Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi, the 69th pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt, died on Wednesday in Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram. He was 82.
The senior pontiff has been ailing in recent months. He had been admitted to the hospital most recently in January. He had been admitted to Chennai’s Sri Ramachandra Hospital after he collapsed at the math with shortness of breath and low blood pressure.
He had been named as successor to the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam by his predecessor, Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, widely known as the ‘Mahaswami’ of the math, in 1954. Jayendra Saraswati had become the head of the math in 1994 after the death of Chandrashekarendra Saraswati. During his time as the head pontiff, the math expanded its presence and role in charitable activities by setting up a number of hospitals and schools that continue to function today.
He will now be succeeded by Vijayendra Saraswati.
Jayendra Saraswati’s pontificate at the math has had its moments of controversy. He had led efforts to expand the reach of the math in the 1970s and 80s, by reaching out to economically weakers sections of society. He had also attempted to take part in negotiations for the peaceful settlement of the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya.
He had been acquitted in November 2013 in the case relating to the 2004 murder of A Sankararaman, manager of Kanchipuram’s Varadaraja Perumal Temple. His arrest in 2004 and the two months he spent in judicial custody had come as a jolt to many in Tamil Nadu.