Mr Shanmuganayagam was born in an orthodox Hindu family of ancient traditions in Maha Walauva Kopay, Jaffna on October 2, 1919 which was really the 50th birthday of Mahathma Gandhi.

No one can believe that Shanmuganayagam who was a feeble small figure of pious look was a boxer representing his alma mater in All Ceylon Schools Boxing Tournament.
His father, Gate Mudaliyar N Canaganayagam, a retired Bank Shroff of National Bank of India created history as a first Tamil to be elected as a Mayor of Hill Capital of Kandy in 1942. Gate Mudaliyar lived up to the ripe old age of 103 years.

Having graduated from the London University, Shanmuganayagam joined Ceylon Law College and passed out and enrolled himself as an Advocate of the Supreme Court in August 1946. Having had the pleasant experience of working with great leaders of the Bar in Hulftsdorp including H V Perera, QC, E F N Gratien, QC, W E Weerasooriya, QC, S J V Chelvanayagam, QC, and S Nadesan, QC he decided to give up the legal practice and devoted his time to spiritual matters.

He has been a founder member of several spiritual institutions including Sri Sathya Sai Movement, J Krishnamurthi Centre, Sri Aurobindo Circle, Sri Aurobindo Society and Shiva Family in Sri Lanka. Ultimately, he became the backbone of Shri Muthukrishnan Mission in Sri Lanka.

When Shanmuganayagam was 82 years old Shri Swami Shantanand said in his message “They see Shan as an 82-year-old man, entering the Sathabishekam stage of life. But what they do not see and do not realize is the important fact that a 5000-year-old wisdom is condensed in this body, you call Shan. I see that. So what can I say or write about this 5000-year-old ancient wisdom?”

He added: “Another couple of years or so, we will be deprived even of this body! Then what do we say that Shan is no more? But the wisdom is imperishable. So what do you write about – the perishable body or the imperishable wisdom?”

Dr A T Ariyaratne, Head of Sarvodaya Movement in Sri Lanka had this to say of this great soul: Among the few personalities who influenced my youth to gain composure and conduct Mr C Shanmuganayagam stands out most eminently. Thin and tall always with a contented smile and a serene face, with his neck always covered with a shawl, Shan Aiya as we used to call him, influenced our lives much in those most important days of youth.
“I used to look up to Mr Shanmuganayagam as an elder brother who was a model to be followed. Depth of his understanding of life and reality was evident in all the soft-spoken words that struck the deepest parts of our heart. His association with all the known saints of his time and deep respect for all with his smile made him stand firm on his spiritual feet amidst all the trials and tribulations our society has passed through”.

Dr Susumage Weeraperuma said of Shanmuganayagam as follows:
“All the great qualities of a genuine Hindu mind and heart are epitomized by Shan who adores the saints and philosophers of every religion. Buddhist, Christian, Islamic and Jewish concepts and beliefs are not alien to Shan’s mind. From every well he draws water. He draws his spiritual sustenance from every source. It is this catholicity of outlook that has enabled him to sit at the feet of many a saintly personality – Ramana Maharshi, Swami Ramdas, Swami Sivananda, Saint Yogaswami, Sri Maya Mayee and the like. He particularly adores Saint Bernadette of Lourdes”.

V Murugesu, Founder Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Centre, Sri Lanka in one of his messages of felicitation said:

“Like the honey-sucker bird he extracted the spiritual honey from every religious tradition he came in contact with and so enriched his inner life. He became a spiritual honey-bee. Name any Hindu spiritual center in Sri Lanka and Shan will be in it. He was a pioneer in the Sri Aurobindo movement in Sri Lanka which was inaugurated as the Sri Aurobindo Circle. He served as the Joint Secretary of the Sri Aurobindo Society of Sri Lanka which took the place of the Sri Aurobindo Circle”.

Shri Gopalakrishna Gandhi who was then (October 2001) the High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka sent this message to Shanmuganayagam.

“There was a seven year’s span, verily, a golden span, when Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi and Ramana Maharshi, sons of Mother India’s Spiritual energy, were contemporaries on Bharat’s fortunate soil. These were the last seven years of Sri Ramakrishna and the first seven years of Ramana Maharshi.
“For someone to share a birthday with one of those five, Gandhi, to have had a darsana of two of them, Aurobindo and Ramana, and to have proceeded thereafter to have known Jiddu Krishnamurti, the Paramacharya of Kanchi, Sri Yogaswami of Jaffna and Sri Satya Sai Baba, is to have received an extraordinary measure of Divine Grace …

“Shan belongs only partly and lightly on our plane of terrestrial existence. In his true being he belongs to the realm of the Universal Spirit. What is remarkable is that he seems to regard his unique ‘connectedness’ with the Divine, as something utterly natural and available to anyone that may seek it and deserve it.”

The late Shanmuganayagam was a ‘colossus’ as portrayed as follows in 2001 by Saththya Vinthaga, Justice C V Wigneswaran (retired Judge of the Supreme Court and present Chief Minister of Northern Province.

“Who among us could claim to have introduced to the Sri Lankan general public as many worthy men and women of high spiritual stature and caliber as Shan? Who among us could exude patience, calmness and love even in dire circumstances? Who among us could sagaciously recognize humor and wit even in the midst of a controversial human drama? Who among us could delineate self-imposed ethical norms and stick to them in profession and life alike? Who among us could equally feel at home among spiritual seekers whether they be bound on the Gnana Marg, Bakthi Marg, Karma Marg or Yoga Marg? Who among us could never utter harsh words against another human being except identifying all his shortcomings as weaknesses? Who among us would simply drop a lucrative professional career after 30 years, merely because it did not grant any inner satisfaction anymore?”
Saththiyaviththayar wished him in 2001 as follows:

“May God keep Shan at hand with all his faculties in excellent trim at least until he reaches his grandfather’s age of 103 years! His long life would enrich ours and make them worthwhile”.

Although that wish has not been fulfilled, it is a consolation that he lived at least up to 95 years. His demise is an irreparable loss to the Hindu community of this country.
Kandiah Neelakandan
All Ceylon Hindu Congress