Pejawar seer leaves big footprints in Bengaluru

Pejawar seer leaves big footprints in Bengaluru

Vidyapeetha, the gurukula that Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji founded 63 years ago, is a unique centre devoted to the preservation and propagation of Indian philosophical texts

A silence pervades Poornaprajna Vidyapeetha Pratishthana on Kathriguppe Main Road a day after Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji’s passing on Sunday.

Thirty-second in the lineage of the Pejawar Mutt, one of eight monasteries founded in the 13th century by Madhwacharya’s direct disciple Adhokshaja Teertha, Vishwesha Teertha was born Venkatarama Bhat.

He donned saffron robes when he was just seven, and grew into one of a liberal voice in the conservative circles in which he grew up. Although he was closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Ram Mandir movement, he was seen as one who could easily reach out to communities other than his own.

Vishwesha Teertha passed away in Udupi at 88. His mortal remains were flown in a helicopter to Bengaluru, and interred at Vidyapeetha here.

The sprawling institution in south Bengaluru, adjacent to Basavanagudi, was dear to his heart. It came up 63 years ago. His wish was to be laid to rest amid the chants of students here.

Metrolife visited Vidyapeetha on Monday afternoon, when devotees continued to stream in to pay their last respects. Students sat on the lawns, chanting verses. People from all walks of life were paying their respects to the Vrindavana, the structure that indicates where he was interred.

The gurukul, a centre of traditional education in Sanskrit, is described as “one of its kind.” It has 350 students in various streams. 

 A student has to be at least eight to get admission into the institution. Most teachers have studied at this institution.

Thirty-year-old Venugopal Acharya Purohit, who teaches there, says the Vidyapeetha was established to preserve and propagate ancient Indian philosophical texts. “The Vedas, Upanishads, shastras and granthas are taught here. English and computers also find a place on the curriculum. Students pursue courses equivalent to BA, MA and PhD here,” he explains.

Among other things, students are taught to interpret the teachings of Madhwacharya, he says. After graduating from Vidyapeetha, most students become teachers and priests. Some take up regular office jobs.

We get 53 new students every year: Principal of Poornaprajna vidyapeetha sanskrit college

Dr H Sathyanarayana Acharya, principal Poornaprajna Vidyapeetha Sanskrit College explains what Vidyapeetha does.

What is the eligibility to join? And what subjects are taught here?

Once a student enrols here, he must study here for 13 years. A student should have undergone the sacred thread ceremony to qualify. To study the Vedas, upanayana is a must. The student must be between eight and 14 years. In the first four years, the student studies Sanskrit. When he is able to communicate in Sanskrit, we teach him the shastras. Mimamsa (reflection, critical investigation) shastra and astrology are taught like science, arts and mathematics. Along with this, pourohitya (priesthood) is also taught. These equip students to contribute to society.

Does it work like a regular educational institution?

A day is divided into eight periods. Students get certificates from the Karnataka Sanskrit University. We don’t call it first standard, second standard, SSLC, PUC, etc. Once the students have completed learning Sanskrit, they can take up courses like Kavya for two years and Sahitya for two years. BA is for three years, and MA for two. The title we give an MA is Vidvadutthama. After MA, students get a ‘vidwan’ degree.

What are the life lessons taught here?

The main objective is keeping the shastras alive. We aim to bring about peace in society. We get asked how much the students earn after learning what we teach. The goal is not to earn. Those who study here have never faced difficulties in earning a livelihood. Because, even if they have no job in hand, they can teach Sanskrit in schools and colleges. Computers and English, that is taught additionally, come in handy. Our students are hired in various institutions and research departments. They can also become priests or archakas in temples.

Are more students joining?

We began with 10 or 12 students. Today, we have about 53 students joining every year. Earlier, the dip could be because of various reasons. Prenatal sex determination had brought down the number of children. Couples had only one child. When these children grew up, parents wanted them to go to regular schools rather than study Vedanta. Now, I feel people want peace and so send their sons to get this kind of education. Even if the parents have a single child, they send him here.

Student’s view

Many students, like 17-year-old Balarama, feel their understanding of life in general and rituals in particular have improved at the Vidyapeetha. “Our day at Vidyapeetha begins at 5 am. There’s a clear timetable to be followed. There’s time to study, play, rest and pursue any activity of your interest,” he says. The subjects include stotras, mantras, kavya, vyakarana, tarka, Vedanta, pooja vidhana and the Sanskrit classics.

After six years of initial studies, students are encouraged to pursue secondary, undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate courses.

What he taught

Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji used to teach advanced students at the Vidyapeetha. He explained to them the nuances of Nyaya Sudha, a 14th century text by dialectician Jayatirtha, Chandrika, a 15th century text by Vyasatirtha, and other classics explaining the philosophy of dualism.

350 students

Vidyapeetha began in 1956 with 12 students and two teachers. Today, it has 350 students and 53 teachers.

How Vidyapeetha came up

Pejawara Swamiji was barely 25 when he took up the initiative of building the Vidyapeetha, at a then remote location on the Kattriguppe main road. Swamiji carried a jolige (bag) on his shoulder and went from house to house to collect donations. Located on a campus that spreads to three-and-a-half acres, it houses a research centre, Sanskrit school and college, a hostel, an auditorium, and a temple dedicated to Krishna, Madhwacharya, Vadiraja and Raghavendra Swami.

What devotees say

Sisters Nagalakshmi M A and Pushpalatha had brought their children Pranav, Supriya and Sumukha, to pay their respects to Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji.

Nagalakshmi, who visits the Vidyapeetha often, says she likes “the oneness” he preached. “He addressed everyone in the same tone, irrespective of caste, creed and religion,” she says.

Pushpalatha says Swamiji emphasised the importance of honesty, integrity and truth. “We come here because we have faith in his teachings and find solace in his words,” she says.

Praveen Pai, an employee of HP, is a native of Udupi. “I was a regular at the mutt in Udupi and I come here after I relocated to Bengaluru.” He says Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji did many things to unify society. “He was one among the few who has visited a Dalit colony. He treated Hindus and Muslims alike and worked towards bringing everybody together,” says Pai.

He was child-like, says Prof and schoolmate

Prof K E Radhakrishna, former principal of Seshripuram College and disciple of Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji, studied in Ramakunjeshwara High School, near Uppinangadi. The swamiji studied in the same school.

“He was a Gandhi in saffron clothes because deep inside him, he had embraced Gandhian principles. He loved ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram’ and it was fitting that it sung as a farewell to the great soul,” says Radhakrishna.

In his words: “Vishwesha Theetha Swami was the pontiff of a conservative Brahminical system. He had his own constraints in reforming it. But he didn’t let that get in the way. His love for the marginalised, such as the Dalits, and all religions is well known. He dared to bring changes into the Brahminical order. Thanks to his openness, neither the right nor the left had any quarrels with him. Communication was possible with him,” says Radhakrishna.

Radhakrishna says the swamiji had a child-like innocence. “He had no enemies. Hatred and jealousy never touched him. You could differ with him but
you can never dislike him. Such was his greatness,” he says.

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