The plan was to see Thirupparkadal, Thiruppukuzhi, Dammal and Poigainallur temples, as announced. And we were to return to Thakkar Baba Vidyalaya Vinobha Hall by 3 pm, so that Kathie’s lecture can be held on time.
But fate had a different call all together!
Ever energetic Kathy@ Katherine@ Sivadasi joined a select few on 4th, which included Dr.T.Satyamurthy too, who was explaining things to us.
We first landed at the Thirupparkadal Prasanna Venkatachalapathy temple whose mythology goes like this
But saddest part, the day started with a rude shock! Sands, sands everywhere! Around the sanctum sanctorum, around the Mandapa, everywhere where our eyes could reach, the masons, in the name of renovation were applying their best minds to modernize this heritage temple with all the weirdest materials which are a taboo for heritage work: Tiles, marbles, granite pillars cemented over, the poor cousins Jaya Vijaya standing unopposed to their cement ashes smear and so on. Even the open mandapas were not spared! The open sides were filled with brick mortar and tiles were laid as final finishes. The Vimanas were worst hit. They were just refilled with cement finishes.
Here comes the death knell:
SAND BLASTING WAS HAPPENING IN FULL FORCE!
The facts are:
Cement NEVER plasters with granite and lime mortar.
Tiles will disallow any view on natural expansion and contraction of lime mortar or stone works, to enable us repair in future.
The cemented of pillars were done not to strength\then any lintels, but to fill some greedy contractor’s/ officials coffers.
Sand blasting creates micro fissures into the granite structure, thereby truncating its life by just another 10 years or so. The reason is, the surface hardness of granite is lesser than the sand’s surface hardness which is bombarding with great force. Also sand blasting permanently removes away the inscriptions if any around the sanctum sanctorum.
With heavy hearts we went to the adjacent Adiranganatha temple, where the inscriptions are intact around the sanctum sanctorum but sadly the evil force @ contractors’ next target was this temple! Will the concerned HR&CE authorities take note of this blatant violation of rules laid for renovating heritage temples and stop the menace? The Adiranganatha is an excellent piece of work believed to be more than 1600 years old, as it was in Fig tree (Atthi maram). See pictures here.
Then we went on the main road, to reach the rarely visited Karapureeswarar temple, which had inscriptions as early as that of Paranthaka’s and some stunning icons around the sanctum sanctorum, in the goshtas; we also saw a Jestha Devi sculpture intact with his son and daughter, Gomukan and agnidevi. Here, the priest had passed away few years before and the priest’s wife had taken over the mantle. Modern Karaikkal Ammayar indeed! We talk of woman empowerment and her we see a woman already doing that. But the sad reality is that, income is sparse, no thought of any renovation, in this temple, where the inscriptions and icons are of great importance and the old temple gopura has some eloquent old reminiscences of fine stucco wok. We seek philanthropists to think and act on how to do some basic repair work in this temple and save our heritage.More than that any steady income for the priestess can also be planned. REACH will surely support any such endeavour. See pictures here.
Next, crossing the Bangalore highway, we went to the Azagiya Ramar temple (See a fantastic record of all temples in Kaveripakkam in this blog).
The presiding deity is Vishnu and the Ramar shrine is on the left hand side when you enter the temple. Signs of Pallava workmanship is evident and also the Thayar shrine has its share of inscriptions, all fragmented and distorted stamping the presence of Chola domain. Modern renovation again has removed most of the antique look here, but the Rama, Sita; Lakshmana idols are fantastic, as they replicate bronze idols in every sense. Just think of using granite instead of bronze! So, is the fine artistry that we feel the deft handedness of the sculptor, who had brought the delicate finish of bronze in granite. Also seen were some fantastic carvings of windows and steps in granite. See pictures here.
Next to the Ramar temple, very close is the Selliamman temple, where we waited for almost an hour to get the doors open to have a look at the main deity, which we believe should be one of the oldest reliefs of Chola regime. But luckily, we saw some very old idols stuck on the compound walls, of early craftsmanship depicting Shiva and also the icon from which the design of Mangalsutra (Thali) was derived! Also, a beautiful carving on the pillar of a woman saint with long Jadamudi was also seen. See pictures here.
Next, we went to the nearby Abaya varadar which also can be spelt as Abaaya varadar (as we spell in Tamil அபயவரதர் அபாயவரதர் ஆகிவிட்டார்!) s we see the state of maintenance around the Temple. Believed to be older Pallava Shrine, renovated by the early Cholas, the miniatures in the pillars around the sanctum sanctorum are a `must see’ work and the flying devatas and ganas, Ramayana scenes in the arda Mandapa now white washed with lime are also a ‘must see’ figures. The temple is surrounded by cow dung and blackish gutters a reservoir for mosquito breeding and there was no electricity for us to view the temple properly for long hours! Temple cleaning groups, Vaishnavaite devotees please take note of this temple for your next cleaning operation and the temple is under private control and the priests are also not available. Some local enthusiasts have taken the mantle of priesthood and are offering the daily rituals and prayers. The Krishnadevaraya Mandapa just outside the temple is also in a dilapidated condition, full of filth and cow dung. In fact it serves as a cow shed for the locals now! See pictures here.
Coming with a sad heart, we were surprised to see a Old mosque built with temple artisans and granite, just slightly ahead of the temple, on the left hand side. This is also badly encroached and there is no direct access to the mosque. Beautifully done, this also serves as a cow shed. A broken Urdu inscription lies there and the mosque also needs immediate conservation measures. The story goes like this: when the Muslim invaders wanted to plunder the Abhaya Varadar temple, the artisans made this mosque with all features which are seen in a temple and proclaimed that the temple has already been converted to a mosque and thus saved the Abaya Varadar temple behind. This mosque is also a beautiful testimony to ancient architecture and REACH seeks attention and help from our heritage lovers and Muslim brethren to also save this heritage mosque, which would be the ONLY mosque which was originally built with granite temple like pillars and structure with minars above made of lime stucco (not temples being converted into mosques, like we see in many places).See this picture and a few pictures next to this, showing various angles of the mosque in worn our condition.
Also see member Shriram's photos here
An article appeared in Times of India dated 11th January 2011 , thanks to Saju the reporter, who responded immediately.
There were some more ancient temples we were to visit, but paucity of time and threatening rains made us rush back to Chennai, as the evening was waiting for Kathie to deliver her lecture in Thakkar Baba Vidyalaya, Vinobha Hall the same evening.
So, we have some more to chew in days to come: Another visit to Kaveripakkam, Dammal, Thiruppukuzhi and Poigainallur. The Gods are nice and they wait!