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Monday, March 5, 2012

Dr. M.A.V - 25 years of Glorious Service at Madras University

It is the ‘powerhouse of Knowledge’ – an Organisation of excellence beyond 150 years.  Its pristine precincts has shaped and motivated many great scholars.  It has scores of Autonomous and Non-autonomous colleges as its constituents.  Many of its ‘alumnis’ have achieved great things in life – it is the University of Madras – a jewel of Chennai standing on the beach as a great landmark.  This age old institution is one which has been conferred 5 Star status by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council.  Madras  University was incorporated on 5 September 1857 by an act of the Legislative Council of India.

As one enters, the portraits of its famous alumnis – Sir CV Raman, Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar, Srinivasa Ramanujam, CV Damodhara Pillai, Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy awe-inspires.  The Periyar hall has had so many meetings but this one on Saturday, 3rd March 2012, sure was different.  It was a meeting organized by the alumnis of one the departments for honouring completion of 25 years and the walls of the hall reverberated with divinity and there were so many of Sri Vaishnava scholars – (men and women; young and old).

He is extremely popular to all Sri Vaishnavaites – who have talked to him, watched him from a distance with admiration, fortunate enough to have been shaped  by him, have heard his lectures in person, heard him on television and other electronic media, have bought and heard his cassettes and CDs;   He has been a regular in the “Divya Prabandha goshti’ of Thiruvallikkeni, Kanchipuram and many other Divyadesams.  He has been active and has been managing the affairs of  Thiruvallikkeni Sri Parthasarathi  Vedha Adhyapaka Goshti.  He is always seen having  ‘dwadasa Urthva Pundram –(12 Thiruman and Srichoornam]’ and clad in attractive neat dress (pancha kacham – the traditional Vaishnavaite dress]

-  - -   it is Dr. M.A. Venkatakrishnan Swami popularly known as ‘MAV”.  He was born in 1954 to Sri M.A. Krishnaswamy and Smt. Rukmini. He comes in the lineage of   Mandayam Ananthanpillai family,      a descendant of Anandalwan,     a disciple of Sri Ramanuja. 

Madras University has the unique distinction of being the only University in the whole Country to have a separate Department for the Philosopy of Vaishnavism.  It has the avowed principles of bringing religious harmony and social awareness; moral discipline among the present generation, teaching human values and in helping students face fast-paced life with patience and self-satisfaction.  It was a meeting organized by the ‘alumnis of Department of Vaishnavism’ to honour their beloved Dr MA Venkata Krishnan on his  meritorious 25 years of service at Madras University – Department of Vaishnavism. 

Those on the podium were:

Col. Dr. G.Thiruvasagam, Vice Chancellor of Madras University – the 42nd Vice Chancellor, a person of  academic and administrative eminence.

N. Gopalaswami,  former Chief Election Commissioner of India; IAS officer of 1966 batch  

Dr T.S Sridhar IAS, Additional Chief Secretary to Government, Department of Higher Education, Govt. of Tamilnadu,

Mrs. K.S. Lakshmi, principal, Meenakshi College for Women, wellknown  administrator and researcher; and Mrs Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy (popularly known as Mrs YGP) educationist and social worker, founder & dean of the PSBB - the famous Padma Seshadri Group of Schools.

Dr Sridhar, Mr Gopalaswami, Dr Thiruvasagam, MAV and Mrs Lakshmi

Those in the audience included Mrs Vaijayanthimala Bali, film actress, Bharathanatyam dancer, carnatic singer, dance choreographer, golfer and a Parliamentarian;  Dr TS Ramaswami, Senior Advocate; Dr PT Srinivasan, Prof & Head, Department of Management Studies, Madras University, many  scholars and students of Vaishnavism and those who have had their life shaped by Dr MAV. 
 Section of the Audience

Rich tributes were paid by Speaker after speaker not only on the long service  but more on his personal traits of passion, devotion and dedication to the studies and to the service of Lord.  Besides his kainkaryam at the Temple,  Dr. MAV has been delivering discourses on various topics of SriVaishnava philosophy throughout India for the past 2 decades, in the same special style of his mentor, Sri. P. B. Annangaracharya Swami.   At a very young age of 24 (in the year 1978) Dr. MAV started a SriVaishnava monthly journal called Geethacharyan which has set very high standards amongst the ‘sampradhaya magazines’.   He has written many articles and has published many books. 

During his speech, the VC commended MAV on his updated knowledge in computers – he has been using laptop for long and now has proud possession of ‘ipad’.  His exceptional attendance in taking classes without absenting even for a single day  and remaining in the Premises without taking even water was admired and appreciated. 

In his acceptance speech, Dr MAV spoke of the various aspects of life and how Vaishnavism would transform one’s life.  He stated that whilst the other Departments preached ‘materialistic pursuance’, this Department was all about spiritual excellence and the knowledge that would help Self in this and the other World.  While students would think of completing studies and look out for a good placement in all Departments, many of those who studied in this Department were the ones who had held bigger positions in life and came for learning spiritual excellence.  That way, the average group of students was always on the higher side and there had even been septuagenarians and even a couple of octogenarians.

His notable students would include  Sarojini Varadappan, Mrs YGP, Mrs KS Lakshmi, Dr TS Ramaswami, and many others.  It was a great day for all of us inside the hall to hear quality lectures and words praise heaped on Dr MAV for his yeoman service in teaching Vaishnavaite philosophy with greatest zeal.

In a typical Srivaishnavaite fashion, where one always humbles oneself, he called himself as a small person and jocularly said “
நான் சிறியன்;  விவேகானந்தா கல்லூரியில் ஆசிரியன் ஆனேன்; பல்கலை கழகத்தில் பேராசிரியன் ஆனேன் - ஆக நான் என்றும் சிறியனே !”

Groups of people waited in the Queueline to honour him with shawl and gifts, making it a memorable occasion for all of them. 
 MAV honoured by Mrs YGP
 MAV honoured by  VC and Mr PT Srinivasan

Mrs Vaijayanthimala honouring Smt. Bhooma Venkatakrishnan & Dr MAV 

It is not his service at the Madras University alone – but more to the Society at large.   It is 25 years at Department of Vaishnavism at Madras University;  his teaching career extends to at least a decade more when you add his service  earlier at the the Sanskrit Department of  Vivekananda College.

 At his house in Thiruvallikkeni, from early 1970s, he has shaped the lives of 100s of students teaching ‘Sri Naalayira Divya prabandham’ – which not only made most of them attend goshti regularly at Sri Parthasarathi temple but more importantly shaped their lives as good human beings.  Even during those days, he used to emphasise the need for studying well and his ‘sandhai classes’ would be holidays closer to the school examinations.

I always remember the close to 2 decades of daily routine of getting up in the morning and going to No. 7 South Mada Street, Triplicane, Chennai 600 005 for the ‘sandhai’ conducted by Dr MAV.  Not a single day, he had stayed away citing ill-health of any other reason – so devoted was he in teaching us.  It was not simply teaching – he would explain to us, the meaning of some pasurams and made us understand the greatness of our Philosophy and need for practicing it sincerely.  He has been a great leader, a great motivator and an inspirational person capable of lifting the spirits and taking the group to a much elevated level.

“ஞானம்  அனுட்டானம் இவை நன்றாகவே உடையன் ஆன குருவை அடைந்தக்கால்”  என்பது ஸ்ரீ மணவாள மாமுனிகளின் வாக்கு.     I consider it a great fortune in life to have been associated with him and be his disciple in learning ‘divyaprabandham’ from him.  

With great reverrence to my beloved teacher – MAV – who was a student those days when he started ‘santhai’ and subsequently rose to higher echelons – of Lecturer, Professor, Doctor and Head of Department – yet remaining a simple, easily accessible person to us all.

Srinivasan Sampathkumar.


  1. Los Angeles Mon Mar 5, 2012


    Sri Kazhiyur Narayanan Swamin (Los Angeles Swami now) has sent us the link for this nice article). Very well narrated.. Fitting sishya for a great teacher.. Thanks for this nice write-up.

    Ramanujya Dasan (Sridhar Narasimhan)

  2. Very well written - can understand the greatness of MA Venkatakrishnan Swami who adorns the first line of Thiruvallikkeni goshti - Kasthuri

  3. Sir nicely written - worthy of a Guru - Lakshmi

  4. I liked this post - Arumugam

  5. did you study Sanskrit under MAV - Nanda

  6. rEAD this today - really appreciate the wonderful flow - rich tributes to MAV and great write up - Shalini

  7. Very interestingly made; befitting the character of MAV swami.. Lakshmi