Dr. Sri Shivarathri Rajendra Mahaswamiji
Legacy of Sri Suttur Sri Math
Suttur Simhasana Mahasansthana Math is about one thousand years old in the ancient cultural and religious history of Karnataka. In the 10th Century Sri Shivarathri seer did penance for a very long time in Siddhagiri hills and came to the south and engaged in penance again at Suttur. At that time, Emperor Rajendra Chola of the Chola dynasty came to invade Gangas who were ruling Talakadu. When Rajendra and his army reached the banks of the River Kapila, they sighted Sri Shivarathreeshwara. The seer explained to him about the futility and the casualties of the war. This transformed the emperor and he dropped the idea of war and had a negotiation with the Gangas. With utmost respect and devotion, he prayed and requested the seer Sri Shivarathreeshwara to stay in the same place. Accordingly, the seer initiated the Sri Math and that led to a very strong foundation for the spiritual, religious and cultural history in Karnataka.
By the time of the 22nd Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshwara, the activities of the Sri Math increasingly took to societal development. The heritage of the Guru’s penance, brilliance, vitality, creativity and activities all unified for excellence in the services.
The 23rd Jagadguru Dr. Sri Shivarathri Rajendra Mahaswamiji
Sri Mallikarjunaswami and Shrimathi Marammanni who were the residents of Srikshetra are the blessed parents of Poojya Rajendra Sri. Born on 29.8.1916, Poojya Sri completed his primary education at Suttur under his previous name Sri Puttaswamy. Sri Shivarathreeshwara took the blessed one into his fold and officially named him as Sri Shivarathri Rajendraswamy. Poojya Sri Swamiji started studying Sanskrit at the tender age of 8 in Mysuru as a disciple of the great Sanskrit scholar Basavaraja Shastri. At this time, Poojya Sri Swamiji used to engage in long spiritual and academic discussions with Pandit Somashekharaswamy and had heard about the Palace Panchagavi Math Sri Gowrishankaraswamy and was curious to meet him. Gowrishankaraswamy was in Kashi. He had studied Sanskrit, literature, alankara, grammar, Pali, Prakrit, French, English, history, and psychology and had acquired fame as a scholar.
Sri Rajendraswamy went to Kashi and met Sri Gowrishankaraswamy and expressed his desire to study under his guidance. Sri Gowrishankaraswmy told Rajendra Swamiji, “It is not enough only if you alone get educated. You should go back and support education of poor children.” In the meanwhile, when Rajendra Swamiji was not to be seen anywhere in Mysuru, Sri Shivarathreeshwara went to Kashi and brought him back to Mysuru. On 24.2.1928 when Sri Shivarathri Rajendra Swamiji was only twelve years old, he was anointed as the pontiff of the Sri Math.
After taking on the responsibilities of the Sri Math, Sri Rajendraswamy engaged in social service. With the intention of supporting poor students who would otherwise drop out from education, Poojya Swamiji started free hostels. With the blessings and encouragement of the Senior Swamiji, a building on Vanivilas Road was bought and the free hostel was started. That was the grand beginning of the students’ hostels.
Several stalwarts have studied in the hostels that began in the 1940s. They included Sri M. Rajashekharamurthy, Sri M.S. Gurupadaswamy, Sri H. Veerabhadraiah, Sri M.S. Parasivamurthy and others. In the later decades, Dr. D.M. Nanjundappa, Prof. G.S. Shivarudrappa, Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy, Dr. H.M. Marulasiddaiah and others stayed and studied in these hostels. The hostels were started in 1945 at Chamarajanagara and in 1948 at ‘Gourishankara Nilaya’, Mysuru. Then onwards the student hostels have grown in number in several places and have provided boarding and lodging facility to thousands of children and have supported in their education.
Sri Rajendra Swamiji who succeeded the Math with a great religious legacy, did not limit himself only to religious activities, but responded to the inequality, poverty and misery in the society. The services of the Math were extended very appropriately to the society. Much before India attained independence, the seer had identified that it is lack of education which was the root cause of problems faced by the masses and started the JSS Mahavidyapeetha in 1954 for providing education. Under the aegis of JSS Mahavidyapeetha, he started schools and colleges for Akshara Dasoha (education), hostels for Anna Dasoha (boarding and lodging) and hospitals for Arogya Seva (health services) that led to social development. The Seer who had a big heart to support the poor and the downtrodden, provided opportunities to thousands who needed shelter.
Poojya Swamiji initiated several institutions and movements to keep the Vachana movement’s hopes and objectives alive in the minds of this generation, All India Sharana Sahithya Parishath; for publications on literature, religion, enlightenment, education, art, etc., Sri Shivarathreeshwara Granthamala (series of literary works) and Sri Shivarathreeshwara Trust; for encouraging music, JSS Sangeetha Sabha and JSS Kala Mantapa; for rural development, JSS Rural Trust; for vocational training Janashikshana Trust and for rural health care JSS Medical Trust. The Health Centre started in 1963 is now an 1800-bed big hospital with several modern multi-specialty services. Currently under the Mahavidyapeeta, more than 300 institutions are working facilitating education services to more than 50,000 students. More than 1,000 employees are working with various institutions. The Sri Math is working not just in Karnataka, but also has extended its services in Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and also overseas – in Dubai, Mauritius and The USA. In Suttur Srikshetra, more than 4,000 poor students are getting free education, hostel and boarding facilities. Today, His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Shivarathri Rajendra Mahaswamiji’s vision, dedication, sacrifice, generosity and meditation have led to the development of JSS Institutions into a huge organization.
In recognition of the services rendered by Sri Swamiji, the erstwhile Mysore State King Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar honored him with the Rajaguru Tilaka award. The nationally acclaimed Mysore University has conferred honorary doctoral degree posthumously on the Poojya Swamiji in recognition of his excellent educational services to the society.