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Marching On

Three decade and seven years ago, there existed in the Chennai metropolis no temple dedicated exclusively to Lord Ayyappa. In the absence of any institutionalized service, devotees proceeding to Sabarimala during the Mandalam-makaravilakku seasons had to fend for themselves. Indeed, Ayyappan Vilakku used to be conducted in several areas of the city as an annual features, enlisting the support of local devotees. One such area was Nungambakkam.

Here the annual Ayyappan Vilakku used to be conducted in the premises of the temple on Melpadi Muthu Naicken Street or in the precincts of Asalathamman Koil, later on North Mada Street in Nungambakkam. During the celebrations in 1967 the organizers, seized of the problems encountered by the devotees undertaking pilgrimage to the Holy Hills, decided to launch an action plan to provide minimum facilities to them. Leading lights including Servasi P.B.Nair, R.S.Kaimal, K.Bhaskaran,C.P.G.Nambiyar, T.M.G.Kurup, V.S.Mani iyer. Etc. were in the forefront.

 The plan referred to above, took concrete shape with the registration of SREE AYYAPPA BHAKTHA SABHA, Nungambakkam on April 3, 1968 with Sri P.B.Nair as President , Sri R.S.Kaimal as Secretary and Sri K.Bhaskaran as Joint Secretary. The declared objects of the Sabha were: (a) to spred the cult of Ayyappa by doing selfless socio-religious services, (b) to endeavor to have a premises of its own to perform religious activities as programmed from time to time; (c) to render all possible help to pilgrims who take vow to go to Sabarimala for Mandalam, Makaravilakku and for the Vishu Pooja; (D) to include in its socio-religious services, items like (i) performing periodical Poojas, Bhajans, Ayyappan Pattu and other religious and social programmes; (ii) organize and celebrate with the cooperation of all Ayyappa Bhakthas the annual “Ayyappan Vilakku” in Nungambakkam; (iii) and conduct religious discourses with a view to help Bhakthas to practice “Bhakthi Yoga”.

To start with, the Sabha functioned from a small room at 34, Village Road, Nungambakkam – belonging to Sri C.P.G.Nambiyar, and later from 21-A, North Mada Street, Nungambakkam. In line with the objectives, the Sabha conducted periodical discourses on Narayaneeyam, Bhagavatham in Malayalam. Tamil and English. The first discourse was conducted in 1968 by Sri T.D.M.Namboodori at the Arya Vaidya Sala premises on Krishnamachari Road, Nungambakkam. This was followed by discourses of Sri Thattayoor Unni Namboodiri.

Inspired by the response to the discourses and to the weekly Bhajans organized by the sabha, the members felt that it was time that they looked for a place of their own to conduct such programmes in more conductive environments.  In order to raise funds for this venture, a grand Ganamela was conducted in November 1969 at Rama Rao Kalamandapam, T.Nagar in which several luminaries of the musical world like Sarvasri K.J.Yesudas, Jayachandran,Anto and Smt.P.Leela, S.janaki and Latha took part. Sri.v.Dhakshinamoorthy, the renowned music director, directed the programme and sri.Sekhar led the Orchestra. The net collection at the concert amounted to Rs.15000/-.  Sri V.K.ERADI  who presided over the function mentioned about the desire of the Sabha to possess a piece of land where they could hold spiritual programmes at will. Lady Mahadevan Nair who was present at the function immediately responded, saying that a plot measuring two and half grounds in Madhavan Nair Colony, Nungambakkam was available and that she could consider donation it to the Sabha provided an assurance was given that a temple for Lord Ayyappa would be constructed there.  The assurance was promptly given and Lady Madhavan Nair graciously gifted the land to the Sabha.  The part played by late sri Prabhakaran Nair, who was an Engineer/ Contractor and a close confident of Justice Madhavan Nair and Lady Madhavan Nair in whose name the colony was named after, cannot be forgotten.

On January 26, 1970, Sthala Sudhi Pooja was performed at the site by the then Thantri (High Priest) of Chottanikkara temple.  A small office room was constructed.  Bhajans were being held at the venue every Saturday evening which attracted about 40-50 participants, mainly children from the neighbourhood.  A plan for the construction of the temple was got prepared by Sri.Kanippayyoor Sankaran Namboodiri in February 1970 and the civil works were entrusted to engineer Sri.T.G.Poduval.  The granite works were executed by Sri Subramaniya Sthapathy.  Granite stones for this purpose were specially brought from Pattumalaikuppam.

 A Panchaloha Vigraham  of the Lord was made at Chenganur and brought to the site in a procession led by Sri K.K.Nanu. Brahmasree Kantararu Sankararu Thantri who held the great distinction of having performed the Punapratishta at Holy Sabarimala temple, after the fire accident in the 1950s, conducted the Prathishta  ceremony in our temple on March 25, 1974.  Kumbhabhishekam was performed on March 29, 1974. With Lord Ayyappan as the main deity, Lord Vinayakar and Lord Subramanian with His consorts Valli and Devayani constituted the Parivaram.  A Mandapam with asbestos roofing in the front yard provided shelter for the devotees, who by then, had started pouring in large numbers.  The daily worship and rituals were(and are being)conducted in traditional Kerala style.Namboothiri priests for conducting Pooja and Marars for performing Vadya and Kazhakam were brought from kerala. The Thantri prescribed that annual Uthsavam at the temple should be performed in the Malayalam month of Dhanu, commencing with Kodiyettam on Makeeram star and concluding with Arattu on Uthram star.

This was born the first temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa in the city of Chennai. This long-cherished dream of the devotees was fructified through munificent donations received from well wishers, door to door collections organized by volunteers, revenue realized through the publications of Souvenirs etc. The service rendered in this regard by Sri.V.K.Eradi,President, Sri R.S.Kaimal,Secretrary and their team of dedicated colleagues including Sarvasri K.V.Thankappan Nair, K.Bhaskaran, K.K.Nanu, K.Balakrishnan, K.C.Menon, V.S.Mani Iyer, M.P.Govind, G.K.Nair, M.K.P.Nair, C.P.G.Nambiar, etc., remain etched in golden letters in the history of this temple.

 After the opening of temple, Vazhipadus were being performed regularly, right from 1974; facilities like Kettunira and subsidiary services are being provided to devotees proceeding to sabarimala during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season and also for vishu and monthly Poojas. Daily Annadanam (initially for students of the nearby Corporation Schools, later extended to poor people in the neighbourhood) also commenced in 1974. During the same year Sri.K.Gopinath(affectionately called Gopichettan) assumed charge as the first Hon.Executive Officer of the temple.  The Executive committee of the sabha was constituted through annual elections.

 In June 1975 The first floor of the office building was constructed and occupied.  That year the Sabha took up the humanitarian task of supplying note books and uniforms to the under-previleged sections of students in the Corporation Schools for boys and girls in Nungambakkam which continues unabated till date as an annual feature.  The deserving students are selected on merit-cum-means basis by the school authorities themselves.

During 1976 the Executive Committee decided to construct a Gopuram and a Nadappura.  In order to raise funds for this purpose another Ganamela  was conducted in the University Centenary Auditorium in October 1976.  Necessary plans for the proposed construction were obtained from Sri Kanippayyur Krishnan Namboodiri.  However, actual construction could be commenced only in February 1978.  The massive Gopuram door made at Kozhicode was transported to the site in November 1980.

In the meantime, the Sabha launched a Medical mission in aid of the poor and the needy.  The mission was inaugurated by H.E.Sri Prabhudas Patwari, Governor of Tamil Nadu on July 11, 1977.  To start with, the mission functioned in rented premises at Periyar Road.  Dr. Sarala Balakrishnan rendered free medical advice daily from 10 am to 12 noon. Later in December 1980 the sabha shifted the medical mission to its own premises in Pushpanagar, Nungambakkam. A well-equipped clinical laboratory and Diagnostic Centre with modern facilities were set up at the mission centre in July 1982.  A specious new building for the mission came into existence on February 1, 1986 and the magnificent Sasthlaya Hospital with facilities for inpatient and outpatient treatment, preventive health care, state-of-the-art devices for diagnosis and patient care, etc., was inaugurated on April 14, 1996.  The hospital today has a 25 bedded air-conditioned ward, with air-conditioned operation theatres and labour room and stands out as a landmark in the history of the growth of Sree Ayyappa Bhaktha Sabha and the charitable institutions under its care.

The plan for the installation of a Dhwajastambham in re-inforced cement concrete was approved in September, 1979 and the work was entrusted to Sri T.G.Poduval-the doyen among our members and a decided associate of the Sabha. Dhwajaprathishta to Lord Ayyappan and Vigraha Prathishta of Malikappurathamma were performed on June 25, 1980 followed by Mahakumbhabhishekam on June 28, 1980.


 Mahakumbhabhishekam of Rajagopuram and a SahasrakalasaAhishekam were performed on June 3, 1984 by Brahmasree Neelakantanru Thantri, consequent to the demise of Brahmasree Kantararu Sankararu Thantri on January 9, 1983.  A library consisting of books on religious subjects and spiritualism was declared open by Sri.H.V.Hande, Hon’ble Minister of Health, Govt., of Tamil Nadu on March 26, 1985.  The Thazhikakkudams (stupikas) of the Sreekovils and Rajagopuram were gold-plated and re-installed on December 6, 1985.


 The first Bhagavatha Sapthaham was conducted in the temple by Sri Anjam Krishnan Namboothiri during the week commencing from October 11, 1987.  Sapthaham offering became an annual feature thereafter.


 The plot adjacent to the temple premises measuring two and half grounds was purchased by the Sabha in 1986.  Foundation for a temple for Lord Guruvayurappan was laid at the site on June 4, 1989.  The unique idol of Lord Guruvayurappan made in Krishna Sila, at Guruvayur was brought to site on May 24, 1990 in a grand motorcade with the Vigraham in a tastefully decorated float.  Pratishta Karmam was performed on June 4, 1990.  That marked the fulfillment of yet another great dream of the devotees.


 While Laksharchana was being performed every year, the first Koti Archana Mahayagnam to Lord Ayyappa was Performed from November 15, 1986 to December 14, 1986.  Subsequent Koti Archanas were performed as follows: 1992 to Lord Guruvayurappan; 1997 to Lord Ayyappan; 1998 to Lord Guruvayurappan; 1999 to Lord Ayyappan and 2000 to Lord Guruvayurappan.


The desire of the sabha to bring out a spiritual magazine for the benefit of devotees and discerning public was fulfilled with the launching of Pushpabhishekam in 1989.  The first issue was released by Justice K.S.Bhakthavalsalam on November 10, 1989.  Started as quarterly, the magazine was soon converted as a monthly periodical.

Twenty acres of land were purchased by the Sabha at Kannur(Near Thirupporur) in 1986-87 to which eight more acres were added through piecemeal purchases between 1990 and 1998.  A pucca building measuring 1400 sq.ft. in area was constructed there.


 Afull-fledged information Centre of Tranvancore Devaswam Board was opened within our temple complex on July 31,1993.


 Idols of Nagaraja and Nagayekshi were installed in the temple premises on March 25, 1998.


Yet another major dream of devotees came to fruition with the installation of Swarna Kodimarams at the Sannidhis of Lord Ayyappan and Lord Guruvayurappan on February 25, 2004.  Simultaneous installation of gold-plated Dhwajasthambhams at two Sannidhis in the same temple complex is a unique achievement, perhaps not accomplished elsewhere hitherto.  Goldplating of the two dhwaja stambhams at the cost of Rs.75 lakhs.


 That is where we stand at the moment.  While we take pride at the immense growth and popularity this temple complex has been able to achieve over the past 3 ½ decades, we remember with unreserved gratitude the dynamic organizational ability of our past Secretary Sri.K.V.Thankappan Nair and the skillful Public Relations Management of Sri K.K.Nanu, all of which has contributed to lay a firm foundation for our onward march.  Sri K.C.Menon, our present president, Sri Shashi Kumar, Secretary. Sri.K.V.Narayanan our present treasurer and Guru swami of the Temple, along with the other enthusiastic members of Executive Committee, serve as beacon lights in our onward march.  Countless number of devotees provides us strength. Indeed we have “miles and miles to go”.  The goals keep on receding; or could there be anything that can be termed the ultimate goal in such a venture?  Next in our minds is the desire to gold plate the Sreekovil roofs.  How and when shall we achieve it?  The lord has his ways – we are but more instruments!

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