I went to sabarimala in 1994 with Sadaputa Prabhu. He was researching the mahajyothi for a book he was writing. When it came time to film the mahajyothi (evening of makara sankranti) his camera battery died, literally the second the jyothi came.

Bhaktivinoda Swami (Sarvaishvarya prabhu then) arranged for us to stay inside the temple with the bank manager of Lakshmi Vilasa Bank, who was managing the hundi collection for the temple. When coming down the hill, the bank manager brought a large battered steel trunk and loaded it in his jeep. While driving back to Coimbatore he stopped for tea, and Sadaputa got out to stretch his legs. I was the only one left in the jeep with the steel trunk.

The bank manager came to the side window, pointed to the trunk and said “Keep an eye on it and don’t get out. Its 1 crore rupees inside. I’m going for tea.” Back then 1 crore rupees was worth what would be like 10 cores today. So I sat there alone in the old jeep with the battered steel box full of a huge sum of money, which was the hundi collection from the Sabarimala temple.

Pictures are darshana of Ayyappa deity at Sabarimala (not taken by me).