Monasteries known as maṭhas as also their pontiffs, the maṭhādhipatis, have played an important role in preserving Hindu religion and culture. Tapas (austerity) and vidyā (learning) have been the bedrock of their spiritual activities.
One of the maṭhas of recent origin and perhaps less known than its counterparts is the Āṇḍavan Maṭha of Śrīraṅgam (Tamil Nadu). The Maṭha belonging to the Śrīvaiṣṇava tradition and following the Viśiṣṭādvaita school of Vedānta, originated with Śrīmad Gopālācārya Mahādeśikan, also called Tirukkuḍandai Deśikar, during the middle of the eighteenth century, in Kumbhakoṇam (of Tamil Nadu). He was a man who practised severe austerities and was known for his great scholastic learning. His three disciples, continued the tradition of this great savant without break. Śrīnivāsa Mahādeśikan (also known as Periyāṇdavan), the second of them, was as much a yogi of great powers as he was a monk of austerity and learning. The present pontiff, Śrī Vedānta Rāmānuja Mahādeśikan (Tirukkuḍandai Āṇdavan) the eighth in the order of succession, who was ordained in 1963 has been working hard to spread the message of his predecessors.