Devotees of one of Chennai’s oldest temples, the Sri Parthasarathy Swamy Temple, are up in arms against construction by the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department inside the temple prakara. The department laid new granite stones and built a shed. Residents have planned a series of protests including group-chanting of the Vishnu Sahasranamam.
They say that the shed was preventing them from having darshan of the Anandha vimanam (tower over the sanctum of Sri Parthasarathy Swamy sannidhi), Vedavalli Thayar Vimanam and Varadhar Sannidhi Vimanam over the pradakshina course.
“Having darshan of vimanams is equivalent to having darshan of the presiding deity. Now if we want to have darshan of vimanams, we will have to go to one of the buildings on the mada veedhis and view them from a distance,” said a senior citizen.
He was speaking at a gathering of devotees, heritage enthusiasts and advocates, who met under the auspices of Srinivasa Young Men’s Association, Nanbargal Kuzhu, Triplicane Brahmins Welfare Association and Yadava Sabhai, among others, to think of an action plan to save the temple that has a recorded history of over 1200 years.
T.R. Ramesh, president, Temple Worshipers Society, and general secretary (legal affairs) of Janata Party, said the HR&CE had control only over the administration of temple properties and not the idols or jewellery.
“A few years ago, at Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, there was a move by the department to construct rest rooms, after the demolishing of a kottaaram in the temple premises was thwarted,” he said.
Advocate M. Vivekanandan said the department was not allowed to make any new innovations under the HR&CE Act. They can only preserve what is there. He said while more recent constructions including the Ripon Building, Fort St. George and Victoria Public Hall were being protected as monuments and every care was being taken in their maintenance and repairs, nothing has been done to preserve this temple, which has been in existence since time immemorial.
A senior priest, who retired from a temple in Thiruvarur, said that temple bhattacharyas and priests could not be expected to join the protests because if they did, they would be treated badly by the officials.
RTI activist V.S. Rajkumar said over 15,000 residents had signed a petition stating that the works must not be taken up. But the department had gone ahead and completed the construction.