Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Uthamar Seeli Venugopalan Temple

Will processions be revived at this historical Chozha period temple now administered by the HR & CE

The handsome Utsavar Idol has been in lock and key at the Jambukeswarar Temple in Thiruvanaikaval for Several Decades – The last horse vahana purapadu took place way back in 1956 a few year prior to the huge floods in the Cauvery

Efforts to conduct a Garuda Sevai this year failed, with the HR & CE refusing to release the Utsava Deity in the current heated environment 
It is an ancient temple but forgotten for all accounts by the HR & CE who are playing it safe. Four decades ago, the road from Srirangam to Koviladi via Kallanai along the banks of the Cauvery was a dark narrow stretch with no street lights along the 25km path. The  road was full of pits right through to Appakudathan despite this serving as the shortest route to Kumbakonam from Srirangam via Thiruvayaru. The most popular temple on this route was the Appakudathan Divya Desam (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/11/108-divya-desam-koviladi-appakudathaan.html), 10kms West of Kallanai, but that too lay in complete darkness for a long period of time.

Even as one passed Thiruvanaikaval on to the Kallanai Road, one found greenery all around on the Northern side with the Cauvery running along the Southern stretch.

Rarely did devotees stop by for any temple on this route till they reached the Appakudathan Divya Desam in Koviladi (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/11/thirupper-nagar-koviladi-divya-desam.html). One of the ancient temples that got the slip each time was the Venugopalan Temple in Uthamar Seeli, a few kms East of Kallanai.

However, this entire stretch from Srirangam to Koviladi has seen a dramatic infrastructure improvement in recent times. Street lights now glow bright through the 25 km route along the Cauvery banks and the road has been widened beyond one's imagination.

Uthamar Seeli and the worst floods in half a century
Just over 50 years ago, when the Srirangam belt saw its worst floods in almost 75years, it was this village of Uthamar Seeli that bore the brunt, for the excess water from the Cauvery was let out into this village to prevent flooding along the banks on this stretch. Thankfully the large temple believed to have been constructed in the grand old period of the Chozhaz remained strong and safe.

Muslim Invasion and the Uthamar Seeli Temple
Seven Centuries ago, when the Muslim invaded this region and the Srirangam temple was affected, this temple too felt an impact. The Moolavar idol dating back to that period was damaged but was protected. To this day, one finds within the temple complex that ancient idol with a broken hand.

The Handsome Standing Posture
The handsome Venugopalan, seen in a tall standing posture is playing the flute flanked by Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi Thaayar. There is a separate sannidhi for Aravinda Nayaki Thayar. Within the surprisingly huge temple complex, one finds a beautiful nandavanam with tall trees forming part of the outside prakaram, leaving devotees surprised at the existence of such a large temple on the banks of the Cauvery, near Srirangam (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/09/108-divya-desams-srirangam-lord.html).

No Procession in 60 years
The beautiful utsavar deity of Venugopalan has been placed in security at the Jambukeswarar temple in Thiruvanaikaval (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2014/12/thiruvanaikaval-jambukeswarar.html). Efforts were made to secure release of the processional deity for a Garuda Sevai this year but given the issues relating to theft of idols across HR & CE administered temples the department refuse to release the idol from their custody, leaving the devotees to wonder the purpose behind having a processional idol when an ancient temple is not able to conduct utsavams and street processions for them to have darshan. 
The temple comes under the administration of Uthamar Koil Divya Desam (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/05/108-divya-desam-uthamar-koil.html).

Three Generations of Service but at no Salary from the HR & CE
The Parijarakar, who also doubles up as the Bhattar, has been here for three generations with his father and grandfather too having donned the role at this temple. The villagers are hopeful that in the current environment where one is seeing a devotional wave across temples in Tamil Nadu the historical utsavams will be revived at this temple by the HR & CE.

It is the same story relating to the salary of the priest as well. For decades, the priest/parijaraka has not been any salary by the HR & CE that is worth mentioning. Over the last 10 years, devotees have come together to contribute a reasonable amount for his daily survival and that is how this temple has seen at least some maintenance on a daily basis.

Previous Horse Vahana Purapadu in 1956
Prior to the huge floods in the early 1960s, Horse Vahana Purapadu was a regular feature at this temple in Chitrai, with devotees from all the nearby villages up to Kallanai gathering here to witness Lord Venugopalan on the Horse Vahana. The last of this procession took place in 1956. For the last 60 years, the HR & CE have consistently refused to release the utsava deity on the pretext of safety issues at the temple. The Horse Vahana, with a broken front leg, is still seen inside the temple complex. 
The general view is that it is pointless to have a processional deity locked up 15kms away in another temple thus preventing processions of the Lord both inside the temple and outside. Devotees were keen to revive the procession on the occasion of Krishna Jayanthi this year but that too died down without hope for the same reason.

Once in a while, Thirumanjanam takes place for the Lord but that is all there is at the moment in terms of celebrating the Lord with the current generation of devotees not having seen the Utsava deity at all at this temple.

The Utsava Deity should remain at the same temple
It is this attitude of the HR & CE that prompted Narasimha Gopalan Acharya of Mannar Koil, near Ambasamudram to file a case in the High Court asking for the respective temples to house the Utsava deity in its own complex as against HR & CE’s practice of keeping it locked far away in a more popular temple, thus preventing processions that are sacred to a temple’s annual exercise. 
Time will tell if the HR & CE officials at Uthamar Koil (https://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2011/12/tri-murthy-utsavam-in-uthamar-koil.html), where the annual Tri Murthy Utsavam takes place in Karthigai with a grand purapadu, will release the Utsava Idol and house it back at Uthamar Seeli that will allow for the first procession of the Lord in over 60 years.

One will have to wait and watch.

The temple is open between 730am and 12noon and between 4pm and 7pm. Contact Sridhar Bhattar @ 97502 52299.

Uthamar Seeli is about 10kms from West of Thiruvanaikaval on the Northern banks of Cauvery along the Kallanai Road. Buses ply frequently between Chatiram bus stand and Kallanai.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gone through the article which reveals the present status of the temple.Will this be brought to the notice of the HR&CE dept?

Unknown said...

When administration of churches and masjits are in the hands of the respective religionists why Hindu temples come under Govt. Control (HR&C)? The dravidian parties are noted atheists and are looking the properties of temples.Till date nobody has answered this question.