Saturday, July 25, 2020

Kandira Manikkam Kothanda Ramar Temple

A 79 year old Priest who performs Aradhanam and conducts utsavams despite a Hip Fracture 

Narayanan Bhattar is frail looking and has had a hip fracture in recent years. His hands too are in a fragile state and has been advised against carrying heavy items but his commitment to Lord Kothandarama is such he continues to do Aradhanam at the temple in Kandira Manikkam, located on the Nannilam-Nachiyar Koil highway, even when his health condition at 79 is not conducive to him travelling from his hereditary location of Paruthicheri. He has been performing this service for the last 37 years having started way back in 1983. 

Once Vibrant Location
Remotely located, this was once a vibrant temple with an agraharam on all the four streets comprising of Saivites and Vaishnavites. But as with other remote locations, the original inhabitants made their way out of Paruthicheri and Kandira Manikkam seeking greener pastures in cities. 
Narayanan Bhattar was one of the few who stayed back to continue to take care of the Lord Kothandarama seen in a grand South Facing Standing posture along with Sita and Lakshmana. Anjaneya is seen in a devotional ‘anjali’ posture. Thirumanjanam is conducted regularly at the temple. Every No Moon Day, he does special prarthanai archanai. 

A favourite of Narayana Bhattar is the Navarathri Utsavam where he presents a different variety of Sundal on each day of the Utsavam with a grand alankaram for Thayar.

Despite his physical challenges, he often travels to Madras and goes around the city by bus to meet devotees to garner support for the Utsavams. 
His son Raman Bhattar completed his Vedic Education at the Patshala in Madurantakam and then decided to head back to Paruthicheri in the 1990s to take care of the two Rama temples. 
The temple also houses a Varadaraja Perumal sannidhi where the Lord is seen with Sri and Bhoo Devi Thayar in an East facing Standing Posture. There is a separate sannidhi for Perundevi Thayar. There is a Surya Pushkarani next to the temple. A special feature at the temple is that the well inside the temple complex is believed to have never dried and is always filled with water. 
This is a temple that dates back to the Chola Period. The temple was renovated during the rule of Sarabhoji Raja. Aradhanam is performed as per Pancharatra Agama.

The Rama temple in Paruthicheri has been due of renovation for several years. The approval of the HR & CE has been secured and it is expected that the work will start once the temple reopens after the lock down. 

Raman Bhattar can be reached on 99446 04083

Kandira Manikkam Temples is located about 10 kms East of Nachiyar Koil ( and a few kms North of Paruthiyur Ramar Temple (

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

ICA on Track

Talks with the BCCI on Pension for Domestic Cricketers (less than 25 matches) on right track and positive developments likely later this year 
Medical Insurance could be substantially higher if the new model that is being currently worked out succeeds 
Following the recent spat in public, a Code of Conduct for the ICA members is likely soon 
The public statement of Ashok Malhotra, the President of the Indian Cricketers' Association (ICA), hitting out against the BCCI, Apex Council members and even his own directors has left a poor taste on the functioning of the ICA in the very first year of its launch. The former India cricketer, who won unopposed last year, has accused his contemporaries Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy of not taking up the issues relating to the former domestic cricketers with the powers that be at the BCCI. 

It is to be remembered that ICA has been registered as a Limited Company and that board members are to follow a certain decorum in its engagement and conduct.

The cricketing world has been caught in a tangle following the Pandemic. The announcement has just come in that the T20 World Cup has been cancelled. It is still unsure if the domestic cricket season in India will get underway this year and of course the cricketing community is eagerly awaiting the update on the IPL. A lot of the BCCI staffers have been working from home in the last few months, given the serious issues that Bombay has faced. 

Pension Discussions
Despite the impact of the Pandemic, the ICA has made solid progress since its launch. Most of the issues taken up the ICA are under consideration by the BCCI. It is likely that the there will be a positive development in the next few months on the issue relating to pension for first class cricketers who played less than 25 matches.

Higher Medical Insurance
The team at ICA has been working tirelessly on the medical insurance for former domestic cricketers and it is expected that something concrete would emerge on this front. Currently, the former cricketers are eligible for a maximum amount of Rs. 5 Lakhs in a life time. If the new model that is being worked out by the ICA team succeeds, then the eligible medical claim could turn out to be very different and substantially higher  and without this lifetime cap. 

Code of Conduct for its members
On the immediate front, given the recent developments of the last few days and the public spat in the media, the ICA is likely to come out soon with a code of conduct for its members especially on the communication front. It is unbecoming of well respected former cricketers who had formed an association for the welfare of former domestic cricketers to be engaging in a duel in the media. 

BCCI open to funding the ICA
The BCCI, which had initially funded Rs. 2 crores to the ICA, had told the player’s body at that time to spend this amount towards the players and then to come back to them if they were in need of more money. In the first positive development, in May this year, the ICA had handed out support to several financially challenged former domestic cricketers from the 1960s-80s that also included Rs. 80000/- to Peter Fernandez from Tamil Nadu ( 

Going forward, the ICA could also look at opening a full fledged office in the country.

Despite the public spat of the last week, it looks like the ICA is headed in the right direction for now and the former domestic players can expect some positive developments in the near future.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Umpire S Ravi End of the Road

In the Golden Period between 2015 and 18, Ravi officiated at Lords, the Boxing Day Test at MCG, the Ashes and the first ever Pink Ball Test
He also figured in the ill fated SA v Aus series that led to the banning of Aussie players

Nitin Menon's induction into the Elite Panel could spell the end of Ravi's International career as Umpire
It is 33 years since I first saw Umpire S Ravi at the Somasundaram Ground in T. Nagar discussing, as a young 21 year old, the day’s play in the first division league where he played for RBI. He had become an umpire a couple of years earlier as a route to making some pocket money. Umpires in the TNCA were paid around Rs. 100 in those days (well over three decades later, they are paid just over a 1000!!!- talk of rich cricket associations in India!!) but it was that fee that helped Ravi in those early years of his life when he got into umpiring as a teenager.

As I look back, it has been a richly fulfilling career for the former RBI staffer, who persevered relentlessly for over two decades in the local league and on the domestic circuit before he made his international debut. And then for 5 years it was all rosy as he peaked in the 2nd half of the decade gone by. However, the announcement last month leaving him out of the Elite Panel possibly marks the end of the road for Ravi as an international umpire. Here is a look back on his career.

June - July is the period in the year when the ICC announces the list of Elite Panel Umpires. The appointment of India’s Nitin Menon into the Elite Panel for the 2020-21 season sounds death knell for former Elite Panel Umpire S Ravi and may be the final nail in the coffin as far as his dream of a re-emergence into the Elite Panel is concerned. Not so long ago he was on a high. He was on the Elite Panel for four years in a row from the English summer of 2015, seemingly growing from Strength to Strength. Two years ago, this week, he became the 2nd most capped umpire from India behind the legendary S Venkataraghavan (

The under rated Ravi entered the international arena in 2013 after having struggled for 25 years in the TNCA league and on the domestic circuit. He was the first umpire and has been the only one to date from Tamil Nadu after Venkataraghavan in the Elite Panel and progressed beyond anyone’s imagination to become one of the best and most respected umpires in the World.

2015 - Into the Elite Panel
In the English summer of 2015, one in which he made his Lords debut, Ravi experienced something special that very few others have. In the two test series between New Zealand and England, Ravi was involved in over 20 (third umpire) reviews over the two tests with his umpiring partners at the other end having a combined tally of just 2. With a majority of the reviews going in his favour, it set him up nicely ahead of the annual selection review of ICC umpires. Before the end of that English summer, he had been inducted into the Elite Panel and had also officiated in his first Ashes series.
2016 - Best Season in Cricket
The next year, 2016, was one of Ravi’s best in Umpiring. In a single season, he officiated in 15 tests including in the first ever Pink Ball test. He seemed to be there in every high profile series that season.

2017- Inducted into the MCC Laws Sub Committee Panel
End of 2017, shortly before he was to officiate in another Ashes series, Ravi was inducted into the MCC Laws Sub Committee Panel that meets periodically to review the Laws of Cricket. It was that year when MCC introduced the new Code of Laws, the first of its kind since the 2000 Code. The Sub- Committee was appointed to oversee this code for three years. In fact, earlier this summer, this section brought to light the differences between the MCC and the ICC in relation to a point on the interpretation of the deliberate padding law (

Early 2018 – The Ill Fated SA vs Australia series
Ravi officiated in the ill fated series in South Africa in early 2018 which later led to the banning of Top Australian players for a year. He had told this writer earlier that it was one of the most challenging ones in his umpiring career because of the fact that a ‘lot of things’ happened both on and off the field. And it was a unique experience for him to manage. It was on the tip off of the umpires from the first two tests (that Ravi umpired) that the Aussies were finally caught on camera later in the series.

The ‘Turning’ Nightmare in November
In the three years leading up to the winter of 2018, life had gone on extremely smoothly for Ravi as an umpire. It clearly was a golden period for him, from officiating in the first Pink Ball Test, to multiple Ashes series and shuttling between the long room at Lords and the Boxing Day test at the MCG to being among the select few in the World who review the laws of cricket. He simply was on a roll and on course towards half a century of tests.

And then, the nightmare of a series in Sri Lanka!! It was November of 2018. Ravi made a trip to umpire the three match test series between Sri Lanka and England. The entire series was played on square turners, the last series of Rangana Herath, with the English spinners on top. Mooen Ali, Leach and Rashid tormented not just the opposition batsmen but also the Umpires. Through the entire series, Ravi was confronted repeatedly with 50-50 calls – LBWs, catches at short leg and by the keeper – the appeals were unrelenting. Jennings, who is now out of the England squad, was on a record catching spree at short leg. If the LBW was negated, the players turned to the umpires for the catch at short leg. It was the kind of ‘appealing’ pressure that he had not previously encountered in his career. 

Ravi did make mistakes and a number of them but given the almost impossible conditions for umpires with a decision coming into play almost every other ball he actually did reasonably well, despite the errors. The Englishmen who won the series 3-0 understood the enormity of the challenge and appreciated his decision making. Captain Joe Root said after the series that given the unplayable pitches that the matches were played on, Ravi withstood the pressure well and did a fair job of what was expected of him under the circumstances.

His only ‘Home’ Test Match
In the following months, he went to South Africa probably for his final overseas Test Series end of 2018 and early last year. A couple of months later, in March last year, he finally officiated a test in India, the only time he has done that when he got on to the field in Dehdradun for the one off test between Ireland and Afghanistan.

And soon after came the news of his axing from the Elite Panel after being on top for four successive years. The big negative points from the Sri Lanka series probably went against him in terms of the number of points. But really, can a world class umpire be discarded after just a couple of bad series!! There is more to it than meets the eye. Dharmasena, with a lot more umpiring errors in that period, Joe Wilson who went through horror phase in last year’s ashes and many others over the last decade have been given a much longer rope. But not so Ravi!!! His four years on the Elite Panel came to nought following the series in Lanka. Sanjay Manjrekar from India was on the Review Committee in mid 2019 that decided against the inclusion of Ravi in the Elite Panel last year (2019-20). India was without an Umpire on the Elite Panel last year.

He continued to officiate in the IPL last year and then through the entire domestic season in 2019-20 almost umpiring every single round of Ranji Trophy.

Interestingly, in a conversation with this writer a few years ago, Ravi had pointed at Nitin Menon being the next umpire from India into the Elite Panel. With BCCI nominating Nitin Menon as its candidate, an indication that they are looking ahead to the nextgen and him subsequently being inducted into the Elite Panel as the youngest at 36, it looks like being the end of the road for Ravi. Aged 54 and having officiated for 6 years at the highest level, it is unlikely that this down to earth umpire from Madras will be able to make his way back into the Elite Panel again.

Time will tell as to why he suddenly went out of favour after just one bad series.

Hailing from a middle class family, Ravi has been a role model in perseverance showcasing how long term commitment in life finally yields results. Through the 1990s and 2000s, the opportunities were so limited in domestic cricket that making it to the international arena seemed a distant dream. But he stayed the course and finally made it to the Tests in 2013. He went through a Golden Period of five years till that nightmarish month in Sri Lanka end of 2018. Over 30 Tests and close to 50 one day internationals are numbers not many Indian Umpires can boast of. For a long time, it is likely he will remain India’s second most capped Test umpire and that’s a significant achievement for the man who took to umpiring as a teenager just to meet his monthly expenses.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

SVS Mani Cricketer Selector Coach

As a young school boy, he used to throw a small stone targeting the lamp post on the Appar Swami Koil Street in Mylapore to improve the direct hits – He turned out to be one of the best fielders for the state in the 1960s 

In early 1964 - his best phase in cricket - he scored two classy first class centuries in a period of three months, a period when he was also in the Test Reserve at Chepauk, on Pataudi’s insistence, as a fielder 

This is a story of a Mylaporean, who went through a financially challenging phase in the 1950s and yet, made it to the South Zone squad in the 1960s. Much later, in his first year as the selector of the state team, Tamil Nadu won the Ranji Trophy in 1988. He was the coach of the India Cements team till he was 70 years, a golden period for the club side. The unassuming SVS Mani, who will be completing his 81st birthday next Wednesday, has just twisted his ankle on a walk in the terrace at his home in Adyar and is stuck in his room, with the doctor advising a month’s rest leaving him to track the first international match in 4 months, the one involving England at Southampton, that brought back unforgettable memories of the knock he played against them way back in 1962 in Bangalore figuring alongside legends such as ML Jaisimha, EAS Prasanna and his mentor AG Milkha Singh. It also brought back memories of the Pongal test match at Chepauk in 1964 when he was a test reserve (as the best fielder at that time in Tamil Nadu) on a specific request from MAK Pataudi. 

Here’s the tale. 

It was on Appar Swami Koil Street in Mylapore (where he lived for almost 40 years) that SVS Mani learnt his early cricketing lessons. He began playing tennis ball cricket with a bunch of boys who were his neighbours and challenged them to get him out. In return, those boys threw up a couple of unique challenges at Mani that was to later turn him into one of the best fielders for Tamil Nadu. Handing him a small stone, they asked if Mani could pick up the lamp post that was at a distance. And then the boys would point to a specific mango on a tree and ask him to get that for them with a direct hit. He was also the one to always go for the catch in ‘Gilli Dhanda’. He relentlessly focused his efforts on these exercises.

Innocuous Exercise results in 'Best Fielder'
While the boys were delighted at enjoying the mango, this seemingly innocuous exercise helped Mani improve his fielding skills. A decade later, another seemingly innocuous exercise of a young boy swimming in the Cauvery in Kumbakonam led to stronger shoulders that contributed to him becoming one of the best fast bowlers for Tamil Nadu - the hat trick man of TN cricket ( 

As a 9 year old boy, Mani remembers watching the legendary West Indian Everton Weekes (who passed away last week) nearing a record 5th century in Madras in 1948 before he was run out. 

For South Zone Schools alongside TVS’s Ram 
By the time he was in his teens, he was already seen as a compact batsman in the school circles. He had also begun playing in the lower division league in the city. He was so prolific that he was selected for the state juniors where he scored a century against Mysore, an attack that comprised of EAS Prasanna. That innings led him to a place in the South Zone Schools that went to Pune for the all India tournament. Current Chairman of Wheels India Ltd, S Ram was part of that team ( 

Legendary leg spinner VV Kumar ( was a few years senior to SVS Mani at PS High School and watched him closely right from the early 1950s and remembers him as someone who was ‘abnormally good’ for his age “He exhibited a maturity and finesse far beyond his age. As a batsman, he was a predominantly an onside player with a funny back lift and a peculiar swing of the bat and was good against both fast and spin bowling. He was an excellent fielder and had safe hands.” 
Financial Challenges - Quits Academics 
But it was around this time, that his father, Kothamangalam Seenu, went through a severe financial crunch. He had acted in movies for 15 years from 1932 but the opportunities dried up in the early 1950s and he spent that decade acting in dramas that were not remunerative. Mani did his PUC at Vivekananda College, a year in which the team won all the four tournaments. If his batch mate S Ram quit cricket for academics soon after his schooling, Mani quit academics to earn the daily bread for his family. He joined Madras Motors Company while he was still in his teens at a monthly salary of Rs.70. He was the only earning member of the family and his attention, unfortunately at an important phase in life, turned from playing college cricket for three years to working hard at Madras Motors and subsequently at William Jacks and Co to keep the family running. He had many sisters and their weddings to take care of and it fell on him to financially sustain his family in that phase. 

No College Cricket but TNCA leagues gets him into Ranji
The fact that he could not pursue his degree and play college cricket did not diminish his passion for the game and he continued to play in the TNCA league. In that phase, it was the Secretary of Milky Way Cricket Club, Devarajan, who encouraged him and kept him going in cricket. Also, Viswanathan of Enfield saw the cricketing talent in him and motivated him to continue playing. If not for them, he could have easily let go of cricket in that phase such was the scenario in the family. It was this early encouragement that led him to perform well in the lower division league and by the early 1960s he had moved on to play in the first division for BRC for whom he scored consistent runs. 
             SVS Mani sitting in the far right with his pads on

Ranji Debut at 22, stars for South Zone
On the back of having played for South Zone schools earlier and the runs he scored for BRC, he was selected for the state team and made his Ranji Trophy debut in August 1961 against Kerala at the age of 21 but did not get to bat in that innings even though Tamil Nadu lost 7 wickets. He made useful contributions against South Zone’s Top teams – Mysore (Karnataka) and Hyderabad - in the next two matches against top notch bowling attacks. This earned him a place in the South Zone team for the newly introduced Duleep Trophy. He scored 40 against North Zone in the Semi Final, a match in which another of VV Kumar’s magic spell helped South bundle out North for less than 100 and Mani followed it up with ‘some’ runs in both the innings in the final against the West Zone in Bombay. 

A 30s and 40s batsman 
Legendary Indian batsman Vijay Hazare who watched that match was impressed with his performance and picked him for the Board Presidents XI against the Ted Dexter’s English side that was touring India that winter. While he did not get to play in the XI in Hyderabad, he did play for South Zone against England in January 1962 in Bangalore where he once again got a start before giving it a way, an attribute that was to become a feature of his batting all through that decade in Ranji Trophy cricket. He was always a ‘30s and 40s’ man and that may have stifled his progress in cricket.

His fielding abilities came to the fore at the national level when he held a brilliant one handed catch to get rid of Surendranath in the Semi Final against North Zone. His Ranji team mate and captain at SBI VV Kumar has vivid memories of those two matches “He was compact and impressive against two strong bowling attacks. But once again, he did not go on to play a big innings. His fielding was always exceptional and in his career took many a catch that helped turn around matches.” 
                           Mani Standing in the extreme right

1964 - His Best Quarter in Cricket 
In January 1964, he scored his only Ranji century against Andhra. A couple of months later, he was part of the Madras team that went to Colombo for the Gopalan Trophy match. On a green top in swinging conditions against a top bowling attack comprising of Fredricks and Chanmugham, among others, Mani scored a classy century, the first by a TN batsman in the Gopalan Trophy, a knock that he rates as his best in first class cricket as well as his best moment in cricket. Exactly a year later, in the match in Madras he scored a half century against the touring Ceylon. VV Kumar, who was part of that team, rates that innings in Colombo as a terrific century on a difficult wicket “Anyone who saw that knock would have known the potential of Mani. He could have been nursed in a better way for he had it in him to play at a higher level.” 

SBI won several league titles and Sport & Pastime Trophies in the 1960s and early 70s. B Kalyanasundaram, who first played against Mani (for Kerala) and then for TN remembers Mani as an excellent fielder and his contribution in one of the matches of the Sport & Pastime Tourney “SVS took an outstanding catch at long on after running for about 50 Meters in Sport & Pastime Trophy that eventually clinched the match for SBI.” 

In the Indian Test Reserve in January 1964
Exactly for that reason, Mani was inducted into the test reserves at the peak of his career in the Pongal Test of 1964, a week after he had scored his first and only Ranji Century, for the Test against England in Madras when Indian captain MAK Pataudi wanted the best fielder from TN when Farooq Engineer was fighting an injury. 

Thus, in a matter of three months in early 1964, he had scored two first class centuries and also been a reserve in the Indian Test team. 
Plays for SBI alongside Legends
By this time, he had joined SBI, for whom he played in the first division for over a decade alongside VV Kumar. During his cricketing days with SBI, the bank that was a strong cricketing unit in those decades won the Palayampatti shield and the Sports and Pastime tourney several times. 

Looking back on that phase in the 1960s, VV Kumar says that it was not a great cricketing decision by Mani to join SBI in the early 1960s “We both played together both for SBI and TN through the 1960s. I would say that while the bank job gave him security, it went against his cricket. Both SBI Madras and the All India SBI teams were very strong in batting and he did not get the chances that he deserved. If he had played first division for another club, he would have been able to develop and showcase his batting skills much better, but he went for job security at that time.” 

Best TN outfielder of the 60s
While he continued to contribute his 30s and 40s, his fielding throughout that decade remained exceptional. Historically in Tamil Nadu, the fielders were very good catchers especially in the close in cordon. Cricketers in TN from those decades were not known for their prowess in the outfield. Clearly Mani was an exception. Many a time he would sprint in the outfield to take diving catches. In local league and limited over matches, he swung matches with his fielding and catching. There is a spark in his eyes when he is reminded of the catches he took to dismiss Salim Durrani and N Ram (The Hindu’s Publisher) of Jolly Rovers at Marina and he relives those moments “Both those were high lofted shots and I sprinted around to pick one just near the boundary line and the other one of Ram single handed with my left hand.” 

In another match, he effected three run outs in succession when just 4 runs were needed for victory to help SBI beat Jolly Rovers. 
Mani the Leg Spinner 
Mani was a highly talented leg spinner as well but he was not used by the state till his very last Ranji match. In his decade long cricketing sting for SBI, he also took a hat trick with ball against YMA. VV Kumar bemoans the fact that he was not better utilised as a bowler“Mani was a penetrative leg spinner. He had both the drift and the turn but not many captains used him. When I was the captain at SBI, he got us many crucial wickets for us in the league. Though he was a talented leg spinner as well, he lost interest in bowling when he did not get the chances he deserved with the ball.” 

Two legendary wickets in his final Ranji match 
Interestingly, when he was recalled to the TN Ranji team for the 1970-71 season, Mani ended his cricketing career exactly 50 years ago with the wickets of GR Viswanath and Brijesh Patel in his last Ranji Match against Mysore, ones that he distinctly remembers “I was given the ball in my the last match that I played for TN. I was down with cough and fever in that match. I can now look back with great fondness at having got the wickets of two legends of the game with my leg spinners.” 

Gets out to two legendary spinners!!!
That last Ranji match of his also brings back memories of losing his wicket to two great spinners “Yes, Chandra got me in the first innings and Pras in the second. So, I took wickets of two legends and I got out to two legends in my final Ranji Trophy match, probably a rare occurrence in domestic cricket.” 
                              Mani standing 2nd from left

Because of the situation of his family, he restrained himself from promotions at the bank and remained in Madras through the almost four decades of his service. In 1987, an unexpected opportunity came his way. The Chairman of Selectors AG Kripal Singh passed away and Venkataraghavan, who was the Secretary of the TNCA that year, was keen for Mani to be the selector that year. And thus he became a a state selector for the very first time. In his first year as a state selector, TN won the Ranji Trophy in 1988 under the captaincy of S Vasudevan ( Three years later he was the coach of the TN team with Srikkanth as the skipper. He was also the manager of the South Zone team a year later. 

Coach of India Cements in its Golden Period 
For well over a decade, he was the coach of the India Cements first division team in Chennai that won several trophies under the captaincy of VB Chandrasekar. Former South Zone fast bowler DJ Gokulakrishnan ( who made his debut for Tamil Nadu with Mani as the coach way back in the early 1990s, was the kingpin of the India Cements bowling attack during its glory days in cricket and he remembers the role of Mani “He had a unique way of motivating our players. Each time a batsman scored a hundred or took 5 wickets, he would celebrate by handing a special fresh juice to the cricketer. Over time, we all wanted to do well and get that ‘special juice’ from him. While VB took care of the tactical aspects of the game, it was Mani who played the role of the motivator within the team."
Gokulakrishnan says that Mani created a positive atmosphere in the dressing room and 'was always one among us'. While he was into his 60s at that time, age was not a factor with him and he conducted himself like a youngster and always enjoyed the success of the players. "He was well read and often shared anecdotes both from his days as a player and a selector and many times that turned out to be motivational to the players."
Did not convert into big knocks 
With a tinge of sadness, Kalli says that while SVS was a very dependable batsman, he could not convert his knocks into hundreds “SVS should have played longer and possibly higher levels of Cricket than what he finally achieved.” 

Kalli saw in Mani great human qualities and consider it an honour and privilege to have played with him ‘He was ever ready to help out youngsters.’ He also points to a hidden facet in Mani ‘Not many know that SVS is a brilliant singer and capable of imitating a few well known singers.” 
Mani - the Playback Singer of TN Ranji Team in the 1960s
Mani laughs it out looking back at those days of singing for his Ranji Trophy team mates ‘While my father was a real good singer who performed alongside Kothamangalam Subbu, my grandfather was a Mridangam Vidwan and my daughter is one with a Masters degree in music, I only sung for fun in Ranji and league matches when my teammates wanted me to entertain them.’ 

For this Octogenarian life has been all about cricket. In his prime, just under six decades ago, he played for Tamil Nadu and South Zone alongside legends such as VV Kumar, S Venkataraghavan, AG Milkha Singh, Jaisimha, Prasanna and AG Kripal Singh and was in the Test Reserve of the Indian team. He continued his active involvement till into his 70s as a coach and now spends time watching matches on the Television, that every now and then takes him back into his days, first as a player and then as a Selector and Coach. And he finds happiness reliving those great memories from the past.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Kapaleeswarar Temple Jayakanthan Shivachariar

In his 25th year in service, this 7th Generation priest is committed to performing a life time of devotional service to Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal
Financially, the lockdown has thrown up a big challenge, but for Old World Priests like Jayakanthan Shivachariar, this is an opportunity for a close devotional connect with God, sans devotees 
The Head Priest of the Kapaleesawar temple E Venkatsubramaniam Shivachariar (popularly referred to as Jayakanthan) belongs to the 7th generation of priests to have performed service at this historical Saint Poets praised temple. He had been supporting his father from 1982 as a young boy and officially began his service as a priest at the temple in 1996. 

Rejects a Lucrative Offer from a UK Temple 
In his very first year, an overseas devotee was so moved by the devotional commitment of Jayakanthan Shivachariar that he captured a photo of his service during a procession. The next day he came back with a form with his photo pasted on that. It was for a long term extremely lucrative engagement as a priest for a temple in the UK. At that time, in the 1990s, the financial offer for his service would have been higher than what any priest in India would have made. The offer also allowed him to take his wife along and for them to be positioned for long at that temple in the UK. It was a lifetime kind of engagement with the temple. 

So lucrative was the offer that anyone would have been happy to take. But Jayakanthan Shivachariar could not think of letting go his service to Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal at a temple where his forefathers had performed service for centuries. 
The devotee, who was so impressed with the Shivachariar’s devotion, tried to convince him citing the financial opportunity and the long term stability. But Jayakanthan Shivachariar was clear that his service lay at the Kapali Temple. The devotee went away but came back ten years later for a recheck on the mindset and with an offer that was even more lucrative than before. But he saw in the Shivachariar’s eyes the same devotion that he had in 1996 and he quietly went away and has not returned since. 

Jayakanthan Shivachariar does not talk much, and regular devotees to the Kapali Temple often find him lost in thoughts of the Lord. For many years, it had been his devotional way to sit near the Kapaleeswarar Sannidhi after the early morning pooja for Japam. But the devotional wave that has hit temples over the last decade or so has meant huge crowds at the Kapali temple that has made it difficult for him to follow the devotional processes that are close to his heart such as the Japam. 

Lockdown’s Positive impact   
In Panguni, following the cancellation of the Brahmotsavam he, like many others had hoped that the lockdown would be short lived as the temple was to be closed only till March 31. However as time went by, he came to terms with the fact that the lockdown in temples for devotees was going to be much longer than what had been originally thought of. While the lockdown has resulted in devotees not being allowed into the temple for an indefinite period of time and it is not yet known when the temples are likely to reopen, it has in a way proved to be a blessing in disguise for old world priests such as Jayakanthan Shivachariar. 
In the fourth months of the lockdown, he has followed processes that he had devotionally dreamt for long but was not able to implement because of the huge crowd that has swarmed the temple. While he is saddened at the absence of devotees from the temple and the processions that have had to be cancelled, the lockdown has meant that the priests have been taken back in time to the days when they quietly and peacefully performed service with the Lord in ‘Ekantham’. In his period of service at the Kapali Temple, he has never brought a mobile phone into the temple. 

And to his delight, in the last few months, he has not heard a phone ring inside the temple, a regular and disturbing feature in the pre lockdown days. There have been no external distractions of devotees talking loudly to each other inside the sannidhi, no raising of the hand to take photos of the Lord, no pushing by the devotees to get the best view of the abhisekam darshan at 9pm. This phase has taken him back to the experience he had as a school boy several decades ago when his father Ekambareswar performed pooja at this temple. 

Saint Poets’ Utsavams 
In the months gone by, there have been three important annual utsavams dedicated to the Saint Poets – Appar Utsavam on Chitrai Sadhayam, Thiru Gnana Sambandar’s ten day utsavam culminating with his Mukthi on Vaikasi Moolam and Manikavachakar’s Utsavam on Aani Magam. Abhisekam and Alankaram were performed on these days in a peaceful scenario with Othuvar presenting the verses of the respective Saint Poets during these Utsavams. It also seemed that the Lord was enjoying listening to these verses in a quiet peace without the over powering noise of the people that has been a distinguishing feature of Utsavam in recent times. 
Following the announcement of the lockdown that led to the cancellation of the Brahmotsavam in Panguni, Jayakanthan Shivachariar has had several other one to one experiences with the Lord. The full moon day in Vaikasi is the only day in the year when Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal are anointed with Sandalwood Paste. 4pm on Vaikasi day every month is the time for the abhisekam for Arumugam, seen in the inner prakara of the Swami Sannidhi. Earlier this month (Aani), a three day Pavitrotsavam was performed. 

While in many of the temples in Tamil Nadu including the big ones, the pooja, sans the devotees, for the evening has been completed by 8pm, at the Kapaleeswarar temple there has been no change in the pooja process which have been exactly the same way as it was performed prior to the lockdown. The 9pm Abhisekam has remained so and there has been no bringing forward of the pooja timings. 

Disease Relief Homam 
In early June, a ‘Vyaathi Sakata Homam’ was performed inside the temple invoking the blessings of the Lord for relief from the Virus. And then for 16 days in the 2nd half of June, a Pancha Kaavya Pooja was performed each day for 1 ½ hours with Homam, Abhisekam and Nivedhanam and recital of Santhi Mantras for relief from big diseases forming part of the daily process. 
Financial Challenges but focusing on Devotion
Jayakanthan Shivachariar has had queries from across the world on the future, some on the education of their children, a few on the job prospects in the current scenario. His message, as always, has been to place the trust on the Lord of Mylapore. To those longing to have darshan, his message has been that the priests have all been invoking the Lord’s blessing for an early end to the Pandemic and for the devotees to come back to the temples. 

Being with God in an Ekantham state without noise from the external world is an experience that he has not had in his 2 ½ decades at the temple. And being able to do that has been a richly fulfilling experience over the last four months. 

The priests of Kapaleeswarar temple do not get a salary from the temple and the ‘Thattu Kaasu’ is their main source of income. Financially, the current scenario without the Thattu Kaasu would pose a big challenge for them but for those like Jayakanthan Shivachariar no amount of money can equal the joy of performing, in peace, an Abishekam for the Lord or decorating Ambal in a grand alankaram on Friday. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Anirudhha Footballer

This Curd Rice eating teenager wants to don the Arsenal Colours one day 
Played in the competitive iLeague last year
Raja Baradwaj Rajagopalan (RBR as he calls himself in the historical stories that he writes online in Tamil) was a fiery character on and off the field at advertising agency O & M. One simply could not tie him down and he would stick to his guns like a typical Maduraiite. In a cricket match at the RKM Ground over 15 years ago, when he was pulled up for not gathering a difficult take (he was a wicket keeper), he threw down the gloves and asked that player to try his hand at keeping. Well over a decade later, his elder son too was into keeping but this time not in the game that Raja liked for long but in football as a ‘goal keeper’. 

A sportsman himself who played for the TVS school and the Madura College in the 1990s, Raja Baradwaj encouraged Anirudhha to get into sports at a very young age while they were in Dubai, where the father was a CRM consultant in the automobile space. Even as a one year old, Anirudhha would identify every car model that was out on sale. He was not yet 5 when he held a tennis and squash racquet and a golf club. Like his father he also held a cricket bat. But very soon, they were all dumped for the sport that has remained his passion for a large part of the last 10 years. He saw this game as one that kept your adrenalin flowing through the entire 90 minutes.
           Raja Baradwaj
He took to football as a puny boy (seen with his brother in the photo below) when his father put him on to the Arsenal Soccer School under the guidance of coach Gareth Hamilton soon after it was launched in Dubai. Anirudhha decided when he was 7 years old that Football was his future and since then, he has breathed football every minute of his life. He began watching the English Premier League and wanted to be one among them some day playing and scoring goals for his favourite club Arsenal. 
His younger brother Anantaa, who loves Rasam, too joined in Anirudhha’s footsteps into the football academy in Dubai. Since the younger brother's classes were 90 minutes ahead of his, Anirudhha too went along with him and used the free time to practice and be trained by his coach. Thus at every football session, he was practising 90 minutes more than the other boys in his group.

Leading Scorer in the Middle East Cup
He was around 10 when he played in the Middle East Cup against boys from the Middle East who were physically taller and stronger but tiny little Aniruddha beat them for speed and surprised everyone with the goals he scored. The curd rice eating boy (Yes, that continues to be the favourite dish for this budding footballer!!!) became the tournaments 2nd highest goal scorer. 

Soon he was selected in the development squad that played against the Barcelona Soccer School. 

His coach, Ian Selley, the former Arsenal and England Lions Player, was impressed with his performance and pushed him into the U13 category but this time as a defender to block the stronger forwards of the opponents. And when the school ran short of a goal keeper, he was asked to be the goalie in one of the tournaments. Unfortunately, it was there that he experienced the first football injury as he fractured his hand trying to save a goal and was out of action for three months in 2017. He continued to be a goal keeper at the Goa Super Cup, the first time he played in India. His personal favourite as a coach has been Gary D’Souza, who now runs Kopana Soccer School, a well known academy in Mumbai.

Unexpected Move to India
While he was expecting to continue his football in Dubai, the sudden deterioration in his grandmother's health led to his father returning to India after almost 15 years in the Middle East. For a few months, Anirudhha had to make do with the football practice at his maternal uncle’s house where he began knocking the ball once again with his cousin brother as the goal keeper guarding the house gate which served as the goal post. 

Joins Great Goals Academy in Chennai
It was through the football coach (Bhaskara Ryan) that his father found Great Goals, a leading football academy in Chennai run by two enterprising women, Priya and Sandhya. 

In the first few months of his football in Chennai, the then 12 year old Anirudhha found the physical methods of tackles quite intimidating. But when the coach saw his dribbling technique, he picked him in the developmental squad. 

With his father initially posted in a MNC near Delhi ( he later came back to Madras), it was his mother who rode him to the academy week on week for a year. 

Goal Scoring Spree
In his first tournament in Chennai in 2018, Anirudhha, who was back to his favourite forward position, impressed everyone with his goal scoring ability. Just when things were looking up, he encountered the 2nd big injury of his football career. He twisted his ankle and was once again out of action for three months. He came back just in time to be included in the team for the iLeague in the U13 category. Coming back from injury, his coach asked him to don the role of a left back. While his left leg is dominant, Anirudhha has the advantage of being strong on both legs, a special feature for a footballer.

He did well in the iLeague and was looking forward to playing a key role in the U15 category this year when the announcement came that the age group categories were being moved to U12 and U14 from the previous U13 and U15. 

The 14 year old Anirudhha would have been in his final year in the U15 group and one as a senior boy in that age group. The decision of the league to change the age groups has shattered his confidence a bit for it came at the wrong time. 

And then to make matters worse, the COVID struck restricting football activities to the confines of his home. Over the last four months, he has stuck to following the online fitness regime handed out by his academy and improving his dribbling skills and techniques. But playing together physically as a team has been something he has missed sorely during the period of the lock down. 

This period has also coincided with his moving into Class X, the phase in life when parents typically move their children away from all sporting activities to focus on academics. Having played sports through his school and college, his parents have given Anirudhha all the freedom to continue with football on the condition that he should simultaneously work hard in his studies and balance the time between sport and academics. 

As a 14 year old, Anirudhha, for whom Science is of special interest, is grateful that his parents have given him that freedom to do what he likes best in life. And that’s football. He is hoping to register for a club in the U18 category as soon as the lock down is lifted for sporting activities and to play with 2-3 years his senior. He is confident that by the time he is 17, he will be ‘one among the best’ in the U18s. 

As any budding sports talent, Anirudhha too dreams of playing for the country one day. His legs are itching to get back to the football ground but for the moment he is stuck to watching the end of season battle in the English Premier League, where unfortunately his favourites the Gunners are out of the top five this season. 

The joyous moment of scoring a goal and the celebration immediately after is what gives him the ‘real kick’ in life. And that remains the only passion for this 14 year old. Scoring lots of goals and helping Arsenal win is what this teenager is dreaming, each day of his life.

This section will track the progress of this footballer

Friday, July 3, 2020

Venu Srinivasan Historical Temples Restoration

Celebrating 25 years of Temple Restoration Service
225 historical temples restored in South India - Monthly Sambhavanai to 1235 service personnel 

'Aani Anusham', this Thursday, took one back in time to the mid 1990s to one of the most satisfying temple restoration efforts of Venu Srinivasan at Erettai Tirupathi’s Devapiran Temple 

Mookambika, Ahobilam in the plans after lockdown

Decades of 1960s-80s marked a moving away of devotees from temples. While industrialists focused on driving their companies into a growth mode setting up manufacturing plants in cities, traditional residents belonging to historical temple towns moved to these cities in search of  jobs and to earn their livelihood. In both case, it meant a life away from temples. This mass exodus had a disastrous impact on the state of the temples and consequently on the lives of the priests and the service personnel. By the 1980s, many  1000 year old temples, praised by the Saint Poets were in dilapidated state and a few went into ruins. The presentation of sacred food to the Lord reduced drastically. The long serving priests at these temples were in financial turmoil and the dilapidated state of the temples also had a negative impact on the larger society in the remote locations. The positive vibration emanating from the Vedic Recital and the Sacred Verses of the Saint Poets had become a thing of the past in most of these temple towns. Overall, temples looked deserted and the scenario presented a grim picture. 

It is in light of this background that the 25 years of restoration efforts of industrialist Venu Srinivasan assumes significance. He started off his temple restoration initiative in the mid 1990s during a challenging phase for TVS Motors (then TVS Suzuki) and his work at Erettai Tirupathi that started in 1994-95 ranks even today as one of his most satisfying. Yesterday - Aani Anusham  (July 2, 2020)- marked the completion of 22 years since the Consecration of Devapiran Temple in Erettai Tirupathi.

The early 1990s scenario at Nava Tirupathi 
His debut project at Padai Veedu, near Vellore, transforming it from one in ruins to a thriving village led the Collector of Tirunelveli to engage with Venu Srinivasan and initiate in him the thought of reviving Nava Tirupathi, a set of nine Azhvaars praised temples either side of Tamaraibarani. 

30 years ago, these temples were heading towards ruins - in fact Rajapathy(, one of the Nava Kailayam temples near Thenthiruperai actually went into ruins and into a non-existent state. In those years in the early 1990s, these temples were deserted with absolutely no ‘outside’ devotees, priests lived with meager income wearing the same dhoti through the year and there was no 'economic activity.

While the effort in Padai Veedu was to ‘rebuild’ a temple in ruins, in Nava Tirupathi the challenge was to rebuild and revive the entire region. Poverty was rife when he visited the region in the 1990s and one of the first decisions he made on that trip was to ensure that ‘Temple Restoration goes hand in hand with Social Rehabilitation.’ 

Venu Srinivasan was in his early 40s and a devotional wave struck him as headed towards a set of temples he had not visited often in the previous two decades. His first ‘Port of Call’ was the twin temples at Erettai Tirupathi on the Northern banks of Tamaraibarani given that these two were the most dilapidated among the Nava Tirupathi temples and lay in a state of ruin. 
Everything that could go wrong at a temple had gone wrong there. For a salary of around rupees hundred the priest, Seshamani Bhattar, then in his 30s, staked his life having to wade through the high tides in the Tamaraibarani to reach the temple and encountering venomous reptiles on entry into the temple. There was no money even to light a lamp for the Lord. There was darkness all around. The walls were falling. The roof was hanging on a tender edge. There was no economic activity of any kind in the region. 

His First Big Experience in Temple Restoration
Among all the temples that he has restored in the last 25 years, this one at Erettain Tirupathi ranked one of the toughest for Venu Srinivasan. In the previous 75 years there had been no large scale restoration of any temple in Tamil Nadu that would have served as a precedent to follow. Almost as a divine blessing, Venu found a man to anchor the architectural restoration. Among the people he has worked with on temple restoration, he counts Ganapathi Sthapathy as one of the most outstanding “He was a expert of the real kind in agamas, sastras and dhyana slokas” says Venu with great delight at those days in 1994-95. 

Given the extent of damage that had been caused in the earlier decades and the many challenges that came up during the restoration work, it took much longer than expected to complete the restoration. In fact, before the samprokshanam at Erettai Tirupathi, he took up smaller exercises at Thiru Pulingudi, Varagunamangai and Sri Vaikuntam and completed those ahead of Erettai Tirupathi. It was 22 years ago this week on Aani Anusham in 1998 that finally the Samprokshanam was performed at Erettai Tirupathi for the first time in the 20th Century after a remarkable restoration of the twin temples. Earlier that week,  on Aani Uthiram the Samprokshanam was performed at Aravinda Lochanar Temple.                                                                     Erettai Tirupathi in the early 1990s

Through the 2nd half of the 1990s, he took up and completed restoring the rest of the Nava Tirupathi temples. By the end of that decade, the entire Nava Tirupathi wore a transformed look. As part of this exercise, he ensured that historical festivals including the Brahmotsavam were revived. With the early 2000s also marking the return of the devotees to the Divya Desams, this new look at the nine Nam Azhvaar praised temples proved to be devotionally inspiring to the visitors. 

Driving Economic Revival
While restoring the temples to its historical architectural grandeur was one important facet, Venu considered it equally important to restore and revive the society around the temples. He laid focus on economic revival and the rehabilitation of the society and this he did through the creation of Self Help Groups that led to a new found vibrancy that one witnesses to this day well over two decades later.

As part of this philosophy, he also ensured that the priests and service personnel were 'financially' happy and created a monthly Sambhavanai for all of them. It was his view that if the priests were financially weak and daily sustenance became a challenge, it was likely they would continue to lead a frustrated life and that could come in the way of them discharging their duties. 

Today, 25 years after the commencement of that restoration exercise, the entire Nava Tiruapthi region is flourishing with the service personnel at the temple as well as the community around having seen a revival in their fortunes. Devotees who now visit Nava Tirupathi still talk about the restoration and the transformation of this region from the late 1990s. Venu Srinivasan looks back at this whole exercise of restoration as one of the biggest blessings from the Lord. ‘It has been a highly fulfilling experience to be involved in the restoration of Divya Desams in the Tirunelveli region and to be able to revive heritage structures from a state of dilapidation.” 

As he looks back at those early days of his association in temple service, he sees the work at Nava Tirupathi as having been his training ground for it was there that he learnt to understand the societal  challenges and began devising workable solutions for the community at large. Every time he engaged in a new restoration initiative, his thoughts went back to the lessons that Nava Tirupathi taught. 
                       Lakshmi Kantha Temple in early 1998

Temple Restoration in Karnataka – 1998 
Even as he was completing the exercise at Nava Tirupathi, he expanded his services to Karnataka and began a 15 month restoration effort at the Hoysala Styled Lakshmi Kantha Swami Temple in Hedathale, about 35 kms from Mysore, in March 1998 followed by another 15 month exercise at the Rama and Mariamman Temples in Kembal in 1999. 
                        The Temple after Restoration 

Back to South TN 
After restoration of the Nava Tirupathi temples, he moved on to Thiru Kurungudi Divya Desam, a temple managed by the Jeer. In the decades prior to the independence, the temple ‘competed’ with Srirangam and Thiruvallikeni in the recital of the sacred verses. Chariot Festival was one of the biggest days of the years in terms of devotee presence. People came from 50 nearby villages for the popular Chariot festival. There would be at least 10000 people on that day with food served through the day from the time the Chariot started its trip early morning but there too, one witnessed the impact of the mass exodus of people in the 1960s and 70s. 

Thiru Kurungudi - A Set Back in his Restoration Efforts
The residents of the temple town consider the entry of Venu Srinivasan, his adoption of the temple town and nearby villages and the welfare initiatives as a turning point in the fortunes of this historical Divya Desam. However, it was also marred by an event that led to a court case, one that has prolonged for well over a decade and is still pending in the Supreme Court.
The Shiva Sannidhi that till then lay adjacent to the Perumal Sannidhi was shifted to a newly constructed Sannidhi North East of the temple, 15 years ago in Vaikasi.The Jeer of the temple told this writer a few years ago that the ‘Deva Prashnam’ pointed to the Veetriruntha Perumal being blocked by Shiva and there was the suggestion that it should not be blocked. And that was the reason for the shifting to another location within the temple complex.  

Through the 2000s, he continued his efforts to restore temples in Karnataka such as the ones at Chamundi, Goddanapura and Chikkakanya and of big and popular temples such as the Chamundeeswarar and Mahabaleswarar temples in Chamundi.

And then the call from TN CM 
For long after his involvement with the restoration of Nava Tirupathi, he was focused on restoration work south of the Vaigai and in Karnataka until one day earlier this decade he got a call that truly stunned him. The former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Late Mrs. J Jayalalitha was on a mission to restore the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam to its ancient glory. She had heard of the outstanding work Venu Srinivasan had undertaken in Nava Tirupathi. And as he picked the call from her office, he was told that the then CM was keen to have him lead the restoration exercise at the Srirangam Temple. 
The Biggest and The Best
He experienced the biggest of challenges in Srirangam. When he visited Srirangam as part of his pre restoration exercise inspection, he found several new structures inside the temple that  had been built in the last 100 years for no good reasons and posed as an obstruction to free movement. It also prevented natural light from entering the temple. Many areas inside the temple were completely dark. Many of the sub shrines had remained locked for decades. Sacred pathways had been blocked resulting in the growth of huge bushes. Toilets had been built in different corners of the temple.

There were the human conflicts too. Expert opinions with multiple views came from all corners, free and at great speed!!! The restoration experience he had had at Nava Tirupathi came in handy in managing and tackling a number of the challenges he faced during this huge exercise in Srirangam. A large part of the restoration exercise involved removing unwanted structures which were neither historical nor architecturally proper. 

Living Structures not Just Monuments
He has always held the view that temples are living structures but were not designed for 50000 devotees to visit at a time. His challenge in Srirangam was to ensure that the devotees were put to the least inconvenience during the 18 months of the restoration activity. While he applied ASI’s norms in ensuring architectural beauty and bringing it as close to antiquity as possible, he also looked at temple as a place of worship for devotees. 

In terms of encountering human challenges to his restoration work, Srirangam proved the toughest but he remains unfazed and says that one has to have forbearance in public places, especially in temples "If one is not prepared for bricks, mud and stones, one cannot do public service"is a strong message he has had for himself ever since he began engaging in temple restoration activities. “It is a thankless job but the devotees are my masters” he told this writer in 2017. 

The final leg of 11 Divya Desams around Tirunelveli 
Till the mid 1950s, the long agraharam at the Thothadri Nathan Divya Desam in Nanguneri lined up with over 300 families welcoming the Lord during the street processions. Led by Theevatti lamps, the Lord was carried by the Sri Patham under the big Kudai. The Konars and Pillais lived in the street next to the Mada Street and they too performed Kainkaryam and carried the Lord on the Thanga Chapram on the 7th day of the Brahmotsavam. Ghosti in those decades was 100 strong and vibrant. The 1960s turned out to be a very difficult period as famine led to a financial instability. And the financial struggle led them away from kainkaryam. 

At the turn of the decade gone by, the temple felt a dire need for restoration and began an effort but it did not progress in the right direction and was stopped mid way. Soon after the completion of the 18 month exercise at the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, Venu Srinivasan was called on by the Vanamaamalai Jeer to take up a full scale restoration, the first such repairs work in almost a century. The restoration in Nanguneri was the final leg of his 11 Divya Desams restoration initiative around Tirunelveli that he began way back in the 1994-95 with Erettai Tirupathi. While he has successfully completed ten of them, the one at Thiru Kurungudi, with the issue relating to the Shiva Sannidhi, is still pending and is to be seen through to its logical conclusion. 

In Tamil Nadu alone, Venu Srinivasan has performed restoration exercises in close to 200 historical temples.  

His experience as the chief of a corporate auto major clearly helped in his restoration initiatives with the administrative principles applicable to organizations being relevant to this as well. Principles of Quality, Management, House Keeping, Time Keeping, Punctuality, Processes and Systems have been applied in his restoration initiatives.

Sambhavanai during Lockdown
Over the last 25 years, he has been providing monthly Sambhavanai to the service personnel of all the temples where he has been involved in restoration. In most temples, the Sambhavanai continues to exceed the salary paid by the HR & CE. On last count, 1235 service personnel of temples are being financially supported month on month by Venu Srinivasan. Even in the period of the lockdown and during times of huge stress in the corporate world, he initiated a special ‘Lockdown’ Sambhavanai to the service personnel in the remote temple towns. 

Mookambigai, Ahobilam and more
To date, Venu Srinivasan has been associated with the restoration of around 225 temples across South India including over 40 historical temples in Karnataka and AP. In February this year, restoration efforts were completed in one of the few temples for Parasurama in South India, this one at Nanjungad in Karnataka. Soon after the lock down, he is hoping to start work at another popular temple on the west coast of Karnataka in Mookambigai. 
Earlier this decade, he also expanded his temple restoration work to Andhra Pradesh. Soon after the lock down is lifted, plans are to continue with the big exercise across the nine temples in Ahobilam Divya Desam that had begun last year. 

Two of his large scale exercises – Vadakkunathan in Trissur and Ranganathaswamy in Srirangam- won the temples the UNESCO award for restoration. The restoration efforts in many of these temples are likely to act as a model for those taking restoration exercises in the future. 

Not only did Venu Srinivasan restore dilapidated temples and bring them back to life, he also acted as a catalyst for economic revival in villages. His determination to succeed is seen not just in the corporate world (where he brought TVS Motors from a BIFR firm to be a globally successful company) but in his temple restoration exercises as well. And the philosophy of ‘Saranagathi’ that had been initiated into him at the age of 16 has been put into practice at all times over the last 25 years, especially when he has faced big challenges in his temple restoration initiatives. 

To him the feedback from the devotees is the biggest blessing. For all his untiring work over the last 25 years, Venu Srinivasan looks back at this entire experience as one carrying out the wishes of the devotees ‘I have been appointed as a servant of the devotees and have tried to carry out my duty to the best of my ability and as sincerely as possible. Ultimate satisfaction comes from the fact that devotees have found a positive vibration from these temples and are going back happy after the darshan.’