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Charitable and religious activities run by Kanchi Sankara Mutt

"Nar Seva Narayana Seva" - The best way to serve God is service to Mankind

His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal is involved in many charitable activities to help the down trodden sections of the society. His vision and concern for humanity have been of the higest order and His unrelenting efforts to make these happen is quite unusual for a Matathipathi of a Hindu Monastery. These charitable causes includes health care , social services and education . The list of the charitable causes and religious activities that His holiness is involved in has been compiled below. There is also a compilation of miscellaneous links on this subject. The media has unfortunately created an impression that the Acharya is rich, owns a number of Trusts and exerts tremendous control over these Trusts. All of them are false. If you would like to read a note about Trusts, its available here .

The Matham, being an ancient religious Monastery founded by Bhagavat PAdha Aadhi Shankara 2,500 years ago, cannot actively and directly take part in the Social Service activities, which is very close to His Holiness’s heart. Therefore, several independent Trusts were floated by the Acharya for the purposes of rendering different kinds of humanitarian assistance in different parts of India. Each of these Trusts is managed by an independent Board of Trustees, comprising of professionals and achievers in their own field and having a mind for rendering such social services without a commercial objective. Thus though there are several Trusts, each Trust is independent of the other and is not directly or indirectly controlled by either the Acharya or the Matham. The Acharya is the guiding spirit behind all these Charitable Trusts, directing only the service objective and leaving the day to day administration of the affairs of the Trusts and their activities to the Board of Trustees.

Health care

  • The Kanchi Sankara Matham supports 44 medical hospitals. Medical services are being provided in 15 centres besides the main hospitals.
  • In the year 2003- 2004 alone, 2,50,000 out patients were given free treatment and 1,00,000 persons benefited by eye surgeries. In addition, 150 eye camps were conducted in various rural areas.
    Another independent Trust promoted by the Matham manages CHILDS Trust Hospital in Chennai. Here, the poor are treated free of cost.
  • Another Trust purchased the dysfunctional Tamilnadu Hospitals and this Hospital now offers its services to the needy at no cost.
  • In the past 5 years the cost of treatment of around 40,000 cancer patients and boarding and lodging expenses for their attendants in the Cancer Institute, Adyar, Chennai has been met by the Sri Matha Trust.
  • The Hindu Mission Hospital, Tambaram, Chennai which has branches in other parts of TamilNadu, renders medical services to the poor.
  • Hospitals have been created in remote, poor and tribal locations in India. These include Rathura (Uttranchal) , Berhampur (Orissa) and Madhubani (Bihar).
  • Shankara Nethralayas at Chennai, Coimbatore (Tamilnadu) and Guwahati (Assam) provide eye care for many poor people free or at subsidized cost.
  • The Acharya helpedthe launch of the Rotary Project - Project of Avoidable blindness. Over 50,000 free eye surgeries have been performed so far.
  • Another Trust runs the Sankara Eye Society. The Jagadguru started this initiative and has encouraged it among like minded patrons under the slogan "Mission for Vision". It is used to provide eye treatment to many poor people who cannot afford it. Some of the programs it conducts are:
      • Vandematharam - A program conceived in 1987, to commemorate the 40 th year of our independence. Under this program eye care and urological care are provided totally free to the freedom fighters.
      • Rainbow An Eye Screening Program for school children to detect visual defects. Around 2 million children in the districts of Coimbatore, Palghat and Dindigul have been screened. This highly result-oriented program is being adopted by the Maharashtra Government and service organisations in Calcutta and 24 Parganas. Recently, children of Lagos State of Nigeria were screened with the help of Sankara Eye Centre.
      • Irul Neeki A comprehensive eye care program for the tribals of Coimbatore District.
      • Kannoli A Comprehensive eye care program for the urban slums in Coimbatore District.
      • Gift of Sight, Cambodia A program in association with Rotary Club Singapore for the benefit of the people of Cambodia. Eye surgeons from Sankara Eye Centre, Coimbatore went to Phnom Phen, established a surgical theatre in a local mission hospital, performed a few hundred surgical operations and also trained the Cambodian eye surgeons in modern micro surgery.
      • Eye Care, Nepal A team from Sankara Eye Society went to Kathmandu last year, to perform eye surgeries at the Nepal Eye Foundation and to train the local eye surgeons.
      • Vandematharam Bharat Vision Commemorating the 50th year of India's independence, this program was initiated in April '97. Surgeries were performed at various centres such as Ratura in Uttar Pradesh (200), Madhubani in Bihar (624), Behrampur in Orissa (150), Mumbai in Maharashtra (225), Khammam in Andhra Pradesh (203). Under this program, Nasik in Maharashtra and Mount Abu in Rajasthan have been selected for initiating community eye care programs. A team from Sankara Eye Society visited these places, conducted out-reach programs, performed surgeries and trained the local medical and para-medical personnel, thus creating an environment for the implementation of quality community eye care programs in these needy regions of our motherland.
      • Village Adoption Program Along with Tulsi Trust, the village adoption program was initiated 7 years ago, in 10 villages around Coimbatore for a population of 30,000. Health care, education, water supply and income generation for women are the thrust areas of this project.
      • Preventive eye care for industrial workers A comprehensive program to check the vision of the industrial workers and executives, apart from hypertension and diabetes detection, is being pursued by Sankara Eye Centre for the past 10 years. Workers of Brooke Bond India Ltd., Coimbatore have already been covered under this program.
      • Sankaram An extensive network of regional groups of like-minded individuals in the States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka is being established to organise the out-reach program on a long term basis.

Social Services

  • Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Rural Development Trust and several such other organisations take care of the rural and neglected areas. Unemployed youth are provided with means for starting some craft to earn their livelihood. Likewise women are given sewing machines as a self-employment measure.
  • A hostel is run for destitute girl children.
  • 150 women's self help groups have been established to carry out economic activities under the Kanchi Health and Education Society..
  • 3000 acres of land have been donated to Dalits.
  • At Kalavai (Tamil Nadu), a home for the disabled is functioning. Handicapped persons are provided with tricycles, artificial limbs and such other supporting implements.
  • CharitableTrusts, established under the directions of the Acharyas come to the aid of poor families to enable them to perform marriages of their daughters.
  • Aids and grants are made available to the a number of homes for the Aged and uncared having a considerable number of inmates.
  • His Holiness has visited places where even our politicians and police would hesitate to set their foot ?Dharavi (Mumbai), Asia's biggest slum area. It has a temple and a school to meet their needs. His Holiness Sri Jayendra Swamiji's picture is hanging in many homes in Dharavi.
  • In Madhubani (Bihar), a remote and backward area on the Indo-Nepal border, where there is very little industrial activity, Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal has laid the foundation for an Industrial Training Institute. This allows the villagers there to learn and earn a living.
  • He has established Goshalas (shelter for those cows who have outlived their usefulness). Hindus regard cow as a sacred animal do not permit them to be slaughtered.
  • Another Trust provides monthly income to poor musicians.
  • The Acharya has revived the devotional music form of olden days called ?bhajan singing?. These devotional musicians have brought out audiocassettes, the sale proceeds of which goes to the needy and less fortunate ones.
  • Nithya Annadhanam (free food) is provided to all devotees visiting Kanchi and the Matham.
  • The "Pidi Arisi Thittam" (Handful of Rice) scheme is running successfully at many places. Under this scheme, every household sets apart just a handful of rice every day and this will be collected by a central agency once a week, cooked in some temples and offered as neivedya to the deity and then distributed to the poor and needy.
  • Prasadam, blessed by the Acharyas are distributed to the patients in hospitals, inmates of jails, orphanages, and such places.
  • In the aftermath of Gujarat Earthquake, two villages were adopted and these hamlets have been totally reconstructed.

Education

  • A good number of Veda Patasalas have been established wherein different shakhas of Veda are being taught.
  • Apart from Veda Patasalas, 51 schools (seventeen Oriental schools and thirty-eight Sankara Schools) are functioning in different parts of the country under the guidance of the Matham.
  • In Kanchipuram, the Matham runs a school and a hostel.
  • Another Trust's Residential schools serve the mentally and physically challenged children in Kanchipuram, Kalavai and Haridwar.
  • In Chennai, another Trust has established an Ayurvedic College, imparting Ayurvedic Medical Eeducation and preparing these medicines. The poor peasants who live in the nearby villages have been trained in preparing the medicines from the herbs. These medicines are sold out to the public and the money so generated goes to these peasants.
  • An international library at Enathur is a part of the deemed university ( in the name of Paramacharya H. H. Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi). It has collections of a large number of palm leaves and manuscripts in Tamil and other Indian languages. These manuscripts are being digitized and preserved.

Religious activities

  • Renovation of ancient temples which are in need of repairs and construction of new temples is one of the important activities of the Matham.
    At Satara (Maharashtra), Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Swamigal (68th Acharya) on the occasion of Bhoomi Pooja in 1981, blessed the leading citizens of Satara for construction of a new temple on the model of the famous Sri Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. The Kumbabhishekam of this temple known as Uttara Chidambaram was performed in the immediate presence of His Holiness Sri Jayendra Sarasvati Swamigal in 1984.
  • At Delhi, new temples have been erected for Sri Kamakshi and Sri Subramanya.
  • At Coimbatore and Salem, new temples have been erected for Sri Kamakshi.
  • At Secunderabad, A new temple has been erected for Sri Subramanya.
  • At Ambaji (Gujarat), the Ekkavan Sakthi Peet temple was built where all the 51 Sakti Peethams have been represented.
  • At Guwahati (Assam), Sri Purva Tiruapati Balaji Mandir has come up. The main deity, Sri Venkateswara, is an eleven feet high icon - a replica of the Venkateswara at Tirumala (Tirupati) in Andhra Pradesh.
  • At Ponda(Goa), A temple for Sri Balaji was constructed and Maha Kumbhabhishekam was performed in 2000 in the presence of the Acharyas of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.
  • At Prayag (Allahabad, Uttarpradesh), exquisite sculptures depicting history and legend adorn the temples of Goddess Kamakshi, Lord Balaji and Sahasra Lingam near the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and invisible Saraswati.
  • At Kanchipuram (TN), The famous temple car of Sri Varadaraja Perumal, was completely redone at considerable cost and was inaugurated in May 2000.
  • At Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), Rajagopurams at the northern and southern side of Sri Ramanathaswamy temple are being constructed with the blessings of the Acharyas.

Miscellaneous Links

  • Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF). SEF is a registered non-profit organization and all donations are tax exempt in the USA. We can sponsor the gift of sight to a child for $30. Quoting from its website :
    • We initiate and drive community eye care activities in India by working with eye care organisations such as Sankara Eye Society, which runs the Sankara Eye Hospital in Coimbatore."
    • I have seen good service in hospitals, and I have seen devotion in temples and religious centers, but here in SES, I see service combined with devotion." - Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, President of India
  • Hindu Diaspora and Religious Philanthropy in the United States (PDF) - Its a study conducted by Priya Anand as part of the 2003 International Fellowship program with Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, New York. Read about the kanchpuram Matham at Section 5.3 (Page 28). Quoting from it This study focuses on the positive role of religion, in particular Hindu groups in the US that promote social development and reform in civil society. The objectives of the study therefore are to study resource mobilization techniques and philanthropic activities of religious Hindu bodies (temples and movements) of the Asian- Indian community in the United States.
  • Karanas - Padma Subrahmanyam, Chennai She is the director of Nrityodaya, school of dance and music. She was awarded a PhD for her pioneering work on Karanas in Indian Dance and Sculpture. You can see an interesting quote from her praising the Shankaracharya for building the Uttara Chidambaram Temple at Satara (Maharashtra).

    Hasta pada samayogaha nrittasya karanam bhavet - i.e. the combined movements of hands and feet in dance, is called Karana.
    ...

    Karanas are actions and not static poses. The sculptures are frozen moments of the movements.

    Pujyashri Kanchi Mahaswami ordered me to design a new set of Karanas for the Uttara Chidambaram Nataraja Mandir, which was being newly built at Satara in Maharashtra. I have designed 108 twin figures of Siva and Parvati suggesting animation. The relevant couplets defining each Karana from Natya Sastra have also been inscribed in granite.

    My recent discoveries of 52 Karana sculptures from Central Java belonging to the 9th century, has been another breakthrough. The comparison of these with my designs for Satara and my practical re-construction of the Karanas have revealed an amazing oneness. Dr. Alessandra Iyer of London has written a detailed book on this connection and this book is published from Thailand. It has been almost a mystic experience for me.

    It proves the following:

    I have been a humble instrument in the holy hands of the Sage of Kanchi in bringing to light, this link beyond time and space.

  • Official site of Kanchi Kamakoti (http://www.kamakoti.org). Many of the details in this page are from this site. This link on a charitable trust has a lot of details about the work the Acharya did in Rathura.

    His Holiness, Shankaracharya Swami, Shri Jayendra Saraswati, of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, on his Vijaya Yatra, during October' 86, had stayed at a village called Rathura, near the holy land of Rudraprayag. Rathura is about 150 kms from Rishikesh. The inhabitants of Rathura brought to His notice, the rampant prevalence of TB disease in the area and the high incidence of infant mortality during birth, with almost no medical help available to them. At His instructions, on the land donated by the local villagers a hospital was built on a hill side in Rathura, near the river Alaknanda. Since the, an OPD service is being rendered to around 40 villages with special emphasis on Tuberculosis. The service is, needless to add, being rendered irrespective of caste, creed or religion. Patients from far away villages and towns come to this hospital for treatment and they believe that it is a Siddha Sthal where all their physical ailments will vanish, with the blessings of the Acharyas.

    One of the villagers, a man with one hand, donated his land for the purpose. That was his only source of wealth. Since then, he is actively involved in the voluntary activities of service to the cause. Such is the dedication of the villagers of Rathura.

    Foundation of the hospital being laid due to the poor state of health facilities in the region, the Shankara Charitable Trust, under the instructions and blessings of the Acharyas, made detailed plans to diversify it's activities in serving the people of Garhwal in a dedicated and sustained way. Plans were made to build a complex at Rathura, which will strive for development of the local people in different areas. The complex as named as "UTTAR KANCHI" and the Trust intensified efforts during the past few years.

    A Plan was immediately finalized to build a 30 bed hospital, with all medical facilities, viz., X-ray unit, sputum test equipment, laboratory test units, specialist doctors, ambulance, operation theatre, generator, etc.

    With intensive efforts, the first phase of the hospital, with 20 beds, was completed and dedicated to the local people on March 30, 1997. The Commissioner of Garhwal, Shri Subash Kumar, inaugurated the Kamakoti Shankara Hospital. On this occasion, a major eye camp was conducted by senior surgeons of the Shankara Eye Society, from Combatore, under the leadership of Dr. R. V. Ramani, and their Chief patron and Philanthropist, Sh. G. V. Eshwar, wherein Eye transplants were performed for the very first time in Garhwal, in addition to several highly sophisticated micro surgeries. Exemplary skill and dedication was shown by the team of doctors from Coimbatore in serving the people of Garhwal under their Bharat Vision programme before their visit to Kathmandu in Nepal and Madhubani in Bihar

A Note about Trusts

His Holiness does not own any trust. A Trust cannot be owned. Unfortunately, the media has misrepresented all of these facts. They have made it look as if His Holiness owns these trusts and exerts tremendous monetary control over these trusts, both of which are completely incorrect. Every Trust is managed by an independent Board of Trustees, comprising of professionals and achievers in their respective field, and having a mind for social service. His Holiness is the inspiration to bring eminent individuals together to create Trusts and run social activities through them. These Trusts are independent, fully audited and are law - abiding. The Kanchi Kamakoti Matham has floated 183 such trusts which are all well managed.

Each of these charitable institutions has its auditors and bank accounts. These Trusts are independent of one another. The Shankara Nethralaya Trust will have nothing to do with the Hindu Mission Hospital trust. It is not one big company as the media likes to potray. They are all independent and are run by a completely diverse un-connected group of individuals. The individuals who run the trust get the guidance and blessings of His Holiness. For Example: the Sankara Nethralaya is managed by Dr Badrinath assisted by professionals. The Sankara Hospital in Coimbatore is managed by Dr Ramani assisted by professionals. The Guruvara Sadhas Trust is managed by Raghavan a Chartered Accountant and his professional team. No institution is lacking in professional manpower. The Acharya has achieved all these with his limited formal education on all the modern management, but with the inherent Gnana attained by the teachings of Pramacharya and His own Tapas. One cannot expect the methods adopted by a MBA, Chartered Accountant, Company Secretary, HR Manager, Attorney, or any such professional to be adopted by the Acharya. The Acharya cannot be expected or advised to learn these skills. This is true for many of the religious trusts that exist in India. The media is misleading the public. Can one expect all the religous Mathams in India to start practicing Generalised Accounting Practices (GAP) that is now being sought to be introduced all over the world for corporate bodies? There is a huge difference between a corporate body and a Trust. Any attempt to equate the Charitable Trusts with the commercial bodies will result in the RED-TAPE, BUREAUCRACY and ultimately less social work. The Acharya like all religious men has limited formal education, but bountiful spiritual accomplishment.

Here is a quote from GiveIndia Website about Hindu Mission hospital which our guruji helped Initiate:

The Hospital was started by Lions Club members of Tambaram in 1982 with a motto to serve poor and needy patients. They also conduct rural medical camps to reach out to a larger radius, covering several nearby villages.

The Founder Secretary, Mr. D.K. Srinivasan, was a businessman who set aside his successful business career at the age of 50 to set up a self-sustaining model for providing quality but affordable medicare to the common and the rural masses.

As you can see, the trustees would be Lions club members with persons like D.K. Srinivasan helping to run it. The Acharya is not at all involved with the monetary matters of the trust. That is the job of the board of Trustees.

A note on the wealth of the Shankara Matham:

The media seems to believe and therefore portrays as though the Kanchi Shankara Matham is controlling hundreds of millions or crores of Rupees worth assets and commercial establishments. The Kanchi Matham's assets are the Maniams or the Grants given by the Kings of yore and the donations of the large-hearted. The assets of the various Trusts are applied not in any business or commercial activity but only in charitable and service activities to the poor and needy. These assets have been acquired with the help of donations from the large-hearted persons.

His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, the Acharya, true to His traditions and lineage of the Aadhi Shankara, is a Sannyasi and does not have anything other than the piece of Saffron Cloth He wears and the Dhanda he carries;
His only acquisitions are His knowledge in Vedas, Upanishads, Shastras and the Scriptures;
His only ?Veedu' is the Heaven;
His only assets are His disciples, who would on His direction pledge their wealth to offer to the cause of various service activities to mankind as listed above;
He does not have even ?self' and that is well evidenced by the various social service measures that He has taken.

Rightly so, His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal is hailed as the Saint of the Masses.