Radhakrishna Gollapinni Seshappa does not think that faith consists of believing what reason cannot. Instead, the Bengaluru-based Vedic practitioner believes that faith has to have a reason. The 62-year-old, who speaks impeccable English and Sanskrit, is striving to streamline priesthoodby asking the government to give recognition to qualified pundits.
“There is no organised growth of Vedic schools, and only a few are affiliated to universities,” says Radhakrishna. “So even though there are people who are post-doctoral research scholars in our religious scriptures, they are not recognised by any educational institution. The time has come for universities to recognise pundits.” He is now planning to bring together schools that teach religious scriptures and create a federation to get government recognition.
Radhakrishna has conducted over 1,800 marriages, including inter-religious ones, in India, the US, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, London, etc., and an equal number of housewarming and other religious ceremonies.
“There are four Vedas—Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. Yajurveda is divided into Krishna Yajurveda and Shukla Yajurveda. In the recent past, nobody has mastered all four Vedas completely. It is a rigmarole. If one spends 18-20 hours a day to specialise in one Veda, it may take 20 years to do so. Very few people have mastered two Vedas. I have studied Krishna Yajurveda, but I have to learn a lot more,” he explains.
Radhakrishna became a chartered accountant after his BSc in 1974, only to give it up. “Although I was born into an illustrious family of Vedic pundits and purohits, after my graduation I ventured into chartered accountancy. I did not practice for long since my passion was in classical music and dance. I got into event management and used to organise dance and classical music festivals,” he says.
It all changed when he went to the US in 1996, where he met David Frawley, also known as Vamadeva Sastry, an American Hindu acharya who has authored over 30 books on the Vedas, Sanatana Dharma and Vedic astrology. The meeting made Radhakrishna introspect. The soul-searching took him to his father G Seshappa, a well-known priest in Karnataka. “He lived for 92 years and had a huge clientele,” says the priest who is proficient in Vaishnavite and Saivite Aagama temple traditions and rituals with special emphasis on Devalaya Pratishtapana ceremonies. “They wanted somebody to take over the tradition from my father. I apprenticed under my father in 1996. When he passed away eight years ago, I took over.”
The Vedic practitioner, who has a master’s and Vidwat in Sanskrit and English Literature from Bangalore University, tries to bring in discipline and educate people about the importance of ethical practices in the profession. “Now, clients and devotees want to know the meaning of what is being chanted or why a particular ritual is important. Except for some priests, many do not know how to disseminate what they are saying,” says Radhakrishna.
With a group of 65 purohits, Radhakrishna is associated with the Sringeri Sadhana Centre; Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation Inc., US; Maha Ganapati Temple in New York, and many others. He was invited to participate in the planning, organising and co-ordination of the Ati Rudra Maha Yagam in Pennsylvania and the Maha Rudra Yagams across the US in 1997 and 2008 respectively.
He is also the director of panditathome.com, a B2C venture that arranges pundits for Vidhi Vat Puja and puja services in homes and offices in Mumbai. It will soon be operational in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai.