Wherever we plan to do Uzhavarappani, a few of our volunteers will visit the temple at least a month in advance to assess the work requirements. Accordingly, we proceeded to visit the Swayambunathar Temple at Ocheri (on the Chennai-Vellore Highway), which no doubt needs a face-lift.
We had requested Shri Venkatesan of CHENNAI SIVAPATHIGAL to join us. As he was busy touring temples in the Kancheepuram district, he expressed his inability. However on hearing that we were proceeding to Ocheri, he very much insisted that we should visit the Mamandur temple near Ocheri and come back with a few snaps of the place. Beyond that he did not provide any specific info about the temple at that point of time, as probably he might have wanted to hear our views first.
After visiting Swayambunathar temple, we proceeded to Mamandur (about four km from Ocheri) taking directions from the local villagers. It was late in the evening with the sun about to set in the next 15 minutes. As we neared the temple, we could see the damaged super structure and gopurams.
What should have once been the foundation for a Rajagopuram awaited us at the end of a desolate mud road leading to the temple. After scouting for local people, we got hold of a few lads, who brought in a few more villagers to open the temple for us.
As we entered through this foundation on the southern side, we came across the inner compound wall of more than 10 feet high on on all four sides; but except for a small footpath leading to the temple, the rest of the area was surrounded by wild growth. We could also see remnants of what should have once been an outer perimeter wall.
At the entrance to the temple on the eastern side, Nandikeswarar is seated majestically on a mandapam, the top of which can be seen in a shattered condition. Behind Nandi, two raised platforms can be seen. One should have been the base for the Kodimaram, while the other one should have been a Balipeedam.
The eastern gopuram is in a terribly bad shape, with only the brick works remaining .At the time of our visit, power cut was in force and with a small torch we entered the temple, only to be greeted by flying bats brushing our face. These bats were so big in size that we initially mistook them in the dark for doves. The stink of bat droppings permeate the entire atmosphere inside.
The state of utter neglect was evident everywhere.. But what shocked us to the core was that except the moolavar and a Vinayagar( inside the praharam), other deities were missing. The first image below is the place were Chandikeswara was once seated. and the second one is the Ambaal Sannidhi(with Ambaal missing). Like wise in the vayu moolai of the praharam, the statues of Valli-Devasena-Subramaniar are missing and only the pedestal, where they were earlier installed is there.
When we asked our village escorts, they told us a sad story. A few years ago, all the panchaloha idols of the temple along with the stone idols of Amman, Chandikeswarar and Subramaniar were all stolen by idol thieves. The temple is situated on the outskirts of the village surrounded by paddy fields,with no human habitation nearby. There was a time when it was raining continuously for about three to four weeks and none of the villagers ventured out of their homes. They feel that this idol theft should have happened during that period. Since no regular pooja had been going on in the temple, the theft of the idols were taken note of by them only after a long time.
Presently a group of villagers have realised the need for a regular pooja and they have appointed one of their men as a pujari to keep the temple open and light the lamps. At the time of our visit, we could see a few young girls from the village worshipping the moolavar. Missing idols have not deterred the faithful. We observed a kolam and a few mud lamps in front of the Subramaniar pedestal, indicating that some form of a worship is going on despite the absence of the idols. The villagers told us that, they have already decided to install another statue of Sowbhagyanayagi Amman in the place of the missing one. Presently they have arranged for a new Rishaba Vahanam in the place of the damaged one and we were informed that Pradhosha Pooja is being held regularly.
|The newly acquired Rishaba Vahanam|
The temple needs a total renovation on a massive scale. We hope that the day may not be far off when some philanthropists come forward to re-build the temple restoring its earlier grandeur. Strange are the ways of the Divine Almighty Lord Shiva and ordinary mortals like us cannot guess why He allowed His Place of Abode to be vandalised by miscreants. However from our side, as a mark of our respect to the villagers who adore this temple and pray here, we have decided to clean up the place and clear the bushes & weeds from the surroundings, so that more local people evince interest and start praying at the temple regularly.
|Local villagers (clad in dhoti/lungi) who presently look after the temple|