HR and CE's relentless iconoclasm

  • By Gomathi Chetty
  • June 2013

Many temples have suffered Agama violations and mindless renovation at the hands of a callous Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments trust. Among the most important are the Kalamangalam temples at Erode taluk on the southern bank of the Cauvery river, 15 km from Erode on the Karur road. This is one of the 32 traditional “kaani” (wetland) villages in Poondurai country since the Chera era.

The Kulavilakkamman temple (form of Badrakali Amman) is a “Kaani” temple for 18 villages. The village also hosts Bhuloganayaki Sametha Mathyapureeswarar temple and Bhudevi Neeladevi Sametha Kalyana Varadharajar temple, which have been traditionally managed by Kanna Gothra Konga Vellalar community. But now the Konga Vellalar trustees are appointed by the HR&CE.

Politics entered the temple in 2007 when Jagatheesan, husband of former union minister of state and MLA Subbulakshmi Jagatheesan, was appointed trustee for this temple by the DMK regime.

Jagatheesan printed an invitation asking devotees to donate Rs. 5000/family towards a grand renovation and consecration in Kulavilakkamman temple, for those who worship the goddess as kuladevata. Many donated in thousands and even lakhs for each and every part of temple renovation (marble in temple premises, steel roofs around temple, concrete roofs outside temple, etc).

The first target was the horses, cows and elephant statues of the temple. These were removed on grounds that they were in the worst condition, but they were visibly in good condition. Devotees cried while lifting them out. Then, the Nagar statues in the northwest corner were removed. Then steel roofs were laid around the temple premises, which hid the view of the gopura kalasam, which is a great Agama violation.

The temple began to look like Chennai Central station. Thereafter, a slippery surface was made by laying marbles, which become inconvenient for devotees, and were another violation of the Agama. Trustee Jagatheesan tried to make the temple a commercial complex and invited people to conduct marriages inside the temple premises on payment of fee.

As the temple began to look like a godown, the rajagopuram was also roofed with steel, another gigantic Agama violation for temples.

What was totally indigestible, however, was that at the eastern door of the temple, portraits of atheist EV Ramaswamy Naicker, the Albanian nun Teresa, former DMK president Annadurai, former Congress president Kamaraj, former Indian Presidents Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and APJ Abdul Kalam, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Gautama Buddha were carved on the wooden doors with many other human faces (see links).

Then, the roof angles made for the godown-like structures initially carried the DMK symbol, Rising Sun, but this was removed after strenuous opposition from devotees.

On February 20, 2011, Jagatheesan had the temple consecrated by Santhalinga Adikalar, Perur, Coimbatore, in an anti-Agama way, using Tamil (not Sanskrit) mantras to reduce the power of the Kulavilakkamman. The traditional Sivacharya cried against this violation, but Jagatheesan refused to listen.

This temple with Chola and Vijayanagar styles is centuries-old. There is a record of an 1899 consecration with veda, agama, shilpa, kanitha sastras by Meignana desikar, the kulaguru of the Kanna Gothra Konga Vellalar community.

Anyway, as much as Rs 6 crore was collected from the public but the accounts were not shown to the people. Worse, 325 lbs of jewels were fused into bars without any reason. A petition was twice sent to the Chief Minister’s special cell, but nothing was done. False cases were filed against those who asked questions.

The 14th century poet, Kaalamegham, sung of dark clouds and lashing rains in his village and the town was named after him as Kalamangalam from Mathyapuri. This village lies along the Cauvery.

This historic temple was sought to be destroyed and reconstructed by collecting donations. This is against the Antiquities and Archeological Conservation Act. The invitation printed for the 2012 festival shows that plans have been approved for reconstructing the new temple.

“The past is not past, it is still passing by…”

“It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture” - Article 51 A (F) of the Constitution of India.

“Heritage” is Legacy. Heritage belongs not only to people or the culture concerned, but also to mankind as a whole and it plays an important role in underpinning people’s cultural identity.

Tamil Nadu is a State with the richest legacy of the Hindu civilisation in all its glory; its grand temples and sculptures, bronzes, paintings, even plastic arts (Bharat Natyam) traditions have been the pride of the nation. Will it all be lost to contractors and soul-dead bureaucrats looking for a ‘cut’ as they sanction the complete destruction of heritage temples in the name of the most repulsive kind of renovation?

Video links of the scenes of the temple
- Mother Teresa in Kalamangalam temple door
- Teresa, Abdul Kalaam, Annadurai, Periyar in Kalamangalam temple - Trustee faces in Kalamangalam temple
- Kavikko Abdul rahman poem in Kalamangalam temple
- Rajagopuram roofed in Kalamangalam temple
- Backside view of Kalamangalam temple

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