By Rajesh Kamath
Mohanji informed us yesterday (22nd June 2020) about the news of Chandu Kutty Swami’s mahasamadhi (a saint’s conscious exit from the body). My mind flashed back to our meetings with this powerful saint from Mookambika during Mohanji’s isolation period between December 2019 to January, 2020 and then again with Mohanji, Mila, Devi and a different group in March 2020.
Except for the early morning temple visits and some visitors, Mohanji would mostly keep to himself in his room, during his isolation time. A devotee of Mother Mookambika got acquainted with Mohanji during those early morning temple visits and mentioned about two powerful saints in the vicinity. He offered to take Mohanji to visit them and to guide him to those locations. Mohanji agreed. One of the saints was Chandu Kutty Swamy, a 122 year old direct disciple of Bhagavan Nityananda, the sixth avatar of Lord Dattatreya. We were told that Swamiji had high profile followers including a leading movie star from Kerala.
The following day, we walked past the back of the temple up a winding earthy road that went steeply uphill and then plateaued. Out of breath and with sore legs, we sauntered and came close to the makeshift wooden gate (sticks of wood tied together with a rope). We heard a low whistle as we approached the gate – a constant soft but clear sound that came through the bushes close to the other side of gate.
We opened the gate which opened into an open space in the middle with unkempt trees and shrubbery on both sides of the field. There were two small houses – one to the left of the open space and the other slightly bigger one at the far end of the open space. The house at the far end was his residence. It had a makeshift entrance with a roof made of corrugated tin sheets and blue and yellow plastic hanging off the roof and draped all around. As we entered, we saw a few chairs spread around the entrance with a short, stocky but very old Swami seated on one of the plastic chairs that may have been as old as him. Beyond the chairs was a small house which had only two rooms. One of the rooms served as the kitchen and store as well as the bedroom for the Swami and the second room was for visitors.
Our guide introduced Mohanji and the group to the Swami. His name was Chandu Kutty Swami. His eyesight was poor and so was his hearing. Though he was short, his body showed signs of a powerful, muscular and athletic past. He only understood Malayalam and Mohanji later said that his Malayalam was also not very easy to understand. Our guide gave Swamiji details about Mohanji by shouting at an angle into his left ear. Eventually, Mohanji mimicked the technique as well and resorted to increasing his decibel levels and directing his voice close to Swamiji’s ears. Mohanji introduced the group to Swamiji who spoke to us warmly. However, he would get pensive during any lull in the conversation and stare outside the entrance in the distance towards the faraway mountains. Mohanji later said that he was in constant communion with the Mother and was probably going within and connecting to the Mother, during such times.
He gave us some details about himself. As a teenager, Chandu Kutty Swami met Bhagavan Nityananda at Kanhangad who told him, “Why do you stand here? Go to the forest.” Bhagavan did not elaborate further nor provide any more clarifications. With no clue about the destination, the young boy took to staying in forests and eventually landed up in the forests around Mookambika. He ceased his wandering and stayed there for twelve years performing extreme penance and austerities. As a result, he was blessed with a vision of goddess Mookambika who told him that she could make him very wealthy, powerful and famous. He refused her offer fearing that this would affect his connection with the Mother. Instead, he requested her vision and appearance when he wanted. Goddess Mookambika agreed. He cooks for her and she stays with him at his temple which was the room on the left of the open space. He is closely connected with goddess Mookambika and people have sighted him with goddess Mookambika. He told us that he had a darshan of Divine Mother in the Chitramoola cave at the top of the Kudajadri mountains close by. He smirked and without looking, pointed his hand behind his chair and said, “That guy Shankara also had a darshan of the Divine Mother in the same cave.”
We looked behind him to see who Shankara was. There was no one behind him. At that moment, we noticed that there was a small picture of Adi Shankara pasted on the door to his room which was behind his chair. This Swamiji had a wicked sense of humour. His comment had us in splits. By Shankara, he meant Adi Shankaracharya, the towering Master who had pleased the Divine Mother with his penance in the Chitramoola cave and got the boon that she would follow him to Kerala and take up residence there at this chosen spot. However, she set a condition that she would follow as long as Adi Shankaracharya walked with full faith that she was following him and would not look back. If he looked back, she would take up residence at that very spot where he turned to see her. Adi Shankaracharya agreed to her condition. Long story short, Adi Shankaracharya looked back when he did not hear the sound of anklets for some time and the Divine Mother took up residence at the current location of the Mookambika temple.
Chandu Kutty Swami said that he wanted a person whom he could train under him with exacting discipline without question. He said if the trainee followed his instructions without question, he would make him a great Siddha. However, he ruefully remarked that none so far had the tenacity to stay there and undergo the training. Most came and left because they weren’t prepared to shed their comfort zones that were being shaken loose in the presence of this powerful Master. He had a helper called Ragesh who had joined him very recently. Ragesh joked that even though he had come there to take care of Swami, it was the other way around. Swami did not allow him to do anything. Swamiji cooked the food himself and took care of most things around the house. Mohanji later told us that Swamiji cooked the food himself because it was consumed by the Mother, Veerbhadra Swami (an intense form of Lord Shiva who is the kshetrapalaka – the protector deity of the Mookambika temple) and other celestial beings.
Ragesh was more chatty and gave us more details about the Swami. Ragesh told us that there was a huge snake guarding these premises, who whistled to warn strangers coming into this place. That explained the whistling sound when we entered. Swamiji later showed the moulted skin of the snake on one of the shrubs. Going by the length of the skin, it could have been twelve to fifteen feet long and very stout as well. Shuddered to think what would have happened to us if the snake had made his physical presence felt. A surprising fact was that there were no animals in that place, not even dogs. This was due to the presence of the snake which prevented even animals from coming in. Ragesh said that Swamiji doesn’t allow people to stay beyond sunset due to the snake. Ragesh also mentioned that Swamiji used to earlier carry bags, refreshments, and so on for tourists who wanted to hike up the nearby Kudajadri mountains. No wonder he had such a powerful physical frame. Ragesh told us that he had himself seen Chandu Kutty Swami walking around with Mother Mookambika and Veerbhadra Swami.
After our discussions, Swamiji asked us to have our lunch and come back at 4pm for the puja and aarati. We returned to our hotel, had food and reached his place at 4pm. Swamiji was sitting on the chair with the same pensive look. He acknowledged our presence and enquired if we had eaten and rested. Under the hot afternoon sun, the space was getting hot and sweaty. We wondered why he wasn’t ready for the puja and aarati. Mohanji asked him if we were on time. He informed us that Mother was held up at Chottanikara (a powerful Goddess temple in Kerala) and it would take her another hour or so to come there. Mother Mookambika kept him posted about delays in her journey! Mohanji and Swamiji chatted for a while. Mohanji told him that his chairs were very old. He asked him if he could buy him some new chairs. Swamiji said that he would accept if Mohanji wanted to purchase for him. He then got up to get ready for the puja. He did not allow anybody to help him even though every movement caused him considerable pain and evoked from him a painful call to the Mother every now and then.
He took a bath by pouring water over his entire body and then after wiping himself clean got into a change of clothes and applied sacred ash all over his body. He then took his walking stick and walked out of the house towards the temple. The temple door was locked which he opened with the bunch of keys tied to his short loincloth. The altar in the temple was a wall with many pictures on the walls. He briefly paused to tell us about the various deities and Masters in his altar. He pointed to a picture of Bhagavan Nityananda that was old and wrinkled and had folded by itself. He laughed at the state of the picture and said that Baba was present but hidden in that picture. He sat down at the altar to perform a puja. We sat near the walls around the room. I took up a spot close to the door where a white plastic gunny bag was laid out. He immediately asked me not to sit there. As i got up, he informed us that the Goddess slept at that spot.
He then arranged the materials for the puja. The puja and aarati were fairly simple without much fanfare. He chanted what could have been some mantras or a devotional song. His voice was unclear. As he sang, he was beating a steel plate on the ground for musical accompaniment. A very interesting and low key puja. Though it may have been simplistic and not the most melodious of chants or music, I am sure that the Mother must have loved it since she looked at his devotion rather than his expression. Attending his aarati was akin to being in Mother Mookambika’s physical presence. He offered us prasad (consecrated offerings) and gave us most of the fruits that we had given him as an offering. We prostrated at his feet and took his blessings. He blessed Mohanji by placing his hands on his head and invoking the blessings of the Mother. He then locked the temple and we then took his leave as well.
A couple of months later, we had another opportunity to meet Chandu Kutty Swami in March when Mohanji came to Mookambika again along with Devi, Mila and a small group for Mila’s vidyarambham (initiation ceremony into learning). Before Mohanji’s visit, Preeti Duggal and I went to inform Swamiji that Mohanji would come to meet him the following day. We had planned a short visit to quickly update him and head out from there. We opened the gate with trepidation praying to the snake guarding the place, with a few mental “Jai Mohanji”‘s. Swamiji was alone in the house. We had a communication issue – he spoke and understood only Malayalam and neither of us could speak or understand that language. We figured from his conversation that Ragesh had left a while back. He had been staying there alone since.
We tried to tell Swamiji that Mohanji would visit him tomorrow. Swamiji couldn’t understand a word. We asked one of Mohanji’s followers who understands Malayalam to type out this message on Whatsapp which we could show Swamiji. Unfortunately, Swamiji’s eyesight was weak and he couldn’t read the small letters. We then called the follower and asked her to speak out the message to Swamiji. Swamiji finally understood. He then asked us to sit down and wait. At first, we couldn’t understand but then we figured that he was making lunch for us. We tried telling him that we did not want to disturb him or trouble him. Of course, he didn’t understand a word and kept waving his hand telling us to sit down. Finally, we decided to let it go and prayed to Mother and Mohanji to forgive us for troubling him. We helped him with whatever tasks he let us do. For the most part, he did everything himself. Given that he can barely see or hear, it was a wonder how he managed to cook at all. Probably relied on touch to feel the ingredients and on past experience. He made rice and a delicious potato curry. Finger licking good. To be fed by Swamiji was the same as being fed by Mother Mookambika. Pure grace from Mohanji! We will never know how many lifetimes of karma may have been cleansed by consuming that consecrated offering from the beloved Swami. After lunch, we prostrated at his feet and took his leave. He understood that Mohanji was coming the following day. Thus, our task was done.
The following day, Mohanji came with Devi, Mila and a few members of the group. This time, Swamiji was in a chatty mood and was more engaged in the discussion. He was sitting on the new chair that Mohanji had purchased for him and was visibly happy. Mohanji had ensured that the chairs were delivered to Swamiji the day after we had last met him. Swamiji related his experiences with people who offered to help him with maintenance work. He said, “Many people took money for building materials, services, and so on. It has been a few years and none of them have returned. I am still waiting for them.” Then he started laughing loudly and sarcastically said that it took a “lot of time” to get building material in these parts! I was the designated photographer for this event. He looked at me with curiosity and asked Mohanji why I was taking so many pictures. Mohanji informed him that these are precious moments that we capture for posterity and share with our community. He said, “Oh… Really! So my pictures will go all over the world. I will then sit here with all my pictures around me and look at myself.” Saying this, he started laughing loudly. He laughed like an innocent child and his laughter was very infectious. Mohanji added that I take thousands of pictures but very few, if any, are actually usable. He found this statement very funny and was roaring with laughter, slapping his hands on the armrests as his whole body shook while he laughed. We had the grace of attending his aarati again and he lovingly posed for pictures.
While we were leaving, he casually mentioned that the neighbours were troubling him. They had encroached into his space and wanted him to leave the land. They had tried everything from physical intimidation to black magic. They even bribed the local police to put pressure on him. He said, “I am staying here (on earth) because Mother has asked me to stay. I don’t know how long she wants me here.. Only she knows the purpose behind this insistence. ” Mohanji asked him if there was anything that he wanted Mohanji to do in this matter. He asked Mohanji to write an application on his behalf and send it to the local police station to seek their intervention. We were supposed to leave Mookambika, immediately after meeting Swamiji . Mohanji insisted that we get the document written and signed by him before we left the place. It took us a few hours to get the document written in the local language and signed by him. Mohanji then used his personal connects to have it sent to the police station. Finally, with heavy hearts, we left Swamiji. It was particularly sad to leave him all alone without any help, especially after finding out the issues he was facing with the neighbours.
Swamiji shed his mortal coils on the auspicious first day of Gupt Navaratri – the festival of nine nights dedicated to the Divine Mother. A little while ago, Swamiji had enquired about Mohanji and fondly remembered Mohanji. Swamiji had mentioned that of all the people who came to visit him recently, only Mohanji had been helpful and helped him in whatever way he could. in the end, We have been told that Swamiji was cremated and buried in the same land where he lived. We also heard that his local acquaintances were planning to make a memorial at that place in his memory. Mohanji also said, “Mortal eyes may see his residence as a dilapidated and worn down place but in divine vision, this could be a huge, beautiful and priceless palace fit for the Goddess because Mother lived there with him. That is why it was guarded by that huge snake which may have been a divine being too. Mortal eyes may see him as an old withering 122 year old man but divine eyes see an immortal giant. Do not perceive these saints and judge them with your mortal vision. There is much more than human eyes can see.”
Posted above a photograph of Swamiji’s feet for those who would like to pay their last respects to this beloved Master. Our humble and heartfelt obeisances to this adorable saint whose diminutive size belied his true power and stature. As always, deep gratitude to Mohanji for the grace to connect us with this great Master and receive his powerful blessings.
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