Tracing the sacred roots of a river

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:30 pm IST

Published - August 21, 2015 09:55 am IST - CHENNAI:

I’m still trying to figure out when I went from being sacred to becoming a garbage dump. To put things in context, did you know few centuries back, I was considered sacred? Many years ago, before people started dumping garbage and sewage into me, some people even considered me even holier than Ganga herself. Why not? After all, I arose from the bow of Lord Shiva.Let me give you glimpse into the myth of how I was born.

Before Lord Shivawas on a mission to destroy three asuras Tarakaksha, Kamalakshaand Vidyunmali, he forgot to pray to his son Lord Ganesha(legend goes that if you don’t worship Him before beginning a task, you may encounter hurdles your way). And so, Lord Shiva’schariot’s bearing broke, the axle fell and lost balance. At this point, to regain balance, He placed the bow on the ground and I sprang up and washed His feet. Thus, I was born and named Cooum. (River underneath was called it Viruttaksheera Nathi)

Subsequently, a temple (Sri Tripurantaka SwamyTemple) was constructed close to me and the deity was called Lord Thiruvirkolanathar. Not just one, there are at least 100 temples fencing my course. Of course, encroachments have not spared me as well and eaten into my space and my course eventually changed me over time.

From architectural excellence (KurungaleeswararTemple, Koyambedu) to being known for granting every other wish, there are temples to each one’s likes. There is a temple even for granting a wish like everlasting beauty (Sri Deivanayakeswara SwamyTemple, Elumiyankottur).

While people here would detest and be ashamed to claim my association with the city of Chennai, I must now say proud connections so many from the Cholas to the British. The inscriptions during that period are witness to how important I was. Take for instance, an inscription of Rajendra II mentions about selling land to create an exclusive feeder canal for me. Also, the inscription of Rajaraja in Shivapuram temple talks of a canal being dug to bring my water for abhishekam for the deity Lord Urogadamudaya Mahadevan.

In fact, in the British era, the East India Company funded the construction of Adi Kesava Perumal Temple and Adi Pureeswarar Temple in Chintadripet near me. This was primarily because they wanted to set up a weaving centre and also wanted the weavers to settle down close to me.

If this wasn’t fascinating enough already, let me end now with the famous tale that many of you may have heard. The 18 century philanthropist Pachaiyappa Mudaliyar would bathe in my waters and then proceed to worship Lord Komaleeswarar.

(Source: Padmapriya Baskaran of the Chennai Cooum Group and Venkatesh Ramakrishnan of the same group)

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