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Rediff.com  » News » Math not popular in Kanchipuram

Math not popular in Kanchipuram

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Last updated on: November 22, 2004 16:16 IST

There have been skirmishes outside the Chennai high court.

But Kanchipuram, 76 kilometres away from Chennai, remains peaceful.

Kanchipuram has a population of a little over 200,000 people. The best hotels in Kanchipuram charge Rs 450 for an AC room. Food is cheap. Public transport is available in the form of buses; autorickshaws are common. Kanchipuram is famous for the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, its huge temples and for its silk saris. There are about ten movie theatres here and two railway stations.

The area around the Kamakshi temple is called Big Kanchipuram and the area around the Varadharaja Perumal temple (where Sankararaman was murdered) is called Small Kanchipuram.

Many scholars of Hinduism say Adi Sankara established four Maths in the four corners of the country -- Badrinath in the north, Puri in the east, Dwarka in the west and Sringeri in the south. Kanchipuram, according to this assessment, is not one of the Maths Adi Sankara founded, a view angrily rejected by devotees of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.

Regardless of that assessment, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi is a revered figure for millions of Hindus worldwide. But that world does not apparently include much of Kanchipuram, home of the Math. Many residents claim the Shankaracharya is a spiritual leader only for Brahmins.

Amongst Brahmins too, there are supporters and detractors of the seer. This polarisation was less acute when the earlier pontiff, Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, was alive. Sankararaman was one of those who vehemently criticised Jayendra Saraswati from what he considered deviations from the route that Chandrasekharendra Saraswati had drawn up.

The Shankaracharya's arrest: Complete coverage

The Math may have a treasury of hundreds of crores of rupees but little of it, some residents complain, is spent on Kanchipuram. The Math runs scores of schools, colleges and hospitals in other parts of the country.

About 30 families lived on a street just behind the Math. Local Dravida Kazagham leader Ashokan alleges that the families were asked by the Math to sell their houses and move. The street has since been walled and is now part of the Math, he claims.

Asks an elderly resident, speaking on condition that he would not be identified, "Can you imagine that they enclosed a bus stop? You think anybody else could do that in Kanchipuram? The municipality would have destroyed the encroachment if it was anybody else."

A Ganesh Nadar in Kanchipuram
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