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Friday Review

Granite wonder

The Arupadai Murugan Temple in Besant Nagar. Photo: M. Karunakaran

The Arupadai Murugan Temple in Besant Nagar. Photo: M. Karunakaran  

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Rajagopuram, crowning glory, is getting ready.

The origin of the Arupadaiveedu in Besant Nagar has an interesting background. The year was 1984. Parmacharya had camped near Gulbarga, Karnataka. Dr. Alagappan met him and paid his obeisance. During the course of the conversation, Dr. Alagappan said, “It will be wonderful to have the six abodes of Muruga in one place.”

The Sage responded: “Yes, it will benefit His devotees immensely. You build it. The land can be acquired.” A year and a half later, when Dr. Alagappan had almost forgotten about the episode, a document from the Government of Tamil Nadu landed. The then Chief Minister, MGR, had obliged and a huge plot, facing the sea shore had been allotted. And it was next to the adishtanam of Sri Pamban Swamigal, who had prophesied that all the six abodes of Kumara would come close to him.

Work began with Muthiah Sthapati in charge. The temple was completed in phases. Consecration took place in 2002, led by Sri Jayendra Saraswati and Sri Vijayendra Saraswati. Sri Vallabh Maha Ganapati shrine is a replica of the New York temple and is so called too. The shrine of Sri Swaminatha was first finished, as a tribute to Mahaperiyava, whose purvasrama name was Swaminathan. A massive vael stands in front of the shrine.

Senthilandavar faces the sea. Another highlight is Pazhamudirsolai, where the vael stands as jyotiswarupa, the head embedded in flame, a symbol of Knowledge. At the Madurai padaiveedu, this was the original form, Valli and Deivanai added later, we are told. Fire as a metaphor of Knowledge was close to Dr. Alagappan’s heart. There is a shrine he built near Mayiladumparai based on this concept. He even presented a paper at a seminar in the U.S. on the subject. The entire structure of Arupadaiveedu is in granite, as Paramacharya wanted it to be. The Rajagopuram is taking shape, again in granite. “Concrete after certain point might expedite the construction, but Alagappan insisted on granite,” says Mrs. Alamelu Arunachalam, a family member and caretaker of the temple, where lectures and cultural programmes are held during festivals and special occasions. It was her involvement and presence that made the execution of the temple possible.

“It is 12 years since the temple was consecrated and with the completion of the Rajagopuram, the kumbabishekam in 2015 would be apt. Date will be confirmed soon,” she adds. “We’ll miss him on the occasion. He actually indicated that he wouldn’t be present because he was frail but we were not prepared for his demise. The first day honours of Mahaskandasashti always belonged to his family. That done on October 24, we went home only to receive news from the U.S. the next morning that he was no more. Whenever he was in Chennai he would come here and the sight of devotees thronging the temple would send him into raptures.”

Mrs. Arunachalam, married to Dr. Alagappan’s brother, recalls how patiently he arranged shipment of things to the U.S. “The granite stones were chiselled and polished, ready to be assembled there. Secured in hundreds of cartons they were sent to their far away destination with Alagappan closely following their movement. It took all his diplomatic skills to transport the stones, which he did tirelessly for decades.”

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2018 4:41:15 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/granite-wonder/article6618142.ece