Monday, December 5, 2016

Temple benefactors

Going along Mint Street, one will come across several temples; it would be very difficult to see any that is grander than the Chennai Arulmigu Ekambareswarar Temple. As with several of the old temples of the city, this one is also claimed to be more than 500 years old; an intermediate period, which is difficult to confirm or deny. What is possible to confirm is that this temple was in existence in the early 18th century, being important enough to feature in the earliest map of the city, dating circa 1710. 

The more believable version of this temple's origin dates it to the 1680s, when Alangatha Pillai (more about him here), one of the dubashes employed by the East India Company makes a generous contribution to build a temple to his favourite deity, Ekambareswarar. The temple was built close to Fort St George, Alangatha Pillai's workplace. In those days, that part of the world was inhabited by washers and so, it was on Washers Street that Alangatha Pillai's temple came up.

In an earlier post about Alangatha Pillai, I had assumed it was his likeness that was sculpted on the pillar just inside the entrance. Turns out that is of a different gentleman, though, like Alangatha Pillai, he too was a benefactor of the temple. And where is it rather difficult to find any reference to Alangatha Pillai in the temple itself, this person's name is written in large letters on the stone canopy in front of the gopuram - Va Mu Appukutty Chettiar!

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