Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thiru Koshtiyur Renovation Issues

Periyazhvaar's Praise of Thiru Koshtiyur and what it is today
Not Just Cricket, Even Temple is a business now
Velukkudi Krishnan markets for the Renovation with an Upanyasam in Coimbatore - Road Shows no more the exclusive domain of corporates

Periyazhvaar reserves the highest form of praise for the people of Thiru Koshtiyur. In the Periyazhvaar Thirumozhi, he brings out the greatness of their generosity with a beautiful example. ‘During famine, grains sell at such a premium that even a handful of grains cost a gold coin. But even during these most testing of times, the people of Thiru Koshtiyur feed the guests with honour as if everything was normal. They do not use such tough times to hide their stocks and claim shortfall to their guests. Would you not sell yourselves as bonded slaves to such high quality people’ asks Periyazhvaar.

He praises them as those who always spoke the truth and who were blemish-less with almost no faults and without enemies. You could find no one with malice. From a young age, they cultivated good habits. He goes to the extent of saying that when their feet touched the ground, the earth got sanctified and became purer. Just seeing them seemed to fill one’s hearts with good thoughts. He says that such is the purity of the place that even the asuras aren’t likely to steal grains at Thiru Koshtiyur

That was over a 1000 years ago. The picture today bears no resemblance to the praise extolled by Periyazhvaar on the people of Thiru Koshtiyur. One wonders how he would have sung today if he visited the temple and met the residents of the town.

So what is the scenario now at Thiru Koshtiyur?

Temple Road Shows following the Corporate Model
It is that time of the season to make money at the cost of others. It is Renovation time. The previous renovation had taken place 17 years ago. There are road shows being organised for collection of money to fund the renovation ( yes road shows are no more the exclusive domain of companies looking to go in for IPOs or to raise funds through other routes). 

A recent one was anchored by the celebrated Velukkudi Krishnan in Coimbatore addressing a set of leading industrialists there - a beautiful model of an Upanyasam that was combined / followed with a funding pitch by the renovation team. This one though was particularly surprising, given the background of team, as Shri. Krishnan is careful with his brand promise but this may have been one occasion where he may have failed to keep up to that. 

(The renovation team shared this with me (when I was in Thiru Koshtiyur last week) with a lot of pride - the fact that they had roped in Velukkudi Krishnan for that road show)

Unauthorised collection of cash
As one is about to step foot into the temple, one is welcomed by a voice that seeks any money for the renovation - Rs. 10 to Rs. 10000!!!! No such collection of cash is allowed as per HR & CE rules (this is a Sivagangai Samasthanam temple but the audited accounts are to be presented to HR & CE). And the devotees with good intent keep feeding into the unsolicited pitching for money.

And as one stays on there at the entrance to the Raja Gopuram, one finds even more disturbing issues. Rs. 35 is being collected for car parking and Rs. 100 for mini bus parking but the receipt books don't indicate that amount (it is much lower). 

The car parking rights had in the past been tendered for a few lakhs annually but in the recent past that too has been withheld. Thus the entire collection is completely unaccounted for. And it is a financial loss to the temple with the parking fees going to a set of individuals.

Anna Dhanam
There is also collection of money for the Anna Dhanam scheme but it looks like this amount is not being deposited into the official account to which it is supposed to be. The donar gets prasadam on time just as a convincing methodology (and an acknowledgement to him of his donation) but the money may not be going to the Anna Dhanam, the purpose of the donation. A peep into the record books will tell the real story behind this. At a conservative estimate of about 100 donars every month, there is around Rs. 20000 going almost unaccounted.

That's the story outside the temple.

Pillayar Sannidhi brought down
Now to the inside. On the ground floor of the temple is the Shrine for Shiva that finds a mention in Thiru Mangai Azhvaar's Periya Thirumozhi verse on Thiru Koshtiyur. He praises the Lord of Thiru Koshtiyur as one who has accepted Goddess Lakshmi as well as Lord Shiva as being part of him ( his own self). In this case, it is meant as being 'part of the temple'.

Structural changes are being planned at the Shiva Sannidhi that includes the replacement of stones and a possible replacement of the Lingam ( though this may be said to be currently on hold).

It is the Pillayar Sannidhi that is first built on the South West corner of a Shiva Sannidhi. The Pillayar Sannidhi that possibly dates back to the time of the Shiva Sannidhi has been demolished and is being reconstructed.

As per the renovation rules of HR & CE, no ancient structure can be brought down without the express orders of HR & CE.

More demolition on the anvil
Also, on the plans are restructuring of Ramanuja and Thiru Koshtiyur Nambi Sannidhi, Narasimha Idol/Peedam and a replacement of the iconic Nambi idol on the third tier of the temple (just next to the stone sculpture of Ramanuja).

All of a sudden, yesterday, the Ashtanga Vimana work (that includes a Gold Rack installation) has been put on hold by the EO (who is an appointee of the Sivagangai Samasthanam). 

A Coat Hanger inside the Moolavar Sannidhi
As I entered the Moolavar Sannidhi on Tier 1, I found a coat hanger inside. And it was meant to be for the EO to place his Shirt while he was at the Sannidhi. Shirts are not allowed inside the Moolavar Sannidhi at this temple. But to have a coat hanger installed for a private individual  seems quite disrespectful to the Lord.
HR & CE has taken some initial steps towards an enquiry but it will have to probe deep and get to the base of the facts. 

I have also spoken to the ASI chief for an exploration to ensure that this ancient structure does not get diluted with structural changes to centuries old Sannidhis and idols.

The Moral: Temple has become a business (not just Cricket - the other topic that I write on)

A different version of this story featured in The Hindu Friday Review on June 17


Anonymous said...

Very sad to note.
Apparently, we are moving towards Kali so fast!
But, I do hope this will be stopped at some stage!


Anonymous said...

This is so sad, Prabhu !!

But a reality in many temples... The parking fee scam is the most common one in most temples, there is also a Prasadam stall scam that is very common. So are the Madappalli supplies.

These happen to be the fief of the local ruling party men. Most of the time it is one family that balances the equation with members of the family evenly spread across the two big parties.

Very sad...

(from the Middle East)

Anonymous said...

It seems renovation takes as per wish of sivangai samasdhanam..and also wat is the matter with industrialists and krishnan?they too behind in part of shifting thirukostiyur nambaigal sanadhi and other sanadhis?I have simple thought in mind...pls forgive me if u don't like ....major industrialists in coimbatore are having lot of money and most are spiritual oriented.. So what is the wrong if they giving their money for renovation? Maximum people don't know about aaghamas and history related to temple..their intention might be only donating money for temple renovation.. Wat else they can do?its all about the person who is leading this renovation as well as giving guidelines to shifting the snandhis..renovation of temples has to be done only by TVS group?other good hearted people can't?