‘Work under way to desilt and clear tank bed’

It is hard to believe that there is an ancient temple tank, rich in history, tucked away behind the row of shops on the bustling and busy Town Hall Road.

The Koodal Azhagar Perumal Temple tank, which once hosted a grand float festival, lies in a dilapidated state, amidst all the chaos of that area.

Though the Koodal Azhagar Perumal Temple has a tank of its own on the premises, history suggests that this larger tank was built in order to host the float festival in the Tamil month of ‘Masi’. The temple is an ancient one, recording its existence even in the Sangam period.

“It is believed that a Vishnu temple existed on the banks of Kiruthumal river in the eighth century AD. Records suggest that this temple, as seen today as the Koodal Azhagar Perumal Temple, was renovated by the Vijayanagar rulers in the 16th century,” says historian and retired archaeological officer C. Santhalingam.

The tank now lies overgrown with shrubs and weeds, and with garbage dumped along the sides. A mandapam constructed in the centre has developed cracks and is in need of immediate attention.

On December 10, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court issued a directive to the State Archaeology Department to submit a report as to whether the temple tank could be notified as an Ancient Monument under the Tamil Nadu Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1966.

A two-member advocate commission was also appointed to oversee the ongoing clean-up drive initiated by the temple authorities.

According to the temple authorities, the work began on Monday to desilt and clear the tank bed.

“In the past, there were proposals to build a bazaar like the ‘Paalika Bazaar’ in Delhi near the tank and to sink borewells inside the tank to supply water to residences of nearby areas, but they never took off. Our priority is to clean and restore the tank now,” said Indirarajan Baskar, an official at the temple.

While rain is the only source of water at present, people believe that channels used to bring water from the Vaigai to the tank many years ago and they now lie under the buildings in the area.

Residents of that area do not seem to remember when they last saw the tank filled with water.

“I studied in a school overlooking the tank nearly 40 years ago and have no recollection of water here,” said a member of the Perumal Tank Traders Association.

Members of the association who have their shops around the tank claim that they have been doing their bit to keep it clean.

“We recently removed the overgrown weeds and shrubs from the walls of the tank”, they said.

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