Saturday, January 19, 2019

Vimal Khumar TN Cricketer

The 16 year old talented Southpaw brings with him a refreshing selfless attitude that places the team ahead of the self - a Rarity in TN cricket these days

Just under 35 years ago, a young 14 year Class IX student of RKM School, T. Nagar burst on to the cricket scene in Madras with an almost unmatched bowling performance for a U15 cricketer at that time. Modelling his action on Imran Khan, TN Ramachandran picked up six, seven and eight wicket hauls in three successive TNCA school matches.

Unlike today, exposure was very limited for un-fancied schools and one had to perform in those bare minimum opportunities to impress the selectors. It was a period in city cricket in Madras that was dominated by Santhome and Don Bosco and to a lesser extent Vidya Mandir.

Without backing from the powers that be and coming from a school such as RKM, Ramachandran could not find a place in the U15 squad despite picking up 21 wickets in 3 matches. His non selection in the age group team left Advocate TS Ramaswamy (YMCA TSR) fuming.

TSR ran one of the earliest coaching academies in the city from YMCA Nandanam and Ramachandran belonged to the first set of boys to join the academy in the mid 1980s. TSR was not one of those who would talk to the selectors to influence the selection of boys from his academy. But the non selection of Ramachandran left a poor taste in him in the way selectors looked at school cricketers in the city.

Unfortunately, those that belonged to Santhome or Don Bosco were better placed as compared to those from RKM or PSBB and usually talent and scores from the not so cricketing big schools did not find the same treatment from the selectors that decade. TSR could just not understand how a young boy with three successive extraordinary bowling performances in the recognised TNCA school tournament would  be left out of the squad when there was no equivalent performance that season from any other school cricketer.

During that entire phase in the late 80s, Ramachandran remained a quiet, shy cricketer and one of the most honest human beings I had seen on the cricket field trying to do his best on the field leaving the rest to the selectors.

As is with cricket and most other sports, one has to be given an opportunity when in the peak of form to progress. This unfair rejection in the middle of the 1980s put Ramachandran back by a few years for such extraordinary bowling performances do not come every day. He later played first division cricket for Alwarpet but the non selection in that crucial season as an U15 cricketer left him dejected and depressed.
Well over three decades later, history seemed to repeat itself for Ramachandran!!! Despite a terrific performance in school circuit, Ramachandran’s teenaged son was left out of the annual state summer camp leaving R Vimal Khumar in almost the same state mind as his father all those decades ago.

Madanagopal plays the Mentor in testing times
In the mid 1980s, there was none to motivate Ramachandran during the frustrating times that he went through. This time the saving grace was that there was a mentor to keep the son motivated. BCCI Umpire and former South Zone Cricketer J Madanagopal (, someone who is well respected in the cricketing circles as a mentor, was at the St. Bedes ground coaching boys during the summer. It was he who seeing a dejected young boy kept up the spirits of the young boy through that entire summer  focusing on strengthening his mind. And the result of the strong mind is there to see. Since then, the young cricketer has looked up to Madanagopal for inputs during challenging times in his still young cricketing career. 
Image result for prtraveller madanagopal
In 2017, I umpired a lower division match featuring the then 14 year old Vimal Khumar. Batting at the top of the order, he scored a brilliant eye catching century. Later in the day, standing at forward short leg to the spin duo of Kubendran and Vijayasarathy, he picked up two extraordinary catches. But what struck me the most that day was not the century or the catches. It was the refreshing attitude of a young teenager who seemed to place the team ahead of the self.

His voice was heard the most on the field. He ran from deep square on one side to deep mid wicket on the other through the innings. He was there every where that day.  That league season he topped 400 runs.

PC Prakash ropes 15 year old Vimal into 2nd Div
South Zone middle order batsman  in the 1980s and current batting coach at the TNCA academy PC Prakash, who runs/manages a couple of  teams in the TNCA league was the one who roped Vimal for his 2nd division team this season when the view, especially from the seniors at SBI (his previous team) was that he should play another year of lower division cricket and continue with the same club. And that has paid rich dividends. He has been among the runs in the competitive 2nd division league. That, along with his performances for his school, led him into the state U16 squad.

Earlier this season, in an U16 state match when he had the opportunity to prolong his innings after his century and expand his statistical tally, he hit out in team’s interest and got out. Most others would have ended up with a Not Out score. He scored 550 runs in the Vijay Merchant tournament. But it is not the statistics that impresses one about him. In a city where selfish cricketers and playing for oneself has become the norm, Vimal Khumar’s selfless attitude is refreshing.

After a long time, Madanagopal is delighted to find someone like him in city cricket “Vimal is a rarity among the modern generation of cricketers ‘He is selfless, looking to always play for the team. Clearly, one finds that he places the team’s interest ahead of himself. For a long time one has not seen an attitude such as this in local cricket.”

The huge scores he has put together in the U 16 tournament that included two centuries and two 80 plus scores prompted a surprise U19 call up in the Tamil Nadu squad for Vimal last week.

PC Prakash finds Vimal very level headed for his age. More importantly he sees Vimal as a fantastic student of the game, a willing listener and one who is ever keen to absorb good inputs. Though he has just begun his career and has a long way to go, the fact that he loves batting and is hungry for success is good news for TN cricket. Prakash believes that Vimal's passion for the game and his hard work and attitude will take him far though he stresses the importance of leaving him alone without too much interference (and unnecessary attention and glorification) so that he understands the importance of performing consistently and staying grounded.
12 years ago, I wrote about Abhinav Mukund ( as a 17 year old on the verge of entry into Ranji cricket. It has taken a decade for me to find another cricketer in that age group with both the talent and hunger for runs that Abhinav had at that age. More importantly, Vimal has a special old fashion attitude to cricket seeing that as a team game, as a sport to enjoy and to always puts the team first.

Imbibes Father's honest attitude
At the beginning of 1988, Ramachandran and I played for the same league team. In the very first match that season, we were chasing a modest 110 to win in 50 overs at the New College ground. A collapse meant we were 90 for 8 batting in fading light late in the evening. Almost the entire team wanted him to claim bad light (those days batsmen had the right to claim for bad light) and it was likely that the umpires would have decided in his favour. But to everyone’s utter disbelief, Ramachandran said that he could sight the ball and would not ask for bad light. We lost the match by about 15runs. But that was Ramachandran for you. He would not do anything that was against the spirit of the game.
Vimal has imbibed those qualities from his cricketing father. With his attitude towards cricket that places the team ahead of the self and with a huge hunger for runs and to play the long innings,  it is likely that this talented southpaw will go a long way not just in cricket but in life as well. 

Just like with Abhinav, this blog will track closely the progress of Vimal in the coming years.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pazhaya Seevaram Battle for the Vaishnavite Acharya Supremacy

What one witnessed this evening at the annual Parivettai Utsavam at Pazhaya Seevaram was distasteful and brought shame to the Vaishnavite community

Five decades after the launch of the anti brahminical wave in the state, thousands of non brahmins stood in front of Lord Varadar with folded hands invoking his blessings with utmost devotion while the two Vaishnavite sects fought out a bitter and an ugly battle in front of the Lord
It was the worst of the street fights as Thengalai and Vadakalai Iyengars fought it out this evening in full public view at the annual Parivettai Utsavam in Pazhaya Seevaram in an effort to promote and register the supremacy of their respective Acharyas.

A Public Spat between the Two Sects
There have been similar fights in the recent past on the issue of the recital of the sacred verses but largely those have been restricted to within the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram. The magnitude ( in front of several thousands) and the location (atop the hill in full public view of a large gathering) would rank this as a never before seen fight in a Divya Desam Utsavam as the Thengalais with added strength from Thiruvallikeni ( and Vadakalai, who had garnered numbers from Mylapore, came face to face at the hill atop Pazhaya Seevaram where Varadaraja Perumal had lay stationed through the day providing darshan to devotees after a long 12 hour trip from his abode at Kanchipuram the previous night.

It all looked fine  through the morning as the day passed in devotion with devotees in several hundreds having a peaceful darshan of the Lord, who was seen in resplendent splendor adorning the jewels presented to him by Robert Clive a couple of centuries ago. Young girls presented verses in praise of the Lord of Kanchi while the Bhagavathas sat opposite the Lord under the canopy singing praise of the Lord.
The entry of the two Vaishnavite Sects
Just around 4pm, there was a sudden surge in numbers as the Thengalai and Vadakalai gathered in large numbers around the mandapam atop the Pazhaya Seevaram hill, where Lord Varadar visits once a year on the day after Pongal to celebrate the Parivettai Utsavam. An hour later, the Lord came out of the Mandapam to make his 'down the hill' trip on his way to Thiru Mukoodal where five Lords including those Mukoodal and Salavakkam were to provide darshan to the devotees at the confluence of three rivers.

And then the tone turned sour atop the hill. Soon after the Pallaandu Thodakkam, the Thengalayars led the Ghosti down the hill. To their shock, the Vadakalayars followed them reciting the Desikar Prabhandham/ Sostra Ghosti. Thus began a fight that soon turned disgustingly violent.

A Chartered Accountant from Thiruvallikeni, who I went to a couple of years ago to commend for his brilliant mode of recital of the Divya Prabhandam at the Brahmotsavam led the Thengalaiyars against the recital by the Vadakalaiyars, who were not undone by the numbers. They retorted. The Lord stood watching the ugly battle almost in silence or so the two groups thought this evening as they made the Lord wait atop the hill while they engaged in a verbal battle.

Anti Brahminical wave in the 1960s
Almost five decades ago, the anti brahminical wave swept the temples ( across Tamil Nadu that led to most traditional inhabitants leaving their home town seeking greener ‘corporate’ pastures in cities. At the turn of the century, this wave has come a full circle. This evening several thousands of non Vaishnavite devotees stood with folded hands in utmost devotion almost unmindful of this bitter battle between the two Vaishnavite sects (

It was also shocking that the two ghostis were video recording the fight nonstop as the Lord descended downhill, leading to the non Vaishnavite voices to utter 'these Vaishnavites would very soon in the next few minutes post these videos on face book and on other social media forums to showcase the other sect in poor light.'

As the Thengalayars went down a few steps, they stopped as the leaders of their group went up again to take up the battle of the ‘Voices’ with the Vadakalayars. 

Once the Lord reached the Pazhaya Seevaram Narasimha temple, it turned even uglier as the battle turned physical with the Vaishnavite Sects now raising their hands and hitting out at each other with the police personnel right in front of them at the entrance of the Raja Gopuram.

The non Brahmins continued to invoke the Lord’s blessings with folded hands for this was a once in a year occasion for them to have darshan of Lord Varadar in their village.

When the Vadakalais chanted the Desikar Prabhandham inside the Pazhaya Seevaram temple, the Thengalais chanted louder with Manavala Mamamunigal’s verses.The faces of the two Ghosti troupes had turned red and the anger had peaked by the time the Lord was down at the entrance of the Pazhaya Seevaram temple, when one would have expected the anger to have died down.

The two Vaishnavite sects forgot the importance of devotion to the Lord in their endeavour to register the supremacy of their acharyas in the process ending up putting the entire community to shame in front of the large wide world of devotees. The non Vaishnavite devotees would be laughing it out this evening at this shameful fight displayed by these two sects forgetting the devotional aspect of life, especially in front of God. 

In a shameful outcome, a few of the Vadakalais from Mylapore were seen with happy faces and were heard saying that they had fought tooth and nail to down the voices of the Thengalayars with their chanting of Desikar Prabhandham. Surely, this is not what the Prabhandham Acharya of Mylapore would have taught them ( – to engage in a battle of voices against the Thengalayars and in a physical battle as well in the view of several thousands of devotees. There were several young devotees who had turned up this evening to have darshan of Lord Varadar. They did not quite understand the high decibel levels around the Lord. Let alone youngsters, most others too would not have understood this act of the two Vaishnavite Sects.
Thus the annual Parivettai Utsavam at Pazhaya Seevaram was marred by this shameful act of the Thengalayars and Vadakalayars.

Only recently, the judges of the Madras High Court while hearing a petition on a similar case asked for the two sects to first narrow down their differences before coming to court to take up specific issues relating to the temple. From what one saw this evening, it is unlikely that these two sects will come together anytime soon for at the end of the evening, what one heard amongst them was as to whose voice was heard louder and whose hands rose higher in the physical battle.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Thiru Mandangudi Thondaradipodi Azhvaar

The Avathara Utsavam of Thondarapodi Azhvaar was celebrated yesterday -Margazhi Kettai - with Azhagiya Manavala Perumal and Azhvaar providing darshan from atop motorized vehicles

For three hours, the two went around the streets of Mandangudi on two matadors

A Grand Alankaram, Motorized Street Procession, Prabhandham Recital, Thiru Kalyanam, Pongal and Puliyotharai mark birthday celebrations of Thondaradi Podi Azhvaar at Thiru Mandangudi
It is a sign of changing times and the scenario that presents itself today in remote temples in Tamil Nadu. Over the last 50 years with the traditionalists having moved out of their hereditary locations, there is acute shortage of the ‘original’ inhabitants in ancient temple towns. And this reflected in the procession at Thiru Mandangudi, on the occasion of the Avathara Utsavam of Thondaradipodi Azhvaar, 1km West of Pullam Bhoothangudi Divya Desam.

It is just past 7am on a chilly Margazhi morning. Ranganatha swamy Thondaradipodi Azhvaar temple in Thiru Mandangudi, surrounded by green fields in the South and by a plant of Thiru Aarooran Sugars, wears a rather quite look. The cooks, outsourced from other locations, outnumber the devotees. They are already done with the preparation of the huge quantity of Pongal for the morning breakfast.

Both Perumal and Azhvaar have made their way to the prakaram in front of the Thayar Sannidhi for the alankaram ahead of the street procession. At this temple, Ranganayaki Thaayar is seen with a fully bloomed lotus in her right hand and with a flower stalk in her left. 
A call for Hot Pongal to lure devotees into the temple
The Mirasu archakar, 74 year old M Sampath Kumar, who has been at the temple for almost his life time, is the priest anchoring the Utsavam. Shortly after 8am, he makes an announcement on the mike calling out for the villagers to come and have the hot Pongal served along with Kosthu while the Lord and Azhvaar are getting ready for the procession with Bhakti Saran, from Thirumazhisai Azhvaar temple in Kumbakonam decorating the utsava deity Azhagiya Manavalan, mounted atop the Garuda Vahana and Thondaradipodi Azhvaar atop the Anna Pakshi Vahana.

And it’s no surprise that the prakaram is soon filled with people. Traditional Vaishnavites not in too large a number arrive just in time in their cars. 
Selfless Service for almost 7 decades
While the Lord and Azhvaar were being decked with beautiful colourful flower garlands, archakar Sampath Kumar is back in the Sannidhi describing to the devotees the legendary tale of the temple. His excitement level reaches a peak when he finds his school mate from seven decades standing in front of him and performs a special archanai for him. To the devotees wondering as to what has got him so excited, he proactively presents his class mate, now residing in Thiruvazhundur, as one of the most devout Anjaneya devotee one could see and says that this loud pitched archanai was a sudden devotional outburst from him and in a way signified the Lord’s recognition of his friend’s services.

Legend has it that very early in his life, Thondaradipodi Azhvaar (his original name was Vipra Narayanan) moved from Thiru Mandangudi to Srirangam to dedicate his life to the service of Lord Ranganatha. He created a beautiful Nandavanam in Srirangam and with a basket in hand immersed himself in collecting flowers and making beautiful garlands for the Lord every day.

Ranganatha’s Special Standing darshan at Thiru Mandangudi
Having heard of the Lord accepting Thirumazhisai Azhvaar’s request to come out of the kingdom in Thiruvekka near Kanchipuram and provide a special Maaru Sayanam posture there on his return, and another special posture in Kumbakonam with his Uththana Sayanam as Aaravamuthan, Thondaradipodi was keen that he too be given a special darshan from his favourite Lord Ranganatha.

Ranganatha promised him to provide such a darshan but asked him to go to his birth place at Thiru Mandangudi. When he reached Thiru Mandangudi , much to his surprise, he saw Lord Rangantha waiting for him in a special and rare standing posture to provide darshan along with Sri and Bhoo devi. 
Lord on the Motorized Vehicle
Sampath Kumar is back at the mike again this time calling out for the Sri Patham to make their way to the temple. It is just past 930 am. The Sri Patham carried Thondarapodi Azhavaar around the temple followed by Varam Tharum Perumal, another name for the Utsava Lord. What followed over the next few hours was a saddening depiction of what traditional archakas in ancient temples have to undergo these days.

The non-traditional Sri Patham personnel have not only become expensive but have also come to be insensitive the time of the procession, leaving the archakas completely at their mercy. Over the last decade, this has led to the Lord in several Divya Desams providing darshan to devotees on street processions including during Brahmotsavam from atop ‘tyred’ carts ( This one at Thiru Mandagundi took the deterioration to another level.

As the Lord and Azhvaar went past the Eastern Raja Gopuram, each of them mounted on to the two matadors that were stationed outside the temple. The entire East Big Street of Thiru Mandangudi was dotted with traditional white pulli kolam. For the next three hours, the Lord provided Garudai Sevai darshan to the devotees around the streets of Mandangudi with birthday boy Thondaradipodi Azhvaar leading the way on the Anna Pakshi Vahanam. At several points of the procession, one found two motorized vehicles next to each other – one of the Lord on Garuda Vahana on a mini matador and the other of a transport mini bus.

The video camera man even climbed atop the matador housing Thondaradipodi Azhvaar to take video shots of Lord Ranganatha on the other matador.

Only last month, at Thiru Naraiyur, the nadaswaram artistes led the procession of Shiva and Parvathi on a similar motorized vehicle ( But here the Lord and Azhvaar themselves went around the ancient temple town on a motorized four wheeler. With the traditional inhabitants making their way to larger cities seeking greener pastures, this could well be the way forward for processions in most remote temples in the future. 
Led by the nadaswaram troupe and the Prabhandham Ghosti, Azhagiya Manavalan and Thondaradi Podi Azhvaar made their way to the Eastern entry point of Thiru Mandangudi. 

On the return trip, a set of bhagavatas too joined the procession chanting verses in praise of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. Fire crackers all along the procession alerted the residents of Thiru Mandangudi to the arrival of the Lord on the procession. 

Almost every house on the Big Street had a birthday gift to present to Thondaradipodi azhvaar. By 12.30 pm, the two were back at the temple after a three hour trip on this chilly Margazhi day.

Shortly after, the Lord held his position in the outer prakaram on the Garuda Vahana with Thondaradipodi Azhvaar facing South on his Anna Pakshi Vahanam. At 1pm, after the three hour street procession, the Lord held his position in the outer prakaram on the Garuda Vahana.
For well over an hour, the Lord along with hundreds of villagers enjoyed the presentation rendered by the Prabhandham Scholars (a few had made it from Srirangam) of the sacred verses that included Thondaradipodi Azhvaar’s Thirumalai and Manavala Maamuni’s Upadesa Ratna Maalai. Thondaradipodi Azhvaar was ever in thought of Lord Ranganatha and composed 55 Pasurams – 10 verses of Thiru Palli Yezhuchi and 45 verses of Thiru Maalai.  In his Thiru Maalai verse, Thondaradipodi Azhvaar says that he does not desire another birth for in the 100years that one is granted, half the time is spent sleeping. The balance time is wasted away in childhood and adolescence (when we are clueless on what we do), disease and hunger and later old age.

Through his 10 verses of Thiru Palli Yezhuchi, Thondaradipodi Azhvaar asks Lord Ranganatha to wake up with the great rishis waiting for him, with the elephant having arrived at the temple and with devotees thronging the temple very early in the morning for his darshan. Thondaradipodi Azhvaar refused Lord Ranganatha’s offer to go to Sri Vaikuntam and then even refused the offer to go to the 14 logams for he wanted his place in the third world – Srirangam. Nothing could move him out of here. He did not want to be denied the opportunity and the joy of singing praise of Lord Ranganatha. 

One could spot a smile on the face of Thondaradipodi Azhvaar when he received the beautiful flower garland all the way from his favourite Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam, personally brought here in the afternoon by Pandari Sriram . Thondaradipodi Azhvaar received a gift of a garland from Jagathrakshagan perumal of Thiru Koodalur Divya Desam.

The biggest crowd of the day was seen soon after 3 pm when the sacred food was distributed to the devotees. Several hundreds enjoyed puliyotharai, chakkarai pongal, sundal and dhadhyonam served by the cooks by had gathered for the day from different locations.
The daylong celebration of Thondaradipodi Azhvaar’s Avathara Utsavam culminated with Thiru Kalyana utsavam in the evening.

The abiding memory of this utsavam will remain the procession of the Lord and Thondaradipodi Azhvaar atop the matadors that signifies the changing times that we live in.

How to reach
Thiru Mandangudi is on the Kumbakonam- Thiruvaikavur road 1km West of Pulla Bhoothangudi Divya Desams and off Koonanjeri main Road. Town Bus Numbers 30 and 12 ply every hour from Kumbakonam (Thiruvaikavur bound bus). One should get down at Koonanjeri and walk about 10minutes west to reach the temple. The temple is just under 10kms East of Kapisthalam Divya Desam. Mini buses ply between Papanasam and Pulla Bhoothangudi. 

One can also reach the temple by auto from Adangudi on the Swami Malai – Thiruvayaru highway -  will cost Rs. 100.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ranga Samudram Venkatachalapathy Temple

A small temple dedicated to Lord Venkatachalapathy on the banks of Tamaraibarani

Historically one could have darshan of the Moolavar Lord from the entrance of the temple 
Located 10kms North East of Ambasamudram and 1km west of is the Venkatachalapathy Perumal temple in Ranga Samudram.

Not too long ago, there were 150 traditional families living in the agraharam and the entire region either side of Tamaraibarani was vibrant. Those were the days when residents used to swim across the Tamaraibarani to have darshan of Gajendra Varadar Perumal in Athalanallur ( Narambu Nathar Swamy in Thiru Pudai Maruthur (

During the last century, a number of families migrated to Kerala to do business there while the rest continued to stick to traditional farming around this temple town. Much later, in the 2nd half of the previous century, they too moved to cities in Tamil Nadu seeking greener pastures with the result the ancient temple town is left with just traditional family.  The agraharam has lost its old vibrancy. Once in a while on festive occasions, the original inhabitants visit the temple.
74 year old L Srinivasa Venkataraman has spent almost his entire lifetime performing aradhana at the temple. He belongs to the eighth generation of priests to take care of the handsome Lord Venkatachalapathy who is seen providing darshan with a conch and chakra. 
Historically the Moolavar Sannidhi was atop a hill and one had to climb 12 steps to reach the Lord.
Right from the low lying agraharam one could have darshan of the Moolavar through the holes in the Garudan Sannidhi.

Historically, the entire temple town would be inundated with water when Tamaraibarani and Gadana rivers were flooded with the overflowing rivers leaving the agraharam completely submerged. This was also the reason for the town to be named as Ranga ‘Samudram’.

It has been a tradition for devotees to bathe in the Tamaraibarani in the morning, observe fast through the day and have darshan of the two perumal temples either side of the river.

Garuda Sevai in Puratasi is the only big festival at the temple. With the original inhabitants returning for annual visits, it is likely that some of the historical utsavams will be revived at this temple over a period of time. Also, with the increasing interest of the traditionalists who had left the town over the last century, the recent renovation exercise has seen infrastructure developments at the temple in the modern way with marble flooring in front of the moolavar sannidhi. A calf has been a recent addition at the temple.
Quick Facts
Moolavar         : Venkatachalapathy with Sri and Bhoo Devi in a standing posture
Time                : 6am-10am and 6pm-7pm
Contact            : Srinivasa Venkatarama Bhattar @ 84382 69627

How to reach
Bus every 30minutes to Idaikkal from Ambai bus stand. One can get down at the entry point at Ranga Samudram and walk half a km to the temple. Auto from the Ambai bus stand and back will cost Rs. 200/-.