Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Tiruvekkaa or Yathothkari Perumal (Vishnu) Temple of Kanchipuram - unusual ''Ananathasayanam'' posture

 One of the  108  Divya Desam shrines glorified by  Azhwar Tamil saints in  the ''Divya Prabandha'' Tiruvekkaa Temple or Yathothkari Perumal Temple of Kanchipuram close to Chennai city is a popular one.  There are references to this temple in Patanjali Mahabharatham and Tolkāppiyam (3rd century BCE).  Locally called Sonnavannam Seitha Perumal   temple dedicated to god Vishnu, here his consort is  Lakshmi as Komalavalli. It is said   to have been built by the Pallava rulers  of the late 8th century AD, with later contributions from Medieval Cholas and Vijayanagar kings. The temple's association with  Kulothunga Chola I (1070–1120 CE) and  that of Rajendra  Chola (1018-54 CE) is highlighted by three inscriptions on its walls. Further   Kulothunga Chola  gifted villages to 32 brahmins to take care of the temples, etc.  As per records  Chola king, Parantaka I (907–950 CE) gave a  gift of 367 kalanju of gold to the temple by an individual. 

The architecture followed here is a good example of Dravidian style. This temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai samprathayam (sect of Vaishnavite tradition) and  vaikanasa aagama. The Vaishnavite   priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and  six Kaala puja on a daily basis.   Mangalasasanam to this temple has 14 Paasurams;  6 paasurams are written by Thirumangai Alwar and 3 paasuram are written by Thirumizhisai alwar , 4 Paasurams are by Poigai Alwar and remaining one paasuram is  by Nammalwar.

Tiruvekkaa Temple or Yathothkari Perumal Temple, Kanchi.

Above image:  Also known as Tiruvekkaa Temple, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, it is one among the three oldest Perumal temples in Kanchi; the other being   Ulagalantha Perumal Temple and Pandava Thoothar Perumal Temple. 

Yathothkari Perumal Temple,Kanchipuram, TN, 

Above image: At this 8th century CE  Yathothkari Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram the presiding deity Sri Vishnu has a rare Ananthasaynam posture (reclining). Unlike other Sri Vishnu temples where the lord  is recumbent on his right, here he is recumbent on the left.   Originally lying left to right upon hearing Thirumalisai Azhwar's  devotional  soul-stirring hymns  God turned his reclining posture from right to left.  Famous historian Nagaswamy is of the opinion that  the image (reclining posture in an unconventional way)  made of stucco in this temple  is one of the rarest representation of the deity.  Yet another interesting fact is Poigai Azhwar, one of the azhwars Tamil  saints of 7-10th century, was born at this temple lotus tank. Here, the lord gave darshan to goddess Saraswati and  Thirumalisai Azhwar. ...........................................

As for legends, there are a few versions. According one legend  Thirumalisai Aahwar, a disciple of Pey Azhwar with his mystic power  once turned an old lady into a beautiful damsel through the grace of  Bhujanga Sayana Perumal.  Later the Pallava ruler of that region married that good-looking girl. When age was catching up with him while his wife remained young,  he requested  one   Kanikkannan,  a disciple of   Thirumalisai Aahwar to sing in praise of him so that he could turn young brimming with youthfulness.  When out-rightly refused to do so, the king was in rage and banished Kanikkannan from the country.  Kanikannan explained  what had happened to  him to  his Guru  Thirumalisai, who in tern, prayed to Bhujangasayana  Perumal. Further infuriated.  king ordered all the three to to be banished. 

Location map, Kanchipuram.

No sooner had the learned persons and divine power  left the town of Kanchi than  it  fell under the cover of darkness, heralding a bad omen  filled with dreadful apprehension and a sense of foreboding for the future. Realizing his grave mistake and folly and concerned about the welfare of the people living there,   the king worshipped Bhujangasayana Perumal and requested him  to  return to Kanchipuram  along with his two devotees. Since the presiding deity obliged to his devotees' wishes, he is called Yathothkari Perumal  - Yathothka meaning  as requested and kari denotes the person who accomplishes the task.  

Yathothkari Perumal Temple,Kanchipuram, TN,

Above image:  Yathothkari Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram. Here  God Vishnu  is known as  Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal  implying the Lord had obliged  the request of Azhwar.   According to  one of the legends  Goddess Saraswati  came to this place when she was angry with Lord Brahma..........

The presiding deity of the main west facing  sanctum, "Sonnavannam Seitha Perumal" is in Bhuganja Sayanam posture. There are rare stucco images of various legends in the sanctum, one being that of goddess  Saraswathi praying at Lord's  feet . The roof of the sanctum is referred to as  Vedasara Vimana  with  five kalasams There are separate  for Poigai Azhwar located to the North of the flagstaff and lord   Yathothkari's  consort Komavalli (facing the central shrine in the Eastern side of the temple). The sanctum is accessed through pillared halls, Mahamandapam and the Ardhamandapam.  The richly ornate pillars od Mahamantapa were  built during the Vijayanagara period of 15-16th centuries. The temple has two prtakshana paths (/prakaram/precincts);  the second one  has tall  granite walls pierced by a five-story   rajagopuram ( main gateway tower). In the temple there are images of Rama Setha, Hanuman and Garuda. 

Panguni Brahmotsavam  is celebrated  during April - May and Poigai Azhwar birthday during Aipassi Thiruvonam star are the two major festivals celebrated in the temple.  Aipassi Thiruvonam, the birth star of Poigai Azhwar, is celebrated every year. ] To indicate the legend of Kanikannan, the festive image of Yathothkari, Tirumalisai Azhwar and Kanikkannan are taken in procession to Orikkai village to have a short stay during the Thai Magam festival celebrated during the Tamil month of Thai (January - February).  The annual  Azhwar Utsavam is  celebrated annually during the birth date of the Poigai Azhwar based on Tamil calendar in the temple.

In the last two years due to COVID-19 pandemic, the  conduct of festivals is very much restricted. So are the number of devotees entering the temple. The temple is under the  administration of  the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.

Mangaluru North police took the initiative and restored the heritage police station!!

Mangaluru North Police statio,

Kudos to the Mangaluru  police and their concern for the  Mangaluru North Police Station building. This place is  popularly  known as  Bunder Police Station. 

Mangaluru North Police

This police station, a heritage structure built in 1889 at a cost of about Rs.16000,  had been wilting due to aging. It  is in the prime area of the city and had to be saved from further damages, etc.,  on account of vagaries of weather nd harsh monsoon seasons. The structure is on a small plot covering 0.67 acre

Heritage-conscious police officers in the recent past came together to save the oldest  building in that city   that was part of security establishment  during the early days. The building had been leaky and consequently the exterior plaster stared peeling off. The repair and renovation work had to be taken care of. soon to stop further damages. What  the police officers  did was quite surprising in the sense in spite of their difficult  police work, they found time to seek donations from the public. Some philanthropists donated money for a good public cause. On top of it, they pooled money every possible way  including from the personnel to  meet the renovation expenses. 

Their  main focus was  on the restoration of the oldest structure back to splendor and glory.  The credit goes to Inspector Govindaraju B  (he  served between  2019 and 2021) attached to the police station and he was the one who first came up with the idea of restoring the old building and giving it a new look. The cost of renovation was around Rs. 8 lakhs. The renovation work included re-plastering of the structure, fixing  old electrical fittings, etc. The gripping problem was leaky ceiling in some places. They were fixed with proper techniques. A fresh coat of paint was applied to the structure  to make it look as if it was built  afresh.  Other repair work included the flag-post and parking area with a shed.

Police Commissioner of that area was quite pleased  and assured more repair work will be taken up at the station so that its heritage value will be secured for ever. While the work was on, the builders saw to it that major repair work did not affect the heritage elements in the structure. 

Salutations to these responsible police officers who think in terms of historical connectivity  of this city through retention of heritage structures.

''Colonial Police stations'' of Chennai, Tamil Nadu - a legacy of British rule

DGP building, Chennai, TN

Tamil Nadu State Police is one of the oldest  law enforcement agencies in the then Madras Presidency and is   the fifth largest state police force in India.   More than 150 years old in the 1650s  the English company  gave importance to security  of their settlement   and set up a system known as  Bedda Nayak system and the men in charge of guarding the places were  known as Kavalkaras and Thalayaris  Besides, there were other security groups operating in places like  Mylapore,  Chintadripet, Royapettah, etc and they were locally referred to as kotwals and palayakaras. 

Chennai city has some of the oldest police stations in the country that were built during the Raj. According to records in 1832  government under the East India company  had formed a police committee under  G Norton. On his  recommendation  Madras city was divided  into four districts - Black Town, Triplicane, Vepery and St Thome (now St Thomas Mount) to make policing easier and accordingly the jurisdiction limits were drawn up. The plan was that the police office and residence of superintendent would remain in that particular area. Example Triplicane. Senior officers were living within that jurisdiction.   Among them, the  largest  police building was on Kamarajar Sala; prior to  1865 Madras Presidency Police was operating there. The building built in 1800 was owned by a Masonic Movement (the members were called Freemasons). Under the British Crown administration, the police department in 1874  bought the building for Rs. 20000 and had spent additional  Rs. 10000 for repair and renovation.  In 1857 when the great rebellion (Sepoy Mutiny)  was going in the northern states  against the East India company's unjust rule, an interesting event was taken place in the Presidency of Madras. It is about the appointment of Chief Commissioner of Police  and  20  Superintendents  to run the police force in Madras City (Chennai). 

The Tamil Nadu government, not realizing the heritage and historical value of these old buildings made a hasty decision to pull them down replacing wih modern structures and built-in additional facilities. Heritage lovers were sore about the disappearing old structures across the city in the name of modernization.   

After a long struggle with the interference of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) this old structure in Indo-Saracenic style was saved from demolition in the 1990s. In 1993 the building underwent renovation. Offices of the Director General of Police and other  senior officials are housed here. This HQ building has pretty old police stations around it, including  Chintadripet, Mylapore and Royepttah. The Ice House police station (more than 90 years old)   was, unfortunately, pulled down in the recent past. The government never sought the opinion from the public and renovation experts. The decision was arbitrary. 

Triplicane Police Station, Chennai:  

Triplicane police station,

Above image: The room with the wooden door at the back of Triplicane police station served as a  garage for carriages and cars; probably they were used to purse thieves ; may be to go on a beat. This 131 year old building  is on the Wallajah Road (off Anna Salai), Chennai. .........  

Triplicane police station, Chennai.

Chennai: colonial .Triplicane police station

Built in 1890  during the time of Commissioner Colonel T. Weldon. The design followed here is Indo-Saracenic ( a blend of Indian and European style)  and the architect was Henry Irwin who had already designed many buildings in India. It represents the legacy of British rule in this part of Chennai city. When the city was experiencing famine the Nawab of Arcot, a close associate of the Raj, set up a large kitchen (langar khana; free kitchen). The purpose was to  serve free food to get rid of pangs of hunger suffered by lots of people.  An interesting fact is the food was  prepared  by Brahmin cooks as it had been a  the custom  then. This structure was also saved from demolition on account of public backlash and protests.

There is a plaque in the front of the building displaying the year it was built. During that period, Lord Connemara was the Governor of Madras and Col T Weldon was the Commissioner of Police, Madras. The  consultant architect of British India, was Henry Irwin.

Old Washermenpet Police station, Chennai: 

Chennai Washermanpet colonial Police station.

Built in 1898; Commissioner Agar Padley Agar. Design:  Indo-Saracenic style. Area: roughly 7,362.8 sq ft.  Once it housed  the Police Tele Communication Branch and Crime Records Bureau of the North Zone,  Old pieces of furniture are retained by  the police and the interior portions were repaired and restored. In 2014 there was a proposal to pull down the building. However, it was given up as the structure was found to be in good shape. In 2000 it got a special award. The structure is designed in a fashion, it can maintain stable  temperature inside because of its high ceiling - roughly 30 feet high with Madras terraced roof. 


Mylapore Police station, Chennai:

Mylapore, Chennai. colonial

Built in  1902;  Commissioner Oswald Routh Jones; Design:  Indo-Saracenic.   
This station came up on the same day as Chintadripet station  under  Commissioner Oswald Routh Jones, In 2002, this station celebrated  its centenary.   A modern building came up behind it and this structure is retained by the police department  upon confirmation that the old  structure was strong enough to last more than 70 plus years. An open library is functioning there in the verandah and it has been there for more than 20 years. Officials coming here for meeting higher-ups can use their spare time in the library.  This police station's jurisdiction includes three important land marks in the city -  the Kapaleeshwarar temple, Santhome Church and Police headquarters.

 Measuring 3,600 sq ft it houses the Deputy Commissioner’s office. The total police land area is 24,000 sq ft, and  the new building 1,325 sq ft. is part of the land. 


Chindatharipet Police station, Chennai:

restored police station, Chinthadaripet,

Chindatharipet Police station, Chennai.

Built in 1902;  Commissioner Oswald Routh Jones. Architectural style is that of   Indo-Saracenic.

The jurisdiction of this police station remains still large as in the past,  not yet changed so far. Old structure like Head Post Office and the former Central Prison, and fish market  fall within the limits of this police station. It was in 1955 Single Digit Finger Print Section of Finger Print Bureau came up on the land of this police station. This structure like other police stations was saved from demolition through the efforts of the public and the media. Heritage lovers and historians gave pressure to the government to save the old building that stands as a testimony to the earliest police operation in the city. 

Offices of Law and Order, Crime and All-Women police wings, and Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner were shifted o the new building and  traffic police  section occupied the old structure. Police quarters occupy  33,600 sq ft land,. In 2020 by October, the old structure was restored. 


Thousand Lights Police station, Chennai:   

Thousand Lights Police station,

Built in typical colonial style architecture, the structure which is 100 plus year old served as a Guest House of police official of   Kodambakkam. In the later years it became a police station. Built of bricks lime mortar, this masonry structure  somehow managed to survive all these years in spite of vagaries of weather and severe monsoon seasons. But the overall condition of the building was not good.  This once served as Egmore station's  outpost with limited work forces. In 1973 it became a police station and the Light House police station moved in 1988. 

The Police officers had a tough time dealing with workers' strike, etc.,  as many  large establishments  were in its policing  limit. In 1986 this station  drew the attention of the country and countless people's eyebrows arched up  with wonder when  first all-women police station started functioning here.  A new building in 2005 came up within the sprawling campus of 40080 sq.ft. The good news is there was no pulling down of the old European styled building. 

Royapettah, Harbour, Teynampet,  Royapuram and  Saidapet police station stand today as the legacy of colonial police establishment in this city that srved  as the earliest settlement for the newly-formed East India Company. 

/Once a police station on Thruvottiyrroad, Chennai.

Above image: This old dilapidated building, once a British bungalow (owned by an English man who was an employee of the Madras port)  on Thiruyottyr road, Chennai  was a police station  50 years ago. A single-story structure made of bricks lime mortar at any time may cave in. With it pillared verandah and  narrow wooden front door for entry, it looks like a typical house of this region.  It was one of the police stations built in the 1900s. Much of the damage was caused by the overgrowth of banyan tree  and other plants nearby  This uninhabitable building is owned by the Port-trust. (.

St. Thomas Mount Police station,

Above image: Demolition of St. Thomas Mount  Police station.  In Feb. 2010 the 80 year old (at that point of time) police station building was pulled down for good. This was done to make way for the proposed Metro line. The ISO-certified old building was opened by Lord Hamilton during the British regime on October 25, 1929. Once its limit was very large................................. 

Unfortunately, police stations in places like  Mount Road, Esplanade, Flower Bazaar, Egmore, Nungambakkam, etc  were razed to the ground  to build new, modern buildings.  Along with these heritage  structures is lost the continuity of police history of these places in Chennai.   It is a big loss to the posterity.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Is Yoga a remedy for preventing hair loss?

Losing a little off the top isn’t the social exile, nor is it  odious. However, stoically  experiencing  hair loss is still stressful and frustrating for most people.

Hair loss among men  is a gripping problems   world over. Three factors can be cited - interaction of genetics, age, and hormones. More common is the genetic factor that may lead to hair loss and later baldness. Other reason is change of certain hormonal level over a period of time of a man's life. Baldness does not occur in a short time, it occurs gradually over a time span.  According to Mayo clinic, USA  '' hair loss (alopecia) can affect just your scalp or your entire body, and it can be temporary or permanent. It can be the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or a normal part of aging. Anyone can lose hair on their head, but it's more common in men.'' Exposure to UV rays, frequent contact with sea water or chlorinated water may lead to slow loss of hair. 

People's reactions to baldness may vary. Some people take it easy and be happy with whatever hair is left on the head regardless of over loss from the scalp. Some men, being conscious of their appearance, may  take refuge in  fancy hats or scarves or wigs.

To avoid further loss of hair, countless men  prefer consulting experts.  Hair loss is a universal problem, and though so many treatments are available, none of them gives a permanent cure.  Countless ads are being run in the popular news papers and magazines showing a  poor-looking  bald man before treatment and the same man beaming with smile full of confidence after hair loss treatment at the clinic. Many men are succumbed to such put-on clinics'   ads  run by fake experts who are better known for their gimmicks  to get the people trapped. Mind you, there is no 100% panacea for hair-loss cure. Positively you can reduce it as much as you can. You need the will power to do it. 


For   unmarried males it is a  serious problem and this causes more stress on them than the job stress. Invariably, with some exceptions,  bewitching women prefer a  man with luxurious growth of hair  with healthy scalp. It does not matter what  is inside the skull, only the crown matters. It is true bald people can not escape from the personal, professional and  social ramifications. The result is their social activities and personal appearance take a  beating. They are under the wrong impression that they can not command respect in the absence of aura caused by baldness. It is a myth. 

Hair loss on the head is part of aging and nothing can prevent it. However, it can be checked if serious efforts are made, Avoid contacting fake clinics, you not only end up losing the remaining hair, but also your shirt.

Hair-loss clinic.

First and foremost a balanced diet is a must with lots of vegetables, green leaves, fruits, pulses, celery , spouts, etc. Besides, it is good if you drink plenty of water daily 1.5 to 2 liter.  Researchers say that  inadequate water intake, poor consumption of  salad or fruits or skipping breakfast may cause hair loss, Concentrate on food items that  are rich in  protein. Poor protein means poor hair growth. 

Nowadays as part of office work, both men and women with no choice on hand,  sit long hours before computer. The radiation emission from the monitor may be low lately, but its impact on the gradual hair loss is cumulative. This is true of sitting long hours before TV screens. Researches who strongly advocate vegetarian  food and plenty of water  also emphasis  that Yoga and Meditation may be   a good approach for hair loss treatment. Particularly, certain yoga techniques increase  blood circulation  flow of blood to the tip of the head.  Besides, yoga reduces  serum cortisol levels, which are associated with high stress levels. As for meditation, it will reduces  your stress level considerably and this may further slow down the effects of stress on the scalp. Stress may reduce the immune system and may cause slow growth of hair.  The crucial matter in the case of hair loss is poor blood circulation  in the scalp region.  Certain yoga positions like  inverted one - head on the ground with legs up can improve the flow of blood to the scalp. If a person does yoga for 45 minutes to one hour the various benefits will be more.  

The following  Asanas  will help you enhance the hair growth.  Best thing is consult a proper, well- trained Yoga master, he or she will guide you. 

01. Adho Mukha Svanasana  (downward -facing dog pose).- Improves growth of hair by augmenting blood-oxygen circulation to the head and face. Simulating scalp is crucial.

Uttasana: (Forward bend) : It promotes relaxation; stretches hamstring  stomach muscles.; aids the body to switch over to Parasympathetic nervous system from sympathetic mode.  The end result is relaxation 

Ustrasana (Camel  pose):  Improves blood oxygen levels in the heart and in the head. 

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend): Blood circulation and stress buster. 

Balasana (Child’s Pose); Stress releasing  benefits. 

Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose): Improves the functioning of Thyroid glands and promotes hair growth. 

Vajrasana (Diamond pose): Promotes peace of mind and reduction of stress. 

Kabal Bhati Pranayana: This asana promotes t overall  oxygen level in the head  and at the same time strengthens the abdomen muscles.

Besides regularly doing the above Asana, it is quite imperative to follow the things mentioned below:

01. Keep you hair clean and be free from dandruff.  This can be done by washing it two or thee times a week.

02. Gentle brushing of hair is a must.

03. Do nor ever try harmful chemicals  that are found in the hair-staying products. They may improve your hair style, but its side effects are bad. Equally bad is heat-styling. 

04. When it comes to hair oil, Coconut oil (pure) is the best bet. Regular  scalp  massage is good for hair growth. Scalp will be healthy. 

05. Equally important is washing you hair with  Neem  water. It not only removes the dandruff but also the microscopic lice.

06. Be careful about supplementary vitamins like  A, E or Selenium. Excess is not good if taken overdose. 

Mind you, a man with good hair growth that adds to his stylish look,  has an edge over others in seeking a  suitable  woman as his life's partner.  Nothing is more enjoyable than having a good growth of hair on the head. This gives the man more confidence and better mobility in the society.  A man without hair on the head is roughly equal to  a lion without a mane!!

Monday, 13 September 2021

Agraharam - a forgotten cultural heritage space!

Agraharam. Tamil Nadu.

The Agraharam is a cultural heritage space in Kerala, but else where it is not.  The Agraharams, once a center of cultural activities a few decades ago,  came up on a land granted to Brahmins by the local  ruler or king for the simple  reason:  to look after the temples  and to reside there with their families. This is the reason why many Agraharams existed in close proximity to the temples - be they Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti temples.  Rulers from the Chola, Pallava Nayak and Maratha dynasties did build Agraharams and grant lands to the priests for livelihood and sustenance.  Practice of religion and maintenance of temples were the main reasons for setting up Agraharams close to the places of Hindu worship. 

 A small house in an Agraharam.

India being a land of  tens of thousands of temples, day to day life is evolved around  the temples.  Daily (Nithya) puja protocols/ rituals,  numerous temple festivals  had to be done acceding to certain Agama rules or norms, etc.,  required the presence of temple priests close to the Agrahara space.  The Palani  Murugan temple, Palani (Pazhni),  Madurai Meenakshi temple and Andal temple of Srivilliputhur are good examples. The traders and others near by depend on  visitors to these temples there. 

The general plan of an Agraharam is simple - rows of almost similar looking  self- contained houses with a common wall. They were built  on either side of the street  with a well or more than one to  get potable water depending on the places.  At the end of the street  there will be  a Vishnu temple and on the other end  there will be a Shiva  temple. The masonry structure will have just only one floor - ground floor and tiled (mostly  curved country tiles with a few stacked  layers; locally known as naatoddu) roof. Some may have a two-story structure consisting of a small part  with Madras terraced roof and the rest with tiled roof. Open yard (miththam in Tamil) inside the house, wide  front thinnai (raised platform/ pial with a slanting tiled roof  are common features. The number  and the size of open yards  inside the house may vary, depending on the financial status of the families, but it will be commonly three - for  reception, living space and kitchen. Open yard provides good aeration and light  and is also used for conducting household ceremonies. It may  be partly covered  atop. Many houses may have a  separate self- contained room meant for the menstruating women. Entry into the house is through a narrow passage - roughly 8 feet by 6 feet (locally called razhi). In the 1950s  toilets were set  a bit away from the living quarters. Some houses did have a separate shed to keep the cows and also bulls to  be used for pulling the cart. 

The question mostly asked by a Brahmin diaspora is: Why have the Agraharam houses in Tamil Nadu  disappeared fast in the last three   decades? (please refer to  the post  at: 

Indeed, it is a moot question and there are many reasons. Beginning in the 1960s young brahmin boys started venturing out of their native places upon graduation to seek  jobs in Chennai or elsewhere. Since the Brahmin communities of the Delta districts and other places had difficulty in getting adequate  income from their small land spread parents  did not mind sending their educated boys to take up  jobs in far-off places  to supplement the family income.  Farm labor had begun to  squeeze the land lords, both small and big.  As a section of  ambitious  young men armed with good academic records started going abroad to the US, Canada, Europe, etc., on scholarship, many households became deserted with no young men to take care the land and the house.  With dwindling younger generation, senior people in the Agraharam began selling their agricultural lands and also the house. The local temples can not give employment to a member of each family in the Agraharam. On top of it, priests (Archagas) taking care of the temple do not get enough income to run their families.  They received a paltry amount as  salary and were dependent on the ''Thattu Panam'' ( money placed on the Aati plate. Taking care of daily  puja rituals and keeping an eye on the expensive temple jewelry is a tough job. In the last one decade or more,  theft of temple jewelry and expensive antique metal  idols of god is on the increase giving heart burns to the temple priests and the management.   

Consequently in the gradually  shrinking  space in the left over Agrahara  one can see  Brahmin families that can be counted on our finger. Of course there are a few exceptions.  Labor and material costs being prohibitive, many owners have difficulty in repairing the crumbling structure. If the house is near an urban or a semi urban area it may fetch enough money to buy a house elsewhere. On the other hand, if the Agraharam is in a remote place it is worthless to repair the house. 

When the young people move out leaving behind their aging  parents, they would prefer a place closer to their son or somebody  to take care of their needs particularly,  health care. In the case of parents with insufficient income, situation will be pathetic.

Yet another underlying reason for the disappearance of remaining  Agraharam houses in Thanjavur district and elsewhere is due to political and social reasons.  Consequently, countless temples in the interior places of Tamil Nadu are either in a dilapidated state or no responsible persons are there to take care of them. In course of time in the future, they will become vestiges of once flourishing places of worship.

''Koonthankulam'' village in Tamil Nadu - no bursting of firecrackers during Diwali


 Koonthankulam village, Thirunelveli dist., TN

Above image: Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary, Thirunelveli District, South Tamil Nadu. 45 types of migratory birds from other countries.  No bursting of firecrackers in this village during Diwali!! ..............

When  various countries across the world  from Europe to South America and from Canada to China are  facing a sort of cataclysmic destruction due to unpredictable climatic  changes, weather patterns causing dangerous cloud busts, flash floods, heavy cyclones and multiple twisters, the environmentalists are quite concerned about the safety of the humanity  and their survival in the next following decades. Since  the advent of industrialization  centuries ago, the earth  and the the air cover around it have been abused as much as possible by  humans all in the name of modern technology. At stake is the environment, an integral part for our survival.  The future  environmental impacts caused by air pollution, water pollution, global warming, increasing volume of rain-borne clouds  and disintegration of big icebergs in the Artic and Subarctic regions, etc.,  will  be horribly severe.   

Diwali festival. Smog in N. Delhi 2018.

Above image: Nation's capital New Delhi. People openly flouted the Supreme Court orders on bursting of firecrackers to the minimum to avoid  serious emission.  This is true of many places across India. Responsible people don't respect laws. Yo can not put the entire blame on the Government............

Diwali haze over Delhi. 2020

In India we have  recently seen many flash floods in the Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, etc.  A few years ago Kerala experienced the worst flooding during the SW monsoon season. Such erratic climatic changes and the resultant  natural calamities portend  more dangerous situation in the future and the  countries world over have to  take serious steps to cut down on air pollution, which is primary cause of global warming. 

In India we have lots of religious  and temple festivals almost every month of the year.  In October there will be Navaratri festival and it will be followed by Diwali or Deepavali,  the most popular one across India.  Part of Deepavali celebrations  is firing crackers. Firecrackers cause lots of air-pollution due to emission by the dangerous chemicals  and the Indian states already took steps to restrict firing of firecrackers. In the past bursting  of firecrackers in Delhi and the surrounding areas triggered worst air-pollution and the pollutants  causing haze due to calm air  hung in the air for a few days. The worst situation was conducive to health problems related to breathing.   On 14 November 2020 Delhi’s air quality turned “severe”  with stubble burning accounting for 32% of Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution and firecracker emissions making the situation even worse.

Diwali air pollution.

In the past on the Diwali day  when the people  across  the country were busy  firing various kinds of firecrackers including sparklers  to celebrate the festival of lights with great joy and fun,  natives of a non-descript  village in the District of Thirunelveli,  South Tamil Nadu  celebrated this festival that is symbolic of the ''triumph of the good over the evil'', with more enthusiasm than other places. Yes, the villagers of  Koonthankulam  never busted firecrackers. Nor did they use other kinds of crackers like sparklers.  You will be surprised to know these village folks  have been following this self- imposed restriction in using fire crackers during Diwali  since 1994. Though it is a voluntarily  ban, they knew  very well the smoke from the fired crackers and sound  may threaten  the  near-by place where lots of migratory birds come and roost. 
Celebrate Deepavali without firecrackers.

The local temple conducts various festivals and it is a common thing to see busting of crackers. But in this village as collectively decided by the villagers, even the temple celebrations take place without use of  firecrackers at night. Household functions like marriages normally take place with a bit of pomp, but positively without firecrackers. Bursting of firecrackers in the name of festival and religion will not only affect us but also the organisms and the trees around us. It means death to Mother Earth. 

Impact of air pollution.

According to the Ornithologists more than 45 species of birds from countries as far away as Siberia and Australia come to Koonthankulam.  The purpose was for breeding purposes. as they found the quiet village suitable to their mating. Researchers from the  Kovai based Salim Ali Centre conduct studies on the migratory pattern of birds that prefer this serene village. Other  Tamil Nadu villages  that stand as an example of empathy toward the birds are Vavval Thoppu in Salem dist., Perrampur near Seerkazhi town  and Vishar near the temple town of Kanchipuram. The villagers don't allow bursting of crackers  during Diwali and temple festival days to avoid disturbing bats and other birds.  Even loud speakers are not allowed for family functions as they may scare the bats. 

The Apex court in 2018 had already banned the conventional crackers on pollution grounds and allowed sale of  green firecrackers. The advantage is the  "green crackers" are not as polluting as the conventional types of firecrackers and they contain at least 30 per cent less particulate matter such as Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. The town of Sivakasi  and the adjacent places in Tamil Nadu form  the main hub of fireworks in the country and at stake are the livelihood of about 1 million employees. The companies are working hard to come up with eco-friendly types causing less pollution and very low sound. It means  drastic reduction in the emission of harmful chemicals in the air and also sound pollution.   The CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute was given the task of developing "green crackers" to reduce air pollution.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Thygaraja Swamy's unique processional dance at Thiruvarur - ''Ajapa thanam'' - a brief note

Thyagaraja temple, Thiruvarur, TN

Utchava moorthies. Thygaraja swamy and his consort.

The Thygaraja temple of Tiruvaruri n Tamil Nadu, a 9th century temple dedicated to God Shiva  has many interesting and rare  features. This temple once followed countless temple rituals  particularly during the time of Kulothunga Cholan a II (1133–50 CE) -  as many as 56 rituals.   

That Lord Shiva (Thiyagaraja)'s cosmic dance is famous at Chidambaram temple, is a well known one. But her,e the temple is famous for  the ajapa thanam (dance without chanting); god himself executes this move. 

Location Thiruvarur.

 Once Chola king Mucukunta  as part of his boon wanted to receive an  image of Thyagarjaswamy (God Shiva) reposing on the chest of God Vishnu in the anantha sayanam posture (reclining) from Demi God Indira, god of rain. Indira  played a trick on him by showing other images of the lord.  however, the Chola king being smart and passionate about God Shiva,  chose the right one  for  Thiruvarur. The other six images were installed in Thirukkuvalai, Nagapattinam, Tirukarayil, Tirukolili, Thirukkuvalai and Tirumaraikadu. All these places are in the Delta region of the Cauvery and here when the processional deity is carried physically a particular dance style of that temple is enacted by the bearers of the god's idol. . 

The tradition has been that while taken in a procession, all  Thyagaraja images are said to dance in a particular  fashion. .In reality the bearers of the Uttachava deity do the dancing and it is a deliberate one simulating the dance of Shiva.   These dance styles are called  Saptha Vidangam (seven dance moves)  and are unique to this temple and other temples in the delta  region mentioned above. 

The 7 styles styles depict various gestures and each style goes by different names. :   

01. Dancing without chanting - resembling the dance of Sri Thyagaraja on the chest of  Lord Vishnu: Tiruvarur Thyagarajar Temple.  As mentioned earlier, this style  is  called Ajabathaanam.

02. Dancing  of an intoxicated person:  Dharbaranyeswarar Temple.

03.  Dancing with the gait of a swan: Vedaranyeswarar Temple.

04. Dancing like a bee that hovers over a flower:  Brahmapureeswarar Temple. 

05. Dancing like a cock: Kannayariamudayar Temple.

06. Dancing like waves of sea: Kayarohanaswamy Temple.

07. Dancing like a lotus  that moves in a breeze:  Vaimoornaathar Temple.

The processional dance styles mentioned above  are being followed at the respective temples   associated with Thiruvarur temple.,_Tiruvarur