Monday, July 20, 2009

The Flight of Gods 36. Religious Maths

The Flight of Gods
by Mohan Pai
Math Sampradaya (Monasteries)
- Repositories of faith.
The Maths or the monasteries have played a very important role in preserving and restoring religious identities of the Hindu communities that were traumatised by the Portugese campaign of conversion and the institution of Inquisition which led to a large scale migration of Goan Hindus during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. These families got scattered all along the western coast of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
Some of the monasteries like the Gaudapadacharya Math of Kavalem, Gokarn Partagali Math and Kashi Math are very ancient, their histories stretching back to several centuries before the arrival of the Mohamedans and the Portugese in Goa.
Saraswat Brahmins are Brahmins who lived on the banks of the former river Saraswati that once flowed in northern India, joining the Ganga and Yamuna in Prayag. Saraswats are considered among the oldest and most widespread community in India, still preserving their own culture. There is a Shaivite (Smarhta )as well as a Vaishnavite sect in Saraswats. Around 1000 BC, the river Saraswati started vanishing under ground and the people on its banks started migrating to other parts of India thus forming sub-communities. There are many sub-communities in Saraswats in India, including: Goud Saraswat Brahmins (found in majority in Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala) Chitrapur Saraswats Bhalavalikar/Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins Kashimri Saraswats (Kashmiri Pandits) Punjabi Saraswats/Punjabi Brahmins Sind Saraswats Kutch Saraswats Rajasthan Saraswats Saraswat's from Uttranchal(now Uttarakhand).The story of the migration of this community can be traced from Sintashta-Petrovka and Arkaim regions of modern Lower Central Russia near the border of Kazakhistan. These migratory experiences were written and the scrolls can be found stored in the Partagali Math. These scrolls were studied by the Archaeological Survey of India for studying the theory of Aryan migration. The community which was called Saraswat, as in "Saraswati Teeraya yasya tey" (meaning the people residing by the River Saraswati), spread to parts of modern Afghanistan, Punjab and Kashmir. From here, they slowly migrated towards some place in Nepal. In fact, the Kula Devi (presiding deity for the clan) of the Kings of Nepal is the Goddess "Shree Mahalasa Narayani" (a female form of the divine lord Vishnu), whose temple is now located in Mhardol in Goa, India.
They then moved to modern Bengal, which was known as "Gauda Desha" in ancient times. From this place, with the blessings of their Guru, a small community comprising of people from Seven-and-a-half (Saadi-Saat) Gothras moved into lower part of India, starting with Goa, and onwards into Karnataka and Kerala. These people were addressed as Goud Saraswat Brahmins.
There are four key Maths or religious monasteries of the Saraswats - the Kashi, Gokarna-Partagali, Kavle & Chitrapur Maths. Of these, the Kashi Math is dominated by the Goud Saraswats of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka, Mumbai, and Cochin region of Kerala. The Goud Saraswats of Uttara Kannada, Goa, and southern coastal Maharashtra follow the Gokarn Math as well as the Kavle Math. The Chitrapur Saraswats consider themselves a separate group and have their own math at Shirali although Kuladevatas are common both among the Goud Saraswats and Chtrapur Saraswats. The Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins follow the Kavle Math. Originally all Saraswats used to bear allegiance to the Kavale Math or Kaivalya Matht. Each different Saraswat group is usually endogamous. There is a fifth math at Dabholi known as Kudaldeshkars Math located near Vengurla. GSB's from Kudal region call themselves Kuldaldeshkar Brahmins rather than GSB's. They follow the Dabholi Mutt.
Shree Gaudapadacharya Kaivalya Math
H. H.Shreemad Satchidanand Saraswati Swamiji
The Kavalem Math is the oldest of the Maths of Saraswats. It follows the Smarta tradition and Shiva, Vishnu, Ganapathi, Suryanarayana and Shakti are the gods (called Panchayatana) being worshipped by this system. After migration to Gomantak, due to lack of communication facilities, the Saraswats settled in Goa lost contact with their roots in Saraswat desh. Being Brahmins, the Saraswats needed a spiritual leader, or Swami. In 740 A.D., at the request of the Saraswats of Gomantak, Swami Vivarananda of the Gaudapada tradition from Kashmir founded the Math at Kaushasthali and the whole Saraswat community in Goa and Konkan was the followers of this Math. This belonged to the Smarta tradition. The original Gaudapadacharya Math founded at Kushsthali, was destroyed during the Portuguese rule in Goa in 1564 A.D. The 57th guru Vidyananda Saraswathi and his two successors stayed at Golvan in Ratnagiri and the 60th guru Ramananda Saraswati at Chindar. His successors Sadananda Saraswati and Bhavananda Saraswati stayed and attained samadhi at Varanasi and never visited Goa. The community members earlier approached Bhavananda Saraswati and pleaded with him to come back to Goa. Bhavananda Swamy (the 62nd Guru) sent his disciple Sachchidananda swamy (the 63rd Guru) to revive the math in Goa. The Swamy stayed at Sonavade in Ratnagiri till the time the Math at Kavale was ready. The math headquarters was then shifted to Kaivalyapura in 1630 A.D. and presently known as Kavale Mutt. The present pontiff is Shri Swami Sachidananda Saraswati. He is the 75th guru of the math. He was initiated into sanyasa in 1950 at the tender age of 13.
The Math has opened its branches all over India at Vàrànasi, Gokarn, Khànàpur, Sadàshivgad, Allàhabad, Nàsik, Mumbai and Goa. The Smartha Gaud Sàraswats Brahmins (including Rajapur Saraswat Brahmins) are the followers of this Math.
Gokarn-Partagali Jeevottam Math

The Math is situated at Partagali in Canacona taluka. It is the math of the Goud Saraswat Community belonging to the Vaishnava sect. The math has a history of over 500 years. It was established in 1475 by Swamiji Shrimad Narayantirtha and presently headed by 23rd Pontiff, H.H. Shree Vidhyadhiraj Teerth Swamijee who belongs to an uninterrupted lineage of 23 Pontiffs.

H. H. Shrimad Vidyadhiraj Teerth Shreepad Vader Swamiji
The group of Saraswats migrated along the sea shore were mainly Vaishnavas and acquired a reputation for trade and agriculture. There were large settlements at Manglore and Bhatkal and smaller settlements at other coastal towns. Ramachandra Tirtha of the Udupi Palimar mutt initiated a Saraswat boy as sanyasi calling him as Narayana Tirtha in 1475. Sri Narayana Tirtha (a Saraswat) of the Udupi Palimar Mutt during the 15th Century extensively conducted propaganda in Goa, that many Saraswats in Sasashti region became Vaishnavas. Though the Palimar Swamy, Ramacandra Tirtha wanted Narayana Tirtha to succeed to his Math, it was not liked by the Tulu Vaishnava brahmins who were followers of the Math, and hence a new Math for Vaishnava Saraswats was founded at Bhaktal in 1476 A.D. This Math enjoyed the patronage of the Keladi rulers and the Vaishnava Saraswats of Goa and most of those from undivided Canara were its followers. By fame and capacity of the third Guru, Swami Jeevottama Tirtha, the Math came to be also known as Jeevottama Math. His predecessor Purushottama Tirtha shifted to Gokarna where his samadhi is found and the math was called Gokarn Jeevotham Math. This Math headquarters was later (after the samadhi of Swamy Shrikanta Tirtha) shifted to Partagali village on the banks of the sacred rivulet Kushavati in Goa and thus came to be known as Gokarn-Partagali Math. The symbol representing the spiritual movement carried on by the math for over 500 years is one of the few huge ancient 'Vatavriksha' (Banyan tree) which is about 200ft. x 22 ft. and is considered a Tapasya Kshetra for over a thousand years. Vatavriksha and the Ishwar linga in front of the math at Partagali are worshipped by the people of Partagali and the adjoining area. This place is popularly known as Bramhasthan. The Gokarn-Pratagali Math for Vaishnava saraswats has Vira Vittala as the worshipped deity. Present pontiff Vidhyadhiraj Teertha succeeded to the Peetha in 1973. Shri Swamiji was initiated into sanyas in Mumbai in Feb 26, 1967 by his illustrious preceptor Shrimat Dwarkanath Thirtha Swamiji. The Math has its headquarters at Partagali, Poinginim, Canacona, Goa.

Dasha-avatar carvings at Partagal

This math had a wide followers of Keladi rulers, vaishnava Saraswats and the undivided Kanara. This math has large network of its establishments in Bhatkal, Gokarna, Basrur, Dicholi, Rivona, Manglore , Ankola, Karwar, Varanasi, Manki , Vasco,Gangolli,Venkatapur,Honavar, Yellapur, Badrinath, Siddapur, Bangalore, Belgaum, Hubli, Madgaon and Wadala (Mumbai). The headquarters had been shifted from Bhatkal to Partagali Goa. This math was named after Swamy Jeevattam Tirtha. Now H.H. Shreemad Vidyadhiraj Teertha has succeeded to the Peetha. This Math has celebrated its Panch-Shatabadi (Quin-centenary).

Math Complex
The Math has an extensive library of religious books and 500 year old records in Marathi, Kannada and Persian pertaining to the Math and Goud Saraswat communities. There are stone inscriptions of even earlier period and copper plates written in Kannada script.

This place is popularly known as Bramasthan. Partagali is being developed into a centre of culture and learning, without in any way tampering with its glorious traditions.

Kashi Math

H. H. Shreemat Sudhindra Teertha Swamiji
Shri Kashi Math, was founded in 1542 A.D. and the first Swamiji Yadavendra Tirtha was given Deeksha by the celebrated Shrimat Vijayindra Tirtha Swamiji of Kumbhakonam Math. A copper plate charter issued by Surendra Tirtha on 21-1-1542 A.D. and received by Yadavendra Tirtha defines his jurisdiction over the Saraswats. During the 15th century, Sri Ramachandra Tirtha of Uttaradi math initiated two to sanyasa - Vibhudendra Tirtha and Sri Vidhyanidhi Tirtha. The latter became head of Uttaradi math and Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha founded a new Math at Kumbhakonam which came to be known as Purvadi Math (later became Raghavendra Swamy math since, great saint Raghavendra of Mantralaya fame belonged to this math). Saraswats of South Kanara and Kerala were transferred to this Math. When Surendra Tirtha was head of the Math at Kumbhakonam, one of his disciples, Vijayindra Tirtha (a Saraswat Brahmin) was invited by Cochin Saraswats to undertake Chaturmasya at Cochin in 1539–1540 A.D. They requested Him to initiate a Saraswat boy among them to Sanyasa. In 1541, Sri Hanumantha Bhaktha was selected and taken to Kumbakonam. The new Sanyasin was named Yadavendra Tirtha who eventually became head of the new Kashi Math at Varanasi established in 1542 A.D. Shri Kumbhakonam Math gave two idols of Lord Raghupati (Rama) and Vyasa to Shrimat Yadavendra Tirtha along with the rights to guide the Saraswat Samaj in spiritual matters. Shrimat Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji the present pontiff and 20th in the lineage of Shri Kashi Mutt Samsthan was given sanyas deeksha by his preceptor, Shrimat Sukrateendra Tirtha Swami in Mulki on 24th May,1944.
The Kashi Math has its headquarters at Varanasi or Kashi. Kashi Math has an influx of followers from Kerala and South Kanara. Kashi math has its roots spread wide across the Indian nation from Haridwar to Tirupathi. It has organizations and branches at Kashi, Basrur, Bantwal, Baroda, Banglore, Calicut, Goa, Haridwar, Karkal, Kerala, Prayag, Rameshwaram, and Tirupathi. The math undertakes the responsibility of nurturing sanskrit schools and training purohits.
Chitrapur Math
Shri Swami Sadyojat Shankarasharma

The group of Smartha Saraswats who migrated to Karnataka at the time of the Muslim invasion in the 1400’s were mostly the educators and administrators. This migrant group moved a little inland to North and South Kanara. Their intelligence and generations-old experience as administrators, allowed some of them to secure prominent positions as accountants in the courts of the Hindu rulers of the time. One such Hindu king of the Keladi kingdom, was so impressed by the diligence and skills of his Saraswat accountant, that he decreed that each village in his kingdom, be administered by a Saraswat. Eventually these Saraswats took on the name of the village as their last name. Once they had migrated to the Kanara district, the Shenvis were not able to sustain their unity with the Saraswat Brahmins they had left behind in Goa. Even though they continued to believe in Smartha tradition, their connection with the Kavalem math was cut off since the math at Kushathali was destroyed in 1564 A.D. and Swamijis shifted to Varanasi and were not available locally. Although the Saraswats were well respected as accountants, they were not readily recognized as true Brahmins by the local Brahmins (due to jealousy), accusing that the Saraswats have no spiritual guru in reality. Therefore, the Shenvis felt that it was necessary to seek a spiritual preceptor for their community. They pleaded with a Saraswat Sanyasi, Parijananasharma Swamy, visiting from North India, to become their Guru. He consented to guide the community and established a new Math for them in Gokarn in 1708 A.D. The people of Gokarn sent letters to the members residing in Mangalore and Vithal to notify them about the guru. Sringeri Shankaracharya math in the Kanara district was asked for their consent of the new guru which was granted.
This firmly established Parijnanashram Swami as the guru of the community. Shri Shankarashram Swami was ordained by Shri Parijnanashram Swami in 1720 A.D. as the second guru. In 1739 A.D., the ruler Basavappa Nayaka II donated land in Gokarn to build a math in reverence to their primary deity, Shri Bhavanishankar. Shri Shankarasharm Swamy when in his advanced age, was on his way from Udupi to Gokarn and while in Chitrapur, at the residence of Nagarkattikars an ardent devotee, he fell seriously ill and attained Samadhi in 1757 AD. When the question of location of His Samadhi came up, the Nagarkattikars readily offered their house for the Samadhi and a temple. A math was erected there at Chitrapur near Shirali in Uttara Kannada and soon it became headquarters of the Mutt. The worshipped deity of the Chitrapur Mutt is Bhavani Shankar and follow the Smartha tradition. The last Swamiji Parijnanashram-III attained Samadhi in Bangalore in 1991 without appointing a successor. On February 27, 1997 Swami Sadyojat Samvit Giri was ordained as the reigning Guru of Chitrapur math and was named Shrimat Sadyojat Shankarashrama. The coronation ceremony was attended and blessed by H.H. Jagadguru Shankaracharya.
Dabholi Math

Kudaldeshkar Brahmans follow Shankaracharya's Advait school of philosophy,and have tier own three centuries old Math in Dabholi village in Maharashtra. The first pontiff of the Shreemat Purnanand Swamiji was initiated into Sanyasa by HH Vishwananda Swamiji. The present 20th pontiff of the matha is HH Shreemat Pradyumnanand Swamiji.
Dabholi Math is renowned known as the Kudaldeshkars Math mainly due to its Smartha followers. It is located near Vengurla in Sindhudurg, Maharastra. The followers of this math are fragmented around few areas of Sawantwadi, Ratnagiri, Belgaum, Hubli, Dharwad and Kolhapur. This math promotes its preaching skills and its religious culture.
For some of my articles visit:
For some key chapters from my book "The Western Ghats", please log on to:
For detailed blog (6 Chapters from my book) on Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley, please log on to:
For the book 'The Elderly' please log on to:

1 comment:

  1. Nice article and useful too. I have got some doubts and seek clarification from you Sir.
    (i) What custom do followers of Kashimath practise i.e. Smarta or Vaishnava.
    (ii) In which year was Dhaboli Math established.
    (iii) What is the difference between Smarta and Shaiva custom/practice?
    (iv) Is custom of Panchayatana i.e. worship of five Gods practised by followers of other Matha i.e. Smartas and those with affiliation to Kashi Math, Partagali Math, Dhaboli Math, Chitrapur Math.