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History

GLIMPSES FROM THE PAST


by Late MR G.S.NAIDU Past National Treasurer

The Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam, which officially took birth at the old site of the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple at the Northern end of Nadi Town, some three score and eight years ago on 24th May, 1926 is today setting forth into its sixty ninth year of inception.

The year 1994 would become a very important year in the annals of Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam's history as this year witnesses the completion of one of the biggest and the unique Temple, which is one of its kind and second to none in the Southern Hemisphere, built along the Agamic principles depicting the very ancient Dravidian architecture which is synonymous to South Indian Culture.

On this most auspicious occasion of the Mahakumbhabhishekam (Consecration and Sanctification) of the New Temple and the installation of the New Idols of our beloved Deities, it becomes prudent on the part of the present elders and second generation children of our forefathers who were brought to this country under varied conditions, from their mother land, India to work as indentured labourers, who, even though living in conditions of semi-slavery and degradation fought against all odds and drew strength from their faith in God, and hence were able to retain and preserve their religion, culture and languages to the best of their ability despite all the adversity they had to encounter, by forming an Organisation of the South -Indians and uniting themselves under the Banner of Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam which is today popularly known as "SANGAK".

The concept of forming this organisation was first conceived by one of our very pious South Indians, an ex policeman, Kuppu Swamy Naidu who arrived in Fiji from Madras by the ship Sutlej III on 27th April, 1912 and was assigned to work in Yalandro, Tavua in the estate of Mr.R.D.Francis as an indentured labourer. Kuppu Swami Naidu during the five years 'of his indenture period observed the atrocities suffered by ordinary and humble South Indians who were most disadvantaged due to their late arrival under the indenture system. Communication was one of their greatest problems as they knew only their South Indian Mother tongue. They were made a laughing stock by the earlier arrivals and humiliated to the extreme limit of degradation. All this greatly pained the heart. of this pious person and his soul cried to the Lord for guidance to salvage the lives of these poor folks. Kuppu Swami Naidu son of Govind Swami Naidu at the end of his indenture period vowed to take up the cudgel for the sake of the South Indians and gave up the pleasures of the worldly life, and took up the life of a Sadhu (saint) to improve the lot of the South Indians settled in Fiji. He was a great devotee of Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maha Rishi, Ramalinga Swamigal and Rama Krishna Paramahamsa. Being an ardent follower of the above named -saints, Kuppu Swami m Naidu himself became a Sadhu, and later became known amongst his colleagues and South Indians in particular, as Sadhu Swami. He conceived the concept of a South Indian Organisation and worked , towards this goal with the help of other South Indians who could understand his feelings and were prepared to assist towards the Ii cause. Thus people like Messers T.A.J. Pillai, M.N. Naidu, !! Krishna Swami Naicker, Krishna Reddy, Unni Sirdar, Subba Naidu, !, Madhavan Nair, Gopal Mudaliar, Sami Nada Moopanar, Murugesan i Naicker, Munswamy Mudaliar, Kadirvelu Mudaliar, Keshwan Pillay, Maran, Pakkiri Wattiar, Tataiya Veeranna, Ranga Swamy Naidu, Balasundaram Mudaliar, V.M. Pillai, Arunachalam Pillay, Salim Bukush, Moidean Koya and others to name a few became his very strong followers. With the help of these great souls, Sadhu Swami established the South Indian Organisation and founded the Then India Sanmarga l Ikya Sangam after travelling to all corners of Fiji where South Indians were settled, and inspired them to congregate at the Nadi Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami' Temple on Swami Vivekananda's Birthday in 1926, where they gave birth to our august IS organisation which is today know as "Sangam". Sadhu Swami was elected the first President of Sangam and he remained its President for his life time. As usual the formative years in the early period of Sangam's history had its share of hardship but the arrival in 1937 of Swami Avinashananda from the Rama Krishna Mission of India on the In invitation of Sadhu Swami saw the beginning of the golden years .Y of Sangam. Although he spent just a brief period of eleven months LS in Fiji, he was able to consolidate the structure of Sangam and lay down the principles on which it was to function. Swami Avinashananda was a person of dynamic personality and iron will. He was not just a mendicant, but a University Professor and Principal of a University College which the lay people of that IY era could not comprehend. Hence he was able to organise the activities of Sangam and have it legally registered as an Organisation under the Company's act. .

Thus legalized, Sangam and its community set forth in earnest to IY develop Schools and Temples to foster their ,South Indian Languages, culture and religion in all corners of Fiji. Today In Sangam can proudly boast of its 21 Primary and 5 Secondary n Colleges with innumerable Temples and Kindergartens spread through out the country. The 'return of Swami Avivashananda gave new hope to Sangam for he arranged and sent back Swami Rudrananda to guide and strengthen Sangam and Mr. Rama Krishnan B.A,L.T. (Tamil) and Mr.Ganeshwar r Rao (Telugu) teachers to teach mother tongue in the Sangam S Schools, and uplift the general standard of Sangam Schools. They arrived in 1939. Mr.Rama Krishnan was the first ever graduate teacher to be posted to Nadi Sangam School as its Head Teacher. Mr.G.Rao worked with him as his assistant. As a dedicated teacher the late Mr.Rama Krishnan B.A,L.T. during e ,the few years he served the-'Sangam added new dimension to Sangam activities in schools and among the South Indian youth. He formed e the Youth Wing known as the Then India Valibar Sangam and introduced the Inter District Competition in Soccer, athletics, a Music and Art to encourage the development of South Indian language and Culture. Whilst the Schools and Youth Wings progressed on the one hand Rev. Swami Rudranandaji Maharaj concentrated on consolidating and expanding the activities of T.I.S.I. Sangam based at Sangam Ashram at Nadi in the property which our great philanthropist Late Mr. M.N. Naidu, a rich businessman, had donated to Sangam, as early as 1928, to become Sangam's first Library, Head Office and also the Ashram 1:or the Swami's to reside at. Noble and very generous gifts of this nature made to the Sangam. earned him the title of "DHAANAVEER". Swamiji concentrated on acquiring properties for Sangam. Freehold lands at Savu Savu (130 acres) and Madhuvani, Raki Raki (1037 acres) were bought and the Sangam Sarada Printing Press was started to cope with the educational needs of the Community at large. Publications like "Sangam" in Tamil, "Pacific Review" in English, "JAGRITI” in Hindi, and- "NA PACIFIKA" in Fij ian were published and circulated to give vent to the voice of the Indian Community as a whole.

Like the Youth Wing, a Women's Wing was also formed as early as 1938 as the Then India Sanmarga Maathar Sangam which launched the very simple and humble charitable task of "Pidi Arisi," (A handful of rice) which every South Indian householder was required to set aside each day for charity before commencing their household cooking. This noble concept was introduced by Swami Avinashanandaji Maharaj as one of the projects to assist in running a hostel for children of poor parents and others far away from Nadi to gain education at Nadi Sangam School which was the first and the largest Sangam School for that time. The hostel was erected within the Temple premises to become a multi purpose building as it served to this date. Of course it is rather painful and indeed a pity to see it being demolished to clear the site. Many students of the Nadi Sangam Hostel, attending Shri Vivekananda High School and Nadi Secondary School will remember the hostel and have very fond memories of their hostel wardens and recollect with some humour all the fun and frolic played in I the Temple premises under the very nose of our beloved Deity Lord i.Murugha, and all the sacks full of “Pidi Arisi" ,they consumed. At this point one cannot avoid to mention the names of two of our grand mothers the late Thirumati Muniammal Naidu and the late Thirumati Sampooranmmal who became the total devotees of first Swami Avinashanandaji Maharaj then Rev. Swami Rudranandaji Maharaj. They dedicated their lives to serve Sangam, and spent their active life rendering service to the Ashram and collecting Pidi Arisi from door to door each week in the Nadi area to feed the Hostel students. The late Thirumati Sampooranammal is to be remembered with deep respect for first contributing funds to.build the Shrine for Lord Ganesha at the' old site, and later bequeathing her residential block of land in Na:r-ewa as a gift to Sangam.

It is indeed a pity that Sangam had not been able to utilise this block of land for obvious reasons. Ho1flever it is hoped that with the blessings of our new Deities, Sangam would be able to put the place to some good use at an early date. Like thes~ two noble souls in Nadi, many other mothers in different districts toiled for the cause of Sangam and carried out their mission as set by Swamiji. For at that point in time 'the words of Swamiji were like a command from God for all the Siouth IndiaRs throughout Fij i because 'of the esteem in which the Swamiji was held.These were the Golden years of Sangam, Schools and Temples sprang up in different villages and settlements. Mother tongue was given priority over other subjects in the schools, and the South Indian languages and culture flourished throughout the country for several decades till the Sangam celebrated its Silver Jubilee in1951. With the advent of changes in the Education System and introduction of New Examinations in the Primary Schools, emphasis gradually shifted from vernacular and creative subjects to mere academic pursuit. Preparing students for examination became the hallmark for the teachers, and keen competition developed as to which school got the largest number of passes became the theme for parents, management and teachers alike. This shift in trend became the cause of the gradual demise of the South Indian languages as they were not examination subjects. Despite this change of events the Sangam, continued its pursuit to provide higher education to its pupils by becoming the first Non Government Organisation to start a private Secondary School in 1949, in the face of many obstacles. We pay our humble tribute to Late Mr.A.D.Patel, who was then the Legal Advisor of Sangam and the late Rev. Swami Rudranandaji Maharaj for courageously facing all the odds that were placed in their way and established the Shri Vivekananda High School which began in a very humble way in the T.I.V. Sangam's Gymnasium Hall with 25 students, headed by Mr.K.S.Reddy as Principal and Messers Gopal Swami Naidu and Krishna Narsingha Rao as the two assistants in the Nadi sangam Primary School compound, where we today have our Kindergarten School. As this school grew in strength in a very short time, it had to shift to the premises of Lora Murugan which housed the much bigger roll of students who rushed from all parts of Fiji as far ,away as Vanua Levu, to quench their thirst for education at this humble and holy premises of Lord Kartikeya. It was here that Shri Vivekananda High School developed and later moved to its present site in MaIolo which is now managed by the Rama Krishna Mission, together with our first Library/Office and Ashram (donated to Sangam by Dhanaveer Late Mr.M.N.Naidu) which were given as token gifts to the Mission when it started to operate separately as a Mission Branch in Fiji from 1953.

The period after the Second World War was a very difficult and challenging era for our small nation and the world at large. There had been numerous rapid changes and advancements in the wake of which old values gave in to the new ord9r. For a Society like Sangam which depended purely on voluntary selfless service and unity of its members, it. became a question of survival itself. Fortunately the foundation of implicit faith and devotion to gain Godliness kept the pillars of Sangam unshaken despite the very strong and stormy winds of changes. With the revival of the Annual Convention, Sangam members from all parts flocked to Lovu during the Easter Holidays of 1976 to rejuvenate the Sangam Organisation and later in the same year celebrated its Golden Jubilee from 8th to 10th October 1976 at Nadi. Once again the organisation was streamlined and the management commenced functioning smoothly under the new administration. The next decade from 1976 -1986 saw gradual improvement in the management and organisation of Sangam assets and properties, and attention was once again drawn towards the revival of the South Indian Languages, religion and culture which unfortunately were being very greatly neglected by our own people. The revival of Sangam activities together with the arrival of a New Shivacharya Mahalinga Gurukkal whose services were made available to Nadi Siva Subramaniya Swamy Temple in 1984 by the Government of Tamil Nadu as the Chief Priest boosted the activities at the Temple, and devotees flocked to the Temple in very large numbers to witness and participate in the many new and unique religious ceremonies conducted at the Temple for the first time. It was realised that a new and bigger National Temple was needed, and a move for acquiring a new site began in earnest even though the foundation for a new Temple was laid at the old site in 1976 during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations by His Excellency the High Commissioner for the Government of India in Fiji Mr.Ramesh Arora. The foundation laid at the old site in October, 1976 has today through the efforts of many devotees and Sangam stalwarts like the late Mr.Shankaran Nair, who assisted in the negotiations for acquiring this present new site, Late Mr.Raman Narayan Nair the first Chairman of the New Temple Construction Committee in 1983 acquired lease for the Crown land (for the new site) and with the help of his other Committee Members started the reconstruction programme with the Bhoomi Poojai in January 1984, followed by the Inauguration of Building work by the late Deputy Prime Minister Mr.David Tonganivalu in April 1984. It. was unfortunate that the Late Mr. Nair -started but could not continue as he was called away to perform other official duties overseas. However the construction work moved another step forward in 1986 when after the Sangu Sthapanai Poojai the work of Pile driving was completed under the chairmanship of Hon. Jai Ram Reddy, but the actual Construction work began in earnest after a lull of some five years under a new Reconstruction Committee led by Mr.Narayan Reddy as the Chairman.

On July 31st 1991, the Reconstruction Committee in consultation with the Executive Committee of T.I.S.I.Sangam decided, to save cost, it would be, prudent to employ a Foreman and start the work on 'their own. Likewise with the help of volunt~ry helpers like mjs Venkataiya, Gyan Wardaraju and Navin Morarji (Civil Engineer) to supervise the Construction, the work of building commenced in stages, and today we have the Temple proper standing as a land mark with its magnificent sculpturing and artistic paint work standing in front of us to be consecrated and sanctifie4 by the most holy ceremony of its Maha Kumbhabhishekam. On this most auspicious occasion of the Mahakumbhabhishekam of our New Temple and the installation of the New Idols of our beloved Deities, let us pay our humble homage and tribute to our forefathers and in particular to our founding father Sevaka Ratnam Sadhu Kuppuswami and those other stalwarts who had the wisdom, foresight and courage to establish the Sangam through their sheer selfless service and unlimited sacrifice so that, we, their future generations could receive equal opportunities and be equal or even better than the others. Let us join our hands in prayer and thank those pious souls for the legacy they have left behind for us and may Lord Murugan, from His new abode extend His divine protective handover all, and give us the courage and wisdom to leave behind similar foot prints like those of our ancestors on the sands of time. Finally on behalf of the Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam, I would like to acknowledge with our deepest gratitude and most sincere thanks the donations given to us by all the devotees in Fiji and abroad; all the Temple Construction Committee members; the Engineer "and Supervisors for their voluntary service, all the workers who toiled day after day to complete this phase of the project to the Silpis from India for their splendid sculpturing fete,the painter for his most Artistic drawings; the Electricians for their donation and installation and all others who have contributed in many ways towards the completion of our Temple.

May the Blessings of our Lord Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami be upon each and every single individual who have assisted in the accomplishment of this unique landmark for Fiji.


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