December 2008
Brahmasri Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri
- C.R. Kaushik, Texas, USA

When we think of Sri Rama in epic poetry form we can think of Valmiki, when we think of Sri Rama in music form, our mind automatically remembers Thyagaraja Swami, and when we think of Sri Rama in story form, one will remember Brahmasri Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri. Sastri was a comprehensive interpreter of the Valmiki Ramayana slokas and his Ramayana stories are noted for the fascinating way in which he portrays the life and virtues of Sri Rama, enshrining the ideals that are ageless, teaching the lessons that are timeless, telling the stories that are enduring, and depicting the truths that have withstood the test of time.

'Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri' also known as Brahmasri Paruthiyur Krishna Sastrigal (1845 – 1911), a pioneer of Hindu religious discourses, was born in the calm and tiny village Paruthiyur on the northern banks of Kudamuruti River, near Sengalipuram, in Thiruvarur District of Tamil Nadu, to Lakshmi and Ramasesha Sastri. Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri grew up to become the greatest exponent of the Ramayana. He was a versatile Sanskrit scholar well versed in Vedas and Sastras, Puranas and Ithihasas and all the scriptures. He was a great poet, a writer, composer, singer, astrologer, philosopher, a famous Harikathakalakshepa and Pravachan exponent. He was an avid connoisseur of Hinduism and a Philanthropist known for his Dhaana and Dharma and above all he was the greatest Bhakta with immense devotion to Sri Rama.

EDUCATION
As children of his community in those days, Sri Krishna Sastri started his Gurukul education at the early age of seven under Vaidyanatha Dikshitar Sengalipuram Muthannaval (1830-1893). Within a few years he learnt prose, poetry, grammar, Kavyam, Natakam, Alankaram and Veda Sastram, and could speak Sanskrit fluently. Sri Muthannaval encouraged him to conduct discourses in the Ramayana and presented him with a 'Srimad Ramayana' book. Krishna Sastri undertook higher studies in Vedas, Sastras and music under Mahamahopathyaya Thyagaraja Mahi Raja Mannargudi Raju Sastri (1815-1903) and specialized in Vedanta, Vyakarana, Mimamsa, Tarka Sastra, Carnatic music and Naam Sangeerthan. By the age of 18, Krishna Sastri took all the required examinations conducted by Thiruvananthapuram Government for completing his education in the Vedasastras and received all the awards of distinction.

MANTROBADESAM
But even before this Gurukul life, Krishna Sastri had got his "Ramanama Mantropadesam" from Marudhanallur Kodandarama Swamigal. Ever since then everything was Rama for Krishna Sastri and what he did all his life was Ram Nama Japam. Since his younger age he always wanted to build a Rama Temple. Villagers have noticed little Krishna playing with his friends, building temples and tanks out of sand on the banks of the Kaveri River.

CAREER
Thiruvananthapuram and Thanjavur Maharajas offered Sri Krishna Sastri jobs for teaching Vedanta, but Sastri did not accept and as advised by his Gurus he made a living only through Pravachans (Explanation & Teaching of Scriptures). Sastri became an authority on Valmikis's Ramayana to the extent that he came to be called by people of his town as “Ramayana Sastrigal”. Brahmasri Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri did Pravachans for over forty years of his life. Sastri's Pravachans induced Bhakti, he never missed a chance to talk about the virtues of Sri Rama. He used the Ramayana to illustrate several important ideas and concepts from other scriptures, thus providing a clear link between all our major scriptural works. Sastri was a pioneer who made Hindu Religious Discourses an art and a respectable profession. Reading the original sloka and presenting the meaning was the methodology followed by Pundits before. Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri was the first exponent who gave various interpretations and commentary to each verse and created a new style and was considered the 'Father of Pravachans'.

CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY
One day while coming around a temple in Paruthiyur doing his usual Rama Nama Parayanam, a stone from the cracks of the temple hit his head and he was hurt. He considered that God was giving him a hint to fix all the defects in the Temples as he considered 'A Temple Saved Is as good as a Temple Built'. Renovating and maintaining temples, building a temple for Sri Rama, doing Dhana -Dharma and helping the poor, saying and singing the story of Rama, propagating Sri Rama's virtues, inducing bhakti and good character in the community was the goal of Sastri's Life.

WORKS
* ''Kowmudhisomam''
* ''Rasanishyandini''
* ''Nandhi Mangala Slokas''
* ''Kavivilasa Manidharpanam''
* ''Lakshminarayana Dhvisahasri''
* ''Sita Kalyanam''
* ''Ganga Sadhagam''
* ''Mahalakshmi Sadhagam''
* ''Meenakshi Sadhagam''
* ''Vishalakshi Sadhagam''
* ''Yeka Chakrapuram''
* ''Krishna Sastri Ramayanam''
* ''Krishna Sastriyin Balakandam''
* ''Ramayana Slokas''

He had composed hundreds of songs in Tamil and Sanskrit on Rama, Mahalakshmi, Anjaneya, Narayana and Shiva. Many of his works and palm leaf manuscripts have never been found. He had written 100 slokas each on each of the Characters of the Ramayana.

SCHOLAR'S PERCEPTION
Swami Dayananda Sarasvati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam says “Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri was a pioneer in Ramayana Pravachana who paved way for other Pravachana Karthas like Sengalipuram Dikshitars to follow. Sastri was not only a scholar he was a devotee. This combination of vedic scholarship, devotion and humility make a person command reverence from everyone who comes to know him”.

C.R. Kaushik a freelance writer belongs to a Sastriya family of scholars and educationalists from Thanjavur District. The author grew up in Chennai and had most of the early education from the University of Madras and presently resides in Texas, USA. Indian Art, Culture, Tradition, Hinduism, Temples, Spirituality and Fine Arts are some of the author's favorite topics.


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