Dr Herbert Herring, the former director of the ‘German Cultural Institute’ in Chennai, and his wife Dr Lakshmi Chettur came across the many tribal communities around Gudalur during one of their travels. The subhuman life led by the tribal communities touched their hearts and the two of them soon settled down in Gudalur, to serve these communities. In 1991, they started Samaritan Gramodharan Samithy.
They chose Gudalur as the operational location for Samaritan, with the aim of helping the neglected tribals and other financially struggling people of Gudalur in the Nilgiri district and its suburbs to a reasonable existence and a better future.
With 8 out of 10 people suffering from ill health and malnutrition, supplying medical aid and food was the initial priority. A clinic with one full-time doctor and nurse was opened. Over the years, the target community’s needs shaped the organisation’s operations.
In 2002, after the demise of Dr Herring, Dr Lakshmi carried the mission forward with fervour. But, as the years rolled on, she felt the need to entrust the organization to safe hands. She tried many famous institutions but found a cultural fit with the secular organization with Sevalaya. A visit to Sevalaya’s Kasuva campus reconfirmed her belief that Sevalaya would be the best cradle for Samaritan.
Genesis of Sevalaya: realization of a childhood vision
The thought process that later led to the formation of Sevalaya was born when V Muralidharan was 11 years old. While reading a poem by Mahakavi Bharathiyar, he came across an intense verse that said: “There’s nothing holier than providing education to the poor”. This mantra germinated as
Sevalaya, which means “Temple of Service”. Around the same time, young Muralidharan used to visit Sri Ramakrishna and got inspired by the powerful quotes of Swami Vivekananda. “Even if a dog goes hungry in this world, what
is the point in having so many Gods, so many religions, so many temples?” Swami Vivekananda had asked persuasively. The mantra for feeding the hungry later took the shape of homes for the destitute, the poor and the orphans. Another lasting influence on young Muralidharan was Mahatma
Gandhi’s autobiography, “The story of my experiments with Truth”, Gandhiji’s vision of villages becoming selfsupporting and self- dependent later shaped Sevalaya’s blueprint for rural development. Sevalaya came into being in May 1988. By then, Muralidharan had gained the confidence to do so, having finished his Engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and spent 4 years in IT industry. Muralidharan gave up his lucrative and flourishing career with Tata Consultancy Services in 2009, after completing 25 years in IT industry, to devote full time to Sevalaya.
Prof Dr S V Mani
Joint General Secretary
Executive Committee Members
Anupriya L N
Secretary - Quality
Kingston A A
Secretary - Project
Dinesh Kumar B
Secretary - HR
Mohan Raj R
Secretary - Purchase