Sunday, January 23, 2022

Ramakrishna Mutt Mylapore Kapali Temple Repossession

Will the Mutt hand back the property to the Kapaleesawarar Temple
Temple Activist TR Ramesh calls for the Kapaleeswarar Temple to repossess the huge property opposite PS School terming the transfer of land in the 1990s as prima facie illegal
In the last nine months, Kapaleeswarar has initiated a number of steps towards recovery of temple lands and rental arrears, and suspended the demolition and reconstruction plans around the temple following Ramesh's Tweets
      Photo - Temple Website

Temple Activist TR Ramesh, a resident of Mylapore and President of the Temple Worshipper Society is devotionally attached to the Kapaleeswarar Temple. In the past he has raised a number of issues relating to the temple and its surrounds. Last year, the temple EO D Kaveri acknowledged that it was his tweet following this writer’s story on the proposed demolition of buildings around the temple that led to suspension of the mega reconstruction plan that the HR & CE had drafted (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/07/kapali-temple-surrounds-large-scale.html). Prior to that, he had fought for the rights of the hereditary trustees of the temple and for the temple to be handed back to Poonamallee Thuluva Vellalar Marabinar Sangam from whom the rights had been taken by the HR & CE in the second half of the previous century(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/12/kapaleeswarar-temple-vellala-community.html). But the subject that is closest to his heart has been the recovery of the huge temple properties belonging to Sri Kapaleeswarar. Every time, he has found irregularities on this front, he has come out fuming and firing on all cylinders and for most part leaves the authorities in jitters for he raises genuine questions in the long term protection of the temple properties.

1990s Sale to RK Mutt Illegal
Ramesh is now taking up a very touchy subject, one that is likely to be sensitive to devotees. There has been a long drawn two decades old battle between the Kapaleeswarar temple and the Universal Temple of the Ramakrishna Mutt. In the early 1990s, the Mutt had sought a huge piece of land belonging to the Kapaleeswarar temple opposite the PS School to build a Universal temple. He says that the then state Government issued a G.O.  favouring the Mutt with the land alienation. “But even before the land alienation happened, the Mutt took possession of the land and started construction. Thereafter in the 2000s the succeeding Government (which is back in power now) issued a G.O. cancelling the earlier G.O.”
Interestingly as the political battle continued, the Government that originally handed the land reissued the G.O this time at a higher price. But Ramesh is not impressed as he questions the fundamental validity of this land transfer “The endowed property of Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple cannot be alienated especially by Government entities who are actually supposed to protect such temple properties. The sale is illegal - so there is no question of settling dues.”

The Universal Temple may have been constructed with a genuine intent and people may have benefitted from its activities. The Mutt had written to the EO of the Kapaleeswarar temple two decades ago that they had purchased the property following a Government order and after having secured a No Objection Certificate but Ramesh's view has been that properties of the historical Kapaleeswarar Temple has to be protected and cannot be sold off to anyone. When asked if the Universal temple was a good initiative by the Mutt and in the larger public interest, he quotes from Karl Marx “the path to hell is paved with good intentions"!!!!

He has always held the view with respect to temple lands across the state that these cannot be sold off irrespective of the intention of the sale and the noble acts of the buyer. It is the property of Sri Kapaleeswarar and that cannot be alienated.

Universal Temple can be moved to another location
The sale price and some interest arrears have been the bone of contention for a long time between the Government and the Mutt and legal notices have been exchanged between the two. But that is not of interest to Ramesh for he considers the sale as prima facie invalid and illegal. He told this writer that he is likely to send a notice to the Government and the HR &CE to initiate action to repossess the temple land. "Much like the Aswan Dam Project, they can transfer the Universal Temple to a site which belongs to it elsewhere in the city."
Impact of Ramesh's Tweets
Following his series of notices and tweets in 2021, the Kapaleeswarar temple authorities have in the last nine months initiated a number of action, especially on the recovery of properties and rental arrears. Last quarter, following his call to get back hereditary trustees, the temple had put out an advertisement calling for the appointment of Trustees (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/11/tn-temples-hr-eos-out-trustees-back.html). And now is the latest issue he has raised of the illegal sale of temple land to RK Mutt. He has also held for a long time that the market rent has to be realised for all temple and endowment properties and the temple in recent times have also acted on that front issuing notices to a number of its tenants in the Mylapore area. Last month, the temple had sent a notice to the Mylapore Club seeking huge rental arrears. The Club in response has filed a writ petition in the court terming this as arbitrary and against the long term agreement between the temple and the club. 

While Ramesh, son of renowned Tamil Scholar TN Ramachandran( https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/04/tamil-scholar-tn-ramachandran-passes.html?m=1), has raised this issue, the temple authorities themselves have not asked for the property to be handed back to them except asking for the arrears in fair price of the property at the time of the sale to be made to them. But he is unfazed. His next step is to send a notice to the Government and the HR & CE to take steps to recover the temple property that had been illegally transferred.

Is Ramesh looking only for the Mutt to hand back the property to the temple and get back the price paid by them for the purchase. His answer is likely to leave the Mutt in a state of shock “The money paid by them for the (illegal) purchase in the 1990s should be adjusted towards fair market rent of the property (if the temple had let out this huge land) in the last couple of decades. Based on that, it is likely that the Mutt would probably have to pay lot more money now to the Kapaleeswarar temple while handing back the property.”

Abhi Muktheeswarar Temple Manakkal Thiru Peruvelur

A Mada Koil built by Ko Chenganan Chozhan
A Faded Raja Gopuram, No Cook at the Madapalli, A Sole Priest and A Long Lost Brahmotsavam - The last Kumbabhisekam was performed in 2006
Ravi Gurukal, now 66, has been serving as the sole priest for over 30 years with his salary having gone up from Rs. 400 to Rs. 1100 in these three decades

As seen in Thiru Mangai Azhvaar’s praise of Thiru Naraiyur (Nachiyar Koil Divya Desam), Ko Chenganan Chozhan had built 70 Mada Koils(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2014/12/ko-chenganan-and-nachiyar-koil-divya.html?m=0). Thirumangai Azhvaar dedicated an entire set of 10verses to the Chozha King clearly impressed with his 'Maada Koil' construction, those where an elephant could not make its way. Ko Chenganan’s anger against elephants is reflected in all these temples. All of the Saivite temples built by him were such that the elephant could not enter. It was either a small entrance into the sanctum or a high rise with steps steeper than normal that an elephant could not climb. Such temples with either a narrow passage or high rise are referred to as Maada Koils.  The first of these was in Thiru – Aanai- Kaval (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2014/12/thiruvanaikaval-jambukeswarar.html).

The story goes that a Spider provided shade to the Lord through its cobweb, while an elephant performed pooja removing all the dirt around the lord, bringing water for Abhishekam, plucking flowers and fruits and providing sandalwood. One day, angered at finding a cobweb above the Lord, the elephant swung his tail and hit out at the web as he saw it as dirt. In retaliation, the spider entered the nose of the elephant. Stung with unbearable pain, the elephant died. The spider caught inside elephant’s body too died of suffocation. The spider asked to be born as a King who would build everlasting temples but his anger against elephants remained.

Praised by Appar and Gnana Sambandar
The Abhi Muktheeswarar temple in Manakkal (Ayyampet) historically referred to as Thiru Peruvelur about 7kms North of Thiruvarur is one such Mada Koil built by Ko Chenganan Chozhan.  The temple has been praised by Saivite Saint Poets Thiru Gnana Sambandar and Thirunavukarasar. 

மறையணி நாவினானை மறப்பிலார் மனத்துளானை 
கறையணி கண்டன்றன்னை கனலெரி யாடினானை 
பிறையணி சடையினானை பெருவேளூர் பேணினானை 
நாராயணி மலர்கள் தூவி நாடொறும் வணங்கு வேனே - Appar

Festivals a thing of the Past
Once upon a time, there was an 18day Brahmotsavam including Pidari and Ayyanar Utsavams but these have long become a thing of the past. After 1966, Kumbabhisekam had not taken place for 40years before the consecration in 2006. It is now 16 years since that Kumbabhisekam. There were paricharakars and a group of service personnel but none exist today except the sole priest. The utsava idols have been placed in safe custody at the Vaikunta Narayana Perumal temple and the only procession of the year is on the occasion of the annual Kanda Sashti Utsavam..

Devotionally Committed @ 66
Agatheeswarar Gurukal is now 66 years old. He has been performing abhisekam at this temple for over 30 years. He started off at a monthly salary of Rs. 400!!! There is no cook at the temple madapalli. For decades, his wife has doubled up as the temple cook handing over the morning Neivedyam for him to present to the Lord. On days, when ouststation devotees make their way for Parikara Sevai, she also makes special Neivedyam such as Chakkarai Pongal.
Devotees with Sukra Neecham visit this temple for Parikaram. Also, devotees bring their deaf and dumb children to the temple as they believe that offering sincere prayers at this temple will bring back the voice.

A Gurukal at Rs. 400 for 30 years
After completing Class X exams at the Semmangudi High school in Manakkal-Ayyampet, Agatheeswarar Gurukal went to the Patshala in Sikkal for initiation into the Kaarana Agama. His appa Vaidyanathan Gurukal had peformed pooja at the village temple in Keerangudi, about 1 km from Manakkal (Ayyampet). His uncle was at the praised Agatheeswarar temple in Manakkal Ayyampet. After completion of his Patshala education, he performed abhisekam in a temple in Karaiveeram, a nearby village while also being involved in supporting the Lead Shivachariar in Kumbabhisekams.

Just over three decades ago, the Abhi Muktheeswarar temple was short on a priest. Once upon a time there used to be a vibrant agraharam with the Vaikunta Narayana Perumal temple(https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2014/08/manakkal-vaikunta-narayana-perumal.html) located half a km from here. The original inhabitants left this temple town and the temple and the existing priest felt the pinch. Priests came here for a short period but could not continue for there were severe financial challenges.

It is a temple off the Kudavasal Thiruvarur highway. It is the only temple in this neighbourhood that has been praised by both Appar and Gnana Sambandar. Not too many priests would come forward to perform service at such a remote location where the financial remuneration is so low. As his uncle had served at this historical temple, Agatheeswarar ‘Ravi’ Gurukkal took charge as the archaka in 1990. After over 30 years, his salary has increased to Rs. 1100!!! His house right in front of the temple is old fashioned and like the traditional one that one would have found in the 20th century. But Ravi Gurukal is contented to live this way and has shown great devotional commitment to not just perform daily service for over 30years but also to continue to take care of the temple all alone at the age of 66 when his physical strength is giving way. He climbs the steep 18 steps each day to light the lamp in the morning and presents Neivedyam to Abhi Muktheeswarar. With the previous Kumbabhisekam having taken place in 2006, efforts are likely to be taken this year to provide a facelift to the temple. The Raja Gopuram  at the Eastern Entrance wears a faded look. He expects the consecration of the temple to take place soon and is likely to be anchoring his second Kumbabhisekam at this temple.
It has been through his efforts that this Paadal Petra Sthalam has survived the test of times. One does not know if there will be another priest who will be ready to take charge in such a remote location in the future but for now, Ravi Gurukal is devotionally strong and continues to perform parikara and prarthana abhisekams for devotees who reach out to him with challenges in their lives. 

And he is ever willing to invoking the blessings of Abhi Muktheeswarar and Abhinaambigai Ambal (Elavaar Kuzhali) for these devotees. One day, he may also be able to revive the Brahmotsavam at this ancient temple in Thiru Peruvelur.

Interestingly, 4kms from here is Thiru Kannamangai Bhakthavatsala Perumal temple praised by Thiru Mangai Azhvaar. The next gen - two grandsons of the 86 year PK Ramaswamy Bhattachar- is set to take over at the HR &CE administered temple in April this year (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/01/thiru-kannamangai-ramaswamy-bhattar.html)

The temple is open from 9am to 11am and 5pm to 730pm. 

Devotees may call Ravi Gurukal on 99442 49941 before visiting the temple.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Kannamangai Ramaswamy Bhattar Grandsons

Next Gen set to take over archaka service at Bhakthavatsala Perumal Divya Desam from April 
Sudarshan (left) and Srivathsan

If you are at this year's Brahmotsavam at the Bhakthavatsala Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Kannamangai, it is likely you will find two youngsters, one just past 20 and the other still in his teens, anchoring the Annual Event for the next gen is set to take over the baton from the Grand Old man  PK Ramaswamy Bhattachar who has served there for six decades.

In 1959, a vacancy arose for a Vaikanasa Agama Archakar at the Bhaktavatsala Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Kannamangai, a Thiru Mangai Azhvaar praised temple about 7kms from Thiruvarur. As directed by his appa, PK Ramaswamy, then just out of his teens, joined  the temple as a young archaka. He performed service for almost six decades, a lot of it in the most challenging time for temples. Having started at a two digit salary, his financial remuneration had increased only to Rs. 1000 by the turn of the century!!! In the first two decades of his service, even Rs. 2 as Thattu Kaasu was a rarity. He would cycle to Thiruvarur to get the monthly provisions as and when he received some money. 
The scenario at the temple was so bad that the Chitrai Brahmotsavam had to be discontinued. The once vibrant agraharam saw original inhabitants leave for cities seeking greener pastures. As with many other Divya Desam Bhattars of the time, Ramaswamy Bhattachar too directed both his sons to focus on academics much against the wishes of his wife.  She had wanted them to continue the temple service but the financial scenario of the time did not make even for a basic living. His elder son Pakshirajan took to ITI while his second son Venkatesan too went into a life away from the temple. Ramaswamy Bhattachar himself took care of the archaka service and utsavams at the Divya Desam till he was almost 80. 

Go to Kanna Mangai for the Lord's Full Version
When Thiru Mangai Azhvaar came to the Chozha region and moved from one temple to another seeking darshan of the Lord in a full and gigantic posture, he was directed to Thiru Kannamangai. Ramaswamy Bhattachar considers it a great blessing to have been serving such a ‘wholesome’ Lord  for the best part of 60 years.

எங்களுக்கு அருள் செய்கின்ற  ஈசனை
வாச வார் குழலாள் மலை மங்கை தன் பங்கனைப்
 பங்கில் வைத்து உகந்தான் தன்னை
பான்மையை, பனி மா மதியம் தவழ் மன்குலை

கடரை வட மா மலை உச்சியை
நச்சி நாம் வணங்கப்படும் கங்குலை
பகவைச் சென்று நாடி
கண்ணமங்கையுள் கண்டு கொண்டேனே – Periya Thirumozhi 7-10-3

Ramaswamy Bhattar initiates the Grandsons
It was only in the last decade when his health gave way that the two sons returned to the temple to support their appa.  Having allowed both his sons into a life away from temples, Ramaswamy Bhattachar was keen that their sons get back into the temple mode to continue Divya Desam Kainkaryam. He instilled the devotional interest very early on into Srivathsan, the elder son of Pakshirajan. 
21 year old Srivathsan who joined the Swami Dayanand Patshala in Kudavasal in 2014 recounts his school days “Even when I was in class III, I was present for the entire Brahmotsavam along with my Thatha. He had created such an interest in me in Divya Desam Kainkaryam that my interest was to be at the temple all the time. I would get away from the class and support my Thatha on the Brahmotsavam days.”

Intense Vaikanasa Agama Training
His cousin brother Sudarshan, son of Venkatesan, then aged 11 too joined Srivathsan at the Patshala in 2014. Over the last 8years, both of them have been initiated into intense Vaikanasa Agama training. The two have been trained fully in the process of conducting Pavitrotsavam, Samprokshanam and Kalyana utsavam and are into the final final lessons learning the complete process of conducting a Brahmotsavam.

In April this year, the two of them will be undertaking an examination with a top Vaikanasa Agama Judge testing their knowledge before they get certified. 

With Ramaswamy Bhattachar encountering age related problems, Pakshirajan Bhattar has been leading the temple activities in the last few years along with his younger brother Venkatesan. He has built a solid devotee network to support the Utsavams but it has been challenging in the last couple of years with the Pandemic. The financial remuneration is not commensurate with the time and effort spent by the two of them each day at the temple.
        Pakshirajan Bhattar

Last year, Srivathsan anchored the Pavitrotsavam formalities at Thiru Kannamangai Divya Desam, while Sudarashan has taken a special liking for Jeshtabhisekam and Brahmotsavam. They have also been performing Thiru Aradhanam at the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kudavasal in the last few years and been on training programmes to assist in Samprokshanam events in a few temples to gain early experience. 

Sudarshan takes early inspiration from his Thatha
18 year old Sudarshan's entire inspiration to take to Divya Desam kainkaryam came from his Thatha “When I was a young school boy, I watched him perform service during processions. His performance of the aarathi and his presentation of Mantra Pushpam were truly devotional and it created great interest in me to take to temple service.”
                V Sudarshan

As part of the patshala initiation, they have also learned the Nithya Anusanthanam Paasurams of the Azhvaars as well as the Tiruvoimozhi verses of Nam Azhvaar. Their plan is to pursue Shiromani courses in Sanskrit sometime in the future.

Srivathsan is clear in his mind as to why they are  taking to the temple service “Both of us are entering the temple in the same way our grand father took this up when he was a young boy. It is a great gift to be given an opportunity to perform Divya Desam kainkaryam and to take forward a service that our grandfather had performed for several decades earning the respect of all the devotees.”
Ramaswamy Bhattachar is delighted that in a world where the next gen has been moving into cities and work in the corporate space, his two grandsons have taken a devotional interest in Divya Desam Kainkaryam. “Given the scenario that existed then, my two sons were not able to get into Patshala education. I was keen for my grandsons to continue this Divya Desam service and they immediately took to it with devotional intent by learning the theory with sincerity for 7 years.”
      P Srivathsan

Srivathsan says that he sees Divya Desam Kainkaryam as his way of life. “My patti wanted my appa and chithappa to learn the agamas in a patshala but circumstances then did not permit them. She was always saddened by that, we are now fulfilling our Patti’s wish that we should continue archaka service at the feet of Bhakthavatsala Perumal.”

Having performed service at this Divya Desam for over 50years, Ramaswamy Bhattachar is delighted that his two grandsons will be taking over charge from him this summer to carry on the service at this Thiru Mangai Azhvaar praised temple. The EO of the temple has confirmed that the two youngsters will be given permanent HR&CE posting as the archakas of this Divya Desam and that should ensure the financial security to the two of them.

Ramaswamy Bhattar's Biggest Moments coming up
Ramaswamy Bhattachar is still seen by his contemporaries as a stickler for perfection in the conduct of thiru Aradhanam and Utasvams. He was a very strict archaka and laid clear rules for the conduct of the devotees at the temple. Over the period of his service, he has helped fulfilled the wedding prayers of over 500 devotees at this temple through his sincere aradhana to Garudaazhvaar. With impatience now a stand out feature and with everyone looking at finishing things quickly, he remains a traditionalist and does not compromise in the way temple service is to be performed. He had earned the respect of all the priests in the region as one of the best Vaikanasa Agama archakas and has for a while been looking to pass the baton. Finally, his long time wish is being  fulfilled and the next gen is now ready to take over from him at this Divya Desam.
Earlier this week, this section had featured a story on another in the next gen quitting a corporate job to take up the hereditary archaka service in the Pandya region inspired by his uncle (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/01/erettai-tirupathi-sundara-rajan-bhattar.html). This one in the Chozha Kingdom is of two cousins promising to their grandfather as teenagers that they will perform lifelong service at the Divya Desam where he had so devotionally served for over five decades.

In April this year, his two grandsons will officially take charge at the temple and for the 86 year old Ramaswamy Bhattachar it will be one of the biggest moments of his life to watch them conduct the Brahmotsavam all on their own.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Erettai Tirupathi Sundara Rajan Bhattar

Next Gen Quits High Paying Corporate Job to head back to hereditary Divya Desam
32 year old K Sundara Rajan has a professional engineering degree and was working as a Network Engineer at Airtel (prior to this he was at Aircel) when one day in the last quarter of 2020 his Periappa Seshamani Bhattar asked him to return to Erettai Tirupathi Divya Desam to don the role of the hereditary archaka.

Seshamani Bhattar who passed away in January last year was the one who anchored the revival of the twin temples of Aravinda Lochanan and Devarpiran in Erettain Tirupathi when it was in ruins in the 1980s.  He withered the presence of dangerous snakes and waded through chest high water in the Tamaraibarani to reach this Divya Desam from his home in Thiru Kolur over three decades ago. It was only in the 1990s that Venu Srinivasan took up the restoration of the temple and revived the entire region.  Through that dark phase prior to Venu Srinivasan’s restoration initiatives, it was Seshamani Bhattar who performed Thiru Aradhanam at these two temples and kept it going.
Seshamani Bhattar’s younger brother Kannan performed archaka service at the Anjaneya temple in Tirunelveli but returned to perform kainkaryam at Varagunamangai Divya Desam in Natham. 

When Seshamani Bhattar asked for Sundara Rajan to quit the corporate world, where his prospects were looking up, he did not think twice. Sundara Rajan looks back at his decision to return to Erettai Tirupathi “ My appa was not keen on me to quit the corporate world. I had become an engineer and my growth prospects were bright in the corporate world. I also had a young family with the birth of my 2nd son in Puratasi of 2020. But when my periappa, who had lived through the struggles of the 1980s and 90s at Erettai Tirupathi, asked me to return I could not say no to him.”

Even as a teenager, both during his school and college days, he had learned the Vaikanasa agama from Govindarajan Bhattar of Thiru Kurungudi Divya Desam. And hence he was equipped with the process relating to Thiru Aradhanam and the conduct of festivals.

Prior to the call from Seshamani Bhattar, the plan had been to continue in the corporate world. He had even taken the initial steps to get his first son admitted into a school in Aruppukottai where he was working at that time. Sundara Rajan is surprised that in the last 15 months, his wife has not asked once as to how he quit the corporate world and what the financial future was going to look like for him. Erettai Tirupathi is the kula deivam temple of his amma as well as his wife. He says that like him considering getting an opportunity to serve at the Divya Desam where his uncle had seen the toughest of times for any Bhattar, his wife too considers it a blessing for her husband to be serving at her kula deivam temple. 
Unfortunately for him, within a few months of his joining the Erettai Tirupathi Divya Desam, Seshamani Bhattar passed away. And then adding to the woes, wave two of the Pandemic struck and temples were closed to devotees for a period of time. 

No HR & CE Salary/ No Thattu Kaasu 
From a high paying job, Sundara Rajan joined Erettai Tirupathi at ‘No Salary’.  Venu Srinivasan’s monthly Sambhavanai of Rs. 3000 was his only source of income for the first six months. He joined the temple in late 2020 at the end of wave one and then spent a large part of his initial phase in this Divya Desam in ‘Temple Lockdown’ with no devotees. There was no salary from the HR & CE and there was no thattu kaasu as the temple was closed to devotees. 

HR & CE EO's Gesture
When S Ajith (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2022/01/azhvaar-tirunagari-vaikunta-ekadasi.html) who took as the EO of Erettai Tirupathi in 2021 visited the temple, he was shocked to know that Sundara Rajan was not paid any salary even during the Pandemic. ‘It was the EO who immediately directed for a temporary posting at Aravinda Lochanan Sannidhi and organised for Rs. 2000 as my salary.’
While many are surprised as to how Sundara Rajan, who had then just turned 30, quit the corporate job and headed back to a remote temple where there is no assured income, he has second thoughts on this association with this Divya Desam “Even the EO enquired if I was planning to be here long term. I came back here responding to the direction of my uncle Seshamani Bhattar. I did not think of the financial prospects here. The only reason to take this up was to continue the hereditary archaka service that Seshamani Bhattar had so devotionally performed for many decades.”

It was Sundara Rajan who tied the ‘Kaappu’ for both the big annual utsavams in 2021 and he is committed to staying here for the rest of his life. He and his wife are also clear that their preference is for their children to be in the traditional line.

It has come as a big surprise that when many in the next gen have made their way into cities and the corporate world, Sundara Rajan has opted for the reverse and returned to the hereditary archaka service at Erettai Tirupathi.  It is also interesting that this is the second instance of a youngster letting go of financial prospects in larger cities and returning to hereditary locations. A couple of years ago, Venkata Srinivasan (Rahul Bhattar) joined Nigaril Mugil Vannan temple in Thenthiruperai Divya Desam at the age of 20 while all his classmates at Madurantakam Patshala moved to Chennai seeking greener pastures (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2021/10/thenthiruperai-rahul-bhattar.html).
For Sundara Rajan, Kainkaryam to Aravinda Lochanan and Devapiran seemed more important than furthering the financial interests in the corporate world. And hence the financial lows such as the period during Wave two did not impact his mind negatively and he continued to perform daily Thiru Aradhanam through 2021 unmindful of the financial challenges that the Pandemic has brought to archakas in remote temples. When devotional intent is high, no amount of financial pressures will shake a human being. Sundara Rajan is an example of how that devotional feel drew him back to the Divya Desam and bound him for life with Lord Aravinda Lochanan.

Nava Tirupathi has now become stronger with the presence of two highly committed Bhattars - Ananthu of Thenthiruperai and Sundara Rajan of Erettai Tirupathi

Seshamani Bhattar will be delighted for his nephew and showering his blessings on the 32year old from Sri Vaikuntam.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Azhvaar Tirunagari Vaikunta Ekadasi

S Ajith - A HR & CE EO who is making a positive difference in a historical Divya Desam
Paramapada Vaasal Procession takes place 'On-Time' after several decades - He is now looking to restore the third prakara to historical glory and to recover the temple properties in this temple town
S Ajith, EO

The devotional wave that has taken off at the big temples (including the Parikara and Prarthana sthalams) in Tamil Nadu since the turn of the century has been a big revenue earner for priests in a few of the renowned temples.  At the Athi Nathar temple in Azhvaar Tirunagari, it is particularly so on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day. 

Ekadasi Procession on Dwadasi morning!!!
Those who have visited Azhvaar Tirunagari Divya Desam in recent decades would know that the Paramapada Vaasal Procession on Vaikunta Ekadasi day used to take place on ‘Dwadasi’ morning. The archakas had spotted the opportunity to earn big on this day and kept Polintha Ninra Piraan in the previous day’s Sayana Kolam through the Vaikunta Ekadasi day for darshan. It was the ‘big collection’ day for the archakas. What was historically a Paramapada Vaasal procession at 5.30pm on the Vaikunta Ekadasi day had for decades turned into a procession well after 4.30am the next morning i.e the Dwadasi day. 
Money ruled roost and the archakas for long refused to get the Lord ready for the Paramapada Vaasal procession on the evening on Vaikunta Ekadasi day, instead sticking to the Sayana Kolam alankaram from the previous night. Historically, especially in the pre motor vehicle days, this was the biggest day of the year at the temple with devotees walking to each of the Nava Tirupathi temples and having Azhvaar Tirunagari as their final destination of the day. 

Last week, the EO of the temple, S Ajith, who has been known to be a Stickler for discipline and processes, directed for the procession to be done as per historical practice. And thus for the first time in several decades, the Paramapada Vaasal procession took place at 5.30pm last Thursday (Jan 13) as against it being almost a Dwadasi procession in the decades gone by. Of course, the Pandemic helped and there were no ‘archanai’ tickets issued on the day and the crowd was not as high as it would have been during normal times. But the message was clear from the EO that the historical practice had to be brought back on this day. He has used the Vaikunta Ekadasi utsavam to ring in the change to traditional practices.

Two Mandapams restored for Ekadasi Procession
In addition to getting the Vaikunta Ekadasi procession done on time, Ajith also ensured that the two mandapams that had remained unused for decades at the West end of the temple were revived. It had been historical tradition for Polintha Ninra Piraan to visit each of these two mandapams on the Vaikunta Ekadasi procession but with the procession taking place only on Dwadasi day, this practice had been dispensed with and the two mandapams had remained in ruins. 

This year, ahead of the Vaikunta Ekadasi procession, he ensured that these two mandapams were redone and a facelift was given to them through Venu Srinivasan's trust (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2020/07/venu-srinivasan-historical-temples.html). With the procession starting on time, the Lord stayed for a while in each of the two mandapams much to the delight of the devotees.

A 'threatening' Paricharaka shown the door
Sticking to his practice of following the processes, Ajith stood up to the threat from a three years experienced Paricharaka at the Athi Nathan temple who was keen to turn into an archaka on the back of seeing the big turnaround in fortune of the priests at this Divya Desam. Threatening to let go the paricharaka keys if he did not get the archaka posting, he reached out to the EO. And later to the politicians as well including the minister. Not succumbing to the pressure, Ajith accepted the key and asked him to leave. Seeking greener pastures, the Paricharaka has moved to a temple in Bombay!!! In every temple that he has been in, Ajith has been clear that he needs people whose focus is on serving the Lord.

Reviving the Third Prakara
Ajith is now in the process of reviving the third prakara in the temple which has remained in a dilapidated condition for many years. He has sought grant from the Government and is hopeful that this will be granted soon and is confident of starting work in this prakara soon. He is also looking to restore the historical building near the Golden Chariot. This too has been in a dilapidated state for long.

Recovering  the temple properties
He is also taking up an even more challenging task in the Namazhvaar born Divya Desam. In the century gone by, the sthalathars and acharyas had given away their historical temple lands at dead cheap price. This also includes the Periya Nambi Thirumaligai  that has now been converted to a Kalyana Mandapam. He is hoping to recover these temple lands and get it back in the possession of the temple. Interestingly, Ajith had earlier served at Kulasekara Azhvaar Rajagopalaswamy temple in Mannar Koil, which is home to the one of the very few vibrant Thiru Maligais of Periya Nambi ((https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/03/periya-nambi-narasimha-gopalan-acharya.html). 

In his life, Ajith has himself had a few suspensions but he is unmindful of the risks of being straight forward and has always held the view that it is a blessing to be posted in a temple to serve the Lord and  that whichever temple he is posted in, he would always have serving the Lord and sticking to traditional practices at the forefront. He does not always get the support even from the priests and the sthalathars as they too have changed with the times. But Ajith has no two ways about how he will go about his work.

With him at the helm as EO at  the Azhvaar Tirunagari Divya Desam, one can expect a lot of positive developments this year at this birth place of Nam Azhvaar.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

M Senthilnathan Udumalpet MRF India U19 Captain

The boy from Udumalpet set grounds ablaze in the 1980s with his dominating presence culminating in the Indian Captaincy at the first ever U19 World Cup in Australia – The cricketing system in TN combined with his attitudinal challenges in a transitional phase meant that he did not carry the huge success at Junior Level into Ranji Trophy and beyond though he was on the verge of India Selection for the Australasia Cup in 1990
In the mid 1980s, a teenager from Udumalpet was making waves in the cricketing arena not just in TN but across the country and overseas. His presence at the crease gave enormous confidence to his teammates while creating jitters in the opposition rank. The field was spread far and wide  the moment he came into bat but often the ball was sent to the ‘B’ Ground or the tennis court at the Forest College ground in Coimbatore. The opposition was once so terrified by his demolition act that they forfeited the match!!! He was such a naturally gifted player that even his teammates were in awe of his talent. By the time he was 17/18, future international fast bowlers such as Bishop and Reiffel were wonderstruck by his magical presence at the crease. Almost everyone in the cricketing fraternity reckoned that he would burst on to the international scene such had been his dominating presence in age group cricket. His mentor Brijesh Patel invited him to Bangalore to play for Karnataka, Air India offered him an officer’s post and a move to Bombay while he was still a teenager, one that would have meant playing alongside Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar. Refusing both, he stuck to his home state. The man who backed him the most through that entire decade, Soundararajan of SVPB, placed the biggest cricketing bet of his life on this teenager. Vasu Paranjpe, his coach at the U19 World Cup, openly remarked that he was a player to be watched and one for the future.

Much to everyone’s disappointment and as has been the case with many TN cricketers, he flattered to deceive. A few years into the Senior State team, the magic was gone. Of course many a time the ball was still sent towering over the roof at Chepauk into MAC B or into the Canal. But the consistent big scores that was a dominating feature at U15 and U19 levels remained elusive. His liking for Biriyani and ice cream and the summer trips to Malaysia meant fitness had taken a backseat. Into the early 90s, he had gained in weight and was almost unrecognizable from the teenager of the previous decade. This combined with the cricketing system that did not nurture the special talent undid his progress and soon he faded away. It turned out to be yet another case of a premature exit in TN cricket. While he did not live up to the expectation as a player and his performance did not match the promise, he came back strong in the second innings and has been heading the World’s Premier Pace Foundation as the Chief Coach over the last 13years. Here is the story.

From the Udumalpet Govt School
M Senthilnathan hailed from Udumalpet, a small town about70kms from Coimbatore on the Pazhani highway. His appa, Mayilvahanan was a Government School teacher who played for Udumalpet Cricket Club. Under his appa’s captaincy, UCC entered the Coimbatore league winning the qualifying tourney in the mid 70s. While his appa’s throw downs at home was his first initiation into cricket, the big transformation in his cricket happened when the revered Audhi Chetty took over the coaching of Sri Venkateswara Paper and Boards (SVPB), a cricket team promoted by its owner M. Soundararajan, the Grand Son of the legendary industrialist GV Govindaswamy Naidu (who had founded the Sri Venkatesa (Textile) Mills in 1933). While AG Ram Singh had briefly coached the team, it was Audhi Chetty who played the pivotal role in the team emerging as a name to reckon with in TN cricket grooming young talent and turning them into cricketers, who delivered consistently on the ground. 
A young Senthil with Coach Audhi Chetty

64 year old Kanakaraj, who till recently worked for Robin Singh, played for SVPB (UCC) much before the stars came into the fold. He recalls Senthilnathan from the 1970s “His appa Mayilvahanan was a good cricketer and helped SVPB get into the Coimbatore league. He would bring Senthil along for all his matches in Coimbatore and that created an early interest for Senthil in cricket.”

The First Ball - Signalling his arrival to the City Boys
It was a City v Districts schools match in 1983-84 in Pondicherry. Left arm quickie from Vidya Mandir (Mylapore) Hemant Srivatsa (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2015/04/hemant-srivatsa-cricketer-of-1980s.html), now owner of Murrays Auction, in his first representative match was at his aggressive best picking up a wicket in his opening over. In walked a slim and shy lad from Udumalpet. Hemant recalls that moment close to four decades later “My first ball to Senthil was a good length inswinger and it came back in no time, shot past me and vanished into the boundary. It was as good a shot as one could play first ball. It was an amazing shot for his age. He was a classy batsman and the mainstay of our TN batting line up at the age group level for many years.”
The boy from Udumalpet announced his arrival on the cricketing scene with an aggressive style that was symbolic of him through that decade. From that day, he became a highly respected cricketer in the city circles. “District players have historically felt the pinch in TN cricket but this boy was not the typical timid village boy. He let his bat earn him the respect and through the 1980s he was seen as the best bat to emerge from the districts” says Hemant.

“I still remember his exceptional innings a year or so later against Paul Reiffel. Right then, I felt he had it in him to play for the country. He was a naturally gifted stroke maker and made batting look so easy. As a person, he was cultured and dignified right through the teenage phase.”

Impresses EAS Prasanna
Kanakaraj says such was his interest in cricket that he was on the run all the time “He travelled round the year and whenever he came to Udumalpet, he was welcomed like a star. In those days, stardom in cricket for a player from Udumalpet was unheard of and Senthil was the first real big star featuring at all levels in the age group tournaments. Even as a 14 year old, he began earning the respect of legends, the first of them being EAS Prasanna who was so impressed with his  century against Karnataka that he lauded the young boy as one ‘for the future’."
Given his great cricketing interest, Senthilnathan’s teachers took classes for him in the month leading up to the board exam to help him clear Class X. Similar was the scenario in Class XII as well as by then his life had become all about cricket. Senthil had emerged as a prodigious talent with remarkable aggression for a young boy. His fearless strokeplay left everyone stunned. Senthil attributes this natural ability to his genes “My thatha was a crazy cricket fan and would travel for every Pongal test. My appa and uncles were all cricketers who played for SVPB. Thus cricket came naturally to me from a young age. All the discussions at home centered on cricket.”

Senthil on the rampage – Chengalpet Forfeits
He began his league career in Coimbatore for SVPB (B) with strong knocks against SVPB (A) impressing the seniors in the team and then followed up with a good knock against LMW comprising of Kalli and KS Vaidyanathan. Against Ramakrishna Steel, the third big team in the first division he got a half century and soon became a regular member of the districts team. 

PR Ramakrishnan (Ramki), who was on the fringe of State debut for over 10 matches, had returned to Coimbatore in the mid 70s giving up serious cricket to pursue a career in Law. He was a districts schools selector from 1980 and watched Senthilnathan right from the time he was into his teens.  “He was an early entrant into districts cricket on the back of Audhi Chetty unearthing his batting talent. He was a class apart even at that early stage and had a sound defence and terrific strokes. When he was not yet 15, he made 180 in a match in Ooty.”

Former state cricketer and a key member of SVPB for two decades NP Madhavan, who himself played for Chengalpet in his early years before his move to Udumalpet remembers the match at the Forest College Ground “He was still in his mid teens when he made 167 for Coimbatore against Chengalpet. Senthil was on the rampage and once again dominating as he did on many occasions in the period between 1983 and 88. He was unstoppable that day."
                    Forest College - Chengalpet Forfeits- The Triumphant Cbe Team

The rivalry between the two districts was so intense in those years that an angered Chengalpet forfeited the match almost in a way to prevent Senthil from notching a double century, a rarity those days for a districts cricketer.

Another Udumalpet product UR Radhakrishnan, who played together with Senthil for SVPB and later for the state, saw a Rohit Sharma kind of fearless approach in him in the 1980s at the age group level. “He had class written all over him. He had a positive body language, never feared the opposition and made batting look so simple.”

When Trinidad and Tobago visited India, Senthilnathan tore into Ian Bishop who was to play for the West Indies through the 1990s during the course of a century. He followed this up with a couple of half centuries against the team that also included Brian Lara. On his 16th birthday, he took the heat on the touring Aussie U19 team comprising of future test players Paul Reiffel, Tom Moody, Gavin Robertson and Andrew Zessers. The back to the wall innings of 167 at Patna in the second U19 test made everyone at the national level take notice of this teenager. 

That year, he also went on a Bharath Reddy organised TN Colts’ tour to the UK. The team comprised of the who’s who of TN cricket and Senthilnathan was the only ‘baby’ in the team. SVPB owner Soundararajan saw the natural talent in Senthil and took special interest in him. Reddy recalls Soundar’s huge belief in Senthil’s talent “Soundar saw big potential in Senthil and was keen on an early overseas exposure for him. He agreed to fully sponsor his expenses for the entire tour.”

Senthilnathan remembers coming up against Courtney Walsh at Gloucestershire “It was a great experience to watch him bowl in English conditions.”

35years later Senthil has almost tears in his eyes as he recounts the contribution of Soundararajan “Ahead of that tour, he came to Madras and personally selected the jacket as well as the entire of dresses for me. He gave me all the confidence and exposure that a youngster could have asked for. By picking up Globe Trotters in the first division league in Chennai, he kept the SVPB team together through the year and helped us bond well as one family.”

Brijesh’s Mentoring Role
One the big developments in club cricket that decade was the roping in of Brijesh Patel by Soundararajan to captain and mentor the players at SVPB and later at Globe Trotters. Soundararajan had a business engagement with Brijesh’s family and thus secured Brijesh's services for SVPB. It was the biggest outside signing in TN cricket in that phase. Brijesh was a big influence on most of the SVPB players but his biggest impact was on the teenaged Senthilnathan “While Audhi Chetty taught me the basics of batting and laid a strong foundation, Brijesh inculcated in me the finer technical aspects on the field. I was very aggressive in those early days and wanted to smack every ball to the fence. He taught me the art of playing singles – a quiet flick to square leg of an off spinner and a glide to backward point of a leggie. He was also the driving force in getting me to run quick singles and converting ones into twos. He was easily my biggest influence on my batting in those formative years. And when I did something that was not in line with the team's thought process, he would let me know in no uncertain terms.”

One of his early memories of a big knock at the senior level was a 30 ball 60 in the Gurumurthy organised YSCA trophy (YSCA Guru) in front of Brijesh in a crucial knock out game against a star studded BUCC in front of a big crowd at the RKM ground in T. Nagar.

Senthil would rock for India - Audhi Chetty tells SVPB seniors
Opening batsman S Sukumar was one of the earliest recruits at SVPB and joined the Udumalpet team in the mid 70s. He has known Senthil from the time he was a 8 year old boy when he came to the SVPB nets to watch the seniors in action "He grew up watching star players like Brijesh (Patel), Peter (Fernandez), NP(Madhavan) and Robin (Singh). Guided by coaches like Ram Singh and Audhi Chetty, Senthil emerged as gritty cricketer from school days and leading India Under19 was a big achievement. Audhi Chetty used to constantly tell us that this boy would rock as a great batsman for India.”

A Notch above the rest
Middle order batsman RG Shyamsundar belonged to the same batch as Senthilnathan and the two of them played together for four years including at the U19 World Cup in Australia in 1988. He recalls the first time he saw Senthil “He came from a small town with no city exposure. In the city vs districts game, he played one cover drive and that one shot was enough for the selectors.  He did not score runs in that match but with just that one shot he stamped his class and left a lasting memory."
At the crease, he had a dominating presence. The moment he came to bat the opposition captain posted long off and long on, such was the fear he had created in the opposition rank across the country. Though he came from the districts and was a very shy and quiet guy in those early days, he controlled the city boys with his masterful stroke play. He was at least one notch above all of us and he earned the respect of each one of us through this batting display. At the U19 level, the most watched for contest was the one between him and Venkatapathy Raju. In Australia and other overseas locations, they expected a lot from him after watching him bat.”

Strong Performance in NZ 
End of December 1986, he made his first trip to Australia and created the first impression in them as a highly talented batsman though he did not make big runs on that tour. A year later, ahead of the U19 World Cup, the Indian team went to New Zealand for a test cum one day tour against a team that comprised of Chris Cairns, Chris Pringle and Shane Thomson. Senthilnathan did well in the test as well as the one-dayers. He says he was confident right through that season "I performed well on that tour and the confidence levels were high going into the World Cup."
 
Captains U19 World Cup
In the first match of the World Cup, Senthilnathan was once again blazing away in the run chase against England when bad luck struck and he was injured with a groin strain. As fate would have it, Nayan Mongia came in as the runner for the injured Senthil and within minutes ran Senthil out!!! While he played in the next match the very next day against Australia, he was not allowed a runner while batting and came down the order. He missed the match against Pakistan due to the injury. India lost both those matches. Continuing his good form from a month earlier from the Kiwi land, he struck another half century against them. The final match came down to run rate for India and they had to achieve the win at a fair clip to qualify for the semifinal. Senthil once again led the run chase with a strong start “We were up there at 95 for 2 and looking good. We were confident of chasing it down but collapsed and fell way short” says Senthil looking back on that day when Sanath Jayasuria batting in the middle order transformed the Sri Lankan innings at a time when they were likely to be bowled out quickly and dented India's hopes of qualification.

Mini Viv Richards of the time
Arjan Kripal Singh too was part of the TN, South Zone and Indian team with Senthil through those four years. He endorses Shyam’s view “Senthil was always one level up and a Master at that level. We were all in awe of his stroke play. He was almost a mini Viv Richards at that time (and this is no exaggeration). If you did not get him out early, he would tear into the attack. He was also a shrewd cricketer and tactically good.”
Big Endorsement from Vasu Paranjpe
By the time he returned, he was seen as a superstar. Captaining India was no mean feat and he was touted to go big.  Coach Vasu Paranjpe openly remarked that Senthilnathan was a player to be watched out. It does not come easily from a Bombay coach and this view endorsed the fact that he really belonged in the ‘class above’.

Unfortunately many things went against him in the following two years some of it his own making. 

Ranji Debut on a Square Turner
A couple of months ahead of the U19World Cup, he had made his Ranji debut against Karnataka on a treacherous wicket on which Raghuram Bhat was almost unplayable. UR Radhakrishnan, who also featured in that match, has sympathies for Senthil “He was in great form at that time and was well respected coming into the Senior Level. He was supremely confident. Unfortunately, his Ranji debut came up against Bhattaa on a treacherous wicket where even the more established batsmen struggled.” 

The only positive memory for Senthil from that match was him catching legend GR Vishwanath in both the innings. 

Bad Luck in the Ranji Final
On the back of having captained India in the U19 World Cup, he was handed out an opportunity in the historic Ranji final just a few days after his return to Madras. If the square turner undid him in January against Karnataka, the back of the short leg ruined the Ranji Final for him. Senthilnathan recounts as to how bad luck played a part a second time in the same year “I was confident that month after the World Cup and wanted to showcase myself with a strong performance in the Ranji Final. But my powerful pull ricocheted off the short leg's back to the wicket keeper. With the background of my performance in NZ and at the World Cup, if I had played a big knock in the final, things may have taken a positive turn for me at the senior level.”

But it was not to be. He failed again, for the third time in under a year for Tamil Nadu, this time in the famous Irani Trophy match that VBC won for the state with his blistering onslaught against Gopal Sharma and Hirwani playing a terrible slog in front of the national selectors at home. It was not the first and the only time that a bad shot went against him when it counted. He was in the squad to Western Australia but did not play the match.

Outstation Offers
1983-88 had been a great phase in his life with Soundararajan and Brijesh Patel playing a critical role in his cricketing growth and he was on top of the World with his elevation to the captaincy at the U19 World Cup. So impressed was Brijesh with Senthilnathan’s potential that there was a suggestion made for him to move to Bangalore so he could play for Karnataka in the Ranji season. Around the same time, there was a big offer from Air India to move to Bombay- an officer’s post and the possibility of playing alongside Sachin Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Ravi Shastri. The cricketing fraternity in Bombay does not get impressed easily but when they do, it surely is a great endorsement especially if the player is from TN. They really felt that he had it in him and tried best to convince him that he would be an integral part of the team but despite his appa’s insistence to accept that offer, Senthil negated both and stuck to TN. 

Confidence Crushed in the crucial early phase
There was not much of mentoring in those years in TN cricket with each player left to his own. Former India cricketer and team mate at Globe Trotters through the 1990s, WV Raman is saddened at the way Senthil was handled but not surprised "Senthil was a phenomenal talent and one with great potential. The system in TN did not make it easy for him to survive. He was always made to feel on the edge, uncertain of his place in the team. That does not give a youngster the confidence to build a career. His debut was on a square turner. Spinners in the top teams in South Zone were top class. Very few came unscathed on such wickets.

"There was no guidance on the way to transition from junior to senior cricket and the right way to approach batting at the senior level. At the very beginning, if he had got games on good pitches, he would have got the much needed confidence. At that young age, if things don’t go your way, you are made to feel not so good."

(Raman himself played a Board Presidents XI match and was made to sit the next day with the State team, such was the treatment meted out by the TN selectors of the time!!!)

“When an outstanding talent had to be motivated and taken care of, they crushed his confidence by treating him shabbily. A crucial year or two was lost in the process.”
“People did not understand him enough and (while I am not a psychologist) I think he felt quite desperate in that phase and did not know where to look for help.  At the Ranji level, he had to curb his stroke play but he did not learn to do it early enough. The worst part of that phase for him was that he was always under the threat of losing his place and that put a lot of pressure on his batting.  A combination of these factors led to this phenomenal talent not being nurtured. Such a huge talent amounting to nothing was disappointing. There was a bit of a settled look about the TN middle order and he remained unsettled in the Ranji team!!!”

"It always looked like it was three steps ahead and two steps back in his case. Nurturing and he system’s support is required in that crucial phase in a cricketer’s career. When you don’t get it, things can go terribly wrong. In his case it looked like he always asked the question to himself if he belonged to this stage."

Fitness Issues
By the time he moved from Udumalpet into a full time life in the city, he had come to encounter fitness challenges. By the turn of the decade, he had gained weight that went against him at the senior state level. Fitness deteriorated and he was no more the fleet footed man that one had seen in his teenage years. While his close catching continued to be good, he was a  bit of a liability in the outfield.

In this phase, Senthil began to make trips to Malaysia where he was hosted by a former SVPB team mate. Given the Pace Foundation, MRF, under TA Sekar, offered top class fitness facilities even in those early days but he did not pay attention to fitness and this impacted his concentration levels on the field for he did not seem to have the same focus as earlier. Once a brisk runner between wickets – in the days of Brijesh- he turned into a 'safe singles’ runner. Rarely did he convert runs into twos and threes. He became unrecognizable on the cricket field. An outstanding fielder for SVPB had now turned into one who had to be hidden in the field.

TN failed to fast track Senthil
PC Prakash was part of the TN middle order in the late 80s and early 90s and had also been to the UK as part of the above mentioned TN Colts team in the summer of 85. He says that Senthil was an exciting batsman, technically sound but at the Senior level, there was always the issue of fitness against him  “A lot of the Ranji winning team played into next year and were in good form. As an U19 India captain, he could have been given a lot more chances in 88-89. He should have been fast tracked and given opportunities. He lost an important year or two when he was in a confident mood and raring to go.”
“As a 19-20 year old, who has achieved glory, there is a tendency to get carried away.There was also brashness in his batting. In that phase, he did not fully understand his game. Unfortunately he was not nurtured. Frankly, there was no guidance in those days. You were left to make mistakes and learn from those on your own. It was the bane of TN cricket.  After the highs of age group success, the early years with the senior state turned out to be a difficult phase for him. The transition from age group to state cricket did not happen in his case.”

On the Verge of India Selection
In April 1990, he played a scintillating knock of 97 in the Wills Trophy, a knock that came off just 60balls. Watching the knock, national selector GR Vishwanth remarked that a good knock in the next game against Wills XI comprising Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar would book him a place in the Indian team for the Australasia Cup that came up a week later in Sharjah. India was looking for a big hitting player in the middle order and he seemed to fit the bill. Senthilnathan was just one match away from getting into the Indian team. Unfortunately, he failed in that important moment in the final and was not picked. It was the closest he had come to national selection. And a golden opportunity had been lost.

However, the big runs in Ranji Trophy that was a hall mark of his age group days did not happen till he was into his fifth year for TN. In 1991-92, he scored over 500 runs including three good outings in the knock out phase. In the Quarter final against UP, he scored his first of his two Ranji centuries after TN had been rocked back on the first morning. His past reputation at the national level in junior cricket meant that his performances that Ranji season was immediately recognised and earned him an opportunity in the Deodhar and Wills Trophy. He did get a half century in the Wills Trophy but by then a new crop of youngsters had begun to emerge on the domestic scene.

The year after he slammed 189 against Assam in another knock out Ranji game. Once again, like a year earlier, it was a knock played after the top order had been run through on the first morning. Team mate from the 1990s and now Chairman of India U19 S Sharath credits him for carrying him through the double century partnership that they shared against Assam “I was on a lean patch and struggling for runs. And we had lost early wickets that day. It was Senthil who helped me build the innings talking to me almost after every ball. That was the innings that gave me the confidence. He may have made for a terrific white ball player.”

Globe Trotters team mate from the 1990s and now a coach with the Australian team S Sriram remembers him for his play against spin, the huge sixes he used to hit and the ability to spot good talent. 

Sekar secures him the Goan Opportunity
TA Sekar the architect of the MRF Pace Foundation helped him with a professional engagement with Goa in 1995-96 after TN failed to pick him. He did reasonably well with the bat that season but by then the fitness levels had deteriorated. His first class career ended at the end of the season somewhat prematurely at the age of 27.

Former Bombay and TN Ranji cricketer, S Srinivasan, who too played for SVPB in the 1980s says that Audhi Chetty’s influence was written all over Senthil in that early phase “He was technically correct and an attacking and stylish batsman who played the inside out shot over Covers with ease. He had made it to the India U19 team based on the quantum of big runs he amassed but that dried up at the State level when he graduated into the Ranji team."

Failed in the Big Moments
UR Radhakrishan (Radha UR) points to the fact that when he graduated to the Senior State he seemed to lack the big match temperament and did not do well in the big moments, the Irani Trophy and Wills Trophy final being two illustrations.

A lot was expected of him but he flattered to deceive. The hunger for runs and determination to prove that he belonged to the top level went missing. Bharath Reddy who took him on that tour to UK in the mid 80s when Senthil was still a school boy and had also made the first offer from a first division team in the city looks back with disappointment at the talent having gone waste “He was highly talented with compact technique and had big strokes in his repertoire. While he was a big success at the age group level, he did not work hard enough and a bit of laziness had crept in once he graduated to the senior level.”

25 years after he quit first class cricket, Senthil agrees that laziness and lack of hard work were the prime reasons for him to not translate his potential into performance at the senior level after having achieved so much success at the U15 and U19 levels.

Succumbed to pressure of high expectations
NP Madhavan (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/05/np-madhavan.html) had seen Senthilnathan from the time he was a 12 year old boy and has stuck to SVPB for the last four decades. He was someone Senthil looked up to in those early days in the 1980s Madhavan is particularly saddened that Soundar's big belief in Senthil's potential did not see the desired end result “Unfortunately during his playing days for the State, his reputation and performance did not match. He was a bold and brave cricketer and struck the ball fearlessly. It was a big achievement for someone from Udumalpet to play for India at the U19 World Cup. Soundar pinned all his hopes on Senthil and expected him to play for the country.”
“With his outstanding performance at the U19 level, there was great expectation of him but he succumbed to the pressure. Youngsters did not get a long rope at the state level in those days in TN. He was a naturally gifted player but did not work on his fitness. He continued to dominate in the first division matches and was the backbone of Globe Trotters for a while. Towering Sixers became his hallmark. He was a really powerful bat and technically well accomplishd but he did not do justice to his potential."

As exciting as Sachin
Raman says that cricketing greats such as Lara, Bishop and Caddick still talk about Senthil’s stroke play from 87/88 “They were all so impressed with his batting that they wondered as to how he did not rise up to the next level. In fact, soon after his return from the U19 World Cup, the cricketing fraternity was as excited about Senthil as they were with Sachin. He was really seen as one who had it in him to make it big for India.”

Soundararajan’s biggest cricketing disappointment
His performance for TN left Soundararajan really disappointed. He told this writer in a face to face interaction at his palacious home in Udumalpet that his biggest cricketing disappointment was the fading away of Senthilnathan “Senthilnathan was immensely talented and it was a great moment for all of us when he captained the India U19 team in Australia. He was fit as a fiddle in those early days and his fielding was a delight to watch. I was always confident that he would play for India and had given him all that I could to create the necessary cricket infrastructure.”
"Somehow his attitude changed after his success at the Junior Level, he put on a lot of weight and was never the same again. His failure at the Ranji level remains my biggest disappointment in cricket.” 

The Second Innings
After his playing days, TA Sekar, who had been his mentor at MRF, handed him the role of a batting coach at Globe Trotters, a phase when he learned a lot from batting great Greg Chappell. A decade later when TA Sekar moved into the IPL, he was appointed as the Chief Coach of the MRF Pace Foundation, a moment that he considers as the biggest of his cricketing life. “It was a great honour to be working with legends such as Lillee, McGrath and (Greg) Chappell. I learned a lot from Greg on the technical aspects of batting, the clarity on going forward or back even while batting in the nets. Even at that age, Lillee will roar in and fire a thunderbolt at you at the Pace Foundation nets especially after you have hit him the previous ball. ”

NP Madhavan says that it came as a big surprise to them in Udumalpet that Senthil could fill in TA Sekar's shoes at the Pace Foundation "He has been able to keep that going successfully after Sekar for over a dozen years and that is a great achievement."
He was a beautiful village to international success story to be written. He captained not just TN and South Zone at the age group level but also India at the first ever U19 World Cup in Australia in 1988, something that was almost inconceivable for a village cricketer in those days. He was touted as the next big talent for India and it was to be a matter of time before he was to play for India. He had everything going for him in his teens. He attained stardom in a period of a few years. Everything seemed to come so easily to him in that phase. Teammembers and opposition alike were in awe of his natural abilities with the bat. From 'Mini Richards' to ‘as exciting as Sachin’, he was garlanded with accolades. He was on top of the World in early part of 1988. He was spoken of in such glorious terms that no other district cricketer had hitherto been spoken about. He was SVPB Soundararajan’s biggest hope in cricket.  Unfortunately he flattered to deceive. The cricketing system failed him as much as he failed himself. By the time, he managed to find a regular place in the Ranji XI, he had lost his magic touch with the bat and faded away after a few years much to everyone’s disappointment, where Soundararajan was on the top of the list. 
He failed to make the transition from junior to senior cricket. The cricketing foundation was so strong thanks to Audhi Chetty and Brijesh Patel but the cricketing fraternity was let down with performance not matching the talent. Later on with support  from TA Sekar, he emerged as a good batting coach for Globe Trotters and over the last decade has had the best phase of his life as the head coach of the world’s premier pace foundation. His playing career did not go as per plan but he has made up for that with his coaching contribution in his second innings in cricket being honoured with the most coveted and sought after posts in Indian cricket – the Head Coach of the MRF Pace Foundation interacting with legends DK Lillee, Glenn McGrath and Greg Chappell.