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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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Comments:
You are doing a wonderful job.
Please keep it up
 
Thanks Nandikara,
Please join our yahoo group temple_cleaners and spread the message too.
REACH team
 
Hi REACH team,

I am really impressed by the work you have carried out in the past couple of years.

Do you have a Hyderabad chapter or a Bangalore Chapter?

I would want to participate in your efforts to restore glory of our ancient temples.
 
Hi Paneesh,
Pls visit and join yahoo groups temple_cleaners.
All updates are there and there are many members from Bangalore and Hyderabad. You may start similar work after meeting and planning with them.
Regards
REACH FOUNDATION
 
You write very well.
 
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