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Minister, mentor and philanthropist

Numerous were the good deeds that Sri Govinda Dikshitar did for the benefit of Chola kingdom, including Kumbakonam. N. V. R. SWAMY writes...



Statues of Sri Govinda Dikshitar and his wifeNagambal.

WHEN, during the 15th century, the Vijayanagar empire, stretched over the whole of the Chola country in the South, Thanjavur was ruled by the kings of the Nayak dynasty.

Three of them — Sevappa Nayak, Achutha Nayak and Raghunatha Nayak — were considered most righteous and benevolent. In administration they were assisted by their great Chancellor, saint-statesman - Sri Govinda Dikshitar. He was not only their Minister but also their mentor and guide, promoting in them many good works for the spiritual and material welfare of their subjects.

Many were the charitable works, philanthropic institutions and public utilities, established and endowed by Sri Govinda Dikshitar during his long tenure of 75 years, as the Chancellor of the Nayak Kings of Thanjavur.

Out of his boundless benevolence and kindliness, this great humanist thoughtfully provided many amenities for the people and he is still remembered for his various humanitarian works.

The construction of the great Mahamaham tanks in Kumbakonam together with the pillared mantapas all round and the consecration of the 16 sivalingas (Shodasa lingas) therein were done by him, including the stone steps on all four sides of the tank. A stone sculpture in one of the mantapas in the north bank of the Mahamaham tank represents the king of Thanjavur honouring Dikshitar, by weighing him against gold in a balance and offering the same to him to show his great appreciation of his services.

He also constructed the Sri Ramaswami temple in Kumbakonam and is responsible for the beautiful pictorial representation of the story of Sri Rama around the inner walls of the temple. The shrine of Sri Mangalambika in Kumbakonam, the construction of temples at Patteeswaram and Tiruppalathurai were also his contributions. Similarly, he had the temples at Vridhachalam, Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram and Rameswaram renovated.

The Ayyankulam tank and the Ayyankadai street in Thanjavur, Ayyanpettai town (on the Kumbakonam - Thanjavur route) Ayyan street in Kumbakkonam, the Ayyan tank in Tiruvannamali were all built by Dikshitar. The word "Ayyan" in Chola Desa refers only to Dikshitar.

The Pushya mandapa erected all along the banks of the Cauvery from Thiruvayaru to Mayavaram bears eloquent witness to his charitable spirit.

The famous Mahadana streets in both Tiruvidaimarudur and Mayavaram were also laid out by him. The village Eachangudi (on the Tiruvaiyaru-Kumbakonam route), Varahur (near Tirukkattupalli) and villages like Kandamangalam were built by him and gifted to deserving people.

The Vedas aver that Dharma is fundamentally essential for the wellbeing and prosperity of mankind.

Manusmriti says that if the world is to live in peace and prosperity, it is essential to propagate and cherish the Vedas. Realising this profound truth, Sri Dikshitar founded the Raja Veda Patasala for the study and dissemination of the Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas, the Agamas and the Sastras, on the banks of the sacred Cauvery in Kumbakonam.

The Patasala is the only one of its kind in India. Many students who passed the eight-year course of study (for each Veda) have appeared for the competitions held in the adjacent States and have established their merit. Incidentally, Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar was a student of the Patasala.

Sri Govinda Dikshitar has been described as `Advaita Vidya Acharya' by old scholars. Not only in the Veda Sastras, but also on the subject of music, he has left a great work "Sangeetha Sudha Nidhi".

It is only at Sri Dikshitar's instance that the scholar-saint Sri Appayya Dikshitar wrote his famous "Parimalam," a commentary on the Vedantic work, "Kalpataru." A poet who has translated the "Tiruvaiyaru Purana" from Sanskrit into Tamil, acknowledges in a verse that "he got his briefing to do so from the lips of the learned Govinda Dikshitar, the wise minister to the ruler of Thanjavur in 1520."

Sri Govinda Dikshitar's eldest son, Yagnanarayana Dikshitar, is the author of granthas relating to the Sastras, literary works like Raghunatha Boopa Vijayam, Raghunatha Vilasa Natakam and Sahitya Ratnakaram.

His younger son, Venkatamakhi, also has many literary works to his credit. He is the author of "Vaarthika Bharanam" on Mimamsa and a work on Carnatic music called "Chaturdandi Prakasika." The great Nilakantha Dikshitar proudly calls himself the disciple of this Venkatamakhi in a Sanskrit verse.

Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi of the Kanchi Math, who adorned the Peetam from 1814 to 1857, also belonged to Dikshitar's line and is said to be the great grandson of Sri Venkatamakhi.

In a stone inscription of the 16th century, Govidna Dikshitar has been referred to as Sevappa Nayakar Ayyan and Dikshitar Ayyan, which show the respect and regard the Nayak monarchs had for Dikshitar.

He is mentioned as Dikshitar Ayyan in the District Gazetteer of the British period.

At the temple in Patteeswaram, one can see the full-size statues of Sri Govinda Dikshitar and his wife Nagambal. Similar images are installed in the temple at Rameswaram.

He can be seen in linga form at the temples in Kumbakonam and Tiruvaiyaru. Dikshitar lived a simple and pious life, residing in a small house at Patteeswaram and passed away while on meditation before the sanctum of Goddess Mangalambika at Kumbakonam.

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