Kadai Swami of Jaffna

"Lord of the Grand Bazaar,
of appearance holy, though of a crank."

A radio presentation of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation given by K. Ramachandran

translated by P. Ilangayar and Patrick Harrigan

In the Jaffna Vannarpannai region, the area from Periya Kadai (Grand Bazaar) up to Sivalingaupuliyadi in particular is considered to be a sacred area. For the last one hundred years this area has been the abode of many yogis, siddhas and jeevanmuktas (freed souls) and this may be the reason why it is such a sacred holy environment. Among these sages, none has been more illustrious than Kadai Swami. One biographer of Swami Paramaguru wrote as follows:

"The greatest among all the great souls was the eminent Kadai Swami. No one knows the date or place of his birth, the details of his parentage or even the name given to him. Great souls do not divulge to others the source of their mundane connections. As far as they are concerned, it is better forgotten.
However, it is known that Kadai Swami hailed from the state of Karnataka, that he was called Swami Mukti Ananda and that he had mastered English, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil. His close devotees knew that he had held a high post before taking to the robes of a sannyasin due to a deep-seated change of heart."

It is not difficult to guess who was Kadai Swami's guru or preceptor. It was Sri Narasimha Bharati, the great jñana-siddha and 32nd Sankaracharya of the Mysore Sringeri Math who taught from 1817 up to 1879. He was possessed of an incomparable atmasiddhi or 'soul power' which was strangely capable of producing sages, yogis and siddhas.

It seems that about the year 1860 a certain Vaniamuttu Chettiyar of Jaffna while touring Ramnad district in South India on pigrimage encountered Kadai Swami and invited him to come to Jaffna. So Kadai Swami came to Jaffna and there at Keerimalai met Swami Paramaguru and many other senior devotees. Before very long, the elders began to look upon Kadai Swami as an embodiment of the Supreme Lord Siva.

All the saints of Keerimalai gave Kadai Swami pride of place and venerated him accordingly. A verse composed by Swami Kulanthaivelu who was present clarifies the point:

To neutralize powerful witchcraft,
Terrible demons or insanity-causing drugs,
Perform guru puja to Kadai Swami.

No photograph of Kadai Swami exists, but a portrait drawn by one of his disciples portrays him as having broad shoulders, long arms and a lustrous smile upon his face. His arching nose made his countenance even more charming. His virorous, quick yet majestic walk and his always humorous talk were his special characteristics according to those who saw him in person. One of his disciples described Swami's appearance as "Lord of Grand Bazaar, of appearance holy though of a crank."

In the Sivajñana Siddhiyar there is this verse describing those sages who have performed the meditation leading to Supreme Wisdon:

Those who meditate aiming at Supreme Wisdom in this world
See neither good nor evil, and yearn for nothing.
There are no rules, no penance, no fasting, no habitual activities,
Nor any meditation for them nor any mental defilement.
They have no set appearance, nor senses, nor activity,
No character, no sign nor caste symbol.
Their behavior is that of children, the insane and those possessed
And they may even resort to singing and dancing.

Kadai Swami, the 'Lord of Grand Bazaar,' was a living example of this poem. As Yogaswami of Nallur once said of Kadai Swami,

He is a unique soul, even greater than the souls of Jesus, Buddha or any others.
He could maintain his composure even if he were to hold hands and dance with a nude woman.

The Grand Bazaar, a public place, was his abode. The people of that area were naturally god-fearing and it was some of them who first discovered Kadai Swami's hidden greatness. When he was only three years old, Sri Arulampala Swami used to sit by Kadai Swami's side while his mother would treat Kadai Swami like a child, feeding him rice with her own hand.

Kadai Swami did not discriminate against anyone on the basis of caste or wealth or poverty. He showered his love equally towards everyone and remedied their physical or mental ailments or even financial problems. As such, invitations for him to visit the homes of the poor increased. They served him with their usual meals of fish, meat and toddy, all of which Swami accepted with an attitude of dispassion.

This behavior hurt the feelings of orthodox Hindus and resulted in misgivings and mischievious comments about him. In this connection, let me recount briefly one incident that was told to me by Sri Yogaswami:

"Our guru Chellappa Swami was an ardent disciple of Kadai Swami and could not bear to hear that his guru was consuming liquor. It was hard for him to believe it. He wanted to put his guru to the test so he went to Grand Bazaar with a bottle of arrack under his shawl. When Chellappa Swami went and sat nearby, Kadai Swami said,
"Oh, you also have come to me with the intention of throwing a party with arrack. Alright, then open the bottle you are hiding and let us share it with all the other dear ones here!"
With shivering hands, Chellappa Swami took the bottle, held it openly in front of his guru and saw the whole contents disappear into thin air. The disciple fell at the feet of his guru, eyes steaming with tears and went back to his usual haunt near the temple car at Nallur."

There were numerous similarly strange happenings. Many were those who had their illnesses cured after partaking of his leftover meals. Many others found solutions to their problems through his grace. One became an expert astrologer; another became a popular physician.

One of Kadai Swami's followers went out fishing at sea and got caught in a terrible storm. In utter helplesness he called out to Swami, who was digging the sand dunes in front of the fisherman's hut. By Swami's grace, the fisherman's life was saved.

In this manner, for thirty years Kadai Swami was a source of great help and a spiritual guide to the people of Jaffna. He attained maha samadhi in 1891 on the full moon of Purattaci (September) under the star Purattaci. His samadhi is found at Vannarpannai, Neeraviyadi, in the Jaffna peninsula.

This radio talk in Tamil was first translated and published as "Kadai Swami of Jaffna" in The Island (Colombo).

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