Sunday, June 03, 2007


Tharangambadi Masilaamani Nathar Temple

Visit on 18th of March, 2007

This writer could not continue writing this travelogue, as his mind used to wander back to Tharangambadi and think of the lone Shiva Lingam in the darkest of midnights staring at the sea, with just the shrine around him. We regret the delay in presenting this to all readers. Few weeks before, there was an article in Tamil Daily Dinamani by Mr.Kirungai Sethupathi about this temple, which has been well documented.

The Tharangambadi Masilaamani Nathar Temple, also called as Kulasekarapattinam in Silappadigaaram, where Kannagi is introduced in this place where the Chettiyars did commerce, is today a non-descript place with the ASI board at the entrance. This Temple built in 1305 A.D by Maravarman Sundara pandya exhibits outstanding architectural skills. This is explained well in this web page.

The Temple is in total ruins, with the stark contrast to the Danish fort which is fully made of mud and lime stone. The Danish Government, the Christian missionaries who are in full force doing there job of spreading their religion around and INTACH (which has bought its own house near the temple spot) are doing their bit in the name of conservation.

Members Chandrasekaran and Sundhar Athreya were not aware of what was in store. But the sight of the ruins and the waves hitting the only left piece of history, the sanctum sanctorum broke the silence claiming, “Sea ...me, see me!”

The top temple Vimanam, sliced and thrown into the sea talks its own story to tell. Whom and what to blame? The tsunami, the care takers of the temple HR and CE, or the poor Hindus who do not have much to contribute to the might of rebuilding the temple..?

When we had informed the villagers well in advance about our intentions of taking note of the situation there and our intention to help them in rebuilding the temple, another flood of people thronged from all walks of life, the fishermen village heads, teachers, artisans, lawyers and Hindu activists..! Name a kind, you could see them there. Before starting our discussion, one member invoked Lord Shiva in a loud and clear voice, singing the Thevaram by ending it with chants of Aum (Om) thrice. When all were silent, the sea waves lashing the shores also synchronized with this Omkaaram! Both sounds merged and created a magical and mystical aura around, as all became more attentive in the progress of the discussion.

Then Sundar Athreya gave a fiery and though provoking speech on why and how we need to work relentlessly on Temple Renovations and understanding our own culture through these living Heritages.

After a lengthy discussion, the villagers requested us to talk to the HR and CE commissioner’s office at Chennai to utilize the funds sanctioned recently in the current Tamil Nadu Budget in the right way, by reclaiming the sand that has been washed away and fill the inundated sea water within the old temple campus ( this is a non-entity now, the temple boundary, as mentioned by few old members is existing only in our memory or in the minds of people who have good imagining powers, by comparing the wall of the adjacent Dutch fort!) with the 50 lakh sanctioned to the HR and CE as well as the 3 crore odd Indian rupees sanctioned for building a bund wall to stop further erosion across the sea, a post-tsunami relief fund also in a transparent way.

REACH foundation is approaching the appropriate Government bodies to discuss these issues and it would be a welcome step if the Government missionary runs hands in hand with the confidence of local people, with the technical help of REACH foundation coming forward, free for them! Of course, some haphazard patch up is going on in the name of renovation, within the temple premises, which none of the people we met, liked. There is also a Government proposal to shift the temple to inner area, which is also not liked by the locals. They wish the Government to speed up the restoration act with the help of technical group like REACH and are willing to cooperate in all means to see the temple get back its sublime glory!

This is one of the few temples in South India on a sea shore, and the second one in whole of India next to Somnath. The villagers wish that this would become the Somnath of South, where bakthas would throng in masses daily and the place become a great tourist attraction for this temple as well as for the Dutch treat (fort) near by.

We also visited the nearby Shiva temple, owned by a private family, being restored by INTACH. There was a beautiful Bhairava Statue as well as another unknown idol. (The writer could not know).

Can experts name and identify that? There was also another Vishnu temple nearby, which at least had a proper temple building, but uncaring people had made it totally unkempt. We requested the villagers to at least clean this temple at the earliest. One member came forward to operate the temple bell here on a daily basis, morning and evening at 6.O’clock.

We bid adieu to all promising to do our best. Before that, we entered the sanctum sanctorum. The Shiva Lingam and its serene look towards the sea had its own eerie effect. The other consorts of the temple are kept safely in a nearby house donated by a kind hearted Brahmin and pujas continue till date. The site of Sapthamatrikaas itself talks about the ancientness of this temple. (Sapthamatrikaas were the most ancient form worshipped by Hindus)

The name of the Lord and his Devi are sweeter than the serenity around. Masilaamani nathar – meaning Jewel without a blemish and Aram Vazhartha Nayagi – Dharma Rakshambikai in Sanskrit – The Goddess who patronized truth and law – Will the current rulers restore these Gods in their righteous place?

There is this Thevaram sung by Appar,

"Maasil Veenaiyum Maalai Madiyamum
Veesu Thendralum Veengila Venilum
Moosu Vandarai Poigayum Pondradey,
Eeasan Endhai Inayadi Neezhaley!"

( Faultless Veena Hymns, Evening Moon, The cool Breeze, the righteous season, honey bees buzzing around the flowers in the ponds, Oh, Shiva, surrendering your lotus feet makes me feel all these)

We do not know at what context and situation Appar sung this, but believe this should have come from him in this serence surroundings, the sea, the breeze and the silence around the Shiva Lingam.

And see how the temple was once upon a time! Here, with the front mandap

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