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Committed to projects of social welfare

Committed to projects of social welfare

Author: Geetha Venkatramanan
Publications: The Hindu
Date: February 6, 2009
URL: http://www.hindu.com/fr/2009/02/06/stories/2009020651090400.htm

Introduction: Temples in ruins and people in distress capture Mahalakshmi Subramaniam's attention. She relies on like-minded souls.

An ardent devotee of Paramacharya - the walls of her T. Nagar apartment are covered with his pictures - Mahalakshmi Subramaniam's mission is to take up the renovation of temples that are in ruins.

"They are repositories of our culture and heritage. A temple is a place where people congregate and good things begin. And Tamil Nadu is dotted with thousands of them - 32,000 to be precise. Many of them were built centuries ago. To neglect them is akin to abandoning one's parents," says Mahalakshmi. Her sincerity and commitment come through in the meticulous way in which she maintains files and albums regarding her projects.

When did the saga begin?

Six years ago, at Kozhikuthi, a village in Mayavaram district, where Mahalakshmi was born. After her father's demise, the family migrated to finally settle down in Chennai, where Mahalakshmi is a librarian in a leading school.

A visit to Kozhikuthi revealed the pathetic state of the temple. Only the magnificent Moolavar - Vanamutti Perumal carved out of a fig tree - was in tact.

"It brought tears to my eyes. 'But what can I do,' I wondered. 'You set the ball rolling and help will come,' said my mother. And so it happened. Media support was great and contributions poured in. Samprokshanam took place in July 2007."
Battling odds

The turning point was Kuttalam Sozhiswarar temple. In ruins, several attempts to renovate the temple had failed. Working against odds, Mahalakshmi garnered support and the Kumbabhishekam took place.

At present, she has a list of over 40 temples, some under renovation, many where work is almost over and others yet to be taken up. Spruced up surroundings and at least one puja a day is her ambition.

It is an onerous task. "But I rely on the local residents, especially in the hamlets. It is their place of worship and the initiative should come from them. Once motivated, they get committed and things fall in place. They take over after consecration," asserts Mahalakshmi. Internet helps reaching NRIs. She acknowledges the support of the Government machinery in the districts.

"Things are so much easy without the red tape; the authorities, including District Collectors, are kind," she elaborates.

Social work has become a part of Mahalakshmi's routine. President of Lioness Club, she backs up health camps and channels aids for schools and students.

"My husband and children have been pillars of strength," she observes. Settled abroad, both son and daughter pump in resources for renovation, the gosala (cow shelter at Vanathirajapuram, Mayiladuturai) she supports and social activities. "My needs are few and most of my income is set aside for these projects."

Mahalakshmi's plan for the future includes members of the third gender, who have approached her for rehabilitation. "'It is not our fault and we have to survive,' they say. Surely something can be done to help them," she says.

"My family (maternal) has been associated with the Kanchi Math for generations. One of my ancestors was Paramacharya's teacher. My mother took me along whenever she went to pay her respects to him. Thus the seeds of devotion were sown very early." Mahalakshmi's eyes fill as she recalls the past. She continues after a pause. "When Periyava started the Kachi Mudur Trust to help temple priests whose income was poor, he roped me in to visit people and solicit contribution. I knocked at every door with his message. The response was overwhelming and I felt a sense of fulfilment - having done a good deed."

Again she was a coordinator for the Trust that the Math started to act as a bridge between students going abroad for higher education and their parents.

"I do face challenges and it is Periyava who guides me in times of adversities," she affirms.

"This is no individual effort. Hundreds of devotees, friends and well-wihsers are behind me. The tiny move made years ago has gathered momentum. It should become a movement," she concludes with fervour.

Mahalakshmi Subramaniam can be reached at 044-28152533/98400 53289/94449 90565.

Work in progress

Cries for attention: Temple at Kidathalaimedu near Mayiladuthurai.

Sri Durgapuriswarar temple (Kidathalaimedu near Mayiladuturai), Sivalinganathar (Mamakudi), Kailasanathar (Kazhukkanimuttam), Lakshminarasimha Perumal (Sithamalli-Mannargudi), Sugavasi Narayanaperumal (Athur, Nagapattinam), Sriranganathar (Gopurapatti, near Srirangam), Rishipuriswarar (Tiruvidaimarudur), Swayambunathaswamy and Lakshminarayana Perumal (both in Velangudi) and Kailasanathar (Sengalipuram- Perumangalam).

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