A Beginning : The Naga Sai Temple at Madurai is one of the oldest temples dedicated to Shri Shirdi Sai Baba. Historical records indicate that the Temple exists since pre-independence days from 1942.
The temple was started by an eminent gathering of Sai devotees, who came together to form the Sri Sai Baba Bhakta Sabha. The Association was registered under the Societies Act, 1945.
Its most active members were Shri A Rajamannar Naidu and Dr Suryanarayanan, who were members of the All India Sai Samaj, started by Shri Narasimhaji Swamy in Mylapore, Chennai.
3rd Convention of All India Sai Samaj : The third convention of the All India Sai Samaj was held in Madurai in 1949, It was a grand affair with the personal organization of Shri S Rajamannar Naidu and Dr Suryanarayanan. The convention was blessed by the presence of Shri Narasimhaji Swami himself.
Inception : The temple was initially located within the campus of Sree Meenkshi Sundareshwarar Temple's Mela Adi Veedhi, until 1959.
In 1964, Shri A Rajamannar Naidu and Ramarathina Ammal family donated 35 cents of land at Gandhi Nagar for the construction of a temple of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba.
The new temple was a beehive of activities since its consecration in 1964. And was witness to a number of events and festivals.
Thousands of Sai devotees thronged the temple festival days, and it became a popular destination for visitors to Madurai.
1964 Convention of All India Sai Samaj : A historic occasion at the Temple was the All India Convention of the All India Sai Samaj at the temple in 1964. The convention was graced by the presence of Chief Minister Bhakthavatsalam, Madurai Collector TN Seshan and Sai Devotees Basheer Baba and Hegde.
Subsequent to the demise of both the founding trustees, the then Deputy Collector of Madurai, Mr G Govindaraju (son-in-law of A Rajamannar Naidu) took over the administration of the Temple. He took a lot of efforts to convert the tiled roof building into a huge structure. The services of Professional architects were engaged, and substantial funds were spent in structural changes.
But, a residential neighborhood, and the lack of an approach from the Main Road were major deterrents in the development of the temple. For almost 54 years, the lack of funds, and lack of proper infrastructure became a major issue.
Change of Management : At this juncture, Mrs Zeenath Kanagaraj Sai, belonging to the third generation of Raja Mannar Naidu's family assumed charge as the Secretary of the Temple.
Baba's blessings guided her in this daunting challenge, by transferring land to Arvind Eye Hospital, who proposed to build a charity eye hospital and research center.
A devoted team of trustees soon started to take shape under the leadership of Mrs Zeenath Sai. One of the major decisions of the Trust was to move the temple out of the present premises.
A New Location : The major turning point came in 2003, with the acquisition of a 7 cent area on the Main Road in Andalpuram, on the T P K Road. The construction of the new temple began in right earnest.
With contributions, large and small, from all sections of the people the entire structure was ready in three years by 2006, with the installation of a marble statue acquired from Jaipur. The original idol of Shri Naga Sai was installed in the southwest corner of the Temple Hall and the Dhuni on the southeast side of the premises.
The temple was consecrated on August 31st 2006, with the performance of Kumbhabhishekam, which was witnessed by a large number of devotees.
The Temple has seen tremendous developments over the past five years. The Thiruvachi has now been gold plated and a gold kavacham for the Naga Sai has been provided. The temple has been air conditioned and the road in the front has been laid with paver blocks for the convenience of the old and infirm devotees.
Today, the temple is witness to a number of festivals which includes celebration of Sri Ramanvami, Guru Poornima, Vararshabhishegam (August 30th and 31st) and Samadhi Day functions. And there is a continuous stream of devotees on all days, especially on Thursdays and Sundays.
TRUST : On the eve of Kumbhabhishegam in 2006, a Trust with the name “Sri Shirdi Baba Charitable Trust’ was formed and the Temple is now being administered by the Trust with Mrs Zeenath Kanagaraj Sai as the President and Managing Trustee, Dr S Prabhu as the Secretary and Mr Sureshkumar B Raheja as the Treasurer. The other Trustees are Mr G Somasundaram, Mr L L Ramamoorthy, Mr Rama Gunasekaran, Dr T Rajagopal, Mr G Rajaratna Sai and Mrs Kameswari Rengababu, with the first two as vice-presidents.
The Trust has embarked upon a lot of charitable programmes over the past three years – educational assistance to needy school and college students (financial assistance and distribution of note books), conducting medical camps [free medical camp for children on first Sunday of every month], feeding at old age homes, orphanages and other ashrams on a regular basis and providing biscuit packets for the inmates at various hospitals and ashrams.
Dr. Naganath Suryanarayanan was born on 17 of June 1898 at Madurai. From an early age he was profoundly moved by the plight and sufferings of the poor and sick which influenced him to become a doctor. Millions of Indians suffered from blindness caused by 'cataract', an eye disease curable through surgery and this 'mission for vision' for the multitude became his life long work.
After training as an eye surgeon he started his practice as an ophthalmologist at Madurai in 1923; which flourished continuously for the following six decades as a dedicated service to hundreds and thousands of patients. He was relentless in the pursuit of his noble mission.
He founded the 'South India Eye Relief Society' in the mid-forties and was the pioneer in organizing 'Eye Camps' successfully for the poor in the villages and carried out cataract surgery in the thousands which transformed their lives immensely. He was also closely associated with many public organizations and held high offices and he was honored with several awards for his contribution to many causes with selfless devotion.
He never sought publicity for his philanthropic activities. He was a devoted Hindu, practicing universal charity. He had the blessings of the great saints including Kanchi Maha Swamigal and Shri Chandrasekara Bhrati of Sringeri. He was an ardent devotee of Shirdi Sri Sai Baba. His motto in life was "Serving the poor is devotion to God."
His demise came suddenly a few weeks before his ninety-fourth birthday. His message transcends all divisions and remains eternal.