Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Cleaning of Natham Temple at ECR near Kalpakkam

When we got a call from the Shri. Srinivasan of Vadapalani Temple Cleaners Group, (Hindu Aalayangal Sutham Seyyum Narpani Mandram), saying that their cleaning to be done at Parameswarimangalam near Seyyur on ECR Road, will be totally different and a treasure trove for archealogical lovers, we were wondering whether it was an understatement! This place is some 8 kms from Kalpakkam. So, member Chandrasekaran called upon Deepika and archeology student and Mr. Raveen, the Zoology Professor of Thambaram Christian College who was interested in archaeological excavations to come to this village. Member Guruvelevan’s I.T. friends from TCS, Krishnan Bala, Sitaraman, Sundararaman, Janakiraman,Vijayakumar and Ganesamurthy also wanted to help us out in the temple cleaning activity!

Trustee member P.N. Subramaniam, as usual, was the first one to visit along. Entering Parameswarimangalam@ Natham through the non-descript road which takes a right turn from the main ECR road, opposite the road to Kadalur (not the other Kadalur; this is a hamlet near the shore with similar name) and asking several passers-by made us think otherwise, but on reaching the temple site and having a glance at its grandeur and the size of the land around, made us feel very pathetic of its current state. A towering vimana, stone made mandap with sanctum sanctorum, engraved with full of inscriptions inside-out, at sides, on path walks, pillars, the front mandapa etc. The dwara palakas, among whom one has fallen down, due to nature empowering their stature, the broken sinha (lion) bedded pillar which has the rarest of pallava grantha inscriptions, all made our head reel for a while.
The Nandi, stark in contrast by size and colour was facing the opposite side and not towards the lingam. The icon stood out against passage of time and so were the sculptures inside the sanctum sanctorum. The bronze icons some 30 in numbers, were all exposed without much of safety. The priests, who are doing pooja here for generations, lamented the situation and requested that at least the bronzes be kept under safe custody, by making grilled gate safe with lock and key.

During the Muslim invasion in yester years, this temple was targeted in particular as it was parallel in size as that of the Thirukazhukundram temple in the nearby region. No wonder all the sculptures are broken, the pillars and stones from walls are pulled out and few have made way to build a mosque at a nearby place. Crossing a paddy filed nearby, the villagers showed us how the pillars and stones with inscriptions are used in the mosque. A Persian writing has been written across and some new interest has made some of the local Muslims start over again rebuilding this 500-year-old open mosque again. The villagers are not claiming the pillars and stones back to the temple fearing antagonizing their brethren, even though there are hardly few Muslim families within the village. The local Muslims can at least return back the stones and pillars which bear the inscriptions, as they are the proof of historical evidences of what this place was and the temple was in those days! See photos

The series of stone inscriptions from the base starts with Pallava Grantham, earlier inscriptions and above which periodically Kings have updated their contribution one after the other, till the later Cholas of this region. If only an epigraphist student comes down to write down all the inscriptions here, they would end up spending at least some 3 months to decipher and complete the project! And eventually they’ll master epigraphy, as all samples are very much within the same premises!!

The statues inside are also unique. The Devi, Parvathi worships Shiva in Lakshmi form, bearing lotuses in both hands! The weapons usually found in Parvathi’s hands are missing.
The legend goes like this:
As Parvathi took Lakshmi roopam (form), Shiva advised her to worship Vishnu and was turning away from Parvathi and was walking facing the East, towards the coast. As the mercury levels rose, Shiva got thirsty. A 5-headed serpent appeared from nowhere and gave shade to Shiva’s head, as an Umbrella, and a cow gave here milk to quench the thirst of the Lord. This milk started oozing out and started running like water, and so the name of the adjacent river, Paalaar (Paal in Tamil- milk).
There are seven lingams surrounding the sanctum sanctorum. When we visited, few were found missing, and few covered by Thorns and bushes. The members cleared away and thorns and put many a lingam, back to position. The seven lingams are: Kailasanathar, Sampakeswarar (As this place was once a forest full of Sampaka Flowers and trees), Arunachaleswarar, Jagadeeswarar, Ekambaranathar, Valmika nathar, Vyakra Padeswarar. See photos
Statues around the ‘Goshtams’ are also 7 unlike 5 in many places. Facing South we could see Biktchadanar, Vinayaka, Dakshinamurthi and facing West we see Lingothbhava. Facing North are Brahma, Durga and very rare, Hari-Hara statue, where both Shivan and Vishnu are in form merged form! So, saptha lingams and saptha gostams, for us to see! See photos
The Murugan Statue here is also unique, devoid of arms. He carries Brahma’s items, the Atshara Malai and kamandalam. (Gindi Kaksha Subrahmanyam). This was when Muruga asked the meaning of Pranava Mantra to Brahma. Brahma could not answer young Karthikeya @ Murugan. Getting angry, Muruga imprisoned Brahma and took the task of Creation.
Other statues to be noted are the Rama, Lakshmana , Sita statues made of single stone, the Shaivaite saints Sambandar and Sundarar as well as Bhairava, Surya, Sani and Anjaneya.
The festivals conducted here are Pancha murthi Abhishekam during the Tamil month of Chitrai Poornima day, as well as the wedding function of Soundarya Nayaki and Sambakeswara, In month of Avani, Vinayak Chaturthi, in Purattasi Navarathri and Karthika Somavaaram, (4 Mondays of the month of Oct-Nov) The arudra darshan in the month of Margazi, and Sivarathri in them month of Masi. Regular monthly Pradosha Poojas are conducted. The local priests who are working here for generations, lament that the HR & CE department hardly cares for the repair and maintenance of this temple as well as do not take steps to get their due of rice or cash which the temple land leasees need to give back to the temple every year. Renovating this beautiful historically important temple would need nothing less than 20 lakhs and the statues and inscriptions scattered around can be properly collected and gathered in the front mandapa. The front mandapa is also in the verge of collapse. The facades of the mandapas are lying strewn all around the Mosque near by. The Hindu Aalayangal Suththam seyyum Narpani Mandram members were really energetic and skilful. While a few trained youngsters with ropes tied on their waist sprung to action, climbing on the tower, cleaning and applying yellow lime plaster along, the kids around tried their might to remove thorns and grasses using sickle! The older ladies were busy cleaning the utensils, brass lamps and pooja vessels and the younger ones busy cooking food for all volunteers and making garlands for the deity. Not to be left behind, some eager members pulled out all thorny trees and bailed out the missing lingams! Few muscled men even erected the strewn idols straight back to their position. See photos
The I.T guys were not left behind. From TCS, under the reference of our REACH member Guruvelevan, some eight members had come their and were sparing their best efforts in handling sickles and crowbars, not fearing the after effect of back pains, as they are the ones who are handling mostly the soft mouse and key board buttons! See photos

The Government should have a separate body to encourage and fund such NGOs who are interested in restoring heritage structures and temples. The HR & CE or the State Archaeology department, or for that reason the Tourism Department can come together to encourage this type of activity and to give funds to such groups who get themselves involved in such noble act of preserving our heritage. Student Deepika lamented that at least some 50 to 60 graduates who had done Archaeology course and job less. Why can’t the Government agencies involve them along with NGOs like R.E.A.C.H and pay them some decent stipend to enable them undertake the data collection of such heritage buildings, working on estemblage of inscriptions, conservation work, etc.? See photos

The latest addition to this episode:

Flash News - 02nd Dec,2007

Member trustee P.N.S again took his friends Rao (who is a contractor at nearby Kalpakkam Power Plant) and Seyyur Karthik, the Rotary President and also son-of the soil(!) a leading builder to show them this temple. Mr.Karthik had assured that he will see if he can adopt the village for prosperity and also see if a grill gate can be provided to protect the Panchalokas!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Kundrathur Valeeswarar Temple Cleaning and restoration -II

On 4th November Sunday, we were determined to re-look the Kundrathur Valeeswarar temple, determined to see to that our cleaning work doesn't go waste. We went back to clean in spite of heavy rain. A JCB was put in force and braving cold and rain, some snakes, a band of young volunteers lead by Mr. Muthumani cleaned the whole premises.
We vowed not to go to any other temple for cleaning until or unless we complete the construction of this temple is complete. See in the right side the temple before and after removing trees!

Again, last Sunday,11th Nov- we had excellent progress. Estimation by Mr. Kanniappan from ASI, inscription estampage and deciphering by retired State Archeology epigrahist Mr. Krishnamurthy assisted amply by applicator Murugesan and member Chandra and some young boys from the volunteering group, Tree killer chemical application by Chandrasekaran on the 2 trees at the very place where the Shivalingam should come, as well as further land levelling and cleaning done by Muthumani's young band of volunteers - all went in ONE GO!
Plus member Ashok gave jobs to two poor people there, one girl Ms.Bhuvaneswari, who is about to complete her M.Phil in Biotechnology but
not getting a good job in her field and another man
Shekhar who's family is now maintaining the make shift temple. He was given the office attender job while Bhuvaneswari will join as coordinator in Mr. Ashok's Corel draw Academy. So, a whole- some day where progresses in all front happened due to the grace of the deity Valeeswarar who is now blessing us to complete this project in full swing! Bhuvaneswari, her 4 sisters and widow mother who have their hut just opposite to the temple premises have agreed to maintain a garden which we would be bringing up within the temple land.

The next agenda is on the ground to avoid further growth of plants and weeds. Both are estimated to cost nothing less than Rs.1,00,000.00. Well wishers please talk to builders, construction line philanthropists to donate in kind or to fence the whole place and to lay sand cash, or material. The photos are loaded in our yahoo group's (temple_cleaners) photo files, as well.
Reach us at reach.foundation.india@gmail.com

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Friday, November 02, 2007


Cleaning activity at Paappanchatram, near Chennai

It was raining non-stop albeit not heavy but quite continuous. Weather forecasters warned of cyclonic depression in the Bay of Bengal, last Sunday the 28th of October, 2007. Undeterred by such natural problems, a group of volunteers, numbering close to 100 men and women, some children too, thronged the Shiva – Krishna temple at Paappaanchatram, lying on our left on the Bangalore Express Poonamallee High road just opposite Queensland. Was it a Pradosham day or an Ekadasi? No. They had come to clean this twin temple, which was fully covered with bushes and thorns, uncared but for a relentless old priest Shri. Duraiswamy Shivacharyar.

This man, the Shivacharyar is the lone ranger, bearing the torch of devout pooja in both the temples. Even though he has Kattalai (Hereditary right) in the Kanchi Ekambareswarar temple, this priest, has stayed back to see this temple have at least pooja once in a day for both the deities. He has some source for income, through the nearby factories, as they call him for pujas, his sons too assisting him in this endeavour. But then, why should we feel sorry for this temple? The reason is obvious. Kanchi Paramacharya, Shri. Mahaperiyava had stayed in this temple for 2 or more months often praying to both the deities, Krishna and Kasi Viswanatha, as well as the Adi Sankara statue within the temple. He had blessed this priest of good contented life but due to encroachment and usurping of this temple land (350 acres, that!) by almost all the villagers, the temple has no income and the only rue this Shivacharyar has is to see back this temple in its full form, repairing the broken stone walled sanctum sanctorums. The front mandapas are intact, but for the leaking on the roofs and the external line of the stoned sanctum has given way for trees and creepers. If we leave it as it is, sure that the stones will give away, making the tree usurp the sanctum, the Kasi Bana lingam and other deities within the temple premises!

Children were resting in the priest’s house, reciting slokas and Thevaram Hymns, taught by a self taught teacher, few women were preparing food and few shared their might in cleaning the sanctum sanctorums with broom and brush, as few more cleaned the brass vessels meant for pooja. The men showed their best prowess and strength by chopping of the trees and clearing the bushes. By noon, both the temples almost threw open their sheer beauty and neat construction, the master piece being the Thulasi madam made of stone! Two big serpents never bothered this group of men and they stay put at the entrance of the Krishna temple, so that the volunteers had to enter both the temple through the Shiva temple entrance door!

The battle between rain and men was finally won by these devout men who finally made both the premises clean.

The story of how this twin temple was built goes like this:

Two couples from Othadi at Andhra Pradesh, Venkaiah, his wife (name unknown) and Venkatasubbaramayyar, his wife Venkatasubbalakshmi, both brothers and their wives respectively had no heirs. Praying to the almighty, they were asked to go to Kasi and get their wishes fulfilled. While returning from Kasi, a sage called them and told them that because their forefathers indulged in adultery and bad deeds, the family now suffers but the good time has come now for them; He handed over two banaa (round shaped stones) and asked them to build a Hari-Hara Kshetram at the place where the Lord orders them to do so! The brothers, both simple and obedient took the stones carefully down south, and were almost completing their pilgrimage. Their last stop was Sriperumbudur where they met the Acharya Ramanuja and were returning back towards Chennapatna (now Chennai). But as destiny could have it, they had to rest that morning at this place, Paappaan chatram (earlier name is unknown; it is because of these brothers who bought the whole land and constructed the temples, marriage hall, guest houses and an agrahara street there, this was called as Paappaan chatram (Brahmin Choultry). When they kept the stones down and did their morning prayers and tried to lift the stones back, the stones didn’t move, but the stones turned to ash colour! They heard the Almighty’s voice to build their favourite temple there, in this same spot! Remembering the Kasi sage’s words, the brothers immediately called the villagers, narrated their story and took permission to build the temples there. Both were affluent and wealthy. So, they switched their permanence from Othadi to Paapaanchatiram. This happened in the year 1802! The stone inscription is an evidence to this event, which says in details the lands donated for this templeand also curses those who if they usurp the Lord's property, would have the sin equivalent to that of killing 1000 brahmins and 1000 cows at Kasi, on the banks fo Kaveri. Are the land encroachers and usurpers listening to these curses?

Even though the elder brother didn’t have a sibling, the younger one, Venkatasubbaramayyar had siblings and the generation flourished.

The Shiva shrine has the Kasi Viswanatha Lingam, Visalakshmi Amman, Adi Sankara as deities and the Krishna Temple boasts of a beautiful Krishna, playing flute with Rukmini and Satyabama on either side. Another Goverdhan Krishna, Ramanujar Shrines are also within the mandap. The priest has added few years before the Navagraha Sannidhi, after the Paramacharya's visit.These Navagrahas are also rare, with all adhipathi (lord) posing with their wives and consorts (vahanam)!!

Lands pertaining to this temple were registered in 1864 in Coimbatore (so says the priest) and ironically, as explained before, those who enjoy the temple lands never turned back and did something for these temples. Till date, except the good local E.O who belongs to HR &CE department (good as he does not object to any repairs and work at this site, that’s all!!!) and some local countable good Samaritans, the temple premises continues to lie uncared, and it has become an annual ritual that any of the few Uzhavarapani groups (temple cleaning groups) identify this temple ND DO SOME CLEANING. This time, when the above mentioned devout “Aalayam Suttham seyyum Uzhavarapani mandram” (of Vadapalani) leaders called us to be with them while the cleaning goes on, we took a vow to see to that the repairs are undertaken and pujas continue.

As it was raining we could not use our wonder tree killing chemicals on them, as water would dilute the killing effect. We are planning to go on a sunny day and kill the trees which are collapsing the walls of the sanctum sanctorums.

This volunteer group goes to such places in a open lorry (big wagon which can carry 100 persons standing) and all hail from worker class and middle class families. Even though they may not have heavy purses to throw around donations to build temples, the ground work they do to clean the temple is a hard task and a great work of sweat and devotion. It was really a great site to see them work relentlessly braving the chillness and the rain. REACH supports all such groups and are in constant touch with them. We have already procured the tree killer chemicals in bulk, sickles, ploughs and knifes to cut bushes, trees etc. to enable distribute these among all such groups, whenever they need and also inspire the locals to decide to rebuild the temple which gets cleaned.

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