Tamil Nadu is a land of temples and one where the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas and Pallavas have left a rich cultural heritage. Rulers of these dynasties were devout Hindus who ruled as per the shastras. The age old temple traditions have been carried on to this day. Temples had been constructed on the basis of Agama and Shilpa Shastras. These centuries old temples are not only a testimony to our rich architectural traditions but also indicate the dedication and devotion with which our ancestors carried out their worship.

Bharat varsha in general and Tamil Nadu in particular are dotted with numerous temples dedicated to different Devis and Devatas and varying in size. Among those, Shri Ranganathaswamy Temple in the city of Srirangam has the distinction of being the second biggest functional temple, following Angkor Wat which is the largest. Spread over 156 acres this temple has been called ‘Bhuloka Vaikuntam’ meaning Vaikuntam on earth. Vaikuntam, we may recall, is the abode of Lord Vishnu. As per temple history the reclining vigraha of Lord Vishnu was the one that Shri Ram worshipped at Ayodhya. Legend says that Vibishana, brother of Ravan, was carrying the vigraha to Lanka but had to install it here in deference to the Lord’s wish. In return the Lord promised that he would always protect Vibishana’s kingdom and that is the reason why the murti faces south breaking away from tradition.

Although it is routine to carry out repairs and maintenance works, it has now come to light that there have been aberrations in the works carried out by HRCE (Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department). In fact the department has caused damage to the vigraha that had been protected against Islamic onslaught. The last time minor changes were made to the vigraha following a fire accident in the garbha griha in 1959. However, in the repair works carried out under the aegis of HRCE the ancient structures as well as its dimensions have been totally changed.

Several unnecessary changes have been made to the vigraha. One of the thighs has been made bigger than the other, besides a pillow like structure has been placed beneath his feet, another anomaly is that the faces on Adishesha which resembled lions earlier have been altered to look like serpents and small spherical ornaments have been added to the Lord’s shoulders. In addition to all this, the dimensions of the main vigraha have been completely altered thereby interfering with the proportions set by the shastras. The Utsava murti (idol used for festive purposes) was earlier seated on a Simhasana made of heavy wood. Not only has the ancient Simhasana been replaced, instead of just getting it repaired, but it has disappeared altogether. It is important to note that the Agama shastras take every small feature into consideration.

These alterations made unilaterally by the HRCE department show the utter disregard towards Hindu traditions. This is a clear violation of Agama Shastras and the department possess no authority to make alterations as per its own wishes. The Government, on the other hand, seems to see temples as commercial establishments through which it can earn money. It is high time, questions are raised against such highhandedness by HRCE and the Tamil Nadu Government, under whom the department falls, should certainly be held answerable.


Latha Iyer