You wouldn't think an umbrella would make a good story, but it does.
Today we bring you a great surprise (it certainly was a surprise to us) in the form of our Satguru Kadaitswami's umbrella. To which we add a little about this great siddhar from The Guru Chronicles.
As we know, he was never without his umbrella. In South India and Sri Lanka people use umbrellas more for protection from the scorching sun than from rain, and Kadaitswami carried his during his extensive and famed walks. Whether in the marketplace or teaching outside the Siva temple to devotees, his umbrella was never apart from him.
So, Jiva Rajasankar, our site manager in Bengaluru had an umbrella made for Kadaitswami, to go with his murthi which is coming soon to Kauai to be installed with seven others in our paramparai. It's a delightfully graceful umbrella made of black granite, no doubt the first ever of its kind.
Kadaitswami, born in 1810, was famed for his ever-present umbrella, was a judicial officer turned mendicant, an Indian who guided the spiritual life of Sri Lanka, a linguist who preached in the commoners' marketplace and led a renaissance of Saivism among the Tamil people of Jaffna.
Muktiyananda (Kadaitswami) spent his days at Jaffna Grand Bazaar, walking about or sitting under a huge, shade-giving banyan tree. The shops on the northern and western streets of this marketplace belonged mainly to the Chettiars, or trading community. Muktiyananda did not say his name, so people took to referring to him as Kadaitswami (kadai means "shop" in the Tamil language, so his name simply meant the swami who frequents the marketplace).
It is common in Tamil culture to name holy men after places, for they often do not let people know any other name. History also knows him as Adikadainathan, "Lord of the Marketplace." Kadaitswami would go to a shop and take a piece of bread. While they might object to such filching by an ordinary customer, shopkeepers were always pleased to relinquish a little of their stock to the swami, for they had come to learn that business was bountiful on days he visited. They would even pray that the tall sadhu might come and help himself to something.
People observed, and these small signs gave them faith in the swami, faith in his powers to bless and magically influence the world around him. That is one reason Chellappaswami, his future disciple, was not as popular in Jaffna, for he refused to perform such miracles.
Muthaiyar shares the following: Sometimes Swami would dance in the market and on occasion enter a stall and touch the coins. Muktiyananda was described as lean and tall, dressed in a dark veshti, carrying an umbrella under his arm.
They say he was six feet four inches tall, had curly hair, piercing eyes and a long, pointed nose; his body was gangly, but well formed and of charming appearance. K. Ramachandran provided the following description on a radio talk he gave in the mid 20th century on Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. No photograph of Kadaitswami was ever taken.
The pictures of him that now exist are, in fact, drawings by an artist who was his devotee. These drawings depict him as having broad shoulders, long hands and a radiant smile constantly shining on his face. His long nose, lightly hooked at the tip, lent beauty to his face. There was a spring in his brisk, stately walk and humor in his talk that gave charm to his personality, say those who had seen him.
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