A biographical note on
Sri R. Visvanatha Sastri (1882 - 1956)
and an account of his works
Sri R. Visvanatha Sastri worked in the judicial department of South Arcot District in the erstwhile Madras Province of British India and retired as Sub-Court Sheristadar, Cuddalore, (the then Madras Province of British India) in 1939. He had his training in the Bhashyas of Adi Sankaracharya in the conventional manner of Guru-kula-vasam under the lotus feet of Sri Sri Sri Vasudeva Brahmendra of Ganapati Agraharam. Perhaps he was then also a sahapathi (student-contemporary) of the famous Sri S. Kuppusweamy Sastri of Madras. During his lifetime Sri Visvanatha Sastri gave numerous lectures and expositions of the scriptures including several Saptahas of the Srimad Bhagavatam and navahas of the Valmiki Ramayana at various places in the present Tamilnadu and Kerala and also in some north Indian locations. One such event is recalled by him with pride in his autobiographical notes. In the early thirties (15th October 1934) he gave a fifteen-day exposition of the Bhagavatam at the Mani-karnika ghat in Varanasi in the beatific presence of His Holiness the Kamakoti Sankaracharya Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Swamigal (now known as the Kanchi Maha Swamigal) who was then on his first all-India tour.
Sri Visvanatha Sastri has left 27 original manuscripts
expounding the Advaita school of thinking and its symbiosis with Bhakti. The longest of them all is Gita-amrita-mahodadhi . It is a marathon treatise on Advaita through the medium of the Gita and the Upanishads. It consists of 2400 Anushtup slokas divided into five chapters. He wrote the whole mss. as was his custom always, in the Grantha script of the Sanskrit language. While transcribing the mss. for being sent (in May - August, 1954) to the Kanchi mutt, under his dictation, it was pointed out to him by his son (the present writer) that his slokas need a commentary by himself since he seemed to be putting meanings and significance into them which were very profound. Fortunately for posterity, the father took this only comment of the son seriously and spent another two months or so writing a prose commentary of his own work. All this was finished by October 1954. The resulting mss.( running up to 879 pages of notebook size writing) now contains therefore both the original slokas of the author and his own Sanskrit commentary (vyakhyana) in prose. This original copy in grantha characters is in the possession of V. Krishnamurthy, the author's son. (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The copy of the original mss. of 2400 slokas alone is with the Kanchi Mutt Library. Before the passing away of the father, the son asked him: Which ones of your mss. would you like to have published, ultimately? The answer was that Gitamritamahodadhi was his magnum opus , it contained his lifetime of studies and research and it was the one that should see the light of day , if nothing else. In order that the work may have a wider reading, the whole work has now been transcribed into Devanagari script by the son . A copy of this has been deposited (Nov.1998) with the Kuppusami Sastri Research Institute , Tiru Vi Ka Salai, Mylapore, Chennai, 600004, India, so that posterity may not miss it.
Information about the actual texts of the mss. are also available on the web here
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