CHENNAI: The Shri Shirdi Sai Seva Samaj in West Mambalam has a rich history. About 34 years ago, late Visalakshi ammal, an ardent follower of Sai Baba, fondly called as ‘Sai amma’ or ‘Sai matha’ by devotees of the saint, established a temple for him in the locality. “During a procession, amma stopped on this spot and said that there will be a temple for Sai Baba here, and she made the prophecy come true,” says Srinivasan, temple secretary.
The Samaj will be celebrating the spiritual master’s ‘maha samadhi’ centenary from Saturday. The temple trustees and secretary talk to CE about the week-long centenary celebration, and of the social services that the Samaj has been rendering over the years.
“Baba attained ‘mukthi’ in 1918. Now, a hundred years later, we have planned a week-long event celebrating baba, and everything associated with him. We are elated,” says Srinivasan. The centenary celebrations will include a special procession, multiple ‘homams’, mass feeding, ‘parayanams’ and the famous ‘aarthi’. “The Navratri Mahothsavam events — Bharatanatyam, villu pattu, Carnatic music and bhajan, will also coincide with the centenary celebrations making it all the more special,” he shares.
The temple was officially registered in 1984 but even before that Visalakshi along with other devotees indulged in a string of social activities. “Sai amma was known for her helping nature. She fed the masses every Thursday and was very inclusive. After the temple was established, we started feeding people on a daily basis. Today, we feed about 300-350 people every day and on Thursdays about 700 people are fed,” he shares.
Talking about the education assistance given to students from less privileged socio-economic strata of the society, Kumar, one of the trustees, explains, “In 2009, we started rendering support to students who were in need of educational aid. It started with about 500 students and has now gone up to 1,500. We spend close to `50 lakh every year. We have a committee working exclusively for that.”
The Samaj also provides medical aid to leprosy patients across Tamil Nadu, contributes to several old age homes, and schools for the differently abled children in the city. “From band-aids, dettol, soaps, batteries for hearing aids and so on, we donate items to people living in different pockets of the city. As part of the celebrations, we also distributed clothes for about 280-300 people with leprosy, in shelter homes in about six hamlets,” he shares.
As part of the centenary celebrations, two special workshops for women and students will be conducted. “The first one will be as part of a women entrepreneurship scheme, micro-medium level business workshop, where we will motivate and educate women on business opportunities. The second will be a workshop to educate and create awareness on employment opportunities for the youth and equip them with the necessary skills,” says Kumar. About 108 tree saplings will also be distributed. Nandagopal, a member of the board of management, says, “We don’t do anything just for the sake of it. We do it with a sense of purpose and total commitment.”
The Samaj recently set up CCTV cameras in the street and built a monitoring station with facilities for the police department. “We have the responsibility to take the legacy of Baba and Sai amma forward, and we are doing everything we can to help the society. We don’t ask for donations, but somehow interested people contribute. Every rupee is accounted for,” says Raja, trustee. The Samaj committee is also planning to conduct a career guidance programme for students of class 10 and 12.
(The Maha Baba Samathi centenary celebrations will be held from October 13 to October 19 at the Shri Shirdi Sai Seva Samaj, Jaishankar Street, West Mambalam. For details call 9444778180)