The revered town of Tiruvannamalai, known for its spiritual significance as one of the Panch Bootha Sthals, has been a centre for siddhars, sadhus, and rishis. However, recent actions by the administration have drawn attention and criticism. The authorities, in what is perceived as an ongoing anti-Hindu stance, reportedly razed down the sacred tombs and closed a well in the Kattu Siva Siddha Viddha Abhyaasa Temple. Reports suggest that the land was levelled to make way for a car parking space, adding fuel to existing opposition against the construction of a commercial complex near the temple.
Devotees had previously expressed strong opposition to the construction of the commercial complex, which was perceived to obstruct the view of the temple tower. Legal intervention resulted in a court order staying the construction activities, but the recent demolition has further heightened tensions.
Tiruvannamalai is renowned for its spiritual atmosphere, attracting seekers and devotees. The town is gearing up for the annual Karthigai Deepam event, where a colossal lamp is lit atop the 2668-foot hill. However, recent government measures, including the issuance of tickets and restrictions on the number of attendees, have sparked concerns among devotees, who see it as a potential threat to their traditions.
The current Dravidian Model government, in power since 2021, has faced criticism for its alleged demolition of over 250 Hindu temples, citing reasons such as encroachment on public land or hindering traffic flow. Critics argue that this stands in contrast to the government’s approach towards churches and mosques, which have reportedly been left untouched despite court orders.
Highlighting the contentious nature of recent actions, a 400-year-old Ammani Ammal Mutt was reportedly demolished in March 2023 by the Tamil Nadu HR and CE department. The mutt, constructed near the Arunachaleshwarar Temple, had historical significance, with Ammani Ammal being instrumental in building the North temple tower.
Kattu Siva Siddha Viddha Abhyaasa Temple
The temple, dedicated to the memory of Kattu Siva Siddhar and his disciples, served as a site for meditation, prayer, and monthly rituals. Thirteen disciples’ Jeeva Samadhi (burial site) had been erected on the premises. The recent demolition was allegedly carried out without the knowledge or consent of the temple authorities, further intensifying the backlash from enraged disciples.
Revenue officials claim that the demolition was necessary to create a parking space for the upcoming Karthigai Deepam festival. However, temple administrators expressed dismay, asserting that the action was taken without proper consultation or notification.
Outcry and Opposition
The demolition of burial sites and the well has sparked widespread outrage among devotees and the local community. Critics argue that such actions not only disregard the spiritual significance of these sites but also undermine the cultural and religious heritage associated with Tiruvannamalai.
இரவோடு இரவாக 13 ஜீவ சமாதிகள் மற்றும் கிணறு ஆகியவற்றை அகற்றிய அரசு அதிகாரிகள். பொதுமக்கள் அதிர்ச்சி…! சினிமாவை மிஞ்சும் சம்பவம். ஹிந்துக்கள் முன்னோர்களை வழிபடுவதையும், அடையாளங்களையும் முற்றிலுமாக அழித்து மதமாற்றத்திற்கு உதவி செய்கிறது இந்த திருட்டு திராவிட அரசு…… pic.twitter.com/HkIxpDODrV
— Krishnaraj (@Krishna73674119) November 18, 2023
In a recent interview with Thanthi TV, an administrator of the Kattu Siva Siddha Viddha Abhyaasa Temple Mutt expressed deep concern and sorrow over the overnight demolition of sacred structures and urged the government to permit the reconstruction of the Samadhis.
The administrator emphasized the historical importance of the property, stating, “This is a property owned by Kattu Sivasamy. There are 13 Samadhis of disciples of the lineage of Kattu Sivasamy from 1974 to 2021. Every month, we rebuild these Samadhis and pray/meditate here. We offer Annadanam (free meal) to all the people who come here every month.”
Describing the impact of the demolition, the administrator revealed, “There was a big well in the corner, and we used the water from that well. Last night, the well was removed, and 13 Samadhis were destroyed. Those 13 Samadhis represented our Gurus who blessed us, and we pray to them to fulfill our needs.”
In the wake of the destruction, disciples of the Mutt are now appealing to the government to allow the reconstruction of the Samadhis. They stress the cultural and religious significance of the site, underlining the regular rituals, prayers, and Annadanam that have been a vital part of the spiritual practises at the temple.
As the controversy surrounding the overnight demolition unfolds, questions are being raised about the government’s commitment to preserving and respecting the religious and cultural heritage of Tiruvannamalai. Devotees, shocked by the sudden and unannounced actions, are now seeking answers and demanding a reconsideration of decisions that impact their sacred spaces. The incident adds to the ongoing debate about the balance between development initiatives and the preservation of cultural and religious sites in the region.