Finding Ezhu Kadal Street’s lost history

Hawkers selling their wares at the entrance of Ezhu Kadal Street in Madurai.

Hawkers selling their wares at the entrance of Ezhu Kadal Street in Madurai.   | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

This was the arena for two of the 64 divine sports of Lord Siva

The Ezhu Kadal Street is now a neglected piece of history. The place where Goddess Meenakshi appeared from the sacred fire as Thadathagai during the yagam performed by Malathuvaja Pandian and Kanchanamala lacks proper underground drainage and road. This historic spot was the arena for two of the 64 divine sports (Tiruvilayadal) of Lord Siva.

The line of shops on the Ezhu Kadal Bazaar begins from the remnants of Tirumalai Nayak’s incomplete Raya Gopuram. G. Nagarajan, a shopkeeper, says that every inch of the street has some significance.

“It is through on this street that Goddess Meenakshi fights kings during her ‘dik vijayam’and finally meets Lord Siva during the Chitirai festival. The Tirukalyanam of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Sundareswarar is held the next day. This street is brightly lit during the festival and it helps everyone catch a sight of the deity,” he says.

He says that Ezhu Kadal Street gets its name from a small temple tank that is said to have contained water from seven oceans. “As the temple tank began to dry, the State government and the temple administration constructed a large shopping complex on it, wiping away the historical significance,” he says.

G. Thiagarajan, secretary, Ezhu Kadal Shop Owners’ Association, says that what used to be a purely textile shop-filled street is now riddled with shops selling plastic items. “The shops at the complex pay a meagre rent to the temple administration. Instead of housing plastic shops, it could have a heritage bazaar,” he says.

Mr. Thiagarajan says that the traffic on the street is highly unregulated. The thin one-way street sees many hawkers selling wares on the road. The conservancy workers focus on cleaning the larger streets around the temple but do not clean Ezhu Kadal Street, says Mr. Nagarajan.

Both shopkeepers feel that the local body should focus on making Ezhu Kadal cleaner, instead of pumping funds into large-scale Smart Cities Mission projects. Mr. Thiagarajan says that the local body does not consult the association or shopkeepers before creating any plan to restore heritage structures.

“We are important stakeholders and deserve to be heard,” they say.

A senior Corporation official says that the plan for a heritage walkway was framed after receiving expert opinion from architects and temple authorities. He adds that street hawkers on Ezhu Kadal Street do not have licences to set shop. They will be removed if they do not possess proper documents.

“The street is an important part of history. We are working to restore monuments and make them accessible to residents and tourists alike,” he says.

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Printable version | May 21, 2020 6:40:12 PM |

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