M.P. Ravindranathan, Patron, Samantha Samajam (Central Committee)
It was at an informal get-together of several Samantha Community members at the residence of Late Sri. T.M.K. Nedungadi at Palakkad on the 1st of May 1978 (if my memory is right) that the subject of the necessity for the formation of a Samajam for the Samanthas popped up. The idea got unanimous approval and the name “Samantha SevanaSamajam” was decided for the Organization at the meeting. An ad hoccommittee was constituted at the meeting consisting of the following members.
This was soon followed by the setting up of Samantha SevanaSamajam Units at Chundampatta and Nellaya.
The first ad hoc committee formed came to be known as the ‘Central Committee’ and a separate Unit was set up at Palakkad.
Although the initially fixed yearly subscription for membership was only Rs. 9 and the total subscription for life-membership was merely Rs. 101/-, the primary response from the Samantha Community was rather lukewarm.
The first Annual General Body Meeting of Samantha SevanaSamajam was held on the 6th of May 1979 (Sunday) with active participation from the members of Palakkad, Chundampatta, and Nellaya Units.
The meeting once again reiterated its core objectives:
(i) Family concept;
(ii) A helping hand in the field of education.
Under the banner of Samantha Sevana Samajam, a mega event was held at Town Hall, Palakkad, in May 1982.
The morning session consisted of a conclave of Samantha Sevana Samajam and similar organizations from like-minded communities, viz. Varier, Poduval, Namboodiri, Kshatriya, Brahmin, etc. The assemblage called for the formation of a Forward Front at District levels and the State level to protect the rights and interests of the forward communities on a long-term perspective.
The post-lunch session was the Annual General Body Meeting of the Central Committee of the Samantha Sevana Samajam. At the meeting, the need for all round help in the field of education to the deserved in our community was again spelt out. Since then, this has remained the major thrust area of our Samajam till date.
The cultural and variety entertainments that followed turned out to be an eye-opener into the grand talents of our Samantha youth, and the Rolling Trophy instituted was bagged by the Palakkad Unit. The major attraction was a 3-hour long Malayalam Drama “Lottery Ticket” written by Late Sri. P. Narendranath. Sparkling performances in the major roles by Shri. P.K. Vellody (Ex-Canara Bank), Sri. T.M. Devadasan (Ex-AVS, Kottakkal), and Smt. Rema Ravindranath added colour and flavour to the Drama event.
On this occasion, we came out with our first souvenir with articles, poems, etc. from members of our own community. This was made possible with the full support of M/s P.K. Nedungadi & Brothers, Sulthanpet, Palaklkad (presently NedungadiSaree Paradise) and M/s P.K. Nedungadi Bros. (White Shop, G.B. Road, Palakkad). The surplus amount from the Souvenir became the Working Fund of the Central Committee of Samantha Sevana Samajam.
Though originally started as Samantha Sevana Samajam, the organization was registered under the Societies Act as Samantha Samajam due to certain technical reasons, though the very morale of the Samajam remains ‘Sevanam’.
The very backbone of the Palakkad Unit of Samantha Samajam has been the support, inspiration, and contribution from the Ladies Wing which was started as early as 1984. The zeal and enthusiasm given to the Ladies Wing by its Founder President Late Smt. K. Padmavathi Kovilamma (w/o Late Sri. P.K. Nedungadi), the EC Members Smt. P. Radha Nedungadi (w/o Sri. P. Unnikrishnan Nedungadi), Smt. Subhadra Balagopal (w/o Late Sri. A Balagopalan Nedungadi), and many others is really praiseworthy. Even today, the Ladies Wing continues to add colour and vigour to the cultural and social activities of Palakkad Unit. Although the other Units of the Samajam were also encouraged to start their own Ladies Wings, such a step did not materialize. We can surely think of establishing a State Level Committee of the Ladies Wing.
It is the dream of any organization to have an exclusive building of its own. The efforts put forth to realize this dream by the then General Secretary Sri. T.M. Jayaraman Nedungadi, Treasurer Sri. C.S. Nedungadi, and the active and vibrant member Late Sri. C.P. Unnikrishnan Nedungadi cannot be forgotten. Their untiring efforts through frequent visits to every Samantha family of Palakkad finally initiated the materialization of the dream whereby 11 cents of land in the heart of Palakkad City was bought at a total cost of Rs. 35000/-. It is on this land that we have our Samantha Hallsince the year 2000.
Though our wish was to have our own building with hall, our efforts could not raise the large amount required for the purpose, despite the fact that a team of members consisting of myself, Sri. C.S. Nedungadi, and Sri. K. Krishnan Nedungadi (the then Secretary of Palakkad Unit) covered the entire Samantha Community of Kerala and Chennai in an effort to raise the required funds. Consequently, with only limited funds available, we were forced to construct a Hall on pro rata basis, having given the land to a builder for construction of flats.
The Samantha Pathrika was the brain child of Sri. C.P. Unnikrishnan Nedungadi who, although has never occupied any official position of the Samajam, was the main man behind many of the Samajam activities. I wish to salute him on this occasion because, had it not been for his efforts, many of our ventures would not have taken off.
Sri. A.P.G. Kartha (the current General Secretary of the Central Committee) was the first Chief Editor of the Pathrika while Sri. A. Balagopalan Nedungadi was the Managing Editor. Later, the Posts were taken up by Sri. C.P. Janardanan and myself respectively. Though the Publication is exclusively a venture of the Palakkad Unit, it still remains the mouthpiece of the Samantha Community. It is a quarterly publication and 350 copies of it are printed each time, out of which about 250 are sent to the subscribers by post.
As already stated before, the thrust area of the activities of the Samajam since its inception has been ‘Educational aid to the needy’. In the initial stages, the entire demand was met by contributions from some well-wishers and sponsors. Knowing the importance of the continuity in giving educational aid to the needy of our community, a sizeable amount was collected by the Central Committee and the interest on this deposit was utilized for the purpose. The concerned Units used to share 50% of this aid in earlier times. Later on, the interest of the deposit could not alone meet the demands. The requirement amount for the Aid in recent years is seen to be between 2 and 3 lakhs. Now, as it stands, the entireamount for the purpose is contributed by Sri. Bhanunni Vellody (‘Powerica Ltd.’) and the concerned Units are not asked to bear any burden. The Central Committee of the Samantha Samajam remains indebted to Shri. Bhanunni Vellody.
Further, in addition to the Educational Aid for the needy, scholarships to the meritorious students of Samantha families are also being sponsored by some of our members.
The Palakkad Unit had started an Industrial Technical Institute in 1982, offering Certificate courses in Industrial Technology in Palakkad town in a rented building. Though we had tried our best, we could not get approval from the Technical Wing of the Education Department, Trivandrum. Consequently, we had to wind up our effort.
A Kindergarten was started in 2004, mainly through the efforts of Late Sri. K. Mohandas Vellodi and Late Smt. Nalini Ravindranath. Though this playschool was in our own Samantha Hall and we could canvass quite a number of students, we could not continue with it further due to a general lack of support.
The Silver Jubilee of the Samajam was celebrated at Palakkad with great enthusiasm. I remember that the major part of the entertainment programmes on the occasion was performed under the banner of Palakkad Youth Wing.
On this occasion also, we came out with a Souvenir and the surplus income from the venture was transferred to the Education Corpus Fund for upholding the highest objective of the Samajam.
The Central Committee used to get various requests for financial help to meet expenses related to repairing/construction of houses, hospitalization, purchase of sewing machines, starting tailoring units, etc. These aids used to be sponsored by our members, as there was no specific fund with the Central Committee for such help. At an Annual General Body Meeting held at Nellaya, it was decided to have a new fund called ‘Sahayanidhi’ and the initial contribution was made by Adv. Sri. M.P. Udayavarman. Since then, many of our members have been contributing and the details of contribution are being regularly published in our Samantha Pathrika. An amount of about 3 lakhs has so far been distributed for such needs.
Samantha Kshema Sabha, a division under the wings of Samantha Samajam, was started by the initiative of Late Sri. C.P.Unnikrishnan Nedungadi (Retd. Asst. Commissioner of Sales Tax, Palakkad) and Late Sri. P.R. Nedungadi (Retd. Deputy Collector, Palakkad). This was registered as a Trust in September 1997 and has been doing an immense amount of work in the field of charity. The required capital was brought in from our own members in deposits but the benefits of charity have not been restricted to our own members. This Trust was a feeder to many of the activities of our Samajam. In due course, non-performing assets (NPAs) mounted up. Though a major portion of the NPAs could be realized later due to the untiring efforts of Sri. A.P.G. Kartha (President of the Trust) and Sri. Vasudevan Thirumulpad (Secretary of the Trust), the activities of the Trust are rather subdued now. The office of the Trust is housed in our Samantha Hall itself.
The Youth Wing of the Palakkad Unit was started with the initiative of our vibrant youth leader Late Sri. K. Santhosh Nedungadi. The Wing conducted numerous activities involving the Samantha youth of Palakkad. These included conducting quiz competitions for school/college students as well as debate and painting competitions at school level, and contributing in various other ways to the common cause of education.
The youth were always in the forefront of the activities required for the conduct of Annual General Body Meetings. I also remember they had a very good music group with highly talented singers and had performed in almost all of the AGBMs.
I must also state that, under the dynamic leadership of Sri. Viju Kumar Nedungadi and Sri. Muraleedharan P.C. Ellad, the Samantha youth of Nellaya have vibrantly assisted the activities of the Nellaya Unit. The very noteworthy project of collecting a huge amount of 6.5 lakhs required for the Cochlear Implant for a girl child of our Community was done by the Samantha Youth Wing of Nellaya and this paved the way for the bright future of the child. The Central Committee of the Samajam helped in getting a significant amount for the purpose from the members of the Samajam. The tireless efforts of the team, led by Sri. Viju Kumar Nedungadi and Sri. Muraleedharan P.C, succeeded in collecting a considerable amount from various colleges and schools. The news item that they were able to get published in the very front page of the Mathrubhoomi Daily had helped prominently in generating a sizeable amount from the kind-hearted readers of India and abroad. Their liaison work was such that the doctors of the Al Shifa Hospital (Perinthalmanna) performed the surgery for the Implant without charging any fees. Further, the burden of the cost of the required medicines was entirely borne by three doctors, namely Dr. Sharafudheen.P.K (presently C.E.O of Ascent Hospital), Dr. Anuradha Varma (presently working Ascent Hospital) and Dr. Naveen (presently working in Mangalore).
I am extremely glad that under the able leadership of Sri. Viju Kumar Nedungadi (Nellaya), Sri. Sreesanth.P.S Eradi (Chudampetta), Sri. Sreejith Vellodi (Manjeri), Sri Sreejith.K.Nedungadi (Bengaluru), Sri Rahul.K.Nedungadi (Palakkad) and Smt. Nanditha Paritosh Kovilamma (Palakkad), a new full-fledged form of the Youth Wing, namely “Kerala Samantha Yuvajana Samithi” (KSYS) has been formed, and has started strongly on activities to strengthen Samantha unity.
In the month of August 2015, fate dealt a shattering blow to the Samantha Samajam in the form of the untimely death of young Sri. K. Santhosh Nedungadi. All of us were pinning high hopes on this self-made personality to lead the Samajam from all fronts. Though very young, he had already become a much matured gentleman who knew the pulse of Samantha Samajam more than anyone. He perhaps attained this characteristic from his father Late Sri. C.P. Unnikrishnan Nedungadi who was a pillar of strength for the Samajam in many of its ventures. Santhosh never accepted any post in the organization but remained as an executive member of the Central Committee, that too due to strong persuasion from many of us. Like his father, he had a big vision.
I was very closely associated with Santhosh. When he came to me and expressed his desire to come out with a documentary on Samanthas, a project with an expenditure of about 2 lakhs, I got as much thrilled as he was about the idea. Though some of our close associates of the Samajam expressed their apprehension about raising the enormous amount required, I encouraged Santhosh and fed him confidence. I asked him to go ahead with the project without thinking about how the money required would be raised. He continued on his project and kept me informed of the development at all stages. He got cooperation from all sectors of our community including our respected Patrons, especially Dr. T.M. Sarvothaman Nedungadi. His enthusiasm was such that the renowned novelist Sri. M.T. Vasudevan Nair as well as Eminent historians like Dr. M.G.S. Narayanan and Sri. S. Rajendu helped him in the venture with profound willingness. Despite his busy office schedule, Santhosh found time to take the entire crew in his own Maruti Van to all the places where shooting was scheduled by Director Sri. Achuthanand Nellaya and Cinematographer Sri. Praveen Iyyani. His efforts finally yielded an invaluable historical documentary about Samanthas on CD, namely “Theliyunna Desha mudrakal, Thudarunna Vamsha gadhakal”.
The CD “Theliyunna Desha mudrakal, Thudarunna Vamsha gadhakal”, depicting a history of the Samanthas in a lucid format, was released by Prof. P.A. Vasudevan, PRO, Mathrubhoomi, at a function held at the Fine Arts Society Hall, Palakkad on the 6th of April 2014 in the elite presence of Sri. Mundur Sethumadhavan, Sri. S. Rajendu, Sri. M.P. Udayavarman Thirumulpad (our distinguished Patron), Sri. A.P.G. Kartha (our General Secretary), and Sri. P.V. Ravindran (the then Palakkad Unit President). I was the President at the function which was attended by a large number of Samanthas and a cross-section of the Palakkad public, totaling about 500.
The CD, as mentioned before, was the brainchild of Late Sri. K. Santhosh Nedungadi, and the result of his tremendous individual efforts. An edited version of the documentary was later presented at the AGBM of the Calicut Unit by Santhosh himself, and he was felicitated by the Calicut Unit at the function for his tremendous contribution to the Samantha Community. Santhosh lives on in our memories and also through the invaluable film documentary on Samanthas.
The Birth Centenary of the famous Nedungadi Twins ― the renowned ayurvedic physician Late Sri. T.M. Gopi Nedungadi and the renowned Kathakali Singer Late Sri. T.M. Vasu Nedungadi, stalwarts in their respective fields during their illustrious careers ― was celebrated on the 20th of April 2018 at Palakkad under the auspices of Samantha Samajam and Kottakkal Aryavaidya Sala. The arrangements for the glorious event were made by the families of the twins, spearheaded by Sri. A. Radhakrishnan Nedungadi (son-in-law of Late T.M. Gopi Nedungadi). The event, which consisted of two seminar sessions ― one on Ayurveda and the other on Kathakali Sangeetham ― was well-attended and was magnificent in its content. The event concluded with a grand Kathakali performance.
As of now we have 9 Units ― Palakkad, Chundampatta, Nellaya, Calicut, Kottakkal, Ernakulam, Kottapuram, Manjeri, and Nandipulam.
For many years, the Annual General Body Meetings used to be held at Palakkad only. However, for the last 10 years or so, other Units have also come forward to host the event. These include the Chundampatta, Calicut, Nellaya, and Kottapuram Units.
I must gladly place on record that perhaps the most attended AGBM ― in fact, a mega-event ― in recent times was the one hosted by the Kottapuram Unit at the Karimpuzha Sreerama Swami Temple on the 22nd of May 2016. It was a wonderful get-together and a fabulous cultural event in which several shining Samantha dignitaries in the academic, cultural, and social fields were respectfully felicitated with presentation of “Ponnadas” and mementos in recognition of their contribution in their respective fields. Hats off to Sri. Sudhakaran (President), Sri. Suresh (Secretary), and the whole of the Kottappuram Unit Team who made the event a memorable one.
The 39th AGBM-2017 of the Samajam hosted by the Nellaya Unit at Cherplassery was also a very good get-together of the Samantha Members. The meeting approved a proposal of the Eranakulam Unit to observe October 11 ― the date of birth of Sri. T.M. Appu Nedungadi ― as the World Samantha Day every year.
The 40th Annual General Body Meeting was conducted by the Palakkad Unit as ‘Ruby Jubilee Celebrations” on the 20th of April 2018 at Palakkad. The event was very well attended by members from all Units. The Ernakulam Unit representatives announced at the Meeting that they would be organizing programmes on the World Samantha Day this year at Ernakulamin rather a big way, and solicited the presence of members from all Units at the event to make it a grand success. The preparations for the grand event are moving ahead well at the time of writing this article.
I have shared some memories, rather a rough scan, of the events related to the activities of the Samajam since its formation in 1978. This flashback was one intended to emphasize on the origin, concept, and objectives of Samantha Samajam, and I hope that it would be useful to our members.