Vijayendra Saraswati has become the head of the revered Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in Tamil Nadu's Kanchipuram after the death of his predecessor, Jayendra Saraswati.
Here is a quick guide to new head of the centuries-old monastic order:
- Vijayendra Saraswati is the 70th head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. His formal title is the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetadipati. The heads of the Peetam are referred to with the title of 'Shankaracharya'.
- As a Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Vijayendra Saraswati is considered among the custodians of the Advaita Vedanta doctrine of Hinduism.
- He is now the head of the math that claims to have been established by Adi Shankara in 482 BC, and has an unbroken line of gurus from Adi Shankara himself.
- Vijayendra Saraswati may soon be expected to identify a young boy to be his successor as the Peetadipati.
- He has so far been referred to as 'Bala Periyavar' by followers in Tamil, which literally translates to the 'young elder'. This is seen as a continuation to his predecessor Jayendra Saraswati being referred to as 'Periyavar', meaning the 'elder' and their predecessor Chandrashekharaendra Saraswati being referred to as 'Maha Periyavar' meaning the 'great elder'.
- He was born in 1969 in Thandalam near Kanchipuram, and was named Shankaranarayanan.
- He attended a regular school till Class 6. He received a Vedic education in the evening.
- His father was Krishnamurthy Sastri, a reputed Vedic scholar who taught the Rig Veda at a Veda patashala, or Vedic school, in Polur, in northern Tamil Nadu.
- He took sanyas, meaning initiation into the monastic order, from Jayendra Saraswati in 1983. He was 14 years old at the time.
- Jayendra Saraswati chose him as his successor, and gave him the monastic name of Shankara Vijayendra Saraswati.
- He was anointed the 70th Peetadipati in 1987 by Chandrashekharendra Saraswati, when it was believed that Jayendra Saraswati had left the math. On Jayandra Saraswati's return, this led to an unusual situation in the math's history when it had three Peetadipatis.
- Among the followers of the Kanchi math, he is considered to be favourable to projects that help protect the Vedic tradition, and promotes those ideals among the youth.
- He is considered the ideological push behind the setting up of the Loka Dharma Seva Foundation Trust, which promotes volunteers for the maintenance of temples and their associated paraphernalia.
- Over the course of his pontifical life, he has visited a number of regions of India.
- It is claimed that he is partial to projects that focus on economically backward regions and the Northeast.
- Vijayendra Saraswati was with Jayendra Saraswati when the senior pontiff was arrested in November 2004 over allegations that he was involved in the September 2004 murder of A Sankararaman, a former employee of the math.
- Vijayendra Saraswati was arrested in January 2005, shortly after the Supreme Court granted bail to Jayendra Saraswati. He was granted bail a month later.
- Vijayendra Saraswati and Jayendra Saraswati were acquitted of all charges in the murder case by the trial court in Puducherry November 27, 2013.