United in devotion | Daily News


Religious perspective

United in devotion

Camelia Nathaniel

Almost 20 km away from the Jaffna city, lies the quiet little village known as Atchuvely Thoppu, which is off the main Raja Veethi. The road itself holds significant memories for 90-year-old Eliathamby Sangarapillai Master, who as a young man back in the day, played a pivotal role in having this road developed into a main road.

A short distance from the main Raja Veethi in the midst of open farmland, stands an ancient little temple dedicated to God Ganesha (Pillaiyar) which has served as a place of worship for the people of this village for many decades.

The Thiruvilla (annual) festival of the Atchuvely Thoppu Bodhi Pillaiyar temple commenced on August 26 and concluded with the water-cutting ceremony on September 4. The Chariot Festival was held on September 3 amidst a large gathering of devotees from near and far. This year was of special significance for this temple as it received a large pond which is a significant feature at ceremonies of a Hindu temple. All these years, the Thoppu Bodhi Pillaiyar Temple held its water-cutting ceremony at a small well within the temple premises.

This Temple is dedicated to God Ganesha. Ganesh (also spelt Ganesa or Ganesha and known as Ganapati, Vinayaka and Pillaiyar) is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity, fortune and success. He is the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles of both material and spiritual kinds. Interestingly, he also places obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked.

Devotees believe that if Ganesha is worshiped, he grants success, prosperity and protection against adversity. In a lesser known role, Ganesh is also the destroyer of vanity, selfishness and pride.

According to Sangarapillai Master, who had gained his initial education at the Atchuvely Central College and later served as Master in charge of English at the very school for over two decades, ‘Bodhi’ means enlightenment and Ghanesha is the god of knowledge. The temple was founded several hundred years ago and at the entrance to the temple, there is a large Bo-tree which was planted by him many years ago while he was a young man. “I tried to find a Bo-tree from several places including Colombo and Kandy to plant at this temple but failed. However, one day when I was praying at the temple, and when I suddenly looked up, to my surprise, I spotted two Bo-saplings on the top of the shrine enclosure. I was delighted and saw it as a sheer miracle, as I had found a Bo-sapling to plant at the temple. I quickly got a ladder and carefully extracted the two Bo-saplings, and planted one at the BodhiPillaiyarTemple and the other at the MeenadchiAmman Temple. Today, I have returned to the country after many years and seeing that Bo-plants grown into huge trees, my heart is filled with joy.”

Having served as the Master in charge of English, Discipline Masterand Bicknel House Master at the Atchuvely Central College, he was called to serve as the Head of the English Department in Barewa College in Nigeria. After 12 years of service in Nigeria, he and his wife Rajeswary eventually made Canada their home. Despite his achievements, Sangarapillai Master is a humble man who lives a modest life in devotion to his religion and helping others. He has been bestowed with a gold medal by Queen Elizabeth for his writings and community work, Sangarapillai Master has helped many underprivileged students achieve success in education and in fact, his students having heard of his arrival in Jaffna, had made the trip to the Bodhi Pillayar Temple as a mark of respect for their beloved Master.

Although Sangarapillai Master lives in Canada, he never forgot his homeland and to date, even his pension is sacrificed for the welfare of the widows and orphans due to the war. The Atchuvely Bodh Pillaiyar Temple was renovated after many years, but something was still missing, which was a pond. Having taken it upon himself to construct a pond for the temple, Sangarapillai Master had donated 50 perches of his land bordering the temple for this purpose. Not stopping at that, he wrote to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and requested for funds for the construction of the tank for which he received Rs. 100,000 from the Ministry.

He also initially donated Rs. 500,000 for the construction of the pond. Eager to make her contribution in her own way, Sangarapillai Master’s loving wife Rajeswary had been silently collecting her own savings to be donated to the temple at the time of the opening of the pond. However, it was so unfortunate that she took ill on December 31, 2017 and on January 01, 2018 peacefully passed away at the Scarborough General Hospital in Canada. Refusing to be held back by his age and the difficulty in travelling such a long distance from Canada to Sri Lanka, Sangarapillai Master made his way to his hometown, Atchuvely on September 3 to attend the temple ceremonies and the opening of the temple pond. He was a past President of the Temple committee and even though he lives in Canada, has been very involved in all the activities of the temple as an advisor to the current temple administration. At the ceremony, he donated the funds collected by his wife and the donation of his nephew Tulasidas Sivanesan completing his contribution to the construction of the temple pond to around Rs. One million, in addition to the land donated for this purpose.

The Temple Committee also honoured Sangarapillai Master with a special Silk Shawl (Ponnadai) and garlanded him, presenting him with a plaque as a token of appreciation for his service.

“I am 90-years-old and I have lived my life in service to my people and to many students of around 24 nationalities during my service as a Universal Teacher. My only wish from God now is to be able to conduct my wife’s one year ceremony after her demise and I have asked God to call me to rest soon after. I know I will not be able to come back to Sri Lanka again. I am proud to be a Sri Lankan and I will never hesitate to say it. But I must admit Canada has treated me well and from here on, I have entrusted my eldest son Sangarasayto take on the mantle from me and continue to serve the temple and his community at Atchuvely,” said Sangarapillai Master with great emotion.

The festival of the Atchuvely Bodhi Thoppu Pillaiyar Temple surely served as a sign of acceptance and reconciliation between the Northern and Southern people as it was attended by many from the South including military personnel together with their families. The Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Maj. Gen. Dharshana Hettiarachchi graciously assigned his staff to provide all assistance required for the festival as he was unable to attend the ceremony due to official obligations.

As a true teacher would, Sangarapillai Master rendered special thanks to the military for their efforts in ending the war and also for their service to the people of the North. In conclusion, having handed over the funds to the President of the temple committee Dr. Rajalingam, the young temple committee members carried their loving Master to the newly constructed temple-pond for a dip in the water signifying the opening of the tank which would serve the temple for many years to come, where the water-cutting ceremony of the temple would be held from here on.

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