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Marching On

AS WE MARCH ON

Three decades 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, Ayya[[an Vilakku used to be conducted in several areas of the City as an annual feature, enlisting the support of local devotees. One such area was Nungambakkam.

Here the annual Ayyappan Vilakku used to be conducted in the premises of a temple on Melpadi Muthu Naicken Street or in the precincts of Asalathamman Koil, later on North Mada Street in Numgambakkam. 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 Sarvasri P.B. Nair, R.S. Kaimal, K. Bhaskaran, C.P.G. Nambiar, 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 objectives of the Sabha were: (a) to spread 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 Paaty and other religious and social programmes; (ii) organize and celebrate with the cooperation of all Ayyappa Bhakthas the annual “Ayyappan Vilakku” in Nungamabakkam; (iii) and conduct religious discourses with a view to help Bhakthas to practise “Bhakthi Yoga”

To start with, the Sabha functioned from a small rook at 34, Village Road, Numgambakkam – belonging to Sri C.P.G. Nambiar, 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. Namboodiri at the Arya Vaidya Sala premises on Krishnamachari Road, Numgambakkam. This was followed by discourses of Sri Thattayoor Unni Namboodiri.

Inspired by the response to the discourse 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 conducive 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. Dakshinamoorthy, the renowned music director, directed the programme and Sri Sekhar led the Orchestra. The net collection at the concert amounted to Rs. 15,000/- 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 Madhavan Nair who was present at the function iddediately responded, saying that a plot measuring two and half grounds in Madhavan Nair Colony, Nungambakkam was available and that she could consider donating 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 confidant of Justice Madhavan Nair and Lady Madhavan Nair in who 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 was Februady 1970 and the civil works were entrusted to engineer Sri T.G. Poduval. The granite works were executed by Sri Subhramania 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 Kantaru Sankararu Thantri who held the great distinction of having performed the punaprathishta 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 Subramaniman with His consorts Valli and Devayani constituted the parivaram. A andapam with absestos 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 stytle. Namboodiri priests for conducting Pooja and Marars for performing Vadya and Kazhagam were brought from Kerala. The Thantri prescribed that annual Utsavam 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.

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 Kantaru Sankararu Thantri who held the great distinction of having performed the punaprathishta 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 Subramaniman with His consorts Valli and Devayani constituted the parivaram. A andapam with absestos 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 stytle. Namboodiri priests for conducting Pooja and Marars for performing Vadya and Kazhagam were brought from Kerala. The Thantri prescribed that annual Utsavam 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.

After the opening of the 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 fro 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-privileged 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 Kozhikode was transported to the site in November 1980.

Maha Kumbabhishekam of Rajagopuram and a Sahasrakalasa Abhishekam were performed on June 3, 1984 by Brahmasree Neelakantanru Thantri who had assumed charge as our Thantri, consequent to the demise of Brahmasree Kantaru Sankararu Thantri on January 9, 1983. A library consisting of books on religious sibjects and spiritualism was declared open by Sri. H.V. Hande, Hon’be Minister of Health, Govt.of Tamil Nadu on March 26, 1985. The Thazhikakkudams (stupikas) of the Sreekovil and Rajgopuram were gold-plated and re-installed on December 6, 1985.

The first Bhagavatha Sapthaham was conducted in the temple by Sri Anjam Krishnan Namboodiri 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. Prathishta 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 Guruvayaurappan; 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 a quarterly, the magazine was soon converted as a monthly periodical.

Twenty acres of land were purchased by the Sabha at Kattur (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.

A full-fledged information Centre of Travancore Devaswom Board was opened within our temple complex on July 31, 1993.

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

Yet another major dream of the 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. Gold-plating of the two dhwaja sthambhams was carried out by expert technicians 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 gratitute the dynamic organisational ability of our past president Sri. V.K. Eradi, the iron-handed executive competence 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 Guruswami of the Temple, along with the other enthusiastic members of the Executive Committee, serve as beacon lights on our onward march. Countless number of devotees privides us strength and support. 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 mere intruments!

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