Wednesday, November 09, 2011


Cheranmahadevi Ramaswamy Temple

When we visited Cheranmahadevi Ramaswamy temple (the locals call it Sermadevi and insist that's the right way to pronounce!) we were not aware that this temple has a 3 tiered Vimana. Having imposing Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, Hanuman sculptures right at the entrance and some interesting sculptures in the motif at the entrance, the temple stands clearly with tell-tale signs of a Vishnu temple, the Moolavar still is...

Later Nayakas had patronized and the Bronzes of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, Hanuman would have been donated to this temple for Urchava Moorthis' worship, but unless we ask the Bhattar to show us above, allow us to climb up the stairs to have a look at the other two tiers, one can never imagine the Vimana having within itself the layers where Original stucco with their sheen lost and mutilated, lie there as a glaring example of the neglect we have on such rare beauties. Leave along the antiquity, but where are the real Vishnu Bhakthas? While we enter the Cheranmahadevi village, we see a contract of sorts, on the right a Vishnu temple renovated with all the jarring colours and spoils, and far off at the banks of Thamirabarani, on the left the elegant Bhaktavatsala temple renovated and maintained by the A.S.I. Not daring to enter the one in the right, with its gory sight, we visited last time the Bhaktavatsala temple, and this temple too.

When Pradeep Chakravarthy had written about the sad plight of this temple, we were asking ourselves, "Was there a Vimana with three tiers?" Yes, true but sad.

While climbing on the stairs, we saw two parts of Chola inscriptions, and atop, we saw the abandoned Deities all waiting in silence for someone to spruce their looks up! Ironically, this made us learnt a lot on how the stucco using lime mortar, wood as supporting beams and coconut coir as binders were used to construct and make the deities. Faded original paintings were also carrying the sad story within and waiting for some sensible restorer to uplift them.

The roof weather coarse had also eroded, showing signs of leakage. Inside the temple, all stone walls and pillars were white washed, making sure that none of the intricate carvings were made to be seen.

Mr.Ali, a self made archaeologist and heritage lover, who has some large collection of coins and stamps, also an artist drawing sketches from this temple says, " I frequent this temple, whenever I want to energize myself. This is my cradle. I can't bear this agony of seeing it crumble. Will I see the light of the day, the restored temple, before my light goes off?," asks he, tears rolling off his eyes. Dumb struck, we had no answers. 

Look at the pictures

We are only heritage lovers as he is, but want to tell the world about this temple and ask all who are concerned, to bring in funds to renovate this magnificent temple. We do not blame the endowments department or the state and central archaeology departments, as they do not have a data base of how many such temples lie across the state nor a foresight of what to do to save a heritage temple. Enough of blame game, we wish only all concerned open their eyes. As a study of contract, we see within Cheranmahadevi (Mr. Ali corrects me again, Sermadevi!) one spoilt renovation, one excellent renovation and one neglected heritage temple! Such is the state of heritage here! Hope the Lord himself shows us the way and answer our queries.

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Friday, November 04, 2011


Pathai and Kalakkad visit

Post-Symposium, we were worried about the poor response from the Tirunelvelians, who pride themselves about their soil. Dr. Thanumurthy living now in Mumbai, hails from a typical hamlet, Pathai, near Sermadevi enroute to Kalakkad, where we have seen the murals before, on the inner walls of each tier of the temple Gopuram.

There is one Kulasekaranathar temple in Tenkasi wherein the walls were sand blasted and member Poornima and her father Mahadevan raised hue and cry to stop that, but they failed stopping the Giovernment machinery - no pun intended, it is the sand blasting machine ;) But they became our active members and inform us about happenings in Tirunelveli district.

Now, when Dr.Thanumurthy called us for inspecting the Kulasekaranathar temple in his village Pathai, the right opportunity came on 14th and 15th of October, 2011, to visit this Kulasekaranathar!

On inspection, we found the weather coarse totally fragmented, stones at corners and walls fallen apart, mostly white washed with lime. The Vimanas were quite good. An estimate has been worked out with help of our friend civil Engineering entrepreneur member Shri. Durai from Thoothukudi and has been sent to Dr. Thanumurthy. The village ponds were dry and villagers claimed that the rains failed them.The day we went, the hamlet kissed the first rush of rain from heaven! Blessed we were and the village, thanks to Kulasekaranathar, as the rains were a good sign for things to come. The local Uzavarappani team had done their best to maintain the temple and they were very helpful in assisting us during the inspection. 
Few photos from Pathai temple...

From there we tread to Kalakkad, to see the recently finished Gopuram and inspect the murals. The villagers had claimed to maintain the same as they were, and said REACH will be allowed to restore the mural paintings. We have informed them an estimate to restore the paintings. When we visited, we were told that the Sudaii Bommais were falling off from the Gopuram, due to monkeys' menace; the reason was something else. The quality of Sudai bommais were inferior and plaster of paris had been used liberally to finish off (!) the work! Why blame the monkeys, as we had indeed encroachedtheir territory? The Kalakkad Mundandurai Tiger reserve forest is just behind this temple. We were asked by our member SS Mani, to give an estimate to renovate the Murugan Shrine within the temple premises, but there was not much problems, except some polished tiles were laid in front of the shrine. We said the tiles may be removed if possible. Apart from that we observed many inner vimanams and gopurams were plastered with cement and the tell tale signs of overburdened pillars cracking were oblivious signs of fatigue, which needs to be attended too. Sand blasting had cleaned off many intricate carvings of most of the sculptures in the pillars, but the recent renovation committee claimed that sand blasting was done during the earlier Kumbabhishekam!

Worst part, many murals which had bulged and cracked, had been filled with lime mortar by some generous sthapathi! Leave alone this pathetic way of filling the murals, he had also patched the flooring with the paintings in many places along the corridors where the murals were available within the temple Gopuram.

Is it ignorance or negligence? Only the incumbent Lord Sathyavaheeswara knows! We had offered our services for photo documentation and proper restoration to the village temple committee and are awaiting their answers.

The photos here are self explanatory!

The surprise part of this tour came somewhere else, and those spots were Pappankulam and Sermadevi. Let's see in the next blog these surprises!

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