Madurai: Plan to retain water in temple tank

Cement bottom of four smaller tanks to be replaced with clay and sand

MADURAI: The Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple is considering experimenting with a new method to retain water in its Golden Lotus Tank.

The experiment contemplates replacing the cement bottom in the four smaller tanks of the Golden Lotus Tank with two feet of clay and one foot of sand and assess whether this would prevent seepage of water.

R. Padmanaban, Executive Officer of the temple and Joint Commissioner of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department, said here on Tuesday that this method would be used for the entire tank if the experiment turned out to be successful. Preliminary work for this experiment had already commenced, he said, adding that the results of the trial runs would be observed for a couple of months before contemplating replicating it. The temple would seek the support of private donors for this purpose. It was also prepared to execute the venture with its own funds, if necessary, he said. At present, the cement bottom of the tank is unable to prevent seepage of water. However, clay will be able to help retain water.

The Meenakshi Temple has also received a Rs. 40 lakh-proposal from the Madurai Corporation for filling up the tank with water.

Under this proposal, the civic body has assured providing three lakh litres of water every day. This proposal has been sent to the HR and CE Commissioner for approval. The temple and Madurai Corporation will equally share the total project cost of Rs. 40 lakh. While the Corporation will source the water from the Vaigai, the temple has been asked to bear the electricity charges for pumping the water. However, if the experiment were to succeed, the temple might need three lakh litres only once in 15 or 30 days thereby conserving water and expenditure, said Mr. Padmanaban.


Disposed clothes piling up at Agnitheertham worries tourists

RAMANATHAPURAM: The indiscriminate disposal of clothes by devotees in the sea at Agnitheertham in Rameswaram and the lack of any mechanism to clear them has caused concern among the tourists.

Ritualistic:A heap of clothes thrown by devotees after taking a holy dip at Agnitheertham shore in Rameswaram. — Photo: L. Balachandar

As per the custom and tradition, the devotees, who come to Rameswaram to perform pujas for their ancestors, throw clothes and other items in the sea before or after taking the holy dip.

An approximate estimate shows that around 5000 pilgrims take holy dip in the sea at Agnitheertham everyday, which is just a few meters from Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple. Of them, at least 200 persons throw clothes and puja materials in the shallow areas of the sea as per the instruction by the priests. The clothes, which go down to the bottom of the sea, remain there for many days. They have been hardly cleared by the staff members or agencies concerned.

Devotees complained that whenever they went to take holy bath in the sea near Agnitheertham, they had to touch the abandoned cloths, which they did not want to.

The local people said that though there was a mechanism to remove clothes. It was not being implemented properly. The removed clothes sometimes had been kept on the shore for many days. It was posing an unclean environment in Rameswaram, where a large number of devotees and tourists came from different parts of the country.

They demanded that the officials concerned should devise a plan to remove these clothes on a daily basis. They suggested that a separate area in the sea could be earmarked for putting clothes and others materials so that they could be cleared without much difficulties.


Sound and light show at Meenakshi temple

Rs. 1.76 crore sanctioned for the purpose

MADURAI: Preliminary work for establishing a sound and light show at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple here has commenced with North Adi Street being chosen as the location.

A sum of Rs. 1.76 crore was sanctioned for the purpose in the State budget, according to R. Padmanaban, Executive Officer.

He took charge on Thursday from R. Sudarshan, Joint Commissioner (Madurai Region), Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, who was holding additional charge.

Speaking to The Hindu, he said the show would be in English and Tamil and could be for 30 minutes. It would focus on the temple history, architecture, sculptures and its significance.

A short documentary film on the Meenakshi temple has been commissioned by the HR and CE department.

“The film would focus on the rituals and festivals being performed for the deity. As foreigners are not allowed inside sanctum sanctorum, they can learn about the rituals from this short film.

A projector would be installed inside the temple premises to show this documentary in the evening hours,” he informed.


A similar initiative was undertaken at Sri Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai, for which Mr. Padmanaban was the Thakkar before joining here. The Meenakshi temple would become second temple in the State to have a short film to be taken with Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram likely to be third.

Speaking about other works under way, he said that estimates were being prepared for constructing a marriage hall at Ellis Nagar at a cost of Rs. 10 crore.

A Rs. 23-lakh estimate for replacing cracked stones at the Veeravasantharayar Mandapam near the East Tower of the temple has been sent to the State Government.


He said that the Rs. 40-lakh renovation work for kumbabhishekam of Muktheeswarar Temple, a sub-temple of Meenakshi Temple, would be completed in two months. Modernisation and other electrification works under way at the Thousand Pillar Hall Museum of the Meenakshi temple, for which Rs. 1.55 crore was sanctioned by the Tourism Department, were nearing completion.

The temple’s Icon Centre at Sellur, which would house all unprotected idols from in and around Madurai Region, would be completed in a month.


While the Public Works Department, which is constructing the Centre, had contributed Rs. 28 lakh, the Meenakshi temple had pitched in Rs. 7 lakh.


Temple elephant develops intestinal problems

Medical care:Vellayammal, elephant of the Big Temple under treatment in Thanjavur. — Photo: M. Srinath

THANJAVUR: Vellayammal, elephant of the Big Temple here developed some intestinal problems due to excessive consumption of sand. Following complaint lodged by officials of Palace Devasthanam, P.N. Panicker, veterinary doctor from Thrissur and B. Saravanan, veterinary surgeon, treated the elephant on Wednesday. According to Panicker, the pachyderm got some obstruction in the intestine due to arrest of food materials caused by consumption of excessive sand. Intravenal fluids, anti-biotics have been given.

The animal is expected to recover within two days, Dr. Panciker said.


Thanjavur: An exciting discovery and a 1931 scoop for The Hindu

S.K. Govindaswami touched or scraped the peeling flakes and a wondrous series of Chola frescoes was unveiled

The discovery of Chola frescoes in 1931 “extended the frontiers of the history of Indian painting,” set the scholarly world abuzz, and expedited conservation efforts at the Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur.

FROM THE TIME OF RAJARAJA I: A beautiful fresco of Nataraja. At right, in the Tripurantaka panel, a demon and his consort are featured.— PHOTOS OF FRESCOES: N. Thyagarajan/ASI

The 1000-year-old frescoes, painted at Rajarajesvaram, or the Big Temple as it is popularly known, remained unknown and hidden for centuries. The man who brought them back to life was a 28-year-old historian, S.K. Govinda swami.

On April 9, 1931, Govindaswami, a lecturer with the Department of History of Annamalai University, was examining the seven-feet-wide dark passage around the sanctum of the temple. What he found with the help of his ‘baby petromax’ was not Chola paintings but the 17th century Nayak paintings. He was disappointed and almost gave up hope of finding something from the Chola period. As he walked the remaining part of the passage, the cracked painted plasters on the western wall drew his attention. He touched or scraped the peeling flakes. They fell down and through the cleared portions he found what he excitedly described as “a fine series of frescoes palpitating with the life of other days.”

S.K. Govindaswami

Govindaswami realised he had discovered the Chola frescoes. The very next day, he wrote to The Hindu about his sensational discovery. On April 11, 1931, the newspaper published his admirably factual account. It described the paintings and his experience of discovering it. Govindaswami followed this up in The Hindu with a two-page feature article on the Chola paintings titled “A new link in Indian Art.” It was published, with impressive illustrations, on June 7, 1931. It is here, even before he wrote his scholarly papers, that he described at length the themes of the paintings and its connections with India’s art history. He even identified a figure in one of the panels as the portrait of Rajaraja I, the builder of the Big Temple (this was subsequently refuted by other scholars).

The published reports drew nation-wide attention and brought scholars rushing to see the frescoes. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, who wrote the magnum opus The Colas, the first part of which was published in 1935, was one of them. The noted historian of South India recalled two years later that he viewed the frescoes “very soon” after its discovery “together with” Govindaswami and agreed with him that they belonged to the 11th century, the same period as the construction of the temple (which was completed in 1010 CE).

Although the temple was listed as a ‘government monument’ as early as 1891, it was only after the discovery of the frescoes that serious efforts were made to protect it.

Unfortunately, Govindaswami did not live long to pursue his scholarly interests or revel in his fame. He died in Chidambaram at the age of 38. The Hindu, on June 24, 1941, published a brief obituary on the Annamalai University history lecturer. It referred to his recent tour of Ceylon to give “lectures on Tamil literature” and mentioned that he was survived by “two wives, two sons and one daughter.”

“I have not met him personally,” recalls M.S. Govindaswamy, retired professor of history who joined Annamalai University in 1957, “but have heard about him from Sadasiva Pandarattar who remembered him as a man of scholarship and intelligence.”

When S.K. Govindaswami died, his unfinished manuscript on Indiya Varalaru, a Tamil book on Indian history, stopped with the beginning of Rajaraja’s time – the period in which the Thanjavur frescoes were painted. The manuscript was posthumously edited by C.S. Srinivasachari and published by Annamalai University in 1943.

A. Srivathsan From THE HINDU