Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yet Another Great day

Our sincere attempt to help the long serving Sivacharyars of rural temples was received well and supported by enthusiasists from both within the country and also from abroad. This indeed has motivated us to cover as many Sivacharyars as possible in the coming years. It will give some solace to them as they are in a hopeless situation. To make things worst, the administration has turned a blind eye even after knowing fully well the agony suffered by the Sivacharyars whose life has become miserable.

Five Sivacharyars from different temples were identified and requested to assemble at Thalaignayiru, a tiny village off Vaitheeswaran koil- Manalmedu road. The place is named after "Gyayiru",the Sun God who worshipped Lord Shiva here. It is known as Thirukaruppariyalur in Thevaram Hymns sung by Sambandar and Sundarar. The Lord is also worshipped by Hanuman, who wanted to seek pardon for his act of tying the Sivalingam with his tail on seeing Lord Rama performing Puja to the Lingam made by Sita with sand. Lord Shiva pardoned Hanuman and blessed him. Hence He is known as "Aparadha kshmapaneswarar" (Kutram Poruththa nathar." ) There is another place nearby called "Thirukkurakkukaval" where Hanuman did the Puja. This deity has been sung by Appar in his Thevaram. The temple at Thalaignayiru has three tiers as found in Sirkazhi. The bottom most shrine has the sanctum and the one above has huge deities of Uma Maheswara. The top most tier has "Apathodharana"-Sattainathar,a form of Bhairava murthi for whom special puja is conducted on fridays. The sthala vriksha,"Kogudi Mullai" is on the north Prakara, hence "Kogudik koil". The shrine for the Goddess "Kol Valai Nayaki" faces south.

The sivacharyar of Thalaignayiru is about 85 years old. He has trained and developed his grandson to do the puja strictly as per the guidelines. Both Swami & Ambal Sannidhis were badly leaking due to heavy rain outside. It made the sivacharyars to conduct the function by standing in rain water that accumulated inside. Three other Sivacharyars arrived with their wives from temples located at Thiruchitrambalam, Aathur and Kondal. One Sivachharyar from Kadalangudi could not arrive due to very heavy rain.

The function started by conducting Abhishekam for Swami and Ambal. Sri Rudra Thrisathi archana was conducted with Bilwa leaves by five Sivacharyars by standing near Sri Aparadha Kshamapaneswarar. Archana was also conducted for Ambal followed by deeparadhana. Rudram from Yajur Veda & Sama Veda was recited by Sri Ganesh who came all the way from Bangalore. It was followed by Dravida Veda (Thevaram etc)recital.

Dhampathi Puja was conducted for the four couples by considering them as Shiva and Parvathi of the respective temple. Sowbagya dhraviyam was offered to the wives of the Sivacharyars by applying "nalangu" to their feet. Each Sivacharya dhampathi was presented new clothes and Rs 2000 in cash. Food was arranged for everybody who assembled for the function.

Special mention has to be made for the support rendered by M/S Baskar & Shriram (from U.S.) Ganesh of Bangalore,Gomathinayakam from Hosur , Karthikeyan & Divya Srinivasan of Chennai who stood with us to make our dream journey continue. May God bless them and their families for their selfless service to Sivacharya community. At the end of the day we could see the thanks giving act in the moist eyes of Sivacharyars which moved us a lot. We, in turn, thanked The Almighty for giving yet another opportunity to serve those who serve Him.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tolerance- Thy name is Hinduism

We never believe in critisising other religions. It is our opinion that belief is the basis of all religions. Mudslinging on others will not help building any religion. It is unfortunate that people belonging to other faiths have been portraying Hindu Gods and Goddesses in a manner that wound the sentiments of millions of Hindus. A company in Europe took an ugly route to propagate the sale of Toilet covers by printing the pictures of Hindu Gods over them some years back. It had to apologise and withdraw this practice after receiving protests from Indians living abroad. M.F. Hussain, a painter was the other person to wound the feelings of Hindus by drawing the picture of Goddess Saraswathi in an ugly manner. Now it is the turn of U.S. based magazine Newsweek to publish the picture of Obama on the front cover in a dancing posture , resembling that of Lord Nataraja. Many Hindus who live abroad have protested for portraying our God in bad taste. However, we do not find any such protests from India. Does that show that we do not have affinity towards our religion? Do we think that our silence is to demonstrate our tolerance? Protest does not necessarily mean taking the issue to the streets. Yet it has to be done in a lawful manner in order to tell the world that our relgion is second to none which in fact holds the supreme distinction of being one of the oldest religions in the world. You may call it as a"Right to Protest" in order to exhibit our displeasure.

There have been instances within the country when processions were held by atheists by garlanding the pictures of Gods with chappels. Since these people enjoyed the support of the Government, very little could be done to condemn the event. We have even witnessed Political leaders slamming the religion. At the same time, some party workers have even erected cut-outs of their leaders depicting them as Gods and Goddessess. Although they remove them on protest, teasing the religious beliefs continue to occur. Of late, the media has been doing these unpleasant acts unmindful of how it would hurt the believers. Many social movies have scenes showing the Puranic characters standing in queue and travelling in two wheelers and so on. This is being carried out as very few voices are raised against them. As there is no legislation to curb these activities, film actors openly give interviews to TV channels making fun of the religion . Who cares and who will restrict them from speaking such non sense stuffs.? Let them remember that the same people who have put them on top of the ivory towers can also teach them a lesson. All these actors should focus on their job alone and desist from critisising others for the sake of gaining cheap publicity.

Politicians, Journalists , TV and Film makers should be more sensible and responsible. They are accountable for their statements. They should do away from selecting religion, an easily available area where anything can be said to gain popularity.The Press can publish letters from readers who wish to condemn the insult to the religion. It is equally important for the believers to be vigilant and guard their religion. There is nothing wrong to be defensive since affinity towards religion, Mother Land and mother-tongue should go hand in hand as long as we do not permit hatred against anybody. This is exactly we mean by tolerance and Religious practce. It is because of this culture our country has demonstrated patience,peace and non violence for several centuries. May this tradition open the eyes of the critics and set enviable standards that can be followed by every nation .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Final hour Call

Philanthropy is a broad word which is interpreted to the likes of people of different interests. In general, it is the practice of performing Charitable acts.These acts originate from the kind hearted persons who believe in either service to God or service to Mankind or both. Our tradition has encouraged both alike as both are inseperable. At the end of the day, all religious festivals end up with helping poor sections of the public. Pure Social service appear to do nothing related to God. At the same time, care should be taken when we dedicate ourselves in the service of God so that the end result reaches down the line. The downtrodden should never be forgotten when a philanthropic act is done in the name of God. We also come across persons of high reputation extending their offerings to places that are immensely rich.Probably the very idea of giving a huge contribution to such places is to gain wide publicity. They know very well that there are humpteen number of places crying for help.Regardless of occupying high positions , these dignitaries continue to donate huge money , gold etc to places where irregularities happen due to excess flow of funds.

Prioritization is therefore important when we chart out plans for a philanthropic act. For example, a temple renovation activity should go hand in hand with the welfare of the priests and other temple servants. Worship and Poojas are peformed at the temples for the welfare of mankind.It was with this belief the Emperors had donated agricultural lands to the temples.
If the Government protects the interests of these Endowments, the temple maintenance will be taken care of by the income from lands. Those who illegally occupy the temple lands and refuse to give back the farm yields escape punishment as they constitute a large vote bank which no political party wants to ignore and take a path of confrontation. Similarly the HR&CE looks for income through Hundi.

Look at these temples which were built by Emperors with the hope that the future generations would take care to preserve and maintain them properly. Once the income for the temples is robbed , maintaining them becomes the responsibility of HR&CE department. Unless the locals show some interest, the HR&CE shows scant respect for these neglected shrines. On seeing the total neglect of these places through the media, few people respond to the wakeup call. The ideal solution could be when people are directed to visit the temples in the nearby villages and extend all possible help. This could be an inspiration for the locals to fall in line with others. People in Towns can arrange to visit these temples once in a month in good numbers and offer prayers.This will slowly activate group activities like removal of weeds, cleaning the premises, attending minor repairs etc. It will also give some income to the priest who is reeling under poverty. A Village Temples Protection Committee is to be formed in all Towns and cater the basic needs of surrounding villages to the maximum area of say, 5 Sq.KM.

Can you imagine the plight of the person in the adjacent photograph ? He is none other than the Sivacharya of a huge temple built by Chola Emperors. He is engaged in preparing "Neivedyam" to the deity. There is no Kitchen (Madappalli) inside the shrine as the outer prakaram is in shambles. So he cooks right in front of the Main Mandapam. In the absence of a stove , he creates fire by burning small branches of trees and shrubs. There is nobody to assist him. His service goes unnoticed and unawarded. The irregular payment of monthly salary in few hundreds can not afford him to rent a house. Hence he stays inside the temple itself. Yet his sincerity is maravellous which can be seen only in few places.

Now let us come back to the priorities in life. Do we show hesitation in spending huge money towards education, entertainment , marriages, celebrations wherein a sizable portion goes as waste. Do we earmark atleast 1% of the spending towards the welfare of deserving people and rebuilding of temples. Mere commenting on the deterioration of our culture is not enough. Let us ask ourselves whether we have done our part to prevent the erosion. Lot of fieldwork is required for this gigantic task. The formation of a task force as discussed above is the need of the hour. Are we ready to give priority to this? Let us act at this eleventh hour to retrieve our lost pride and cultural heritage.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Calling the Youth

Gone are the days when Grandmothers used to tell moral stories to their grand children before they went to bed. Now that the elders are becoming addicts to TV serials that go upto 10.30 in the night, the children are deprived of knowing the basics of The Great Epics & Culture that were cleverly blended to suit the young minds in the form of simple stories.Some Primary schools continue to throw some light on Moral Instruction to the students even now.It just does not end with story telling. It includes small skits,group singing ,enacting a scene from the Epics and so on. However, most of the rural schools still confine themselves with the given curriculum.This practice is followed in few colleges as well. I was surprised when my friend Mr Lakshminarayanan of Nanmangalam,Chennai called me and invited me to join him for a talk to the students of Hindu College on the outskirts of Chennai.As I consider the Educational Institution as good as a temple, I readily accepted the invitation.

We reached the college by train and met the organisers of the event. We came to know that the college conducts Life- shaping speeches every month for the benefit of the students. We were briefed about many laurels won by the college in the past. The Principal showed lot of interest in rebuilding of temples and various activities undertaken by us and assured all possible assistance to "Lighting of Lamps" in financially backward temples, initiated by Mr Lakshminarayanan.

The guests were formally introduced to the audience by the organisers and momento and shawl were presented as a token of love and affection. Mr Lakshminarayanan underlined the importance of "Worship" as an important tool to build one's life. He explained how the small practices advocated by our ancestors were aimed to shape people.He said that the student has to pay back to the institution where he studied in some form similar to what the son owes to his mother during her old age.He further narrated the life and Bhakthi of Poosalar Nayanar to explain that it was important to think about the Creator who is so flexible and accepts all forms of Bhakthi.

I spoke to the audience recalling the matchless regime of Rajaraja Chola who considered Sembian Mahadevi,(the Great Queen of Kandarathitha Chola) in inspiring him to build the Big Temple at Thanjavur. It was Queen Mangayarkarasi's call through Kulachirai Nayanar that brought Thirugnanasambandar to Madurai and reestablished Saivism.Thilagavathi's prayer to Lord Veeratteswara had brought back Appar from the clutches of Jainism.The contribution of women in Religion-building was appreciated by Sekkizhar in his "Peria Puranam." I suggested the involvement of students during the vacation in cleaning the historic temples. Later I was told that the college has carried out this activity in about 23 temples. I was too pleased to hear that the college was providing scope to add value to every student. The students who come out of the college after this exposure should feel proud in attaining the most desirable Value Addition. As girls outnumbered boys in the audience , I had to remind them their role and responsibility to the society.

Moulding the children at their prime age is of Paramount importance. It is nice to see some colleges actively engaged in Career building without overstepping into their privacy. Their cultural activities can be demonstrated with the help of our great culture. I was immensely happy to see "Kolams" drawn on the floor by the girl students of Hindu College focussing on issues like Global Warming, Environment Care etc. The effort rendered by the Management and the faculty was commendable.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Great Day That Was

I could not have asked for a better day in my life. A dream has come true! As dreamt ealier, we were waiting for the day to give back something as our gratitude to the community who have dedicated their lives by staying in their ancestral villages to continue the service to the deities of the place worshipped by their forefathers many times in a day.In fact, our one time recognition can not satisfy their needs fully. Yet we thought a small beginning could bring some reprieve in them from the agony they suffer.Unless their status improves, the irreplaceable community will look for green pastures and the damage caused will be irreparable.It is too late even today ,but then a final attempt to save our tradition. Inorder to minimise the exit from the profession, more families must be recognised at frequent intervals. While attrition from other professions draw newspaper headlines, very few people care for those who are in the service of God.

It was on Aug 1st., we invited elderly Sivacharyars and their wives from five rural temples (Vazhuvoor, Nidur,Iluppapattu, Thiruvalaputhur and Melanallur) to be present at the ancient Shiva temple at Thiruvalaputhur ,some 20 Km from Mayiladuthurai. This temple of Chola period has been sung in Thevaram Hymns. The legend says that this place was worshipped by Brahma, Arjuna,Vasuki and a Chola King. The senior priest of this temple is 87 years old and he is assisted by his son who must be around sixty. With no big income in sight, they still prefer to serve the Lord,come what may. Their dedication is matchless.

The other couple were from Nidur, on Mayiladuthrai- Pattavarthi road. The priest must be in his late seventies. Apart from his daily rituals, he sings Thevaram to please the Almighty. This place is surrounded by houses belonging to Muslim community. Only an external help can come to his rescue. He lives there in such an un thinkable condition.

The third couple came from Melanallur,a remote village near Pattavarthi.This place is associated with Nandanar. The priest continues to stay there even in his late seventies with negligible income.

The fourth couple were from Iluppapattu, near Manalmedu. The dedicated family runs their life by staying near the temple. They stay with their son,daughter-in-law and two grand children. One can imagine their plight in bringing up the children when they struggle to meet their daily needs.

The fifth couple came from Vazhuvoor, on Mayiladuthurai- Thiruvarur route. This place is known for the exceptional dance of The cosmic dancer,Gajasamharamurthi. As there are no regular buses to reach the temple which is 2 km away from the main road, the priest who lives in Mayiladuthurai takes the bus and walks down the distance by foot. He does it because of his unshakable faith with The murthi. He is quite knowledgeable in Sivagamas and tries to impress the visitors by narrating the Purana of this place.

The five couples assembled in the morning and an Abhishekam was carried out to Sri Rathnapureeswarar and Sri Bramarakundhalambikai. It was followed by Sri Rudra Thrisathi conducted to the Moola Murthi. Archanas were also conducted to Ambal and Sri Durga Parameswari, fondly worshipped by the locals.

The five couples were then treated on par with Shiva and Parvathi of those places and archanas and deeparadhanas were conducted to them. Vastrams, Sowbagya items were presented to the couples with a sambhavana of Rs 2000 to each couple. Needless to say, this act made them emotional and brought tears in their eyes. With tears covering their vision they blessed us whole heartedly when we offered our respects to them.

Lunch was arranged by us by hiring a cook from Mayiladuthurai. The place opposite Durga sannadhi was cleaned immaculately and the food served was extremely good.

At the end of the day, we thought of a regular monthly income for them. Since I was deeply moved when a priest requested for a monthly help of Rs 300 to him which is hardly Rs 10 per day, I confirmed the same from my behalf and decided to transfer the amount from my bank account by giving a standing instruction to the bank.

I would like to thank those who stood with me in reaching the important milestone and assured more help in the future.

As I said earlier, we have made only a humble and small beginning. But the happiness derived is immeasurable.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Man made Tragedy

People were shell shocked on the gloomy Wednesday morning when all television channels and Newspapers came out with the unbelievable news of Rajagopuram collapse at Sri Kalahasthi.The 136 feet high Gopuram,which was five centuries old came down on 26th May to the dismay of all devotees.It was built by the Emperor,Krishnadevaraya in the year 1516A.D. to celebrate the victory over Gajapathi Kingdom.

The structure had developed cracks some ten years ago and it is alleged that no concrete action has been taken by the Temple officials/State Govt to prevent the collapse.Consequently the cracks got widened vertically and the authorities could only corden the area to prevent loss of lives. The anger vented by the devotees towards the sluggish attitude of the Govt is understandable. Strangely the Govt does not want to be accountable for the disaster but goes on defending as if their only action is to cordon the nearby area. It has appointed a four member committee to probe into the cause of the collapse. Some geologists are of the opinion that rampant borewell rigging near the temple premises to the depth of 500-600 feet could be one of the reasons for the damage.

The question we ask now is why is that nobody coming forward to reconstruct the Rajagopuram at the same place? Kalahasthi temple is rich enough to do the job on its own. It goes without saying that Tirupathi devasthanam can also contribute a big share in this cause. Notable Industrialists ,Politicians, Moviemakers ,Non resident Indians and Religious Heads could have announced the reconstruction of the Gopuram by this time. It is sad that no such announcement has appeared to be made so far. These personalities appear to be ready to gift invaluable ornaments to rich temples where such gifts have been already made by others.
It is unfortunate that nobody seems to involve and offer assisstance at this dark hour. The Media too thinks that the job is over once they reported the calamity at the Pilgrim centre. Can't they come out with a wakeup call ? Instead they show the debris of the site often to add fuel to the fire.

We published a blog in Tamil ( Feb2010 to remind the world about the services of one Ramanathan Chettiar of Devakottai in the early part of 20th century. He contributed several lakhs to renovate the temple at Sri Kalahasthi.Had the tower developed cracks at that time he would have either repaired or reconstructed it single handedly.Allowing the crack to develop for a decade is an unpardonable sin. The more tragic part of it is that nobody holds accountability and apologise for the inaction. Alas! It is nothing but a man made tragedy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spare Your Thought Please

"Every man has three characters- that which he exhibits,that which he has and that which he thinks he has" , thus goes a saying. To be precise, the activities of an individual is centered towards the Self. It may be due to uncertainty, greedy behaviour and scant respect for fellow citizens."Who am I ? " is a good pointer to be addressed to Self,as suggested by Sri Ramana Maharshi. A recent survey has revealed that in the last four decades, the average income of an earning member has increased by 20 times. This has resulted into more spending power and nothing else Do we care for others atleast four times of what we used to be during the same period? People do not mind spending lavishly on entertainment and dining during week ends but fail to think about the weaker sections of the society.While the urban areas present a rosy picture of our life style, the rural people are still struggling for existance. Most of them leave their traditional life style and start migrating to Urban areas. Time and again our Sabha has been addressing this issue at various forums to help these people to save their profession from extinction. Dedicated people like temple priests,artisans suffer too much due to lack of support from others.

"To give requires good sense" said a Roman poet.The grandeur you get from charity has to be experienced. It is well said that very few people become philanthropists. Monarchy was setting followup procedures to monitor the life styles of people so that no tresspass from one profession to the other could occur. The moment you declare that anybody can do anything, people choose the most lucrative profession to become on par with the elite section of the society. Then there is no looking back thereafter. Earning at any cause alone makes them merry. Nobody seems to be complacent even after amassing wealth that will take care of some more generations.

As Henry Ward Beecher has rightly put it, " Every Charitable act is a stepping stone towards Heaven", time has come to wake up affordable people to think about those who live in pathetic conditions. Most of the temple priests in Tanjore and Trichy districts are deprived of their monthly salary for several months. Neither the locals nor the Govt come to their rescue. If the situation continues, you will not find any dedicated priests in rural temples. They have already started putting their children in good schools although the burden is beyond their reach. The Govt alone can put a halt to the migration by arranging salary and paddy meant for them. But no political party is willing to help them due to obvious reasons. Those living in Towns alone can extend help to these helpless people.

Our Sabha has been contributing for this cause since inception in whatever little way we could. Contributing towards Savings Deposits,Paying the Life insurance Premium, repairing priests' houses,gifting ornaments/clothes for marriage of their children were some of the initiatives we have undertaken so far. We know that it is too small but then with the limited resources we are trying our best to bring smiles in the faces of atleast few of them. In this connection, we have decided to acknowledge the services of Five sivacharyars(priests) from five different temples of Tanjore dt who have tirelessly rendered poojas regularly despite not getting assistance from anybody. We would like to honour them by calling them at a common place,preferably a financially backward rural temple and offer them Rs 1000 each along with clothes and saalvai.Abhishekams will be conducted to the Main Deities on that day. We propose to invite philanthropists and the locals to appreciate the lifelong services of the sivacharyars. Similarly we propose to recognise the services of two Parijarakars who reel in poverty on the same day. Dates are being worked out to organise the function shortly. The preferred date was 16th May ,Akshaya Thritheeya day, but it has not yet been finalised.

In this connection we thank everyone who stood with us in stretching our helping hand to reach those who have sacrificed their lives in the service of God.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Saving Arts from extinction???

Gone are the days that Chennai had verry little to offer to the tourists. A visit to kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram was included in the itinerary of the tourists to show atleast few interesting places around the state capital. Interestingly,the story is different now.. People take the upgraded I.T Corridor on weekends to visit places enroute to Mahabalipuaram. My attention was drawn recently on a Cultural centre for Art & Culture some 28km from Chennai spread on a vast land about 0.5 km from the sea on the highway. This centre is named as "Dhakshin Chitra" where you find reflections of the four southern states of India.

The idea of forming a centre must have been the result of generous contributions from Industrial sector. A big board at the reception gives the names of these companies. The entry into the centre is by tickets and they also give you a location map of the site that exhibits the cultural values of four southern states of India. The state of Tamilnadu has many things to delight the visitors. You can virtually see a colony in front of you and enter into each house. Karaikudi house known for its pillars,woodwork , strong walls and kitchenware is there to watch.

A weaver was seen weaving a sari in the conventional hand operated machine and the colour combination selected was superb. This gives an opportunity for the tourists to learn personnaly all about weaving and ask any questions to the weaver. Some foreigners were watching closely how the potter was making a pot out of mud. Surprisingly the potter allowed one of the visitors to do the pot himself and of course,he was always there to correct the mistakes easily.

A Brahmin's house is a replica of whatever is seen inside the traditional houses of Brahmins. The items used for doing Puja were amazing.The displays included all those antique items and care has been taken not to include anything which do not reflect the art & craft of that period.

Another hall has some sculptures and bronzes while a puppet show (in the form of shadows) is also presented .The show is not continuous but there are some fixed timings which we come to know from the pamphlet given at the gate. The show was on for about 15-20 minutes and a scene from Kishkintha Kaanda of Ramayana was presented.

Then we moved on to Kerala pavilion which presented replicas of a Hindu House and Christian House with wooden roof that truly represented the culture of Kerala. Few paintings of Raja ravivarma was also on display.The breathtaking structure of the house presented the mastery of the makers.

Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are still in the process of expanding their cultural exhibits and whatever is ready now is too little.I am sure they have much more to offer.

The centre has a Library and stalls that sell finely carved items.

While the effort needs to be appreciated by one and all, the misssed opportunities can be cited to draw the attention of organisers. Live demonstration of the making of Thanjavur Veena,Flute,Nadaswaram,Thavil is not there now which can thrill the visitors. An expert who can draw pictures based on Thanjavur paintings can be included to explain the salient features of the art.When we talk about Art, Dance should also form a part of it. Bharathanatyam,the famous dance of the land should have a place in the centre. The development of Music can be explained with the help of audio and video shows instead of just selling the casettes. Artisans can demonstrate how to make panchaloka idol and carvings on a stone.

At the outset,we must be satisfied that the attention is drawn towards arts and crafts.But we should think something beyond the exhibition of the past. Saving each Fine art from dying is perhaps needed most urgently. There are nobody to play instruments like Panchamukavadyam,ekkalam etc. Next generation is not either interested or taught about these instruments. I have seen playing Ekkalam during procession of deities in Temple festivals during my childhood. It is almost missing now and the organizers should see that the age old practice is brought back. It is my desire to locate the person who can play Ekkalam in my native place. Finding a sponsor for him is not difficult these days.But to find a player itself is difficult.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Root Cause of Our Woes

The aftermath of the tragedy in pilgrim centres at different parts of the country witnesses blaming game as usual instead of learning from the disaster. Corrective actions are taken soon after the event but then we are not good at envisaging any other type of calamity that can strike religious places where people assemble in large numbers. It has therefore left numerous areas unattended and uncared. This hopeless situation leaves the people and the authorities to sit on the volcano. The administration has not woken up even after losing 800 lives in the past few years at various shrines due to stampede.

External audits should be conducted by competent persons at regular intervals which will help exploring all risk prone areas and thus paving way for preventive action.

This may cover areas such as maximum number of people in each floor/hall, number of exits, electrical safety, structural stability of the building, authenticity of persons for repair work, safety of persons working at heights, availability of fire- extinguishers and first aid kits, training records and so on.

The Government and other private organizations can seek help from experts in industry to upgrade and audit the system. Final inspection and audit can be carried out by Govt authorities at regular intervals. The success of the system depends on the genuineness of the auditors in highlighting the issues. Temples can form many teams, each comprising cross functional people who can address the issues honestly.

Each issue has to be resolved within the agreed period of time positively and closed without any scope of recurrence. Each team must be trained in focus areas like fire- fighting, first aid, mock drills, electrical safety, hygiene, prevention of accidents etc.

Unfortunately people do not realize the importance of mock drill to recall what they have learnt through training. Trouble in opening the extinguisher, wrong usage, delay in evacuating people in time, chaos, stampede, injuries due to panic, communication delay are seen when the disaster strikes. People fail to react properly on matters related to arrangement of ambulance, Fire brigade, Police and cordoning of the area to prevent the entry of unauthorized persons. Hence it becomes imperative to train people and audit the system for its effectiveness.

Regardless of the fact that the overall accountability of framing safety rules and implementation lies with the Government, one should not forget that the onus is also on the authorities who witness the reality on daily basis. The negligence in conforming with minimum safety standards must be severely dealt with.

The Media should also educate the viewers on safety instea of simply reporting the tragic events.

Since the channels make huge money out of advertisements, they can also realize social responsibility vested on them. They can make surveys of the places where the infrastructure is poor and accident prone and bring it to the attention of the authorities. Contribution from the media in cash or kind is the need of the hour.

What disturbs us most is the reaction of the politicians who want to make benefit even at the hour of crisis and grab credit as if they are the ones to take care.

Relief of any amount can never compensate the lives of those innocent people..

Nevertheless, the compensation should be viewed as a consolation to those who have lost their dear children and not a subject to debate its adequacy. Apart from Government and the opposition parties, people from popular fields like cinema, Sports and industry can lend helping hand at the hour of distress. There is no point in expecting the Government to do things entirely when others are simply watching.

During my visit to Varanasi I travelled by an autorickshaw to see Kasi Maharaja’s palace,which was situated on the other side of Ganges. The river was in full flow and the driver suddenly swung to his left to take a make shift bridge ,constructed of empty barrels and bamboo sticks. The bridge was oscillating due to the load of the vehicle. I wondered how the local administration gave permission to take such a risk across the mighty river.

The root cause of our woes must be fully understood and analysed in depth. The cause and effect of each issue has to be resolved within a time bound framework to gear up the System, ready to face any calamity. How many people are aware of evacuation Procedures even though they face natural disasters every year? They simply wait until the help comes from the Government. This is a disturbing trend, which may result into the loss of innumerable lives when they are caught unawares. Carelessness, negligence, corruption, selfishness, non-implementation of safety rules, absence of regular audits are some of the causes for the disasters that are to be addressed urgently.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Is Anybody Listening ?

It makes my heart cry when I go through the anguish expressed by some bloggers about the atrocious and greedy people around us.An ardent devotee of Lord Arunachaleswara is concerned about the encroachments around the Holy Hill and attached photographs in his blog on how people are damaging the Hill for constructing houses and Ashrams(?) to meet their selfish needs.This is happening where lakhs of devotees(!) go round the Hill on Full moon day.Nobody is appeared to be bothered about the damage caused to the Hill,which is considered as Lord Shiva Himself. The dejected blogger has finally fixed a bane on those who are selfish in getting their desires fulfilled by keeping a blind eye on this burning issue.His outburst is understandable. Neither the Govt nor the people care about the encroachments. In the comment column of the blog I suggested to form a group called "Save Annamalai" and seek remedy from the District collector and the Court.

Regardless of many protests on the sandblasting of walls,some temples ignore the warning and go ahead with the cleaning process in the name of renovation,thereby destroying the inscriptions on the walls.Of late,the Govt is busy in nominating some rich temples to get ISO certification. Only God knows on how really the temple is going to be benefited by this move. Instead, the Govt can organise a committee of scholars to visit the temples that undergo renovation and guide them properly. As long as the certification is not going to help tracing and restoring the encroached properties and other income, it is of no use to go for it.Since the certification is content with limitations and simply go by the Manual created by the auditee, it serves no purpose other than keeping the temple clean.

Another matter of deep concern is the Govt's decision to create a "Sculpture Park" by pulling the historic hillock called Yanaimalai on the outskirts of Madurai.On hearing a petition ,the Learned Judges of the High Court have ordered restraint. This hill also houses an historic Narasimha Temple which is described in the sthala puranam of Madurai.It is needless to say that each ancient temple in the state can be considered as a monument which itself teaches all about sculptures.There is absolutely no need to create a new one,that too,by demolishing a monument,meant to be preserved. Many hillocks on Madurai- Thirupathur road have already been blasted almost totally and the rock cuts wait for their onward journey.The so called Environment activists are keeping blind eye on this burning issue.

Failure to address these issues will aggravate the already worsened situation.It is reported that many of the Archaeological sites/monuments are missing in the North.Should it happen in the South ?Let all groups and individuals unite and call for immediate solution.

Is anybody listening??

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cost of Festivals!!!

A newspaper report on the eve of Pongal festival revealed that the arrival of vegetables and flowers from various places to the Metro has come down by 30% when compared to last year. This is obviously due to the fact that the prices have skyrocketed in the last few months beyond the affordable level of common man. The Govt could do very little to check price rise. The cost of a sugar cane in the metro was around Rs 10 during the same period last year in the Metro whereas it is sold at Rs 30 this time. The price gap between small town and the metro is in the ratio of 1:3. Another report had even calculated the cost of making Pongal now to show how alarmingly the prices have gone up. At the end of the day, the demand will have to come down. But the drop in sales has not brought down the prices of essential commodities. Hence the customer is left with the only option of buying the barest minimum required to celebrate the festival in the simplest form. This gives room to the fear whether people will start deviating from the tradition and curtail the celebrations. Slowly the joy that used to derive during the Harvest festival appears to vanish.

Coming to the religious aspect of the festival, this one is meant to thank Sun God, Farmers and the cattle, but for their help a good harvest could not be achieved. The festival is so positioned in the month of January at the start of Uttarayanam when Sun starts moving northward. Hopes start mounting during the next six months that follow because of the wealth accumulated due to the rich harvest. As a result of this comfortable situation, the common man's affordability raises to the extent of conducting marriages for his children in this part of the year. Of late we find people sell their lands to make huge money from real estate owners . The absence of a good monsoon is also another factor that forces the farmers to start selling their lands to Builders of apartments.

I was told about heartbreaking news of sending oxen to slaughter houses, since the customary practice of ploughing the lands with oxen is being replaced by the use of tractors and other farm equipments. The urgent call now is to protect these animals from getting butchered. Philanthropists have to add the portfolio of Rishabha samrakshanam(Protection of oxen) in the same lines of Go Samrakshanam(Cow Protection).Organic farming will ensure protection of cows and oxen which produce natural manure to the lands. It is high time Govt encourage the ancient system of farming that not only protected the animals but ensured a quality crop free from the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which are harmful to health.

People must realise that all festivals indirectly support the poor sections, generate sanctity every time, generate happiness and activate the soul to think about the Creator who is instrumental for our actions. Let us avoid lavish expenditures and make use of the saved money in conducting/celebrating the festivals which form the roots of our great culture. Considering the great value of the festivals,the cost aspect may take a backseat.