Friday, March 1, 2019

Thiru Meiyam Divya Desam

Original Inhabitants left the Vibrant Agraharam in the 1970s in search of Corporate Jobs
Brahmotsavam came to a halt for a couple of decades before its revival last decade 
While many of the Divya Desams in the Chozha and Pandya regions have seen a revival in the last two decades, the rock cut cave temple of Sathya Murthy Perumal in Thiru Meiyam (Thiru Mayam) has remained largely ignored with most of the devotees giving the temple a miss in recent times. Locationally, it has remained a Divya Desam away from a cluster making it challenging for the devotees. The priests too went away from the temple in the 2nd half of the 20th century seeking greener pastures leaving the temple in the dark.

Referred to as Sathiya Giri and Sathiya Kshetram, Thiru Meiyam Divya Desam is surrounded by a huge fort. The rock cut cave temple temple dates back to the 7th Century AD. On the wall just above the deity one finds images of Brahmma and several Devas. Adiseshan is believed to be protecting this place. The story goes that when the Asuras tried to kidnap the Lord, Adiseshan let open poisonous air to kill the asuras. As a reference to this incident, one can see Adiseshan being depicted in the same form here at this temple- letting out poisonous air- a unique feature at this Divya Desam.
It is 8am on a weekday morning. The temple has just opened. The priest, without a tuft, has just finished the vishroopam aradhanam. There are just a couple of devotees for the morning sevai. The sannidhis of the Lord in the sleeping posture and the one next to him of Sathya Murthy Perumal in a standing posture are soon locked as the priest awaits the next set of devotees. This was typically the scenario in many Divya Desams in the 1970s and 80s. This scenario still prevails at Thiru Meiyam. It is rare to see such a quiet Divya Desam in the times when there is a devotional wave sweeping all temples in Tamil Nadu.

Service for 7 decades
The forefathers of 70 year old Krishnamurthy Bhattar had been performing service at the temple for the last 100 years.  His father Jagannathan Bhattar belonged to Neikunam village just under 10kms from Thiru Meiyam. He entered temple service at the age of 20 in 1934 and performed kainkaryam at the sannidhi and madapalli for almost 70 years before his death about 2 decades ago. His father and three other relatives shared the 30 day kainkaryam equally (7 ½ days each).   
A Vibrant Agaraharam till the late 1960s
During his school days in the 1960s, there were 20 Brahmin families in the agraharam.  The Brahmotsavam in Vaikasi was grand with Vahana procession on each day. Aadi pooram was also a popular festival at the temple. Big crowd gathered at the temple on Vaikunta Ekadasi day from all the nearby villages and the temple would be open from 4am till almost mid night on the occasion. Pagal Pathu Utsavam too was a big festival at this temple. During Margazhi, Thiruppavai was recited every morning. ‘Kattalai’ was there for every utsavam till the 1960s. Historically, on the Chitra Pournami day, Sathiya Moorthy Perumal was taken out on a 40 mile procession to Kadaya Kudi.

Jagannathan Bhattar used to get Rs. 10 a day as thattu kaasu during the week long service every month. His official monthly salary was Rs.40.  Six decades later, Krishnamurthy Bhattar now gets Rs. 1000 as his monthly salary!!! It was the help of his uncle that he was able to complete his school and college education. He had not seen a 100 rupees note throughout his educational phase. There was also no electricity all through his schooling days and the young Krishnamurthy Bhattar studied under the hurricane light. 
Residents leave the town
By the early 1970s, things had worsened at the temple. The traditional residents of the agraharam began leaving the town, one by one after selling their lands in the new political regime. The popular Chariot festival was stopped in 1973. For three decades, festivals were put on the backburner. Krishnamurthy Bhattar’s uncles moved to different locations mostly to work in corporates with Varadaraja Bhattar settling down at Uthamar Koil where he has been performing service for several decades.

Financial insecurity loomed large in the 1970s and Krishnamurthy Bhattar went away from Thiru Meiyam for almost three decades into the corporate world to return only at the start of this century. During this period, the Brahmotsavam had come to a halt. Devotees too dwindled in the 1980s and 90s and the priests went through a tough time. 
The Brahmotsavam is back now as are the donors for the big utsavams. But the devotees are missing and it is generally a quiet time for the priests through the year. Krishnamurthy Bhattar resides in an decades old house and he comes back to the temple to open the sannidhis whenever an outstation devotee visits to complete their count of a Divya Desam.

Thiru Meiyam is located about 20kms from Pudukottai on the Karaikudi/Tirupattur highway. Passenger trains running daily on the Trichy - Rameswaram route stop at Thiru Mayam.


Kannamma said...

Sir, sorry, my query is not related to this post.

I have been a regular reader of your blog and have used the details of temples, contact numbers, maps given in your blog extensively. You have been my guide in absentia. A big thank you for everything.

I would like to know if you have any details on pancha narayana kshetrams in karnataka . I am specifically looking for telephone numbers at nagamangala saligramam and belur.

Would be grateful if I could get it or atleast provide a link to the blog if already there.

PRabhu S said...