The fist time I had chance to go by road to Johannesburg was to attend the Guru Purnima celebration at our Lenasia branch on 2nd August, 2008. It was a memorable occasion as I was not alone. The car was ably driven by Sunil, the Chairperson of Pietermaritzburg Subcentre and accompanied by a group of devotees that included Avinash, Jaya and his two dear children Adhikar and Vidal, Anupama and Avitha.
The travel was on a leisurely pace as I wanted to see the rural South Africa. The excellent road leading to Joburg was a treat to ride by a car. On and off whenever we would sight a spot beautiful, we would stop and enjoy the beauty of the place.
We all stayed at Sugendrie’s place where with her husband Amith, she was wonderfully hospitable to all the guests. Despite my sore throat, the function at the branch went off well. Next day came with a great surprise as Naresh, the Chaiperson of Lenasia branch took all of us to a Temple at Erasmia, near Pretoria. This temple is situated in a beautiful spot, ‘Hennoys’ river too running around and the architecture, a typical South Indian style. It is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. He is a popular deity in Kerala, the south-western State of India.
Dr Kollappan of the Pretoria Bhajanai Mandram received me and other guests at the temple entrance. The inside hall space can take about 400 people and the garbha griham (sanctum santorum) was adorned by a gold plated pancha-dhatu vigraham (image of five elements) of Lord Ayyappa. The vibrations that I experienced were unmatched as from the moment that I entered the precincts, I was, as it were transported to a new world where the troubling sore throat and body ache just vanished. Dr Kollappan’s selection of song and the way he sang was inimitable. The loud chanting of “Swamiye sharanam, sharanam Ayyappa” by all inside resonated in the hearts of all. After long many years I could listen in person to a Tamil devotional song being sung in a temple and that too in South Africa! The atmosphere was enthralling, to say the least.
In my Talks to the assembled devotees I expressed my gratitude to Lord Ayyappa without whose Grace that I would not have had the opportunity to visit. I explained that how every Hindu from childhood is trained to adore three devatas – one grama devata – the village God, then the kula devata – the family God and finally the ishta devata – the Chosen deity – and how Lord Ayyappa was intimately familiar to me from my childhood as our pre-monastic family’s kula devata. My talks centred around Lord Ayyappa, His sports with the devotees and the famous Shabarimala in Kerala and finally how devotion to God could enable a person to cope up with the everyday new challenges of this modern era.
Dr Kollappan while speaking about how the conceived idea of building a Temple for Lord Ayyappa came about, narrated the wonderful incidents that brought its fruition ultimately. He was visibly moved and we too, when we learnt that the White gentleman who sold his plot of land had a dream earlier that a Temple would be built there. if you can read Tamil, you can find an article that appeared in Kumudam.