Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Srirangam Temple Maniyakaarar Sridhar

'Maniyakaarar' has his task cut out in these challenging times facing the wrath of some unhappy side every day

Starting his Temple Service at the age of 13, Sripatham Sridhar now dons the role of Temple Maniyakaarar in charge of the timely conduct of the Utsavams and the daily activities at the Ranganathaswamy Temple

If True Service to Lord is placed above everything else, any issue can be resolved amicably but Service to Lord is the ultimate duty has often been forgotten - Maniyakaarar Sridhar
Managing Utsavams and keeping up time, amidst strong conflicting views is one of the most challenging tasks at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. Utsavam days involve a cycle that is onerous for each of the service personnel. With devotee crowd increasing manifold in recent years, one of the major issues that the authorities have had to deal with has been the decision on closing the door at the Ariya Bhattaal Vaasal and consequently the darshan of the Moolavar Lord Ranganatha to enable the Utsava deity Namperumal to be decorated for the day’s procession. In recent years, it has been a struggle to manage tens of thousands of devotees who have lined up for a darshan of the Moolavar Lord.

The cooks at the Madapalli have their task cut out for they have to be on their toes for presentation at short notice of Thaligai for the Lord at different points of the day. The personnel, who have to mount the Lord on the Vahana of the day, the carriers of the Lord, the flower maker, the torch bearer and several others have all to be informed on their respective schedule for the day.

A Challenging Role
It is the Maniyakaarar, whose role it is to manage all of these personnel and to get them to render their service at the appropriate time so the Lord departs at the scheduled time. In decades gone by, especially till the 1990s, with broadly only the local residents taking part in the utsavams, the task of the Maniyakaarar was lot more straight forward. However, in recent decades, more so in the last 5 years or so, it has dramatically changed with the devotee crowd swelling much beyond anyone’s imagination, leaving even the locals stumped. He has to now carry different sets of people along to ensure the smooth conduct of the activities at the temple.

Historically, Srirangam has been renowned for the prompt conduct of the utsavams in terms of the departure of the Lord for purapadu and his return.  Given the long queues -  in December 2018 during the Era Pathu utsavam the queue extended to the West Uthira Veethi- the role of the time keeper has assumed added significance.  Between the various aspects in a temple – Devotees’ Darshan, Thaligai for the Lord at the traditional pre fixed time, the start of the purapadu, the return of the Lord to his abode at the scheduled time, it is the Maniam who has to manage the schedule and the time. Almost every day of the utsavam, it is likely that he incurs the wrath of some side that feels undone by.

Joins as Sripatham, Takes up the role of Maniam
In this most challenging phase in the history of the Srirangam temple, R Sridhar has donned this important and often controversial role of the Maniyakaarar at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. When he was assigned this task about 5 years ago, it was also the first time in many years that the temple moved away from outsourcing this service to an external person to keeping it within the ‘department’. For well over a decade, the outsourced Maniyakaarar Chellamani was the most prominent face at the Srirangam temple for he was at the forefront of every activity. It was a significant move at that time for over the decades the auctioning of the Maniyakaarar’s appointment had almost topped Rs. 50 Lakhs and that was seen as yet another important source of revenue for the temple.
125 years of Service at the Temple
A long time resident of Keezha Chitrai Veethi, Sridhar, who will be touching 60 next year, has been performing service at the Srirangam temple right from his school days.  His grandfather Thirumalai Iyengar performed service here in the 2nd half of the 19th century well over 100 years ago, while his father ST Rangachariar remained attached to the Udayavar Sannidhi till the age of 97, having performed aradhanam and other services for over seven decades.
                          ST Rangachariar
Sridhar’s uncle Sadagopachariar, besides being a Sanskrit scholar, was a Harikatha exponent and presented kalakshepam including on Saivism.  Once in Kanchipuram, he presented the story of Kannappa Nayanar that even received endorsement from Annankarachariyar. He also presented a through the night kalakshepam at the Vanamamalai Mutt. Rangachariar, who accompanied Sadagopachariar on these trips, found this to be a great inspiration and it were these that helped him acquire knowledge of the granthas and scriptures.

Begins Service at 13
Rangachariar was one of the six heads of Nalayira Divya Prabhandham Adyapaka Ghosti, referred to in those days as ‘Saadhu Sri Vaishnavas’. He was an integral part of the Prabhandham Ghosti for several decades at the temple. He was also one of the trust members of the Ramanuja Sannidhi. By the time he was 13, Sridhar had begun his service at the temple. Even as a young boy, he would carry the Theertha Kudam each day and support the madapalli including sweeping the sannidhis but his greatest satisfaction came from the Sripatham service, of carrying the Lord and Azhvaar on his shoulder. 

It was in that early phase that his father stressed the importance of gaining knowledge by simply watching others perform. Thus, a young Sridhar would just stand by the Lord and watch the presentation of Seva Kalam while at the same time watching the postures of the Sripatham personnel. By the time, he graduated he had gained fair knowledge of the everyday processes at the temple as well as during utsavam times.
In those days, the service personnel were presented rice every day for their service. Finance was tight and a challenge all through Sridhar’s childhood but his father managed the expenses well by inculcating the habit of living within their means.

Sridhar also performed service at the Muthal Azhvaar Sannidhi. The then trustee Singam Iyengar would pay him a princely Rs. 40 per day for his service in those days.  Having graduated in commerce, Sridhar also managed the accounts of the provisions store of Singam Iyengar for which he was paid an additional Rs. 400 per month.  For a decade, in the 1990s, Sridhar worked at Dalmia Cements in different roles. But that was not something he enjoyed much, for his mind was set on returning to the temple to continue his full time service to the Lord.

Apppointed as Sri Patham 
At the turn of the century, the then Maniyakaarar Chellamani, one of the most popular time keepers that the temple has seen, spotted his administrative talent and asked him to work with him as his assistant.  In 2003, at the age of 43, he was given the official posting of Sripatham. A decade and a half later, he dons multiple hats at the temple – while continuing to hold the post of a Sripatham, in recent years he has held the additional post of full time Maniam at the temple after the temple decided to do away with the outsourcing of the role. He also continues to serve at the Nam Azhvaar Sannidhi. He has also held the administrative post at the Jeer Mutt in a temporary engagement till the appointment of the new Jeer.
Sridhar understands his role and the challenges fully well. Not a day passes without a conflicting view on how the sequence and schedule of events should unfold. Sridhar has always had a strong and confident view on the administrative aspects. Despite all the historical disputes, he says that the service personnel came together in unity especially in festival times. While there were disputes in those times as well when I was a young boy, those were sorted out amicably. What we are witnessing today is beyond measure. There is a general lack of understanding of the processes and issues. Without an in-depth Knowledge of the processes and the challenges that one faces everyday, people raise issues leading to an ego battle.

He bemoans the fact that a lot of the personnel have forgotten the service mindset that they were originally at the temple for “A lot of patience is required to handle such huge crowds and to balance the day between ‘Devotee Darshan’ and ‘Utsavam Schedule’. However, instinctive reaction is the order of the day and that has led to many conflicts. Because of a lack of mutual understanding between different conflicting sides, issues, that could easily be sorted out amicably, look bigger than they actually are. If true service to Lord is placed above everything else, each of these issues can be resolved but Service to Lord is the ultimate duty has often been forgotten.”

Sridhar has had a richly fulfilling life of serving the Lord each day of the year. Every day he incurs the wrath of one side on issues that has not worked favourably for that side. For long, he has also been seen as the ‘department’s man’ carrying out the directions of the HR & CE. But he is largely unmindful of that for his mind is set on performing his duty of service to Lord. He is grateful that he has been blessed with a service mind from a young age and that has superseded everything else.


Anonymous said...

Sri: Srimate ramanujaya nama: Sri Sridar swamy is really a dedicated soul chosen by grace of Namperumal for HIS own kainkaryam
Adiyen admire your article as it has explained everything in a right manner
You are right in saying that Kainkaryam to Namperumal not given importance, which is base for all problems

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this story with us, especially from the perspective of Maniyakaarar Sridhar Sir, whose sole purpose is devotion to the Lord. It has been a truly splendid reading experience.

Unknown said...

I know Sridhar for the past 40 years from my childhood he known me as seychan together served along with vethhalkainkaryam udayavar sannadhi madapalli kainkaryam at the time Ramanujar thirunakshathram hole night to prepare prasaadham in madapalli inside sannadhi. Great opertunity to share about Sridhar dedicated service to Acharya as well as to nampermal & periyaprattiyar periya pavadaij prasaadham preparation times. Regards seychan Srirangam muttha ssdagopan Anna paiyan dasan.

Balaji Srinivasan said...

In the statement it was mentioned like jeeyar swami death. Please correct the statement. Acharyan thirunaadu alagarithu namperumalukku Nithya thiruvaradhanam seidhu arulgiraar

Adiyen Ramanuja daasnan

aparyamrudhan said...

He is a nice man. Got shouted at by him many times. But I understand his exacting demand of the job. He is also some one who places weight on sampradayam

Rangarajan said...

As per the RTI response received from the temple the position of maniyakarar is vacant. However this article mentions thet Sridhar Swamy is the Maniyakarar. Either the RTI is fane our this article is a fake.

Such is the administration in this temple which boasts a lot but does next to nothing.

Even say before yesterday the vishwaroopam did not happen. And every day the 6 Kala puja is not performed especially the afternoon polka called Periya Avasaram.

While it is commendable for someone to be in temple service the person claiming to be a Maniyakarar must first prove that he is indeed one.

This being a ulthurai the fact that this article claims that he is"appointed" clearly tells that HR&CE interferes in religious affairs which is a violation of article 25,26 of the Indian constitutCon and hence illwgal

Krishnan Ramaswamy said...

Periyaperumal pirati anugrampripoornama arulavendum palyananban KRISHNAN