The Master of Srividya-Vedantha

Pujya Sri Chidananda Nathar

Sri Chidanandha Natha of Guhananda Mandali

Sri Chidananda natha, founder of Guhananda Mandali, hails from a family of the region of Andhrapradesh belonging to Kaundinyasa Gotra. His family name was Nediminti. This family migrated to Tamil Nadu and settled in a village named Seppittaankulam located about 31 kilometers south of Kanchipuram. His father Sri Narasayya was the son of Sri Venkatarayalayya and Smt. Kanakammal. He was greatly devoted to Sri Subrahmanya at Thiruttani. His bhakti was severely tested by in the form of a severe stomach ache. Unable to bear the pain, Sri Narasayya decided to end his life and proceeded towards Nedunkunrum. There, he was blessed with the grand vision of his beloved deity Lord Muruga who blessed him with herbs to cure the ailments of the stomach and Shadakshari Mahamantra. After this point, Sri Narasayya dedicated his life to the upasana. He was married to Smt. Ammayi Ammal who was short-lived. After the demise of his wife, Sri Narasayya married Smt. Kamakshi Ammal, the third daughter of Sri Kuppayya.

The couple was blessed with a boy on Nov 14, 1882 on a Tuesday. The child Subrahmanya was born in vrushabha lagna, Moola Nakshatra, on Kartika Shukla Chaturthi of the Tamil year Chitrabhanu.

Sri Subrahmanya underwent vedadhyayana as well as English education. The boy attained mastery over English and Sanskrit languages within a very short duration. He married Smt. Vishalakshi Ammal, daughter of Sri Seshayya of Pazhavantangal at the age of 16. He started his married life in Kanchipuram. His brothers Sri Venkatraman and Sri Kuppuswamy also began to live with him in Kanchipuram.

Father Sri Narasayya attained videhamukti in 1901. Sri Subrahmanya took over the responsibility of his family and joined the Teacher’s Training School. He began to teach soon at the Chennai Corporation School. He also learnt to paint from Rev. Fr.  Matthew, headmaster of the Teacher’s Training school. His painting skills were put to wonderful use later when he painted a portrait of his Guru, Sri Guhanandanatha. In 1913, he became the headmaster of Vallabha Agraharam Corporation School (Model School), located at Tiruvellikeni, Madras. He retired in 1937 after 35 years of service as the headmaster of the school. Sangathya of Venbapuli T S Velusami Pillai helped him acquire mastery over Tamil language. He was called as “SIR” by all. In 1911, Sir undertook a pilgrimage to Prayaga along with his mother. His wife, Smt. Vishalakshi Ammal, could not accompany him due to her pregnancy. He reached Allahabad on Pushya Bahula Ekadashi in the year Sadharana. He had the darshan of numerous great Sadhus and yogis at the Kumbha Mela Festival. He stayed in Allahabad with Sri Bhairava shastrigal (known for his legendary Dipa Navavarana Puja), a great Upasaka of Srividya and kalika, at Tarakanj Shiv Mutt. While taking a bath at Trivenisangama, he spotted a great yogi who appeared like Shiva in human form. Divinely inspired, Sir fell down at the feet of the great Avadhuta and requested to be rescued from the great ocean of samsara. The great master, whose vision could pierce past, present and future effortlessly, remained silent for a few moments and instructed Sir to come back to him after two days, during the auspicious Mahodaya Day. Paramahamsa Ativarnashrami Sarvatantra Svatantra Avdhuta Varenya Sri Guru Guhananda Natha gave Deeksha to Sir on that Amavasya during at sunrise, when the star was Shravana. He bestowed on Sir Padukanta Srividya diksha, Hamsamantra, Mahavakya. He also blessed Sir with the diksha Namaa, “Sri Chidananda Natha”. Sir returned to the residence of Sri Bhairava shastrigal and recounted the divine events of the day to his mother. The same evening, the puja at the residence of Bhairava shastrigal was graced by the presence of Sri Guhanandanatha. Sir stayed at his guru’s feet for a period of twenty-seven days and learnt the secrets of Srividya upasana, Vedanta and Subrahmanya tattva at Varanasi. He also performed bhiksha seva to his Guru and served him with limitless devotion is every possible way. After twenty-seven days, the great Avadhuta decided to depart to Badarikashrama on the day of Mahashivaratri. He instructed Sir to return to Southern India and continue upasana with absolute secrecy for a period of twelve years. He further instructed Sir to perform the Parayana of Sutasamhita and Mahavakya Ratnavali and bestowed his poorna anugraham to the shishyaratna.

He blessed Sir thus: All will go well! You shall attain Atmasakshatkaram. When Sir was overcome with immense grief at the thought of separating from his Guru, Sri Guhanandanatha indicated that his sthularupa would be visible in the Vigraha of Subrahmanya Swami at Thiruttani on a specific day during vibhuti abhisheka.

To allow all disciples to have darshan of his guru, Sir started the Thiruttani Vaibhava Mahotsavam in 1946 at the Shrine of Subrahmanya. To this day, this holy practice continues and hundreds of sincere Srividya upasakas so many day switness the appearance of the Physical Form of the great Guru in the idol of Subrahmanya. My Sri Guruji Sri Ananthanantha Natha also seen the Dharsahan of Sri Gurhananda natha.

Sir practiced his upasana for a period of twelve years till he received an instruction from H H Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Naraisimha Bharati Mahasvamigal to teach Srividya to eligible disciples. Once when Sri Chidananda Natha visited Sringeri, he was blessed with the fortune of discussing the secrets of Sri Ucchishtha Ganapati Upasana with Mahaswamigal. A scholar who was present there recited a certain Sahasranama of this form of Ganapati. Having heard this Sahasranama, which neither conveyed the greatness of Sri Ucchishtha Ganapati even partly nor the associated secrets of Srividya Upasana, Sri Chidananda natha immediately expressed his disapproval. Before he could speak further about the actual Sahasranama, Mahaswamigal raised his right hand, commanding Sri Chidananda natha to remain silent. After the scholar left, Mahaswamigal had the following conversation with Sri Chidananda natha. It was at this moment that the period of 12 years approached completion.

Mahaswamigal: Do you know about the Sahasranama of Sri Ucchishtha Ganapati? Can you recite the same?

Chidananda natha [hesitantly]: Unable to control my enthusiasm, I blurted out about the Sahasranama earlier. However, I cannot speak untruth before your Holiness. My Guru ordered me to protect this Sahasranama and the related mantras with utmost secrecy. I am unsure if this Sahasranama can be recited under the present circumstance. By reciting the Sahasranama now, I will incur the sin of disobeying my Guru. I have never been in such a fix in my entire life. There can be no one better than your Holiness who can advise me about the right course of action.

Mahaswamigal: If your own Guru appeared right here and asked you to recite the Sahasranama, would you still hesitate?

Chidananda natha: When Guru himself orders, how can there be any room for hesitation?

Mahaswamigal: Is your Guru Sri Guhanandanatha restricted to a physical form and present only in Badarikashrama? Is he not present here now and everywhere?

{Sri Chidananda natha was immensely surprised to hear his Guru’s name and place of residence from Mahaswamigal as he had not revealed these details before anyone till then. He was filled with tears of joy; his body trembled and he immediately fell at the lotus feet of Mahaswamigal}.

Chidananda natha: I will act according your orders. Please forgive my earlier ignorance.

Mahaswamigal: Your Guru Guhanandanatha, I or Kodakanallur Sundara Swamigal may appear different physically but are same in essence. Understand this truth well. Have you read Acharya’s work – Manisha Panchakam?

Chidananda natha: I have read the work but have not realized its inner purport yet.

Mahaswamigal: Very soon, you will realize its inner purport. After that, you will reach the same state as the three of us. So, confidently recite the Sahasranama now.

(Sri Chidananda natha now began to recite the Purva Pithika of the Sahasranama, which is a conversation between Sri Dakshinamurti and Sanaka. It is significant to note that the paduka of Ucchishta Mahaganapati is traditionally called Maha Maha Paduka and is actually referred to as Dakshinamurti Mahapaduka.)

Mahaswamigal: There is no need to recite these verses now. Recite the Sahasranama starting with the first actual name in the Sahasranama.

Chidananda natha was surprised beyond measure once again. He now understood that Mahaswamigal knew the Sahasranama well and began to recite the names in the Sahasranama. At a certain place in the Sahasranama [called Matrika Mala traditionally], Sri Chidananda natha forgot some of the names. Immediately Mahaswamigal prompted him with the right set of names. He then concluded the Sahasranama with the two final and glorious names of Ganapati. Mahaswamigal then discoursed on the inner significance of these two names to Chidananda natha for more than 30 minutes.

Chidananda natha: I would be blessed to hear the Sahasranama from thy holiness which will help me to get clarifications regarding some of the names.

Mahaswamigal: I will recite the Sahasranama at leisure on another occasion. The true Sahasranama of Ucchishtha Ganapati is indeed the one recited by you. Your patha is almost close to the correct one. But there are some mistakes in some of the names recited by you.

Having said so, Mahaswamigal corrected those names and explained the correct patha to Sri Chidananda natha. Sri Chidananda natha wrote down those corrections on a piece of paper and left Sringeri. Later, that piece of paper was lost. He then desired to meet Mahaswamigal again and get guidance from him in privacy. Before his plan could materialize, Mahaswamigal attained Mahasamadhi. However, all the doubts were clarified one day, as though Mahaswamigal himself appeared before Chidanandanatha and uttered the correct patha. Correct patha of the Sahasranama was also obtained from Pitambaram Ayyadurai Iyer, whose family had worshipped the copy of Sahasranama for centuries.

Sir also studied vedanta from Kallidaikuruchi Rajanga Svamigal. He also learnt to recite Thiruppugazh under the auspices of Vallimalai Swamigal’s Sri Kumara Thulumavar Thiruppugazh Sangham. The Sangham compiled Sir’s writings in Tamil and published them in the form of a book, Thiruttanigai Prabandha Tirattu. In 1925, the sangham published his book Skanda Purana Sangraham, which contains a gem named Nirguna Ashtottarashata namavali of brahmanya, revealed by his Parama Guru Sri Atmanandanatha. In 1933, the sangham honored Sir with the title Arulkavi at Thirupattiswaram.

Sir proceeded to Thiruvannamalai to see Sri Seshadri Swamigal at the Kambathi Nayanar temple on May 20, 1920. Sri Seshadri Svamigal instructed Sir to come back to him the next day at 3 am. Sir remained awake the entire night immersed in meditation, waiting for the darshan of Sri Seshadri Swamigal. Sharp at 3 am, Swamigal appeared before Sir engulfed in Arunavarna (Red Colour). Sir lost himself in brahmananda, when the Swamigal said, “See well! Do you recognize what you see? What you see is the same as what you have and nothing different. Safeguard what you have”. Sir also met Chinna Seshadri swamigal (Sri Ramana Bhagavan) and spent many days discussing Vedanta with him.

It may be noted that Sri Swami shastrigal (Anantanandanatha) my guru, was specifically chosen by Bhagavan Ramana to perform the kumbhabhishekam of Mathrubhuteshvara temple and the consecration of the Srichakra, which was given by Sri Bhagavan from his empty hand, in the Adhishthanam of Smt. Azhagammal.

During the every Paurnami following Sharannavaratri of 1924, Sir performed the Navavarana puja at the Srichakra in the Shrine of Kamakshi amman at Kanchipuram for the first time. Due to unknown reasons, this worship had been stopped at the Shrine for several decades. Sir continued to perform the puja regularly for the next twenty years as per the instructions of H H Paramacharya of Kanchipuram. To this day, this worship is performed by the shishya Parampara of Sir. Due to several baneful practices, Srividya had acquired a bad reputation in Southern India during those times. Sir pointed out the immense importance and special greatness of Srividya while providing evidence for its validity from Shruti, smruti, Agama, purana and tantra. The credit for restoring Srividya upasana to its pristine purity and bringing it to the common man in the current century belongs undoubtedly to Sir. He based his teachings solely on shastra pramana, gurupadesha and svanubhava. Sir initiated thousands of shishyas into mantras based on their Adhikara. He bestowed hundreds of shishyas with peedadhikara and ordered them to perform Navavarana puja regularly. So many came from Sri Sir as gems in Srividya cult.

Because of his position as the headmaster, people mostly addressed him as Sir. This was adopted by his disciples as well and the title Sir continues to be used to this day when addressing him. Sir was also a pioneer in initiating Suvasinis into Srividya and granting them Pidadhikara. Sir also provided clear instructions regarding samayika puja and bindu tarpana based on varna and adhikara. He devised the laghu puja paddhati for those unable to perform the elaborate navavarana.

Sir started the Brahmavidya Vimarshini Sabha to facilitate research in Srividya. The Sabha met every week and discussed various topics and works related to Srividya and Vedanta. Many great scholars from all over the country participated in these discussions. Several books were published as a result of these discussions. When submitting his magnum opus subrahmanya tattva to the lotus feet of his Guru, Sir renamed the Sabha as Sri Guhananda Brahmavidya Vimarshini Mandali, which is known today as Guhananda Mandali. Fame or money was never his goal or of the Mandali, whose sole aim was to bring the knowledge of Srividya to the deserving.

Sir’s Tamil commentary on Sri Punyanandanatha’s Kamakalavilasa was released during the Shashtiaptapurti celebration of Sir. During this auspicious occasion, H H Paramacharya of Kanchipuram bestowed the title, Abhinava Bhaskara on Sir. Srivastha Somadeva Sharma who wrote the foreword to this work wonders if Sri Sankara bhagavatpada and Sri Bhaskararaya have jointly taken birth in the form of Sri Chidananda natha. He was also bestowed the title, Navabhaskara by H H Jagadguru Shankaracharya Mahaswamigal of Dakshinamnaya Sringeri Sharada Peetham. Though a grihastha, Sir led a life filled with vairagya befitting a paramahamsa. The following words are used by those who know him well to describe him as: Ajanubahu, Shantamurti, Karunamurti, face and eyes shining with tremendous tejas, exemplary simplicity in every aspect, strict in guiding disciples in upasana, always interested in the welfare of shishyas, desire less, straight forward, unflinching devotion to vaidika and Srividya karma and completely dedicated to Srividya. During the Saran Navaratri of 1957, on Shasti thithi (mahavajreshvari thithi nitya), Sir attained Srinagaram during the auspicious hours of evening. It was during Periyava’s Madras visit camp at Sanskrit College. He was doing Sri Chandramouleeswarar puja and during Trisatinamavali Periyava paused for a minute or two. None around could figure out why, later He continued and finished the puja. Right at that time Periyava mentioned “Sri Chidanandar just entered Sripuram”. Only mahans know another mahan!

The following is the list of some important works known by me authored by Sir Sri Chidananda Natha:

  1. Srividya Saparya Paddhati: This is being used almost universally by Srividya upasakas across the country. And this is hardly a measure of its immense popularity.
  2. Srividya Saparya Vasana: Adhyatmika Tattva of Srividya Navavarana Puja
  3. Guru Tattva Timarshanam: An exposition on the greatness and esoteric significance of Guru Paduka
  4. Srinagara VImarsham: Tamil commentary on lalita Stavaratna of Sri Durvasa

Shakti Mahimna Stotram, Tamil commentary

  • Varivasya Rahasyam: A Tamil commentary on this work by Sri Bhaskararaya, about Panchadasakshari
  • Srividya Nityahnikam, a daily anushtanam for Srividya upasakas
  • Lalitopakhyana vimarshanam
  • Ajapa kalpa
  • Manisha Panchakam: Tamil commentary on the pentad of hymns by Adi Shankaracharya
  • Lalita Trishati Bhashyam: Tamil translation of the commentary by Acharya Bhagavatpada
  • Sri Subrahmanya Tattvam: A journal of secret learning from his guru Guhananda Natha
  • Srividya Gita: Tamil translation of the Jnanakhanda of Tripurarahasyam
  • Jnana Prakasham: A Vedantic Tamil drama
  • Kamalambika Mahatmyam: Adhyatmika tattva
  • Kamalalaya Kshetra Tattvam: An exposition on the tattva of Sri Thyagaraja, the presiding deity of Thiruvarur
  • Chidambara Rahasyam and Nataraja Tattvam
  • Arya Shatakam
  • Several poems and shlokas in Tamil and Sanskrit

We, the Ritambhara Jana Sabha is proud to release the brief pious history of Sri Sir Chidananada Natha with the references got from the internet and the Chidananda Vilasam book, written by his grandson Sri Narayana Bharathi, in our website Vaikari. It is a great pleasure to the publication of this article. Some incidents told to me by my beloved Sri Guruji.