Too much is too many…maybe it the bane of our heritage treasures. How else but to explain the sad plight of this delightful gem living precariously on the banks of the Tambraparani, its life blood slowly draining away, having stood for a thousand years, it makes a mockery of our grand visions of cultural renaissance and ingrained spirituality - The Ramaswamy Temple of Cheranmadevi. They called it the Nigarili Chola Vinnagar - Abode without parallel ! read on to see its pathetic state for surely it will not be long before the newspaper headlines lament its demise and pseudo enthusiasts will cry fowl.
The pillar sculpture of Hanuman, in all his humility, affectionately held by his Lord Rama seemed an regular rendition when we entered but as we finished and returned, the posture seemed to gather a new meaning.
As we stepped in, there was nothing extraordinary about the front porch and it resembled any of hundred of temples we see in our villages.
But as we took the few steps towards the main shrine, what awaited us made us hold our breath.
its not often you get to see a pristine pre 10th Century Vimana, a Pandya one at that.
Thanks to Pradeep, we had some inclination of what to expect and the introductions to the Priest had ensured that we could do our work unhindered.
For starters - the temple is unique for its one of the very few Astanga Vimana shrines - three tiered Vimana, with forms of Vishnu - Standing, seated and lying in the three sanctums lined one on top of the other.
At the entrance of the main sanctum, we were greeted by one of the most stunning bronzes - Rama group.
When we wanted to climb to the upper storey, the priest asked us again - if we really wanted to go up ! Little did we realise why he did that, till we saw the narrow stairs and got swarmed by a colony of feisty bats whom we disturbed.
Restaurants with roof top gardens seem to be the fashion these days, but it was really heartbreaking to see a stunning edifice left to rot like this.
As we turned towards the Sanctum in tier one, we spotted this.
The central beam had cracked and the weight was being held by the wooden pillar. My heart filled with dread at the thought of what might happen if it gave way.
And in the midst of all this, there he was seated ( please note he is not carved out of stone but made of stucco - and hence the fractures can be easily mended)
The intricate stucco work and the faint colors seemed to remind us of his glory days. Even the walls seemed to have outlines of vestigial paintings.
We willed ourselves to climb to the next tier and there he is, sleeping peacefully on the coils of his devoted sesha, his two consorts in attention, hoping against hope that some good still lived in the hearts of the people he loves.
As we stepped out, we looked again at Hanuman - he seemed to asking us to help, but not wanting his master to know, for the Lord’s answer would be ” I have the entire universe for me !!”