Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Golden temple?

Don't go around looking for a gold gopuram or anything like that, if someone gives you directions that refer to the 'Golden Vinayagar' temple of Alwarpet. If you start with such grand assumptions, you will be brought down to earth with a jolt. This temple, the தங்க விநாயகர் ஆலையம் appears to be one more of the many Vinayagar temples dotting the roads of the city. But then, do not make the mistake of dismissing this as 'just another' temple. It appears to have a history of its own, going back to the days when Alwarpet was just a village, far away from the 'Madras city' of the British. The first mention of this village goes back to 1777, as part of a survey of the 'Home Farms' (as the suburban villages of Nungambakkam, Egmore, San Thome, etc were called at the time). There must have been a fairly busy village here, for, in its initial days, Teynampet was known as 'New Alwarpet' and the older area was called 'Alwarpet Gramam'. It appears that these sister-villages decided to have temples with different deities - maybe because it was younger, Teynampet chose Subramanian, while Alwarpet picked the older brother. 

This temple would have seen quite a lot, even if it is only a couple of generations old. The house right behind it was occupied by the Tamizh writer Jayakanthan; his contemporaries wondered how he could find inspiration when everything around him was boisterous - speakeasies and bordellos were his neighbours. And there was no respite during daytime, either, for the side-streets were thick with people, especially when the weekly சந்தை (open market) would happen. This temple would have seen all than Jayakanthan had observed and then some more. 

So, I guess the 'golden' here refers to the era when this temple was the prime spot of Alwarpet and life revolved around it in every way. Even if it is regarded as just another roadside temple by the citizen rushing past it on TTK Road, it commands devotion from the village of Alwarpet that continues to function on the side roads behind it!

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