VeNkaadu – Reach Foundation: Conserve our Rich Heritage!!
The second temple cleaning activity of “REACH” the temple_cleaners at VeNkaadu near Somangalam Village, near Kundrathur.
There was an air of mystery and suspense when Rajan Ganesh announced this site as the next project sight, as hearsay, we heard that the temple is almost buried and the Lingam is very difficult to reach! Then why VeNkaadu? We were told that Dr.Subramanian and another member Sankaran, IFS had suggested this temple. Giving weightage to their credentials and interest, around 15 members, along with the new arrival of some senior women members made our way to the site. Moreover, as predicted, true, it was a historical site, in pathetic sight! As member Chandrasekhar had already assumed that we may need some restoration and deciphering of ‘Kalvettu’ (stone inscriptions), he made two new members join the temple_cleaners, who were well versed in reading stone inscriptions. Thanks to their affiliation to Seshadri Gokul, who is the co-founder of the Tamil history website http://varalaaru.com. Those two members Srivatsan and Prabhakaran were the first ones to dare bare their chest towards the thorny site and enter inside to find a beheaded Nandi and the two completely ruined shrines of Shiva and Ambal. They also shouted in joy to see the Shiva lingam inside the broken ruins of stone pillars and bricks.
Almost buried, the Shiva Lingam was popping out as if calling us for attention! Then they ventured out, to see the surroundings. To our astonishment the campus wall of the temple or the temple pond facing the outermost east side was running to almost half kilometers in circumference and was pitted with specked finish. This stone wall had become hard as diamond surpassing time and weather! The water, from the temple pond, the villagers say, is good enough to keep boiled rice unspoilt for at least 5 days! They even quoted some NRI s taking the water samples for testing! Suddenly we saw the village president and their folk, coming towards us, mostly women brandishing their knives! (Aruvaazh in Tamizh). Thank God, that was for clearing the bushes! Then, appeared a priestly looking Mr.Ramamoorthy, along with some more members of his group, wearing the saffron dhoti , armed with all puja items. His eyes showed the determination of drenching the Shivalinga with his first Abhishekam after centuries together! The way he made all chant ‘Aum Namah Shivaaya’ made the bushes get cleared fast, water being poured in spots were we needed to loosen the soil, to pull out rubbles, made the men around clear the stone pillars strewn around. Even though cleaning the entire periphery needs bull dozers and may be archaeological survey of India (ASI’s) members, we had the satisfaction of making an approach road for the Shivalinga. Mr.Ramamoorthy and Chandra crawled through the entrance and reached the Lingam. Bats, which were hanging inside with all liberty, were for a rude shock, and they never expected two hums beings crawl into their temple turned den! Out they flew, and in came sunlight! After an emotional Abhishekam and alangaram with few flowers, we took there, Hot Sweet pongal and venpongal were offered as Prasadam to this Venkaadu eeswara! Yes, Venpongal for the VeNkaadu eeswara! Rhymic it may sound, but sad to our knowledge, either the sthalapuraan, or the names of the God and Goddess were known to none including the oldest of all villagers!
While Srivatsan and Prabhakaran were busy in making notes of what they could find on stone scripts, the straight lines drawn across the lengths and breadths of the multilayered stone walls was something new to our sight. This could not make us decide which period this temple belongs! We tried to contact the ASI epigraphist Mr.Rajavelu till the date of writing this article, but were not successful, as he was not available due to his busy preoccupations. The after distributing Prasadam, members vowed to pursue to see the temple is erected fully in near future.
The villagers maintained obedience and silence when Mr.Ramamoorthy gave a beautiful lecture to make them understand the importances of keeping the village deity clean and bringing back this temple to life. What happened to the Goddess? Villagers claim that the statue was thrown into the nearby temple pond, to protect her from war, theft and invasions! We also made a vow, to try and pull out the Goddess too from the pond in near future. The Kodimaram (front post) which was part of the ruins was astonishingly very long and was made in stone. After this, the members had fresh guavas supplied by one Mr.Rao, who runs his farm just opposite the temple site. Even though this was our second activity, it made us stronger in terms of resolution and focus, wherein the members decided to get proper trust formed, funds collected. Mr.Ramamoorthy is a veteran in temple renovation! Yes, he had almost revived some 50 odd old temples and has spent his life and money to bring them back alive! He wants some good sponsors and donors from India and abroad to support this cause of temple reviving and maintenance. As our group reflected his ideology, he is looking for the formative part of the group in days to come!
Dear chandraSorry did not read this blog due to busy schedules. It is a very ironic story but the way you have written – I had to burst into laughter many a times !
I think temples in slightly better shape need to be attended first
Determination of srivatsan and prabhakar were the only solace. May god bless them.
I’ll mail in temple cleaners
The two days activities at vengadu involved unearthing all the pillars and stones with the help of JCB.
Saturday activity started after the old man of the village offered pooja to the lingam. According to him, he has seen the temple with a mandapam on the southern side. Even during his yester years, people were hesitant to go inside the temple due to those thorny trees that housed lots of snakes. Also he said per his ancestors there are some copper plates beneath the lingam which describes the history and other facts about the temple.Couple of centuries back the temple should have been in glory with a chariot and the villagers adoring the god. The bells belonging to the chariot were supposedly still found in the other bigger lake of the village.The poor economic conditions of the gurukala and temple trustees drove them out of the village, who sold their lands to some reddiars and went to other places for living. Looks like from then on, nobody cared about the temple.
Thats a piece of history as heard from the old man. Coming back to the activity, it all started with uprooting the trees outside the pragaram on the southern side. Since the mandapam had been on the southern side, concentration of the debris were also more on the same side.JCB then started unearthing all the pillars from that side.The pillars that were unearthed were then placed outside the outer pragaram. By the fag end of the day we did manage to clear a lot of those stones and also tried to dig almost for a feet/two near the wall of the temple, just in case to check if there are any inscriptions.Unfortunately we couldn’t find any.
Day 2 :-
To our surprise there were two JCB’s and so with one we managed to clean the other parts of the temple while the other one removed the fallen stones from the mandapam. The garbha graham as you can see from the pic is pretty small to be cleaned using the machine and so was cleaned manually.
Since Prabhakar and I had some work we couldn’t stay for the full day on sunday.
I have attached some of the pics that show the temple and its state as on sunday afternoon with Chandru taking care of the proceedings from then on.
He should be able to provide the other details about the activities.
I do hope that the cleaning was completed by the end of that day.
Further to what Srivatsan reported above, Chandru reproted as:-
The findings and the level of work tobe done furhter is not a day’s job, rather a month’s task. Another old man reported to Chandru, that there had been 4 Shivalingas here once upon a time, but those were robbed off by plunderers.
So, we decided to call it a day and inform Dr.Subramanian of LDSF to call ASI and have proper security posted in this site, as this project turned out to be too big for our level of membership and strength.
We had informed ex-Superidendent Dr.Satyamurthy on this.
I forgot to mention in the last 2 blogs, that the LOKA DHARMA SEVA FOUNDATION TRUST, (www.bnaiyer.com/LDSF ) in which Dr.Subramaniam is a member, had so far taken pains to identify the Kovoor temple, as well as this veNkadu temple along with Mr.Sankaran,IFS. They work in Tandem with their US counterpart, and they have also paid for the expenses we have incurred so far in these 2 trips! We are really lucky indeed! The first set of photos were sent by member Srivatsan, the kalvettu expert, and these sets of fresh photos were contributed by member Ananthakrishnan, a US returnee and an enthusiast. Thanks to both of them