Sunday, August 7, 2022

Nandambakkam Kothandarama Temple

The young priest is paid a daily wage of Rs. 100!!!
Three major renovations in 30years but the financial plight of the priest family has not improved
It is hoped that the HR & CE will provide an appointment order and a fair salary to this city priest
37 year old Ananthakrishnan Bhattar has spent all his life at the several centuries old Kothandarama temple in Nandambakkam opposite the Chennai Trade Center⁸. His forefathers had been performing Thiru Aradhanam at the temple through the previous century. The financial situation in the family had been so bad in the 1980s and 90s that his appa, Veera Raghava Bhattachar, could only send him to a Government school. 

His appa himself had undergone agama education in the patshala in Tirumala and joined service here at a salary of a couple of hundred rupees that four decades later had risen to Rs. 1200 at the time of his death just over a decade ago.

Completes Agama Education
Despite the financial challenges at home, Ananthakrishnan’s interest right from his childhood was to serve at the feet of Kothandaramar. He would assist his appa in daily Thiru Aradhanam and during utsavams. After his Class X exams, he announced to his appa his interest to perform kainkaryam at the temple and discontinued academics. He joined the Patshala organised at the Parthasarathy temple in Thiruvallikeni and passed the certification examination. He also learned Vaikanasa Agama from Pattinam Koil Santhanam Bhattar (Mint-North Madras), Kallakuruchi Seshadri Bhattar and Muthukrishnan Bhattar, Chrompet as well as from his appa.
Into his 20s, he officially joined the temple after the early passing away of his appa. During the decade that he has been officially at the temple, he has had to survive on daily wages of Rs. 100 from the HR & CE and has not yet had an official appointment as the Chief Priest. He is hopeful that sometime in the near future, the current EO will help him get the appointment order for he is solely reliant on the temple to take care of his family including his ailing amma and his two school going sons.

Major Renovations and a Modern Look
The temple itself which was managed by private trustees was taken over by the HR & CE just over half a century ago.  In recent decades, there has a dramatic turnaround in the physical infrastructure of the temple. There is a new modern look with construction of new Sannidhis and a new 5 Tier Rajagopuram but as with many temples in TN, the archakas have not been taken care of financially. 
A private trust  set up decades ago has been managing the utsavams including the Thai Brahmotsavam over the last three decades but even they have not allocated a sum for the archaka as Sambhavanai and he is left to manage with the daily wage. New Sannidhis have been  added in the last few decades. For a centuries old temple, this has not attracted the attention of the devotees in the city. There are only a few devotees on weekdays with Saturday being the only day in the week when the locals visit the temple.

Grand Rama Navami Utsavam 
Historically Rama Navami utsavam in Panguni has been the grandest in the year with one community (Pillai, Reddy, Nair, Brahmin…..) taking care of the Ubayam on each of the days of the utsavam. On the Rama Navami day, Hanuman carries Rama on a street procession while the 10th day of the utsavam sees the Rama Pattabhisekam celebrations.  Moolavar Rama is seen in a South facing Pattabhisekam Posture. 
Service to Rama- His only way of life
For Ananthakrishnan Bhattar, service to Kothandaramar has been his only way of life. Unmindful of the daily wages, he continues to serve the Lord with devotion and hopes that Pattabhiseka Ramar will one day turn the financial fortunes for him. He is also keen for one of his sons to take up the temple kainkaryam to continue the hereditary service. His grandfather Parthasarathy Bhattar who had served during a financially challenging period pre and post World War II, went out to perform Purohitam service and with that income bought pooja items for Ramar and performed service. Such has been the devotional service of this family. 

Mannar Koil Acharya's Court case for a fair Salary
It is for priests like Ananthakrishnan Bhattar that Periya Nambi Narasimha Gopalan of Mannar Koil had filed a case, a few years ago, in the High Court for fair and reasonable wages to priests and service personnel in temples in Tamil Nadu at least as per the minimum wages act (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/04/mannar-koil-bhattar-priest-salary-case.html).  At Rs. 100 a day, it would be challenging for anyone to manage a household in a city given the rising costs.

It has been a three decades association for Ananthakrishnan Bhattar with Lord Kothandaramar having been with his appa right from his childhood. His unflinching faith is that the financial tide will turnaround sometime in life!!!

Festivals
Rama Navami in Panguni, Brahmotsavam in Thai and Garuda Sevai on Vaikasi Visakam. In addition, Aadi Pooram, Udayavar Utavam in Chitrai and Aani Thirumanjanam are celebrated in a grand manner.

The temple is open from 7am to 11.30am (Sat 12noon) and 5pm to 8pm (Sat 8.30pm). Contact: Ananthakrishnan Bhattar @ 93804 22205

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Pey Azhvaar Avathara Sthalam Dilapidated

Avathara Sthalam on Arundel Street belonging to Madhava Perumal temple in ruins
Will the HR &CE restore the Avathara Sthalam as part of the current Thiruppani works exercise that will start in Avani and revive the annual Pey Azhvaar Utsavam procession that has come to a halt
Aippasi Sathayam is one of the most important days in the year at the Madhava Perumal Temple in Thyagarajapuram, Mylapore. It is the birthday of one of the first three Azhvaar, Pey Azhvaar, who was born in Mylapore.

திரு கண்டேன் பொன்மேனி கண்டேன் 
திகழும் அருக்கன் அணிநிறமும் கண்டேன் 
செருக்கிளரும் பொன்னாழி கண்டேன் 
புரிசங்கம் கை கண்டேன் 
என்னாழி வண்ணன்பால் இன்று 

On this morning, Pey Azhvaar goes on a procession from the Madhava Perumal temple to the Avathara Sthalam on Arundel Street (historically known as 'Arundhathi Street'). There, the day long events would start with a Thirumanjanam. The Prabhandham members too gathered there on the occasion to recite Thirumozhi verses of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar.

After alankaram in the second half, Pey Azhvaar went on a Mangalagiri procession in the evening around the four big streets with the Prabhandham members presenting Ramanuja Nootranthaathi verses. The day ended with the recital of the last canto from Namazhvaar's Tiruvoimozhi.

Pey Azhvaar's Grand Birthday Celebrations halted
Unfortunately, the grand celebrations of Pey Azhvaar's birthday at his avathara sthalam has become a thing of the past with the sacred location shut down for a few years now after the mandapam had fallen off. Given the dilapidated state, this annual procession from Madhava Perumal temple to the Pey Azhvaar Avathara Sthalam has not taken place in the last few years. There has been no action from the HR & CE to restore the historical mandapam. 
The Pey Azhvaar Avathara Sthalam belonging to Kesava Perumal temple (that Trustee NC Sridhar has been managing) is just adjacent to the one belonging to the Madhava Perumal temple. On Aippasi Sarhayam, it has been a tradition for Pey Azhvaar from Kesava Perumal temple as well to make the annual trip to the Avathara Sthalam. Thus, through the previous century, Pey Azhvaar from both these temples have made the annual trip to the Avathara Sthalam on Arundel Street to celebrate the birthday on Aippasi Sathayam.
TVS's Venu to undertake repair works at Madhava Perumal temple
As seen in the story in this section last month, TVS’ Venu Srinivasan who has undertaken restoration exercises in over 200 temples across TN, Karnataka, AP and Kerala is undertaking the Thiruppani works at the Madhava Perumal temple with Balalayam expected to take place later this month (in Avani) following the three day Pavitrotsavam that will be performed next week. The Painting of the Vimanam and Raja Gopuram and other repair works inside the temple complex is likely to be completed within 6months (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/07/madhava-perumal-mylapore-temple.html).

The huge well is currently located at the Avathara Sthalam belonging to Kesava Perumal temple.

Avathara Sthalam not part of the Thiruppani works
Unfortunately, HR & CE’s application  and the approval from the renovation committee for the Thiruppani works did not include restoration of the Avathara Sthalam. One wonders why? This writer managed to take a few photographs this week of the dilapidated state of the avathara sthalam from between the fully covered aluminum sheets. One now finds dust bins in front of this sacred location, the birth place of Pey Azhvaar.
Dust Bins at the entrance of Pey Azhvaar's Avathara Sthalam

While the Pey Azhwar Avathara Sthalam belonging to Kesava Perumal temple on the same street has been well maintained with personnel having been posted to take care of the Nandavanam, the Avathara Sthalam belonging to Madhava Perumal Temple has been shut out with tall aluminum sheets. Sadly one now finds dust bins at the western entrance of this sacred Avathara Sthalam.

சார்வு நமக்கென்றும் சக்கரத்தான் 
தண்துழாய் தார்வாழ் வரைமார்பன் தான் முயங்கும் 
காரார்ந்த வானமரு மின்னிமைக்கும்  
வண்தாமரை நெடுங்கண், தேனமரும் பூமேல் திரு

Will HR & CE restore the Avathara Sthalam?
With the renovation exercise at the Madhava Perumal temple taking place after 15years, this is ideal time for the dilapidated Pey Azhwar Avathara Sthalam to be restored to its historical glory and for the Aippasi Sathayam Utsavam of Pey Azhvaar and the procession to the Avathara Sthalam to be revived.

It is hoped that the HR & CE will take immediate steps and include the restoration of the Avathara Sthalam as part of the current renovation exercise of the Madhava Perumal temple. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

CS Suresh Kumar India Schools TN Opener NCA Coach

He had a meteoric rise in the late 1970s rising from beach cricket to India Schools and to five Ranji Centuries in his first 9 matches in the early 80s but the India call remained elusive
The  first batting coach of DK and M Vijay, Suresh Kumar is passing on his batting knowledge to the Next Gen of players as a Level III coach
Into his mid-teens the boy from Thiruvallikeni was more interested in cover ball cricket on the Marina Beach than TNCA schools cricket. Unlike most others from that historical location that is home to the Parthasarathy Perumal Divya Desam(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/07/thiruvallikeni-sripatham-thangis.html?m=0) he joined Adarsh School. The PD’s visit to his house transformed his cricket and he had a meteoric rise playing against the likes of Derek Pringle and Rameez Raja. He was soon on the verge of an India call. But his fall was just as sudden as the rise and he went out of favour quickly. In his second innings in cricket, he is trying to make his mark as a Level III Coach. Here is the story.

CS Suresh Kumar spent all his schooling days in Thiruvallikeni. It would have been normal for a boy from that location to have joined the Hindu school but his appa, a state TT player, was keen on convent education for his son and got him admitted to Adarsh School in Royapettah!!!While the school laid a strong foundation for his extrovert nature, the English language and communication skills that were to come in handy in his second innings in cricket, it did not possess a strong team in cricket.

From Beach Cricket to India Schools
And thus, into his teens, a lot of his cricketing time was spent at the Marina beach playing tennis ball tournaments with his friends.  He was ignored at the city schools selection for two years and he was not keen even to play cricket for the school. He recalls the transformational event at his home in the 2nd half of the 1970s that led to his meteoric rise in cricket “I skipped the school match but much to my surprise a hat trick from one of our bowlers (Naveen) led to a shock upset and we were into the next round. I still was not keen to go as I had been ignored in the TNCA selections but on the morning of the match, the PD (Mohana Krishnan) came home and asked me to come for the match as he was confident that I could make a match winning contribution. When I expressed my disinterest, he convinced my appa to send me for the match.”

‘When I reluctantly agreed and promised to be at the ground, he would not leave. He wanted to take me along and held me by hand to the ground.’ 

Suresh Kumar scored a big hundred against RKM North, a knock that shot him into limelight. It was one of the several big hundreds he was to score in the coming years. He continued to amass runs for Adarsh in 77-78. The century got him a place in the city schools and in no time he was playing for TN schools. In November 77, he scored a century against Karnataka in the Ghulam Ahmed Trophy in Trivandrum.

When the schools team from England visited India in 1977-78, he was in prime form having scored plenty of runs for TN and South Zone Schools. In the four test series, he scored quality runs in three displaying great patience that was to become a hallmark of his batting in the coming seasons when he graduated to the senior level. In each of the Junior Tests, he helped Indian Schools recover from a tricky situation. In the first test at the Wankhade Stadium in December 77, his half century helped India from 38/3. In the second test in Delhi, he scored 62 watched by Robin Marlar. 
In three tests, Suresh Kumar scored 178. The renowned cricket writer who was covering England’s Test Series in Pakistan made a quick trip to India to check out the English prospects (Future England players Derek Pringle, Paul Terry and Kim Barnett were part of that team). He wrote in January 1978 that India had found a solid top order batsman for the future referring to Suresh Kumar particularly pointing to his correct technique and temperament to play long innings and said that he had everything a coach could ask for from an opener.

Playing for SZ schools, he scored a half century against England in Hyderabad in January 1978.

Against Pakistan U19 in 78-79
Later that year, in December 1978, captaining TN, he scored a double century against Andhra in the South Zone inter-state schools tournament. His consistent run of scores in 1978 followed by an unbeaten half century against North Zone in the Cooch Behar Trophy was to earn him a place in the Indian U19 team in January 1979 but not before he had a bit of jitters at the selection.

At the trials to select the team to play Pakistan U19, Suresh Kumar was not given a chance to bat. A shocked Suresh gathered courage and went up to the selector Chandu Borde to make a polite enquiry “We have seen enough of you” Suresh Kumar recalls Borde telling him that day.  
He was in the team alongside future Ranji team mates R Madhavan and captain K Srikkanth. The team also included Chandrakant Pandit, Kiran More and Saad Bin Jung. In the second test at Chepauk, he scored 30. Continuing his good form, playing for South Zone against Pakistan U19, he contributed in both innings including another half century.

By this time, Suresh, who had made his league debut for Ranji CC, in the lower division league received offers from all the first division teams including from Sriraman. He joined YMA to play under the captaincy of legendary S Venkataraghavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/04/venkataraghavan75.html?m=1) for the first time. 
He recounts the change in his cricketing mindset between 1976 and 79 “While I did not have big cricketing hopes till I was 15, playing for Indian Schools and India U19 against visiting overseas teams led me to dream big and to play for India. My appa too who was not encouraging of cricket in the earlier phase began to acknowledge that I could make it big in cricket.”

However just when his cricketing fortunes were looking up in his late teens, financial challenges in the family led him to accept the job offer from SBI before he had graduated and thus missed out on College and University cricket. He moved from day to evening college (6pm to 9pm) at Viveka. In the three years at SBI, he shone enough to figure in the all India SBI team alongside GR Viswanath, Goel and Roger Binny, among other greats.
In that phase, he opened alongside the more stylish S Kedarnath (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/06/kedarnath-s-opener-from-1970s.html) who remembers him from the early 1980s "Suresh was a rock solid opener. He had a good temperament and penchant for long innings. He played several big knocks for SBI. At a time when he was doing well for the state in Ranji cricket and playing alongside legends such as GRV for the bank, he took the call to quit. We all tried to convince him but he would not listen."

U22 - Century 
In October 1981, by when he had already joined SBI, he scored a century for TN U22 against Hyderabad after coming in to replace K Srikkanth who had gone to play a Duleep Trophy match. He had already played for SZ the previous year but was dropped by TN. "After being dropped by TN having played for SZ, I was determined and showed grit to score the century."

By 1982, he had played for India Schools and India U19 and also starred in U22 cricket. He had been in line for a Ranji debut but that proved elusive for quite a while. 

It was his knock in November 1982 in the city vs districts match that finally got Venkat to have a final word on his entry into Ranji cricket. After big knocks from R Madhavan and S Balaji (century) for the districts had helped them post close to 400, city was bundled out for less than 150 and forced to follow on. Suresh Kumar shone through carrying the bat scoring 59NO. In the second innings, once again he scored a half century. 

Venkataraghavan's contribution
He remembers the strong words from Venkataraghavan.  “Venky saw me bat, was impressed and picked me for Ranji. It was he who believed in my potential (and R Madhavan’s) and encouraged us big time in the early 1980s. However, harsh he sounded, he always had the wellbeing of his teammates in his mind. He always told me that I had it in me to play for India.  “Cricket at the top is extremely challenging and one cannot take anything for granted. He inculcated the toughness in me that has helped right till this day.”
He told me that he had experienced the worst in his times and that he wanted every teammate of his to be at their strongest mentally. “He brought me out of any complacency I may have had at that time after a few good innings for TN.”

Suresh Kumar had a sensational couple of years in Ranji cricket. After debuting with a duck he was dropped for the next match. He recalls those few years with TN “I knew even a 50 would not be enough to survive in that TN team. I had to make big runs to keep my place.”

A glorious Ranji run
Suresh Kumar had a sensational couple of years in Ranji cricket. Both his under 19 team mate from the late 70s R Madhavan and he debuted in the same match in Ranji against Hyderabad in rather contrasting styles. While Madhavan scored 96 (the story goes that TNCA’s Santhanam prayed continuously for Madhavan to not score a century on debut for those that did previously did not do well in cricket), Suresh Kumar scored a duck. Madhavan looks back at that season “He was dropped for the next match against Andhra after failing on his debut. When he was brought back for the game against a strong Karnataka bowling attack, he was all grit and determination.”
Madhavan and Suresh put together a 75run partnership that took TN close to Karnataka’s first innings score of 180+.  Against Raghuram Bhat and Vijayakrishna, Suresh Kumar show great patience to score 146. Both Madhavan and Suresh Kumar had one of the fastest to 1000 runs in Ranji cricket for TN. Southpaw  Madhavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/10/r-madhavan-tn-cricketer-1980s.html?m=1) who played alongside Suresh in the India U19 series against Pakistan in the late 70s and who was on the verge of an India call against David Gower’s England in 84-85 recalls Suresh from those years  “There was no looking back for Suresh after that great century against Karnataka. He scored back to back centuries and had one of the best runs for a TN bat. His five centuries in 9matches was sensational performance” says Madhavan.

Suresh followed his maiden century with another big one (162) against Kerala in the next match once again posting a big opening partnership with V Shivaramakrishnan. Though he failed in the first knock out game against UP, famously known for centuries by two SVPB Udumalpet players, S Srinivasan and NP Madhavan(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/05/np-madhavan.html?m=1), Suresh Kumar ended his debut season with a century against Delhi that helped TN avert an outright loss. He easily topped the batting aggregate for TN that year having scored close to 500runs.
The remarkable debut season led him to being awarded the State cricketer of the year and the journalists' cricketer of the year.

Though he began the next season with a duck in that famous match against Karnataka when TN’s top three were back in the pavilion in the first few minutes on an almost unplayable swinging first morning in Bangalore before R Madhavan shaped a great recovery along with S Srinivasan and Abdul Jabbar, Suresh Kumar came back with a bang in the 2nd match with yet another century. He ended the league phase with another century against Kerala and once again involved in a century stand with R Madhavan.

“I knew even a 50 would not be enough to survive in that TN team. I had to make big runs to keep my place and hence I focused on scoring centuries” says Suresh Kumar looking back on his first two seasons.

Symbol of Great Patience
PC Prakash (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/04/pc-prakash-tn-ranji-1980s.html) was in the same mould as Suresh Kumar in batting with both displaying strong defence and a great temperament to play the long innings. They were teammates and good friends right from the U22 days "His basics were strong. He had a sound technique and was a solid opener in those days. He was a very quiet and serious cricketer (became outspoken much later). While I did not play the match against Bombay, his century away from home was an outstanding effort. He was a symbol of great patience and it was an extraordinary innings that everyone took notice of."
                                      
Against the rampaging West Indians
These runs were not enough to get him a place in the Duleep Trophy team. His selection for South Zone and the Board President’s XI teams to play a rampant West Indies a few months after their World Cup loss leads Suresh Kumar to reflect on destiny that shapes one’s life.

“When I had no interest in serious cricket after joining Adarsh, the PD’s proactive visit to my home led to a cricketing transformation. Here when I was scoring runs aplenty in Ranji cricket, I was thrown in against the fastest bowlers in the world. They were relentless ball after ball, bowler after bowler.”

Selector Hanumant Singh had told Suresh that he was in contention for the tests if he made runs in the lead up games, especially in light of the fact that Gavaskar had chosen to go down the order “TA Sekar was the fastest I had faced until then but here was a battery of them relentless in their pursuit. Roberts and Marshall were almost unplayable. You could see the anger in their eyes after the World Cup loss. They were on a mission. I did not even have a helmet with me.’ 

PC says that a couple of big knocks against the West Indies could have been a turning point for him “In those days performing against the visiting teams was crucial. It was the stepping stone to playing for India. Unfortunately Suresh failed in those two matches. A strong performance against the Windies may have elevated him to the next level but sadly he missed out on those opportunities.”

Sidhu made a half century for BP XI and was in the test squad later in the series.

After a not too impressive league phase, he scored a century in the knock out game against Bombay in yet another big century stand with V Shiv in 1984-85. It was back to back century stand between the two after they have helped TN chase out the victory target of close to 200 against Bihar in the previous match. But really that was the end of his glorious run in Ranji cricket. He failed the entire season in 1985-86 and the selectors move to focus on the next gen of players saw the end of Suresh Kumar sooner than he may have expected given the rich vein of form he had been between 1982 and 84 “It felt like I was on top of the tower with a crown and then had a sudden fall.”
Also, in this phase, he fell in love with a young journalist who he later found resided in the same street. His wife,Latha, went on to become a high profile journalist in the fashion space(bureau chief magna) mingling with the who's who (Elite) in the city. Interestingly, she has turned spiritual now making frequent trips to Brindavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/01/andal-brindavan-nachiyar-thirumozhi.html?m=0) and the pressure is on him to follow in her spiritual endeavours.

Protege of Rajan Bala
Cricketer turned Enterpreneur Promodh Sharma(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/05/promodh-sharma-cricketer-turned.html) remembers opening alongside Suresh Kumar in the summer practice matches in the mid 1980s organised by Rajan Bala in T Nagar. "The friendship was so close that Suresh would come and play with us (young boys). It was of course a great experience for all of us to be batting alongside someone who had big hundreds in Ranji Cricket.”

A TN team mate from the 1980s says that this may have backfired on Suresh “When a story on the lines of Suresh being TN’s Gavaskar, the legend during one of his visits to Madras sarcastically asked me ‘if he is TN’s Gavaskar, am I Bombay’s Suresh Kumar!!!’ "
A long time resident of Thiruvallikeni too felt that he had become too close to Rajan Bala for cricketing comfort "He was RB's protege and spent a lot of time with the cricket writer."

Of course, Suresh Kumar himself was proud to state that he had based his game on the legendary opener. “When I asked Gavaskar ahead of the tour match against West Indies on how I should handle the fast bowlers, he quipped ‘don’t give them time to think. Be ready when they are at the top of the bowling mark.’ That showed his greatness. He was always thinking as to how to tackle the best bowlers in the world.”

After his three good seasons in Ranji Cricket, even Venkataraghavan tipped him to go with the Indian team to Sri Lanka in 1985-86. But alas it was not to be. That was the final nail in the coffin for Suresh and he did not stage a comeback after that. 

Into Coaching
By mid 1984, Suresh Kumar had quit SBI and joined India Pistons. He was there for almost 25years. At the turn of the century he was one of the earliest to accredit himself with Level 3 coaching in India. For a long time he had a coveted role with the NCA. He launched his own academy 'CS Suresh Kumar Cricket Academy' at the Vivekananda College. He was also the one who was the first coach for both Dinesh Karthik and M Vijay when they were not yet into their teens. He has also been the coach for Kerala and Pondicherry Ranji Trophy teams.
PC Prakash, who himself is the coach at the TNCA academy and has been the TN state coach in the past, rates him as a good batting coach "Suresh is very good batting coach. He speaks his mind and does not hold back. He has good command both over the language as well as the game, especially batting.'

From nowhere in the mid 70s studying in an unfancied school for cricket, he made it to the Indian Schools playing against England and Pakistan in Junior cricket, and had a sensational couple of years for TN in Ranji cricket in the early 1980s. In the form of his life, most thought that he was just a step away from making it to the Indian team. S Venkataraghavan repeatedly said in that phase that he was one of the most solid openers in domestic cricket and that a place in the Indian squad was not far away. But that remained elusive. Now two decades into his second innings in cricket, Suresh Kumar is looking to pass on his cricketing knowledge to the next generation of cricketers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Perumper Kandigai Thanthoneeswarar Temple Renovation

The Hereditary Trustee hopes to restore the temple to its Chozha Period glory 
Revival of the Pancha Moorthy Procession on the Kumbhabhisekam day on August 29

57 year old Ravi Gurukal has been performing pooja at the chozha period Thanthoneeswarar temple in Perumper Kandigai near Thozhupedu about 10kms South West of Melmaruvathur. It was here that Sage Agastya undertook penance and had darshan of the Lord and Ambal in a Kalyana Kolam. A 1000 years after the Chozha kings donated lands for the upkeep of the temple, this writer was welcomed into the temple by a long snake. Ravi Gurukal who has been here from childhood says that this is no uncommon feature and that it is part of his every day life, a reminder of how Seshamani Bhattar spent his first decade at the Erettai Tirupathi Divya Desam in Nava Tirupathi in the 1980s (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/02/seshamani-bhattar-erettai-tirupathi.html)

Selfless Service for the last four decades
After completing his agama education at Kanchi Mutt’s Vazhalur Patshala (2year) and Dharmapuram Atheenam (5 years) in the mid 1980s, he came back to his hereditary temple at Perumper Kandigai. At the Patshala, life was different. There were coconut and mango groves all around but here it was forest like bushes and dark without lights. Looking at the financially challenged life his appa M Rajamani Gurukal having performed pooja at this remote temple for five decade, Maha Periyava asked if he would go to Varanasi to perform abhisekam at the temple there at a salary that was quite high in those days and with free accommodation. Later Periyava sent him a letter asking if he would go to Madurai to perform service at the Subramanya temple. 

Appa's five decades without electricity and with snakes around
There had been no electricity at the temple in the time his appa performed service. This entire area was like a forest with huge trees even around the temple. There were hundreds of snakes moving around. His appa brought ghee lit lamp to the temple to perform service. The only source of income was from the 6acre land that Kulothunga Chozha had donated to his forefathers for the upkeep of the temple.  There are several inscriptions dating back to the 9th and 10th Century AD and the donations made to the trustees of the temple. 
His appa went by cycle to the Murugan temple atop the hill where they have performed hereditary service for centuries.

With his appa having performed service in such financially difficult conditions, Ravi Gurukal asked Maha Periyava if he could continue the hereditary service that his forefathers had rendered here. And thus in 1984, he joined the temple and has been performing service here for almost four decades without much income.

When I was a child there was not enough rice to consume every day. I was moved devotionally when I saw my appa cycle several kms to perform service in multiple village temples. And I decided to stay put at this historical temple and perform service here.”

With his agama knowledge, he went around performing Kumbhabhisekams and that helped in the maintenance of the Thaduthaat Konda Nayaki samedha Thanthoneeswarar temple. With the Sambhavanai he received from the Kumbhabhisekams, he began making improvements at the temple. 
He performed the Kumbhabhisekam of this temple in 2007 for the first time after over two centuries. He also built a Rana Patra Kaligambal Sannidhi in 2012. Three years ago, a flag post was installed with a Nandi Mandapam. A new sannidhi for Vinayaka and Chandikeswarar is being built now. He has also built an alankaram mandapam and a hall where Veda Parayanam can take place. 

New Pancha Moorthy idols
15years after the previous consecration, its time for Thiruppani again. Ravi Gurukal is keen on  Pancha Moorthy idols for this temple and for processions to start at least on special occasions. There are some parts of the temple that need repairs. Painting work for the Vimana will also take place as part of the Thiruppani works. 

While his appa had performed service for five decades without electricity, Ravi Gurukal is finally looking at proper electricity supply to the temple and is trying to get extensive wiring done. He is also planning to get a water line to the temple.

His dream is to build the large outer walls for the temple as well as a Raja Gopuram. He says that Periyava’s blessings had been received to construct a 184 feet Raja Gopuram but there is no money for such construction at the moment ‘Just the outer walls alone will cost Rs. 50lakhs’, says Ravi Gurukal.

Even the current Thiruppani works is well beyond his reach. He says that the repair works will cost Rs. 12lakhs while the Kumbhabhisekam related event will cost Rs. 17lakhs. He has started off the work taking personal loan because it has been 15years since the previous consecration but he does not have the money to complete the Thiruppani without support from the devotees. 

Interestingly, both his sons have also undergone Patshala education and are involved in the pooja at the Hill Murugan temple, the nearby Kailasanathar temple and Thanthoneeswarar temple. It may have be an easy choice for them to go the corporate route like many descendants in several temples in TN have done but the sons want to continue the temple service and both have remained in this remote location far away from city life.
The Balalayam has taken place and Ravi Gurukal has faith that the Lord and Ambal for whom his forefathers have performed selfless service will help him find a way to complete the Thiruppani. The Kumbhabhisekam has been scheduled for 29th August and is just a month away. He is the lone man anchoring and monitoring the work every day in the crucial phase. It is hard to find those like Ravi Gurukkal these days. Staying back in hereditary location despite all the challenges and still ensuring that the historical temple finds its way back into the glory days again.

Work has begun in right earnest and with blessings from the Lord and Maha Periyava and with financial support from devotees, Ravi Gurukal is confident that the Kumbhabhisekam will take place as planned.

How to reach
Perumper Kandigai Thanthoneeswarar Temple is 2kms West of Thozhupedu off the Melmaruvathur - Tindivanam National Highway. Buses from Melmaruvathur to Tindivanam stop at Thozhupedu just after Acharapakkam (7kms from Melmaruvathur). From Thozhupedu, auto to the temple will cost Rs. 50. When here, also visit the Murugan temple atop the hill. 

Ravi Gurukal can be reached on 99529 65215

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Madhava Perumal Mylapore Temple Renovation

TVS' Venu Srinivasan is back in Mylapore for the Consecration related Thiruppani works at the ancient Madhava Perumal Temple
He undertook major repair works 15years ago and has been taking care of the maintenance of the temple ever since
Balalayam ceremony expected in Avani with the consecration sometime in early 2023

It is renovation time again at one of the prominent among the Non Divya Desams in the heart of Madras. In the next month or so, Thiruppani works is likely to start at the Madhava Perumal Koil in Mayurapuri (now Mylapore) with consecration early next year. Just over 15years ago, Industrialist Venu Srinivasan, who had by then had had well over a decade of restoring ancient temples was asked if he could restore this temple. At that time, it had been in a bad shape with fading gopuram and vimanas. A lot of what we see today at this temple is an outcome of that restoration exercise undertaken by him back then in 2007. 

January 2007 Consecration
The restoration involved refurbishing the Pushkarani on the Southern side, revival of the Nandavanam on the Western side, repair works of the entire flooring as well as painting of the Vimanas and the Eastern Raja Gopuram. The exercise that was started in 2005 took about 18months with the consecration having taken place in January 2007.
Since then Venu Srinivasan, like he has done with service personnel in all the temples where he has under restoration exercises, more famously in Nava Tirupathi and Srirangam (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/07/venu-srinivasan-historical-temples.html), has been providing monthly Sambhavanai to the kainkaryapakas at the Madhava Perumal temple including the madapalli cook, paricharaka and archakas. He has also assigned a full time day security person at the temple.

Maintainence by TVS' Venu
Venu Srinivasan’s team also provides daily provisions for Kaala Sandhi and Uchi Kaala Thaligai. In addition, garlands are also provided everyday for the Perumal as well as 80 molam of flowers every day. TVS has also been taking care of the regular maintenance of the temple that is reflected in the overall cleanliness inside the complex. He has restored over 200 temples across TN, Karnataka and AP.
The utsavams are now grand as seen from the Rama Navami and Chitrai Brahmotsavam that took place earlier this year. A three day Pavitrotsavam takes place in Aadi.

Three Decades of every day devotion
Maduravalli Parthasarathy lives opposite the temple and has been visiting the temple every day for almost 35 years.  Her husband was the Head of the Commerce department at the Vivekananda College and had served there for four decades. She recalls her association with the MadhavaPerumal temple “Our two daughters who have moved overseas after their marriage are keen for us to be with them in our old age but the peace of the mind that we get when at the MadhavaPerumal temple is unmatched. The temple is beautifully maintained by the TVS personnel. It is neat and cleanliness is of the highest order. When we enter the temple, we can feel the positive vibration.”

Friendly Welcoming Priests
Retired professor Parthasarathy who has been closely associated with the Bhattars from the late 1980s is all praise for the devotional commitment of the priests “From Sridhar Bhattar in the early 1990s to Seenu Bhattar and the one now- Sundar Bhattar, they have all very devotionally committed. Every devotee is welcomed with a smile and it gives us a very good feel when we are at the Sannidhi.”

A quiet and peaceful temple
For 67 year old R Govindarajan, a long time resident of Adyar, Madhava Perumal Temple is the go to place whenever he seeks peace of mind. Out of all the temples in the area, he finds a certain unmatched positive devotional vibration when inside this temple "The temple is clean and well maintained. There is not much noise inside the temple and we are able to have darshan in peace. Going around the prakara also provides a devotional experience for you do not have constant chit chats that you find in other temples and you can be on your own finding your peace here."

Next Gen Priest
Maduravalli is delighted that the next Gen Ashwin Bhattar (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/04/madhava-perumal-temple-next-gen-bhattar.html) too is following in his appa Sundar Bhattar's footsteps. “He is very friendly and his alankarams are special. We are happy that he has shown interest at this young age to perform Kainkaryam at the temple. Interestingly, even the HR & CE personnel have been very friendly at this temple over the last three decades.”

Pre Thiruppani work begins
Last Saturday, the painting team of Venu was at the Madhava Perumal temple to assess the current state of the temple and to take measurements. The painter who has been involved in many restoration exercises that Venu has undertaken in TN temple told this writer that he would submitting his findings soon.

If all approvals are received on time, Balalayam could take place as early as Avani and the entire work could be completed by January. As per the current plan, all the walls will be repainted from scratch and the Raja Gopuram too will wear a fresh look.

The temple that has a rich history attached to it is said to be at least 800 years old (in its current form) though there are views that this temple may have existed around the time of the Azhvaars.  In Brahmmaanda Puranam, under the section Mayurapuri Mahatmiyam, one finds reference to this place as ‘Madhavapuram’. 

Prarthana Sthalam
One of the first three Azhvaars, PeyAzhvaar, is believed to have been born in the street South East of the Madhava Perumal temple. It is said that Santhana Pushkarani was the sacred tank of Sage Brigu, who lived in the ashram here. The age old belief, as referred to in Mayurapuri Mahaatmiyam, is that couples who bathe here on the full moon day in the Tamil calendar month of Maasi (mid Feb-mid March) and who offer their prayers to Madhava Perumal and Amruthavalli Thaayar will be immediately blessed with children. This is also a Prarthana Sthalam for unmarried people.  Offering prayers to Lord Madhava Perumal who is seen in Kalyana Kolam is said to help one find his or her match immediately. 

Aadi Pooram Utsavam
In the Tamil calendar month of Aadi, Lord Niranjana Madhava Perumal is seen in a sleeping posture on the lap of Andal- a special event on the 9th day of the Aadi Pooram utsavam. The Prabhandham Ghosti is now increasing in number. The members present the sacred verses of the Azhvaars on five days every month in addition to all the utsavam days. Starting this Saturday, the they will be seen presenting Tiruvoimozhi verses over the ten days of the Aadi Pooram festival. The team has also been strengthened by the moving in from Thiruvallikeni to Mylapore of 75 year old Madhabhooshi Varadarajan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/06/madabhooshi-varadarajan.html).

Bhoo Varahar Sannidhi
On the western side of the temple is the Bhoo Varahar sannidhi. A special homam is performed in February every year ahead of the final exams of students. It is believed that Varahar helps student devotees come out successfully in their examinations. While over the last three decades, there were a set of regulars who visited the Madhava Perumal temple, in recent times, the temple has attracted several new devotees with many also invoking the blessings of Varaha Perumal

One of the special features at the Madhava Perumal Koil is the 9 day festival during Panguni when Rama is brought to life with special decorations every day relating to different events/episodes in his life. 

Vedic Scholars too have now made it a daily practice to recite the Vedas in the evenings. Young students aged below 15 from across Tamil Nadu who are residing in the Gurukulam opposite the temple and learning the Vedas are also regular devotees of the temple every evening.

Consecration in early 2023
Early next year, it is likely that the Madhava Perumal Temple will wear a fresh look with the consecration expected to take place in Thai/ January 2023. It is also hoped that by then the young 22 year old Ashwin Bhattar, an alankaram specialist, would have got the service appointment from the HR & CE. If that happens, this temple will be in his safe hands for the next few decades as he seems to have committed himself to a lifetime in service of Madhava Perumal.

Festivals 
Theppotsavam in Maasi 
PeyAzhvaar Avataara Utsavam in Aipasi 
Chitrai Brahmotsavam 

Quick Facts 
Moolavar: Madhava Perumal East facing Sitting posture (Kalyana Kolam) 
Thaayaar: Amrutha Valli Thaayar 
Utsavar Deities: Aravind Madhavan, Niranjana Madhavan 
Temple Time: 7am-12noon and 430pm -830pm 
Contact :  Sundar Bhattar@99529 39762/Ashwin Bhattar@7397459680

How to reach 
Madhava Perumal temple is behind Sanskrit College/ Thiru Valluvar Statue in Mylapore and walking distance from MRTS Mundakanni Amman Koil Station.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Thiruvallikeni Sripatham Thangis

Renowned for the Vibrant Prabhandham Ghosti, Parthasarathy Perumal temple in Thiruvallikeni has seen a transformation in the Sripatham service over the last decade
Devoted Teenagers taking to the Sripatham Service in good numbers augur well for the future

It is the 9th morning of the Chitrai Brahmotsavam at the Madhava Perumal Koil, Mylapore. On the final stretch of the procession on the Madhava Perumal Koil street the Sri Patham personnel made a fast paced return pushing aside the Prabhandham members in the process and racing past them. Later in the evening, ahead of the Kodi Erakkam event, the Sripatham Thangis started a procession from inside the temple to the flag post and positioned the Lord near the flag post even while the Prabhandham members were reciting the Thiru Nedunthandagam verses. In both instances, the Prabhandham members were helpless (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/05/madhava-perumal-temple-kodi-erakkam.html).

On the 11th day of the Panguni Utsavam at the Kapaleeswarar Temple, Mylapore, the Sripatham personnel made an almost one hour halt in front of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan…Reason – it was the collection day for the work they had rendered over the previous 10days. Every year, on the 11th night of the utsavam, the procession does not return to the temple until the completion of the ‘collection’ formalities from almost every shop on the four Mada streets.

A similar scenario existed at the Parthasarathy Perumal temple in Thiruvallikeni in the not too distant past. Just under 25years ago, the procession during the Brahmotsavams in Chitrai and Aani did not stick to a time bound schedule. Collection exercise was part of the agenda of the Sripatham Thangis.  They did not always turn up on time but the traditionalists were helpless. 

A Vibrant Prabhandham Ghosti
With MA Venkatakrishnan taking over charge of the Prabhandham Ghosti and anchoring the team management at a very early stage in his life, the recital of the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham had remained vibrant at the Thiruvallikeni Divya Desam through the second half of the 20th century, one that has continued to this day. He brought together school students in the 1970s and 80s to learn the sacred verses of the Azhvaars in the process also ensuring that their academic focus was not affected (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/07/thiruvallikeni-prabhandham-ghosti.html). 
While this was so with the Prabhandham Ghosti, the traditionalists could not breakthrough the stranglehold that ‘others’ had on the Sripatham service. They were outnumbered towards the later part of the previous century and had to bear the brunt quietly.

Transformational Change
The scenario had looked bleak back then in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the turnaround has been quite remarkable with a transformational change that has come about over the last decade. 

It’s Saturday (July 9) morning and day 3 of the Narasimhar Brahmotsavam, the occasion of the Garuda Sevai and Esal.  Well over a hundred Sripatham personnel in their traditional attire have gathered at the Western Raja Gopuram just after 5.30am. For the next couple of hours, one saw team work at its best and they delight the huge devotee crowd that has specially come in to watch the performance of the Esal.
 
Photo: S Sampath Kumar (Insurance)

Way back in early 1990s, a group of traditionalists started the Thennacharya Sripatham Sabha but it could not make significant inroads into the Sripatham service for close to 15years. R Lakshminarasimhan, now Mestri, told this writer in a conversation in November 2017 that when they brought a few Sripatham members from Srirangam in the late 1990s, objections were raised and the team backed out. It was a defensive phase as they watched from the sidelines the in-disciplined functioning of the then personnel.

EO Pon Jayaraman makes a big call
When Pon Jayaraman took over as the EO of the temple, he was not pleased with the way the Sripatham were conducting themselves. By this time, the traditionalists had gathered in strength and could garner over 40members for the big occasions. For a decade until then, the Sripatham had been paid close to Rs. 10Lakhs annually for their service by the HR & CE department. The traditionalists whose focus was to carry Perumal and Azhvaars as a Kainkaryam cut down on the fee quite significantly and ‘bagged’ the rights to carry the Lord through the year. Ever since, there has been a dramatic revival with Sripatham personnel in traditional attire carrying the Lord in all the processions. 
Looking back at the functioning of the then Sripatham soon after he took charge, Pon Jayaraman told this writer that he found that devotion was lacking in the Sripatham personnel at that time. “They came in shorts. I did not find them having the right process. Discipline to stick to a timeline was lacking. It was a haphazard way of functioning. I wanted to streamline the entire process.”

“I found that there were a lot of Vaishnavites in Thiruvallikeni and was keen that they take over this service. I motivated them to take this up and backed them completely. While it was not a large team back then, they have now built it into an outstanding team that is fully committed to the Sripatham service.”

“This move gained acceptance among devotees who clearly preferred the traditional Vaishnavites carrying the Lord on their shoulder.”

Teenagers now an integral part 
During this period, the Sripatham team has strengthened significantly with the size having quadrupled. A pleasing feature is the emergence of school and college boys in good numbers and they now constitute almost half of the team. Kedayam and Azhvaar Pallakku serve as the training ground for the beginners and then they graduate to the small vahanas before becoming ‘eligible’ to perform service on the big vahana days.

For 18 year old V. Yathindrapravanan, a second year Engineering Student, while recital of the Vedas and Prabhandham is of prime importance, he makes time every now and then to carry the Lord on his shoulders out of devotional interest. For teenagers like him, performing the Sripatham service also helps builds unity and great team bonding that is likely to hold them in good stead later in life. Working together with such a large team during the utsavams also leads to improvement in their communication skills early in life with many of these youngsters turning extroverts.

This large team bonding has also resulted in forging life time friendship among the members.

All of them are also unmindful of the physical pains that the ten day brings. The swollen shoulders pales into insignificance when compared to the satisfaction they derive from performing this service.

US returned G Parthasarathy is at his best when reciting the Divya Prabhandham and has a differentiated voice. He too offers his services to the Sripatham team and is ever willing to pitch in to carry the Lord on processions when the Sripatham are short on personnel on certain days.

There are auditors, engineers and the self employed among them. All of them make time away from their work schedule to perform this service all through the year.  The work is also not restricted to just the procession, there is a lot pre and post procession work that the Sripatham personnel undertake.

Through a large part of this transformational phase, Ramanujam (Gatting) played an important part ideation and providing solutions to challenges that have come up from time to time over the last 15 years. Despite health challenges, he continues to perform Sripatham service including during the current Brahmotsavam.

From Bangalore for the Big Utsavams
The devotional commitment to the Sripatham service can be seen from the trips Sravankumar Sriram has made in the last many years from Bangalore where he is employed.  During the Brahmotsavams, he is a regular member of the team carrying the Lord on the vahana processions. Presence of service oriented devotees like him have strengthened the Sripatham team in recent years.

All the way from Nanganallur every morning and evening
Soon after the Sabha took over the service, there has been a conscious effort to scale up the team size. As one of the measures, they welcomed Sripatham personnel from Mylapore and Nanganallur.

30 year old Anirudh K Murthy, a MBA from IIT Madras, is a Product Manager in a start up firm. A resident of Nanganallur, he has been performing Sripatham service at Lakshmi Hayagriva temple there from the time he was a school boy. He has been part of the Sripatham team in Thiruvallikeni from 2010 after the Thennacharya Sripatham Sabha took over the Sripatham service there.  
Photo:  S Sampath Kumar

On Saturday morning, he and his Nanganallur team mates made the 18km trip starting at 5am to be on time for the Garuda Sevai procession.  While he began making trips during the two Brahmotsavams a dozen years ago along with a couple of others from Nanganallur, more members have joined in now and on the big days like Garuda Sevai and Yaanai Vahanam procession, there are 15 of them from Nanganallur.

On works days during the Brahmotsavam it is quite challenging for Anirudh for he has to travel back an hour in traffic to Nanganallur after the morning procession and then make his way to work ‘I have sensitized my office regarding the big Utsavam days and to the fact that my presence was likely to be a bit erratic during the Thiruvallikeni Brahmotsavam. I consider it a blessing that just like the Sripatham team members in Thiruvallikeni, the office team mates too have been very considerate that has allowed us to perform this Kainkaryam.”

He looks back with delight at the way the service personnel from Nanganallur have been welcomed “We see it as an opportunity to serve the Lord. Praveen (anna), Gatting (anna) and his team have been open hearted. After a dozen years with them, we feel like we are like their brethren. Every time, we are there for the Brahmotsavam, Praveen (anna) ensures that we are well fed after the procession. Rarely does he allow us to leave without eating food.”

Mylaporean service over the last dozen years
Mylapore resident 29year old Baradwaj has a Masters in Sanskrit and is currently a Sanskrit teacher in a School in the city. He was formerly a cricket coach at the VB Chandrsekar academy and is also a scorer with the TNCA. He has been performing Sripatham service in Thiruvallikeni since the time he was a school boy. 
He is an integral part of the Prabhandham Ghosti at the Madhava Perumal temple in Mylapore but whenever opportunity presents itself, he is in Thiruvallikeni for the Sripatham service “It’s a great blessing to be carrying Parthasarathy Perumal and Thelliya Singar on your shoulders and I am in Thiruvallikeni for all the big Utsavams. We are treated as one among them and its very satisfying that those from Mylapore (there are a few others as well who have been performing this service coming from Mylapore for a long time) have become an integral part of this team.”

From the Temple for their Service
In the decades gone by, the Sripatham personnel used to be presented with a few hundred kgs of rice annually for their service though this has been stopped since 2018. They are also presented with Pongal on most of the mornings of the Brahmotsavam. On the fifth day, on the occasion of Nachiyar Thirukolam, they are presented with Laddu, Vadai and Dosai for their service. 

As the thought process of the traditionilists has been that they are performing this as a service and not for financial remuneration, the Sripatham team has converted the annual payment received from the HR & CE into jewels for Perumal and Thayar including Pathakams and Udiyanams.

Personal accident insurance cover
A few years ago, Insurance expert S Sampath Kumar mooted the idea for an insurance cover for the Sripatham Personnel and helped implement the insurance plan. While this had not been renewed through the Pandemic period, the Sabha is looking to renew the plan once again this year. On occasions like Garuda Sevai and Yaanai Vahanam, the Sripatham Personnel are subject to serious physical injury. Also once a year they carry Parthasarathy Perumal on a long trip to Ekkattuthangal. The insurance cover would provide for any untoward events that occurs during the rendering of their tireless service.
Photo: S Sampath Kumar

Now as strong as the Prabhandham Ghosti 
In the 1990s and 2000s, while the Prabhandham Ghosti was seen in good numbers through the year in all the utsavams, the traditional feature was missing in the Sripatham service. But they have come back with a bang over the last decade or so with a team that is growing in size. A pleasing feature of the trend is the enthusiasm of the teenage boys in taking up the service. Just into their teens, the traditional boys of Thiruvallikenni are being initiated into this service with their parents and family members playing an important part in motivating them towards this devotional service. Early training at this age is ensuring that they are all set, both in terms of physical strength as well as expertise, to carry the Lord on the big vahanas once they are into the late teens. 

From the time, the Vaishnavite Sripatham were outnumbered, they have come a long way building a strong team of around 200 who perform this service for close to 300 days in a year. At a time when the Lord is now carried on wheeled tyres in most Divya Desams including during the annual Brahmotsavam, it is a redeeming feature that historical tradition of the Lord being carried by the Sripatham on their shoulders is being followed to this day in Thiruvallikeni Divya Desam. And with the new gen coming in good numbers to continue this service, it augurs well for the traditional Sripatham Service.