CHENNAI: Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, the 1000-year-old religious institution founded by Adi Sankara to spread Advaita philosophy, is known for its religious activities and strict adherence to the religious rules. In a way, the Mutt was described as the one dear to the Brahmin community despite the fact that important personalities from various walks of life keep calling on the previous Peetathipathi (senior pontiff) Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal, fondly called on Maha Periyava.
After the demise of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal, Jayendra Saraswathi assumed charge as the Peetathipathi of the Mutt in 1994. It is no exaggeration to say he literally broke the rigidity that has been surrounding the Mutt. He actively engaged himself in social service activities. He founded two outfits - Jan Kalyan and Jan Jagran for carrying out his social service activities. Every year, Jayendra Saraswathi used to honour artistes from many fields.
The Mutt became a respected instituted during the tenure of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi because of his spiritual services and discourses and his life governed by religious activities. Indira Gandhi, A B Vajpayee, M G Ramachandran , R Venkataraman, T N Seshan were some of the key personalities who visited him.
But the tenure of Jayendra Saraswathi as junior pontiff as well as senior pontiff of the Mutt was quagmired in controversies. In 1987, Jayendra Saraswathi went missing and after three days, he was found at Thala Cauvery, the origin of the Cauvery river, in Karnataka. Later in 2004, his arrest in the case relating to the murder of Sankararaman, a devotee of the Mutt as well as the manager of Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kancheepuram, indeed damaged the reputation of the Mutt.
But Jayendra Saraswathi’s involvement in social service activities as a means to bridge the gap between the common people and the Mutt is significant. After the death Maha Periyava on January 8, 1994, the mutt began expanding its activities. Starting with the Hindu Mission Hospital at Tambaram in the 1980s, it now has 44 hospitals under its control, including the Childs Trust Hospital, Chennai. Besides, the Mutt is running a deemed university for Ayurveda studies in hospital.