[Reader-list] July Posting-Roadside Temples Additional Notes

kalpagam - umamaheswaran kalpagam25 at rediffmail.com
Mon Jul 19 18:00:01 IST 2004

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 Hi friends,
Here is some more on the temples I have visited.

July Posting- Roadside Temples in Chennai- Additional Notes 1

On Two Ganesh Temples

I had earlier mentioned that there were numerous Ganesh temples and this probably has to do with the local Hindu belief that you pray to Ganesh for an auspicious start of any action. I say "local" because I don't think Ganesh is worshipped as an auspicious starter in parts of north India (Allahabad) that I am familiar with, to the same extent or fervour as here in Chennai. This local belief has become so widespread and so deep in the local psyche that many bungalows have kept an idol of Ganesh on the outer wall, some light lamps and some are caged in and locked up in a small cupboard like structure on the outer compound wall of the bungalow. Since the bungalow owners themselves keep such Ganesh idols, some of them do not resist or object to the sidewalk land abutting their compound to be appropriated for putting up a Ganesh shrine. Since nineties when apartment complexes have come up rapidly in Chennai, the number of Ganesh temples have also increased. Almost every apartment block would like to have a Ganesh temple just below for the easy worship by the apartment residents, so it seems. Rarely, they built a Ganesh temple within the precincts of the apartment complex, not open to the public but for the sole worship of the complex. residents. I saw one such yesterday, that looked like a well constructed small temple with Gopuram and all, called Sri Riddhi Siddhi Valampuri Vinayaka Aalayam, where the temple entrance opened into the garden of the complex and not accessible to the general public. Idols of Ganesh can have the elephant trunk either turned to the left or to the right and are appropriately called "Valampuri" or . All Ganesh temples have a name and so far that I have seen, the names don't get repeated. Here are the narrative accounts of two temples where I conducted interviews recently.

Arulmiga Sri Rajaganapathy Aalayam
This Ganesh temple is a small one with a stone idol that has a silver casing called Kavacham. The roof of the temple is thatched, otherwise it is built up with a grill door and lock that locks up the idol when the temple is not open. As it is looked after and the temple affairs managed by the autorickshaw drivers, many of whom park their autos in the stand nearby, they have named their autostand also as Sri Rajaganapathy Auto stand. However as the auto drivers belong to the Marxist trade union, CITU, they have their party logo as well on the stand name board. About 15 autorickshaws use that auto stand and each driver is expected to give Rs 100 per month towards the upkeep of the temple. This pays up for themilk for the daily Abhishekam, flowers, oil for the lamp and Rs 500 per month for abrahmin priest (Kurukul) who performs the puja twice daily in the morning and the evening. Both the auo drivers and the passers by worship at this small temple. Located at a major crossroad and with numerous office goers rushing to the bus terminus, the drivers have thoughtfully placed a big clock at the head of the idol that indicates to worshippers how early or late they are to work. But the number of pedestrians here is not many unlike in other placesand though an hundi is placed, the collections may not be much. The auto drivers whom I interviewed say that the temple idol had been there for the last twenty years or so, even before their auto stand had come up there, and was apparently placed by some earlier residents of the area. They have been looking after it only for the last ten years. The huge area of land behind the Ganesh temple, once the backwaters area has since been filled up with garbage dumps and is now housing a large slum settlement of mostly thatched huts. The land itself is now the property of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC), formerly Pallavan Transport Corporation (PTC) that plans to build a huge bus terminus there. The auto drivers told me, that the they would like to build a concrete structure as a dome for the temple replacing the thatched roof and perform the Kumbhaabishekam, but since there are plans of building the bus stand, they are viewing it as a temporary structure. They told me that they have been shown the master plan of the bus terminus and that a small plot therein has already been alloted for this temple and so would be shifted there as the terminus gets constructed. While the temple would be taken care of in the new plan, the slum dwellers would have to relocate themselves elsewhere. This temple has fewer patrons than others located in convenient spots but the drivers assured me that on Shankata Chathurthi, an "Amma" in Raja street nearby takes care of all the puja needs and costs. When I asked them why they needed a Ganesh temple, the drivers answered that its just a belief; and that every auto stand will have a Ganesh temple. They claimed that their Ganesh has a lot of Shakti. The lighted name board of the temple was donated by a storekeeper and so carried an advertisement of his "Sri krishna Stores, No 1, Venkatesa Agraharam, Mylapore". 

Sri Sarva Shakti Vinayaga Aalayam
This Ganesh temple is at the perpendicular junction of West Circular Road and Norton street in Mandaveli. I met the family that placed the idol of Ganesh there, where once there was an yellow flower tree that came down in a storm. A young man who took a lot of interest in the temple took me to his sister to give me the interview and I am indeed grateful for this, for the sister, Tirupurasundari, was indeed very smart and articulate in answering my questions. She told me that they first placed an idol there in 1990 and built up the temple first up to the  basement. Now it is a small temple with grill door and lock, but no gopuram as they have not yet performed the Kumbhabishekam. They decided to put up a Ganesh temple there because that spot being a three way junction, people doing sorcery to ward of evil eyes, generally placed the sorcers materials like burning camphor etc at the three way junction spot, especially late Sunday nights. It is a popular belief that any passerby who comes in contact with those materials will themselves be afflicted with the evil that is sought to be warded off. Tirupurasundari, who belongs to the Vanniyakulakshatriya caste claimed that such beliefs are still quite common.So they thought that putting up the Ganesh temple there will ward off the evil and protect all the neighbouring families, although her own house is not located at the three way junction. This Ganesh is always elegantly dressed with dhoti and his favourite bunch of grass to this right side. When I asked them who does the pujas, she said a priest from the nearby Aiyappan temple comes daily in the morning to perform the pujas and also brings with him the food offering to the god. He also performs special pujas on Shakata Chathurthi late in the evening at 9 PM and also the pujas on Diwali, Pongal and Ganesh Chathurthi festivals. They pay the priest Rs 200 per month which is usually met from the hundi collection. Some residents nearby give money for Abhishekams regularly every month. In fact they claim that so far they have not  made any public collection of funds but only what the worshippers have given voluntarily.Nor have they taken hundi collection for personal use, though on two occasions the hundi collections were stolen despite the grill door and lock. They claimed that one nearby worshipper gave silver upanayanan thread and vibhuti marking for the Ganesh idol because he granted them their boon, another gave the brass halo kind of decoration and a brahmin family donated a silver trunk forthe elephant faced god because their daughter in law was cured of a skin disease. A nearby shop keeper has given the temple electricity fromn his shop and does notcharge them for that. Although they want to perform the kumbabishekam, they say they are unable to do so as such an event would require a numberof responsible people to get together,which they are so far unable to mobilize. They claimed that  attempts had been made by the Corporation to demolishthe temple. Once they came in alorry with 10 people and some policemen. But they claimed to know some political heavy weights in the DMK party and with the help of  one late Kasisamy Nadar, an elected Councillor, they were able to stallthe demolition. There have been some complaints too  by car owning residents of the locality who complained that worshippers often blocked the way but they were able to handle that as well.
	Now who is Tirupurasundari and her family? Tirupurasundari lives in a thatched hut put up on the terrace of her mother's house. Her husband works in a Wine Shop in Guindy. Her family, consisting of an aged mother and a brother in late twenties once owned a number of cows and did milk business. But now they have  given away the cows and her brother makes a living by putting up a Tiffen shop in the mornings and evenings. The brother claimed that it was his Ganesh that saved him from TB when he was admitted in the hospital with TB in the early stages. 

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