Tamil Nadu is the land of temples – most of them ancient and of rich heritage value. Sadly, these temples are now the target of miscreants, and victim of corrupt/indifferent leaders and officials.
Of late, the continuous spate of incidents of vandalism at Hindu temples in the state have become a matter of serious concern. The HR & CE department, entrusted with the administration of temples, and the Tamil Nadu police have displayed a studiously lackadaisical approach in the matter.
In many of the cases, the police have conveniently branded the attackers as ‘mentally challenged’ persons. This police version has no takers as only Hindu temples have been the target.
Earlier this month, on August 7, a miscreant entered the Dhandayudhapani temple at noon and broke the murtis of Bhagwan Murugan and his consorts Valli and Devyani. The temple is located at the top of a hillock. Devotees spotted the man damaging the murtis, overpowered him and handed him to the police. He was identified as Boopathy, a resident of nearby Siruvayalur village. The police announced that he was of unstable mind.
Hindu Munnani state president Kadeswara Subramaniam, in a statement, blamed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) department for its callous attitude in administering the temples. “It has miserably failed in protecting Hindu temples, murtis, and properties. It is only interested in the income derived from them. It is a matter of concern for us that in the past two years, over 200 temples were demolished by the government on charges of encroachment while no action is taken in case of churches and mosques despite court orders. During the past two years, in Perambulur alone, incidents of damaging murtis and other temple properties have been happening without respite”.
On October 4, 2021, five idols of the Maduraikaliamman Temple in Siruvachur near Perambalur were found vandalized. Four such incidents took place at the same temple. The incident came within days of a Muslim man, identified as Mohammad Khan, trying to set fire to a temple chariot in the village of V. Kalathur near Veppanthattai in Perambalur itself. Earlier in July 2021, miscreants had desecrated the idol of Goddess Amman at Panchalingeswarar temple in Ranipet district. In the same month, 19 statues of Siddhars (saints –immortals) were damaged completely in Siruvachur village.
Three temples have vanished, says former IPS officer
In Tamil Nadu, one frequently hears complaints of encroachment, thefts of rare murtis and misuse of temple funds. Movable things can go missing, can be burgled. But something unfathomable has also happened here – three temples have gone missing in Thirunavalur town in Villupuram district, vanished from the face of the earth!
Pon Manickavel is a retired IPS officer who has served as the Inspector General of Police, Idol Wing, and as special officer of the Madras High Court appointed investigation team which cracked several cases of stolen idols and artefacts from the temples of Tamil Nadu. He recently revealed that “three temples in Villupuram and one in Kancheepuram district have gone missing”.
It is alleged more than 50,000 acres of prime property belonging to temples have vanished without trace. More than 6,000 antique murtis, artistic temple pillars and walkways, which had heavy stone inscriptions on them, too have gone missing over the last 70 years.
“I have been surveying the 38 Chola era temples in the Villupuram district. I have completed the survey in Thirunavalur. According to the British regime records, there were three Saivaite temples and a Vaishnavite temple here. British officials in 1902 prepared this record. But only one temple exists now while there is no trace of other three – Kali Narishwaran, Agatheeswaran and Thirumetrali Mahavishnu temples,” he said.
Manickavel said the Kali Narishwaram temple was built around 1,170 years ago during the Pallava period, even before the Chola era, while the Thirumetrali Mahavishnu temple was built during the regime of Parandhaga Chola I and the temple was partially damaged.
Last July , Pon Manickavel had urged the TN government to take up with the Karnataka counterpart the issue of a missing temple built 949 years ago by Sri Udayar Rajadhi Raja Devar-I, the grandson of Rajaraja Chola-I, in the modern day Tumukuru (Tumkur) district. He established a town named “Rajendra Cholapuram at Kunigal. Five kms from the village, at Kotegiri he built a temple named “Rajendra Choleswaram”. He donated a rare bronze Nataraja idol, valuables and stone murtis. In this connection, Manickavel had written a letter to the HR & CE minister and officers. He said “the ancient temple can no longer be found in the village and stone inscriptions were found lying near a recently built temple in the village. The bronze and stone murtis were missing”.
No action has been taken as yet.
In 2022, Malemathoor Periyasamy Koil statues were vandalised. On February 14 this year, Ezhumoor Ayyanar temple and Naranamangalam Karuppasamy temple murtis were broken. On June 27, in Chettikulam Ekambareswarar temple, miscreants damaged the murtis of Lord Murugan, Bhairav and others. In this chain of incidents, in Perambalur alone, 65 temples have been targeted and murtis broken.
Many more such incidents have been reported across Tamil Nadu.
“The culprits involved in most of these acts are yet to be brought to book. In some cases, where the culprits were handed over to the police, the usual statement of the police is that “he is mentally challenged”. It is mystifying why ‘mentally challenged’ miscreants target only Hindu temples and nor other places of worship,” the Hindu Munnani said.
“When a statue of political leader is attacked, or ink thrown, the government promptly arrest the culprits and sends them to jail with speedy trial. Why does it show lethargic attitude in case of Hindu temples? Will it keep quiet if mosques or churches are similarly damaged?” the Hindu Munnani has asked.