Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh
Varanasi has always been my favorite destinations. River Ganga flowing majestically all the way along one side of the city and sitting on the river bank, sipping tea served in puruvas (mud cups) by the chaiwalas (tea vendors) is a great experience. The busy gallis (small streets) with hundreds of shops on either sides, vendors calling out the people to buy in their shops- cows, paan, khova, jilebis and kachoris everywhere is the typical Banarasi style.
I had visited Varanasi twice before. But this visit was too special for me. I was able to pay tribute to Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar my revered Guru- a great musician/composer. I had read about Mutthuswamy Dikshitar’s visit to Varanasi along with his Guru Sri Chidambaranatha yogi. I always wanted to see the place where this Guru-shishya stayed in Varanasi. In this trip, I was fortunate to pay a visit to the sacred place.
It was Chidambaranatha yogi who gave the Sri vidya deeksha to Dikshitar and bestowed him the deeksha naama Chidanandanatha. This was performed in Varanasi. Kashi is a seat of knowledge. Chidambaranatha yogi not only gave deeksha of Shodashakshari mantra, but also taught Veda and Vedanta or Upanishadic aspects. This is very well reflected in all his compositions and that is the reason Dikshitar’s compositions cannot be understood easily. A person needs to have at least some knowledge of Upanishads. We come across the Guru mudra Chidambaranatha and deeksha naama mudra Chidananda apart from his vaggeyakara mudra Guruguha in some of his compositions especially Guru vibhakti kritis.
Mutthuswamy Dikshitar stayed here for about six years doing Sadhana along with his Guru. In fact it was here that Dikshitar was exposed to Hindustani music which resulted in adopting few ragas like Dwijawanti, Yamunakalyani, Hameerkalyani and etc. to Karnatak music in the latter part of his life.
Dr Pranesh (my husband) and I walked all along the ghats, climbed up the steps to Hanuman ghat and inside the gallis we sighted the temple Sri Chakra Lingeshwar where Dikshitar stayed with his Guru. I was overwhelmed with joy when Sri A Kedar, the purohit who is now the owner of this temple invited us very cordially and started sharing the details.
The temple Sri Chakra Lingeshwar is situated in a small galli of Hanuman ghat on the banks of Ganga. It is close by to Shankara mutt. The uniqueness of this temple is that the Linga which has been installed here has the Sri yantra embedded on it. This temple had fallen into ruins for many years. In the year 1936 when Kanchi Kamakoti Maha Periyavar Sri Sri Chandrashekhara Saraswati visited Varanasi on a paada yatra, he identified this temple from the ruins and said that Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar stayed there with his guru Chidambaranatha yogi and the latter’s jiva samadhi was beneath the Shiva linga.
Kedar’s father Brahmashri T M Arunachala Shastrigal of Tanjavore was a Sri vidya upasaka. He shifted to Varanasi from Tanjavore and started performing poojas regularly with utmost sincerity and reverence. Again the temple became a place of worship. In the year 1995, he bought the temple and the family planned to make some renovations as the temple was very old. They did not touch the Shiva linga, but dug the remaining area in order to reconstruct the flooring. When the digging was going on their instruments struck a casket like thing which measured around 9/9/9 beneath the linga. That was the samadhi of Chidambaranatha yogi which was referred by Kanchi periyavar. Without disturbing the casket they finished the renovation of the temple.
There is an idol of Ardhanarishwara kept at one side and Mutthuswamy Dikshitar’s idol sculptured on the walls of the temple.
The whole place is very serene with the samadhi of the great preceptor Chidambaranatha yogi. Maybe it was after his guru going into Samadhi or before, Mutthuswamy Dikshitar was blessed by Ganga with a Veena (or was it Jnana symbolically represented by goddess Saraswati’s instrument Veena?). Mutthuswamy Dikshitar left Varanasi and came to Tiruttani in Tamilnadu to take the blessings of his family deity lord Subramanya. From then his journey as music composer began.