Tamil Nadu: In Focus

When sale of lottery had spiritual goal

Royal edict: According to the government order, the cost to rebuild the gopuram worked out to ₹70,000.

Royal edict: According to the government order, the cost to rebuild the gopuram worked out to ₹70,000.

Years ago, States like Tamil Nadu banned the sale of lottery tickets, which had become an addiction for many and which was equated with gambling. However, it is interesting to learn lottery tickets had entered India,147 years ago, not as a revenue model but to mobilise funds to repair the gopuram of the Sthanumalayaswamy temple at Suchindram in Kanniyakumari district. The district was then part of the erstwhile Travancore.

It happened in ‘Kollam year 1050’, corresponding to 1875 AD, after the two stages of the gopuram were damaged in thunder and lightning on a rainy day. “As it required a lot of money, Parameswara Sharma, my great-great grandfather, who had read about the practice of selling [lottery] tickets in the U.S., pitched the idea before Travancore King Visakam Thirunal, who approved it,” said N.P. Sharma, the Sthanikar of the Vattapalli Madam at Suchindram. Sthanikar, a hereditary dignity, is the managing trustee of the rites and ceremonies of the temple.

Copy preserved

Dr. Sharma said the King favoured the idea of completing the work in three years in phases. “But my great-great grandfather was firm that once the work started it cannot be allowed to wait for want of funds. He was close to the King, who would address him as Paachu. The King was not optimistic when he was told about the proposal to sell lottery tickets. But Parameswara Sharma had convinced the King saying anything could be achieved with the grace of Padmanabhaswamy and the blessings of the King.”

Subsequently, an order was issued and a copy of it is still preserved at Vattapalli Madam.

The height of the gopuram is 134 feet and 6 inches. According to historian K.K. Pillai, the author of the monograph, The Suchindram Temple , the gopuram stands over a plinth area of nearly 5,400 square feet (about 90 feet in length and 60 feet in width). The original gopuram was constructed by 1545 AD and the tower above the plinth was renovated in 1888.

“The Suchindram gopuram forms a striking contrast with the one at the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, where the width at base is excessive in relation to its height. Indeed, none of the temples in the entire Travancore can boast of a gopuram so elegant and graceful as the one at Suchindram,” Pillai had written in his book.

Winner not known

Dr. Sharma said that as per the government order, the project cost worked out to ₹70,000. The government decided to utilise ₹30,000 from the temple coffers, while the lottery was launched to mobilise the rest.

“Unfortunately we do not have details of the winner of the lottery. It was successfully conducted, and the work was completed. As the completion of the project required less than what was estimated, the surplus was surrendered to the government. But the King asked our great-great grandfather to use the amount to draw paintings in the gopuram. The sthalapurana of Suchindram was depicted in the paintings,” Dr. Sharma said.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 5:08:26 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/when-sale-of-lottery-had-spiritual-goal/article38336323.ece