Shiva Krupa

Temples of India signify the very root of Hinduism and its culture. To be worth of the trust reposed by our ancestors, it becomes our primary responsibility to sustain our heritage for generations to come.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Neglected Mandapams

It is a well known fact that ancient Vasantha Mandapams and "Chariot mandapams" of Temples are given least priority when the renovation work is undertaken. This is true with almost all village Temples depending upon the extent of dilapidation towards which the entire resources are utilised. Finally the organisers are left with nothing and the focus on dilapidated Mandapams is given up. Even the Heritage groups are interested in renovating the Mandapams located in well known pilgrim centres as fund raising becomes easy and gaining popularity is equally simple. It is unfortunate that neither the Govt nor the philanthropists take care of the Mandapamsof village Temples in order to restore them. There should not be any valid reason (other than difficulty in raising funds) why these Heritage structures are abandoned.

While visiting the neibourhood of Thiruvarur, the ignored mandapam in front of Nellivaneswara Swami Temple at Thirunellikkaval caught our attention. It has received severe damages with deep rooted trees all over the tall structure. Yet it is not too late. It should also be acknowledged that the Temple has been renovated well and poojas are carried out in organised manner. Had they stretched a little more by including the Mandapam as well in the budget, they could have successfully restored it.

Another striking point is that Temple chariots are allowed to whither in rain and sun. The precious artwork is left uncared and remain under the sky without any protection. Chariot Mandapams with steps on the side were constructed to make it easy for the decorated idols to reach the top and get shifted into the chariot during the festival. In the absence of proper maintenance, trees start growing from the seeds left over the structure by the birds. Big cracks are developed as the roots penetrate deep into the Mandapam. Unless the Chariot festival is restarted, there is no scope for restoring them. Apart from the ruined vasantha Mandapam, the Chariot Mandapam at the road corner in Thirunellikkaval is engulfed with trees.

The neglected Mandapam outside Karaveeranatha swami Temple near Thiruvarur is also in a ruined state. A part of the structure is already gone and the firmly rooted trees threaten the left out portion that hangs dangerously. In a pillar , bricks are so beautifully arranged to portray a sculpture as if made in granite. We thanklessly ignore the treasures left by our ancestors . It is a shame to insult our great artisans who took enormous pain to build the mandapams with skill.    

It is always easy to point out the ruins, take some photographs and write blogs on them. But the need of the hour is to create awareness among the locals by renovating the "Vasantha Mandapams" and "Chariot Mandapams". In our quest to involve ourselves in this activity, we undertook the renovation of a "Vasantha Mandapam" at Gangajadeswara Swami Temple in Govandha Puthur,Ariyalur District. It was the only structure left unattended during the recent Renovation of the shrine. The renovation committee , however, has done a marvellous job in restoring the Temple to its original glory. Since we felt that the left out Vasantha Mandapam had to be preserved to prevent further damage,members of our Sabha ( Thiruvathirayan Thiruvarut Sabha) took interest and renovated it recently. Repairing the floor and some finishing touches alone remain to be completed.

Lot more has to be done in this front and participation from all quarters at warfooting is essential to save the structures as one can not even think of building new mandapams at huge cost.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tharangambadi--Shore Temple gifted to Ocean??

Tharangambadi is referred in Thevaram as Alapur. Although Padhigams exclusively on this place are not available, Appar and Sundarar have mentioned about this place. Hence Tharangambadi is regarded as a "Thevara Vaipputh Thalam". Among the Temples, located on the sea coast like the one at Mahabalipuram, Tharangambadi is known for the Historic Temple facing the erosion of sea. Sea waves have uprooted the front portion of the Temple. It is not uncommon that the sea enters into the Temple during monsoon when the sea turns rough. As of now we see the only remaining part of the shore temple which is the main sanctum. Some attempts have been taken to prevent further damage by dumping granite stones in front of the temple. But people were simply watching the ruin helplessly all these years although some voices were raised to save the Chola Temple.

Tharangambadi is situated 15 km north of Karaikal. It was a Danish colony from 1620 to 1845 A fort built by a Danish captain was the residence and headquarters of Governor and other officials for abour 150 years.It now houses a Museum containing a collection of artifacts of the colonial era. A printing press was established in1712 which published 300 books in Tamil.The British took control of this place in1801 and it was sold to them in 1845.Very little information is available on the maintenance of the Historic Temple on the shore during this period.

People extract salt from seawater by using the backwaters of the sea. "alam" in tamil means a place where salt is extracted from sea water. Hence the Historic name, "Alapur". "Tharangam" in Tamil refers to waves. Sri Masilamaniswara Temple at Tharangambadi carries inscriptions of Chola Period wherein the place is called as Kulasekaran Pattinam and the Lord is addressed as "Kulasekaran pattinaththu Udayar"It was during Achuthappa Naicker's rule in 13th century, the Temple was renovated. Masilamaniswara is the main deity in the Sanctum, the extension of which are ardha mandapam and Mahamandapam. The Goddess is known as Dharma samvardhani. There was a proposal to shift the Temple away from the sea but it did not materialise. Now we find entirely a new Temple on the sands behind the old structure. Since the construction is almost over, the consecration is planned to take place sometime next month after shifting the deities from the dilapidated Temple to the new one. It could have been better had they shifted the old Temple in full by numbering the stones to the new site instead of abandoning the structure of Historic importance. By doing so, the Chola monument could have been restored. It is not known why the Heritage lovers who offered "Technical assistance" to this Temple remained silent. Getting things happen in the proper way is therefore important than just protesting and writing blogs."Never give up" attitude is missing which alone is the need of the hour. There is an undeclared writing on the wall that the old structure is abandoned which is due to the absence of Joint Protest from different quarters.

The new structure on sands is brightly painted and awaits the entry of respective deities from old Temple. Only the construction workers were available at the site and more information could not be gathered. At the moment , school children on excursion visit both old and new Temples and spend some time on the shore looking at the turbulent and unrestrained sea dashing against the shore.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pudu Mandapam, Madurai

"Pudu Mandapam" in front of the Eastern Tower of Meenakshi Temple, Madurai is known for splendid sculptures. Some of them narrate the Purana related to Madurai.A huge Nandi on the middle of the road faces the 17th century Mandapam built by Thirumalai Nayak. An unfinished Entrance with well carved wall is is there behind the Nandi. The Mandapam has become the house of various shops which sell miscellaneous items. Hence it will be difficult for the visitor to see the beauty of the Hall in full . Some sculptures are hidden behind the shops denying a close look at them.

As soon as we enter the Mandapam, we can see a huge sculpture of Lord Shiva on our right , in the form of a Mother Pig , embracing the little pigs on both sides close to Her (Him?) . The story goes that there lived a group of Pigs in a forest near a place called Guruvirundha Thurai (now known as Kuruvithurai, some 15 miles west of Madurai) when Raja Raja Pandya ruled the Pandya Empire. There lived a woman, Sukalai, who had twelve sons. The children wandered in the forest after the demise of their parents and chose to hunting as their profession. On seeing Brahaspathi, the Deva Guru, they bagan throwing mud and stones on him. The sage became angry and cursed them to become pigs and suffer in the forest after losing their parents(pigs). When the boys felt sorry for their act, the sage pardoned them and said that Lord Somasundara Shiva Himself will show compassion towards them and take the form of Mother pig and feed them with milk. Hence the boys had to take birth as pigs in that forest. When Raja Raja Pandya went for hunting in that forest, the King pig and the Queen Pig, parents of the twelve pigs fought bravely against the Pandya. Finally the King Pig was killed by the Pandya and the Queen pig also died after a tough fight with the Pandya's commander. The place where the two pigs died is called "Panri Malai". The twelve little pigs therefore became orphans after losing their parents in the battlefield. On seeing the suffering of the tiny pigs, Lord Sundareswara took the form of Mother pig as He is The Mother of all living beings.The little ones greeted the arrival of their "Mother" by embracing "Her". The Lord fed them with milk and blessed them to become humans but retained their original face of the pig. This story is narrated in stone at two places in Madurai , one at Pudu Mandapam and the other one in Thirupparankunram, about 5 km from Madurai Vandals have disfigured the one at Pudu Mandapam, the Lord' s Pig face is damaged but the remaining portion of the sculpture is in order.

Similarly, another great piece of Art, Shiva as "Hunter" has also been damaged by anti social elements.Two hands are broken. One hand holds the bow the other arm holds the weapon, "Parasu" .The workmanship can be admired when we look at the ornaments on His chest and waist which are crafted precisely.The crown on His head proves testimony to the skill of the artisan.

Luckily, some sculptures are left in good shape-- those of Vallabha Ganapathi, Meenakshi Kalyanam, Urdhva Thandava Murthi, Kali,Eka patha Murthi, Gaja samhara Murthi, to name a few.Ganapathi, in sitting posture, with ten hands, faces East. He is seen seated on his vehicle, the Mouse along with His Shakthi. His Trunk is turned towards His right and hands holding different weapons.

The sculpture showing the celestial marriage of The Divine Couple is a marvellous one. Some one has applied sandal wood paste on the face of Meenakshi. Lord Vishnu conducts the marriage of The Goddess. Similar sculpture can also be seen inside Meenakshi Temple.

The magnificent statues of UrdhvaThandava Murthi and Kali are adorned with clothes , possibly by some shop owners who have occupied the Mandapam. The "prabai" (arch) behind Urdhva Thandava murthi is a fantastic piece of work where we can see gaps. Karaikkal Ammaiyar, His devotee is seen near His feet. On the other side, Vishnu plays the musical instrument for the Great Dance. Muyalakan at the feet of the Lord tries to lift his face up to enjoy the dance.

Goddesss Kali with eight hands holds many weapons in Her hands and Her face is full of anger. Teeth protruding and hair lifting up ("Jwala kesam"), the distinct features are neatly shown in the statue. People have garlanded her with Lemon .

Gajasamharamurthi, on the pillar facing the road is also a treat to watch. He holds the skin of the Elephant with two hands. The other hands hold ,Trishul, Kapal,bow, arrow, deer and parasu. Anger is shown on his face clearly. The ornaments on his chest and the Jata baram are carved exceedingly well.

Ekapathamurthi is on the other pilar facing the road. Vishnu and Brahma are seen emerging from Lord Shiva and people have attempted to adorn it in their own way.

Some sections of the public have expressed their desire to relocate the shops that hinder the beauty of the Mandapam, a Heritage site. It is a good news that the collector of Madurai has visited the site recently and assured to take suitable action. He should also intervene to instruct the Temple authorities who cemented the floor of the Tank (which is regarded as SivaGangai, a Holy one in the Purana) to restore the Tank with water as it was originally seen before. The authorities have shown utter disregard at the moment by making the Tank a dry one, the move that disappoints everybody.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Prevention of Thefts

Readers may remember the earlier post in which the Selfless service of a Techie from Bangalore was highlighted. His remarkable contribution in renovating the Shiva Temple at his native place, Udayavar Theeyanur should inspire many to take up similar initiatives at their places. In fact this man had gone to several places to bring Holy waters from rivers to perform abhishekam on the day of Mahakumbabishekam. It was not easy to travel some 300 km every week to supervise the work. Still he drove all the way and finished the work within a year . We need people like him in every village to take care of the ancient temples. A good team of Sivacharyars performed the Yagasala poojas and the Kumbabishekam was performed as per tradition.

As there was enough time in the forenoon after the Kumbabishekam, it gave scope for visiting the nearby temples as well. It was a nice opportunity to visit Sri Choleeswara Temple at Vikramangalam which was hardly 2 km from Theeyanur. This huge Temple has big Rajagopurams in the front that need immediate renovation. Plant growth is seen on them that could damage the entire structure soon. The hall in front of the Sanctum is tall with the nicely carved roof. The granite pillars have beautiful sculptures of Dhakshasamhara murthi , Agora Veerabadrar etc. The outer prakaram has Devakoshtas and a small shrine for Chandikeswara. Gajalakshmi sannadhi is in a bad shape. The outer walls also require immediate attention. The heart breaking news was that the Utsava murthis of this temple and that of Sri Prahaladheswarar Temple at Sri Purandaran, a nearby village, have been stolen some years back. The administration never thinks of protection to idols until it is too late. The Govt simply builds Idol Protection centres at various places and shifts all Utsavamurthis to these cells and seal them. The locals can not perform the Utsavams in the absence of the Murthis. It may not be possible for anyone to undertake the risk of bringing the idols from custody and also for their safe return. As a result, the Utsavams of these temples come to a grinding halt. The Govt may think alternately by building safe vaults at the respective temples and provide buglar alarms and security personnel .The Govt has failed to collect the revenue due to the temples from farmers and others. It can atleast do something to prevent idol theft instead of dumping everything at a common place in the name of security.Once the idols are moved out of the country, it takes several years to go through the legal proceedings and bring them back. Who knows, even after their return they are housed in their own Temples or in common vaults.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is ASI Listening??

Be it State Archaeological Dept or the ASI , their job seems to be over once they take down the inscriptions found on the walls before placing a blue board over there to claim that the site belong to them. There is no word on maintaining the structure unless it draws visitors , especially foreigners. There are archaeological sites left uncared by the Government where you will not find even a board, forget about maintaining and renovating them. Compound walls are in damaged condition and urchins freely enter and cause irrepairable damage to the structure and its sculptures. Since the site belongs to them, nobody else will be permitted to renovate it. They will raise hue and cry as it would alter the original glory. Who prevented them from taking up the renovation work in time before it is too late. Are they waiting for the entire structure to collapse? Are they not ashamed to claim the ruined structure without taking appropriate action? Do they monitor the structures periodically and initiate speedy action? There is no use in taking down the inscriptions and forgetting the whole structure that carries them. Are we able to proudly say that the Historic monument is being looked after properly? Barring exceptions, the Dept keeps a blind eye on the responsibility bestowed on them. There are people who are ready to give suggestions but are unwilling to do any field work. Those who shout against whitewashing the walls and sandblasting should give pressure to the Dept to take up the work instead of crying foul.

Manampadi is a village situated on Kumbakonam- Anaikarai Highway where you find a beautiful Temple close to the road. The locals say that it belongs to the ASI. The entrance itself is in danger as it has cracks all over. There is no proper door either. Thanks to the efforts of the locals, a priest comes from a nearby village to offer puja. Someone has laid the floor in front of the sanctum and the villagers have created a path around the structure by removing the bushes and thorns to enable the visitors to walk freely. The main deity is called Naganatha and the Vimanam above Him is in shambles.

ASI may have to dismantle the entire structure in order to restore it . It has developed cracks everywhere and the presence of thick vegetation will accelerate the process of deterioration. The status of Goddess' shrine is no way better. It is pathetic to find the Temple in a neglected state. A statue of Bhairava with eight arms is half burried at the entrance. Other main deities have been kept inside as they do not have their enclosures in the Prakaram.

All statues in the Deva Goshtas draw our attention. The first one is that of Bhikshadana , with Hare on one side and a Bootha Gana on the other. His "jata" (Hair) is carved beautifully. Lord Nataraja's statue is equally charming. The smile on His face is attractive and He is flanked by devotees on both sides . Ganapathi in standing posture is simply brilliant. Cracks are seen close to the bracket.Dhakshinamoorthy with His matchless smile makes us to stand unmoved there for a long time although His left foot is found damaged. Lingodhbava murthi, Ardhanarreswara , Durga Devi and UmaMaheswara are equally outstanding.

We were told that someone came from ASI few months back to estimate the funds needed for restoration of the Temple and construction of outer walls. There is no word yet on when the work will commence. Since the Temple is passing through several monsoons year after year, collapse is inevitable if left unattended for a long time. By the time the ASI arrives at the site after comleting their priorities all over the country, it could be too late. All art lovers and students of History should raise a common voice on the need to save the Temple. Such a representation will surely catch the attention of ASI officials and they will swing into action without further delay. Until then, the status of the Temple at Manampadi can only bring tears. The Emperors whose inscriptions are read and hailed would not have even dreamt that their gift to the following generations would be ignored like this.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Saathanur - The Pancha Linga Kshetram

Saathanur, near Aduthurai used to be a large village during Chola dynesty. It may be surprising to note that Thiruvaavaduthurai was one of the hamlets under Sathanur in those days.The deity in Thiruvavaduthurai has been sung not only in Thevaram Hymns but also in Thiruvisaippa. Sendanar in his Thiruvisaippa padigam of this place called Sathanur as "Saandhai" . This place is also known as a "Pancha Linga Kshetra" as it contains five Siva temples of ancient origin, the biggest among them is at Thiruvavaduthurai, about 3 Km from Sathanur. The other four temples are within the limits of Saathanur village of which Siddheswarar temple , which was consecrated about 50 years back required least amount of repair work when compared with the rest. Our Sabha is blessed for having participated in the renovation of Sri Kailasanatha temple, Siddheswara temple few years back and presently engaged in the rebuilding work at Kasi Viswanatha temple.

Sri Kasi Viswanatha Temple was in ruins and it had to be rebuilt from scratch, thanks to the efforts undertaken by the villagers. It is going to be consecrated on 7th February and the villagers expect support from outside as well.

The fifth temple is on the outskirts of the village and only the Lingam (Sri Airavadheswarar) is remaining! The temple precincts are occupied by people for the purpose of cultivation. The sanctum faces Paddy fields and a lonely atmosphere prevails over there. However, well wishers have cleared bushes and thorns around the area to go near the Lingam. A shrine needs to be built here as the Lord is left under Sun and rain.

Mahakumbabishkam was performed at Sri Gomuktheeswarar Temple in Thiruvavaduthurai on 26th January in a grand scale. Necessary repairs were undertaken by the Mutt without affecting the old glory. Six Kaala yaga sala poojas were carried out strictly as per the Agamas. Nine kundams were erected for Swami, Ambal and Nataraja and Thyagaraja had 10 Kundams. As this place is known as Nandikeswara sannadhi for Sri Mahalinga Swamy of Thiruvidaimarudur, five kundams were erected for Nandhi , a unique offering to the mighty Bull! People thronged the temple in thousands on that day and occupied vantage positions to have a glimpse of the Kumbabishekam. Devottees were thrilled to see Garuda circling the sky right above the sanctum at the Holy hour.

The temple faces East and the Holy tank, Pankchaakshara Theertham is in front of it. Lord Ganesa, who accompanied His Mother when she took the form of a cow, is known as "Thunaivandha Vinayakar" whose shrine is close to the Main Gopuram.

When Saint Thirugnanasambandar came here to worship the Lord, his father also arrived from Sirkazhi and met him. As he had plans to conduct an yagnam at Sirkazhi, Sambandar sang a Padhigam praying for Lord's assistance in this regard. Lord Siva was too pleased and he sent his Bootha Gana to hand over a pouch containing 1000 sovereign of gold. The bootha ganam kept it on top of the bali peetam behind the Nandi and Sambandar handed over the same to his father. Images depicting this incident and that of Thyagaraja are installed and neatly painted. One must thank Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam who are consecrating the temples coming under their Mutt one by one .