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It is the very nature of Avidya (Nescience) to limit a free and all pervading Reality to the confines of Time, Space and Causation. Divine souls subject themselves out of their own free-will to such limitations for the welfare of humanity. Such is the story of the career of His Holiness Sri Tiruchi Swamiji. The ancestral lineage can be traced back to the rulers of the great Vijayanagar Empire. After the sad saga of this integration of the mighty empire, one of the descendents ruled in a part of the country near Madura as a chieftain. The fortunate parents, Smt. Ranganayaki and Sri. Adinarayana, were the descendents of the chieftains of Vijayanagara. As a fulfillment of the long cherished prayers of the pious couple at the altars of Goddess Kanyakumari and Palani Andavan and the blessings of the then Pontiff of Sringeri Sri Chandrashekhara Bharathi Swamiji, a divine spark took a human form on Wednesday, the 29th of March, 1929, the auspicious seventh Phalguni under Poosa Nakshatra. It was a day of great jubilation in Vikramasingapuram, where the divine manifestation took place.


The child grew up, unfolding brightness like a waxing moon. Naming the child was a problem to the Vaishnavite parents. Was he not a gift of Palani Andavan? How to give him a Vaishnavite name? A sort of a miracle saved the situation. The child took ill and was in a delirious state. The anxious parents had given up all hopes. By God's grace, Amavasai Swamigal, a well-known Saint in the area, appeared on the scene and seeing the child, called "O, Palani Swami!" The child woke up, to the bewilderment of the parents, and recovered soon. Noticing the working of the divine will in this miracle, they named him Palani Swami.


At the proper age, the loving parents admitted him to school. Though very active and intelligent, the boy disliked studies, frequently visited temples and sought the company of Sadhus. A Bhairavi Swami and a Muslim Baba, who were attracted by the sweet manners of the boy, taught him some occult practices. Having been so dear to his parents and to his people, he could have lived like a prince, but destiny drew him elsewhere, for a higher purpose. Yet in his teens, he visited Ceylon and stayed for sometime in Kandy, a sacred place for the Buddhists, where the tooth-relic of the great Buddha is worshipped.


It was a turning period of his life. One day, it is said, a temple elephant which was let loose, ran amock and began chasing people on the streets. They ran helter-skelter in panic. Palani Swamy came out to see what was going on. The approaching elephant saw the unmoved boy and Lo! to the amazement of the onlookers, calmed down by itself, and saluted the boy in reverence. The news spread far and wide in Ceylon, and people began to adore the boy, whose divinity was recognized.


The Nattukottai Chettiars, a business community from Tamil Nadu, were the most impressed. One auspicious midnight a Bhairavi Sanyasi beckoned the boy and surprised him by showing the doll of 'Parashakthi', with which he used to play as a child. When he followed her, as if mesmerized, to the top of a hill all alone, she revealed herself in the form of the Divine Mother (Parashakthi) and blessed him. He stood as if struck by lightning for a long time in her brilliant presence. She bid him to visit the holy Himalayas to meet his spiritual Guru. She also indicated his destiny which was to spread Her message, and relieve the poor and the innocent of their anxieties. From that day he was a completely transformed person and resolved to remain a celibate for life and devote himself entirely to spiritual service.


Returning to India, he did return home. He stayed for a considerable time with his uncle at Tiruchi, performing austerities amidst the Tayumanavar Hills in Tiruchi and hence the name 'Tiruchi Swamy'. He toured many places in Tamil Nadu, and wherever he went he inculcated in the minds of the people full belief in God, helped to build up their faith by renovating a number of places of worship. Many new temples were built with the help of the generosity of flourishing merchant Princes of Chettinad. Many a place was hallowed by the touch of his feet; many monuments were left behind for all time. He could have remained there, ruling in wealth among the rich devotees, but his sacred mission again drew him away.


At the instance of his devotees and as per the direction of the great Goddess, he undertook a pilgrimage to the North. He visited Kasi, Prayag and many other holy places and finally went to the mighty Himalayas. Anyone is enchanted by the sublime beauty and the ennobling influence of the great Himalayas. Many souls have found peace in its lap. Again in Nepal at the bidding of Guhyambika (another form of Parashakthi) in her temple, he met the most noble 'Shivapuri Baba' living nearby. Both were at once overwhelmed with blissful joy. Baba blessed the youth, and bid him farewell; and advised him to pursue his mission. Palani Swamy visited Kailas, traversing a great distance on foot with a resolve. There he attained the highest peace of mind in the presence of the great mountain, said to be the abode of Lord Shiva himself. An evolved soul can easily communicate with apparently inert or insentient elements and images. Does not the Lord say "I am Himalaya among mountains" in the Gita? His life's ambition having been fulfilled, he was reluctant to depart, but destiny prevailed again.


On his return journey, the Swamiji was to see a few disciples at Bangalore. Having been attracted by the environment and the people around, he felt like staying for sometime quietly at some nearby place. His devotees suggested the cottage in an orchard at Kenchenahally (presently Sri Rajarajeshwarinagar), belonging to one of their friends. Destiny had worked its way. This was the humble beginning of his visit to Rameswaram and other sacred places in the south, Swamiji decided to stay in the cottage and pursue his life's mission.


His Holiness Sri Tiruchi Mahaswamigal's life-mission is two-fold, according to himself - the cultivation of the ancient tradition of Seers or Rishis, and the preservation of the Spiritual values that characterize the Indian Culture. It was befitting therefore that in a conference of all religious leaders (called Mandaleshwars), the Swami was honoured with the title "Jagadguru". He answers eminently to this description.


The Swami has devotees, admirers and disciples in all parts of the world. At their repeated requests, he goes out of the Ashram to visit various countries from time to time. The places visited by him so far are Malaysia, Singapore, London, Rome, Detroit, Michigan, Canada, Pittsburg, Washington, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Osaka, Milan, Venice, Switzerland, Frankfurt and Holland.


While at London, Swami was received by His Holiness the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the Vatican City, Swami was received by His Holiness Pope Paul and both of them were closeted together for a considerable length of time, discussing the need for religious approachment and revival.


The Swami was invited by the 'International Meeting of People and Religions' in Rome to participate in the Seventh International Meeting on the subject of 'Earth of Men and Invocations to God', held in Milan from the 19th to 22nd September 1993. He responded to the invitation, and delivered a talk which was universally appreciated.


Among the devotees of the Swami were the erstwhile rulers of the princely states of Mysore, Ramanathapuram, Gondal and Vadavan (Gujarat), and the then Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi. The Maharajas used to visit the Ashram frequently along with other dignitaries.


The Swami has arranged for the training of Sanyasins to assume the role of monastic chiefs and discharge their responsibilities. Among the Sanyasins trained by him are at present ten heads of monasteries (mathadhipatis), including the Sri Ramanatha-Jnanadesikar of Kovilur Math, Sri Vimalananda Swami of Erpedu, Sri Ramarudha Swami of Bagalkot, Sri Balagangadharanatha Swami of Adi Chunchunagiri Math, Sri Birendra Keshava Tarakananda Puri Swami the head of the Kaginele monastic centre, Sri Dayananda Puri Swami of Gayathri Pitha and Sri Punyananda Puri Swami of the newly formed Valmiki Guru Peetha of Rajanahalli, Davangere. Swami's monastic disciples are to be found mostly in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Many Ashrams in India and abroad depend upon Swamiji's learned counsel in their activities and administration.


S. Y. Krishnaswami
Life and Work of Sri Sivaratnapuri Swami