Saturday, January 4, 2014

The other temple

Of course it is extremely unfair to call it so. But somehow, Mylapore has been more media savvy over the centuries, managing to find mention in Ptolemy's writings. It's neighbouring village to the north, Triplicane, has been more reserved, featuring only in regional works such as the Nalayira Dhiva Prabandham. But the Parthasarathy temple here is believed to go back to the 8th century CE, which makes it a little older than the current Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore. 

You can only see the gopuram of the temple in the distance - the blue structure to its right is the shed housing the temple chariot. The temple pond in the foreground is also the one from which the village took its name: Thiru-alli-keni, the holy lily pond. It is said that a millenium and more ago, the forests around this temple were so thick that sunlight couldn't enter, except to play on this pond. The legend is that the Goddess Vedavalli was born on one of the lilies in this pond and then went on to become the consort of Sri Ranganatha, one of the deities of this temple.

The forests are long gone, of course. There weren't much of them around even when the British, in the middle of the 17th century, were getting their act together at Fort St. George, just a couple of kilometres to the north. It was one of the first villages to be annexed by the British, as they expanded their territory around the fort. Even today, the streets around the temple are a throwback to a much older age; it is easy to imagine, from a single street in Triplicane, what most of Madras would have been like a century ago!

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