Viralimalai noted for the Murugan temple draws devotees, bird watchers

Women are seen covering their faces with the hem of their sarees when they pass this ‘theppakulam’ or temple tank in Viralimalai. It is not out of obeisance for the sanctity of the waters but in abhorrence of the stench emanating around the tank.

Viralimalai noted for the Murugan temple perched atop the hillock and its peacock populace draws devotees and bird enthusiasts alike.

While on any given day a few plastics may be seen lying on the edges of the main temple tank, the small temple tank referred locally as the ‘teppakulam’ presents a dismal picture. From its status as a ‘theertham’ where water was drawn for ‘abhishekam’ for the deity in the main temple, the tank has morphed into a veritable dumping yard.

Tonsured hair clogs tank

It is not just plastics that clog the tank but litter and waste from roadside shops are dumped here, says Mariappan, a resident. Pilgrims who tonsure their hair as an act of sacrifice get it done in a building adjacent to the tank. The shaved hair is dumped into the tank, allege residents.

It has been eight years since water was drawn from the tank for drinking, says a local administrative body representative. Leave alone drinking, today no one dares to touch the water as it is hardly visible being covered by a layer of moss, giving the tank a ghoulish appearance with dragonflies swarming above. Ironically, a prominent board placed by the district administration at the site warns of legal action against polluting the water by washing clothes, bathing or dumping of plastics.

“The stench is unbearable but we cannot avoid the route,” says a resident who is obliged to take the route. “While local body officials are talking about dengue preventive measures, the tank with its deposit of waste is a potential health hazard,” he adds.