Friday, September 30, 2022

Vedantha Desikar Temple Mylapore Kodai Utsavam Revival

The Karungal Mandapam where Kodai Utsavam was once celebrated is set to be rebuilt 
Pravachanam Hall and Quarters for Service Personnel to come up at the place where Rajamani Bhattar and three other families lived 
 NS Ranganathan - Live 25+ years in the Ottu Veedu

The Kodai Utsavam at the Kodai Mandapamis likely to see a revival soon with the Vedantha Desikar temple in Mylapore (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/01/vedantha-desikar-srinivasa-perumal.html) looking to rebuild the mandapam that had become dilapidated over the last decade.  The mandapam was located in the middle of the stretch between Desikar Sannidhi and Chitrakulam. It is also through this gateway that Srinivasa Perumal goes on a procession during the Pavitrotsavam.

Traditional Ottu Veedu where that committed archaka lived for decades
The last of the Ottu Veedu opposite the temple was brought down recently. 55 year old Navalpakkam S Ranganathan, whose voice is globally known for the recital of the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham and Desikar Prabhandham along with Malola Kannan, lived the first 25+ years of his life in the 400 square feet ‘Ottu Veedu’ facing the Desikar Sannidhi (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2015/02/navalpakkam-ranganathan.html). His grandfather Soolai Raghavachar had performed archaka service at the Vedantha Desikar temple through the 1950s and early 60s before handing the reigns to Navalpakkam Srinivasachariar (better known as Rajamani Bhattar to the devotees), Ranganathan’s appa, who then served at the temple for four decades. 

Four Residents lived in that stretch
There was a traditional Thinnai at the South and North entrances, a common bathroom and toilet for all the four families that lived here and a well where water was as pure as it could get. 

Rangappa, as he is fondly called, recalled to this writer life spent in that Ottu Veedu “We had lived in the house for almost five decades from the 1940s. There were four families that lived in that stretch during this phase. Ours was the South facing home of about 400 square feet where at any point of time through the 60s, 70s and 80s, at least 6 members lived. The temple gave it to my thatha and then to my appa as archaka quarter at a nominal rent.”

This was the only archaka family to have resided there from the 1940s. There was one who worked in a corporate office and performed Sripatham service at the temple while another resident had been a Manian Kaarar at the temple. A fourth resident performed Upadyayam as well as Sripatham service at the temple.

Challenging Decades
It was an extremely challenging phase for him during his childhood. Rangappa recalls life during the monsoon “While we managed to sleep together in the summer (some of us in the Thinnai), it was desperate times in the Oct to Dec period every year. During the monsoon rains, water would seep through the Ottu roof. As young boys, my brother and I slept inside the temple on the floor opposite the Vahana Mandapam. We would be woken up at 4am and had to go back as the temple door opened at 5.30am.”

A Contented Life
But despite these challenges, he says that they lived a contended life with his appa earning a great name with the devotees “All of us felt blessed to have lived opposite the Desikar Sannidhi even though it was a very small house. We lived a happy life and our spirits were uplifted with our thoughts centering on our Acharya and Srinivasa Perumal.”

More recent service personnel
Mampakkam Murali, who performed Sripatham and Kudai service at the temple and continues to carry the Theevatti at processions including in the Desikar that is currently on, was the last to reside at the South facing house before it was brought down. His family lived there for close to two decades till just before the Pandemic. Madapalli cook Desikar too was offered accomodation earlier and was the last resident on the Northern side of this stretch.
                 Mambakkam Murali

Kodai Utsava Mandapam
Till a decade ago, Kodai Utsavam was celebrated in the Karungal Mandapam in the stretch opposite the Desikar Sannidhi. Srinivasa Perumal would come to this mandapam during the utsavam.  Ubacharam and Thiru Aradhanam would be performed for Perumal. Following dhoopam and deepam, Prasadam was brought from the Madapalli to the mandapam. After Theertham and Shatari, Prasadam was distributed. Following this, Srinivasa Perumal went on a street procession.

Procession during Pavitrotsavam
Srinivasa Perumal also went through the Kodai Utsava Mandapam on a procession around the Chitrakulam during the Pavitrotsavam and this continues to this day though there is no stopover on this stretch. Also, on the occasion of Karthigai, Srinivasa Perumal used to arrive opposite the Desikar Sannidhi and face the Kodai Utsava Mandapam.
Set of 'Ottu Veedus' on the left and Kodai Mandapam on the right

The Karungal Mandapam is set to be rebuilt and the Kodai Utsavam revived sometime in the near future. Also, the zone where the priest’s family and the Sripatham members lived is likely to be reconstructed with facility for Pravachanam and quarters for service personnel.

Those interested to support the reconstruction may call 98410 47064/99401 39112/94450 34576

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Desikar Temple Mylapore Keshav Sripatham Kudai

His is a story of how devotional transformation can happen in a very short period of time if one has the intent
From out of nowhere, this Automobile Design Engineer has become an integral member of the Sripatham Kainkaryam and a ‘Kudai Carrier’ at the Desikar temple in Mylapore
In 2013, the life of mechanical engineer Deepak Rajagopalan (Keshav to those in the temple circles) took a dramatic devotional turn. While he was service oriented right from his AVM Matric school days in Saligramam having worked with senior citizens and blind children, he had not been involved in temple service of any kind in the first two decades of his life. In fact, no other family member of his had been involved in temple service in the decades gone by.  His school days were spent at the football ground as he rose to the heights of a districts player. 

Marine Engineer lures Mechanical Engineer into temple service 
He did not have an inkling of the voluntary services at temples until past 20 he came on chat with Marine Engineer Siddharth Sampath, an ‘unseen’ friend on the social media. 

There was a shortage of sripatham service personnel at that time and Deepak was asked if he would be interested in carrying the Lord on his shoulders as a Kainkaryam.  Siddharth, a Kodambakkam resident, whose family had been associated with the Desikar temple Kainkaryam for long even offered a pick up and drop back at Kodambakkam. And thus began what has been a truly devotionally transformational decade for Keshav. His Sripatham Kainkaryam began with the Vana Bhojana Utsavam at the Veera Raghava Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Evvalur (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2008/06/veera-raghava-perumal.html). 
                  Marine Engineer Siddharth 

It had been an out of the blue call from Siddharth, one that changed Deepak's life forever. In that early phase, just under a decade ago, with him still searching for his first job, there was time on his hands and a regular trip for the Pancha Parva procession to Mylapore’s Vedantha Desikar temple became a reality “Initially it baffled me to see the way the Sripatham team functioned. I had not seen anything like this earlier. People from different walks of life and different age groups came together right on time for the procession. The enthusiasm and commitment of the Sripatham personnel at the Desikar temple kindled my devotional spirit.”
Deepak's interest through his teenage years had been in football and he had moved to the level of a districts player but the year he finished his engineering degree, he kept aside all other interests to devote himself fully to Sripatham service at the Desikar temple in Mylapore. It had been a new initiation in his life, something he had not visualized earlier.

With the kindling of his devotional spirit,  Keshav began to make regular trips to the temple to carry the Lord on his shoulders even after he joined an engineering firmIt was not an easy task at all for he had to ride from Saligramam to his office in Saidapet and then to Mylapore for the procession before riding back home another 10kms late in the evening to Saligramam. With him beginning to enjoy this devotional service, the processional days became something he began to look forward to. And his devotion grew manifold after experiencing the annual Vaikasi Srinivasa Perumal Brahmotsavam and the Puratasi Desikar Utsavasm. Soon he became an integral member of the Sripatham team.

Within three years of joining the service, he was inducted as a committee member of the seven decades old Sripatham Association. 

A fascination for the Sacred Kudai
While he started off carrying Srinivasa Perumal and Vedantha Desikar on his shoulders during the street processions, he branched off into another sacred activity – the carrying of the Kudai. “Initially, my interest was only in Sripatham service but the team initiated me into the ‘Kudai’ service as well. I practiced for months the art of holding the ‘Kudai’ and then carrying it after placing it on the hip inside the temple complex  under the guidance of seniors like Mambakkam Murali and Malayankulam Varadhan They believed that this would make me more versatile in temple service.
“Their early encouragement and the opportunity to carry the Kudai gave me great exposure to another service in the temple space. And I took to a fascination for the ‘Kudai’ for I found it to be a hugely challenging task during processions. Carrying different sized Kudais for different processions was a new experience as was the Chariot procession day during the Brahmotsavam when 10 different Kudais lead the procession.  I learned the art of maneuvering the Kudai during peak hour traffic, away from trees and to keep it under control on windy days. It also gave me great insights into the management of the health of the Kudais.”

“I found carrying the Kudai to be a great learning in life. It is all about the art of ‘balancing’.”

He has along been a dominating personality who likes to do things on time. And he is quite vocal with his point of view as can be seen when it gets tense sometimes during the big utsavams.

The Name - Deepak to Keshav to Elakkai
Once when the Elakkai Maalai did not make its way for the Anna Kooda Utsavam, he took it upon himself to knit the Maalai. From that day, Deepak Rajagopalan became ‘Elakkai' Keshav.

From Rank Outsider to Treasurer 
Though a rank outsider for the Mylapore temple having lived all his life in Saligramam and having not performed any service at this temple till he well past 20, his high devotional commitment has led the Sripatham leadership team to entrust him with the responsible post of Treasurer of the Sripatham Association. And thus he now performs three roles - Sripatham, Kudai and managing the finances of the Trust. With a young family, he has had to shoulder a lot of responsibility – at home, office and temple. But he manages each of these with ease. In recent years, Deepak Rajagopalan has been into automobile design at Haldex, a company that has been considerate to him on his temple service activities. 
At the temple, he is always bubbling with devotional energy and there is a positive vibrancy when he is around. During the big utsavams, there is very little rest for him especially as he has to ride 10kms from West Madras to Mylapore and twice a day at that but temple service has jumped up to the top of his list.  Interestingly, his wife has been an ardent devotee of Srinivasa Perumal since her childhood. As part of her Kainkaryam, she had knitted and presented flower garlands on each day of the Vaikasi Brahmotsavam to the Lord for many years.

With education and football taking precedence, Deepak spent the first two decades of his life away from temples. Over the last 10 years, the 32 year old engineer has more than made up for lost time with his unflinching devotional Kainkaryam so much so that he has come to be called 'Kudai Keshav'. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

S Mahesh TNCA Academy Fast Bowling Coach

First Formal coaching engagement with the TNCA
Former state fast bowler is set for a role at the TNCA Academy
"I will do full justice to the role if I get an opportunity" - S Mahesh 
S Mahesh, the TN fast bowler from the 1990s, is all set to make his coaching entry into the TNCA. It is likely that he will be appointed as the fast bowling coach of the TNCA Academy if things go to plan. The list of coaches for this year has not yet been announced. The process is for the CAC to recommend to the Apex Council that will then have to approve or otherwise.

Following his Ranji retirement, he played second division cricket while continuing to work at India Pistons, a company that he joined at the turn of the century.

He quit the firm five years ago. After the passing away of VB Chandrasekar, CSK CEO KS Viswanathan roped in Mahesh as the head coach of the VB cricket academy that functioned from the Guru Nanak college. 

Viswanathan spoke very highly of Mahesh's credentials "Mahesh was one of the finest allrounders of that time. Unfortunate that he is not playing in this era as he would have been a great pick in T20. A distinctive quality of his was that he was an excellent team man who any captain would have loved to have."

Mahesh had told this writer in a long conversation in 2020 that he had received very positive feedback from the kids and their parents. In fact, in addition to imparting cricket skills, Mahesh had made a positive impact on the attitude of the young kids and the parents pointed to him a dramatic change in their sons in terms of discipline and eating habits. He changed kids’ attitudes during his time at VBCA. “My son, who had not entered a temple, has now started going to temples and began performing Sandhyavandanam” a parent told Mahesh in 2020.

But his stint at VBCA did not last long and he separated ways prematurely.

Positive Impact on youngsters
It was around that time his senior at Indian Bank in the 1990s and former India U19 cricketer G Shyamsundar called on him to offer an opportunity with his TNCA lower division league team Purasawalkam. It was a God sent opportunity for Mahesh. Shyam has been the biggest influence on him in recent times.

Over the last year, he has been captaining the team and mentoring young players in the team. He has fitted into the team very well much to Shyamsundar’s delight. Shyam told this writer on Sunday at St Bedes ground that Mahesh has been engaging very well with the team's youngsters and had a positive impact with them. "There have been positive developments with him and he will do a good job as a coach." 

Mahesh surprised his young team mate last year by handing a new pair of shoes to a teenaged cricketer after his strong performance in a league match for Purasawalkam.

Despite holding all the credentials having played over 50 first class matches, Mahesh did not focus on coaching after his playing days instead slogging it out at India Pistons in many different departments from Product Casting to Label Printing, from Production Planning to Billing, Inventory Management to even Accounting and making a significant contribution to the manufacturing firm.  He  worked full time there for 15 years.  He was also in charge of the After Market Sales which went up from Rs. 4crores when he took over to around Rs. 15crore when he quit in 2017. 

Legendary leg spinner VV Kumar who was the Chairman of the TN Selection Committee in the 1990s had told this writer that ‘Maggie’ has been one of the very few genuine allrounders in TN’s 8 decades cricket history.

Chairman of Selectors of the India U19 team S Sharath was Mahesh's captain in the late 1990s "He never complained even after bowling over 30overs in a day. He was such a workaholic and a captain's delight" Sharath told this writer in 2020.

Now, finally, Mahesh is set to bag a coveted fast bowling coaching role at the TNCA Academy. This will give him an opportunity to engage with upcoming fast bowlers that is right up his belly. He likes working with young kids and is a great motivator. 
His new ball partner from the 1990s J Gokulakrishnan who has been into coaching for the last 15years including a long engagement with the TN team says that Mahesh was always a fighter on the field and had a never say attitude. “He was a fantastic all-rounder. While I do not know his coaching style, he should make for a good coach with his immense experience and knowledge.” 

In a chat with this writer today, Mahesh, who currently lives in Avadi, said "I pride myself on being a transformer and has always considered being an obedient student of the game. I will do full justice to the role if I get an opportunity though I have not yet heard anything from the TNCA."

Based on the impact he created in the short period at the VB academy, it is likely that Mahesh will be able to provide great insights into the upcoming fast bowlers who have their sights on making it into the state side and higher.

Best Wishes to Mahesh in his first formal coaching engagement with the TNCA.

Kapali Temple Cows Caretaker Babu

Performing as a Kainkaryam, Babu has been taking care of the large number of cows at the Kapaleeswarar temple over the last 15years
Last month, this section had featured a story on Engineers and Bankers performing weekly service at the Kapaleeswarar temple grinding the Sandalwood that is presented to the deities (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/08/kapali-temple-sandalwood-grinding.html). This one is about a 55 year old unschooled Mylaporean who, for the last decade and a half, has been serving at the feet of the divine couple every day of the year.

B Babu has been taking care of the 30 cows at the Kapaleeswarar temple as a Kainkaryam. A resident of Mylapore from birth, Babu’s appa, Balu Pillai, reared cows at home and distributed milk for his livelihood. Babu had no school education and was initiated into the rearing and management of cows at a very young age. 

Health issues led to his appa losing both his legs and then subsequently his life. At the turn of the century, Babu’s cousin brother Ramesh performing service at the Kapali temple taking care of the cows. About 15years ago, he roped in the devotionally committed Babu to take up this service.

A day that begins at 4am
Every morning, Babu is at the temple at 4am to bathe the 30 cows. By 5.30am, he takes the milk and presents it at the Sannidhi. After a two hour break, he is back at 8am to feed the cows and clean the entire cow shed. Regulars at the temple would have seen him carry huge sacks on his back from the godown (on the north-west corner) where the Maattu Theevanam is stored.

After providing a second bath in the day to these cows, he heads back home at noon for lunch. 
Babu is back at the temple at 2pm for another round of devotional service. Almost all the cows can feel his presence the moment he enters the temple and have a loving engagement with him. After presenting milk, he is into another round of cleaning that also includes clearing the cow dung. 

During the hot season (Feb- Sept), he gives a third bath in the day to the cows before he heads back to his home near the Solaiappan street for a well-earned sleep.

His life over the last 15years has been all about his close engagement with the 30 cows with whom he works tirelessly from 4am every morning. He rarely takes a break from the work schedule and is there through the year. 

In recent months, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the temple has been presenting a monthly Sambhavanai for his service. 

Every Day Service without a Salary
As one watches his engagement with the cows, there is a sense of a complete devotional commitment  in his Kainkaryam and the sincerity of his work comes through. To him, it does not matter if he is not a HR & CE appointed staffer and does not get paid a salary for his daily work. He has been blessed to serve at the feet of Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal and the feeling of presenting the milk to the deity is simply unmatched. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Pey Azhvaar Thiruvallikeni Trip Puratasi 2022

Mylapore's Pey Azhvaar made a 8 hour trip on Wednesday to provide darshan to the residents of Thiruvallikeni
Following the mangalasasanam in front of Kesava Perumal, Pey Azhvaar left at 2.30pm on Wednesday (Sept 21) for Thiruvallikeni via his birth place on Arundel street.  The Sripatham carrying the Mylapore born Azhvaar to Thiruvallikeni were there at the temple. There was a short stopover for mandagapadi and the Sripatham carried on to reach the Western entrance just after 4pm. The Prabhandham ghosti were present in good numbers as were the residents of Thiruvallikeni to welcome Pey Azhvaar on to the TP Koil street. 

திருக்கண்டேன் பொன்மேனி கண்டேன்
திகழும் அருக்கன் அணி நிறமும் கண்டேன்
செருகிலரும் பொன்னாழி கண்டேன்
புரிசங்கம் கை கண்டேன்
என்னாழி வண்ணன் பால் இன்று 

With the recital of Moonraam Thiruvanthathi, Pey Azhvaar made his way to the Vahana Mandapam at the Eastern entrance of the Parthasarathy Perumal temple with the Sripatham of Thiruvallikeni taking over the process of carrying the Azhvaar from the Mylaporean Sripatham personnel.

Shortly after 5pm, for an hour, he made his way to each of the sannidhis at the temple with the vibrant Prabhandham ghosti (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/07/thiruvallikeni-prabhandham-ghosti.html)  presenting Thiru Mangai Azhvaar’s Periya Thirumozhi verses on Thiruvallikeni - Parathasarathy Perumal (விற்பெரு விழாவும் கஞ்சனும் மல்லும்), Vedavalli Thaayar (வேதத்தை வேதத்தின்), Varadaraja Perumal (மீனவர்  பொய்கை நாண்மலர் கொய்வான்), Thelliya Singar (பள்ளியிலோதி வந்த தன்  சிறுவன்......தெள்ளிய சிங்கம் ஆகிய தேவை) and Andal (இன் துணை பதுமத் ..... பஞ்ச பாண்டவர்காகி) in that order.
The devotees on each of the Mada Streets were decorating their entrances with white pulli kolam welcoming the Azhvaar into their homes.

For close to 90minutes, Parthasarathy Perumal and Pey Azhvaar provided joint darshan around the four big streets accompanied by Prabhandham and Vedic recital. There were Bhajan members too presenting their own version of devotional songs tagging along the procession.
Shortly after 9pm, it was time for Pey Azhvaar to bid adieu for yet another year and he left Thiruvallikeni to the beating of the drums. It had been a devotionally enjoyable evening for the residents of this Divya Desam. Back at the Kesava Perumal temple, Giri Bhattar was ready at the Raja Gopuram to welcome the Azhvaar back. It was close to 10.30pm when Pey Azhvaar made his way back to the Sannidhi Street listening to the presentation of the Moonraam Thiruvanthathi. 
For two decades Chairman of Trustees of the Kesava Perumal temple had anchored Pey Azhvaar’s trip to the Parthasarathy temple in Thiruvallikeni. Just a month ago, he was suspended for the second time in a year with the HR & CE taking charge of the temple. And thus for the first time in decades, the HR & CE put out the invitation for the annual trip on the Ekadasi day in Puratasi .(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/09/kesava-perumal-temple-mylapore-nc.html).

Of course nothing else has changed. The priests continue to do a quiet almost unnoticed service at the temple as they have in the decades gone by. The trip went well without a hitch. Interestingly, the HR & CE office was open past 10.30pm with even the staff present.

Monday, September 19, 2022

PC Prakash Bullet Ride TNCA League Match

The 60 year old Ranji batsman from the 1980s does two 60km rides on his Bullet on successive Sundays to motivate teenaged cricketers in the lower division league 
It was a tense match on Sunday (Sept 18) evening at the TI Murugappa ground in Avadi.  Ranji cricketer from the 1980s PC Prakash could not bear to watch it. He is managing two teams in the TNCA league with Mambalam Mosquitos being one. Only the previous Sunday he had a heart break when his team after being bowled out for just 99 on an unplayable pitch lost by 1wicket. This time, his club had bowled out the opposition for a paltry score but he told this writer during the lunch break on Sunday that the match was not done yet. He obviously knew his batsmen well from his experience of the previous Sunday and they struggled in the chase before finally scrapping through in the last over after losing 8 wickets.

This story is not about the tense TNCA league match. This section had featured in December 2020 a story on 65 year old leggie S Madhavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/12/tnca-league-cricket-returns-after-nine.html )continuing to play in the lower division and spinning a web around the young batsmen with his googlies and top spinners. He has now been playing over five decades of league cricket without a break. A leggie’s passion to bowl endlessly is understandable though the 65 year old’s seems to be almost unmatched.
PC Prakash is just a few years junior and does not play league cricket anymore but at 60 like Madhavan he is doing the unthinkable. For two Sundays in a row, at the start of this new TNCA league season he has left home at 7am on his favourite Bullet…Why? The matches of his league team that he is mentoring had been posted 30 kms away from his Indira Nagar home – on the previous weekend he rode to Red Hills and then yesterday to Avadi. 

After playing first division cricket till the end of the 20th Century, Prakash has been managing league clubs in Madras over the last two decades in addition to his varied roles as State Selector and coach and now the batting coach at the TNCA Academy.
This passion to spot young talent, give them opportunities to play in his team and then to be there an hour before the match to provide the motivation touch ahead of the match completely unmindful of the distance is quite unmatched. Prakash stays with the players through the length of every match offering his technical guidance and mentoring support to the teenagers for whom he is providing a great platform in the league to showcase their talent.

With the 8th wicket falling in the penultimate over, Prakash’s face wore a worried look and almost a feeling that his batsmen were throwing it away once again. Thankfully, he was all smiles a few minutes later when the boundary in the final over secured a tense win. The match last evening ended well past 5pm and after an enjoyable team meeting congratulating his players, he began his long ride back from Avadi after darkness had set in on this Sunday evening. He finally reached home past 7pm, a good 12 hours after he had left. 
He grew up as a school boy in the 1970s with the determination not to get out to any bowler in any match including during the local tennis ball friendlies in Adyar. That determination continued into the 80s when the opposition bowlers found it difficult to shackle his defense and knock him over. Usually cricketers move on from the passion after a certain stage in their lives but Engineer PC Prakash has known nothing else than cricket from the time he was a teenager. And with unbridled enthusiasm to watch the young boys from this new generation, he has taken a 60 kilometer ride on his two wheeler on two successive Sundays at the start of this new lower division league season.  Last weekend ended in a heart break after the opposition recovered from 50/7 to chase out 100 and it was a long ride back with thoughts on 'what might have been'. Last evening was a more joyful ride following the victory achieved in twilight. With lower division matches now posted in far off grounds, the thudding sound of the Bullet making its way into the cricket grounds on the outskirts of the city is likely to become a regular feature with this 1980s Ranji cricketer continuing to be passionately associated with TNCA league cricket.

Kudos to this Cricket Mad 60 year old…

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Srirangam Pavitrotsavam

Nine Day Pavitrotsavam ends with Namperumal making a trip to the Chandra Pushkarani on Wednesday morning
On the 9th and final morning of the Pavitrotsavam, utsava deity Namperumal started on a procession to the Chandra Pushkarani along with Chinna Perumal just after 9am this Wednesday (Sep 14). Outside the Arya Bhattaal Vaasal, the Prabhandham members began the recital of Ramanuja Nootranthaathi in a style that is distinctive to Srirangam Divya Desam.
At the Chandrra Pushkarani, there were around a 100 local devotees and regulars at the utsavam to watch Chinna Perumal take a dip at the sacred tank. Being a Wednesday, it was a delight to get a taste of the traditional devotees of Srirangam. It was a rare sight for not too many raised their hands to take a photo shot of the Lord and most were seen with folded hands invoking the blessings of Namperumal and seeking to cleanse their own sins on the occasion of this final day of the Pavitrotsavam.
Scorching Hot Manal Veli
Almost an hour later, Namperumal began his trip back from the Pushkarani. It was scorching hot in Srirangam and one got a taste on what it is for the Sripatham to carry the Lord on the Manal Veli. 

Sridhar (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2019/03/srirangam-temple-time-keeper.html) is back at the temple in the official role of Maniya Kaarar after a break of about three years and he is a big asset to the temple for he is a stickler for traditional values. He is considerate for the elderly Natha Muni Araiyar who joined with the sacred presentation with his cymbals. While almost all the devotees chose the shady path near the Ramar Sannidhi to make their way to Arya Bhattaal Vaasal via Bhoja Rajan Sannidhi, the Sripatham and the Araiyar had no such privileges. It is almost impossible for anyone to walk bare foot on the Manal Veli from the North to the South but their devotion is such that they carried Namperumal at normal speed. The araiyar too continued his presentation through the Manal Veli.
Just outside the Sri Pandaram, the Prabhandham members completed the set of Ramanuja Nootranthathi. Many members of the ghosti went out of their way to ask devotees on the opposite side to 'close their mouth' and not recite the sacred verses when the ghosti was reciting!!! 

Just after 11am, Sripatham personnel presented their special 'Ghathi' to Araiyar's tunes as they climbed the steps on to the  Pavitrotsava Mandapam built by Jadavarma Sundara Pandian.

This was followed by the final Thirumanjanam of the utsavam. 
Pavitrotsavam is dedicated to the sacred thread worn by the Lord and for removing blemishes in daily rituals. On the first day of the utsavam,  Thiruvaradhanam was conducted 365 times in the Yaaga Saalai while on the second day Thiruvarathanam was presented 1008 times. All the deities were then presented the holy thread. The Utsavam ended with 'Padippu' on Wednesday evening before Namperumal made his way back to the Moolasthanam.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Srirangam Station Retiring Room Dormitory

Two Retiring Rooms and Six Dormitory Beds are available for train travellers at the Srirangam Station
A Retiring Room costs Rs. 400 for 24 hours while Dormitory costs Rs. 150
                     Retiring Room with Locker Facility

Srirangam Railway Station offers retiring rooms and dormitories on the first floor of the station.
The two double bed retiring rooms that costs Rs. 240 for 12 hours (6am to 6pm) and Rs. 400 for 24 hours (6am to 6am) are neat with clean toilets and shower facilities. 

There are 6 dormitory beds with good lighting. Here too the toilets (Western and Indian) and bath facilities are clean. These come at Rs. 150 for 12 hours.
                                    Dormitory

There is a service person assigned to clean the rooms and toilets every day.

One can book online on irctc website through the PNR number or physically at the station by filling in the form and providing id proof.

This is an ideal and economical place to stay for train travelers getting down at Srirangam station and looking for 12-24 hour accommodation and especially for those who will be taking a return train from the Srirangam station.
There is also canteen facility on platform 1 that serves hot idly and dosai starting 7am in the morning 
and Parotta, Tomato and Curd Rice in the afternoon, in addition to Coffee/ Tea and soft drinks through the day till 11pm.

The service personnel at the booking counter are friendly and co-operative.

This section had earlier featured stories on :




Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Vijay Nirmal Cricketer Don Bosco

The TN U22 cricketer from the 1990s is now one of the most successful wealth managers
For a ‘Cricketing Rebel’ in his late teens, Vijay Nirmal has made a great transition into the corporate world managing the wealth of the who's who in the corporate world
N Vijay Nirmal had the makings of a solid opener in the second half of the 1980s and early 90s. He had a strong foundation at Don Bosco. He was a talented off spinner as well.  Coached by Chandrasekar Rao, Audi Chetty and Umapathy, he made rapid progress in age group cricket at the city and state schools level. He shared the room with Rahul Dravid for South Zone at the U15 level. At that time, it seemed that cricketing glory beckoned but he turned a rebel in his late teens and did not progress beyond the U22 level. The cricketing lessons did not go waste and he used it in his corporate life. Touching 50, he now manages the wealth of the who’s who in the corporate world. Interestingly, seeking ‘Enlightenment’ and adopting ‘Saraganathi’ as a way of life, he has turned extremely spiritual and spends a lot of time every day at the Arunachaleswarar Sannidhi at the Kapaleeswarar temple. Here is the story.

Vijay Nirmal did his entire schooling at Don Bosco. His appa Nandakumar hailed from Coimbatore and was a cricket fanatic. Unfortunately his own cricketing interests had been crushed by his appa. For a large part, Nandakumar had to play matches without his appa’s knowledge and even had to hide the paper scores.  But Prof Nandakumar could not be kept away from his passion and started Prasad CC in Coimbatore and another one by the same name in Chennai later. What he could not achieve as a player he was keen for his son to. In this endeavour, he entered the cricketing life of his son right at the beginning when Vijay Nirmal was just 11. He would bowl to Vijay Nirmal at the BS Nets and shaped his early batting style.

Vijay Nirmal looks back at those early days in cricket “My appa wanted to live his cricketing dream through me. His intention was noble but he did not know as to how it affected me, emotionally.”
Emotional Challenges of a teenager
When Vijay Nirmal came to play a practice match in the late 1980s for DB against YMCA TSR for whom this writer played, his appa’a voice was heard every ball that he faced. He was also a beneficiary of some special privileges early on though he did not ask for it. His appa’s powerful presence in the TNCA led to him being given extra batting in the nets at the selection trials, something that eminent cricket writer of the time Rajan Bala pointed out in the Indian Express in the 1980s. As a teenager Vijay Nirmal was blissfully unaware of what was happening around him except that he was under the total control of his appa. It was a phase when he was fully into cricket.

The 'cricketing model  led to emotional challenges in his teenage phase “I could not hit any ball in the air. His drilling made me focus on not getting out under any circumstance as I feared facing his wrath the next minute. Mind did not function optimally during my cricketing days.”

Instead of enjoying the sport, he was drained emotionally. He looked around him and found cricketers enjoying their game. Added to this was the tag of being a TNCA official’s son which always made his inclusion a questionable selection. There were always murmurs around in the cricketing circles. 

The Only Emotional Support – Tanvir Jabbar
TN cricketer from the 1990s Tanvir Jabbar played along with Vijay Nirmal through the late 80s for Don Bosco and for city and state schools. For a few years, they spent morning and evening together at the cricket nets and knew each other well. While Vijay Nirmal was a slow starter and a steady player, Tanvir was flamboyant. The two forged several big partnerships during the period and helped win matches for the school. He was one cricketer who stood by him in that difficult emotional phase in cricket. He told this writer that Vijay Nirmal was a very dedicated and disciplined cricketer “He was always willing to learn but unfortunately he could not do what he wanted to do. His father adopted an autocratic style and the conversations were always one sided.”
“We had a good understanding of each other. I knew exactly as to what he was going through and tried my best to show compassion and empathy towards his feelings. He let out all his frustrations in our long conversations.” 

Turns a rebel at 18
In another story seen in this section earlier, Mayura Kumar(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/11/sanmar-mayura-kumar-swimming-tennis.html) too was initially pushed into tennis by her appa and uncle (late N Sankar) - https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/11/jolly-rovers-n-sankar-75.html- but she quickly got away from living their tennis dream and went on to become a national champion in swimming. But Vijay Nirmal did not take such a quick call.

Into his late teens, he turned a rebel with his new physical appearance being testimony to a new way of life. From a short summer hair cut earlier he became a hippy growing his hair long. He joined a rock music band moving away mentally from cricket. “At 18, I turned a rebel. I made new friends outside of cricket. It was a phase where nobody asked me any questions. I had also become a devotee of Ramana Maharishi and the spiritual experience continues to this day.”
Between all of these, he had turned in some very good performances first for his school and also for the city and state in age group cricket. In 1986 he bowled in the nets to Gavaskar during the tied test and got him out “years later he still remembered me taking his wicket in the nets” recalls Vijay Nirmal.

Srikkanth – The Best Captain
He also moved up to playing first division cricket for Railway Institute and Alwarpet. He says playing under K Srikkanth was fun “He was the best captain I had played under. He mixed humour with serious cricket. He was highly motivational and got the best out of the team.”

Vijay Nirmal rose to the level of being in the list of Ranji probable in the 1990s but by then his mind was away from serious cricket and he moved away into corporate life. He continued to play lower division cricket once in a while as well as inter club cricket fully expressing himself unlike his earlier phase and playing with a new found freedom even going over the top at the start of the innings. His cricketing phase in the late 1980s was such a nightmare that he erased it completely from his memory. In recent times, he has returned to cricket and is a member of the apex council of the TNCA.

Managing Wealth - Who's Who of the Corporate World
Soon after becoming an engineer, he joined a manufacturing plant but production work did not interest him. He pursued his MBA from Symbiosis and moved into the banking sector. He operated below par as a cricketer but in the corporate world he has made right to the top, literally sitting on the 7th floor of the bank!!! Over the last two decades, he has enjoyed enormous success in the corporate world working in large firms such as Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC, Merrill Lynch and Barclays. He has bagged the top performer award multiple times at the private sector bank where is he a VP but brushes away the corporate success in his current philosophical way of life “it all happened on its own and in the way it had to.” 

However, he does credit a lot of his corporate success to the cricketing lessons “The cricketing experience has given me a lot of mental balance and helped in emotional management in the corporate world. It taught me resilience. Cricket was a hard grind and we had to dig deep against the great bowlers of the time. It developed my character and has helped with discipline and work ethic. Cricket has been the greatest teacher. It taught me that I could get out any ball, I could score a zero after a century and I carried that lesson into the corporate life. It helped me manage success and failure and provided the much needed emotional control. It has contributed to the DNA of how you function.” 

Martial Arts and Tapas
It has been a successful transformation for Vijay Nirmal. From the emotional lows during his early cricketing phase to great corporate success from black and brown belt in Martial Arts to everyday Tapas, Vijay Nirmal has experienced it all. 

Into the late 40s, he has become one of the most successful wealth managers. Currently he is the Regional Head of the Wealth Management division at India’s top private sector Bank. For all the emotional challenges in his cricketing phase, he has made it to the top of the corporate ladder and today manages the wealth of the ‘Who’s Who’ in corporate circles. 
Cricketer turned Entrepreneur Promodh Sharma (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/05/promodh-sharma-cricketer-turned.html) played together with Vijay Nirmal in the late 1980s and the two also went on annual trip to Bangalore with YMCA TSR. He says that as an investment Banker Vijay is second to none "He puts great value on integrity and always keeps the clients best interest at heart whenever he advises you on any matter. He does his homework and ensures that he understands your risk appetite and then acts in accordance.  He is very intuitive and understands the odds he is dealing with on the market very very well. He has consistently delivered on my family’s portfolio over the years."
Amidst the great success at work and heading a large team, he has found peace at the Kapaleeswarar temple. His emotional balance and the sense of calm that one sees in him these days is something one could not have fathomed after what he went through in his teenage life. There is a blessed feeling about him often in a Veshti with the Thiruneer sported prominently on his forehead sitting in in meditation at the Arunachaleswarar Sannidhi at the Kapaleeswarar Temple where he is a regular these days. 

Had things gone the way his appa wanted, Vijay Nirmal may have become a top cricketer. Instead he chose a different way of life and has reached the top of the corporate world. More importantly, he seems to have found his purpose in life having been on a self-discovery path and is working towards attaining ‘Enlightenment’ following the Saranagathi way of life.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sai Sudarshan Kaushik Gandhi Centuries again

Prospective TN Openers score Centuries together again
Twice in two weeks, Jolly Rovers'  openers have posted a big century partnership- this time a double- raising their stake for the TN opening spot
For the 2nd week in a row prospective TN openers Sai Sudarshan and Kaushik Gandhi struck centuries for Jolly Rovers on the first day of the league match. This section had featured a story after the first day of their match against Sea Hawks at the IIT ground end of last month after the two put on 185 for the opening wicket. And they today they did better getting the team off to a rollicking start posting a double century stand.

It may be recalled that TN Chairman of Selectors S Vasudevan spoke to Sai on tea on that opening day after he failed to convert his century into a big knock (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/08/tn-selectors-chairman-vasudevan-sai.html). That seemed to have had bit of a positive impact on him as he went on to play a bigger innings today though once again he did not convert it into a double hundred.

Kaushik Gandhi, who has a penchant for big innings did his chances for a spot in the TN team no harm with an unbeaten century on the opening day. He will be looking to convert this tomorrow into a really big century to compensate for the poor start he had to the league season.

Kaushik had told this writer at tea in the earlier match about the importance of converting his own century into a big one. Last month, in a conversation with this writer, he expressed keenness to perform well for TN this season and these two centuries would have given him a lot of confidence ahead of the state selection (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/08/kaushik-m-gandhi-tn-opener-tnpl-captain.html). 

With the form that he is in, Sai should be an automatic selection in all formats for TN this season. And with the two centuries in a fortnight, Kaushik too has made a case for himself.

Kesava Perumal Temple Mylapore NC Sridhar HR & CE battle

In the latest twist to this ongoing battle, HR & CE has suspended NC Sridhar and the Board of Trustees for the 2nd time in 12 months and taken over charge of the temple
Kesava Perumal is set to make the annual trip to Thiruvallikeni next week
Only last week, this section had featured a couple of stories on Temple Activist TR Ramesh calling for devotees to be part of the 'Own Your Temple' launch at the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore seeking to relieve temples from the clutches of the HR & CE (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/08/kapali-temple-own-your-temple-launch.html). This story is about a set of serious accusations the HR & CE has levied against private Trustees in the way they have administered the ancient Athi Kesava Perumal temple in Mylapore throwing the concept of private management of temples into question.

HR & CE 's Scathing Attack on the Administration
It has been a see saw battle over the last 12months between Chairman of Trustees NC Sridhar and the HR & CE over the administration of the Adhi Kesava Perumal temple in Mylapore. While August 2021’s suspension order against Sridhar had been set aside by the Madras High Court and he had begun to manage the utsavams as earlier, recently, the HR & CE has come out with a scathing attack on the Board of Trustees and its functioning in the years gone by. The HR & CE has posted a point by point description of the allegations against the Trustees. 
In a sweeping accusation, the HR & CE has listed out over 10 serious offences against NC Sridhar (Chairman) and the Board of Trustees. These include financial irregularities relating to multiple properties of the temple over a long period of time. The HR & CE has also stated that the Board of Trustees has not taken back possession of the jewels from the priests at the end of the Big Utsavams in the last three year as has been the practice in the past. They have also accused the Board of not accounting for monies collected from the devotees for the Thiruppani of the Chitrakulam.

In light of these, the HR & CE has suspended NC Sridhar and the Board of Trustees and appointed an AC as the Thakkar of the temple.  

In August last year, in a rather dramatic and sudden move the HR & CE had taken over the administration from the long standing trustee who had been the trustee for the last two decades. 
P Sekar Babu, the HR & CE Minister had told this writer in an exclusive chat that he ruled out the possibility of handing the temple back to the existing trustees who had been in charge for the last two decades or so as there were several allegations against them especially relating to selling of temple lands. He had said that there had been a file sent by the HR & CE department to the Government in 2018 alleging illegal sale of the temple lands by the Trustee. While no action had been taken in the last couple of years, he said he received the file and had taken action based on that. He also said that he will be investigating the specifics relating to the lands illegally transferred which he indicated ran into several acres. 

Sekar Babu had visited the temple and spoke to the archakas asking them to carry out the pooja under the new Thakkar appointed at that time.

Soon after the hostile takeover, NC Sridhar had told this writer that he would fight the case in the court for he had given his life and soul to the temple over the two decades he had been a trustee and had termed the hostile takeover an arbitrary and unjustified move. He told this writer in a conversation last year that he as the Chairman of the Trustees or the other trustees had not sold or alienated a single piece of land belonging to the temple in the last two decades and that the allegations of the minister were false and misleading.
With the Madras setting aside the suspension, he came back strong and began managing the utsavams as earlier including the Pey Azhvaar Utsavam in November last year and then the grand Theppotsavam at Chitrakulam. He wrote to the HR& CE to hand back the keys of the office that had remained shut for several months last year.  

Annual Trip to Thiruvallikeni
While NC Sridhar did manage to secure the trusteeship back from the HR & CE and has been managing the utsavams this year, the current suspension is the latest twist in the tale. He has been closely associated with this temple and has a deep devotional attachment especially with Mayuravalli Thayar. One will have to wait and watch as to how this unfolds but for the moment the HR & CE is back in full control of the Athi Kesava Perumal temple in Mylapore. One will also wait with bated breath as to how the HR & CE will organize the annual trip to the Parthasarathy Perumal Koil in Thiruvallikeni later this month, an event they will be managing for the first time in recent decades.