Sri Muniyandi: The 1 M who beat the 4 M
by S V Badri on 06 Feb 2011 38 Comments

In Mathematics, 1 M is always less than 4 M. But when the M on the left side of the equation is a superhero of a Hindu jati dharma, it can beat any multiples of the M on the right side of the equation. Such is the power of jati dharma.


The 1 M in the present instance is Muniyandi, grama devata of the Telugu Velama Naidus. Their village deity. The vanquished 4 M are Missionary, Mullah, Marxist and Macaulay-putras (the secular born-Hindu Hindu-hating elites that are the cause of so many of our current woes as a society and as a nation).


Sri Muniyandi Swamy’s kshetra spans 53 villages in a district in Tamil Nadu. And so powerful is the deity’s presence in the hearts of his devotees that entire families, parents, children, et al, come annually to pay obeisance. Thus, when every nerve of Bharat is stretched taut by the challenges posed by the 4 M, which have disproportionate resources at their command, the dharma of a small jati inhibits them from having a presence in 53 villages near Madurai. By any standards this is a unique achievement, but in Dravidian country, it is simply staggering. Clearly the answer to Missionary FDI in Bharat is Faith Determines India (FDI).


Ramesh Naidu, whom I have known for close to thirty years, used to report to me in a large chemical company where I last worked. I took voluntary retirement to serve the Hindu cause, and Ramesh Naidu left a year later to start a small hotel at Velachery, Chennai. I didn’t know why he made this switch, but during a subsequent interaction, I learnt about his village and his hotel, which belongs to the largest chain of hotels owned by members of one jati dharma in the world - the Madurai Sri Muniyandi Vilas Chain of Hotels, founded by members of the Telugu-speaking Velama Naidu jati.


And that was a revelation about the inherent strength of our jati dharma.


It all started in Vadakampatti, a sleepy, rain-fed, almost barren village 15 kms before Virudunagar and 35 five kms from Madurai. With no rains and depleting livelihoods, they found sustenance difficult and most of the people migrated to Madurai and elsewhere. However, Subba Naidu had a strange attachment to his village, married into the most affluent family of the village, and was good at only one thing: dreaming.


1 M = Muniyandi Swami – The Origin


Sri Muniyandi Swami, grama devata, is the ishta devata (beloved, personal deity) of 53 villages across the Madurai-Virudunagar highway. The Telugu Velama Naidus are the predominant jati in Vadakampatti village. In 1935, Subba Naidu knew nothing about the power of this grama devata. His family’s kula devata (clan deity) was the presiding deity of the Sri Vaishnava Mandir, Sri Azhagar Swami of Madurai, who is worshipped as the elder brother of Madurai’s own Sri Meenakshi Amman.


Subba Naidu began to have dreams of a man who came in his dreams and vanished before he could realize who He was. He suspected it was Muniyandi, the Protector his mother always spoke about in his childhood. Muniyandi was playing games with him, disappearing each time he opened his eyes. His time was spent either eating or dreaming on the steps of the pond where there was no temple. Having married into a wealthy family, he became indolent, but pressure at home mounted as his mother-in-law chided him to make his life fruitful. After one intolerable argument, he sought solace in his favorite vocation - dreaming - on the steps of the village pond.


That night, Muniyandi came in his dreams. Absolute black and resplendent in all His glory, and in a gruff voice commanded. “Subba, tomorrow morning you will see a white horse. Follow it where it leads you, and stop where it stops, to start your first eatery. I shall be there not only to protect you, but also those who follow you into this profession. But you will remember to provide Annadanam (food without cost) to those in need without fail”.


Subba Naidu woke up with a start. Astonishingly, he found a Muniyandi Vigraha on the banks of the pond he often loitered around. He set up the Vigraha, performed the few pujas he knew, and took his wife and mother-in-law into confidence regarding the Divine encounter. Then, borrowing a princely sum of Rs. 500 from his mother-in-law, he waited near the village pond the next morning.


Barely had he taken the blessings of Sri Muniyandi than there appeared the vision of a white horse before him. It whined; he heard - On the mark, Get Set, Go – but pleaded that he could not run fast. The horse nodded and started a mild gallop. Subba followed it from Vadukampatti village to Karaikudi, some three hours by current bus running standards. After approaching a building at Karaikudi, the vision disappeared. Subba went in and stuck a deal for lease of the first of the world famous Madurai Sri Muniyandi Vilas Hotels. And there was no turning back. Today, there are 850 Madurai Sri Muniyandi Vilas Hotels throughout India, one each in China and Dubai.


Strength of Jati Dharma


Within a year, Puducherry and Villupuram appeared on the Muniyandi Map, with Chennai, Cuddalore, Thiruvannamalai following suit. The mouth watering biryani was introduced the next year. The first buffet system in the world was started by the Madurai Sri Muniyandi Vilas Hotels.  Subba Naidu used to carry a tray with various non-vegetarian dishes in small plates to each of his diners and invite them to pick up what they preferred to eat. He would then go and bring the hot chosen dish and serve the diner.


Subba Naidu returned to his village to pay obeisance to Muniyandi. He then handpicked the families that needed his help and set for them similar eateries in various parts of Tamil Nadu. And so this jati discovered its dharma. Each beneficiary started funding others keen to run an eatery but without resources of logistical support. The Madurai Sri Muniyandi Vilas Naidu Sangam was born to support private enterprise of the jati. The dream of Subba Naidu is today a reality as perhaps the world’s largest chain of hotels owned by one jati – the Telugu Velama Naidus.


76 Years of Annadanam: A Tribute to Muniyandi


It was 76 years ago, on the third Friday of the Tamil month of Thai (third Friday of January), that Subba Naidu started the most memorable festival for Muniyandi – the Festival of Annadanam, known today as Annadana Puja for Muniyandi. It has never been interrupted. For two days, the people of the 53 villages congregate at Vadakampatti, the place of Muniyandi’s appearance, with their families, especially those who own hotels in His name throughout the country. And for 24 hours on these two days, there is Annadanam for all. Serpentine queues form outside the makeshift tents and as in the rajasuyayagna of Yudhistira, no one is turned back at any time of the day or night. People from all jatis, rich and poor alike, sit next to each other to eat the sumptuous Annadanam. There is no jumping of the queue. Enthusiastic men and women serve the diners on thalai vazhai ilai (plantain leaves), always asking each diner if they could serve a little more.


Third Friday, Thai Masam (mid-Jan to mid-Feb)


Women, men and children carry milk or tender coconut water on their heads to perform abhishekam to Muniyandi. The procession takes three hours to reach a destination barely half a kilometer from the heart of the village. The tharai, thambhattai, the famous music Sivamani picked up from such villages to splash on TV following Chennai Super Kings; roars in rhythmic glory. As boys of all ages dance in front of the procession, the village nadaswaram follows, with tavil in attendance. Some women get into “sami attam”, a stage of hysterical dance. But these are no ordinary village women, each is the wife of a crorepati, and would normally be reticent in their hometowns and cities. This is the first half of the two day ritual. After abhishekam and the mahadeeparadhana, they return to their ancestral homes that each family feels privileged to maintain in the village, to smell the native soil and be part of their own God’s festivities. This is followed by annadanam.


The Evening


In the evening, the rituals are exclusive to womenfolk. At front of each home, the women gather with coconut, beetle leaves, fruits and flowers, spread in a tray and placed on their heads with great reverence, to give thanks to their protector. The procession starts from the last house of the village and as it moves forward, people from the households join in. Village belles showcase their “Oyil Attams” in front of the procession. Fireworks light the sky as the procession proceeds to Sri Muniyandi/Sri Karuppannaswamy Mandir. A huge garland is carried with great devotion and offered to Sri Muniyandi.


As in every village festival, there is a music session in the evening, preceded by a small meeting. I had the honor to address the villagers in the last two years about how their jati dharma stands in protection of Sanatana Dharma. Subba Naidu’s great-grand children are called to the stage and honored to this day.


Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian


Surprise. Sri Muniyandi, in whose name there are 850 non-vegetarian hotels throughout India, is considered a vegetarian and the prasad made for him is sweet pongal. Women with a vow to fulfill prepare sweet pongal for him. Muniyandi’s fellow-protector, Sri Karuppannaswamy, the co-grama devata, needs non-vegetarian fare.


So on the first day of the festivities, for Muniyandi, the entire villages become vegetarian. On the second day, for Sri Karuppannaswamy, the fare becomes totally non-veg.


People with wishes make a wish to Karuppannaswamy, who resides outside the Muniyandi premises. Each year, nearly 200 goats and 60 chickens are sacrificed by those whose vows have been fulfilled. That night you can see villagers from 53 villages sleeping outside the mandir premises, with gigantic queues forming to take the biryani prasad made from the sacrifice.


A Handful of Mud


The Velama Naidus belonging to these 53 villages have taken a handful of village mud and built Sri Karuppannaswamy Muniyandi Mandirs in their villages. But as this is the original village of Muniyandi, they make it a point to participate in the celebrations in the month of Thai, and celebrate festivals in their own villages in the months of March and April. In these villages, everyone is embraced as a relative, and it is common to be addressed as “Bava” (brother-in-Law), Mappillai (son-in-law), Chithappu (uncle) or Mama (maternal Uncle). It is most endearing.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy immediately agreed to attend a festival when he learnt about this cluster of villages centred at Vadakampatti. He drove 40 kms from Madurai and spent an hour in the village, interacting with the people. His parting remarks were: “If I am fighting for Sanatana Dharma in various court cases, here you are keeping our jati dharma alive at grassroot levels. You are the real upholders of our Dharma”.


1 M beat 4 M


Most significantly, in all these 53 villages, there is NOT a single church or a masjid anywhere in the vicinity. Not one cent of land is sold to practitioners of other faith; Muniyandi allows them to deal only with people of the faith. No Macaulay-putras, Marxists, Missionaries, Maulvis. ONLY Muniyandis. Marriages are necessarily within the jati dharma, and they willingly come forward to help their brethren who need help at the time of marriages or setting up new hotel ventures. There is no distinction between rich and poor within the jati marriages. The daughter of a not-so-affluent hotel owner will be welcomed into a rich and prosperous Muniyandi hotel owner’s home. The logic is – Mana Naidu Bava, Manamu Help Cheyaali –  we have to help our Naidu brothers.


A VVIP visitor


The villagers made an enormous request to me this year. Can a VVIP personally known to me come to their village and bless them? Will he offer vibhuti and kumkum prasad from His hands to the simple folk? I am visiting Him this month to place their request at His holy feet. I am confident he will say YES and be at Vadukampatti on the third Friday of 2012 to bless these wonderful Sanatana Dharmis who have proved that jati dharma is the way to keep them together and keep 4 M at bay.


The VVIP they yearn to have darshan of is Sri Sri Sri Jayendra Saraswati Shankaracharya Swamiji of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. He has in the past blessed many villages following my personal prayer to Him. I intend to seek His presence at Vadukampatti.


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(The author is a social activist)

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