Septuagenarian Rajalakshmi Vittal wants to rope in all his devotees.
”These people are building a monument for Mahaperiyava. Can you meet them?” It is either a couple of men or a group that generally visits the office seeking the supplement’s help to take their mission forward. This writer was therefore unprepared for the elderly lady, accompanied by two men. Her nine-yard sari, kumkum and dazzling nose studs indicated a life steeped in tradition. The orthodox façade receded as Rajalakshmi Vittal spoke, revealing a mind fixed on the welfare of humanity.
“I had the fortune of being associated with Periyava for many years. His simplicity, focus on logakshemam and kaarunyam always moved me. ‘You will do something stupendous,’ he once told me. Now I’m beginning to understand the import of his words,” Maami’s voice trails off as emotion takes over. The reference is to Shanthi Ashramam run under the auspices of Sri Jagathguru Kanchi Maamunivar Charitable Trust that she founded two years ago.
The ashramam is located on 1.8 acres in Ayyan Vaaikal South Bank, Kollidam North Bank, Madhavaperumal Koil village, Nochiam (Tiruchi 621216). The premises has been sanctified by a Veda pata sala and go(cow)sala run under the supervision of Maami, who has made the ashram her abode. “Both were favourites of Mahaperiyava and they are thriving, thanks to his blessings,” she says. The land is a peninsula, which fact makes the location special.
“I was born and brought up in Tiruchi but didn’t know about Nochiam or this place until someone offered it for sale,” says Maami. Money? “My husband offered, other devotees happily pooled in and the land was bought.” A thatched shed was erected and the Ashramam was born. Puja is offered to the panchaloha idol of Paramacharya. Homams and Veda parayanam are routine affairs.
“A beginning has been made and there is a long way to go,” continues Maami. “The thatched affair has to be replaced with a concrete building. A lady in Bangalore was asked to draw a plan and what she came up with was on the lines of Sri Chakra. Was it an indication to make a shrine for Ambal here?” Maami was convinced and a panchaloha idol of Sri Lalitha is ready for installation. The plan includes shrines for Ganapati, Veda Vyasa, Adi Sankara and Subramanya.
Chandrasekhar, a stranger who Maami met in the train during a journey is now a member of the Trust. “The Ashramam project had not materialised and I was expressing my anxiety to the gentleman with whom I was travelling. Chandru offered a thousand rupees on the spot and said, ‘I’m on board. Let’s do it.’ I didn’t know him from Adam. But that is Periyava’s grace. He links you to the right person provided you are sincere.”
Pointing to Ashokkumar, she says, “He is another pillar. They both coordinate work from Chennai.” Chandru picks up the thread. “The place has to be given shape. The Trust needs funds. It is simple. We want every family that worships Periyava to contribute a hundred rupees. Contribution from a hundred thousand devotees can help us raise the structure. The benefit of this kainkaryam should reach everyone.” Maami intervenes to complete the concept. “That was how Periyava wanted things done. ‘Take at least a rupee from everyone. Let them participate in the good deed,’ he said often.”
The Trust is clear that they do not want to accumulate funds. “Money stored brings problems in its train. What we need is adequate money to cover the expenses. We’ll be happy with what the devotees can spare, even if it is a rupee. Online transaction is fine. Contribution in the form of material is also welcome,” says Chandrasekharan.
The Trust’s brochure speaks of retirement homes and arranging funeral for the underprivileged. Help is extended for education and medical treatment. “My priority at the moment is to install Sri Lalitha in a shrine. Vedas should reach everyone. The pandits here will teach slokas and suktams; anyone willing can learn. Their homes should vibrate with auspicious sounds.”
“‘I’m a poor old man, what can I do?’ – I cried when Periyava once said this about welfare projects. Was he a poor man? No. He wanted us to take the lead. This initiative is his. My appeal to his devotees is to strengthen our hands so that the superstructure comes up without much delay. That’s the best homage we can pay to the saint of Kanchi,” Rajalakshmi Maami sums up folding her palms in prayer.
Cash, demand drafts and cheques made in favour of the Trust may be sent to Lakshmi Vilas Bank, No 1, Tollgate, A/C number 0784301000016904, Indian Bank, T.V. Koil, A/C Number 886244176, payable at Tiruchi. Contact 9840283124, 9443370605, 9842441091, 9840410346, 9841077045.
Some of the objectives of the Ashramam
Construction of Gnaanavaapi
Construction of Parnasala