The year was 1971. A few days after the sinking of the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi off the Visakhapatnam coast, an unusual sight was witnessed by residents of the city.
A fleet of vehicles with an army of naval personnel in neatly ironed white uniforms arrived at one of the places of worship in the city – Sri Sampath Vinayaka Temple. Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, then in-charge of the Eastern Naval Command, stepped down from his car. What happened next was marked in the history of the temple.
“It was one of the most unusual sights for us to see such a big battalion of navy personnel and cars outside the temple. Vice Admiral Krishnan got off his car and broke 1,001 coconuts before the deity for saving Visakhapatnam from a possible attack by Pakistan when its submarine Ghazi sank off the coast during the 1971 war,” said T.R. Cholan, founder family member of the temple.
Cholan was a young boy then, but he remembers distinctly how Vice Admiral came to the accompaniment of the naval band.
Sankalp Reddy’s movie The Ghazi Attack has brought the focus on one of the most important chapters in the history of Visakhapatnam, which was also a defining moment for this famous temple.
The entire operation that led to the sinking of PNS Ghazi was carefully masterminded by Vice Admiral Krishnan.
What nobody knew was that the Vice Admiral had quietly visited the Sampath Vinayaka Temple before the Ghazi operations began and offered his prayers there for the successful fulfilment of the classified mission, which was extremely critical for safeguarding the Eastern Coast of India and an incident that defined the outcome of the 1971 Indo-Pak. war, the battle for the liberation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
The Vice Admiral’s visit to the temple after the end of Ghazi became the turning point in the history of the temple. From that day, the temple turned into one of the most famous places of worship in the region.
The temple was constructed in 1962 by T.S. Rajeswaran, T.S. Selvaganesan and the late S.G. Sambandan with their funds for the worship of their family members. “During that time the local fishermen used to offer prayers and vows every day before going to the market for their daily business,” said Mr. Cholan.
After the Ghazi incident devotees made a beeline to offer prayers at the temple. Even as Mr. Cholan narrated the incidents of the 1970s, a crowd of students gathered to offer prayers before heading to their examination centres.
The 83-year-old temple founder Mr. Rajeswaran was seen sitting under a tree near the temple.
“The rise of the Sampath Vinayaka Temple has been phenomenal. I remember very well how Vice Admiral Krishnan attributed the sinking of Ghazi to the grace of God,” said Director of Centre for Policy Studies and former Rector of Andhra University A. Prasanna Kumar.
The temple was taken over by the Endowments Department in 1996 after which Prof. Kumar became a part of the temple’s development committee. Any famous personality visiting the city makes it a point to visit the temple.