Mahatma Sri Kamakshi Dasa (27 December 1900 – 04 March 1988) , born Somasundaram Iyer was an Indian saint, a spiritual teacher and an exponent of a true Vedanta philosophy called Satya Advaita.
Birth and Early Life
The divine descent of Sri Somasundaram took place on Sashti thithi , Purattadhi star of Margazhi 13 in the Sarvari year (27 Dec 1900) in Sivaganga District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. His mother, Sri Subbulakshmi Ammal, had divine dreams before his birth, leading to his name being chosen as Somasundaram if he were a son, or Meenakshi if a daughter.
He was born as the third child to Sri Ramaswamy Iyer and Sri Subbhulakshmi Ammal and was very religiously inclined even at a very young age.
He moved to Chennai in the year 1917 to pursue a BA degree in Mathematics from the Pachaiyappa’s College; and later to Tiruvananthapuram for studying Law. Sri Somasundaram was wedded to Sri Champakalakshmi Ammal in 1921.
Life – Altering Experiences at Tiruvananthapuram
Sri Somasundaram’s life took a profound turn while he was in Tiruvananthapuram, where he started having a number of divine visions and experiences. Following this, he became an ardent devotee of Lord Subramanya. He returned to Chennai after graduating in Law. In year 1924 Sri Somasundaram joined as an apprentice to Sri T.M.Krishnasamy Iyer (popularly known as Tiruppugazh Mani) who was then a lawyer at Madras High Court. He named his residence “Muruga Vilas”. A man named Srinivasan Iyer from Mayavaram entrusted a panchaloka Lord Subrahmanya idol with Sri Somasundaram, following a divine dream. This deity was in possession of Sri Srinivasa Iyer for generations at his ancestral home and he was ordained in a divine dream to be taken to Sri Somasundaram Iyer residing at Muruga Vilas 37 Mundakanni amman Street, Mylapore. His devotion towards the Lord deepened by the day.
The vision of the Divine Mother
Sri Somasundaram had a divine vision and sparsha dharshan of Sri Meenakshi Amman, who then appeared as his wife, Sri Champakalakshmi Ammal. Sri Champakalakshmi Ammal was proficient in multiple languages and musical instruments, and often entered a samadhi state during his bhajans. Further it can be observed that he dedicates all of his divine works to Sri Champakalakshmi Ammal.
At the age of 26, when he had a fabled career as a Lawyer at the Madras High court, he had the divine vision of Sri Kamakshi Devi, and she then ordained him to sing songs in her praise. The songs spontaneously overflowed out of him since then.
He painted the sketch of the Goddess in water colour as seen in his vision and started worshipping her. This painting done in mere water colour is still in worship as fresh as ever.
‘Kamapeetathilor’ was the first song he sang in praise of the Goddess describing his divine vision.
Many songs he sang on Goddess Kamakshi Devi resembled that of Arunagirinathar’s Tiruppugazh and hence Sri Dasa called them as Sri Kamakshi Tiruppugazh.
Sri Somasundaram popularly came to be known as Sri Kamakshi Dasar
In 1930, The Pontiff Paramachaarya of Kanchi Kamakotipeetam Sri Chandrasekhara Swamigal when visiting Poosamalai Kuppam observed that Sri Kamakshi Dasar’s words are that of Goddess Sri Kamakshi herself, and that it should be of benefit to the world and asked Sri Kamakshi Tiruppugazh to be printed, and released its first edition. Ever since he became to be known as Sri Kamakshi Dasa. Later Sri Periyava when camping at Sanskrit College in Mylapore came to have darshan of Goddess Sri Kamakshi. Sri Dasa was also fondly associated with Sri Ramana Maharishi, he was immensely touched by Sri Dasa’s divine renditions.
Sri Dasa was a skilled advocate at the Madras High Court but was selective about cases, rejecting those he found unjust or built on fabricated evidence. This meant an inconsistent income, but Sri Dasa remained unfazed, attributing his sustenance to Sri Kamakshi’s divine providence.
Divine experiences with the Mother
The divine compositions were either an extrapolation of his divine experiences or praises that overflowed when he was immersed in intense devotion of the divine mother.
To name a few, Sri Dasa along with his devotees went to Trichy for a Satsang and he indicated that there was an unusual event in store for them during the visit. They went to Cauvery for morning ritual ablutions. An ardent devotee of his named Athimoola Mudaliyar got drowned in the river and Sri Dasa jumped in to rescue him. Despite his ability to swim, they struggled. However, the situation became dire as the river’s weeds and currents threatened to drag both of them under.
Sri Dasa, in a moment of desperate need, prayed fervently to the Divine Mother for help.
In response to his prayer, he had a divine vision of Sri Kamakshi, the Divine Mother, lifting both of them out of the treacherous swamp, preventing them from drowning.
Those who witnessed this miraculous rescue exclaimed that no one had ever escaped certain death in those perilous waters, and this event left a profound impression on all who were present.
In gratitude for this divine intervention and miraculous rescue, Sri Dasa composed and sang the songs “Akhilandeshwari Ashtakam” and “Ambal Ashtakamalai” that very night, celebrating the Divine Mother’s divine grace and protection.
This remarkable incident underscores how Sri Dasa’s deep devotion and unwavering faith in the Divine Mother played a pivotal role in his life and spiritual journey. It also highlights his ability to transcend challenging circumstances through divine intervention and inspire those around him with his devotion and music.
He suffered many bodily ailments, but they often vanished soon after a divine vision of the Goddess or when he sang in praise of the Goddess.
A refuge to his devotees
Sri Kamakshi Dasa’s pournami pooja was attended by hundred and thousands of devotees where he blessed everyone with the Kumkum prasad offered to the divine mother. This Kumkum prasad he blessed is known to have cured malicious diseases, mental disorders, and bestowed many good fortunes to his devotees.
Sri Dasa had a divine vision in which he perceived the ill health of one of his devoted followers.
Concerned for the well-being of his devotee, he summoned the wife of the ailing individual to inquire about her husband’s condition.
Upon learning about the ailment, Sri Dasa decided to make an offering of “Thirumangalyam” to Sri Kamakshi Devi, the Divine Mother, as a means to combat the devotee’s illness.
Sri Dasa contemplated how best to offer this Thirumangalyam to the deity, particularly to a large painting of the Goddess in his worship space.
As he was considering this, an unexpected visitor arrived, inquiring for Sri Dasa.
This visitor had brought with him a “divya mangala vigraha” of Sri Kamakshi Devi.
The visitor explained that he had custom-made this idol specifically for his own worship of Sri Kamakshi Devi.
However, the visitor shared an extraordinary experience: he had a divine dream in which the Goddess ordained him to entrust the idol to Sri Dasa for worship.
Sri Dasa was overjoyed upon hearing this news, as it signified a divine confirmation of their spiritual connection and the role he played in serving the Divine Mother.
This remarkable experience, where the devotee brought the divinely inspired idol to Sri Dasa, is one of many such occurrences that Sri Dasa documented in his daily journals, highlighting the profound and mystical nature of his spiritual journey.
Merging with the Divine
Sri Dasa’s later months were marked by illness, and he was bedridden. Witnesses observed his astral body leaving to worship the Divine Mother and returning. On March 3, he indicated that he would leave his body the following day and merge with the spear of Lord Subrahmanya, which he did on March 4, 1988.
The Mahatma’s divine works and teachings
Mahatma Sri Kamakshi Dasa has bestowed us with thousands of divine compositions in tamil and many philosophical works in English.
To name a few – tiruppugazh, kritis, tirupalliyezhuchi, tiruvarutpavai, panchakams, ashtakams , panchadashis, kavasams, anubhoothis , kili thoothu shatakam, pathigams, kalivenba, aksharamalai, undiyaar etc on Goddess Kamakshi. Hymns in praise of Lord Siva comprising of siva panchakam, mangala linga panchakam, sivanar thiruvenba, shlokas, and more. Hymns in praise of Lord Ganesha comprising of thiruppugazh, vinayagar padhigam etc. Hymns in praise of Lord Muruga at Vadapazhani, Chennai and Uttar Swamimalai temple, New Delhi. Holy verses including archanai, arul vendal, anubhoothi on Lord Guruvayurappan. Hymns in praise of Tirupathi Sri Venkateswara swamy that includes Venkatesha ashtakam, anubhoothi, potri, vaazhthu, prapathi, mangalashasanam. Holy hymns including anubhoothi, potri, and vaazhthu on Alarmel Ammaiyaal. Hymns in praise of the most revered and world-renowned Sri Adi Shankara, the exponent of Advaita Vedanta. Valli manavenba – the tale of divine union of Valli and Murugan in a classical form of Tamil poetry called venba. Bharatha Vetri Pangal, a melodic mode to invoke the mercy of God to attain victory in the Sino Indian war (1962) , and much more.
Following a divine vision of Lord Sri Krishna ordaining him to translate the Gita, Mahatma Sri Kamakshi Dasa translated the memorable Gospel of Lord Sri Krishna in simple mellifluous Tamil and English rhymed verses.
Sri Dasa has also bestowed us many philosophical works and commentaries on Upanishads.
He rendered bhajans and divine lectures across India, including sures that teva sadans, Y.M.C.A, Y.M.I.A and Theosophical society. Sri Dasa gave Saiva Sidhantha lectures in Vivekananda college, Chennai, Tamilnadu for six years. He insisted that everyone must lead a life of morality, chant the divine names of the mother and sing her glories to invoke her. He always said that the divine mother will protect you just as the eyelids protect the eyes.
Mahatma Sri Kamakshi Dasa expounded the true Vedanta Philosophy of Satya-Advaita, a simple philosophy on Advaita which is truly based on the Upanishads. It indicates that simple devotion with a pure heart alone is necessary for Brahmic knowledge, and no sort of renunciation is called for. The world is filled with Brahman and not with misery and so no question of discarding it for an imaginary heavenly life or bliss outside it arises. It further enforces the thesis that one-pointed devotion is consistent with every variety of worship. It also seeks to reconcile all faiths as ultimately tending to the same goal. Since the Satya-Advaita is a universal philosophy of a Universal Religion any one irrespective of caste, colour, creed, nationality, or race can be a follower. He considers every worshipper of any deity in the world as his own, brother in a common quest.