresa there.

MADURAI

Madurai is the second-largest city in the modern state of Tamilnadu. It was the capital city of the Pandyas Dynasty, comprising all the southernmost districts of Tamilnadu. It was ruled over in ancient times by a dynasty of Tamil princes known as the Pandyas.

In religion, legend and literature, it is hailed as one of the most ancient cities in India. Saint Appar says that Lord Siva revealed Himself here in the form of a Sivalingam long before any other shrine came into existence. In the concept of the universe as the Cosmic Form of the Supreme Being, the Madurai shrine is considered as the mystic centre, dvadasanta, situated twelve inches beyond the crown of Being. The presiding deity of the city is Meenakshi, the consort of Siva.

According to legends, she ruled here as a princess of the Pandyas dynasty. Aeons ago, Lord Siva came down on earth here and ruled over the city as Her consort, Somasundara. This city had been the greatest seat of all culture and all secular and religious learning in the ancient past. The Pandyas had established here several universities in succession. According to legends, Lord Siva Himself had taken the form of a poet and participated in the deliberations of the university.

During the first millennia after Christ, historical pieces of evidence are available on the line of the Pandyas who ruled over the city. At the request of the Pandava queen Managayarkkarasi, Saint ThiruGnanasambandha visited the city in the middle of the Seventh Century.

At an earlier period, this state had been over-run by an alien tribe of Jain invaders and the Saiva religion had been suppressed. Thiru Gnanasambandha through God's grace vanquished his Jain, opponents here is philosophical disputation, won back the king to Saivism, and restored this ancient religion in the land. Many miracles were also performed here by Lord Sundaresa for the sake of Saint Manikkavachaka of the Tiruvachakam fame, Thus there is always halo attached to the city through long, association with religion and literature.

On an auspicious day, Subrahmanyam started for Madurai with his wife and son. He covered the distance of fifty miles in a few days and reached the city in due time. The family took part in the various occasions of worship in the temple daily and stayed there for some time, happy in the worship of Lord Sundaresan and Meenakshi. Then, duties at home called them back and so Subrahmanyam and his wife set about making preparations for the return to Srivilliputhur. On the day fixed for the return journey, Subrahmanyam went to the temple asusual with his wife and took leave of Lord Sundaresan.

At the time of departing however, the parents felt that their son appeared to be unwilling to move away from the shrine. They were perplexed. They could not understand the change which had come over in the mind of the young boy. From the moment when the boy saw Sundaresa and Meenakshi, he experienced an inexplicable thrill of supreme joy. The temple worship always gave him infinite joy and he could not wrest himself from it.

The temple, the peace and the sense of elevation felt in the Divine Presence, the elaborate rituals forming part of the worship, the company of the men of God there, and the daily routine of just living for the occasion of the worship at specified hours had the greatest appeal to all his senses and, through them, had come to have so firm a hold on his mind that he was quite unwilling to leave the temple. His eyes feasted on the Lord, his ears devoured the devotional songs sung by the men of God in the temple, his nostrils inhaled the fragrance wafted by the incense in the sanctum, his tongue lisped devotional songs, and his person delighted in the smearing of the sacred ash of Siva.

Thus all his five senses functioned for God and his mind functioning through the senses went out to prostrate at the feet of the Lord. So, when his parents urged him to follow them home, he replied : " My dear parents, I am in duty bound to obey you. You have no doubt given me this body and have a right to call me. But how can I tear myself away from the parents of my soul, who are enshrined in this temple, and who have even a greater right over me ? I dare not follow you. Please forgive me."

The young boy now seems to have had some kind of spiritual awakening and enlightenment. He was born apparently with a mission in life, and the moment for fulfilling that mission had come. His birth as the son of Subrahmanyam and Meenakshi of Srivilliputhur was nothing more than an accident. The spirit in him was eternally in bondage to the Supreme Spirit, in this case Lord Sundaresa. of Madurai. So he felt he was not wrong in declining to fulfil a duty towards his natural parents. But they could not view it in such a light. They were much bewildered at such a behaviour from their only son.

To dispel their anxiety and to set their mind at rest, Gnanasambandha explained to them his position as best as he could, siting also many scriptural authorities in support of his stand, and eloquently pleaded with them to permit him to stay back in Madurai and lead a spiritual life. The parents were unable to answer him, but imagined that perhaps time would cure him, and so stayed on for some more time in the city, fondly hoping that he would change his mind.

But the boy was steadfast in his purpose and would not move from the shrine. Finally, realising that nothing more could be done, they left him and went home with a heavy heart. Being devout people themselves, the thought that their son might grow up spiritually evolved might perhaps have given them some solace. Gnanasambandha continued to stay in Madurai. He was enjoying an inward peace resulting from a contemplation of the grace of God. He bathed daily at early morning in the tank of the Golden Lotus (The sacred temple tank is called Porthamarai Kulam), finished his ablutions and offered worship before Sokkanatha and Meenakshi in the temple.

This went on for a considerable time. While going through this routine daily, his attention used to focus on the austerities practised by some men of God there. The sacred ash adorned their forehead and the rudraksha beads (a Saiva emblem) on their bodies, their lips were uttering the Panchakshara Mantra. He observed that these men always sat on the paved bank of the tank facing North, placed a Siva linga in front, and offered to it threefold worship, complete with Mantra, Bhavana (contemplation) and kriya(sadangu) (ritual).

They were beside themselves out of divine ecstasy and, with tears of joy and faltering lips, they sang rapturously the canonical songs during their worship. As he was watching such worship of the devotees on the banks of the tank, a desire to perform similar worship himself and get immersed in similar divine ecstasy surged up in his mind. His orthodox training made him feel that the grace of God should help him in this regard. When he went into the temple to take part in the ritualistic worship that day as usual, this desire was foremost in his mind.

But he had no murti (image) to worship and no instruction in the mode of worship. So, he who had so far worshipped in the temple without any desire, except for the joy of worship, now had a request to make. He prayed for a murti for his worship and for instruction in the ritual of personal worship. This prayer had an immediate response.

That night he had a dream. The Lord appeared before him and said: " My dear boy, we are resting in a casket in the northeastern corner of the tank of the golden lotus. You may find Us there. Take the casket with you, so that you may in time be able to perform the personal worship as desired.” Waking up, Gnanasambandha was beside himself with joy.

" So Lord Sundaresa has graciously answered my humble prayer ! " cried he. At daybreak, he went to the lotus tank as usual and bathed in the northeastern corner as directed in his dream. Lo! there was the casket containing the Sokkalingam! His joy knew no bounds.

Taking it with both hands, he went to the sanctum of the temple and there praised the Grace of the Lord. The young man who had till then never sung a song or composed a line of poetry,

TIRUVARUR (TIRU ARUR)

TiruArur in the modern Tanjavur district is about 150 miles to the northeast of Madurai. It is one of the most ancient cities in Tamilnadu, held very sacred in Saiva legend and history. Of the five Saiva shrines dedicated to the five elements, the Arur shrine is dedicated to the element earth.

Legends say that King ManuNiti Chola, ruling here, rode his chariot over the body of his only son, as a punishment for the death of a calf caused by the prince by riding his chariot over it, although unknowingly. Saint Sundara calls himself the servant of all that were born in this place; the belief is that one born here attains salvation with certainty. The Saint was married to Paravai in this city and here Lord Tyagaraja had acted as a messenger of love to Sundara. Many incidents in his life were enacted here.

Earlier than Sundara, Saint Appar had sung many moving songs on the temple; he had said that Arur was created long before anything else was created. The city was considered to be one of the several capital cities of the Chola emperors. The temple in this city is a very large one.The temple tank called the Kamalalaya is also a very large one.

Gnanasambandha, arriving in this city, bathed in the Kamlalaya and went straight to the presence of Lord Tygaraja.

He poured forth his soul in his prayer to the Lord, for this was Monday, on which he was to meet his guru. The longing to meet Gnanaprakasa, the guru appointed by God, filled his heart and his eyes were eagerly searching for him. After praying there, he prayed in the presence of Sakti and then went the round of the corridors and the inner temples Gnanaprakasa in the meantime remembered that this was the day appointed for the appearance of Gnanasambandha before him.

As usual, he got up early in the morning performed his personal worship in his home, went to the temple, took part in the worship there, and going round the inner court yards of the temple, he reached the ineer shrine of Siddhisvaram, situated in the northern outer courtyard. In every Siva temple there is a form of Dakshinamurti installed in the southern central niche on the outer wall of the sanctum proper. Dakshinamurti is the manifest form of Siva as the Supreme Guru. The Dakshinamurti in the Siddhisvaram shrine was the favourite deity of our Gnanaprakasa.

This day as usual he came to the presence of this Murti, seated himself in front facing east, and went into meditation, expecting the arrival of Gnanasambandha. In due time, Gnanasambandha reached Siddhisvaram and going round, came into the presence of Dakshinamurti. Here he saw Gnanaprakasa, with peaceful benevolent eyes, countenance radiating grace.

He intuitively felt, through the grace of Siva, that this was indeed the guru he was seeking, the one who could dispel the ignorance of his soul and lead him on in the godward path toward final release from all bonds. Like a child that instinctively runs to its mother, like a calf running to its mother cow, like a piece of iron attracted by a magnet, he ran to the seated preceptor and fell at his feet.

Gnanaprakasa lifted the young man with -both hands, gently stroked him and said” Peace be on you ”. His very touch sent an ecstatic thrill through Gnanasambandha and appeased his spiritual hunger and transported him to ethereal heights. Gnanaprakasa then seated him facing North, besltowed his benign look on him, led him through the esoteric initiation ritual called Diksha, imparted spiritual instructions, and taught him the ritual of Sivalinga pooja.

In time he introduced him to the doctrines of Saiva Siddhanta, as enunciated in the Sivajnanasiddhi. The disciple was immensely happy that his desire to perform a personal Siva pooja was fulfilled so early. Gnanasambandha was a chosen child of God's grace, and gifted songs flowed from his lips spontaneously from then on.

Extolling the grace of Gnanaprakasa, he now sang a song of thirty verses, which has since come to be known as the Gnanaprakasamalai (a garland of verses): Like the Tamil Pune tents, the ola temples are also honoured by the Gurumaha Sannithanam at Sikazhi and at Thiruvaamur during Thirumulaippal Festival and Appar Gurupooja Day respectively.

Each pue Scholars the Othuvars who render Thirumurai songs in uram en ajam honour gets one sovereign gold medal and a purse with two thousand rupees. The title "Thirumuraikalanithi" is conferred on him. Darumai Adheenam is regularly publishing books JOU senior Othuvar who has been selected to receive the epa asure pui Aydo jo au on religious literature and Sindhantha philosophy.

A monthly magazine by the name of Gnanasambandam is also published by the mutt. Today the Peedam of Darumai Adheenam is adorned by His Holiness Sri la Sri Shanmuga Desika Gnanasambanda Paramacharya Swamigal, the 26h Pontiff in the line of Gurugnanasambandar. The first mentioned temple at Thiruvaiyaru is also called "Then Kailayam".

This is the birth place of Nanthiamperuman and only here saint Appar got the vision of Kailas. Vaitheeswarankoil is one of the Navagraha Parihara Sthalams. Sevai (Ankaragan) has got a separate shrine here and this place has been praised by saint Appar and Saint Thignanasambandar. Thirukkadavur, Thiruppariyalur and Thirukkurukkai come under Ashtaveerattams i.e, places where Lord Siva did heroic deeds and hence these places find a place in Thevaram.

Thirunallar is also a Navagraha Parihara Sthalam like Vaitheeswarankoil. At the same time, he sang also another poem of a hundred verses on Sokkanatha, the murti he was to worship thereafter; the poem is known as the Sokkanatha Venba. It contains a very clear exposition of some of the subtlest concepts of the Saiva Siddhanta system of philosophy.

The initiation which he had, had bestowed on him such perfect wisdom and realisation that the three entities of Saiva Siddhanta, their mutual relationship, and the ultimate goal of man were so clear to him that the words he now uttered served to dispel all doubts in the future followers and thinkers. The fulness of the rich experience he was led to have by the one gracious look of the master, he is here sharing with all mankind.

THE TORCH INCIDENT

From then onwards, Gnanasambandha stayed on at Tiruvarur, holly effacing himself in the service of his master. One incident in such service requires special mention because of the far-reaching effect it had, not only on Gnanasambandha but on the Saiva world in general. It was the practice of Gnanaprakasa to attend the temple service on the third occasion in the night (usually called the artha-jama-puja, midnight worship). Gnanasambandha used to accompany him along with his co-disciples.

The service of worship took some time and often it was dark outside the temple, when Gnanaprakasa returned. Hence a torch-bearer usually waited with a torch to light the way to Gnanaprakasas house, which was some way from the temple. One night in particular, Gnanaprakasa sat in the presence of Dakshinamurti in meditative contemplation much longer than usual. When he was coming out from the temple with his followers, it was past midnight and the torch-bearer had fallen asleep.

The disciple Ganasambandha who was closely following on the heels of the master saw this and found here yet another opportunity to serve his master. He stepped forward quickly but did not awaken the sleeping torch-bearer as anyone in his position would have normally done. He lifted the burning torch, and holding it high, walked in front of his master, as the torch-bearer had done till this day, lighting the way home.

Gnanaprakasa, who was walking behind, was deeply immersed in the peaceful presence of the Lord he had just now worshipped outwardly, the memory of which he carried with him, and so was quite oblivious of all that happened now. He merely walked in the light shed by the torch and followed the torchbearer as usual, and after a few minutes, the party reached his home. Stop he said as usual, and walked into his house.

This was the signal for the regular servant to put out his torch and retire, and for the disciples to disperse. But the present torch-bearer.: Gnanasambandha did not remember the usual practice. His sub conscious mind was experiencing an inward joy in the service of the master. When the conscious mind heard the order of his master stop, he took it merely as an order to him just to stay there. So holding the lighted torch in his hands, he waited.

The other disciples departed. He did not notice it. Minutes passed, hours passed; he knew it not; he was not aware of his environment. He went apparently into a mystic trance, a dhyana samadhi, where the outward senses ceased to function and the mind only was awake in the full enjoyment of inward peace. All his outward senses converged into his mind. He did not remember himself, his environment, or the torch held in his hands.

As though to reveal the spiritual greatness of Gnanasambandha, there was a heavy downpour of rain. Miracle of miracles no drop touched him. In time the oil in the torch had burnt itself out; but the flame was not extinguished; the torch continued to burn even without oil ! Quite unaware of all these miracles, Gnanasambandha stood on in the nights till day break, holding the torch blissfully happy in an inward peace that he was obeying his master. Equally so Gnanaprakasa.

He did not know that his torch-bearer on this night was his own specialy favoured new disciple Gnanasambandha,or that he was the then standing of outside with a lighted torch in the middle of the night, in pouring rain . Just at day break, the wife of Gnanaprakasa came out of the house to sweep and clean the portals.

As she opened the gates and came out, she was amazed to find her husbands new disciple standing there, with a lighted torch, untouched by the heavy shower of rain in the night; the rain had fallen all around some yards from him, but not a single drop had fallen on him or on the small circular area around him; even the rain water which had collected and flowed along the street had not touched that area.

In speechless wonder, she ran in and told her husband what she saw. Gnanaprakasa could hardly believe his ears. He came out and saw Gnanasambandha, still there, the torch alight in his hand, rain water rushing along the street, but not a drop of water on his person or on the area around him. Now he could hardly believe his eyes.

As he was a realised soul, he took in the situation immediately. So, Sivas Grace had enveloped the young man in the night, had kept his torch burrning, and had kept the rain water from touching him ! With tears of Joy and wonder, he embraced Gnanasambandha the young man, and exclaimed!, “My dear Gnanasambandha, you have now been given unparalleled spiritual evolutioni You have now grown into a great spritual master who can shed spiritual lustre and disseminate spiritual knowledge and impart solace to suffering mankind. No longer need you stay with us.

You may now go forth, and stay at any place you like and there propagate the knowledge of God and give spiritual instruction to such mature souls as come under your influence and thus spread the kingdom of God on earth."

Hearing these words, Gnanasambandha shook with pain at the very thought of separation from his master. He fell at his feet and cried out in agony : " How can I exist when separated from you ? “ The implication of Gnanasarnbandha was that as a servant, he had no independent orendent will except that of acting according to his masters direction Gnanaprakasa was very much moved by such words of humility from Gnanasambandha He had already seen the hand of Providence in sending the young man all the way from Madurai to TiruArur, to be initiated by him.

Now he was able to perceive the same hand of God benevolently extended towards him, for the welfare of all humanity. Some divine will seems to have suggested to him the future place and work of Gnanasambandha. So without hesitation he said : " Please go north to the celebrated city of Mayuram, two yojanas from here. To the north east of that city, you will find a beautiful grove of vilva trees.

It is known as the vilvaranya. There is in it a small shrine of Siva, called Dharmapuram. In times of yore, Siva bestowed here His grace on Dharmaraja, the god of Death, and hence its name. It is a place made holy by the worship of many sages like Agastya. Let that place be your future seat, from which you may hereafter spread your message of Saiva Siddhanta and help struggling souls towards final release from all bonds and union with God."

Gnanasambandha, who had wholly surrendered himself to the will of his master, could not now demur. So before agreeing, he asked him: "When am I to have a vision of you again, my master ?" Gnanaprakasa answered, " You may go over here every Guruvara (Thursday, the day of the planet Jupiter, Guru)." Gnanasambandha had to be satisfied with this permission. So now he wrenched himself as it were from the presence of Gnanaprakasa and left Tiruvarur.

Visiting the many important shrines such as Tiruvanchiyam on the way, he reached Dharmapuram in due time.

DHARMAPURAM

Dharmapuram is situated a mile to the east of the Mayuranatha shrine of Mayuram on the southern bank of the river Kaveri. The legends connected with the Kaveri and its succour to the people of the Chola country are legion.

Every inch of the ground here had been sanctified by the tours of the Siva shrines undertaken by the Saiva Acharyas in the seventh and the eighth centuries. They had sung the most moving songs in praise of about two hundred Siva shrines there.

These songs had inspired the successive emperors of the Chola dynasty, from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries to virtually dotting the land with huge edifices in granite as Siva temples. The city of Mayuram houses one such grand temple enshrining Siva as Mayuranatha.

Dharmapuram was just a small hamlet in those days, set in very picturesque silvan surroundings, ideal for meditation and for religious practices.Arriving here, Gnanasambandha workshiped Dharmapurisvara and His consort Abhayambika.

In course of time small, he raised a hermitage for his stay, to the west of the temple. Here he installed in a suitable place, Sokkanatha, the Sivalinga which he had received at Madurai and into whose worship he was initiated by Gnanaprakasa at Tiru Arur. He performed due worship to this murti complete with all the prescribed agamic rituals.

The spiritual peace and divine lustre emanating from him gathered innumerable devotees and followers, all ardent seekers of truth and enlightenment. He initiated them into the Saiva order of religion and philosophy and guided them along the path of God.

Many are the miracles attributed to him, all performed not through the assertion of the Ego, the but through the absolute surrender of the Ego to the divine will, and through divine intervention. Later on, we shall say a few words about the concept of miracles in that age.

Ganasambandaha radiated love for all creation. Under his spiritual influence, even animals left off their instinctive animosity and base nature and lived together in peaceful harmony without harming one another had settled in a forest of vailva trees. Meek animals like the deer and the cow lived without fear of wild animals like tigers.

Gnanasambandhas love for god had a promoted into such a strata of life also. As times went on, the sages who were looking after the Dharmapurisvara temple there and performing its various pujas, before the arrival of Gnanasambandha, understood his spiritual eminence.

They came to him, taught him many historic sciences of whirls they were masters, and handed over to him for possession and administration the Dharmapurisvara temple, and their own various hermitages. " May you live here long, and may you and your descendants administer the temple and its properties to the best advantage of the Saiva peoples ." Thus blessing him, they left the place.

Gnanasambandha took over the administration of the temple and arranged for its regular puja, festivals and construction, and renovation work. Staying at Dharmapuram, Ganasambandha went to Tiru Arur every Thursday, to salute his master and derive inspiration from him. Although he had Gnanaprakashas .

Permission to go and visit him at TiruArur, every Thursday, he was feeling the pangs, of separation, which he had expressed in many of his songs, subsequently added onto the Gnanaprakasamalai.

Such was his frame of mind. He had no doubt developed into an enlightened master for a large number of followers, but still, he was always yearning to be in the presence of his own guru Time passed and the end of Gnanaprakasa had come off suddenly and his soul had gone to eternal rest at the feet of Lord Siva. When Gnanasambandha went to visit him the next time, Gnanaprakasa was no longer there in flesh and blood. His grief at missing his master was inconsolable, but being a realised soul, he got over it and went about performing his duties as usual.

At the samadhi of Gnanaprakasa he sang a short poem on him, called the garland of nine gems. In one of the verses he sings “ Out of your mercy you had permitted me to go over to you very Thursday and pray.

But now you have dropped your mortal coil. Is it proper that you go away without uttering a word to me? May you deign to speak a word to me now, O. Gnanaprakasa! " I can easily drop this useless body and follow you. But you decided otherwise, and I am reluctant to disobey your wish.

O that I should live even after separation from you, my Lord gnanaprakasa You have crossed the ocean of births and reached the shore. you have realised fulfilment. But you have stopped me here, I exist merely through your grace call me to yourself teach me the means of reaching you, my Lord Gnanaprakasa !"

At this stage gnanasamdha -written many metrical treatises on the various of aspects of the Saiva system of philospy . -Coming as he does from a direct line of a number of books on the kriya, yoga and jnana padas of that system, Jnanasamobandhas has an important place in the history of Saiva philosophy.

CHIDAMBARAM

Once Gnanasambandh.t went to chidambaram and worshipped there the cosmic dance of Lord Nataraja. After worship, he retired to the thousand pillared hall and composed himself into a state of prolonged meditation. The external world had ceased to exist, and time itself had stopped.

Night followed day in orderly succession but it affected him not. Parasakti, as Sivakamasundari, the consort of Lord Nataraja in the Chidambaram shrine, out of Her infinite mercy as the universal Mother, saw the need to aid his body with physical nourishment and caused the sweet porridge and milk from Her chamber in the temple to be given to him.

Unthinking persons and persons with a devout frame of mind will accept tales of miracles as quite true. Spiritually minded persons will accept But God's grace can work any miracles.

But in the modern sceptical world, things are not so easily accepted. Hence a word about miracles, in general, may not be out of place here. We are speaking of an age which existed half a millennium ago. Values in life were quite different in those days. Human society set the greatest score on matters of the spirit.

Material values were in a sense non-existent. Hundreds of enlightened souls and seers had lived purely on the spiritual plane. Their experience and their functioning were on a plane altogether different from the ordinary.

The laypeople could not aspire to or understand the experience on that plane, but yet they had the greatest veneration for men of such experience. Measured from the ordinary standards, their existence and experience constituted in most cases what in popular parlance was explained as miracles.

When the ordinary people were able to see many spiritually evolved souls in their own day-to-day experiences, they set the highest regard for their actions, although they could not understand them. When these were not.

able to explain many aspects of their existence in the higher plane with the criteria of their own living on the material plane, they gave such experiences a new name and called them miracles.

Thus we may say that the age Gnansambandha was faith in the miracles swayed" which the common people; we need he thing about the enlightened souls because they lived that life. It is no souls lived fore that in those ages Gnansambandha, many miracles are believed to have really occurred.

No apology is therefore needed for giving an account of the miracles which occurred in the lives of our saints and seers. It is not as though they worked the miracles through any conscious exercise of their Ego. In every case, we are told that miracles occurred through divine intervention when the saint concerned had made an absolute surrender of himself to the divine will. And again we may not say, however critical or rationalistic we may like to sound, that miracles had not happened.

Many of us have seen before our very eyes many little happenings, often brought about by ordinary individuals, which have no explanation in the realm of reason. In like manner we have to take such instances reported, on trust; on that account they do not cease to be true or appear exaggerated or become mere flights of the imagination, to be ignored.

In the world of sound, many things have been wrought by sound. Orpheus charmed by his harp in the Greek legend, and Saint Anayar charmed by his pipe in the Saiva legend, sentient and insentient beings.

The serpent is charmed by the snake-charmers pipe even today. These have been wrought by appeal to the sense of hearing only. But what greater effect could be worked by the Spirit, whose divine peace and influence not only affect all the senses, but go far deeper than they, and touch the mind and through it the spirit itself? In India in living memory, people had witnessed spiritual miracles performed by saintly souls.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa converted .Narendra into a godly way of life and Swami Vivekananda was born. Once more was India placed in its exalted position on the spiritual map of mankind.

Still nearer us, Sri Ramana Maharshi had worked miracles with his visitors; although these were not so spectacular, they were yet miracles of far-reaching and lasting effect. In this atomic age, when man hat landed on the moon when the universe itself seems to be shrinking, there are highly Advanced scientists who feel that all this knowledge is of no avail in understanding the great power which has created an order of all this imponderable immensity a harmony and beauty amidst all discord and difference, chaos and confusion without which life would be impossible.

That their science is powerless to unravel the mystery of this order and harmony, The higher science advances, the greater it Ifeels its inability to comprehend the hand of that Power. These thoughts should be in our mind when we seek to evaluate or question thf, Miracles. Man has conquered the elements, but has not conquered himself; neither does he attempt to do it, nor does he go along that path. He tries to conquer the celestial bodies, but does not wish well by his neighboor. Into this world, miracles always introduce an element of awe and wonder, and a message of love and peace.

To continue our narrative. We learn from history that there was hectic activity in the field of religion in the sixth century in the whole of Tamilnadu . All branches of Hinduism were busy founding institutions, writing religious treatises, glorifying temples and temple legends, imparting instruction to followers, and elucidating philosophical doctrines. Saivism had the greatest share in this activity.

Enlightened writers had left their impress on religion through their literary activity also. Gnanaprakasa the preceptor of our Gnanasambandha had himself writ ten many manuls and treatises covering all the different path-ways to God-realisation such the charya, kriya, yoga and jnana padas.

He had written also many devotional songs and a sthala purana (glorified legends of a local temple). Many of his disciples were prolific writers. No wonder his disciple Gnanasambandha also wrote several treatises and religious manuals. Amidst such intense activity, it is just possible that occasionally religious doctrines were given a twisted interpretation. .Gnanasambandha naturally could not help being drawn into a dialectical disputation on that account.

There was at this time in Chidambaram, a great scholar by name Marai Gnanasambandha a senior con-temporary of our own Gnanasambandha. This Marai Gnana had written scores of treatises on the various pathways in Saivism. One of his smaller books was a short treatise named the . Mukti nilai (state of salvation).

one paticutar position which he had taken in this book in regard to the had inherent traits of the soul, he and his book come in for sharp criticism at the hands of our Gnanasambandha. Marai Gnana contended that ananda or joy was an inherent trait of the soul, just as sat and chit, being and knowledge, were also its traits; that mala or ignorance obstructed the realisation of the soul; that when the obstruction was removed, the soul could enjoy its own bliss; and that this seas the muktinilai, state of salvation.

He was a profound scholar and also an enlightened soul. His own preceptors were men of great veneration in the Saiva world and his line of preceptors had also a great following. Hence our Gnanasambandha felt that such a doctrine was not correct and was not conducive to the development and final emancipation of the souls.

So he wrote another small treatise of twenty-two verses, called Mukti nischaya, determination the nature of salvation. Here he established that bliss is not inherent nature of the soul, the soul had only knowledge and being, that bliss is an attribute of Siva. and not of the soul and that only when the soul's ignorance or fitters is removed by the grace of siva, is it able to enjoy Sivananda or bliss, which is indeed a bestowal by Siva.

Thus, this little treatise not only gives us an insight into the contemporary currents in Saiva thought, but also gives Gnanasambandha, definite place in the development of the philosophical concepts in Saivism.

Hence his name will live its history not merely as the Founder of the Dharmapuram monastery as we shall see later, but also as one who had advanced the Saiva Siddhanta philosophical concepts and enriched its literature by his expository writings.

Gnanasambanha from then onwards came to be known as Guru Gnanasambandha, to distinguish him from spiritual leaders of the same name, particularly from this Marai Gnanasambandha, his own contemporary The first person who illumined this name was Saint Tiru Gnanasambandha, the first of the Saiva Samaya acharyas who lived the middle of the seventh century at sirkali. Another Gnanasambandha was at a Marai Gnanasambandha of Kadandai (latter half of the fourteenth century); he was so-called because he was well versed in the Vedas(basic Sanskrit scriptures for all branches of Hinduism.

He was the third acharya in the line of the Saiva Siddhanta spiritual preceptors from Saint Meikandar. Yet another one was Marai Gnanasambandha, the author of Mukti nilai refuted by our own Gnanasambandha. He was a very prolific writer and the Saiva world owes a great debt to him for his many writings. To distinguish our Gnanasambandha from all the above, the term Guru was prefixed to his name.

This was because he had founded an order of Saivism at Dharmapuram, created a monastery there, and was himself the first preceptor, Guru, therein.

SAMADHI

Guru Gnanasambandha continued to live in this manner at Dharmapurana for a long time. His spiritual attainments attracted to Dharmapuram a large number of seekers after truth, from far and near.

His was a life of absolute surrender to God, radiating peace and love to all creation, and helping mature and deserving souls in their onward march towards the final blissful union with God. Finally, he realised that the day of his final union with Siva was approaching. He decided to go into his eternal samadhi at the feet of the Sivalinga installed by him there. But other things had to be arranged for.

His guru Gnanaprakasa had enjoined him to foster the cause of Saiva Siddhanta by instituting a spiritual headship here.

The daily worship of Sokkanatha had to be performed. Besides, there was the administration of the local temple which he had taken over from the sages. Many disciples in various stages of enlightenment had gathered round him and were living there; they had to be helped further by a spiritual head.. Hence he felt the nessity for installing a spiritual successor to look after these several needs and interests.

He selected from among his followers Andaparavasa as the most spiritually evolved person and as the best fitted to assume the headship of the Dharmapurarm Gnanapeeta (spiritual seat), imparted to him the Supreme knowledge of God., may you occupy our seat of spiritual headship here, guide deserving souls, perform worship for Sokkanatha and the other temples, and propagate the doctrines of Saiva Siddhanta", he told him.

Immediately they anointed him, consecrated him with due rituals and installed him as his successor to the seat. Then he entered into a Jeeva samadhi.

But Anandaparavasa, who was, in reality, more highly evolved than the occasion demanded, seems to have already set his heart on total release and oneness with God. So, when he had the final initiation from his master, other things of the world did not matter to him, temple worship or guidance to deserving human souls did not matter.

When Gnanasambandha passed into a samadhi, Ananda cared no more for existence in this world. He Prostrated, before the samadhi, went and stayed at an into to the west of it, and in full view of the crown of the temple vimana. of his master, himself passed into an eternal samadi.

His soul, like a bird released from its cage, entered into the most cherished and eternal non-dual union with Siva. But this was not what Gnanasambandha had planned, or what his followers had desired.

They required a spiritual leader to guide them. So they now gathered at the .samadhi of Gnanasambandha and prayed: " O Lord, now that Anandaparavasa your nominee has also entered eternal bliss, what is to become of us ? We pray, you appear again to help us, and to ensure a proper succession to the headship of Dharmapuram, and name a competent spiritual guru for us."

Through the dispensation of Divine Grace, Gnanasambandha then came out of his samadhi, chose Satchitananda another disciple as the next successor, initiated him, anointed him as the next successor and future head, and gave into his hands the worship of Sokkanatha. But it transpired that Saccithananda had requisite maturity and enlightenment. was not immediately able to go into, a state of Gnana samadhi, the state of complete identification of the consciousness with God.

This naturally caused some concern to Gnanasambanda. He again bestowed his gracious look on Satchitananda These words of the master produced the desired result. Satchitananda realised the state of Gnana samadhi. Gnanasambandha was now happy. He instructed him again to assume the spiritual headship Dharmapuram seat, to perform the various worships in the temples, and spread the knowledge of the Saiva Siddlianta doctrines. among the disciples and in the wider world.

Then he entered into his final samadhl of eternal nondual union with Siva, on the seventh day of the dark fortnight of the month of Vaikasi( May-June). Thus Satchitananda was the third pontiff of the place, which has since come to be known as the DharmapuramAdhinam. An unbroken line of enlightened preceptors adorned the headship from the days of Guru Gnanasambandha right upto this day.

The present head of the Adhinam is Sri Masilamani Desika Gana samandha Paramacharya Swamigal, the twenty-seventh in the line. The samadhi of Gnanasambandha had subsequently been built up into a grand temple in granite and it is now called the Gnanapuriswara temple. It has all the usual courtyards, corridors, halls and sub-temples, usually associated with a Siva temple proper. Daily, periodical and seasonal worship and festivals are conducted in the temple as laid down in the agamas.

The belief is that Guru Gnanasambandha still dwells in this temple and continues to guide the successive heads of the Adhinam.

THE ADHINAM

Such in brief is the story of Guru Gnanasambandha, the enlightened founder of the Dharmapuram Adhinam, his writings and his founding of the institution. In the long line of successors to the headship of the adhinam, there have been many enlightened seers who advanced the Saiva faith by their example, precept, writing and administration.

A few words may be said of some of the illustrious preceptors in the line. The fourth was Masilamani Desika from whom Kumaragurupara of Sri Vaikuntam received spiritual instruction. Kumara gurupara went up to Banaras in the north, mastered the Hindustani language, and won the admitration of the Muslim deputy of the Delhi Mughal emperor through his masterly religious discourses in that language.

He founded in Banaras the Kumaraswami mutt on the banks of the Ganges, which is still flourishing. Kumara guru para is one of the most famous and popular figures in the Tamil literary history of the sventheenth century he lived in the days of thirumalai nayakkar .

the ruler of Madurai till 1659. He has written eleven poems of exquisite literary beauty one of the poems is in praise of his guru masilamani of dharmapuram maintained above.The Kumaraaswaini mutt founded by him at Banaras was shifted to Tiruppanandal in the next century and it is still flourishing there. The sixth in the line was Tiru Gnanasambandhadesika who imparted instruction to SambandliaSaranalaya, author of the famous shorter Skanda purana in Tamil.

Legends say that the ruler of Mysore admired him and gave him many presents. The next was Tiru Ambala Desika, who wrote the Sanskrit manual, Varnasramachandrika, intended to inform the ruler of the land that spiritual preceptors transcended the Vedic caste barriers. Padikkasu, famous us a versatile poet in the eighteenth century, was a disciple under the ninth pontiff TirunNavukkarasu Desika. The tenth in the line was Sivajnana Desika, who made a pilgrimage to Banaras and there sang several devotional hymns on the deities enshrined in the temple there.

The present head of the Dharmapurani mutt is His Holiness Sri Masilamani Desika Gnana Sambandha Paramacharya, twenty-seventh in the holy line from Guru Gnanasambandha. He is an erudite scholar in the Tamil language and literature, as well as in the Saiva Siddhanta sastras and religious books.

Having been in charge of the Dharmapuram religious centre at Chennai for a large number of years, he has been widely known in the Tamil country and beyond. Both by his deep learning and austere habits and by his pleasing words, he has endeared himself to all the Saivas and the others in the land and earned their love and reverence.

It is noteworthy that some important temples in Tamilnadu continue to be administered by the Dharmapuram Adhinam even today. The spiritual eminence of the successive heads of the Adhinam after Guru Gnanasambandha was having greater and greater recognition. As years rolled by, devout people all over the Tamilnadu had been drawn to the monastery by the spiritual illumination imparted by the successive heads.

The heads were by rule required to be celibate ascetics and so people from many places seem to have felt that the temples in their own places would be better,, administered and maintained by the heads of the Adhinam who were self less and dedicated ascetics and spiritually evolved gnanis. Thus twenty-seven temples had been transferred to the Adhinam by people around the area in the belief that administration by such spiritual-minded persons would be to the advantage of the Saiva Community at large.

We shall mention here some of the more important of them. Saint Gnanasambandha, the first samava acharya of the Saivas, was born in Sirkali and he attained beatitude in a place called Nallur perumanam (now Achalpuram ). It is remarkable that the shrines in these two places, Sirkali and Nallurpperumanam are now being administered by the Dharmapurarn Adhinam, whose founder we know was another Gnanasambandha. Tiru Aiyaru, where. Saint Appar was vouchsafed a vision of Kailas, which is also under this Adhinam. Of the eight shines famed in legend as.

the places where the might of Lord shiva was displayed, namely the Astarvdirauiava shrines. Three are administered by this Adhinam; Tiru Kadavur where the fear of Yama the god of death was removed,-Tiru Korukkai where the power was KAMA the Indian Cupid was destroyed, and TiruPariyalur where the might of Daksha who slighted shiva vanquished.

Vaithiswaran Koil is famed in the Tanjavur district for its Subramanya shrine, the where the eagles Sampati and Jatayu of the Ramayana fame are worshipped, the Tiruppanandal temple where Lord Siva inclined his head to receive a floral wreath from a young girl, and the Tiru Nallaru temple which is held especially important to Sani (Saturn) the planet which is said to exercise a baneful influence on the human beings, are some of the other temples administered by the Adhinam.

The large temple at Tirubhuvanam in the Tanjavur district built by the Chola emperor Kulothunga III is also under this Adhinam; this is dedicated to Sri Sarabhamurti, a mystical form of Siva, half-animal and half-bird, who manifested himself in order to calm down the ferocity of Narasimhamurti, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, after he killed the Asura King, Hiranya Kasipu. The other temples are minor and major ones with varying degrees of importance.

The Adhinam has been publishing the Saiva canonical books, the Saiva sastras, manuals written by its own heads and disciples, and other literature and has thus been helping the development of the Saiva religion and Tamil literature.