Thavathiru Santhalinga Ramasamy Adigalar, the 97-year-old Pontiff of Perur Adheenam (Coimbatore, India) entered Mahasamadhi on Friday, August 31st. Affectionately and respectfully known as “Periyaswamiji,” Thavathiru Santhalinga Ramasamy Adigalar was a close and revered spiritual brother of Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda. The Perur Temple was beloved by Sri Gurudev, who was, briefly, its manager. Gurudev and Periyaswamiji had known each other for many decades and sat together on numerous platforms during programs over the years. Periyaswamiji was Gurudev’s guest during the LOTUS dedication ceremonies in Virginia in 1986, and all the arrangements for the traditional rituals observed during Gurudev’s Mahasamadhi, were made by Periyaswamiji and conducted by his successor, Swami Marudhachala.
The Times of India reported that: “Besides spreading spirituality, Shanthalinga Adigalar established several educational institutions in the district and worked for the upliftment of students from poor background. He was born at Muthalipalayam village near Annur and came to Siravai Adheenam at the age of 15. He served under Ramanatha Adigalar and involved in the mutt works. In 1947, he moved to Mailam in Viluppuram district, where he studied a five-year Tamil course at Mailam Sivagnanabalaya Adigalar Tamil College. He received a Tamil scholar degree from the Chennai University in 1952. He was appointed junior pontiff of Perur Adheenam in 1952.
“Shanthalinga Ramasamy Adigalar worked hard for the development of the Adheenam. Realising that lack of education caused poverty and ignorance, he decided to provide education to the children in the area. He started a school that had up to class VI. It was upgraded to a middle school in 1953 and later to a higher secondary school. He developed Arumuga Adigal School of Tamil, Gnanambigai School, Shanthaligam Adigalar Arts and Science and Tamil College. He worked as a professor at the college and later became its vice-principal. In 1961, he was promoted as principal and held the position till his retirement.”
Pushpa Ryan, a longtime resident of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and regular visitor to the Perur Adheenam recalled, “It was Periyaswamiji’s wish, for his 91st birthday, to build a 100 bed hospital in his birthplace, Mudalipalayam. Treatment would be either free or for a nominal fee. The project is underway. He was also passionate about preserving the Tamil language and brought the beauty of Tamil in religion and literature to the fore. Periyaswamiji treated all who visited Perur from Satchidananda Ashram as royalty, saying that Swami Satchidananda’s devotees were his children also.”
Gurudev enjoyed a special closeness to Periyaswamiji and the Perur Temple and Adheenam. Gurudev’s birthplace in Chettipalayam was close to Coimbatore, where he went to school and worshiped at Perur, later becoming temple manager for a short period of time. Stories of Gurudev’s family connection to this holy place date back centuries. Several stories about this connection appear in Gurudev’s biography, Swami Satchidananda: Apostle of Peace. This is one of those stories:
A yearly, five-day conference was held in Perur at the Sad Vidhya Sanmarga Sangam of Santhalinga Swamigal Mutt. During that time, a number of well-known lecturers and swamis were invited to address the conference’s visitors. Sri Kalyanasundaram was an annual speaker. In 1921, seven-year-old Ramu (Gurudev’s birth name was Ramaswamy, “Ramu” for short) asked his father if he could accompany him to the conference, not only to listen but to give a short talk as well. At these spiritual conferences, there was no strict rule about who might or might not speak. If the leaders of the conference agreed, anyone who applied could give a talk.
“Well, it’s a big, big gathering. Several thousand people always show up. What will you talk about?” asked the father.
“Ummm. Please suggest a subject for me and give me a few points to discuss.”
His father decided on the topic of nonviolence, ahimsa, covering the important points. Then he made arrangements to place his son’s name on the speakers’ roster. Ramu was scheduled to speak on a day when Subbiah Swamigal, a particularly well-known swami, would preside as chairman. Actually, the swami’s full name was much longer and quite complicated. Ramu practiced and practiced—not only his talk, but the correct pronunciation of the monk’s name as well. At Perur, the hour arrived. He felt thoughtful, rather than nervous. Subbiah Swamigal read from the schedule, “Now, Ramaswamy will deliver a lecture on ahimsa.” He smiled at the tiny form of his guest lecturer, who was mounting the platform with such a serious expression. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the conference.
“First of all,” a loud, high voice declaimed, “let me offer my humble salutations to the chairman of this session, Sennai Sri Jagathgurupidam Nayachandra Vedanta Bhashkara Srimath Mahamandaleshwara Veerasubbiah Jnana Desikendra Swamigal and to you all.” The perfect recitation of this complex name drew a prolonged round of applause. The swami had never expected such eloquent speech from a child. Embracing Ramu warmly, he lifted the boy onto his lap and instructed him to give the talk from that position. As long as Ramu lived in that area, he was a guest speaker at the conference.
Several decades later, Gurudev was asked to assume the role of temple manager at the Perur Temple. This story also appears in his biography:
One day, the trustees of the Perur Temple of Lord Nataraja approached Sri Kalyanasundaram with an urgent request. “Do you think Ramaswamy would take up the management of our temple? He seems to be the proper person for the job and we are in great need of such a manager. The previous manager has left.”
“Well, I really can’t answer for him. My son is in Ceylon studying certain technical matters. Probably, when he returns to India, he’ll want to go back to his business.” The trustees were persistent. The temple lands were large, consisting of two villages and all their acreage, and had been donated by the kings of India. They waited until Ramu returned and approached him directly. To Sri Kalyanasundaram’s surprise, Ramu agreed. He felt it was an opportunity to serve the Lord. “I’ll do it on a temporary basis,” he told them, “until you find someone to your liking who can replace me.”
Ramu was familiar with the Perur Pateeswarar Temple. Since childhood, he had been very fond of its large statue of the Nataraja—the dancing Siva, arms raised gracefully to the side, one leg balanced in the air between steps.
As the temple’s executive officer, Ramu’s job was to supervise the temple’s finances, organize its festivals, take care of the managing and leasing of temple lands and oversee the maintenance of the temple.
When all the devotees had left after the final evening prayers, Ramu would decorate the image of Lord Nataraja with all the ornaments in his charge, light the lamps and spend the night in meditation before the flickering flames.
After a number of months the temple trustees found another manager.
According to Wikipedia, this ancient temple was built by king Karikala Chola. History reveals that, the great poet Sundarar, has sung the devotional “Devaram” song in this temple by the 7th Century. During the rule of Raja Raja Chola, “Artha Mahal” and “Maha Mahal” were constructed. In addition to this, there were regular donations from the Chola king, which were documented on the temple walls. From the 14th to 17th Centuries, it is to be noted that the kings from different dynasties like Hosala dynasty, Vijanagara Empire, Nayakkar Kings have contributed immense donations for the maintenance of this temple. The famous ‘Kanaga Sabha’ was built around the 17th century, by Azhagathiri Nayakkar of Madurai. By the 18th Century AD, the primary deities were renovated and also a Mahal for the 63 Nayanmaars were raised. By the 20th century, the Kalyana Mahal and the front Mahal were constructed, and the tower was renovated as well.
In August 2002, when Sri Swami Satchidananda entered Mahasamadhi, all the arrangements for the traditional rituals were overseen by Periaswamiji. He was to have conducted the rites held at Chidambaram (the Mahasamadhi Shrine) at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville, however, Periyasami was unwell at the time and could not travel. He sent his junior pontiff, Swami Marudhachala in his stead.
Upon the Mahasamadhi of Thavathiru Santhalinga Ramasamy Adigala, Swami Marudhachala—now known as His Holiness Kailai Punithar Dr. Santhalinga Marudhachala Adigalar—was sworn in as Pontiff of the Perur Aadheenam, ensuring that the holy lineage remains unbroken.
Official Letter from Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville to
Sri Santalinga Marudhachala Adigalar:
31 August 2018
Revered Santalinga Marudhachala Adigalar,
Hari OM! OM Namah Sivaya! Humble greetings of love and peace.
It is with the deepest reverence that we learned today of the Mahasamadhi of His Holiness Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar. The hearts and prayers of the entire Satchidananda Ashram – Yogaville community are with you and all the devotees during this most sacred time.
Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar’s long life was filled with heartfelt devotion to the Supreme Lord and dedicated service to humanity. Sincere seekers from India and all over the globe were uplifted and educated, comforted and guided, by his ever-flowing blessings. He embodied and illuminated the way to the Highest Realization. Such Masters are God’s Grace made manifest on this earthly plane.
At Yogaville, we remember with great affection and gratitude, Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar’s presence on the auspicious occasion of the grand dedication of LOTUS in July 1986. Sri Swami Satchidananda was so happy and honored that his beloved and esteemed spiritual brother was able to come from India to shower his blessings during all the ceremonies and festivities. The joy and light that radiated from Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar inspired one and all.
It was to Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar that Swami Satchidananda turned in order to plan for his own Mahasamadhi rites, requesting that he come to Yogaville to officiate at the ceremony when the time came. This request reflected the extraordinary reverence and trust that Swami Satchidananda had in him. Due to his advanced age, Santalinga Adigalar was not able to personally come, so he sent his successor, Sri Swami Marudhachala Adigalar to perform the rites. With Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar’s blessings, made manifest through Swami Marudhachalam’s presence and guidance, we were able to honor our revered Gurudev with all the sacred rituals, and move through that period with loving support and grace.
Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar’s physical presence will be missed by many, many devotees. There are no words that can adequately describe the physical presence of the Spiritual Master: the sound and effect of his voice, the gentle and knowing gaze, and the subtle, uplifting vibration transmitted in his presence. But as Swami Satchidananda assured us, without the fetters of the physical form, the Guru is free to do so much more; he or she can easily reach everybody.
We offer our salutations and prostrations to the Great Light that dwelt among us as Santalinga Ramaswamy Adigalar and will continue to shower divine blessings on one and all.
On behalf of the residents of Satchidananda Ashram – Yogaville, and the worldwide Integral Yoga Institutes, Centers, and Sangha – we send our love, prayers, reverence and gratitude.
Swami Karunananda, Chairperson, Spiritual Life Board and Reverend Siva Moore, Executive Director, Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville