Monday, September 28, 2009

Saint's temple

The man is venerated as a saint, but for all that, few people know that there is a temple dedicated to Thiruvalluvar within the city. And no, I'm not talking about Valluvar Kottam, which everyone knows about, but a 'proper' temple in Mylapore, where Valluvar is believed to have born, lived and died. The caretakers of this temple aver that Valluvar was born under an iluppai (mohwa, botanical name Madhuca - or Bassia - longifolia) tree that was fatally damaged in 1935, after having lived for over 2000 years, in this campus. The stump of that tree has been cemented around for much of its height, with a copper covering shielding the part above.

They also point out a well, claiming it to be the one from which Vasuki, Valluvar's wife, used to draw water for her household. Once, hearing her husband call out to her, she ran into the house, letting go of the rope with a vessel that she was hauling up from the well. Legend has it that the vessel remained in place until Vasuki returned - such was the power of Valluvar's word. Yet, it is said that he had to go to Madurai for his work to be recognized. That may be history or legend, but even today, it is at Kanyakumari - or even at the Kottam - that people pay homage to Valluvar, rather than this temple at his putative birthplace.

Given that the poet-saint's great work had very little to talk about God - or religion of any kind - it is somewhat surprising to see shrines of Hindu deities. Trying to balance both legend and faith, the temple ends up doing justice to neither!

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