22 Dwarakanath Tirtha
Birth place : Gangolli (Udupi District)
Name at Birth : Govind Ramnath Acharya
Birth date : Saka 1841 Siddhartha Samvatsara Jyeshtha Krushna Ashtami, Saturday (21/06/1919)
Sannyasa Deeksha : Saka 1864 Chitrabhanu Samvatsara Vaishakh Krushna Ashtami, Thursday (07/05/1942)
Place of Deeksha : Partagali Matha
Deeksha Guru : Shri Kamalanatha Tirtha (21)
Accension : Saka 1865 Subhanu Samvatsara Chaitra Krushna Ashtami, Tuesday (27/04/1943)
Shishya Sveekar : Shri Vidyadhiraj Tirtha (23)
Mahanirvan : Saka 1894 Paridhavi Samvatsara Phalgun Krushna Shashthi, Sunday (25/03/1973)
Vrundavana : Partagali Matha
Period as Shishya : 00 years 11 months 20 days
Period as Guru : 29 years 10 months 26 days
Period of service to Matha : 30 years 10 months 18 days
Age : 53 years 09 months 04 days
Matha Construction : 1) Mallyar Matha Gangolli (Handover) 16/03/1945
2) Shri Ram Mandir Wadala, Mumbai 07/02/1965
3) Shri Dwarakanath Bhavan, Bengaluru, 24/09/1957
4) Shri Indirakanta Tirtha Bhavan, Vasco 15/05/1963
History of Swamiji
Shrimad Dwarakanath Tirtha Svamiji was born in the Gangolli Village in the Udupi District. A renowned family of pundits known by the named ‘Senapur Acharya’ resides in this village. The Sarasvat Brahmin Divan Narayan Mahale constructed the Gangolli Venkatramana Temple and appointed this family for the purpose of worship at this temple.
This family handed over this temple to the Gokarna-Partagali-Jeevottama Matha during the reign of Shrimad Dwarakanath Tirtha. Born in this family, the son of Vidvan Vaidika Ramnathacharya and his wife Bhavanibai became the 22nd pontiff of the Gokarna-Partagali-Jeevottama Matha Shrimad Dwarakanath Tirtha. He was born in the Saka year 1842 and was named Govind Acharya. After completing his primary education in Kannada and English, he turned to Sanskrit education. As his father had already looked after his proper training in vaidika rituals, he had been introduced to some nuances of Sanskrit language at an early age. But to learn Sanskrit language further, its literature, grammar, etc., he stayed for sometime at Shri Bhuvanendra Sanskrit College in Karkala and then arrived at Partagali Matha to study under Shrimad Indirakanta Tirtha. There he studied subjects such as vedas, vedangas, nyaya, mimamsa, etc., directly under the able guidance of Shri Indirakanta Tirtha and Shri Kamanatha Tirtha which benefitted him greatly.
Shri Indirakanta Tirtha was adept at identifying the potentials hidden in individuals. He had identified and chosen his two shishyas, Narahari Tirtha and Kamanatha Tirtha with careful consideration. Seeing the brilliance of Govind Acharya during his studies at the Gurukula, Indirakanta Tirtha Svamiji identified him as his prashishya beforehand and conveyed this wish to Shri Kamalanatha Tirtha at the right time.
One month after Shri Indirakanta Tirtha Svamiji took vrundavana, on Vaishakh Vadya Saptami of Saka 1864 (07/05/1942), Shri Kamalanatha Tirtha initiated Govind Acharya into Sannyasa and ordained him ‘Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha’. He was 22 years of age at the time. A year later, after vrundavana of Guru Svami Shri Kamalanatha Tirtha, he acceded to the Gurupitha on Chaitra Vadya Ashtami of Saka 1865 Subhanu Samvatsara (27/04/1943).
The 3 decades from Saka 1865 to Saka 1894 were the period of reign of Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha. Unlike the period of Shri Indirakanta Tirtha, the socio-religious situation in this period was not marked by turmoil. Rather, the dust had long settled on the socio-religious front and the era of Svamijis having to issue rayasas over trivial internal disputes was a thing of the distant past. As the social and worldly lives of people had gained pace, religious restrictions, rites & duties had begun to be forgotten. Samskaras such as Upanyana had been reduced to a mere formality. Taptamudra Dharana and the compulsory practice of sandhya after bath had largely been forgotten. In spite of all this dilution in religious duties, the religious fervour of Vaishnavas in general and Sarasvatas in particular, had not completely died out. This is the reason why the temples and Gurupithas of the Sarasvatas had continued functioning in their full glory. The Guru’s rights in the religious domain were still acknowledged and a Guru with distinct erudition, scholarship, and benevolence like Shrimad Dwarakanath Tirtha still garnered the respect & support of the masses. Sensing the change in times and keeping up with them had become the new yugadharma and Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha, abiding by it, took active efforts to ensure that an intellectual rift should not arise between the society and the religious institution. His policies were designed to benefit not just the disciples of his own matha but also the society as a whole; and thus he gained wide acclaim and reverence even in the post-independence period where people's religious beliefs had begun to fade.
Svamiji was a visionary and a man of steadfast action. He planned ahead for his various initiatives such as setting up a Sanskrit Pathshalas at Partagali and Mumbai, Highschool and a college at Partagali centred on Indian culture & Sanskrit language, publishing house for religious publications, Pathshala to impart suitable training in vedas and paurohitya, renovating existing mathas and constructing new mathas elsewhere, etc. Even though troubled by constant illness, Svamiji travelled far & wide to bring his plans into action. He amassed a huge following with his transparency & affectionate speech. He raised several millions in funds for his various initiatives and dispensed the funds duly for those. He faced the unstable political situations that arose during his reign with a composed mind and strived hard keeping in mind the best interests of the matha & its objectives. To effectuate such novel policies, he brought together not just his own disciples but also leaders from other Hindu monastic orders, castes & creeds, and even other religions.
His wish to start a college at Partagali was revived in spirit after Goa’s liberation but could not be materialized due to a plethora of problems. He sensed that the social discord among the Hindus bore a direct relation to the lack of organization among & cooperation between the Hindu religious orders whose various sectarian divisions such as Vaishnava, Shaiva, Dvaita, Advaita, Vishishtadvaita, Gauda, Dravida, etc., had become hotbeds for divisive politics & internal rifts. He realized that for securing larger interests of the Hindus, these diverse sects had to be brought together on a common platform & made to work in unison setting aside their differences as & when needed. Accordingly, he worked in that direction.
Any existing disagreements between the two Vaishnava monastic orders of the Sarasvatas, viz., the Gokarna and the Kashi mathas, had ceased to exist by the time of Shri Indirakanta Tirtha and the two mathas & their leaders had formed stronger ties than ever before. Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha continued this policy of amicable relations between the 2 mathas. He met some of the mathadhipatis of the Ashtamathas of Udupi. Parallelly, he also held talks with the mathadhipatis of Shringeri, Kudali and the Smarta Sarasvata Chitrapura mathas in view of Hindu social awakening, unification & revival with special emphasis on ending inter-sect rivalries. He participated in the Madhva Philosophy Conference organized at Udupi and put forth this vision of Hindu social harmony & cooperation. His Sanskrit and Kannada inaugural addresses at the 4th iteration of this conference gained him universal popularity and acclaim. On the 6th and 7th of November 1954, a World Religious Conference was held in Mumbai at the Sundarabai Hall due to the efforts of Jainmuni Shri Sushilkumarji Bhaskar which was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of the erstwhile Bombay State Shri Morarji Desai. The conference saw the participation of various religious leaders of the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, Sikhs, etc, alongside the Gurus of various sects of Hinduism who each spoke at length about their religious views, sectarian perspectives and ideas for social harmony. Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha Svamiji represented the Vaishnava order in this conference and delivered a landmark speech on the occasion wherein he stated the eternal principles of the Hindus, clarified differences of opinion among different Hindu sects, informed the audience about Vaishnavism but most importantly, he stressed on the necessity of religion for social well-being. Through his speech he put forth the view of co-opting science and religion for human betterment and highlighted the significance of Bhagavadgita as an eternal learning resource for all of humanity.
A landmark accomplishment in the reign of Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha was his establishment of 3 new mathas in 3 major cities in the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. This was an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of the Matha. Constructing Mathas in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Vasco was such a major challenge from the financial viewpoint that just having a thought of the task would require great courage; but Svamiji courageously faces these challenges and completed the constructions in a stipulated time, even as he struggled with a continued bout of illness. Constructing a Matha in Mumbai was no mere task. It was going to require an unthinkably large sum of nearly ₹1.5 million in those times (cost not adjusted for inflation). The institution itself had no such funds & whether or not such funds could be raised through an appeal to its followers was a matter of doubt. Only 2 things were in favour of the construction: Svamiji’s own indomitable will, and his ability to amass large following. Only due to these 2 factors, was this unsurmountable task accomplished and unscalable heights were climbed.
Svamiji first came to Mumbai in 1950. The purpose of the visit was both for sanchara & the treatment of his spinal injuries. As the matha owned no property in Mumbai at the time, Svamiji and his company had to stay at the Walkeshwar premises of the Kashi matha In Mumbai which caused some difficulty in commutation.
One day Svamiji thought that seeing as Mumbai had become the second most important place for the Sarasvatas after Goa, it would be best to have a matha at a centrally located place in Mumbai. But a mathadhipati is not an autocrat who issues diktats at will and forces his followers to follow suit. It had been a longstanding tradition of the matha to discuss topics of significance in a meeting of its prominent followers before reaching a final conclusion. Further, Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha himself was a leader of the people and greatly respected democratic values. So he called forth not just the followers of his own matha, but also those of the Kashi & Kavale mathas and presented this proposal. Raising points like in a city like Mumbai which had become a hub of Sarasvata activity and population, the community had no place to rightfully call its own for religious ceremonies, to accommodate its Gurus during their travels without causing problems of commutation, etc., he put forth his ideas & all the representatives at the meeting upheld his views and a construction committee was established.
It must be noted that though Mumbai had a large population of Sarasvatas, the community itself was unorganized and divided in its matha distinctions such as Gokarna, Kashi, Kavale, Chitrapur, Dabhol, etc.; and regional identities such as Mumbaikar, Goan, Wadkar, Canarite, etc. Never before had all the Sarasvatas of all these distinct sectarian & regional backgrounds, had come together on a common platform. The Sarasvata temples in Mumbai had thus far been under the control of the Mumbaikar group of Sarasvatas, which in turn was divided into Pagadivale or Barghare (The 12 families of early Sarasvata settlers in Mumbai who wore a Pagadi) and Phetevale(Later day Sarasvata settlers who used handkerchiefs to cover their heads); the Pagadivale being the sub-group looking after temple affairs. The matter of ownership had been taken to court whereby the court declared that the temples were to be owned and administered collectively by all Sarasvatas in Mumbai. Even then, barring a select few such as the Malvankars and Wadkars, nobody took much interest in the management of temples, and so the Sarasvata community of Mumbai had continued to be unorganised and without unison.
All these groups were brought together on a shared dais for the first time by Shri Dwarakanath Tirtha and construction committee comprised of Sarasvatas from all the different regional identities and diverse professional backgrounds. This unification of diverse strata of the Sarasvatas birthed an environment of social harmony & unison among the Sarasvatas in Mumbai like never before.
On the subject of location, it was collectively agreed that the matha should be centrally located. However, it was highly difficult to find a suitable plot in central areas of Mumbai such as Girgaon. When the location in Wadala was brought to the table, many opposed on the ground of the locality being largely undeveloped. But Svamiji foresaw a slight northward shift in centre of activity in Mumbai and personally chose Wadala. This visionary decision made its mark as the once barren locality of Wadala has become the main city-centre of Brihanmumbai alongside its adjacent Dadar locality. The building has now become a rally-point for Sarasvatas in Mumbai with its iconic Ram Mandir, various facilities such as halls for ritual purposes and social ceremonies, and due to its easily accessible accommodation for the Mathadhipatis of the community. Indeed it would not be wrong to say that the great dreams for this matha expressed by Shri S. K. Patil in his speech at the Matha’s inauguration have all come to fruition with a lot more.
Construction was started at the chosen plot by doing the bhoomi poojana on Margashirsha Shukla Trayodashi of Saka 1872 (13th December 1950). The construction committee continued the building process over the next 4 years by raising funds through crowdfunding. After the first phase of construction when one half of the building was all set & done, the matha was inaugurated on Magha Shuddha Navami of Saka 1876 (2nd February 1955) at the hands of Shri Sudhindra Tirtha Svamiji of Kashi Matha.
Svamiji wished to start Sanskrit Pathshalas at this matha and in Dicholim. Accordingly, he set up an education committee comprising of Sanskrit scholars by the name ‘Samskruta Shikshana Prasaara Samiti’. In order to fund the educational activities of this committee, cultural programs were organized at the Wadala matha from 5th to 12th of February right after the inauguration.
The construction of the matha in Mumbai was completed over the next 5 to 6 years and Svamiji’s dream had materialized. But he did not stop there. He wanted to build a matha in the capital of Karnataka state too, just as he had in Maharashtra. Thus, he started working towards it and a suitable land was acquired in the Basavanagudi locality of Bengaluru city in the year 1950.
In addition to aforesaid constructions, Svamiji oversaw the renovation of Partagli matha. The tower above the temple of Ramadeva was in a dilapidated condition which the Svamiji got repaired, its roofing was replaced with copper-plated roofs, and a golden kalasha was installed at the top. After this was done, Svamiji did punahpratishtha of the idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana on Magha Shuddha Panchami of Saka 1887 Vishvavasu Samvatsara (5th February 1966). The ceremony was 5 days long.
Svamiji’s reign of roughly 3 decades was a period of peace on the socio-cultural front but tumultuous on the political side both within and outside of Goa. Great strain was put on the Gokarna-Partagali Jeevottama Matha’s workings due to the changing political landscape such as frequent wars, India’s independence, Goan liberation struggle, troubled Indo-Portuguese relations, embargoes, etc. Many properties of the Matha lied outside of the Portuguese dominion of Goa. Similarly many of its followers too lived outside of Goa in the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Keeping a contact with all of these and managing financial affairs of the matha’s holdings had become a daunting task. But Svamiji efficiently managed all matha affairs even during these adverse times never once compromising on the interests of the institution.
In 1953, the Portuguese Minister for Overseas, Manuel Maria Sarmento Rodrigues visited Goa and met intently Svamiji to know about the Matha. After returning to Portugal, he issued a decreto on 23rd January 1954 stating that as the mathadhipatis of Gokarna and Kavale mathas are religious leaders of their respective sects, should they import idols and other articles for worship, import duties should not be levied upon them.
In the March of 1973, he was touring the Canara district of Karnataka. On 25th of March he visited Dharmasthala for the ceremony of the departure of Bahubali even though his blood pressure had greatly shot up that day. After finishing the puja and other programmes there, he returned to Ankola by night as he had to attend the inaugural function of a function of GSBs at Bandode 3 days later.
The next day Svamiji woke up early and finished all his daily tasks by 10:15 am. He planned to return to Partagali and rest for a while before attending the function at Bandode. While going to the car to leave for Partagali, Svamiji fainted suddenly and all treatments proved futile. He departed from the mortal world 10 minutes later, that is at 10:25 am.
This news spread like wildfire through PTI, telegrams and phone calls. Thousands of devotees from Goa & Karnataka rushed to Ankola through any means of transport they could find as they were under the impression that Svamiji’s vrundavana will be constructed at Ankola itself. The then Shishya Svami Shri Vidyadhiraja Tirtha too left for Ankola in a special car.
The residents of Ankola wished that Svamiji’s vrundavana be constructed there just as the vrundavanas of Shri Digvijaya Ramachandra Tirtha, Shri Ramakanta Tirtha and Shri Bhuvijaya Ramachandra Tirtha had been comstructed there before. However, Shishya Svamiji instructed that as Svamiji had attained haripaada while en route to Partagali, his vrundavana should be constructed at Partagali itself. Accordingly, all the materials arranged by the residents of Ankola for the vrundavana rituals were sent to Partagali.
Svamiji’s mortal remains were seated atop an open jeep and were taken to Partagali where the jeep reached by 10:45 pm. Countless devotees had darshana of Svamiji’s body on the way with moist eyes.
Such was Svamiji’s popularity & social acceptance that many non-Sarasvata traders too kept their shops and offices closed to express grief. Simultaneously, the parliamentary session of the erstwhile Government of Goa, Daman and Diu was underway where the then Chief Minister Shri. Dayanand Bandodkar put forth a grievance motion with humble obeisance. The motion was supported by the leader of opposition Dr. Jack Sequeira, vice-leader Anant N. Nayak and MLA Vasantrao Joshi in their respective speeches. Followed by this, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Narayan Fugro gave a short speech which resonated with the sentiments expressed thus far and 2 minutes of silence was observed as a mark of respect for the great departed Sannyasi who strived for the betterment of not just the Goan society but humanity as a whole.