By I J Saldanha Shet
Mangalore, Jan 16, 2011: The recent release of a stamp and first day cover by the India Post to mark the 150 years of this present historic edifice of the ’CHITRAPUR MUTT’’ sacred to the west coast based Konkani speaking Chitrapur Saraswats is indeed a mark of honour for this great community. It has served to give rise to interest in the origins and background of the progressive Saraswat community in general and Chitrapur Saraswat community in particular, now visible the world over. Let’s take a closer look at this illustrious community.
The Saraswat Konkani community’s origin is traced back to the migrant Aryans of North West India, the region of “Saptha Sindhu” the seven rivers - the Indus and its tributaries including the now extinct Saraswati. With the progressive drying up of Saraswati around 1700 BC, the migration of the “Sarswats” commenced. A major group or several groups moved South along the West Coast and they are the "Early Brahmins of Hindu Vedic faith."
The legendary lore of the Sahyadris or Western Ghats, has it that these Vedic Brahmins are mainly distributed in the Konkan regions. In ancient times, they built a temple base in “Kuchastalli” or Courtalim, in todays Goa and settled in sixty-six small family units called “Shastikars” meaning ‘of the sixty’. Alongside the Southern Dravida Brahmins were already present there; these came to be labeled as ‘Gowda Saraswat Brahmins, GSB’s.
Saraswat Brahmins spoke a dialect of Prakrit or early Sanskrit, evolving into Konkani with passage of time. Konkanis due to the use of the dialect and base of Prakrit, formed strong links with languages having roots with Prakrit as well, namely Marathi, Gujarathi and languages using Devnagiri scripts, thus making the Konkani users learned linguists. Konkani was also known as “Saraswat Balbani,” i.e., ’the speech of the children of the banks of the Saraswati’ and also ‘Brahmanchi Basha’. Today the language is seen. as colourful chameleon taking on the necessities of the areas in its script and the wording where it was used. An English historian confirms, “this great majority of Konkani speakers are ethnically North Indian Brahmins, though they have adopted other faiths and names as well as habits; they have an ingrained affinity of social rights of Hinduism and to the local areas of their adoption”. The role they played in the freedom struggle of India from the earliest occasions is well known and second to none. Thus the Konkanis have rightly a place in the annals of Bharath as an undeniable birth right.
Shri Chitrapur Mutt is at Shirali in Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka and is existing since 1757. It is the central Mutt (community temple) for the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin sect. The other Mutts of this community are located in Gokarna, Karla, Mangalore and Mallapur. All the Mutts have the insignia of the saffron flag.
The chief deity worshipped in this Mutt is Shri Bhavanishankar who is a form of Lord Shiva. The other 6-7 sanctorums of the temple are reserved for the Samadhis of the previous Guru Swamis of the community. This Mutt has been the abode of the Guru Parampara from the third Guru onwards. Daily Puja is carried out at the shrine of Lord Bhavanishankar as well as the other Swamis.
The Mutt’s origin commences with the death at this place of the second Guru; Srimad Shankarashram I Swamiji. His samadhi called ’Hodi Samadhi’ is located here. He attained mahasamadhi here in 1757. At this spot the Nagarkattikars had their house, their generosity established the Hodi Samadhi as well as the worship of Lord Bhavanishankar to be established here. The Saraswat community is indebted to the Nagarkattikars and to this day the premier honour (Pahilo Vido) is theirs.
H.H.Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji
He is the Head of the Mutt having ascended the Peetha in February 1997. Shree Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji is the eleventh Guru of this illustrious lineage of Gurus which began in 1708. The tenth Swamiji had not adopted a disciple (shishya). Thus, the community was in a quandary. It was then that some members of the community found out that a certain Saraswat youth had taken Sannyas and was in Mount Abu. They requested him to ascend the illustrious Peetha. Upon his agreement and subsequent ascension to the peetha, he now stands as the 11th Guru of this glorious Guru-Parampara.
The lineage of all Swamis of this Mutt is called Guru Parampara: H.H. Parijnanashram-I Swamiji (1708–1720); H.H. Shankarashram-I Swamiji (1720–1757); H.H. Parijnanashram-II Swamiji (1757–1770); H.H. Shankarashram-II Swamiji (1770–1785); H.H. Keshavashram Swamiji (1785–1823); H.H. Vamanashram Swamiji (1823–1839); H.H. Krishnashram Swamiji (1839–1863); H.H. Pandurangashram Swamiji (1863–1915); H.H. Anandashram Swamiji (1915–1966); H.H. Parijnanashram (III) Swamiji (1966–1991) and H.H. Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji (1997).
Saraswat Brahmins, are one of the five ancient Gouda Brahmins, and derived their name basically from the mythological river Saraswati that had flowed in the present Punjab and Rajasthan region, from the Himalayas to the western sea near Dwaraka in Gujarat. Some of them have also gone in other directions of the sub continent. Even today it is believed that the River Saraswati flows underground as detected by the remote sensing satellites and there is much scientific interest and activity.