Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Satvinder Singh@75

When in prime form, he had to undergo a knee surgery following a road accident and miss a full season 
His love for his TN teammates led him to reject the Canadian Green Card and stay back in Madras

Chinda was a calming influence and an ‘Ice Bucket’ – Michael Dalvi

Five Decades Stint in Lucas TVS an all time Record at the firm. He was an institution by himself and played a major role in marketing the products and developing the business of the company in India and Overseas - MD TK Balaji
Chinda@his home in Valsarvakkam

In 1987, AG Ram Singh, aged 77, walking with a stick, surprisingly picked up the red cherry one evening at the cricket nets on Habibullah Road, T. Nagar (he did not do that too often unless he really wanted to showcase to a youngster the art of spin bowling) and gave a glimpse to this writer of what the batters of the 1930s would have experienced. The ball went in with the arc towards the leg stump, dipped all of a sudden, spun across the face of the bat and knocked the top of the off stump. Just under 30 years earlier, his youngest son then all of 12years had pulled his leg in the nets at Salem as to what an almost 50 year old could do at the cricket nets. The next day Ram Singh's first ball to his son was almost similar to the one stated above and went straight into silly point. That was AG Satvinder Singh’s tough initiation into cricket and a life message had been instilled into him - NEVER to under estimate anyone in Life.

His father wanted him to become a left arm spinner but the young boy decided otherwise and played a dozen years of Ranji Trophy cricket for Madras / TN performing creditably in the middle order especially in the late 60s and early 70s before making a mark for himself in the corporate world rising to the post of Executive Director at Lucas TVS. Had it not been for a freak road accident, in a two wheeler, he may have gone on to higher levels in cricket. He was a happy go lucky personality and has enjoyed life to the full. Here’s the story of Chinda (or Sattu to those in the corporate world), who turns 75 on Monday (May 3).

Cricketing Family
Satvinder's grand father had moved to Madras from Amritsar. His legendary father AG Ram Singh ran a sports goods shop on Wallajah Road. The family was steeped into cricket. His father was an exceptional left arm spinner who spun many a team out in domestic cricket all on his own. Satvinder is proud to be part of a family where 10 cricketers played state cricket and recalls his father sharing with him the tale of a Ranji match against Mysore “In that famous Ranji match in 1934, the match ended on day one with Mysore playing not more than 30overs in both the innings. My father picked 11 wickets. When the upbeat Bangaloreans wanted an update on their team and reached the City station to pick the newspaper the next morning, they were greeted with the sad grim looking faces of Mysore Players who had returned squarely beaten by this young spinner.” 
 With his strict, disciplinarian father, legendary AG Ram Singh

Seated on the first floor of his plush independent house in Valsarvakkam, built on plots of land that he and his brother Milkha had purchased in the early 1980s, Satvinder rewinds to the early message from his father in his childhood years “My father was an introvert and a strict disciplinarian and rarely smiled. When he entered the house, there was a hush all around such was the respect we had for him. He wanted his sons to work hard. He himself would swim 250 meters every morning in the Marina. He would often say 'go and perform for the team – with the bat or ball'.”
(All the streets in this area are named after Saivite Saint Poets – Appar Street (Appar), Sundarar Street (Sundarar), Sambandar Street (Achalpuram Gnana Sambandar)!!!)

Coaching the son into Left Arm Spin!!!
When Satvinder, the youngest of his sons, made his way into cricket, his father was keen to make him a left arm spinner. None of the other sons had listened to him and were all strong batsmen and Chinda remained the last of his bowling hopes. At a young age, he began teaching him the nuances of ‘left arm’ spin at the Government Estate nets near Chepauk where they lived as a joint family. Satvinder remembers the early days as a left arm spinner “My father would place a coin on good length and ask me to land on that. And he would count the number of times I landed on the right spot. To him, it was all about hard work and I had to keep bowling as many balls on that coin to get my line and length right.”

The bowling initiation of his father seemed to be having an impact in the early phase. As a young school boy, on a tour to Ceylon, he took three wickets in the first innings with left arm spin and then asked his captain to hand him the new ball in the second innings "With a beautiful breeze that day blowing across from the sea, I took seven wickets for a match haul of 10wickets."

His liking for the Lankans began right then and throughout his career, he registered a great deal of success against the cricketers from the island country for whom he always had a soft corner.

Sorry Dad, I want to be an aggressive batsman
On the back of the early bowling success, Ram Singh tried his best to convert Chinda into a full fledged left arm spinner but much like National Swimming Champion Mayura Kumar (N Kumar's daughter) - Mayura Swimming Champ - who protested against being pushed into her appa's area of sporting interests, Satvinder too picked a bat and began belting the bowlers at a young age. Aged 11, he was roped into the St Bedes school team for the final of the schools tournament. Satvinder remembers his attire for that match “I had not yet sported the turban. My mother tied my hair and sent me to the ground almost with a lady’s kind of plait. It was after that match that I began to sport a turban.”

A Great Lesson in Life 
In 1958, father Ram Singh went on a summer coaching assignment to Salem along with his colleague Naani. He also took the young boy Chinda along. Even in those early years, he had taken a liking to play spin. In youthful enthusiasm, he made the remark (at his father) on what a 50 year old could do with the ball and that he could step out to hit him “The next day he asked me to pad up and brought Naani into Silly Point. The ball dipped on me all of a sudden and spun square to catch the edge and I was snapped by Naani.”

“I was in uncontrollable tears. I had boasted the previous day (of my abilities against spin) but I was brought down to earth in an instant moment by my father with his very first ball. It was a great lesson learnt that day - Never to underestimate your teammates or the opposition.”

Positive against the spinners
But this aggression against spinners was there to stay and continued throughout his career, an aspect that Ranji cricketer from the 1970s and former MD of The Hindu K Balaji (The Hindu K Balaji ) recalls “Satvindar’s batting style was elegant and side-on with an obvious preference for driving through the off-side. He excelled in using his feet to play spin bowling and adopted a positive approach, always looking for scoring opportunities. I remember his century for Alwarpet against Jolly Rovers on the Loyola College ground, an innings in which he rendered Salim Durrani completely ineffective.”
The Hindu's K Balaji

A slip catcher for life
In his first year in league cricket, for Jai Hind, he played alongside swing bowler Engineer S Ram (TVS S Ram). While Ram had decided to quit cricket to pursue higher education in the UK, his in-swing remained lethal. Satvinder remembers taking a blinder at slip after a typical big in-swinger from Ram at the match in University Union caught the batsman napping. 

It was in that phase, that he (and The Hindu's N Ram) experienced the coaching of CK Nayudu "It was a once in a lifetime experience to be coached by Nayudu at the MCC School ground. He was a very practical man and taught me the way cricket was to be played."

The crowd at Marina and up against VV Kumar
His elder brother Kripal Singh was already playing for Alwarpet. Cricket enthusiast and Lucas TVS’ MD R Ratnam who promoted Alwarpet spotted the talent in Satvinder and asked him to join the first division team. He recalls an innings in that early phase against his to be roommate and spin legend that he cherishes to this day “We were playing against a strong SBI bowling attack at Marina. They had two really good spinners in Chandru (R Chandrasekaran) and the legendary VV Kumar.  There was a huge crowd at Marina and it was my first big match under real pressure – top spinners and a noisy crowd. I scored a half century and that gave me great confidence. In later years, VV was to be my roommate on tours and I had a great time standing at slip to his bowling.”

Ranji Debut - middle order with his two brothers
He joined the Guindy Engineering College and played under S Venkataraghavan. Madras University comprising of players such as KS Vaidhyanathan, BR Sekar and Ballal, among others, reached the finals twice during his time at the college. 

Strong performances in two big matches led him to his Ranji debut. In a high profile junior state match, he scored a century against BS Chandrasekar (Mysore) in Bangalore. And in a crucial City v Districts match, Kripal once again sent him at No.3 and he answered the call of his captain with a knock of 70. These two knocks earned him a place in the Madras Ranji squad and he made his debut, aged 17, alongside his elder brothers Milkha and Kripal Singh in 1963.
The Singh Trio - Chinda's Ranji Debut playing alongside his brothers

Delights his father - Ranji bowling
While he had a rather quiet first year, Satvinder had a fairy tale opening to the 1964-65 season, a once in a life time performance that he dedicates to his father Ram Singh. The early initiation into left arm spin by his legendary father paid dividends though it turned out to be a one off performance with the ball. Madras went to Hyderabad for the opening match of the Ranji season and found itself on the receiving end of some belligerent batting “Abbas Ali Baig and ML Jaisimha put us to the sword with beautiful centuries. They were 200+ for 2 and then Kripal handed me the ball. Much to everyone’s surprise, I took 5 wickets under the watchful eyes of my father and spin coach Ram Singh who came all the way to watch the match. It was the one time that I could see delight in my father’s eyes. Somehow, my father always liked it when I took wickets than when I scored runs. He wanted to see the ‘spinner’ in me. Unfortunately I did not meet his expectations on that front for my interest was in batting but this was a one off occasion when I pleased him with my performance with the ball.”

His best innings in the teenage phase
While the first year in Ranji was nothing home to write about, he failed miserably with the bat at the start of the next season against the two strongest sides in the Zone – Hyderabad and Mysore. Hence, though he had picked up five wickets against Hyderabad, he was not in great mood when he was chosen to play for the All India Universities team against the touring team from Ceylon in December 1964. He looks back at this match as a turning point for him in that phase and the half century against a strong bowling attack as his best innings in those teenage years “Ours was a strong team with Bedi as the 12th man!!! We were six down and in trouble when I went in. I put together a century partnership with Ambar Roy. The half century I struck gave me a lot of confidence. It was easily one of my best innings of the time and helped me get my confidence back after the poor batting start to the Ranji season.”

Balaji, who made his TN debut in the Gopalan Trophy match in 1974, vividly remembers his knock including the stumping, a mode of dismissal that was to become a regular feature in Satvinder's career “I watched a great deal of his batting from the time I was a schoolboy in league matches for Alwarpet CC and in the Ranji Trophy games. Among my earliest memories are his half-century against a Ceylon XI playing for the Indian Universities at Chepauk in 1964 before he was stumped brilliantly on the leg side by Dr H. I. K. Fernando.”

Later on in life, the habit of lifting the back leg (especially after his serious knee injury) continued and Satvinder was to be stumped on many occasions including once famously by KR Rajagopal keeping up to the stumps to George Thomas

A Fan of Lankan cricketers
He took a liking for Ceylon’s bowlers in later years and played many a big knock against them right till the end of his career. He considers the innings on a green top in Colombo as one of his favourites. While he scored 89 (once again stumped!!!) against them at Chepauk a year after his All India Universities performance, his 89 in Colombo remains etched in his memory “The Lankans played hard but were jolly good fellows. They were very likeable and a trip to that country was always enjoyable. My knock of 89 there in 1970 remains one of my favourite innings.”

The Road Accident – Knee or a Pumpkin!!!
After not such a good start to his Ranji career, Cricket turned around for Satvinder in the second half of the 1960s coinciding with the arrival of KR Rajagopal and Najam Hussain from Mysore. In the summer of 1967, he had a freak accident while riding a two wheeler as he skidded off the Wallajah Road near the Police Station. Medical treatment was not great in those days and recovery usually took a long time. The ever positive man that he was, Satvinder gathered himself and carried on in his typically cheerful style as if nothing had happened. It was in the coming years that the real impact of that accident began to tell on him.

The Big Years in Cricket- His first match winning knock
As seen in the story last month on KR Rajagopal, Satvinder was to play a match winning knock against two legends in Bangalore, his first real big knock for Madras in Ranji Trophy. It was October of 1967 and the return of Rajagopal to Bangalore after his move to Madras the previous year and he was booed by the strong crowd even as he walked on to the ground. 
The now 80 year old Najam Hussain (Najam), who made a crucial contribution to TN’s comeback win in that match, recalls the events “For the first time in my life, I cried in that match. Raja got out for Zero. And then Prasanna got me plumb LBW for a nought. There were rumours floating around that the two old Mysore fellows were giving it away for their old mates. I was in serious tears and furious at the same time at these abusive comments. We were all determined to show as to how much we valued Madras. Raja came out firing on all cylinders and then Satvinder joined me for the match winning partnership. He played Chandra and Pras beautifully and he was all class that day.  After the winning shot, everyone came out running on to the field to hug us. While most called him as Chinda, I always addressed him as Partner for we shared a number of good partnerships and extricated the team from out of the woods on many occasions.”

In the next match, he scored his first Ranji century against Andhra.  A couple of months later, he was involved in that famous match winning partnership with Rajagopal against MP in the Ranji Quarters. With Madras in trouble in the second innings, Satvinder put on a big century stand to help the team recover and reach the Semi Final. Later in the year, he scored his second century in his Ranji career in a big partnership with Raja. And then he top scored for Madras in both innings in a really tough match against Hyderabad which Madras lost. At the start of the next Ranji season, he came up with two more classy knocks this time a century and 86, both unbeaten, against Kerala.

Towards the end of the decade, he had come back strongly and more than made up for his slow start to his Ranji career. He was in the peak form of his cricketing career. Several match winning knocks in those three years had made him a vital cog in Madras’ middle order. 

Opening bat and South Zone team mate KR Rajagopal (KR Rajagopal) remembers the Ranji century both scored against Kerala in 1968 after Madras got off to a shaky start losing three early wickets “He played some memorable knocks for Madras. And the one against Kerala where we both scored centuries was a terrific one. We were in big trouble early and then he joined me and we batted together the whole day. It was a delight to watch him bat. I had seen all three brothers bat. While Milkha was explosive, Chinda was fearless and a classy batsman and an enjoyable character in the game. His fearlessness and the great use of his feet was best symbolized in that knock at the central college ground in Bangalor, a year earlier, where he masterminded a comeback win for Madras against Chandra and Pras, one of the best counter attacking knocks.”
         KR Rajagopal

Duleep Trophy- Batting with the Nawab in 'Canvas' shoes
On the back of these strong performances, he earned the Zonal Call. In January 1969, he played his only Duleep Trophy match in Calcutta against East Zone and put on a half century partnership with Pataudi, a memorable occasion for him to bat with the legend. During the innings, he slipped and fell taking off for a run that led the great Nawab to remark “What kind of a shoe are you wearing for a Zone match.” Satvinder used to bat with Canvas shoes even in big matches. He found the turf boots to be heavy and uncomfortable, especially after his knee injury.

That injury which he had ignored for a while began to take a toll on him and had a big impact on his future prospects. When he came on to bowl, he suddenly found his knee giving him a different feel. He recalls that moment “While I just stood up after the skid and continued to ride and later played as normal, one day when I came on to bowl my first ball, I could not move my leg. The knee had swollen like a pumpkin. Today you can walk out of an operation and get back into action almost immediately. It was not so then. It took a long time to heal. After having performed really well in the previous couple of years, I missed the entire season in 70-71 recuperating from the knee surgery.”

In the years following his injury, his movements on the field, his running between the wickets and also the stepping down to the spinners became restricted. 25 years after this road accident, another legend of TN cricket, S Sharath (ATG Sharath), too met with a road accident in the youth of his life and as in the case of Satvinder, the accident played a dampening effect on Sharath too, especially his progress to the national level.

As a fall out of that injury, Satvinder became a close in fielder and he had some magical moments at slip that he recalls “I began to field at Slip and was posed with big challenges especially to the bowling of VV Kumar and Venkat. One had to watch their variations and be ever alert. I enjoyed taking some sharp catches of their bowling.”
He came back strong the next year after missing a full season and scored a match winning century against Chandra in Bangalore. 

1973 Ranji Semi Final – A hug from Kirloskar’s Chairman
The Ranji Trophy Semi Final against Maharashtra in 1973 was momentous for multiple reasons. It was Satvinder’s brilliant half century in the second innings that set up the match for TN, but he recalls two other incidents from that match “I took a blinder at slip of Venkat just after lunch for that crucial early breakthrough (Chauhan had been undone by Kalli before lunch). And then just before tea, I dropped a relative sitter off Venkat again. As we went into tea, my mind was all on that dropped catch and if that would prove crucial. Soon after tea, Venkat picked up the last wicket and there was Ramachandran, Kirloskar Cummins’ Chairman rushing on to the field to hug me on my match winning knock.”

Of course, Satvinder continues to be grounded between the highs and the lows in cricket. He says that there are days when things go your way and the 2nd innings knock against Maharashtra was one such “When I came in, I received a juicy full toss that I put away for four. Chetan (Chauhan) who was at first slip remarked ‘You lucky guy, to receive this (full toss) first ball.’ And that knock changed the course of the match. But it was the full toss that was the turning point in that knock. A boundary of the first ball makes a difference for a batsman.”

Mixed Feelings - Two Ranji Finals
He has mixed feelings of the two Ranji finals against Bombay that he was part of in his decade long cricket career. In final at Bombay in 1968, he took that close in catch of VV Kumar’s bowling with Ashok Mankad just at the start of his innings “They had lost three early wickets and the wicket of Mankad would have changed the match in our favour. I had taken a good sharp catch but the umpire did not raise the finger. Mankad went on to score a century and the match slipped out of our hands.”

“We were confident of the 73 final because we played at home but the pitch was terrible “When I saw the match played at Chepauk this year against England, I was reminded of that Ranji final. Even the great Gavaskar struggled on that pitch. May be if we had batted first, we would have been in the game. That 185 Bombay made on day one was the difference.”

Chinda-A Calming Influence and an Ice Bucket
Michael Dalvi batted together on a number of occasions with Satvinder. Talking to this writer from his home in Dehradun, he recalls the role played by Chinda on and off the field “On the field, it always looked like the width of his bat was double (that of other batsmen). Off the field, he had a very equitable nature. In a dressing room that was a ‘hotspot’, Chinda was a calming influence on the team, the Cold Water and an ‘Ice Bucket’.”
The day he missed playing for India
In the final phase of his career, at the Ranji match against Hyderabad in Chepauk, a photograph was taken of TN cricketers who had played for India. Abbas Ali Baig, who stood next to Satvinder, asked him as to how he would have felt had he been there in the photograph “That was the one day in my life when I felt really bad about not having gone up the ladder in cricket to play for the country.”

Best player of spin 
His roommate on most Ranji tours, legendary leg spinner VV Kumar says that Satvinder was the best player of Spin after (Vijay) Manjrekar and Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar) “Had it not been for the accident, he would have risen to greater heights than Kripal and Milkha.”

“I have seen close to 20 knocks where his partnership saved Madras, apart from his personal contribution. A stickler for basics, he was always a guiding factor for debut batsmen. As a professional and a top cricketer, he maintained his cool. Bishen (Bedi) always use to say ‘Chinda you are really something’. He always was.”

Kalli's Go To Man for bowling
Satvinder shared a 15 year cricketing association with Venkat and knew him very closely. He was seen to be so close to Venkat that B Kalyanasundaram (Kalli), who could not ask his captain directly, used to go up to Chinda and get him to influence Venkat to bring the fast bowler back into the attack to try and get the elusive breakthrough.
Venkat - His college and state captain
He has high words of praise for Venkat's cricketing intelligence with whom he played right from the school days. Once when he played for Alwarpet against YMA, Venkat got him third ball “I had a tendency to play back the first few balls. Venkat had spotted that and castled me. He later came and told me that he had studied me and found this back foot movement early on.”

Sativinder counts Venkat as one in a league of his own “Venkat was a disciplinarian. He could not tolerate sloppiness on the cricket ground. He respected those that did well. The fact that he was a loner cannot be counted against him. With him, one had to be involved in intellectual discussions. I have often said this in speeches to youngsters ‘Mental Stability is the difference in cricket. Venkat had that, and it was that that made him a fine cricketer. He came up trumps against all odds.”

The Best Captain
But  its not Venkat but MLJ that Satvinder counts as the best captain he played under. The Duleep Trophy Semi Final opened my eyes to what a captain can do to a team “Jaisimha understood the strengths and weaknesses of players and motivated them accordingly. It was a joy to watch him captain. The players reacted positively to his call. He was the best ‘captain’ never to have captained India.”
Former Ranji Trophy Winning captain and current Chairman of TN Selection Committee S Vasudevan (Ranji Captain Vasu) who began his career at Lucas TVS says  he was fortunate to play along with him for Alwarpet and TN “AGS had a stamp of class written all over him. He was one of the most stylish batsmen of that era and some of his knocks were exceptional. I particularly remember the knock against Mafatlal in the Buchi Babu tournament where he was at his scintillating best in his knock of 81 in the finals. His extra ordinary cover drives and elegant leg glance were a treat to watch.”
It was said of the West Indian Gordon Greenidge that when he limped off the field, the opposition were in for a thumping when he came into bat (he limped off in that famous Lord’s test of 1984 and came back to score 214 NO). Satvinder seemed to have a similar warning. 

Vasudevan recalls such days on the field “Whenever he played his favourite delicate leg glance to start his innings, everyone knew that he was in for a big score that day and more often than not he succeeded.”

The Best of the Three Brothers
Chairman of Sanmar Group and the one who began promoting cricket in a big way in Madras after his return from the US, N Sankar (Sanmar Sankar), says that Satvinder was one of the most promising batsmen of the 60's, and the best of the three brothers who played for the State “He was a batsman who used his feet beautifully but unfortunately, his career was affected by an accident where he hurt his knee badly.”

“What was most admirable about Satvinder was, apart from cricket, he built up an excellent career for himself in the auto components industry” points out Sankar.

A Father Figure to the family members
Nephew and match referee Arjan Kripal Singh, who scored a triple hundred in Ranji Cricket for Tamil Nadu, has a couple of things in common with Chinda Uncle “For starters, he is the most educated member in our family. You could say I followed in his footsteps (Arjan did his Engineering at Anna Univ) not just in education but also in terms of the knee injury!!!” 
He says that his uncle has been playing a great mentoring role to the members in the next generation “He is the lone surviving member among the brothers and has stepped in brilliantly into the role of the father figure of the family for the next gen. For a long time we have been a joint family. He has taken up that senior role and been playing the mantle greatly. All of us look up to him for advice. I have found him to be a gentle human being. He has no airs about him. Not once have I seen him lose his temper.  Even when there have been differences of opinion at home, he puts across his views in such a polite way that he usually manages to convince us."

Strikes two Global Deals -Success in the Corporate World
Satvinder joined Lucas in June 1968 even before he had received the Engineering degree“I was grabbed by Ratnam. Even before the results, he had picked me for the Padi Plant. I had no time to think but they really took great care of me over the next five decades.” 

He worked under the Directorship of TK Balaji (Venu Srinivasan's brother in law), his college mate at GEC. Sattu travelled extensively around the world marketing their products globally. He saw steady growth in this career and never contemplated a move. One of his big achievements was to sign a big deal, a dozen years ago, with two major overseas customers in Germany and the USA. In 2014, he was elevated to the post of ED and retired from the firm in 2019 after over five decades.

His 5decades stint- An all time record
Managing Director Balaji says that Sattu played a major role in marketing the products of Lucas TVS. Later he was also responsible for business and developed and expanded the business both in India and Overseas. His contribution to the company has been immense. The five decades long stint in Lucas TVS is an all record in the firm. He was an institution by himself. 
Arjan points to the fact that he was one of those few Ranji cricketers, who after a long cricket career, rose to the top in the corporate world too “He was the only guy in the firm who could dictate terms to the Chinese, a unique feature. Like in cricket, where he was respected by his team members and the opposition alike, in the corporate world too, he managed to earn the respect of global customers.”

Always ready for a laugh
While he was a terrific team man on the field and a delight to watch especially against the spinners, Balaji points to the great human side “Satvinder was – and continues to be – a cheerful personality, always ready for a laugh “I have never known – or heard of – him throw his weight around as a senior player.”

Najam echoes the sentiment “His infectious smile had a healing effect on the team especially when the team was down. He was a happy go fellow, always came up with a good word for the team members and wanted to make others laugh. His song and dance in Colombo and extrovert easy going nature made him very popular there and the Lankans simply loved him.” 
Satvinder played a dozen years of Ranji cricket till 1976 and contributed till the end. He made lot of friends on and off the field. It was his love for his fellow cricketers in India and especially those he played with in the 60s and 70s that led him to reject a Canadian green card. His son, Jitendar, who also played a bit of cricket with WD Balaji Rao in Canada, works in a University in Vancouver, Canada. Over the last couple of years, ‘Sattu’ has been a Consultant to Ucal Fuel Systems and uses the cricketing and corporate network he has built over the last five decades to help the management connect with prospective customers.  When not consulting for Ucal, he listens to the good old Tamil and Hindi songs from the 1960s and 70s walking on the tread mill at home and on the sands of the Marina but IPL is No No for him. That is not something he has come to terms with, yet.

To this day, he continues to follow the philosophy of 'Give your best and simply enjoy life' “There will be challenges in every phase of life. Do not take too much of stress. It is important to be cheerful and have a positive outlook.”. That's Chinda and Sattu. Ever a Smiling Personality.

Here is wishing the supremely fit Satvinder a Happy and Enjoyable 75th Birthday. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Thyagaraja Temple Thiruvotriyur

Sundarar found his life mate here and promised never to leave this temple town!!!
Thyagaraja provides a special dancing darshan in Brahmma Muhurtham during Maasi Brahmotsavam
When Kaliya Nayanar found dearth of oil, he offered to slit his throat to use blood to light the lamp
With temple administration issues at the core of debates in recent years and now a matter of Court discussion, Role Model Next Gen Priest Arul Nandhi Sivam is taking up a P Hd in Temple Management, and one day into the future is hoping to 'convince' all temples in TN to follow complete Agama Prescriptions in every day Pooja Processes
S Arul Nandhi Sivam, the descendant of the once hereditary trustees of the four Saint Poets praised Thyagaraja Swami temple in Thiruvotriyur, is just 21 years old but is already bubbling with great devotional enthusiasm and hoping to get every single temple in TN to perform pooja in full and as prescribed in the agamas. In recent decades, driven by wide ranging factors  including the HR & CE takeover of the temples, every day poojas do not take place as per the agamas. In many remote temples, there is only one Kaala pooja each day and in several thousands of others only two Kaala pooja. He is also trying to drive home the message to every Shivachariar to initiate their sons into patshala education as against academics. He says that Shivachariars, who touch the Lord and do pooja, are to be seen as mantra lingam and not humans and hence one has to blessed and gifted to be born in the Shivachariar clan. At least he sees it as a great blessing to be able to perform service in an ancient temple as this one.

He himself had discontinued academics at the age of ten to move into patshala education and from the way he talks can already be considered an expert in agamas and sastras. Arul Nandhi Sivam says that Agamas are like ocean and he wants to try to learn as much as possible during this lifetime. Looking back even at this early stage of his life, he is grateful to his appa for having initiated him into Agamas and Sastras as against school based academics. He has undergone close to 15years of intense initiation into these as well as the Thevaram verses – 8 years in a Patshala in Bangalore, 5 years of graduation and post graduation in agamas and sastras.  He has learnt Yajur Vedas too.

Refreshing - P Hd in Temple Management
This year, in the next few months, he will begin a deep research into Temple Management as he takes up his P Hd in the Karnataka University based on 1000s of years old scriptures trying to understand indepth on the way of life in a historical temple. This at a time when there is so much debate on temple administration, traditional pooja processes and renovation exercises with each of these being a matter of hearing in different courts with petitions filed by temple activists including by TR Ramesh (Activist Ramesh), whose foray into activism was driven by the wrongs he found at the Thiruvotriyur temple about six years ago.

Temple Management – The last couple of centuries
The management of the Adhi Pureeswarar temple, where Sage Agastya performed pooja, has seen tumultuous times in the last century or so. References to the temple can be found in Padma, Shiva and Skanda puranam as well as Aitareya Unpanishad. As per historical references, this village cannot be demolished even in Pralaya Kaalam such is the legend of the temple. The complex is huge with several sannidhis that is now manned by archakas appointed by the hereditary Sthaneegars.

53 year old Sthaanegar S Sundara Raman, who has been at the temple since the age of seven when he first watched his grandfather Senapathi Shivachariar perform pooja, has himself been serving at the temple for the last four decades. He was the one who recovered historical documents from the Chengalpattu District Court that gave him insights into the events in the previous 150 years at the temple and their rights at the temple, a number of which had been taken away with the passing of decades. 
A Vibrant Maasi Brahmotsavam
When he first came to the temple in the 1970s as a young boy, he was excited. He found a big devotional wave during the 11 day Brahmotsavam in Maasi and the 15day Vasantha utsavam in Vaikasi. For the Brahmotsavam, people came in from 32 villages around Thiruvotriyur on bullock carts and stayed here during the entire length of the utsavam specially to watch the one of its kind walking steps of Thyagesa “There were big open fields around the temple and the huge tank at the eastern entrance was brimming with water. There were 74 Dharma Chatrams on the mada streets in addition to community chatrams. The villagers stayed in these chatrams where they were also provided food through the period of the utsavam.” 

Sripatham were from the Vellalar community and they provided an awesome display with movements of Thyagaraja that left the devotees awestruck. A special feature of Thyagaraja’s procession during the brahmotsavam is that it always takes place during Brahmma Muhurtham and the Lord returns to the temple before 6am. 
Devotees used to congregate in large numbers by 3am ahead of the start of the procession. Around 4am, the Sripatham were served with hot kesari that seemed to energise them. And then with prominent sacred ash across their forehead they delighted the devotees with Thyagaraja’s dancing procession.
Highly Devotional- Kaliya Nayanar
Kaliya Nayanar was a business man steeped in Shiva bhakthi. He would light the lamp, sweep and clean the temple every day. To test his bhakthi, God removed his wealth and threw him into poverty. When oil was not there to light the lamp, he went to slit his throat to get blood as a replacement for oil. Delighted at his devotion,the Lord provided darshan and Mukthi at this place.

Panai Thoppu becomes Police Station!!!
Pattinathar referred to this location as being filled with Theertham and Flowers. ‘The whole region was a Siva Logam.’ This was a ‘Poon Solai’ in centuries gone by.  Sundar Raman says that it remained so till the 1960s and the early 70s. “There were not too many buildings or shops. I have seen big beautiful gardens and the place was abound with coconut trees and ‘panai’ maram. It is in the once big Panai Thoppu that one now finds the Thiruvotriyur Police station- a sign of changing times and infrastructural development that is taking place at a rapid pace that is sending temple related activities into the background!!!”

Railway Track replaces ‘Nandi Odam’
When Nandi who had seen the standing dance posture asked the Lord for a display of his sitting dance posture, he promised to provide darshan on Makam amavasai in Maasi. Nandi came here and performed penance after bathing in the Nandi Odam. Answering Nandi’s prayers, he provides darshan here in the sitting dance posture on the no moon Makam day in Maasi, when on West Mada street he does a Nandi Nadanam. Unfortunately the Odam was brought during the British rule and a railway track built.  

100s of Service Personnel
In the centuries gone by there was Ilangai (vessels cleaning) and Valangai (Sweeping, Mopping, Kolam drawing, Thevaram Verses recital). There were hundreds of service personnel at the temple and the entire town presented a vibrant picture especially during the Brahmotsavam and Vasantha Utsavam. 

Cart loads from Kothaval Chaavadi 
100 years ago, Ekambara Nayakar, a mestri in Kothaval Chaavadi  would bring a big bullock cart to the market ahead of the Brahmotsavam and ask traders and customers to place anything of their choice on the cart for it to be carried to the Thiruvotriyur temple. And very soon the entire cart would be filled to the brim with everyone contributing liberally. He would then drive the cart to the temple and present as offerings during the Brahmotsavam. His son Kapali sat on the back of the cart to take care of the provisions.

In those days, the North Mada Street was called as the Dharma Shivachariar Street, one that included a Dharma Shivachar Chatram. It was here that food was cooked and handed to the visitors to the Utsavam on each of the 11 days of the festival. 

Linghi Chetty as the Tax Collector
For centuries, Sthaneegam managed the temple affairs as the trustee. Later a Sabha was formed to take care of the temple management comprising of four Vellalars and 1 Sthaneegam. When Vellalars did not have descendants, they did not appoint outsiders and thus over time Sthaneegam who did pooja at the temple remained as the sole care takers. They appointed Pandaram to collect taxes from the lands of the temple. When Pandaram did not present proper accounts, during the time of Chandrasekara Gurukal, Linghi Chetty, a popular personality in North Madras (Parrys) was appointed to take care of the tax collections on behalf of the temple. Thus the charge moved from Mudaliars to Chettiars. Mudaliars continue to be in Sripatham service to this day. 

Accounting Issues
During the period of Ratnavel Chettiar, a bond agreement was signed that they will not act in a way to put off the Gurukal(Sthaneegam). When he did not have a son, his son in law took charge. During his period, much to everyone’s shock there was an ad in a newspaper put out by a Naidu belonging to Mint about auctioning of jewels. It was found to be this temple’s jewels. There began the first signs of deterioration. Leading Chettiars of the time led by Kaali Ratna Chettiar brought back the jewels to the temple. So upset was the sthaneegam at the development of the son in law of Ratnavel Chettiar that he quit the temple and moved to Swami Malai.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Appar Swamy Gurukal’s (who left for Swami Malai) descendant wrote a letter to Karaikal’s Swaminathan Gurukal, who was devotionally attached to this temple, to come and take charge at the temple. Around 1910, the court directed a scheme based on which the rights were handed to Chettiars. However, after two years when the accounts were not audited, Thyagaraja Mudaliar brought out a 10 page booklet showcasing the wrongs at the temple. Loka Sigamani Mudaliar then went to the court in 1913 seeking correction of the wrongs. The case went for over two decades. In the interim, the court appointed a middle man for hundial opening and preparing expense and revenue statements. In 1927, Jewels were directed to be jointly in the custody of the Sthaneegars and the trustee.

A Grand Kumbabhisekam in 1936
In 1916, a renovation exercise was started but this took 20 years to complete with a grand Kumbabhisekam taking place in 1936. 
Chettiar descendant Kalyanasundaram played the role of trustee for several decades in the 2nd half of the 20th century. When HRCE came in, they appointed supervisors to take care of hundial counting. Around 1980, the HR & CE took full control of the temple.

When he came here to Thiruvotriyur he found Nandini ( one of the celestial beauties) – Sangili Nachiyar- and ties the wedlock. Finding him devotionally attached, she secures a promise to not leave Thiruvotriyur. It was under the Magila Maram with God as the witness that he offers this promise. When Thiruvarur Chariot festival was coming up, he was keen to go and have darshan. When he was crossing the border of Thiruvotriyur he lost his eyesight as he did not keep his promise. He regained his eyesight later at Kanchi and Thiruvarur. 
Special Abhisekam on Karthigai Pournami
There are three Lords inside the temple complex – Manickam Thyagaraja as the Utsava Moorthy, Aadhi Pureeswarar and Thiruvatreeswarar.The temple is named after Thyagaraja, who provides a special early morning darshan on each of the days of the Brahmotsavam. In Vaikasi, there is a 15 day Vasantha Utsavam for Thyagaraja from Pournami to Amavasai. The idol of Laguleeswarar predates the Thyagaraja idol.  

In the Aththi Mara forest like region, Lord Shiva was in the form a ‘Putru’. When devas began to lose power without Shiva in a proper form of a lingam, they request Brahmma, Vishnu and Adisesha to provide a solution. The three of them arrive here and answering their prayers, Shiva provides darshan on Karthigai full moon day and the next two days. It is on these three days that Shiva’s real roopam is seen at this temple. For the rest of the days in the year, he is seen adorned with Kavacham. It is only on these three days that there is a full abisekam of the Rudra portions of the Lord while for the rest of the year abisekam is only for the peetam.

Vatta Paarai Amman
Rajendra Chozha I installed the idol and did pooja. Maha Thirupurasundari more popularly known as Vadi Vudai Amman provides darshan in a Shringara ‘Saaintha’ Posture. During Navarathri, there is a nine day brahmotsavam for Ambal. Seven days leading to the Chitrai Amavasai, there is a utsavam for Vatta Paarai Amman. 
Sthaneegars, who once upon a time had full control over the temple, have seen their rights being taken away over the last century. They are now involved in protection of idols and jewellary, pooja management and archaka service. Arul Nandi Sivam is of the view that this is all God's game and he is the one who provides solutions to all issues. He believes that his role is to perform his duty as sincerely as possible each day of the year.
In recent years, there has been a spate of issues. A Navagriha Sannidhi has been built right in front of the Sundarar Mandapam that has irked temple activist Ramesh. There is no water in the legendary temple tank. Adi Seshan performed pooja for Shiva and hence the big tank is named after him as Adhi Sesha Thatakam. HRCE spent Rs. 27 Lakhs to renovate the tank from the temple fund. When water did not hold, they spent a few lakhs more from the temple’s income. Yet what one sees on a summer evening in April is of boys playing cricket inside the tank, a scenario that once existed about two decades ago in Therazhundur Divya Desam (Therazhundur). 

Sthaneegam Sundara Raman, who has been at the temple over the last four decades, has provided complete details of the properties and lands belonging to the temple to the HRCE officials but as with most other temples in the state, the income from the temple lands has been dwindling. Some of the lands has also 'gone missing' from the list. In addition, infrastructural changes within the temple complex has become the order of the day. 
For the moment, one has to recite the great sacred verses of Appar (above) and other Saint Poets in praise of the Lords of Thiruvotriyur and remember the devotion displayed by the likes of Kaliya Nayanar and hope that one day the temple will get back to its devotional best.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Jawahar Bhattar Thiru Vekka

Pancharatra Agama Archakar Kannan Srinivasan Bhattar joins the Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal Thiru Vekka Divya Desam in Kanchipuram 
He has always been a 'stickler' for tradition in performing aradhana 
58 year old Kannan Srinivasan Bhattar (Jawahar Bhattar), a Pancharatra Agama Archakar who once served in Divya Desams such as Thenthiruperai, Srivaikuntam and Koviladi Appakudathan has joined the the Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal Thiru Vekka Divya Desam in Kanchipuram today on Tamil New Year’s day. He was previously at Mudikondan Kothandaramar temple.

In March 2019, this section had written about the renovation activities that were taking place att this Divya Desam praised by NamAzhvaar,Thirumazhisai Azhvaar, Poigai Azhvaar, Peyazhvaar and Thirumangai Azhvaar.
The story of Lord’s Maaru Sayanam
Thirumazhisai Azhwar came here and performed service to Lord Yathokthagaari with the assistance of his disciple Kanikannan. When the ruler ordered Kanikannan out of the kingdom for failing to sing praise of him, Thirumazhisai Azhwar too followed suit taking along with him the Lord of Thiru Vekka plunging the whole place into darkness.  Realising his folly, the king apologised and requested them to return to Kanchi. As an indication of his departure from the temple and his subsequent return, the Lord is said to have slept in the opposite direction. This Maaru Sayanam of the Lord sleeping from South to North is a special feature of this Divya Desam. As the Lord acceded to the request of Thirumazhisai Azhwar, he came to be called as ‘Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal’.

This episode of the Lord leaving the temple along with Thirumazhisai Azhwar is enacted every year on Thai Magam on the occasion of Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s birthday with a trip to the Palar. Later in the day, the garland worn by Thirumazhisai Azhwar at Thiru Vekka is sent to his avathara sthalam at Thirumazhisai for the evening festivities at the Jagannatha Perumal temple there.

Repair works had been undertaken at the Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal Divya Desam in 2018-19 at a cost of around Rs. 50Lakhs. The roof of the Perumal Sannidhi complex has been completely revamped using 12000 new tiles to prevent water leaks.  A new electrification system had also been put in place as part of the renovation exercise. For the first time, new LED lights were installed to illuminate the pathway around the prakara.

At that time, the trustee had asked this writer to suggest names of any archakas who would be interested to take up service at that Divya Desam. On the suggestion of this writer, the trustees had met with Jawahar Bhattar in 2019 but the decision had been kept on hold and things did not progress.

Joins Thiru Vekka on Tamil New Year's Day
Interestingly, it was Therazhundur’s Vasan Bhattar, who had performed the Samprokshanam at the Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal Divya Desam in 2019, who  spoke to the authorities at Mudikondan to secure archaka service for Jawahar Bhattar at the Kothandaramar temple. After having performed service there for over a year, Jawahar Bhattar has today joined as the archaka at  Thiru Vekka Divya Desam in Kanchipuram.

Forefathers at Kanchi
Jawahar Bhattar, who belongs to the Varam Tharum Periya Perumal Bhattar clan that performed service at the Kanchipuram Varadaraja Perumal Temple, began his temple association as a young boy in the 1980s at the Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Veeravanallur near Athalanallur (Attalanallur) supporting his grandfather at the temple. It was during that period that the young Jawahar Bhattar was initiated into Pancharatra Agama by the revered Mahara Bhooshana Bhattar at Veeravanallur (Veeravanallur), one who was recognised across the Pancharatra temples as one of the  best scholars in Shri Pancharatra Agama and who was the Archakar at Thenthiruperai as well as at Srinivasa Temple in Kilakkulam, Veeravanallur.

Decades later, Jawahar Bhattar further strengthened his knowledge in Pancharatra Agama by tutoring under Periya Thiruvadi Bhattar, the heredity Archakar of both Kallarpiran temple, Srivaikuntam  Srivaikuntam) and Adhi Nathar Temple, Azhvaar Thirunagari and another great Pancharatra Scholar, who was conferred the title of 'Pancharatra Agama Rathnagaram'.

Divya Desams Archaka Experience
In the late 1990s, he performed archaka service at Makara Nedun Kuzhai Kathan temple at Thenthiruperai (Thenthiruperai) and at the Kallarpiran Temple at Sri Vaikuntam Divya Desam. It was a period when Venu Srinivasan had just begun restoring the then dilapidated Nava Tirupathi temples (Errettai Tirupathi).

He has always been a stickler for the traditional way of performing aradhana at the temple, not for him the hurry. This lack of 'adjustment' to the devotees' hurried needs at temples has made him incur the wrath of devotees and authorities alike, for these days one is expected to 'toe' the current trend. Jawahar Bhattar is not one such.
He had moved on to the Appakudathan Divya Desam in Koviladi. His years there were a devotional treat for the devotees who visited the temple in that period. His devotional rendering of the verses relating to Thiruper Nagar, his explanation of the temple legend and of course the 'appam' every evening kept one devotionally connected to that Divya Desam (Koviladi).

He then performed service at the Rama Temple in Thenthiruperai and subsequently at the popular Lodhi Road Rama Temple in Delhi, where he was also involved in the installation of an idol of Kulasekara Azhvaar.

A year and half after he first met with the Trustee of Thiru Vekka Desam, Jawahar Bhattar has been offered the archaka service and has joined the historical Divya Desam on this first day of the new year. This section wishes Jawahar Bhattar a long stint at this Divya Desam, his fifth Divya Desam in his long career as an archaka..

Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal Divya desam is open between 8am-11am and 5pm-8pm. Contact Jawahar Bhattar @ 96006 38095.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Ananda Thandava Puram Pancha Vateeswarar

 A Trustee run temple is now under Takeover pressure from the HR&CE
Not too long ago this temple town on the Northern outskirts of Mayiladuthurai was home to a beautiful agraharam with over a 100 houses lined up in a long row west of the Pancha Vateeswarar temple leading to the Perumal temple. There are two Ambal Sannidhis - Brahmma Nayaki Ambal and Kalyana Sundari. Baradwaja rishi undertook penance and performed pooja here. Historically this was a place where Vadama Iyers lived in large numbers.

It is believed that Shiva performed ‘Ananda Thandavam’ here to answer the prayers of a sincere devotee.

All the festivals were organised through contributions from residents of this agraharam. For the Kumbabhisekams till 1996, which was anchored by the Shivachariar from Thiru Kolakka, committees were formed with devotees from the agraharam participating actively in the festivities. Alankarams were grand during utsavams. As with other remote temples, original inhabitants left this town too seeking greener pastures in larger cities.
Sincere Priests
Gowrishankar Shivachariar came here in 2011 after finishing his patshala initiation in the agamas. His grandfather had been a trustee here at this temple. He had kept the entire village together. Gowrishankar Shivachariar is continuing the legacy of his forefathers who had served the temple for centuries. Currently there are several challenges including the takeover bid but he does not want to leave and is keen to keep the service going.The temple is in need of a restoration exercise.

Till the middle of the last decade, vahana processions were still part of the utsavams. However, in recent years, most of the vahanas have been damaged with only Mooshika Vahana now left in a good condition. The Dwajasthambam too has been damaged.Madapalli too is non functional now. 
Takeover bid by HR & CE
This has for long been a trustee managed temple but the HR & CE has in the recent past been pressurizing a takeover of the temple. The agraharam devotees continue to pay the EB bill. The temple has been run for long with the support of the devotees. Old Kavachams still exist. There are 25 utsava idols inside the temple. As with many other temples in TN, the HR & CE has been pushing the Trustees to move the idols away into their security.

There were a lot of lands for the temple including Ilupadi Thope. The sacred temple tank is used to grow fish which is then sold in the market, a process that is also followed at Karunaswamy temple, Karunthittakudi, Thanjavur(Karunaswamy Temple, Karunthittakudi).

Rishabha Vahanam on Thai Swathi
Those from the Srivathsa Gothram specifically visit the temple and perform abhisekam. On the occasion of Pradhosham, 60 ladies present songs in praise of the Lord. They also present abhisekam milk for Pradhosham. On Margazhi Swathi, Guru Pooja is performed for Maina Kanja Nayanar who hailed from here. The Mukthi utsavam of Manakanja Nayanar is celebrated on Thai Swathi with a Guru Pooja, Rishabha Vahana procession inside the temple and a Purana recital. Street procession also takes place on Vaikasi Visakam.

Ayyanar temple, a km away from here, is very popular in Ananda Thandava Puram.

The temple is open from 630am- 11am and 5pm-8pm. Contact Gowrishankar Gurukal@ 9442058137

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Tamil Scholar TN Ramachandran passes away

The man who was the first to translate nearly 4300 stanzas of Periya Puranam, Thiruvachakam and Thirumurais into English is no more. Not a day passed without him reciting the sacred verses of the Saint Poets
'Thanjavur has lost a Jewel. He was one of the greatest Tamil Scholars' - K Ramnarayanan, former Revenue Officer and close friend of TNR

Presenting 'Raja Raja' award to him at The Big Temple was a big honour for me - Thanjavur Prince Babaji Rajah Bhonsle

"Be sincere to yourself. Have no pretention. Do not go after fame or name and don't fall for it. Our need for humility is infinite" - TNR's final message to the World at Large
Erudite Scholar and proponent of Saiva Siddhantha, Octogenarian Sekkizhar-Adi-p-Podi Dr.Thillaisthanam Natarajan Ramachandran passed away last evening at 7.45pm. He was 87. He had been unwell for a while. Till the very end he moved around with a small note, pen and a dictionary in his hand.

He was an erudite scholar of Saiva Siddhanta and a great lover of Mahakavi Subramania Bharati. He translated Vinayakar Naan Mani Malai, Kuyil Paattu, Kannan Paattu and Panchali Sapatham of Mahakavi Subramania Bharati. His monograph on the bibliography of Saiva Siddhanta works is indispensable for any researcher of Saivism.  

He conducted weekly classes in Periya Puranam and Saiva Siddhanta and participated in several conferences at national and international levels. He was the Honorary Director of International Institute of Saiva Siddhanta, Dharmapuram. He started the Saint Sekkizhar School of Saiva Siddhanta, a trust for publishing rare and research works and was a member of the Committee for the revision of the University of Madras Tamil Lexicon. 

This writer met him for a long chat at his house in Sriram Nagar, Alwarpet in January 2020 ahead of the story on the consecration of the Big Temple, Thanjavur. For almost three hours, this writer listened to his strong views on various topics.

Born in Thiru Nallam (Konerirajapuram), he spent his entire childhood in Thillaisthanam. His father ran a transport company in Thanjavur while his grand father had been a clerk under the famous advocate Naganathaswamy. They had bought a house in Thillaisthanam (Thillaisthanam Neiyarappar). Every Sunday the young boy, still not into his teens would be taken to The Big Temple in Thanjavur to be initiated the importance of temples and the contribution of the Saint Poets to the society.

A Mammooth Victory as an apprentice
He recounted his early days as a lawyer "I was only 10 days old in the court and was a junior. Being an apprentice, I was not to 'open my mouth' in the court. However, my boss gave me the opportunity to talk and I won the case against G Ramaswamy." Following that victory, he instantly became famous and a name to reckon with. His friendship with Vaishnavite Parthasarathy led him to read the commentaries of Periya Vaachan Pillai. 

His excitement was palpable and almost childlike when the conversation moved that evening to the sacred verses of the Saint Poets. His devotional spirit rose high when he was posed a query on any of the sacred verses, for he had spent sleepless nights with his thoughts centered on getting the right contextual meaning as was intended by the Saint Poets when they wrote the verses over 1000 years ago. 

Lets go lucrative opportunity in Madras returns to Thanjavur
Popularly known as TNR, he had his early education at Srinivasa Rao High School, Tiruvaiyaru and graduated in Commerce at St. Joseph’s College, Trichy. He later attended the Madras Law College, where he completed Bachelor’s Degree in Law. He returned to Thanjavur in 1956 at the age of 22 after completing his graduation (BL) and had been there ever since till poor health forced him to move to Madras to be with his sons. He recounted that there were 60 lawayers in Thanjavur at that time in the late 1950s and it was a challenge to take them on and succeed. But he did. 

He told this writer in January 2020 that though he could have continued to practice in Madras and pursued a lucrative practice in the city, his mind was focused on promoting the literatures of Tamil and English with hiis prime interest in the works of Sekkizhar and Saiva Siddhanta. He was a disciple of renowned poet Tiruloka Sitaram. 
Right from his school days in Thiruvayaru in the 1940s, Ramachandran developed special interest in the Thevaram verses and Saivite Siddhantha Sastras and for years listened to the Periya Puranam lectures of the revered (Principal) Gopala Iyer (his brother Srinivasan was TNR's classmate) of Thiruvayaru "His lectures were truly outstanding and I was completely immersed in those. It was that inspiration that led to my deep involvement in the sacred verses later on in life. We formed a 'sacred group' during our school days and recited the Thevaram verses every single day."

Perseverance in everything you do
During the summer vacation, Ramachandran spent over six hours every day at Gopala Iyer's house in Thiruvayaru listening to his talks "Perseverance was important. I allocated time for these. Memorising was also important to remember these verses. My acharya would spot even a small mistake in the recital. That was the reason for us to aspire for perfection in everything we did."

TNR recounted there being a weekly Mandagapadi in Thillaisthanam and prasadam being distributed to all the villagers "it was events such as these that made me devotional and spiritual from a very early stage in life."

He continued his early initiation into the Thevaram verses right through his college days and then during his period as a lawyer. Not a day passed without him reading the sacred verses of the Saivite Saint Poets. 

In his life time, TNR translated most of the Thevaram verses in English. For a large part, he spent his own money to publish books for the welfare of the society so people could read and understand the contribution of the great Saint Poets. As he was a perfectionist and one who believed in perseverance, he never rushed to publish. He engaged in long years of meticulous planning and painstaking search for materials. 

Dark Days – 75 years ago
He went to the Big Temple quite frequently through the 1940s making the trip across the Cauvery from Thiruvayaru. Ramachandran’s eyes lit up when asked of the Big Temple from those years as a school boy "The temple now bears no resemblance to what it was 75 years ago. Almost all of us stood for a while at the eastern gopuram as a nice breeze struck us every time one made his way into the temple. It was a special experience. There were no electric lights in those days and the Sannidhis were illuminated by Ghee lamps. For such a huge temple complex, the darkness was scary and no one entered the temple after sunset fearing dangerous reptiles that moved around inside the temple complex.”

Contented Gurukals
He delightfully recalled the contented mindset of the Gurukals of the Big Temple in the 1960s and 70s “Despite the low salary, the Gurukals of the Big Temple were a totally contented and devoted lot. They saw it as a great blessing to be able to perform daily pooja at such a historic temple and dutifully undertook this service. At any point of time, the financial challenges did not swerve them away from the service to the Lord.”

Big Temple Trustees - Ones with a big heart
He told this writer that the Trustees of the Big Temple were ones with a big heart. They were sincere and committed to the temple. They brought the Society together. It is considered sacred to have darshan of the Lord during 48 Pradoshams. TNR did not miss a single pradosham for several decades and was present at the Big Temple between 4.30pm and 7.30pm on the Pradosham evenings and became closely associated with the temples and the devotees during such festive times. 

He remembers the financial challenges at the temple in those decades "Othuvars were present in large numbers at the Periya Koil but the payment was poor. When they moved away, the priests sang the Thevaram verses." 

'The festivals integrated us. It transcended beyond religion. The Yadavas presented prasadam in Thiruvayaru and the Shivachariars took that prasadam.'

Pravachanams – A regular feature inside the Periya Koil
Ramachandran told this writer that Pravachanams by renowned scholars was a regular feature inside the Periya Koil in those decades

Thanjavur Prince Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, who was a classmate of TR Mahesh (one of TNR’s sons)  recalls TNR presenting several spiritual lectures week on week through the 1960s and 70s at the Big Temple “He presented lectures on Saiva Siddhantha for decades and there would always be a big crowd listening to his talks at the big temple.” 

Thanjavur Palace's Raja Raja Award
Babaji Bhonsle says that he was honoured to present the Raja Raja Award to Ramachandran a few years ago at the Big Temple. It was an award on the Raja Raja Sathaya Thiru Naal presented to TNR for his significant contribution to society “He wrote fore-wards for many of our books. For me, it was always a guru sishya relationship. He was a great mentor who would provide deep insights into various issues in a simple way. We sat for hours together at his home to discuss critical issues of the time. His knowledge was so deep and profound that he would criss-cross between several literatures with such ease that left all of us stunned.”

"He was one of the most inspiring personalities that I have seen and was always there to provide a helping hand. I was greatly enriched through my interactions with him for several years and his passing away is a great loss to me."

Sacred Verses - A Gold Mine
As years went by, devotees from across Thanjavur and around came specifically to hear his talks on Saiva Siddhantha Sastras and the significance of the Thevaram Verses and went back with devotional messages for life. He realized early on that the sacred verses were a gold mine as it taught one the way to live life and spent a lot of time to understand the nuances and intricate meanings of the sacred verses of the Saint Poets. This was particularly helpful in answering incisive questions from the audience at the end of these sessions. Every Shivachariar in that region came and listened to his spiritual talks.

Alankarams during the Navarathri Festival
Ramachandran recalled the Navarathri Festival at the Ambal Sannidhi of the Periya Koil as being one of the big occasions in the year “Sivachariars of the time were alankaram specialists. Aesthetic sense was very high in those decades and the Sivachariars were perfectionists. Each day of the Navarathri Utsavam, they would drape Ambal in a special alankaram and devotees flocked in large numbers from Thanjavur and all the nearby villages to take a look at the ‘Alankaram of the Day’. The entire discussion among the devotees that evening centered around the alankaram.

The 1980 Kumbabhisekam – A turning Point
Ramachandran saw the Kumbabhisekam in 1980 and the decade that followed as a turning point for the temple “It had been a long time coming and everyone eagerly waited for this big event. The Kumbabhisekam brought the society together. Subsequently, the revival of the festivals in its historical grandeur integrated people from different communities. It was a turning point for the temple. Crowds increased manifold after that Kumbabhisekam.”

During the entire Kumbabhisekam celebrations, TNR presented, to a big audience, lectures on Saiva Siddhantha Sastras at the Big Temple in 1980.

He was particularly happy that the Gurukals were now paid very well by the Palace under the regime of Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, quite a turnaround from the dark days, 50 years ago.

Thanjavur has lost a Jewel
89 year old K Ramanarayanan who worked in the Revenue department in Thanjavur for several decades was a neighbour and a very close friend of Ramachandran. 
Ramnarayanan, who lost his wife in February this year, is shocked to hear the news of Ramachandran’s death ‘Thanjavur has lost a jewel. He was one of the greatest Tamil Scholars.’

Gopal Iyer, Principal of Thiruvayaru College was a big influence on him and the reason for the development of his interest in Tamil Literature. After Gopal Iyer’s initiation, he was all about Sekkizhar and became a huge fan. It was Ramachandran who brought Sekkizhar to the fore through his Kambaraja padi. Kodaivasal Balasubramanian was his creation.”

His love for Sekkizhar was so much that he had prefixed the title “Sekkizhar Adi-p-Podi” to his name. 

“He was a very simple man and would often be seen breezing on the swing at his house in Thanjavur. He was a multi faceted personality”

Awards galore but not enough
In 1982, TN Government honoured him with Bharati Centenary Celebrations Award recognizing his translations of Bharathi’s works. A year later, the Govt presented him with the Best Translator award. The TN Government annointed him with the Mahakavi Bharatiyar award in 2010. In 2001, he was presented the Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) by the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

The Mutts too recognized his contributions to the literary world. Dharmapuram Aadheenam crowned him with  ‘Saiva Siddhanta Kalanithi’ award while Kanchi Sankara Mutt presented a Gold Medal in 2004. That same year, Thiru Vavaduthurai Mutt presented him with the “Siddhanta Saiva Semmani” award.

But Ramnarayanan believes that the Government or the Mutts did not recognize him enough for his several decades of unmatched service to the literary world “I have lost a good friend. He did not get his due recognition but he was unmindful of that and continued to articulate his views. He did not work to get awards. His contribution to Tamil literature is significant and unmatched."

A Lawyer by profession, he would often participate in the ‘English literature’ talk at the SPCA club near the Big Temple. He was one of the members of Siddhar Mutt, Thanjavur.

An unnamed CEO says that he was blessed to read his transliterated books, a fortune left by him for future generations that may miss reading scriptures in Tamil. 

He was my inspiration for the Chidambaram Temple recovery- Son TR Ramesh
Temple activist and President of the Temple Worshippers Society TR Ramesh (Temple Activisit TR Ramesh) credits his father’s motivation as the reason for him to fight the case for the Chidambaram Deekshithars “He was the true reason I made the foray into temple activism when Chidambaram Temple was taken over. As a lawyer, he taught me the basics of Fundamental Constitutional Religious Rights. He told me to give my best when fighting cases for temples. But he cautioned me never to compromise on them because Deity, His Temple, His Endowments interests are NEVER to be compromised or diluted.”
Ramachandran was the first to translate nearly 4300 stanzas of Periya Puranam into English. He has many other firsts to his credit. He translated Manickavachakar’s Tiruvachakam and Tirukkovaiyar, the works of Karaikkal Ammaiyar and Pattinathar, Tirunavukkarasar’s Sixth Tirumurai, the First and Second Tirumurais of Thiru Gnana Sambandar, the Seventh Tirumurai of Sundarar and seven out of the fourteen Saiva Siddhanta Sastras. He has published over a 100 articles and authored over 25books.

Finally after over three hours of intense conversation, he bid goodbye to this writer late that evening in January 2020 with a strong message that had become so symbolic of him all through his life "You should be sincere to yourself. There should be no pretention. You should not go after fame or name and you should not fall for it."

His final message to this writer that January evening in 2020 "Our need for humility is infinite".