Monday, February 24, 2014
For all its presence through this blog (in fact, it had featured in the very first post), the Kapaleeswarar temple at Mylapore has not been written about at all. The main reason for this is quite simple; it is difficult to pack all of the information about this temple into a single post. So here is one about the eastern gopuram (tower) of the temple - one of the two grand gopurams over the entrance to this temple, the other one being over the western entrance. This is the taller one, rising up to a height of about 125 feet, with seven distinct 'floors' above the entryway. Topping off these seven floors is the set of 9 kalasams (pots), gleaming golden in the light of the morning sun.
Legend is that the kalasams are a combination of lightning conductors and seed vaults. Ancient manuals of temple construction apparently decree the nature of the metals to be used, and the size of the kalasams. It is believed that the kalasams should be filled with grains, sufficient enough to be used as seed-stock should the town / village suffer a severe crop loss. That the grains are non-conductors of electricity kind of negates the whole lightning conductor theory (unless the earthing happens right at the point of contact?), but that could also be the reason why townspeople were exhorted to not build any structure taller than the temple's gopuram.
And yet, lightning might sometimes bypass the conductor / arrestor that is intended to attract it. It was on the eve of Madras Day (Aug 22) in 2007 that this gopuram was struck by lightning, the first time since its renovation in 1906. The nasi thalai developed a crack, and a chunk of stone dropped off. One of the idols was also partially damaged. Luckily, nobody was injured in this incident. Special pujas were performed within a day, but the reinforcing of the gopuram took a couple of months - and there have not been any further lightning strikes since!