Thursday, February 12, 2015

Temple Rebuilding

Dilapidated Sanctum
Restoration of Historic Temples generally  involve  renovating the damaged part without affecting the original structure. The damage is largely due to the wild growth of trees over the ancient structure , left unattended for decades.In this process, the original stones are to be numbered before dismantling. After removing the trees fully, the stones are restored in their original places. By doing so, gaps are created between the stones. The gaps thus formed are normally filled by pointing work  At the same time, the inscriptions,if any,are to be preserved with great care. Painting should be avoided over the granite stones.Removal of original stones and replacement with tiles should also be avoided.  But it is a challenging job to rebuild the entire structure on the same lines of the ruined Temple.

Remains of Nandi Mandapam
It is not uncommon to see the sites suffering from extensive damage. One such Temple was located 7 km south east of Aduthurai . Sri Garbapureeswara Swami Temple at Karupur was left only with Swami Sannadhi and that too in a very bad shape. The highly dilapidated shrine had a tall tree rooted deep into the vimanam of the sanctum. The whole structure was made of bricks. The shrines of Ganapathi and Subramanya were beyond repair. Ambal Shrine had already disappeared. All other Murthis were missing. The compound wall was absent which might have invited anti socials taking advantage of the situation.

All attempts were sincerely made to save the old structure but in vain. The bricks were too old and unable to withstand the load . As the roots had penetrated deep into the sanctum, almost the entire structure had to be disturbed to remove the trees fully. Even if other methods were applied, the structure,made of bricks would not have last long. The brick foundation , about 3 1/2 feet deep was also in a bad shape. The stones started crumbling  and it was realised that any attempt to build the new shine over the old foundation was unsafe.

It has thus become necessary to go for a new structure altogether by not skipping the guidelines given in Agama and Silpa Sastras. Photographs were taken and the measurement of the original shrine was strictly followed when the new structure was raised. Granite stones were procured from Pudukottai and the foundation work was started. Bhoomi Puja was performed with lot of enthusiasm from the local villagers.

South facing Garbaprathambika Sannadhi was also raised on a new foundation by following the original measurements.

Shrines of Ganapathi and Subramanya were reconstructed in their original places. The next job was to place orders for new idols for the respective shrines. After screening many sculptors, it was given to a Sthapathi whose workmanship was better than others.

Stone selection was made at Sthapathi's premises on an auspicious day. It was a good sign to see showers on a sunny day unexpectedly. The stone on which rain water had stagnated in a cavity was brought to the workshop and the Sthapathi offered Pujas to mark the beginning of the work. The progress was monitored at regular intervals and suggestions were given to craft the idol even better. The other idols were also made in this way and sent to the Temple within three months.

After completing the foundation work of both Swami and Ambal shrines, the Vimanams were raised with the support of Philanthropists. Arrangements were made to conduct the consecration on Sunday,1st Feb,2015. It was God's Grace that the star of the day  happened to be " Ardhra " the auspicious one for Lord Shiva. We, at Ardhra Foundation considered it as His blessing which inspired us to serve the Lord more.

As the cost was very high to build a compound wall around the  complex, a wired fence that may last for 5- 10 years was laid as a temporary measure. Another pending job was laying a pathway around the Temple. We hope that these two unfinished jobs will get completed through some blessed souls in the near future.

The locals are now proud and happy to see the ancient Temple of their village restored. It is after all they, who have to visit the Temple daily, conduct worship, monitor the daily Pujas and maintain it  in a good condition. As everyone now realise the very high cost of the neglect , care must be taken to avoid recurrence of the past.  Agamas prescribe the conduct of consecration ceremony once in twelve years.  Apart from maintaining the sanctity of the shrine, it helps to maintain the structure well at a low cost. Rebuilding will never happen if the above guidelines of the Agamas are followed.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Cheap Publicity - Thy name is Controversy ?

As Hinduism is regarded as the way of life, it allows people to choose any path as long as it serves to reach the ultimate goal of getting liberation from rebirth. In the long journey of finding Truth and attain salvation, it never compels anyone to do or not to do certain things as it strongly believes that all paths will finally reach The Almighty. It simply pronounces what is good for the Humanity and allows freedom to individuals , though the Sastras prescribed for Brahmins may be slightly rigid as the community is meant to pray for Peace and Prosperity of the entire World.

When it comes to worship , most of us pray for self rather than for anybody else. The next level of thinking is to pray for family members and then only for others. It takes time for ordinary citizens to raise to the highest level of  praying for the entire world by crossing all boundaries. The water tight compartments will automatically vanish once that level is achieved. Such a person will always pray for communal harmony by  sacrificing the materialistic way of life.

Sacrifices may be big or small. It simply means  whatever you are prepared to give up. It may be because of a prayer or the net result of thanking God for answering the prayer. Whether God asks for it or not is immaterial as long as the belief remains unshakable. Such acts can not be called as ignorance as it trespasses into the religious freedom enjoyed by the individuals or groups. To worship or not may be left to the individual. But it should not be misunderstood as an opportunity to criticise the belief of others.  

Atheism is not new to the World. But the Modern world should try to behave better than ever. Hurting others through libel and slander may give momentary happiness for atheists but the fact remains that the believers continue to grow in numbers regardless of such verbal attacks.
Social Media is supposed to unite people and guide people with the noble purpose of shaping their lives. Unfortunately they entertain avoidable debates that are defamatory and cause social evils. Such controversies may blow up to any proportion and divide people. The recent allegation appeared in the Social Media is about making poor remarks on Lord Shiva and the reaction of the public shown above is understandable.

The actor in the movie is said to have criticised the Hindu ritual of offering milk to the deity as waste. Thinking as if they serve for the poor, crocodile tears are shed for them. If the allegation is true, let them answer few questions. Why do they celebrate their birthdays and New Year with pomp and fare in star hotels and expensive resorts ? Can't they spare the money for the cause of poor children? How many of them have served for this cause off the screen? They are too happy when their fans pour milk on their cutouts when their films are released. Is there a single actor who described this as waste and advised the fans to divert the milk to poor children? Let them tell that the film world is doing charity work throughout the year. While they mint crores of rupees from both affordable and non affordable section of the public, how many of them have thought about sparing  even a small portion of their income towards charity? How many of them visit the slums regularly and offer help to the poor? They merely appear at  social functions ,that too to  get publicity.  Some of them appear before TV cameras at the time of launching a social programme and never bother to continue and carry it forward. If this be the case, why at all the advertising media be after the celebrities and offer them in crores?

We rarely react to controversial issues as it is a worthless attempt to change the attitude of critics whose mindless act  hurts the sentiments of millions of believers. However, we think it is necessary to answer the pointer raised here-- whether the milk offered to a deity is a waste . Let the critics remember that we live under the mercy of Nature that gifts us many things of which rain is the most important one. Failure of monsoon immediately affects the animals and birds and they try to migrate in search of water. They perish if they fail to identify the water resource in time. Man ignores even his pet animals at that stage in order to protect himself. Where from he get milk if the entire race of cows face the drought? He can not think of feeding his own baby, forget about feeding the poor children for a moment. When the God is so merciful to us and the cattle , what is wrong in thanking Him as a mark of our gratitude?

If the film makers are really interested in feeding milk to the poor, let them stop all lorry loads of cattle going towards the butcher's shops. Can't they live without eating mutton and beef when the poor struggle for a square meal a day? It is time for them to think and act before they preach through their films. The society has already been stabbed by viewing the immoral acts shown on the screen. Let them realise that the cinema is a strong media that can build lives of people. Such cheap acts can only ruin their image and at the end of the day their own fans may call it a day by boycotting such movies.     

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stupidity exposed

Manufacturing industries indulge in various ways to promote their products. They should always maintain dignity that brings fair name to the company while advertising their products through various media and exhibitions. Many such Industries try to force their products into the minds of the buyers by mostly sticking to the norms and standing by a level of decency. But there are players who exceed the limits and do it in a shabby way. They just do it by exhibiting models in an indecent manner to catch the attention of the people. Gone are those days when people went by advertisements alone. Now they are shrewd enough to analyse the product and compare it with similar players in the market. Knowing this fact, some companies of the west play a new trick by including the pictures of the Gods and Goddesses of the East,especially those of Hinduism.

As long as these advertisements do not insult the Religion, people are ready to look at it in a tolerant way. If the purpose is to make mockery of the religion , people will come out of their shells to protest the stupid attempt. This kind of sledging and bad advertising are going on for some years in many nations. A company of the west had printed the pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses on toilet covers some time ago. After receiving strong protests from Hindu Community, it was withdrawn and the company's apology was conveyed.

A newspaper report of this week has once again shocked the Hindu community all over the world. Pictures of Lord Shiva and other Gods were there in the gambling game introduced by a company at Espelkamp,Germany.  Are they not ashamed of doing this ? What do they know about the greatness of Lord Shiva? Do n't they know He is worshipped by millions of Hindus? What are they going to achieve by this attempt of tarnishing  Hinduism ? Do they know that Hindus never believed in criticising the other faiths of the World? Let them realise that India is one country where people live in diversity with brotherhood always in their minds and actions.

The mischievous action must be condemned by people of all faiths of the World. The company should abandon this practice and tender an unconditional apology to the Hindu community. We expect strong protests from all corners of the world so that no other company will redo it  in the same ugly way.  They may have disbelief but that does not give freedom for them to  hurt the feelings of the believers.That will indeed bring very bad reputation to the company. Let them not think they do it intelligently and differently. They only cross their limits and the stupidity is thus exposed.   

Friday, November 28, 2014

Adopting Temples ???

The Villagers are concerned. ARE WE ???
The World is constantly under changes. All species are subjected to go along with the transformation. All species except the Mankind are complacent with food and shelter. They just eat,grow, multiply and vanish. The Nature balances the existence of species until they face extinction by means of natural calamities, diseases,poaching etc. In a nutshell, they all fall under the pinciple of "survival of the fittest".  Man alone uses his brain not just to combat the dangers around but moves forward to invent many things to suit his needs. During this process of Modern living, he becomes selfish and greedy. Religious scriptures were written in order to correct him and show the good path. Even the corporates want their employees to sign off the procedure on ethical standards.

Life style gets modern look and force the people to look for more and more. With no strict guideline on  education,profession and business, people are allowed to choose anything of their choice and trespass into other's profession if that is lucrative. Family tradition is thus floated in air and a day will come when we face acute shortage of men in the field of agriculture, fine arts etc. which by no means inferior to any other profession.

Migration of people from villages to cities in the past decades was the starting point of destruction to our Heritage. Then came a situation when the natives never looked back at their ancestral places. The left over population in the villagers are those who struggle for daily bread. They live under the mercy of rich farmers. Politicians too used the farmers to their advantage and allowed the non payment of dues to the Temples unofficially as they were affiliated to some political party. It made the HR &CE ,the Govt. department ineffective.

The gruesome atmosphere has already caused extensive damage to our Culture as the rural Temples which stood for centuries as testimony for our high tradition have started to crumble at many places due to neglect. Hence it is left to the present generation to take up the repair work and stop further damage. Some amount of work is being done in this direction but inadequate. Tamilnadu itself is said to possess some 20000 plus Shiva Temples. When the administrative body has miserably failed to take care of these temples, a well thought out plan to preserve them is urgently needed. While small group activities can not serve in a big way, a time bound action plan has to be launched quickly.
The action plan may look for Philanthropists who can donate liberally. But then they must be allowed to act freely based on some guidelines. Let them procure materials, pay directly to the artisans and  complete the job to the satisfaction of everybody. There should not be any interference from HR &CE in this regard. Nagarathar community that stood all the way to renovate the ancient Temples in the last century should come forward again and set examples for others. On seeing a revolution in this field, Charities, business community , industrialists and others will join the good cause.
Good practices can be followed from any field. The Central Government has asked the elected representatives to adopt a village each and develop them. In the same way, we may appeal to Philanthropists to adopt rural Temples of their choice.

Another modest way is to form a circle that contain 100 well wishers who can contribute Rs 1000 P.A. each. The interest generated from this pool of fund can help perform Puja for an adopted rural temple. More the number of circles, more will be the beneficiaries. This is a very small expectation from salaried and retired segments of the society. But it depends on someone who can take the initiative to make the dream come true. The whole process must be fair,transparent and selfless to earn laurels from the society.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Model Temple"Audit

Ardhra Foundation's dream project of transforming all Temples into "Model Temples" was launched on 17th September 2014 by conducting audits, based on the guidelines set by us . These guidelines were made available in our website, and the implementation part has just begun. It is true that most of the Temples do not comply fully as per the guidelines to call them as "Model Temples". But it is desirable to find the gaps and try to resolve them to the extent possible. It will be a proud moment when a Temple conforms to the standards and look for continuous improvement. It may also be noted that the guidelines are subject to updation based on the field studies which can set a platform for good Temple Management in the future.

Viewers may find that this form of Audit is based on the compliance to the desired values framed by Ardhra Foundation. Unlike the ISO audits,wherein the auditee is allowed to spell his policy and procedures, AF's audit tries to bring all Temples under a common audit to bring down the deviations to a minimum. There can be a common Policy for all the Temples which can focus the Ultimate goal of transforming the Temples and developing them.

To start with, the Audit was conducted at Vadakarai, a hamlet,west of Mangudi on Thiruvarur-Thiruthuraipoondi road. Meenakshi Sundareswara Temple of Vadakarai is also called as Nambipadi. Nambi refers to Nambi Aaroorar (Sundara moorthi Nayanar) who is believed to have visited this place on his way to Thiru Naattiyaththankudi. The Temple is coming under the management of HR&CE dept. The priest resides close to the Temple where his ancestors had lived. Probably his only asset is his possession of few cows. He is so sincere and humble that he takes personal care of the Temple though he derives a negligible income from it. Hence he has to look for  other avenues of income such as Kumbabishekam and other auspicious occasions.He is very much interested in maintaining a good "Nandhavanam"in the prakaram.  The audit has helped to identify the gaps to suggest ways to close the non compliances.

Visalakshi sametha Viswanatha Swami Temple at Mangudi is located east of Mangudi on Thiruvarur- Thiruthuraipoondi road and the priest visits here once in a day . Though the sannadhis are small, the Temple complex is big enough to accomodate a good "Nandhavanam" The Temple is maintained neatly and presents a fresh look. The Deities are well dressed that shows the dedication of the priest. The Temple may be some 300-400 years old and it does not have any inscriptions. When the Audit was conducted here, some suggestions were made for further improvement.

The Temple at Pushpavanam was audited recently and it was noted that it could meet most of the clauses desired by us. There is always scope for improvement and the same was conveyed for early implementation. The Priest's house is close to the entrance of the Temple. As the name of the Main Deity(Sugantha Vaneswarar) implies the existence of a forest having flowering plants of rich fragrance, it was suggested to develop a good Nandhavanam with many species of flowering plants. As the story goes, the Temple at Pushpavanam used to contribute garlands to Vedaranyeswarar Temple at Vedaranyam, it is planned to develop an ideal "Nandhavanam" to offer garlands to Vedaranyam Temple atleast during the Brahmothsavam in the month of Masi.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Mumbai Cha Raja"

Among the many states in India, Maharashtra stands unique in celebrating Ganesh Chathurthi. Of the six major categories of Sanathana Dharma preached by Adhi Shankara, Ganaapathyam is all about Ganapathi worship where the Elephant Headed God is considered as supreme. It is said that many scriptures on Ganapathyam originated in Maharashtra. The all powerful Maha Ganapathi , the remover of all obstacles is woshipped  at the very beginning of every pooja even if they are aimed at other Gods. Maharashtra state is blessed with eight important shrines for Ganesha,usually called as Ashta Ganapathi Temples.

Ganapathi in the form of a young child is indeed a fascination to people of all ages. Maharashtrians still call him as "Bappa" as He looks like a baby. Adhi Shankara in his Subramanya Bhujangam mentions about Him as "Sadha Baala roopaapi vignaathri hanthree" He further refers Him as " Kalyana moorthi". During the 10 day festival in the state, He is worshipped and taken care fondly by those who worship Him both at Mandals and at Home.

A visit during this period is a delight to everybody as the entire state is in a celebration mode. Even the poorest of the poor takes part in the ten day festival. It is not uncommon to see a servant  maid buying an idol of Ganesha for Rs 6000 which is too big money for her. The daily rituals include fasting and in many cases food is mostly avoided and they are content with some fruits. When the idols are taken out in a procession for immersion, the affection poured in all these days comes out in the form of tears that run from their eyes.

Huge idols are kept in pandals of each area and named after that area such as "Lalbagh cha Raja", "Wadala cha Raja", "NRI cha Raja" and so on. Bhajans and various other programmes are held in these make shift "Temples" . Lot of devotees are fed in each area on all the days.  The idols are beautifully  decorated with garlands and kept under revolving lights of different colours. People throng in good numbers although Monsoon is active in this region.

Visarjan(Immersion) of Ganesh idols takes place on different days during the festival. Regardless of the arrangement, one can see large number of Ganesha idols of different Mandals go for visarjan on the prescribed days. The idols are kept on trucks and people follow them to witness the visarjan ceremony at ponds/Lakes/Sea.

The drum beat of the band troupe is certainly a treat to watch. It is really surprising that the group does not get tired even after performing for many hours. The white dressed men wearing white cap walk in front of the truck under focussed lights. With the slogan "Ganapthi Bappa Morya"raised to the high pitch, the deity is carefully immersed in water to the delight of the onlookers present over there, unmindful of the heavy showers. Perhaps the devotion towards "Mumbai cha Raja" keeps going every aspiration of the Mumbaikars. No wonder Mumbai is the wealth capital of India.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Flexibility Issue

It is certainly not an exaggeration if we say that Tolerance and Flexibility are the assets of Hinduism. It  gives complete freedom of worship, adapt various cults ,advocates various paths of Truth to attain salvation by offering numerous choices to choose from. But it is not fair to cross the flexibility limit. It may be argued that any such deviation is not meant to undermine the established values. Yet the deviation do happens although not with any intention to change the practices that are being followed for centuries.

In an attempt to show/exhibit the devotion to a particular person, imaginations reach the sky by comparing or equating that person with God or Goddess. No one denies the greatness of the person but the only question before us is how can he/she be viewed on par with the Gods. Let them even build Temples for their favourite Gurus separately and conduct pujas in their own way. They have the right to do that and at the same time they can refrain using the platforms set for the Gods traditionally.

A spiritual fair is conducted every year in Chennai to show case the services rendered by various organisations . Social service organisations take part in the fair and the areas covered are Health,Education, Charity, Farming, Go-shalas , Publications etc.

The floats from the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh attracted the visitors. The models of the Temples of Srisailam, Kaanipakkam etc  were exhibited on the floats. People were educated  towards the use of Technology in stalls that highlighted the services offered through internet.

The stall from Saradha Ashram of Ulundurpet deserved praise as it spoke volumes of the yeomen services carried out towards charity. Here came the flexibility issue. They had installed a model of a big Shivalingam at the entrance in which the figure of Swami Vivekananda was present in the Bhanam part of the Linga. They could have rather installed the Lingam and Swamiji separately instead of showing Vivekananda inside the Lingam. As a student of Ramakrishna Mission' s Vivekananda College I have great respect and regard for Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna and Sharada Devi. But the point is they should not be a part of a portrait of a Hindu God or Goddess . We do hope that people like Sharada Ashram take the message in the right spirit and continue their charitable activities.

One of the recent posts in Facebook showed a  Bhajan Bhagavathar singing a song sung in praise of other religion. It is true that it may be viewed in a secular spirit. But then the platform used was different and the venue was not meant to show the flexibility.

Let everyone be well within the framework of the traditional boundary and it is left to the individual to follow it religiously or not. Let him remember that the trespass into the other boundary will not help both parties involved. In fact it will dilute the principles of both of them and result into a confused state of mind.