The Bangalore-based Malayali Sajeev Manayangath runs the portal devaayanam.in, where online booking of pujas in temples of Kerala can be done easily
Photos: Sajeev Manayangath by Sanesh Saka; the devaayanam logo
By Shevlin Sebastian
Life was going well for Sajeev Manayangath. He had a flourishing career in the IT industry, a good family life and a vibrant social circle. And then, suddenly, he had a health alarm. A test showed that he had a rare cardio-vascular condition. “The situation was very bad,” he says. Doctors in India said that there were very few doctors worldwide who could do this surgery. With the help of friends and relatives, he was able to locate a team of doctors in Houston. They did a 10-hour surgery on him at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital
Post-surgery, Sajeev improved and then deteriorated suddenly. He had to be put on a ventilator. But thankfully, he was able to make a full recovery. But while he was recuperating in the hospital, he reflected on his life. “I concluded that there was a reason why God pulled me back from death and towards life,” he says. “I decided that I should spend the rest of my life doing something meaningful.”
But he did not know what. But he was moved by the many people who sent him messages and went to temples to pray for his health. However, a few told him that they found it difficult to conduct pujas at particular temples. “The only way was to go there or ask the local people near the temple,” he says. “That is difficult for those who live outside Kerala or abroad.”
That was when Sajeev came up with the idea of a software platform that will enable temples to have an online presence. And people could book pujas at these temple websites. He has teamed up with his cousin Santhosh Poothankurissi who is already providing IT help for major temples.
The website, www.devaayanam.in, is up and running. Incidentally, the word 'devaayanam' means a path to God. On the home page, the temples are placed under six sections: Bagavathy, Shiva, Hanuman, Vishnu, Sarpam and Ayyappa temples.
If you click on the Bagavathy Temple icon, you go to a page, where there are the names of 12 districts beginning with Palakkad and ending with Idukki in a column on the left. So, if you click on Palakkad, the first temple that comes up is the Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagawathy Temple. The sub-headings give the names of the deities. And there is an online booking section, where you can book the puja you want. “The money is channelised to the temple bank account, through our website and we will inform the temple authorities by email,” says Sajeev. “On the day of the puja, a reminder is sent by SMS.”
So far, 40 temples have put up their websites. There will be another 125 which will be put up soon. However, the total number of temples in Kerala, big and small is about 7000. “So, there is a long way to go,” says Sajeev, with a smile.
Asked the advantages of using the website, Sajeev says, “The benefit for temples is that they are getting a lot more requests from all over the world. So, there is an income generation. The charges range from Rs 10 to Rs 5000 for an entire day's puja,” says Sajeev.
And for those who want to be present physically, there are also advantages, especially if they are going to popular temples where there is always a long queue. “The devotee can pre-book through our website, and avoid the rush,” says Sajeev. “Many are doing this.”
Asked about the temple which receives the most requests, Sajeev says that it is the Alathur Hanuman Temple, near Tirur in Malappuram. “The devotees have tremendous faith in Lord Hanuman,” says Sajeev. “Many wishes have been granted. [The late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister] J. Jayalalitha and former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram have prayed there.”
When Chidambaram lost the Lok Sabha elections from the Sivaganga constituency in 2009, based on initial counts, the media reported that he prayed at this temple and won in the end. That brought the temple into the limelight. The other popular temples include the Panniyur Sri Varahamurthy temple at Palakkad and the Madayikavu temple at Kannur.
Meanwhile, among the many pujas done, the most recurring are the pushpanjali (daily placing of flowers and prayers), as well as the mritunjayhomam puja (to resolve your health issues).
Interestingly, there are Christians and Muslims who also book pujas. But Sajeev is not surprised. “Syncretism is in the DNA of the people,” he says.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvannathapuram and Kozhikode)