His Holiness Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamigal was the 68th Pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. One of the most
glorified saints the history has ever witnessed, He was a Realized Soul. Humility and simplicity were hallmarks of this great
Avatara Purusha.Lovingly called as ‘Maha Periyava’ or ‘Paramacharya’, the Mahaswami ascended the Peetam
in 1907 at the age of 13. Intensively educated in all the Vedas and Shastras, He was multi-lingual too. Throughout the century
that He was in his mortal form, gracing the world, He traveled the length and breadth of the country by foot spreading the
fragrance of Sanathana Dharma and the glory of the Vedas.
Thiruppaavai and Thiruvempaavai were composed in the Tamizh month of Maargazhi. So they are sung in ‘Ushat Kaala’(early
morning) during Maargazhi. Thiruppaavai was composed by Andal and Thiruvempaavai by Manickavaachagar. They are sung in the
worship of the Lord because it was in Maargazhi that these two took shape. Thiruppaavai is thirty in number but Thiruvempaavai
is only 28 as Siva ‘aagama’ is only 28. Leaving aside the ‘stuti’ Thiruvempaavai together with Thirupalliezhuchhi
consists of 28 verses. Even today Thiruppaavai and Thiruvempaavai competitions are held in schools. Today, their records are
played in all the temples. The credit for making these two popular goes solely to Kanchi Saint Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati
Of all the (Adi) Sankara Jayantis celebrated two have been very special. They were celebrated in
a large scale. One was in Pondicherry and the other in Tiruvidaimarudur.
Once, in Pondicherry, Adi Sankara Jayanti was
celebrated with the procession (‘purappaadu’) of Sankara’s picture. At that time Pondicherry was ruled by
the French Government while the English ruled the other parts of the country. Many French and English bureaucrats used to
visit Maha Periyava and this celebration was attended by both French and English officials. The French stood on one side while
the English on the other. And the Indians stood in another line. Mahaswamiji invited the foreigners because Adi Sankara was
Jagadguru! It was for this reason (that Adi Sankara was Jagadguru) that Mahaswamiji desired that all – the Indians,
the English and the French to participate together in that spectacular event.
Once, during Sankara Jayanti celebrations
in Tiruvidaimarudur, Mahaswamiji had invited renouned scholars. He conducted Thiruppaavai and Thiruvempaavai conference (‘maanaadu’)
and asked the popular carnatic singer M.L.Vasanthakumari to cut a disc. It is these records that are very popular today. Tamizh
Poets participated in Tiruvidaimarudur celebrations. Mahaswamiji said that Thiruppaavai and Thiruvempaavai are our two eyes.
Poet U.V. Swaminatha Iyer corrected him, “Kann illai! Paavai!” (Not eyes but the ‘pupils’). Mahaswamiji
immediately appreciated it, “Nanru Pandidare! Nanru!” (Well said, Oh! Poet, Well said!) Mahaswamiji used to converse
with those Tamizh Poets in their own style of pure Tamizh (‘shudha Tamizh’). One should not forget that the popularity
of Thiruppaavai and Thiruvempaavai is only due to Mahaswamiji.