Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Serving the Abodes of God for 36 Years

Azha.Muthupalaniappan - Picture by A.Raja Chidamparam

Buying a match box is a matter of spending Re.1 today. Moreover, with the invention of lighters to lit cigarettes and gas stoves, match boxes will soon be things of little use. However, in the bygone era, when purchasing a match box was a 'costly affair', people had no other option,but 'borrow' fire from each other to light their traditional ovens.

As a boy, I used to get fire for my cooking mother with a cow dung cake from a neighbouring house “ recalls Azha. Muthupalaniappan, former assistant commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department.

The 65 year ,who has recently penned his book Koyilkalil 36 Aandukal ( My 36 year experience in temples ), says:

You know, whenever a Devadasi ( temple dancer) of the Sri Ranganathar Swamy Temple at Srirangam passed away, the fire to cremate her body would be taken from the shrine's madaipalli ( cook-house of a temple). Also the vaaikarisi ( Handful of rice dropped into the dead person's mouth before cremation) and the kodi ( offering of a new cloth to the deceased) were also provided by the temple “

Sharing a tale behind this tradition, Muthupalaniappan informs:

A Devadasi beguiled a man, who had a plan to harm the temple, and she took him to the shrine's gopura and pushed him from the top. It is said that she too jumped from the temple tower and died. From then onwards, as long as the Devadasi system was in vogue in the state, the demise of any temple dancer was honoured with the tradition of the shrine's offering fire for her cremation”

Muthupalaniappan, who is already an author of the books Muthumanithiral and Padithathil Pidithathu, is working as a lawyer in Coimbatore after his retirement. A man with a passion for temple art, sculptures, theology and epigraphy, in his new book Koyilkalil 36 Aandukal, the former assistant commissioner with the H.R.& C.E department has shared his experiences on temple administration.

In the bygone era, temples were administered by teams of elderly people in villages. With the shrines being centres of public gathering, they helped people by providing them education, medical care and even lending money at needs. In short, a temple, in those days, played the role of a school, bank and hospital. Since the shrines had to function permanently with regular poojas and annual festivals, kings and landlords made gifts to them by donating a plenty of agricultural lands, whose revenue facilitated their active functioning. Nevertheless, after the country came under the British rule, The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board was established in order to check the prevalent fraud and malfeasance in Hindu temples. Later, when India became independent, The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board was modified into Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department” details Muthupalaniappan.

For an ardent reader on temples, Muthupalaniappan's book Koyilkalil 36 Aandukal is an interesting work, for it narrates the historical and mythological incidents behind the temples and informs his service to their development. 

Link to a small news item in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/15685905 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Why Gold Plating, Again On Gold ?

'Kalvi Thanthai' ( Father of education), as he is popularly called for his great reforms in education, former Tamil Nadu chief minister K.Kamaraj was remembered on his birth anniversary a few months ago. But, what do you think of the same egalitarian social reformer, as his image appears on the calenders hung in many provision stores, depicting him the representative of a particular community ? Adding insult to injury, the city has also witnessed a flex banner misusing even the eminent linguist and etymologist Devaneya Pavanar as a member of a particular community.

The banner announced the Naatru Nadu Vizha, an annual festival celebrated at Perur to honour the deity Lord Patteeswarar. The celebration is to remember the Supreme God ,who, by taking the incarnation of a farmer, planted saplings in a paddy field on the banks of river Noyyal in Perur.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva or Patteeswarar, a 'friend' of the eighth century devotional Tamil poet Sundarar, was 'helpless', since He had few gifts to present the bard. And, having known that the poet was on the way to meet Him at Perur, the God incarnated himself into a farmer and left the temple to plant saplings on a paddy field surrounded by fragrant creepers.

Speaking its glorious past, the Shiva temple stands on the banks of river Noyyal at Perur. Nevertheless, its deity seems to be 'helpless' even now, like how He was to His friend and poet Sundarar. The Almighty, who caught even the sacred river Ganga on His brow and checked its flow from His matted locks, seems to have done little to protect Noyyal from Karunya University, Chinmaya International School and Isha Yoga Centre, which are blocking the river's waterways.

While industries and dyeing units of Coimbatore and Tirupur discharge their effluents into Noyyal and certain NGOs pretend to restore the polluted river for obtaining domestic and international funds, it is a great pity that the God stands as a mute spectator in His Perur shrine, which is commended as Melai Chidamparam on par with the great Thillai Nataraja Temple.

Unlike the silent Shiva, great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, in his immortal work Thirukural, emphasizes the importance of water by glorifying rain as 'ambrosia', without which, even offerings to God would be hardly possible on earth.

However, the poet and philosopher, who preached equality in birth of all beings, has faced a discrimination from the touch-me-not sadhus at Haridwar in Utharakhand. His 12-ft statue, which was taken to be installed on the banks of the highly polluted Ganges, unbidden, is now lying abandoned wrapped in a plastic sheet.

At a time, when a few political leaders demand the proper installation of Thiruvalluvar's statue on the same river bank, Raja Manickam, one of the Facebook user from Coimbatore, only wonders at the 'crying need' for installing the universal Tamil poet's statue in North India.
Praising a poem by Venil Krishnamoorthy, a Coimbatore-based publisher and poet, on the uninvited act, Raja Manickam left a comment thus:

Thangathirkku Etharkada Varnam? “ ( Why gold plating again on gold ? )

Sources: Kongumandala Sathakam – Karmega Kavingar, Thiruperur Puranam - Kachiyappa Munivar, Noyyal Andrum Indrum – Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion – John Dowson.