Wednesday, July 25, 2018

GVG owners Udumalpet Temple

The Owners of the Paper and Textile firm (now GVG) that once supported cricket in a big way are now embarking on a joint community initiative to construct the Biggest Perumal Temple in the Udumalpet region

With a Three Tier Raja Gopuram at the Eastern Entrance, the Alarmel Mangai - Venkatesa Perumal temple will also house Sannidhis for Dhanvantri and Hayagriva

The Temple is looking for full time Priests and Madapalli personnel 
Having supported cricket and cricketers in a big way in the 1970s and 80s ( ), the owners of erstwhile SVPB (Sri Venkatesa Paper Boards), now GVG Group of Companies are building the biggest Perumal Temple in the Udumalpet region along with Shanmughapriya Textiles, Udumalpet and with support from the larger public. The new Venkatesa Perumal temple, with a Three Tier Raja Gopuram, will come on a one acre area on the Southern Outskirts of Udumalpet off the Thali Road in Pallapalayam with the beautiful Munnar hills in the backdrop.

While the cricket development was anchored by M Soundararajan, his brothers Amarnath and Veluswamy and their cousin Ravindran are anchoring the construction of the temple along with Trustee Ramakrishnan, a well known enterpreneur and philanthropist. The temple is being built at a cost of  Rs. 10 crores.
The best of ancient stones have been sourced for the Perumal Sannidhi from Chittoor and for the rest of the Sannidhis from Vazhapadi. Over 50 experienced temple architecture related persons led by Sthapathy Ramesh and Bhaskar, who recently undertook the construction of the Abirami Amman temple in Dindigul, are working tirelessly in an effort to complete the first phase of construction by the middle of next year. 

The temple has the blessings of Srivilliputhur Jeeyar and has been endorsed by AMR and  Upanyasakars Ananthapadmanabhachari and Velukkudi Krishnan, who have both visited the temple. Over the last decade, Velukkudi Krishnan has been presenting an annual Upanyasam in Udumalpet.

Dhanvantri, Hayagriva Sannidhis
Venkatesa Perumal will be flanked on his right in a separate sannidhi by Alarmel Mangai Thayar and on his left in a separate sannidhi by Andal.  There will also be separate sannidhis for the God of Health Dhanvantri, the God of Learning Hayagriva, Lakshmi Narasimhar and Chakrathazhvaar, Vishwaksenar and Hanuman, with devotees taking up the financial costs of each of these sannidhis.

Amarnath who is personally overseeing the construction says that in the 1960s and 70s, he and his brothers felt that cricketers in the districts did not receive enough opportunities to showcase their talent and that was the reason for their family to support the cricketing fraternity in the Udumalpet region. And the family went the full distance providing a platform for young cricketers from Udumalpet to play alongside and against the best in the country. Similarly, the family is on its way to build the biggest temple “We felt that the region did not have a big Perumal Temple with a Sannidhi for all the Lords.  This prompted us to look for a large tract of land that would have enough space to house all the Sannidhis.”
GVG Owner Amarnath flanked by former cricketers S Sukumar and NP Madhavan
On the extreme right is Trustee Ramakrishnan

The Samprokshanam is slated for next Vaikasi.

The temple is also looking for full time priests and person for the Madapalli once the construction is complete. Those interested to participate and support the construction of the temple in any form may contact Trustee Ramakrishnan 98422 27606.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Meenakshi Amman Temple Cell Phone Ban

Will more temples introduce ban on Cell Phones? 
(My Thanks to NS Ramnath, former IT Correspondent, The Economic Times and now an Enterpreneur and a Book Writer for having initiated me into blogging a dozen years ago)

In June 2016, I had written a story on the phone menace inside temples ( and  how technological development and the emergence of smart phones and cameras were becoming a big distraction to devotees seeking peaceful darshan inside the temple.

Following a Public Interest Litigation that cited safety issues, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had in February this year directed the prohibition of carrying and using cell phones inside the Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai. The ban, a first of its kind in temples in Tamil Nadu, comes at a time when the use of mobile phones inside the temple is on an upward trend. The implementation of the ban - though the primary purpose was from a safety and security point of view- has done wonders for the Meenakshi Amman temple and brought about a transformation that is almost unthinkable in modern times.

The Existing Scenario prior to the ban
Over the last few years, since the proliferation of camera phones, it had become common practice for devotees to take photographs at all places inside the temple including of the Deepaarathanai. And within a few minutes such photographs were circulated all over the world via social media platforms. The hands that rose to take such shots proved a great hindrance to devotees especially at important sacred moments. 
The phone menace had reached such unbearable levels that devotees were seen talking even while going around the prakaram on a pradakshinam. Even sacred of occasions like Pradhosham were not spared and the loud talk on cell phones clearly disturbed peace darshan at the temple. Taking of Photographs and talking over the mobile always ended in confrontations with the more traditional devotees seeing this as an intrusion into their prayers.

Othuvar Somasundaram, who has been presenting the Thevaram Verses for the last seven years at the Meenkashi Amman temple, talks about the issues he had to endure patiently “Selfies near the Tank and the Kodi Maram had taken out the sanctity of the temple. In recent times, the electrical and electronic equipments with their flash lights had taken away the ancient ways of devotion. The nonstop Hello-Hello on the phone was quite a distraction to our presentation. Since it had become a way of life for most, we could not do anything about it.” 
The Othuvar, who has 10 festive days of presentation in a month at this temple, is very vocal about the negative impact of using cell phones “When a phone rings, not just the receiver of the call but the concentration of all others is also immediately affected in a negative way. Our mind goes away from God in those few seconds.”

K Balakumar, former Editor of an evening daily who spent his entire childhood and college days in Madurai in the 1970s and 80s has nostalgic memories of those decades of visiting the Meenakshi Amman Temple.“In those decades, with no mobile or technological intrusion, people focused on the purpose of their visit - to pray and enjoy some peace of mind.”

Even after the transition to a smart phone, his mobile has always been on silent when inside the temple. He is quite saddened by the turn of events in the past decade “People using mobiles in places where you would expect some quietness is irritating. While each one of us has our own way of worshipping and making some spiritual connection, cell phones have been a major put-off. People have to maintain certain etiquette in mobile usage at temples. But sadly many don't.”

New System in place
With the imposition of the ban, anyone entering the Meenakshi Amman temple has to now deposit the phone in the vault provided at the counter outside. There are a total of 10000 such vaults at the different entry points to the temple. A Self Help Group has been assigned the task of servicing this new process. The temple has also gone in for insurance.

Joint Commissioner N. Natarajan who has been at the temple for the last four years finds it a risky proposition “The administration of the ban is fraught with risk and initially there was a sense of fear as a lot of these are high end expensive phones. However, we have created a foolproof system and it has been working well.  We are charging a token sum of Rs.10 for each deposit. The devotees are happy and comfortable with this process.”

He is delighted at the outcome of the ban and is of the view that it has take one back to the good old devotional days “The biggest outcome from the ban is that we are witnessing devotion like it was in the 80s and 90s.  In the last few years, devotees had started taking photographs with their cell phones of even the Aradhanai. Previously, there was an urge to look at the phone every few minutes. Now, there is absolutely no distraction. For the first time in many years, I see a special bond between the parents and their children with the doing away of the phone. And that is a real good sign.”

Othuvar Somasundaram is ecstatic at this unexpected ban, which did not look likely at the beginning of the year “The ban has dramatically changed the way of devotion as the (mobile) rings have ceased to exist. Selfies have gone away too. This is a ‘Great Positive’ for us. Devotees are now listening to our presentation (on the mike) in a peaceful manner sitting in different locations within the temple complex. Calmness has returned and one can sense overall happiness among the devotees. The ban is definitely a blessing in disguise for the devotees of the temple and for us, the Othuvars.”

One’s ‘Life’ is Pledged outside!!
Devotee R. Shiv Kumar, who has been a frequent visitor to Thevaram Sthalams across the state for the last two decades, has an interesting view on the cell phone ban and how it impacts human life “With no phone allowed inside, one has to be mentally prepared to be without it for a few hours. For almost all the guys, their 'life' is pledged outside till they come.”  

A Penalty instead of a Total Ban?
Temple Activist and President of the Temple Worshippers Society TR Ramesh questions the rationale in the perception of mobile phones being a security threat and is unhappy with the ban “The temple should have ensured swift and certain (definite) penalties for usage of mobiles inside inner prakaras and enforced prevention of misuse of mobile phones inside temples instead of a total ban.”

However, Balakumar is of the view that the ban should be implemented strictly “It is a ban that was much needed. If the authorities stick to the rules, it will certainly pave the way for hassle-free darshan. And a certain amount of sanctity, needed in matters of tradition and culture, will be, hopefully, ushered in.” 

More Temples to ban?
Positive enquiries have been pouring in to temple JC Natarajan from other temples including many privately managed temples on the process and system adopted by the temple in relation to the ban.

The possibility of the mobile ringing at an inappropriate moment has been done away with completely at the Meenakshi Amman Temple. There is now a sense of sense of calm prevailing all around the temple. A surprising and an unexpected outcome has been the amount of time that parents are now spending in one on one conversation with their children explaining the rich history of the temple, something that was a rare sight in the years gone by.  

The successful implementation in a high profile and thickly crowded temple such as the Meenakshi Amman temple will serve as precedence for possible replication in other crowded temples across the state. If the feedback in the last few months at this temple is anything to go by, then implementation of and extending the ban to other temples could lead to restoration of peaceful darshan in temples across the state.

(A version of this story featured in The Hindu Friday Review dated 20th July)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Perur Patteeswarar

The Largest Saivite Temple in the region has beautiful Sculptures and Lord Shiva in different exquisite postures depicted on Stone

Sundarar praises the temple as one where devotees offering their prayers with sincere devotion will be liberated from rebirth 
It is 230pm on a Tuesday afternoon and there is a big crowd that has already gathered outside the Eastern Raja Gopuram of the Patteeswarar Swamy Temple at Perur in the Western outskirts of Coimbatore. It is the Pradhosham day in Aani, a day that is celebrated in a grand way at this ancient Karikala Chozha period Appar and Sundarar praised temple.

By 330pm, the crowd outside the temple had gathered steam. Devotees came in large numbers in cars. The buses to Perur ran full. The face of the coconut vendor wore a delighted look for his entire bunch of over a 100 had been sold out by 330pm ahead of the coconut water abhishekam for Nandikeswarar. For a couple of hours, the several hundreds of devotees chanted the name of Lord Shiva as they watched in absolute devotion the archakas presenting the Abhishekam. Prasadam was presented in large quantities to every devotee in a traditional cup.         

It is heartening to find that there are multiple archaka families presenting pooja for the Lord at this temple as contrasted with the hardship that those in remote Thevaram locations have been going through in recent decades.
The temple, located on the banks of Kanchima River, is rich in history with the construction in the current form dating back to the period of Karikala Chozhan and architecture being the very best in the Kongu region.

The story goes that when the calf was drinking milk, her leg slipped and was stuck below the ground. The mother used her horn to dig the ground to help rescue the leg. Delighted at the commitment of the mother, Lord Shiva provided darshan here to the cow and hence came to be referred as Patteeswarar.

The Kanaka Sabha
The Mandapam in front of the Nataraja Sannidhi on the North was built about 450 years during the rule of the Nayaks of Thanjavur. Lined on either side of the Sannidhi are exquisite stone sculptures on the pillars depicting the various forms of Lord Shiva. The Nayaks were great devotees of Lord Rama. Hence, there is a beautiful Ramar Pattabhisekam sculpture at the entrance of the Sannidhi.

The Inscriptions on the outer Walls
On each of the walls of the outer prakaram, one finds innumerous inscriptions dating back a 1000 years that provide insights into the contributions to the temple during that period. Around the temple one finds various beautiful sculptures depicting various historical episodes.
Appar and Sundarar’s Praise
Appar and Sundarar have sung praise of the Lord of Perur. Sundarar in his praise of the Perur Lord says that there will be no rebirth to one who offers his sincere prayers at this temple and invoking the blessings of the Lord.

ஆரூரத்த ஆயிற்றமுதே அழப்பூர் அம்மானே
கரூர் பொழிங்கள் உடை சூழ் புரதி
பேரூர் உறைவை பட்டி பெருமான் இறவா நதியானே
பாரூர் பலரும் தோற்ற படுவாய் பாசூர் அம்மானே -Sundarar

Special Features
As proof of that, when one goes to the burial ground after three months of the death, one finds the body having turned into a stone instead of remaining a skeleton.

When one takes the Tamarind seed from here and places it in another town, one finds much to one’s surprise that the seed does not find growth in that new region outside of the temple zone.

The cow dung of Perur is said never to lose its flavour.

The Archakas of Perur
Viswanathan Gurukal’s father M Subbu Rathina Gurukal performed great service at the temple for 75 years. Viswanathan Gurukal, who supported his father at the temple from a very young age, has now been here for three decades. There are four Sthaaneegams who have historically taking care of the poojas at the temple.  They are now well support by many Gurukals, whose assistance is essential to take care of the huge devotee crowd that is seen at the temple especially on weekends and on festive occasions.
10 day Brahmotsavam is celebrated in Panguni with Kalyana Utsavam on the sixth day and the Chariot Festival on the seventh

On the 10th day of the Thiruvathirai Utsavam in Margazhi, Lord Nataraja on a Silver Chapparam and Ambal on a Golden Chapparam go around on a street procession in the morning at 7am after an abhishekam at 3am.

The temple is open between 6am-1pm and 4pm-9pm.
Contact S Viswanathan Gurukal @ 96294 37922.

Buses every five minutes from Coimbatore Junction. Auto from Railway station will cost Rs. 150.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Papanasam Nava Kailayam

In memory of the historical episode, Lord Papanaswamy and Ulagambal provide Kalyana Kolam Darshan to Sage Agastya on Chitrai Vishu in the grandest of the festival at this temple 

The richest temple in the entire region gets an annual income that tops Rs. 1crore but the salary of the priests still remains pretty low and the temple is under staffed as well
The first among the Nava Kailayam temples is located at the foot of the Agasthiyar Falls in Papanasam, just under 10kms from Ambasamudram.

When Sage Agastya was dejected at not being able to witness the wedding of Shiva and Parvathi in Kailasam as he was given the task of balancing the earth by standing in the South of India, the divine couple promised to come to his place and provide an exclusive darshan.

When Sage Agastya was undertaking penance in the Pothigai Hills, it was here at Papanasam that Shiva and Parvathi provided the Kalyana Kolam darshan to him on the Chitrai Vishu day. 

A Unique story – Liberation from Dosham
A sister and brother were separated soon after birth. When they grew into teenagers, they married unaware of their earlier relationship and were hence afflicted with a dosham. Providing a solution to them, the learned rishis handed them a black blanket and ask the two to have bath in different rivers.  They were to be liberated from the dosham when the blanket turned white. Having had bath in various rivers, the two came here to Papanasam and invoked the blessings of the divine couple after bathing in the river. To their delight, the blanket turned white. Hence this temple is believed to be one of liberation from all kinds of Dosham and came to be referred to as ‘Paapa’ ‘Naasam’.

Huge Income but not shared among the staff
Given the popularity of the temple as one that liberates all the doshams of devotees offering sincere prayers, devotees throng the temple in large numbers even on normal weekdays.  In recent times, the annual income of the temple has topped Rs. 1crore. And yet much against HR & CE's claims and stated position of sharing the income of the temple for its own development, the comparative salary of the priests remains pretty low despite the huge income that accrues to the temple. The temple also seems understaffed, currently.  And the Raja Gopuram wears an old ‘Black and White’ look with repair works not having taken place for almost two decades.

It was also here after having invoked the blessings of Lord Shiva that Indra was liberated from Brahmma Hathi Dosham for having directed his Vajra Astram at his Guru in anger. 
Pandya Period Construction
It is believed that the outside mandapams and the temple in its current form and structure were constructed during the rule of Vikrama Singa Pandya. Many fish symbols are seen on the pillars and walls as an indication of the Pandya Period construction.

The 11 day Brahmotsavam is the biggest festival in the region with the Theppam on Chitrai Visu and the Chariot Festival on the last day of Panguni. It is during this festival that the Lord goes on a 2km procession to Vikrama Singa Puram.

Monkeys are seen in large numbers inside the temple complex and have the ability to catch the devotees by surprise. And once caught unaware, it is likely one will have to follow them atop the Pothigai Hills to recover the bag.
The temple is open from 6am-1pm and 430pm-8pm Contact Hari Hara Subramanian Bhattar @ 94874 51547.

When here, also visit Agasthiyar Koil, 2kms from here. Also, visit Agasthiyar Falls, one where water flows perpetually right through the year.

The 2nd among the Nava Kailayam temples is about 25kms from here at Cheran Maha Devi

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Umpire Ravi Major Milestone Sabina Park Jamaica

S Ravi moves above VK Ramaswamy to become the 2nd most capped Indian Umpire behind Venkataraghavan

‘Ravi will go even higher than where he is today’ – VK Ramaswamy 

'I have seen a transformational change in Ravi' - Mentor S Radhakrishnan
It was a historic moment for Umpire S Ravi( when he walked on to the field along with Richard Illingworth this Thursday (July 12) morning (8.30pm IST) to officiate in the 2nd test between West Indies and Bangladesh at Sabina Park in Jamaica for he became the second most capped Indian Umpire behind the legendary S Venkataraghavan.  This is Ravi’s 27th test match as an on-field umpire and he went past VK Ramaswamy, who had officiated in 26 tests during the 1980s and 90s.

Only recently, Ravi was inducted for the fourth straight year on the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires, a no mean achievement for the RBI staffer from Madras. Ravi is very proud of his achievement to be on the Elite Panel It is a great experience to be part of the Elite Panel and I have cherished every moment of it over the last three years. I take lot of pride being on the Elite Panel.”

For a man who for a large part of the first decade of this century was unsure about his future, this really is a monumental achievement as he has stamped his class on the international scene alongside international players turned umpires on the Elite Panel. He is unflussed, though, with the presence of cricketer turned umpires “I always try to better my performance and as such I don’t compete with anyone.’

Ravi will scale higher peaks - VK Ramaswamy
Talking from his home in Hyderabad, 73 year old VK Ramaswamy, who umpired in the first ‘Neutral Umpires’ test match way back in the mid 1980s, expressed happiness at handing over his long standing record to an outstanding umpire like Ravi  I am so happy for Ravi. He truly deserves this. He is such an outstanding umpire. I watched him when he began as a BCCI umpire. He was highly skilled and very good even at that time and I knew that he had it in him to reach the top.  I am confident that he will go even higher than where he is today.”

Former BCCI Umpire S Radhakrishnan(, who mentored Ravi at a crucial phase in the early part of his umpiring career and who had predicted seven years ago that Ravi would become the World’s best, is delighted at the transformational change in his mentee. 

It was under Radhakrishnan’s Tutelage that Ravi’s level of motivation in umpiring grew in the mid 1990s.  While he was a very good umpire, especially on the technical skills front, it was under Radhakrishnan’s guidance that Ravi developed the ambition to become a top umpire. The two of them umpired many matches in that phase and Ravi picked up intricate insights from Radhakrishnan. It was in that period that he became keener than ever to progress in his umpiring career.
A Transformational Change in Ravi
Radhakrishnan’s joy knew no bounds when Ravi was inducted recently into the Elite Panel for the fourth year in a row ‘From what I saw of him in those early years to what he is now is a transformational change. The poise and equanimity he exhibits on the field is phenomenal. His body language has transformed beyond my imagination.  Above all, the respect he seems to command from players is an indication of the growth in his stature as an umpire.’

Radhakrishnan remembers a match in the first division league in Chennai when Ravi banned a batsman, from SBI, for the rest of the match for disputing his decision. And there was a match when he refused a substitute for Rahul Dravid when he wanted to go off the field in a local league match “He used to react very strongly to situations. I told him that strong reactions was not acceptable for umpires and that open confrontations should be avoided. He had this instinctive quality to ‘react’. Usually the basic quality in a human being is very difficult to overcome but Ravi has mastered it and this quality to ‘react aggressively’ has gone away completely. That is a stupendous change for a human being.  It is this quality to transform that is taking him miles in his umpiring journey. He sharpened out the rough edges quite unbelievably much beyond my expectations. And that has made him a complete umpire,today.”
The Toughest Series
Ravi counts the controversial South Africa- Australia series earlier this year as one of the toughest he has officiated in, over the last 5 years “It was a very tough series because of the fact that lot of things happened both on and off the field. And it was a challenging experience to manage.” It was the transformational change that Radha cited that has helped Ravi manage such difficult situations with ease, amidst all the media glare.

His most memorable Tests
His roller coaster ride in recent years has included officiating tests at Lords and the MCG as well as the first Pink Ball Test. Looking back, he says that his first ever test at Lords in May 2015 and the first pink ball test in 2016 as being the most memorable moments in his umpiring career.

Radhakrishnan is quite surprised that Ravi could transform himself in such a short period of time ‘He doesn’t get ruffled at all.  Not just the external appearance, I could even feel inwardly that he was cool even in the toughest of situations. Ravi had strong values in life even as a youngster but the execution of those Values in Action is what matters the most on the cricket field. He has been able to do that. Ravi is a perfect role model for any umpire.”

Improvement Areas still!!!
Radhakrishnan, the mentor has a case for improvement for his mentee ‘Once in a while, when there is a beautiful swinging ball that beats a batsman, Ravi shows a mild 'facial expression' immediately after the ball passes the bat. He should work towards improving that. Knowing him, I am confident that he will master that one as well.”

Standing between him and the all time Indian record is Venkataraghavan, considered the best in his time. However, Ravi is not setting his eyes on that record just yet and says in his typical humble way I don't aim to beat Venkat's record, am just taking one match at a time and trying to give my best on the task at hand. I would like to continue as long as I can and lets see where I end up. 
Ravi's technical skills, body language, handling difficult situations, carrying himself on the field, the respect he commands from the top players and the ability to remain calm and unflustered makes him a very special umpire.

Umpiring Tests at Chepauk??
Unfortunately, back here in Madras, fans have not been able to watch him umpire tests at Chepauk for this ground has always been special for interenational cricketers from Tamil Nadu. While saddened by his inability to do tests at home, he is all for neutral umpires in tests “I feel it is better to have neutral umpires in tests.”

There is still a lot of Umpiring left in Ravi, despite the non stop overseas trips he has had to make over the last many years and the long periods of time he has had to be away from home. He began to umpire in the local league in Madras as a teenager way back in the 1980s in order to meet his monthly expenses. For someone who then waited 25 years for his international debut bearing through some frustrating periods in the middle, Ravi will not be short on patience. While he is not gunning for the record, it will be no surprise if one day he goes past Venkataraghavan. And at 52, Ravi has age on his side too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Coimbatore Junction Retiring Rooms

Online Booking through IRCTC is not available for the Newly Constructed 4 Retiring Rooms /5 AC Dormitories at Coimbatore Junction

The Existing IRCTC – SBI Platinum Card Service counter on platform 1 could be used to offer online booking service of retiring rooms as a value added service 
The Newly constructed Retiring Rooms and AC Dormitories that were launched a couple of years at Coimbatore Railway Station have not been included in the online booking facility  on the IRCTC Web Site leaving the rooms vacant on many days as the passengers are having to go through the tedious manual application process after they alight from the train at the Coimbatore Station. These 4additional AC rooms and 5 AC Dormitories are available on the first floor of platform number 1 at the Coimbatore Junction but one cannot book online through IRCTC as they have not been added to the previously existing retiring rooms.

Railway Retiring rooms and dormitories in Tiruchirapalli  ( and Madurai Stations, among others are a big hit in the Southern Railway Section.

AC Retiring Rooms are available for around Rs. 700, Non AC rooms at around Rs. 450 and AC Dormitories for around Rs. 250. These provide great convenience to the passengers in addition to safety especially for women passengers and are also quite economical considering the hotel rates in the area around the railway station.

5% online booking discount
Despite the huge popularity of online booking of retiring rooms in other stations in the Southern Railway, for some reason, the recently constructed AC Dormitories and the AC retiring rooms are not available for booking online on the IRCTC site, this despite the continued thrust of the Prime Minister as well as the Railway Minister for Online Transactions. There is also a 5 % discount available for booking of retiring rooms online as an added incentive to passengers. It has been found in the recent past that a large percentage of the booking of retiring rooms has been done online, thus moving away from the old system of filling forms and getting station master’s approval. 
Passengers have to go through Manual Application Process
Many other stations in the Southern Railway offer online booking of retiring rooms ( But it leaves one to wonder as to why an important Junction and a business center such as Coimbatore does not allow online booking of retiring rooms and dormitories. For 9 of these rooms, a passenger has to go through a strenuous manual process that involves physical checking of the availability, a manual filling of application and approval from the station master. It also involves daily cash deposit by the care taker (staff) of the retiring rooms and dormitories.

Online booking of these retiring rooms and dormitories will do away with the tedious process of cash collection and deposit by the staff.

No Actual Check in – Check Out System for Retiring Rooms
Also, while the passenger books for a specific period, currently there is no online system to maintain an actual check in and check out of the passengers using the retiring room. The Indian Railways should introduce a system of online check out by the passengers so they can track the availability of the rooms, better. Currently, when a passenger checks out early, the room does not automatically become available as the booking of that earlier passenger was for a particular period and the room status continues to be shown as occupied despite the passenger having vacated the room earlier.

Loss of Revenues for Railways
In recent times, one also finds a high marketing pitch at the Coimbatore Junction of the IRCTC- SBI Platinum Card. Since personnel are readily available at the counter for this card service, the Railways could extend this offering to provide online booking of retiring rooms as well. This will be a value add for both the passengers as well as the IRCTC and could dramatically improve the occupancy rates of the retiring rooms at Coimbatore Junction, which has in recent times lost a lot of revenues with the retiring rooms and dormitories remaining vacant. 
The infrastructure has been set up and the rooms are available.  They are clean, convenient, cost effective and more than anything safe for passengers. And yet Southern Railway is losing out on opportunity to increase its revenues by not making a simple online booking available for a number of rooms at the Coimbatore Junction.

It is hoped that the Railway Ministry will look into this and introduce online booking for all the retiring rooms and AC dormitories at the Coimbatore Junction. It is also hoped that the Ministry will initiate the actual check in and check-out system for online retiring room bookings so the rooms automatically becomes available when the current passenger checks out.

More Trains on Coimbatore Pollachi Rail Route?
Only last month, this writer had written about the lack of utility of the Coimbatore Junction- Podanur- Palani- Dindigul rail route even though it had over a year since the launch of the new broad gauge section on this route.  The Coimbatore Pollachi national highway is currently witnessing serious congestion because of the construction of flyovers at multiple points and it sometimes takes close to two hours to cover the 45kms by road. Hence it is an ideal opportunity for the Southern Railway to introduce many more trains on this route to help passenger commute (

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Cheran Maha Devi Amma Nathar Koil

The 2nd among the Nava Kailayam Temples, the Amma Nathar Koil has beautiful sculptures and inscriptions dating back at least a 1000 years

Archakar has been performing daily service for two decades and now gets just Rs. 1400 every month for his selfless service!!! 
Located 4kms off the Railway Station on the Southern Banks of Tamaraibarani on a long winding dark road without Street Lights is the huge Ammanathar Koil in Cheran Maha Devi, the 2nd among the Nava Kailayam temples and one dedicated to Chandran among the Nava Graham.  The Lord is flanked on his right in a separate sannidhi by Avudayambal (Gomathi Ambal).

Sangili Bhoothathar seen in a separate sannidhi in front of the temple is said to provide security to the temple. Historically there was a road leading from the Appan Venkatachalapathy Perumal temple (, just half a km away. However, in recent decades, this road has been shut and hence the archakar as well as the devotees have to take long winding dark route through the Ramaswamy temple ( If the authorities relay the route connecting the Srinivasa Perumal temple and Amman Nathar temple, devotees will be able to reach the temple from the Cheran Maha Devi – Mukoodal highway.
Selfless Service without financial returns
As with many ancient temples in this region, there is a huge amount of land attached to the temple but the income from the lands do not accrue to the temple. Hence it is the same story of the archakar being left in the lurch and having to find that devotee to present something to the Lord including basic requirements such as oil to light the lamp and provisions for the madapalli for the daily sacred offering to the Lord.

Despite the difficulty in reaching the temple, Chandrasekara Bhattar has been performing selfless service at the temple for over two decades. He now gets a salary of a mere Rs. 1400 for his service every month. One wonders as to how an archaka can run a family with a salary from the HR & CE as meager as this. And yet unmindful of the financial difficulty, he is present at the temple every morning before 7am to perform pooja. On most week days, he is seen sitting along with the security, who assists him at the temple, waiting for that elusive devotee find his way through to the temple at the far Northern end of Cheran Maha Devi. And when finally that devotee arrives, his eyes light up and he performs an archanai in a most devoted way chanting in a special loud tone. 

Over the decades, when lady devotees visited the temple in the evening, it was he who ensured their safe trip back to Cheran Maha Devi before locking the temple for there are absolutely no lights anywhere in the vicinity of the temple and the only lights one now finds are the ones from inside the train that runs very close to the temple.
HR & CE's lack of Support and care
The HR & CE which manages the  temple receives an annual income of Rs. 1.5 crore from the Papanasam temple alone, the first among the Nava Kailayam temples. And yet, the salary paid to an archakar within this set of temples is abysmally low.

Support from Venu Srinivasan's Trust??
It is heard that the Venu Srinivasan led TVS Trust, that has transformed the Nava Tirupathi (Perumal) temples, has also been supporting a couple of the Nava Kailayam temples in Srivaikuntam and Thenthiruperai, East of Tirunelveli. It is hoped that he will be able to look into this ancient temple as well and the service this archakar has been providing for a long period of time and support this one as well.

The temple surrounded by big walls on all the four sides has some of the most beautiful sculptures on the pillars. There are also a number of inscriptions on the walls dating back a 1000 years. Kulothungo Chozha is believed to have contributed improvements to the temple. 
Romasa Rishi’s penance – Tamaraibarani banks
Seeking Mukthi, Romasa Rishi, the disciple of Agastya, went to this preceptor who was performing penance at the Pothigai Hills and asked for the way to attain this. Agastya picked up 9 Lotus buds from his Kamandalam and let them down. He asked Romasa Rishi to install a Shiva Lingam at each of the places where this bud rests and to invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva at each of those places.  
It was at Cheran Maha Devi that Lord Shiva presented darshan as Amma Nathar to Romasa Rishi. There is a stone sculpture of the rishi performing the penance invoking the blessings of the Shiva  Lingam in front of the Amma Nathar Sannidhi.

Nandanar stood at the entrance of the temple and sang praise of the Lord but the Nandi was blocking his darshan. It is said that the Lord asked the Nandi to move slightly so Nandanar could have darshan of the Lord from his standing position.

The Devoted Sisters
The story goes that two sisters, who wanted to make contributions to the temple, chanted the name of Lord Shiva and grounded paddy on a traditional stone grinder. When they presented their offerings to the Lord, they were surprised to find gold coins as prasadam, an indication of how the Lord rewards sincere prayers of devotees.

They used this to renovate and make improvements to the temple. In memory of this episode, one finds a sculpture of the two sisters grinding the stone at the entrance to the main sanctum.

Aipasi Uthiram Kalyana Utsavam
Aani Anusham Varusha Abhishekam
Margazhi Aruthira for Moolavar Natarajar

On Maha Sivarathri in Maasi, the temple is open the whole day with four Kaalam pooja in the night. 
Liberation from Chandra Dosham – Monday Pooja
Monday Pooja is special at this temple. To liberate one from Chandra Doshma, five Abhisekams are done with Pomegranate and Venpongal or Kalkandu Chakkarai Pongal is presented to the Lord on Monday morning.

How to reach
From Cheran Maha Devi bus stand, an auto to the temple will cost Rs. 80. There are no buses to the temple.

The temple is open between 7am-10am and 5pm-6pm. Contact Chandrasekara Bhattar @ 94422 26511.