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, ardhra.org 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.
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.