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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Republic Day at SYMA - Mandayam Parthasarathi Iyengar, the freedom fighter

First about the house and then about the person….. this old house in front of the famous Sri Parthasarathi Swami Temple, adjacent to Swami Nammalwar sannathi would escape the attention of even locals.  Some might have observed the shop – Chakarika Audios selling devotional CDs, cassettes and the like.  It is named ‘Gautamasrama’ and most of us would have occasioned to go inside – for through it only Perumal ascends the ‘Thiruther [chariot]’ – a nonagenarian lives alone in that house.

At SYMA, we have been celebrating days of National significance.  On every Independence Day and Republic Day, we invite VIPs to hoist National flag at our Medical Centre.  We follow it up with some medical camp or other social activities too.  This year 26th Jan 2013 will remain etched in our memory ~ there could not have been a better person to hoist our National flag.  The flag was hoisted by a nonagenarian Mr Mandayam Parthasarathi, 95 years bubbling with enthusiasm. Easily he is not only the oldest person in Triplicane, there is rich history of freedom struggle associated with this great person.   Dr MA Venkatakrishnan, a great Scholar and Adhyapakar of Sri Parthasarathi Swami temple was the other Guest on the occasion.

On National days, we recall the sacrifices made by the people who ensured liberation from colonial forces and it was the 64th Republic Day of the Nation.  India has changed more in last six decades than in six previous centuries. This is neither accidental nor providential; history shifts its pace when touched by vision.  After obtaining freedom, the Constitution represented a second liberation which inspired a Cultural Evolution which put Indian society on the track to modernity.

After 6 decades,  generations have changed and many present day youngsters do not really know the freedom struggle and sacrifices made in obtaining freedom.  We remember the great people like Subrahmanya Bharathiyar everyday as our office is located just opposite to the house where Barathiyar once lived in Triplicane.   Bharati’s life was short; he pioneered modern poetry, was a great journalist, eternal optimist, fought British with flame, incensed people of the Nation.  In 1908 he had to flee to Pondicherry where he lived till 1918. While Bharati’s association with print media is history, the Nation and we need to know of the people who made this happen..  Bharathi’s writing covered the widest spectrum from hymns to nationalistic writings, from contemplations on the relationship between God and Man to songs on the Russian and French revolutions. 

We have read about a Tamil weekly ‘India’ launched in 1906 of which Bharati was the Editor.  This provided the correct platform for the flaming words of Bharathi  ~ this was owned by patriotic Mandyam Brothers—Tirumalachar and Srinivasachar—who were ready to spend their large inherited fortune in the cause of Indian Independence. Before I write anything further, the Chief Guest Sri S Parthasarathi is the son of Mandayam Srinivasachariyar of the magazine ‘India’. When Bharathi started writing in this weekly, it angered the British Government who came down heavily in due course on these 'stormy petrels'  in national politics. Although Bharatiyar edited India, the declared editor was M. Srinivasan, who was arrested and sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment, for publishing what the British Government termed seditious articles.

We know that Bharati spent a decade in exile at Pondicherry; not so well known is the fact that  the Mandyam Brothers also shifted themselves to Pondichery, shifted the office of their journal ‘India’ and continued its publication from there. It is stated that they dismantled the Heidelberg printing machinery  and moved it manually in basket loads by Buckingham canal and by road.  The Govt took punitive action by banning the entry of the journal to British India; the  Weekly was strangulated and had to close down its operations in March 1910.  They even made it difficult for money orders to be sent to Mandayam Srinivasacharya. Money would be taken to him by his brothers from Madras. In 1909, Mandayam Thirumalacharya started a Tamil journal called Vijaya, and later this too was published from Pondicherry, with Bharatiar as editor. Mandayam brothers fought the British and reportedly arrest warrant was pending against them.  Due to the living of Sri S. Krishnamachari, grandfather of Mr Parthasarathi with his three sons in Pondy and their publishing patriotic journal both in French and in English, ‘The Indian Republic’ – their family was popularly known as the Pondicherry Brothers, though they belong to Mandya district in Karnataka.

Their family have Aurobindo connection as well as  Mandayam Srinivasacharyar, Bharatiyar, and V.V.S. Iyer had philosophical discussions with Aurobindo. It is recalled that Swami Aurobindo was given books by Mr Srinivasacharyar including copy of the first edition of Max Meuller's RigVeda.  When Collector Ashe was murdered by Vanchinathan,  Mandayam Parthasarathi’s father was one of those against whom a warrant was issued by the British.  The warrant against Mandayam Srinivasacharya was cancelled only when World War I ended. Back in Madras, he continued with his publishing work. He learnt Bengali so that he could read Tagore's stories in Bengali, which he translated and published. Srinivasacharya wrote under the name Sri Sri Acharya. The  eldest  of the brothers, Thirumalachariyar  participated in the Satyagraha for the removal of Gen. Neil’s statue from Mount Road. The brothers lost most of their savings and wealth in Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company of VOC. 

One of the relatives of our hero Sri Parthasarathi, Yogi Parthasarathy Iyengar, a great scholar with great vision and forethought, established Sri Saraswathi Bhandaram though which he supported many scholars and ensured publication of many sampradaya granthas for the first time.  Sri Yogi Parthasarathi Iyengar was invited to present a paper in the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893; did not go and yes, it  was attended by Swami Vivekananda whose 150th birth centenary is presently being celebrated.  Yet another relative Mr Alasinga Perumal helped and arranged the visit of Swami Vivekananda. 

Sri S. Parthasarathi has contributed much and is guiding the Educational institutions of Hindu Sr Secondary School and century old Hindu Higher Secondary School, being a member in the Educational board of various Educational institutions including MOP college. Mr Parthasarathi at ripe old age, is extremely brisk and active.  He now lives alone in the house near Swami Nammalwar sannathi, the house known as ‘Gautamasrama’ which also has historic significance.   “V.O. Chidambaram Pillai used to visit my father and uncles in Gautamasrama. In his autobiography, he refers to Gautamasrama as the wellspring of support for the freedom movement,” says Parthasarathy Iyengar.   It is stated that  when VOC started the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, the Pondicherry brothers mortgaged all their property, and contributed one lakh rupees for the cause, a princely sum those days.  Understand that their  family owned 100 acres of land in Vadapalani consisting of a huge bungalow, which was also mortgaged by the Pondicherry brothers, to fund Chidambaram Pillai's venture.  The property had to be auctioned later. 

There have been high profile visitors  wedded to the cause of liberation of motherland to this house in Triplicane.  It is stated that in 1907, when Bipin Chandra Pal gave lectures in Madras, he stayed in Gautamsarama for a week. Subramania Siva was a frequent visitor;  Mahatma Gandhi and Lokmanya Tilakji also had visited Gautamasrama. The house also played its part in the Hindi movement in South India; as early in 1919 classes were launched with Sarojini Naidu singing ‘Vande Mataram.   Mr Parthasarathy Iyengar is an exceptionally organized person, was a student of library science, worked as librarian, keenly organising the things the way he has done his life.  

It is our duty to know, understand, realize and appreciate the greatness of the service and  true services to the motherland rendered by such noble people.   SYMA was so happy that this great person S Parthasarathi Iyengar visited our medical centre, spoke to us, hoisted the National Flag and blessed us. 

PS :  In fact, a couple days to Republic Day, I had gone for inviting our Chief Guest, who gracefully accepted my invitation, and  suggested that SYMA calls Mr Parthasarathi.  This person is an extremely popular person in Triplicane; a great Sri Vaishnavaite scholar – people talk to and watch him with admiration, hear him on popular television and electronic media.  He is a regular in the “Divya Prabandha goshti’ of Thiruvallikkeni, Kanchipuram and many other Divyadesams.  He has been active and has been managing the affairs of  Thiruvallikkeni Sri Parthasarathi  Vedha Adhyapaka Goshti.  He is always seen having  ‘dwadasa Urthva Pundram –(12 Thiruman and Srichoornam]’ and clad in attractive neat dress (pancha kacham – the traditional Vaishnavaite dress] – he is a great personality, exhibits humour discussing wide spectrum of subjects - -   it is Dr. M.A. Venkatakrishnan Swami popularly known as ‘MAV”.   After a stint at Vivekananda College, he moved to Madras University and now heads the Department of Vaishnavism.   Now he has completed more than 26 years of meritorious service at Madras University – Department of Vaishnavism.  He looks traditional, does great kainkaryam in Temples – is very adept in utilizing technology and can be seen dexterously handling computer gadgets.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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  19. very fine post..thank you..I need inforation on Mandayam Prathiwadhi Bayankaram Thirumalacharya, born in Triplicane , around 1888. He was a friend of Suubramanya Barathy . He was an intrepid revolutionary. I read about him iin wiki. MPT ACHARYA. Can you kindly give some more inforation? he was an associate of VVS Iyer in India House , London.