His Holiness Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati

Acharya Swami of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam


A Living Flame


The public of India, and especially of the South, recently celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the accession of His Holiness Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati to the Gadi of Sri Kamakoti Peetam of Kanchi. His Holiness was a lad of thirteen when his pontificate commenced. Five decades have passed, since then, and each decade has meant added lustre to this ancient seat of spiritual power and beneficence. All over India, and in many foreign lands the name of the Acharya Swami is deeply reverenced, and whenever the Peetam is mentioned there is an outpouring of rare devotion. As an embodiment of the traditional culture of India, and a discerning admirer of the nobler aspects of every other culture, the Acharya Swami has been a Light to all aspiring souls.


It is pleasant to recall that the Acharya Swami was one of the earliest to recognize the literary gifts of the late K. S. Venkataramani. Venkataramani included a fine sketch of the Acharya Swami in his delightful ‘Paper Boats’; When Venkataramani published his great novel of contemporary Indian life, ‘Murugan the Tiller’, the Acharya Swami attached such significance to the novel that he purchased several hundred copies of the book and sent them to the Members of the ‘British Parliament and to leading writers and thinkers. In later years, the Acharya Swami presented an inscribed ivory shield and embroidered shawls to Venkataramani who always cherished them as his choicest treasures. This is but a single instance out of many gracious tokens of the Acharya Swami’s patronage of creative endeavour in many spheres.


‘Triveni’ offers loving homage to the Acharya Swami on this great occasion and trusts that the Samskrita University proposed to be reared his honour will soon be inaugurated. Sri Chandrasekharan’s tribute to the Acharya Swami published in this number of the journal is a gem of rare quality and worthy of the Living Flame which sheds its Light from Kanchi.


A Veteran Passes


It is difficult to describe in words the grief that overwhelmed Andhra on the passing away of the veteran leader Sri T. Prakasam. Not only to individual friends and fellow-workers, but to large masses of men and women from all ranks of life, this event came as a personal sorrow–as the end of a glorious epoch in our national history. That he loved Andhra and gave his all for the integration of Andhra’s political and social life, that he was greatly daring and knew no fear, that he faced poverty and personal unhappiness with remarkable equanimity like the heroes extolled in our Epics–these and many more things have been said of this lion-hearted veteran of whom Andhra is justly proud.


But Sri Prakasam’s life of sacrifice and heroism has an all-India importance. Along with the noble stalwarts of 1920–Motilal Nehru, Chittaranjan Das, Rajendra Prasad and Vallabhbhai Patel–Prakasam responded to the call of the Mahatma and gave up a very lucrative practice at the Bar. He was immediately in the forefront of the freedom struggle which then was represented by the Non-Co-operation movement. The Press and the platform were the most powerful instruments for rallying the nation to the Mahatma’s banner. Prakasam toured incessantly and addressed huge audiences. But he realised that a daily newspaper wedded utterly to the ideals of the resurgent National Congress was a dire necessity. The moment when he decided to launch ‘Swarajya’, the magnificent English Daily of Madras, was perhaps the greatest moment in his life. It marked the commencement of his glory and his agony. ‘Swarajya’ was much more to him than what the ‘Independent’ was to Motilal Nehru or the ‘Advance’ was to Chittaranjan Das. To it, he gave his life-blood; to sustain it he ran through his entire property. It was a great adventure in the history of Indian journalism. It was a nursery of patriotism, a school for the training of the fearless type of journalists, and a symbol of hope for those to whom journalism is an urge towards self-fulfilment.


It is common knowledge that ‘Swarajya’ failed for lack of business ability and organisational skill. The fittest tribute which a grateful people can pay to the memory of Prakasam is to start a first-class English Daily in Hyderabad and name it ‘Swarajya’. In this new venture should be combined the idealism of the old ‘Swarajya’ and the practical wisdom and efficiency of ‘The Hindu’. The new ‘Swarajya’ appearing from Andhra Pradesh should promote understanding between North and South and mirror the unity of India, even as Prakasam mirrored it in his life. His roots were in Andhra, but his outlook was that of an Indian statesman planning the progress of our common Motherland.


To me and to friends like G. V. Krupanidhi, Khasa Subba Rau and V. Bhaskaran who were privileged to work on the ‘Swarajya’, our association with Prakasam will be an abiding memory. The memory is that of high endeavour, of cheerfulness in the midst of privation, of living for the day without taking thought for the morrow. I left ‘Swarajya’ after a brief two-year tenure as assistant-editor, to work for some years in the Andhra Jateeya Kalasala of Masulipatam under the guidance of my other chief, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Then came Triveni in 1928. But I have always considered myself an ‘old boy’ of ‘Swarajya’, which repeated on a humbler scale the story of ‘Swarajya’. Between Prakasam and myself there was a close bond. His affection for me was genuine and he was ever solicitous of my welfare. At this moment of utter desolation of spirit, I, like many others, derive comfort from the thought that two elder statesmen of the South, Rajaji and Dr. Pattabhi, are still with us. They loved Prakasam and admired him for his heroic qualities, despite frequent disagreement. India owes a great deal to the example set by these three leaders through the roles they played in the history of the country in an eventful period.


Celebrating 1857


This year marks the centenary of what was once known as the Sepoy Mutiny and what we gradually learnt to call the First War of Indian Independence. Bahadur Shah and Nana Sahib, Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi were branded by the British as rebels against lawfully constituted authority, as disturbers of the peace which Britain had vouchsafed to India. Their success would have meant, according to the British writers of Indian history, a setback to Indian progress and a return to the state of feudal anarchy which followed the decline of the Moghul Empire. Even patriotism was not a virtue in the case of these fighters for India’s rights, and nobility and valour were conceded somewhat grudgingly to the Rani of Jhansi.


It was the ruthless annexation policy of Dalhausie which formed the root cause of the opposition to British rule, and the discontent in the Army gave it the character of a military mutiny. In several parts of the sub-continent, the mass of the population and the cultured classes who accepted service with John Company held aloof. The lack of cohesion among the top-ranking leaders, and the absence of efficient generalship, brought about the failure of our first freedom struggle. But it served as a warning to the rulers that all was not well with the administration of India by a company of traders, and a change-over was effected from company rule to rule by Viceroys representing the Sovereign of Britain. To this limited extent, the struggle achieved success. In the wake of peace and orderly administration and the founding of the universities, a new class of intellectuals grew up, whose admiration of British Parliamentary institutions led them to sponsor the movement for self-rule under the aegis of Britain. The National Congress, in its early stages, was the organisation of these progressive elements in our middle class, with a sprinkling of the landed aristocracy.


It was about 1907 that there was another attempt to over-throw British rule in India, not by open war but by terrorist methods including the sporadic use of the bomb and the revolver. A small but determined group at the India House, London, supplied the intellectual pabulum for the growing terrorist movement. The smuggling of copies of Sri Savarkar’s ‘Indian War of Independence’–rendered from Marathi into English by V. V. S. Iyer and others–helped largely to foster the new idealogy and the new interpretation of the events of 1857. The terrorist movement had its ramifications in secret corners of India and among groups scattered over the continent of Europe. The movement reached its peak of influence during the First World War and it was urged by the Leaders that Britain’s preoccupations in the West offered the most suitable opportunity for a nation-wide struggle accompanied by secret violence. Germany was expected to supply arms to aid the Indian insurrection.


Into this atmosphere of hate and violence Gandhiji brought his gospel of love and non-violence. He joined the Congress and filled it with his own faith in peaceful–not necessarily ‘constitutional’–methods of political struggle. He initiated our second great struggle for freedom and carried it to success in 1947.


Looking back on the history of the last hundred years, it becomes possible to study events in their proper perspective. We realized the heroism of the leaders of 1857 and the essential nobility of their aims. India has won through to success by a method different from theirs. But their vision of a free India was a splendid one and the sacrifices they made will stand for ever in the nation’s memory.


To secure freedom is one thing; to utilise that freedom to noble ends and work for a united, prosperous, egalitarian society is another, far heavier responsibility. Pandit Nehru’s emphasis on this aspect of our immediate task is praiseworthy. The best elements in our national life must rally round him. Having won freedom through non-violence, India has to press for the recognition of this principle in the sphere of international relations.


Memorials will be raised to the heroes of 1857. Their valiant deeds, and their passionate longing to rid India of foreign rule will be celebrated in story and song. And in the re-building of India after a noble pattern, the memory of their striving and sacrifice must continue to inspire us. We live in a different world, and our problems and our aspirations are not the same as in 1857. But there is a continuity in the life of a nation, and what makes for that continuity is the memory of what our ancestors hoped for and achieved through the ages.