Sabarimala or St Louis; for priest Nararayanan Namboothiri, temple is guiding light

The main deity of St Louis Temple, which was established two-and-a-half decades ago, is Lord Venkiteswara. P N Narayanan Namboothiri. Photo: Special arrangement

From the hallowed precincts of Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple, where you reach after climbing the pathinettam padi, or the divine 18 steps devotees climb after an uphill trek to reach the sanctum sanctorum, P N Narayanan Namboothiri took a sweeping detour. Namboothiri, who was the high priest, or Mel Shanthi, of the Lord Ayyappa Temple, where millions of devotees flock from all over the world, has crossed the seven seas. He is now the priest in the Hindu temple at St Louis in Missouri.

A quarter-century-old temple
The main deity of St Louis Temple, which was established two-and-a-half decades ago, is Lord Venkiteswara. The deities of Lord Rama and Sita, Lord Krishna and Radha, Ganapathi, Hanuman, Subrahmanyaswami, Goddess Lakshmi and Ayyappan also adorn the temple. The temple has 18 idols and six priests including Narayanan Namboothiri, who reached the US only a month ago. The Ayyappa Temple here has been conceived on the lines of Sabarimala, where Narayanan Namboothiri was the head priest in 2013-14.

The deity of Lord Ayyappa at St Louis Temple. Photo: Special arrangement

A huge canvas
Namboothiri says the US is a huge canvas of people who speak different languages and follow different cultures and customs. The St. Louis temple is run by Kannadigas and Telugu devotees. Even while living in the US, their aim is to pass on their culture and customs to the coming generations. The Telugu-Kannidiga community’s rituals are based on Agama Sastra. In Kerala, the deity worship rituals are based on Tantra Sastra.

Narayanan Namboothiri was the head priest of Sabarimala Temple in 2013-14.

Lofty aims
The aim of the St. Louis temple is not to spiritually uplift the Indian diaspora. It is envisaged to usher in social service also. There are facilities for more than 1,000 people to gather at a time and have food at a cheap rate on Saturdays and Sundays. A 5-star kitchen functions for this purpose.

Narayanan Namboothiri with wife Rathi Narayanan. Photo: Special arrangement

The library has many books in Hindi, English, Telugu and Kannada, including ancient manuscripts. This model can be replicated in grand temples in Kerala also, Narayanan Namboothiri feels. Temples should transform as the leading lights that guide us towards the path of knowledge, says he.

Devotees at St Louis Temple. Photo: Special arrangement

The silver jubilee of the temple will be celebrated with a festival, ‘Brahmolsavam,’ from May 24 to May 28. This year, for the first time, the Pongala festival was organised, and thousands thronged the temple to participate in it. The ‘Rathasapthami’ festival was also celebrated on the seventh day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Magha, by the Kannadiga and Telugu population. It marks the beginning of the warm season, when the Sun God turns his chariot to the northern hemisphere, indicating the beginning of longer days and warmer weather and also the harvest season.

The deity of Lord Ayyappa at St Louis Temple. Photo: Special arrangement

The temple is open for worship from 9 am to 12 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm. On weekends, it is open from 8.30 am to 8.30 pm. The sacred offering, or prasadam, of the temple is Ladoo, on the lines of the Sri Tirumala Tirupati temple. The offerings to the deity are mostly Vahana (vehicle) pooja and Archana.

Narayanan Namboothiri hails from Kothamangalam Thrikariyur Panagattampalli Illam. He was selected as Sabarimala Chief Priest (mel shanthi) while he was performing priestly duties at Perumbavoor Dharma Sastha temple.

P N Narayanan Namboothiri with an office-bearer of St Louis Temple. Photo: Special arrangement
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