Big Trip to Tirumala Tirupati

Our family lived in a huge compound on Trichy Road. We began to live in this premises from the february of 1977. The home came to be known by the name ' Sri Krishna Nivas ' and the door number was 335. Our earlier home was ' Raju Bhavan ' on Vysial Street. All our properties were gifted to us by my visionary great grandfather Vysya Bhushanam Sri P.A.Raju Chettiar. He had put Coimbatore on the jewelry map of the world and his birthday ( 28 January ) is being celebrated as ' Jewelers Day '. A fast growing family had caused a lot of disturbances for many years. In spite of being the eldest my grandfather agreed to move out of the palatial family residence. However his exit was followed by a big change. None of the seniors stayed in that old house post 1980.

Life in Trichy Road was a pleasure for all of us. The first 8 years (1977 - 1985 ) were full of fun. We were free to play in our compound everyday. The huge 1.5 acre campus was a home to cows, dogs, squirrels , frogs and a few reptiles too. My grandmother Lalitha Bai did her job very well. She was the head of the family and she looked after us well. She had been asthmatic for a long time. The stress at Vysial Street did not give her an opportunity to look after herself. This resulted in the weakening of her immune system. Grandmother used to look after the kitchen and the pooja activities.

The smoke in the kitchen used to cause her a lot of difficulties. She was advised to undergo some tests and the sweet that perhaps consumed for getting her blood sugar checked made her very ill. She began to wheeze heavily and had to be rushed to the hospital ( G.Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial Hospital ). My father and mother stayed with her in the hospital. Grandmother's sister Subhadra Ranganathan of Salem spent a lot of time with her during those critical days. An old staff working in Gopala Padma Vilas of Salem ( leading textile store founded by my grandmother's father S.N.Padmanabha Chetty & his partner Jayagopal in the year 1916 ) had prophesied that grandmother will face a threat to her well being after completing 50 years of age. He had predicted it when she was just 10 years old. Grandmother recalled his prophecy and she thanked Lord Krishna of Guruvayoor for helping her to resume a normal life.

My grandfather R.Krishnan was rattled by this and he made a serious offering to Lord Venkatachalapathy ( Tirumala Tirupati ) in the interest of my grandmother. He offered to walk on the streets and seek alms from the common citizen for the purpose of undertaking a trip to the temple with all our well wishers. A day was fixed and it was decided to begin the seeking of alms from our ancestral residence at Vysial Street. All our family members, staff working in our shops, relatives and friends joined us that day. A set of musicians led the way. My grandfather and grandmother carried a nice silver container in order to facilitate people to use it as a canister. This chembu ( container ) was placed on a big silver plate.

Everyone was dressed in Kanjeevarams and the team moved forward. Great grandfather P.A.Raju Chettiar flagged off the event. I still remember some of the people who participated in this alms seeking walk. Soundaram Jayarama Chettiar was among them. She turned emotional and was not herself for a brief moment that day. Many of the devotees were anointed with the sacred Vaishnavaite Namam. A large number of people watched us and many of them made contributions. B.M.Ramalingam Chettiar of Ramu & Co rushed in order to make his offering to the Lord of the Seven Hills. The procession went through a part of Vysial Street, Muthu Vinayagar Koil Street, Big Bazaar Street and R.G.Street. It was great to see people chanting the words Narayana, Govinda , Srinivasa, Venkataramana with complete devotion.

The procession came back and the canister / hundi was placed in the chinna kottam ( small living room ) of Raju Bhavan. It was placed on the sacred platform which had hosted all the poojas for years. A nice picture of Lord Balaji was placed on this platform. Our journey took place thereafter. We traveled by train and it was the Kovai Express. The air conditioned chair car in this train was a novelty those days. Food would be sold in the train and all the compartments were interlinked. My brother Suresh and I had a gala time. We gorged on the cutlets, cakes and sandwiches until we reached Katpadi on the outskirts of Vellore. Our mother ( Aravindakumari ) had to ensure that we ate the right stuff. We were kids after all.

I remember making an offering of Rs.10 at the Hundi in Tirumala. Grandmother was very dear to me and I had offered this amount to the Lord in order to ensure her speedy recovery. This was my first offering in life. I had learnt to do this because of my grandmother. She would often take Rs.1.25 and knot it in a turmeric dyed fabric. This would be placed in covers. Some offerings would be marked for our family deity Ankala Parameswari of Palani while some would be marked for Guruvayoor, Tirumala Tirupati or other temples that may come in her thoughts. My mother used to make a note of all this in a notebook. It was a list of her offerings to temples. I remember getting a big wheeze when I was hardly 10 years of age. My worried grandmother offered a Thulabharam (a person would be weighed against the material to be offered) with sugar at Guruvayoor. This was carried out later. Making such offerings had been a custom those days and this has been part of our culture.

We reached Katpadi and moved to Tirumala by taxi. If I remember, some of us got tonsured before having a darshan of Lord Venkateswara. We went through the Rs.25 que and it was possible to have a good darshan pretty fast. Grandmother sang a few devotional songs while in the choultry. She made us sing too. We went to Alamelumangalapuram ( Tiruchanur ) in the adivaram ( foot hills of Tirumala ) and also to the Govindaraja Perumal Sannidhi before returning home. Everyone enjoyed the tasty ladoos and the vadas. Our family members were moved on seeing Lord Balaji and they began to chant the magical words - Edukondalavada, Venkataramana, Govinda , Goooovinda in front of the sanctum. Grandfather made some offerings in the huge hundi that day.

Vellore was our next destination. We stayed at the well known Triveni Lodge belonging to our relatives Ramani & her husband V.Chetty Radhakrishna Chetty. Radhakrishna Chetty (V.R.R) was a popular jeweler and was a large hearted person. He was the son in law of the famous Pattu Chettiar (A.Pattabirama Chettiar) of Coimbatore. Pattu Chettiar had been our partner in Raja Theatre. His wife Chandravadanam was the niece of P.A.Raju Chettiar. Uncle V.R.R took very good care of us and we were looked after very well. I still remember Ramani aunty serving us food with a bright smile. In a few years , V.R. Radhakrishna's second son V.R.Narayanan (V. Chetty Radhakrishna Chetty Jewel Craft) became the son in law of my grand aunt Sitakalyani Padmanabhan by marrying her only daughter Vijayalakshmi. The wedding took place in the year 1983 and 2022 happens to be the Sashiabdhapoorthy (completion of 60 years of age) year of my brother in law V.R.Narayanan. Lord Venkaramana will continue to nourish him with the best of health and contentment.

The entire group boarded the Kovai Express and returned to Coimbatore. All of this happened due to the grace of Lord Venkataramaswamy, the Kaliyuga Varada. Great grandfather P.A.Raju Chettiar had contributed towards the construction of a cottage in Tirumala and we used to facilitate the stay for devotees seeking the blessings of Lord Srinivasa. The memorable trip continues to be etched in the hearts of all of us. I continue to seek the grace of Lord Venkaramana. May he bless each one of us with the mind to do good while also thinking of him all the time.

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of The Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, entrepreneur, and a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.

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