NAMMA MADURAI Mottai Vinayagar is popular and powerful
Stumble upon any stone, pillar or a statue and it is bound to hide some history and interesting stories. True to its name — the Athens of the East — the Temple City has many unique features especially with regard to temples. They contribute immeasurably to the city’s rich cultural heritage. But who has the record and will remind us of the long-forgotten facts that are slowly fading into oblivion. One such place is ‘Mottai Vinayagar Temple on East Masi Street.’
Lord Ganesha is always identified with elephant-head and trunk. But, here the deity at the temple has no head, hands or legs.
Popularly known as ‘Mottai Vinayagar,’ its history, though not documented, is believed to belong to the period of King Chandrasekera Pandyan in 1530 AD.
Says R. Sundaravel, former secretary of the Temple Governing Committee, “Veerasekara Cholan waged a battle against King Chandrasekera Pandyan, who sought the help of King of Vijayanagar Kingdom.
Following which, Nagama Nayak came down to the city and established his rule here. Disappointed, the Pandya King again sought the help of Vijayanagar King, who again sent Viswanatha Nayak to arrest his father Nagama Nayak in Madurai.
But later looking at the sorry state of the country, Viswanatha Nayak declared himself king the Madurai country and imposed ‘deshaprashtam’ (they should not mingle with people and suffered ostracism) on the Pandya king and his family members, Mr. Sundaravel says.
Moving far and wide, the members of the community (later known as Nadars meaning people who ruled the country) collected a tax called ‘magamai’ from the community and established their own educational institutions and temples as they were not allowed to enter the common temple, he claims.
Similarly, the community from other parts of the southern districts came to Madurai to sell its produce and products. Meanwhile to escape from the thieves, the traders built ‘pettai’ (‘keezha pettai’ near the temple and ‘mela pettai’ or ‘veli pettai’ near old Chokkanathar Temple) and installed the statue of Vinayagar in 1700 AD.
The 16-foot structure that served as the wall (kottai suvar) for the ‘pettai’ still stands tall, trumpeting its proud history, Mr. Sundaravel says.
The Archaeological Officer, C. Santhalingam, says that King Chandrasekera Pandyan and Veerasekara Cholan might be legendary characters or little chieftains as there is no proper record for their presence. Mr. Santhalingam says that Nagama Nayak was sent to control the riots between Madurai and Tirunelveli. Later, Viswanatha Nayak established the rule with the consent of Vijayanagar. When Nayaks established rule in Madurai, Pandya king and his kin left the kingdom and joined their relatives in Kayatharu, Tenkasi and Tirunelveli.
All auspicious events begin with an invocation to this deity at Mottai Vinayagar Temple. At the commencement of all rituals that mark the life of a Hindu from birth to death, it is the worship of Ganesha that precedes the ceremony, says C. Chellaih, a 77-year-old devotee, who dares not miss a visit whenever he happens to cross the Street. Recently, the temple authorities have removed the hundi of the temple and people can perform puja all by themselves.