Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangham (ABASS) was founded by Dr. P.A. Velayudhan Pillai of Thiruvananthapuram during the year 1945 to render service to Ayyappa devotees undertaking the arduous journey to Sabarimala. At that time, Travancore Devaswom Board was not even thought of. ABASS was to sole service provider for the pilgrims. Later ABASS was registered as social service organization under The Charitable Societies Act 12 of 1955.
The Sangham provides free yeoman service to Sabarimala pilgrims as indicated below:
- Provision of medicated hot water for drinking, food and shelter for weary, medicines, medical treatment etc.
- Conducts ‘annadanam’ in all the camps especially at Valiyanavattom and at Sannidhanam.
- Operates a well equipped cardiology dispensary at Pampa in association with the Apollo Hospital Madurai.
- Runs a well equipped permanent hospital, staffed by highly qualified doctors, at Sannidhanam.
- Helps re-group the lost devotees during Sabarimala pilgrimage.
- Making use of Sangham ambulance, ferries dead bodies of the pilgrims to their homes.
- Sangham volunteers carry the sick, disabled to hospitals or to their home.
- Thousands of devoted and well trained teams of volunteers carry on service duty in all the above camps during the Sabarimala Festival Sesaon.
- The Sangham has been also undertaking services at Palani Murugan temple, Thiruppathi Tirumala temple and in various other important temples in the country.
- The Sangham also runs schools, libraries, old age homes, hospitals and medical camps in various places as required by the public.
- Pays special attention to help poor people and poor students.
It has a large number of big and small temples under the control of its Branches and Unions etc.
The Sangham publishes a regular Malayalam Magazine entitled ‘Sri Ayyappan’ from Thiruvananthapuram and a Tamil Edition ‘Om Sri Ayyappan’ from Madurai to propagate Sanadhana Dharma among the public.
The above mentioned charitable and humanitarian services are being carried out by the Sangham within its limited financial resources. The huge expenditure incurred for this has to be met mainly from generous donations of the devotees.
At present the Sangham has 3474 Branches, 70 Unions, 3 State Councils and 7151 Life Members in the country and abroad.
The Sangham is administered by its President Sri Thennala G. Balakrishna Pillai M.P. , General Secretary Sri N. Sreenivasan and Treasure Sri. Mohan Kumar under the directions of a central working committee of 41 members, who are elected from a central general body of 501 members of the same.
Origin of ABASS
In the earlier days, there was only one route to reach Sabarimala. The nearest road head terminated at Erumeli. From Erumeli one had to undertake a long difficult trek, along a narrow footpath, through thick tropical forests and steep rocky tracts, with no sign of habitation anywhere. The route went from Erumeli to Azutha to Karimala to Pampa. From Pampa the route ( as it continues today) is via Neelimala – Appachimedu -Sabaripeedom – Saramkuthi Aal – Sannidhanam. Distance from Erumeli to Pampa is 43 kms approximately and from Pampa to Sannidhanam is 7 kms.
The route was infested with leeches and wild life. The area was home to a large variety of wild animals including elephants, leopards and wild boar. As there was no assistance of any form to be expected enroute, every pilgrim had to be self sufficient in terms of provisions, clothing, medicines and cooking utensils. To scare away wild animals, the pilgrims loudly chanted `Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa’ and such other devotional phrases throughout the trek. The whole forest reverberated with this sound during the pilgrimage seasons. The pilgrims, starting from Erumeli, generally opted for a night halt at Karimala before setting course for Pampa on the following day.
54 years ago, in 1945 AD (Malayalam year 1920) Late Dr. PA Velayudhan Pillai, an Ophthalmologist , then working in the Government Eye Hospital at Thiruvananthapuram, was trekking up to the shrine along with a batch of pilgrims. He was an ardent Ayyappa devotee and a regular pilgrim to Sabarimala. Being a doctor he knew the medical risks involved and always carried a stock of first aid and emergency medicines for himself.
At Pampa, someone informed him that a small boy was violently ill with a high fever and was in immediate need of involved medical attention. The doctor rushed to the patient and understood the criticality of the situation. With no medical facilities available anywhere nearby, he decided to treat him with the limited range of medicines that he had carried along. With a prayer on his lips, and eternal trust in Lord Ayyappa, he administered the medicines to the boy. The boy slowly recuperated and went on to complete his pilgrimage. The doctor realised that such situations could arise in future too with probable loss of lives.
It was at this juncture that he thought to himself “Something needs to be done for the large number of pilgrims who are braving these hostile conditions to reach the temple at Sabarimala and have a darshan of Lord Ayyappa. It would no doubt be another form of Seva (or service) to the Lord himself. ”
The following day (12th of January 1945, Dhanu 28 1120 at 5:30 PM) he broached the subject to his fellow pilgrims and associates Shri CV Raman Pillai, Shri R Krishna Pillai , Shri ‘Maryland’ P Subramaniam and V Achutan Nair. There was total convergence of opinion and the seeds of `Ayyappa Seva Sangham’ were sown. This was in the month of `Dhanu’ in the year 1120 (Kolla Varsham) as per the Malayalam Calendar.
At a function at Sri Chitra Theatre, Thiruvananthapuram in April 1945, under the chairmanship of Justice K S Govinda Pillai, Ayyappa Seva Sangham formally elected its first batch of office bearers. The composition of the first committee was as follows:-
|President||-||Justice K S Govinda Pillai|
|Secretary||-||Dr PA Velayudhan Pillai|
|Treasurer||-||Shri P Subramaniam|
|Committee Members||-||Shri CV Raman Pillai, Shri K Chidambaram Thanu Pillai, Shri P K Vaidyan,
Shri G R Pillai, Shri Manikanta Iyer, Shri R Krishna Pillai,
Shri Kumarakom Vaidyan K Parameshwaran Pillai, Vidwan Varanad K P Shastrigal, Shri Achutan Thampi, Shri Keshavan Pillai and Shri R Subramaniam Nair
As a spontaneous gesture, the first monetary contribution, of Rs 600, was made towards Sangham activities by the noted film producer Shri P Subramaniam of Maryland Studio. This is effect made him the first `Life Member’ of ABASS.