Monday, March 22, 2010

The 'Old Pagoda'

There is apprently a reference to this temple going back to 1652, but I have not been able to find that. However, James Talboys Wheeler, in his 'Madras in the Olden Time: 1702 - 1727' refers to a document "signed by President Baker, Agent Greenhill and Mr. Gurney dated in the year 1652", concerning the settlement of a dispute between the Right-Hand- and Left-Hand-Castes in the area north of Fort St George. That document names this temple as "Malley Carjun's old Pagoda", the use of the adjective supporting the claim that the temple is more than 500 years old.

Legends of the temple founding date it to between 800 and 1000 years ago: the discovery of a Siva lingam in the midst of a jasmine (malli) garden - apparently this area was thick with them - led to the construction of this temple. Today, the area is thick with various business establishments; many with tiny, one room offices, keeping the wheels of commerce moving through from the port to the city and beyond. In the midst of all that hubbub, the Mallikeswarar temple on Linghi Chetty Street is an oasis of serenity. In the past few years, the rajagopuram, built by a devotee in 1923 has been renovated and the teakwood temple car has also been restored; in 2008, the car went out on its festival run, after a gap of 58 years.

But if it is the 'Mallikeswarar' temple, how did it get corrupted as "Mally Carjun's Pagoda"? That's a riddle which will have to wait for another day!

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