Mission Society

Work in progress to restore village temples

Mahalakshmi Charitable Trust has undertaken a slew of temple projects in the villages

The Lockdown has redefined lifestyle for most of us. It has not spared any area, work coming to a standstill in many. The doors of temples closed and along with that restoration work too was suspended. The situation is slowly changing with work having resumed in certain places. Especially in the villages. Mahalakshmi Subramaniam, founder of Sri Mahalakshmi Charitable Trust, is relieved that workers are back on sites. “These are old temples in remote villages and in very bad state. The villagers are getting at least one puja done in a day. In every village it is at the request and with the support of the local residents that the Trust undertakes work,” says the veteran, who is overseeing renovation at several hamlets.

Old temples in villages, which are in ruins and not maintained due to paucity of funds always draw Mrs. Subramaniam’s attention. “Once flourishing with pujas and festivals, they have become dilapidated because of the migration to city of the caretakers. The villagers need guidance and once initiated into the process, they are eager to maintain the worship places. It is with their involvement that the temples are restored, consecration performed and divinity revived. It’s like connecting them back to their roots,” she explains.

Mahalakshmi Subramaniam leading villagers at the Adhanur Siva temple

Mahalakshmi Subramaniam leading villagers at the Adhanur Siva temple  

Some temples date back to 1,000 years and have rare Murtis. The Siva temple at Aadhanur, first instance. It is in Komal, near Tiruvarur. Originally known as Aadhavanur, because Sun worshipped the Linga, the state of the temple brings tears to the eyes. Overgrown with weeds, the structure has all but collapsed. The villagers, however, manage to have puja performed once. The deity is Agatheeswarar and His Consort Akhilandeswari. According to sthalapuranam, Nandan, a poor farmer, who was going through a tough phase because of Saturn's impact took refuge here and the divine Couple offered him solace. Eventually Saniswaran chose to make Agnipuriswarar temple in Tirukkollikadu, nearby village, his abode. Muthukumaraswamy flanked by Valli and Deivanai provides relief from eye ailments and skin disorders. The villagers say that He is no less powerful than the deity of Vaitheeswaran Kovil.

Location on the banks of Vennaru is another special feature of the village. The temple tank is Surya Pushkarani and also called Harichandra Tirtham, because the king bathed here. There is a beautiful image of Mahavishnu. “There are no details about the name. The donor, who undertakes the installation of the deity, can also give a name of his choice,” says Mrs. Subramaniam. Work, estimated at ₹50 lakhs, is under way.

The lingams and Nandi in a makeshift tent at Therku Pannaiyur

The lingams and Nandi in a makeshift tent at Therku Pannaiyur  

Arjuna link

The other temples are: Sri Brahma Raghunthalambal sameda Brahmarendraswamy, Uchivadi, Vadapadhimangalam, Tiruvarur district. Uchivadi also has Sri Ramachandra Perumal koil, which needs attention. Maragadambal samedha Maruntheeswar in Orathur is another site. In Therku Pannaiyur two lingams were unearthed and have been housed in a shed. The deities are Sivapriya samedha Thanthonreeswar and Varamtharumnayaki samedha Chandrasekharendara swamy. The Uchivadi Sivan temple, said to be 1,000 years old, has a Mahabharata connection involving Arjuna. The Pandava prince hit Siva, who was in disguise, on his head causing a bleeding injury. The Lingam, here, has a depression on the top.

Inside Uchivadi Sivan temple

Inside Uchivadi Sivan temple  

For Mrs. Subramaniam, who has 13 years of experience and more than 100 projects to her account, this is a challenging phase with restrictions of all kinds. Advancing years does not make it easy to travel constantly and supervise renovation work, which often means building from the scratch. Her husband, V.C. Subramaniam, who has been a tower of strength, also is not getting any younger. “But I can’t stop,” she says. An ardent devotee of Mahaswami, the blessings of successive Pitadipatis of the Kamakoti Pitam keep her going.

“Recently, I came close to winding up after finishing pending projects. While inspecting the site at one of the villages, an old woman came running and told me about an ancient temple, lying in ruins in the neighbourhood. She had walked all the way to meet me. When I revealed that I might not take up new commitments, she said, ‘You were my last hope in getting the Sivan temple in my village revived. Where will I go now,” and sobbed. It was like a slap on my face. When a poor old woman has such grit and deep faith, how could I shirk my responsibility,” asks Mrs. Subramaniam, who believes the mission is her destiny.

Apart from the village temples, her Trust is supporting the Dharmapuram Adheenam in the restoration of Vaitheeswaran temple. Another project close to her heart is the Manimantapam for Sri Seshadri Swamigal of Tiruvannamalai at Vazhur, his birth place, and restoration of temples there. A committee has been formed and work has taken off after nine years of hibernation. The Trust, which thrives on donations, extended financial aid to indigent silpis, nagaswara vidwans and others, whom the Lockdown has rendered jobless. Contact: +919840053289, 9940053289. Email: vcsmani@gmail.com

Earlier articles are available at https:// www.thehindu.com/society/faith/memorial- to-seshadri-swamigal-at-vazhur/article 30931047.ece and https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/ restoration-with-missionary-zeal/article 26396697.ece

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 5:54:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/work-in-progress-to-restore-ancient-village-temples/article31917847.ece

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