Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple
A brief history
1980s: How it all began
In August 1989, a “breakaway” group from the Hindu Society of Victoria, decided to build a Vinayagar temple.
Amongst this group, a core team of people set up the Pro Tem committee and along with other likeminded individuals, began the gigantic task of building the first Vinayagar Temple - Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple - in Victoria.
A trip to India - Twists and Turns
It had already been decided that a Vinayagar Vigraham and the necessary implements required for conducting poojas was to be purchased to set up the first Vinayagar Temple in Victoria.Coincidentally the then-Treasurer Mr Shan Pillai, his wife Parameswary and his mother-in-law Mrs A. Subramaniam were going to India on a pilgrimage, and they offered to obtain the said items whilst in India.They set out on their trip in late September 1989.
On arrival in Chennai, they placed an order and the promised delivery time was 25th October 1989. Special instructions were given to the Stapathy that he had to prepare two Panchaloga Vigrahams and both will be taken to Kanchi Mutt, of which only one will be selected by the Kanchi Swamigal.
Upon returning to Chennai from their pilgrimage, the Pillais discovered that the statues had not been completed and only the implements had been molded.
A solution presents itself
Another Vinayagar statue is ready
On their return journey, as the Pillais were going via Singapore, the two statues were kept in Singapore’s Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple. It was during this time that the “eye- opening” ceremony for both the statues was performed by the famous Visvanatha Kurukkal and a local Stapathi. This attracted some local publicity.
Arrival of Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar in Melbourne
One of the Pro Tem Committee members, Mr Sabapathy Somasundaram carried out the daily early morning rituals of Abhishegams and prayers for the deities during this time. The Moola Moorthy (the granite statue) remained in the house until the Temple was built.
The birth of the Melbourne Vinayagar Hindu Sangam (MVHS)
On the 1st January 1990 function, a lottery was drawn amongst all those who had promised to become a Life Member (payment of $5,000) to select the person who becomes a Trustee of the Temple.Mr J Maheswaran was selected. It was after this event that the work of raising funds began earnestly by members, young and old.
The application for the registration of the Melbourne Vinayagar Hindu Sangam was lodged by Mr Sivagnanam on 7th March 1990. The final registration came through on 29th May 1990 - the day the Society was born. The goal of the Sangam was to build a temple dedicated to Lord Vinayagar.
Pro Tem Pooja Committee established
Every time the deity was taken to the hall, the hall was first swept and then mopped – no matter the size – and then the deity was brought in. This aspect of the cleaning was generally done by Mrs P Senthuran, Mrs Parameswary Pillai, Mrs Rani Thuraisingam and other well-wishers. The deity would be carried by Mr Thanabalasingam, or Mr Kumarakuruparan together with Mr Canagalingam in his van. Mrs A Maheswaran, Mrs P Shanmuganathan and Mrs S Balendran would take turns to cook the food and bring it to the hall for Prasadam.
Fundraising to build the first Vinayagar Temple in Victoria
20th April 1990
Building a home for Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar
The site had formerly housed the disused St. Mary’s Anglican Church.A Building Committee was set up under the leadership of Mr M Maheswaran and this Committee was directed to prepare the necessary drawings, plans and specifications to apply for a planning permit to the City of Knox and take full charge of building the Temple.
Building works in full swing
The first Hindu Temple established in Victoria
It was a momentous affair as all the traditional ceremonies associated with the Consecration was also done, such as “Ennai Sathurathu” (oiling the deities) etc. This was followed by 41 days of Mandalabhishegam. A souvenir magazine was also printed and distributed to all who attended this historic occasion.
Continued fundraising activities
Raffle of Land
One of the big fundraising activities that the Sangam undertook in 1993 was to raffle a piece of land. In this the Sangam managed to get a net profit of $97,000. Mr Thanabalasingam was instrumental in making the application to the Raffle Board to conduct such a different raffle. The tickets were priced at $100 each and members were able to sell over 1,473 tickets at that time, grossing an income of $147,000.
Mr T Sivanathan and Mr S Somasundaram were critical in ensuring the success of this raffle. They were able to convince many of their relatives to purchase the tickets and make this fundraising effort a great success.
Vegetarian Dinners were an annual event that was always well-attended by many in the community. All the Committee Members contributed to the success of these events. In addition, the Friday “Thosai nights” were also a source of income before the Kitchen was built. This was largely spearheaded by Mr and Mrs Sriharan and his group of well-wishers. Members have been providing their assistance in the annual Salvation Army appeal since the beginning of the Sangam. This effort was begun under the leadership of Dr N Shanmuganathan and in the last few years by Mr N Balasubramaniam.
As another fundraising event, members took on contracts for the Temple to do a full wedding – from decorating the Manavarai to cooking the food for the wedding. This was the time when Mr Varatharajalingam and Mr K Thuraisingam made a full garland Manavarai with the help of many of the ladies. All the proceeds from this went towards the building fund of the Temple.
Dr Chandrabanu from Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy, with the help of Ambika, organised a fundraising event, which included participation from Mr Balasri.
Expansion of Temple grounds
In 1995, the house adjacent to the Temple, 1290 Mountain Highway, was purchased to allow the Manager/Caretaker of the Temple to stay. This helped Mr Sivasamy who took on the role of Manager and caretaker of the Temple. He continued in this role for over 13 years and was a key member for the success of this Temple over those years.
Fundraising concerts and approval to build Temple kitchen
In 1996, a music concert by Shoba Shekar and Jayshree Ramachandran raised about $3,000 for the Temple building. The plans for the construction of the Temple kitchen was approved in 1997, after two years of planning, and the kitchen was built soon after.
In 1999, the Temple was impacted by a fire in the front part of the hall which was promptly brought under control. A Mahashanti was performed for this mishap.
The period from 2000 to 2004 is an unfortunate period in the Temple’s history. The Sangam was embroiled in a court case with some members of the Sangam which was eventually resolved by a court mandated settlement.
The years of rebuilding
In 2004, the Panchamuga Vinayagar was brought and a special Consecration ceremony was held for Him.
The house behind the Temple kitchen, 4 Conyers Street, was purchased on 5th December 2005. In the years 2004 to 2009, Ramachandran was one of the key individuals who ensured that both the Temple and kitchen were functioning according to plan.
As part of fundraising and to encourage youth participation, the first Youth Committee was set up. They organised a talent quest, Kshipra, for members of the public on 13th May 2006 at Robert Blackwood Hall. This was a resounding success and the Committee raised over $8,400.
This was the period when the Temple went from paper based receipt books to computerised receipts.
Preparations for the Kumbhabhishegam
A Kumbabhishegam was well overdue, and the Temple needed significant repairs. The community slowly came back together to support the renovations and the building of the three-story Rajagopuram in granite.
In addidtion, the Moolasthanam glass panels were replaced and new ceiling boards incorporated. A Kodisthambam was also made. Several new shrines for Siva, Siva Durga and Murugan were built. Several new deities were also incorporated as niche deities, such as Nagathambiran. Hanuman who was in wooden shed on the tree next to the Temple, was brought in as a niche deity. The Vasantha Mandapam was extended to include Murugan, Valli and Devayani.
New decorations were also completed along the wall of 16 Vinayagars and Astha Luxmis. All this work would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the members of the Building Committee, which was headed by Mr Kanakeswaran and supported by Mr VCS Raghavan.
It was with a great deal of difficulty that Mr Thanabalasingam was able to get the Council’s permission to take the Thaer (Chariot) out on the street. Today, this is part of the Council’s cultural calendar. This is an amazing achievement. Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple is also the first Temple, and continues to be the only temple, that takes the Thaer (Chariot) out in the streets of Melbourne.
2009 - 2012
Multi-purpose hall opening and other community activities
The Temple was able to secure grants from the government to build a multi-purpose hall next to the kitchen. In total, the Temple was able to secure $250,000 worth of grants.
In 2010, a musical program (Isaai Payanam) with Indian playback singers were organised by Mr Yogan Kandasamy in aid of the Temple Building.
All the properties bought for the Temple were consolidated onto one title.
The Balasthabanam for the Nagathambiran and Hanuman was performed to allow a roof over their shrines.
On 14th April 2012, the Melbourne Vinayagar Cultural Hall was completed and opened by Hon David Hodges, the Minister for Ports, Major Projects and Manufacturing.
2013 - 2015
Arrival of the new Thaer/Chariot and building the Thaer shed
The Ther shed was completed and high-speed exhaust system was installed in the Temple to remove the soot from the burning of the oil lamps etc. The rear car park and the associated landscaping was completed.
Once again, the Temple was embroiled in a court case with the ex-president of the Sangam, which was settled out of court eventually.
2015 - 2017
Growing and celebrating 25 years
The Sangam organised a Natheswara Katchery by musicians from India and local musicians in 2016.
It was during this period that the Temple became totally debt free.
The Temple continues to organise a number of activities to cater to the needs of the community. This includes organising poojas, Annathanams on special occasions and marking major festivals in the Hindu calendar in a grand and festive way.
N Balasubramaniam who has missed all the major functions in the Temple only because he has had to manage the car park. Also, he was instrumental in working with Council to remove the power lines to allow the Thaer to navigate smoothly around Conyers Street.
Ds. Manogaran for carrying out all the various maintenance work whenever it happens without regard to the time of the day. Importantly not to forget that he has been the “Parthasarathi” of the Thaer.
B Jeeva for being the 'handyman' of the Temple – from fixing the lights for Deepavali to solving the problem of the slippery tiles in the Canteen.
S. Meera for consistently helping with the annual calendar and helping with the many functions that the Temple has organised.
G Moganaraju for his tireless support in organising many functions. J Rasaratnam for being the consistent volunteer helper in the Temple.
Vasanthi Mohan, Anietha Mohan, and Hari Mano for their dedicated work in sorting, ironing, pricing and selling the old Amman sarees at each major festival. Raj and Rani Nagarajan for ably managing the Temple canteen.
The "garland making" volunteers, the Canteen volunteers, the monthly Temple cleaning volunteers just to name a few of the ‘unseen pillars’ of the Sangam.
What started out as a dream – to build the first Vinayagar Temple – has now become a reality thanks to the various members of the community who have contributed in one way or another. As more people come to hear of Him, His story and His miracles, Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar continues show Himself to His devotees in many ways.